Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 28, 2018

The White House downgrades Jared Kushner's security clearance, Hope Hicks dodges some of House panel's questions, and more


Kushner's security clearance downgraded

The White House has downgraded the security clearance of Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior aide, and other aides who have been working with the highest-level security clearance on an interim basis, Politico reported Tuesday, citing three people with knowledge of the situation. The move came as the White House tries to contain criticism after the resignation of former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who was accused of spousal abuse by two ex-wives. The scandal revealed that dozens of high-ranking Trump aides still have not received permanent security clearance. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that officials in at least four countries have privately discussed trying to use Kushner's business debts and lack of experience to manipulate him, heightening concerns over his access to sensitive information.


Hope Hicks declines to answer some questions from House committee

President Trump's communications director and longtime aide, Hope Hicks, declined to answer some of the questions about her work for Trump's White House in a closed-door meeting Tuesday with the House Intelligence Committee. The interview was part of the committee's investigation into Russia's election meddling and its contacts with Trump associates. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said Hicks answered "everything" she was asked about the campaign. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) said she appeared to be "following the orders of the White House not to answer certain questions." Hicks, one of Trump's closest aides, reportedly conceded that she had, at times, told white lies for Trump, but never about anything relevant to the Russia investigation.


Students return to Florida high school for first classes since shooting

Students return to classes on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time since a gunman killed 17 students and teachers at the Parkland, Florida, school. There was a heavy police presence on the campus ahead of the 7:40 a.m. opening bell. "Students will return to the Parkland campus at 7:40 a.m. to find police officers with heavier artillery and teachers with open arms," the Sun Sentinel reported. "I have to go back to school... look at empty desks. Try my hardest to feel safe," tweeted Conor Dietrich, a junior who was among survivors who lobbied Florida lawmakers for tougher gun control. "And worst of all try not to think about all the people I miss. This is going to be the hardest part by far."


Dick's Sporting Goods ends sales of assault-style rifles

Dick's Sporting Goods, one of the biggest U.S. sports-equipment chains and a major gun retailer, said early Wednesday that it would stop selling assault-style rifles, effective immediately. Dick's also said it would end sales of high-capacity magazines, and refuse all gun sales to customers under 21 years old, even in places where they can legally buy firearms under local laws. The announcement came two weeks after a gunman with an assault-style rifle killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school, prompting survivors to launch a campaign for tougher gun laws. Dick's CEO Edward Stack said he supports gun rights protected by the Second Amendment, but, "We love these kids and their rallying cry, 'enough is enough.' It got to us."


Judge once criticized by Trump clears path to build section of border wall

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whom President Trump once accused of bias because of his Mexican heritage, sided with the Homeland Security Department on Tuesday, paving the way for the construction of 14 miles of Trump's promised wall on the Mexican border. The Trump administration argued that it had authority under federal immigration law to sidestep environmental reviews and build the wall section to replace fencing near San Diego that is "no longer optimal for border patrol operations." California and environmental groups had asked the court to find the immigration law unconstitutional, saying bypassing environmental reviews could harm endangered species. Curiel, who ruled against Trump in the Trump University fraud case, said courts have to respect a law approved by elected leaders.


U.N. experts say North Korea sent Syria chemical-weapon materials

United Nations experts say North Korea has been shipping Syria's government supplies that could be used to produce chemical weapons, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing a report it reviewed but that has not been publicly released. The materials include acid-resistant tiles, valves, and thermometers, according to the report. The conclusions appeared to provide support for allegations made by the U.S. and other nations that the Syrian government has used prohibited chemical weapons against civilians. In the latest case, Syria has been accused of using chlorine gas against civilians in attacks on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta.


Supreme Court says U.S. can detain immigrants indefinitely

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the U.S. can detain non-citizens indefinitely while they await deportation. The high court deadlocked at 4-4 on the issue last year, but ruled 5-3 on Tuesday against immigrants who protested that their detentions had lasted an average of 13 months. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the case. The court reversed a ruling by a federal appeals court that said detentions of immigrants without bail should be limited to six months. "Nothing in the statutory text imposes any limit on the length of detention," Justice Samuel Alito said on behalf of the majority.


Amazon to acquire smart doorbell maker Ring

Amazon has reached a deal to acquire Ring, which makes smart-home devices such as video cameras and doorbells, GeekWire reported Tuesday. The unexpected move marks Amazon's latest push into smart-home technology, where it has a strong foundation with its Echo smart speaker, featuring the embedded Alexa voice assistant, as its hub. The financial terms of the deal were not immediately available, but Reuters estimated it to be worth more than $1 billion. "We look forward to being a part of the Amazon team as we work toward our vision for safer neighborhoods," a Ring spokesperson said in a statement. Ring's Wi-Fi enabled doorbells have cameras that detect visitors and let users see and talk to them on their smartphones or tablets.


Trump backs raising age limits for some gun purchases

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Tuesday that President Trump "supports raising the age limit to 21 for the purchase of certain firearms." The NRA has rejected the proposal. Questions about Trump's resolve on the issue arose after a congressional source told CNN on Monday that the president is "moving back" from the idea of raising the age limit. The debate follows the deaths of 17 students and teachers at a Parkland, Florida, high school at the hands of a 19-year-old suspected gunman who legally purchased an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. Republican congressional leaders said Tuesday that they would not raise the minimum age for gun buyers, suggesting the proposal is unlikely to pass despite Trump's backing.


11 fall ill at Marine base after suspicious envelope opened

Eleven Marines reported feeling ill and three were hospitalized Tuesday after a gunnery sergeant opened an envelope containing an unidentified substance at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia, near Washington, D.C. The people exposed to the envelope reported itchy hands and faces, bloody noses, sore throats, and other symptoms. The three who were hospitalized were stable, but no further details on their conditions were immediately available. The FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are investigating jointly. In 2001, anthrax sent in the mail killed five people and injured 17, prompting the U.S. Postal Service and government agencies and corporations to start screening mail for toxic substances.


Finland clears final hurdle for NATO membership, will be admitted by July
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Finland clears final hurdle for NATO membership, will be admitted by July

Honeybees help gather data about a city's health
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Pope Francis hospitalized with respiratory infection
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