Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 1, 2018

Hope Hicks resigns as Trump's communications director, Trump calls for fast action on guns and school safety, and more

1

Hope Hicks to resign as White House communications director

Hope Hicks, one of President Trump's closest aides, said Wednesday she was resigning as White House communications director. Her decision came the day after she met behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into Russia's election meddling, and its contacts with Trump associates. Hicks, a 29-year-old former model who had no experience in politics before Trump's campaign, testified before the committee for eight hours, and told the panel that sometimes as part of her job she told white lies for Trump, although never with respect to Russia. Hicks told colleagues she had accomplished what she set out to do, and said she had "no words" to express to her gratitude to Trump. CNN reported that Trump berated Hicks over her testimony, but he released a statement saying, "I will miss having her by my side."

2

Trump urges lawmakers to act fast on gun control and school safety

President Trump on Wednesday called on Congress to swiftly come together to make substantial changes to the nation's gun laws. "We can't wait and play games and nothing gets done," said Trump at the start of a meeting with 17 House and Senate lawmakers. "We want to stop the problems." Trump put pressure on the Republican leadership of the House and Senate, scolding lawmakers for being too fearful to cross the National Rifle Association. Trump pressured members of both parties to agree on comprehensive legislation to make schools safer, without offering specifics, telling them to "create something that's beautiful." He expressed support for a measure that would give states incentives to improve the way they report to the background check database, and said authorities should "take the guns first, let due process happen later."

3

Students return to class at Parkland school for first time since shooting

Students returned to class Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time since the shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead two weeks ago. The morning bell was followed by 17 seconds of silence. Students were greeted by officers providing security outside, and 150 counselors and 40 therapy dogs inside. At the start of each period, Principal Ty Thompson reminded students to be there for each other. "We're together," said Connor Dietrich, a junior. "I've made friends through this tragic experience that I'm going to have for the rest of my life. All of us are there for each other." Robert Runcie, Broward County superintendent of schools, called the day "a major step in the recovery process."

4

Walmart and Dick's raise minimum age for gun purchases

Walmart said Wednesday that it would stop selling guns and ammunition to anyone under 21, hours after Dick's Sporting Goods did the same thing. Dick's also said it would stop selling assault-style rifles, which Walmart did in 2015. Bass Pro Shops, which bought former rival sporting goods retailer Cabela's last year, is now the only remaining giant retailer that still sells the powerful semiautomatic weapons. Bass Pro Shops has 160 stores under the two brands in the U.S. Dick's CEO Edward Stack said he made the decision to stop selling the rifles after the Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which a 19-year-old suspect killed 17 people with a legally purchased AR-15 rifle.

5

Georgia teacher accused of firing gun in school

A North Georgia social studies teacher, identified as Jesse Randall Davidson, was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly barricaded himself alone inside his classroom at Dalton High School, 91 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta, and fired a snub-nosed .38 revolver. Students reportedly had tried to enter the classroom but Davidson locked the door. Principal Steve Bartoo also tried unsuccessfully to open the door. Davidson, 53, allegedly fired at least one gunshot out an exterior window, injuring nobody. However, a student hurt her ankle as panicked teens ran through the halls. The incident sparked criticism from some Dalton students of President Trump's proposal to arm some teachers to prevent future shootings like the one that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

6

Kushner Cos. got millions in loans after White House meetings

Kushner Cos., the family business of President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, received a loan of $184 million last November from Apollo Global Management, a firm whose founder, Joshua Harris, had met with Kushner several times at the White House, three people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times. Harris and Kushner reportedly discussed infrastructure policy, and a possible job for Harris in the administration. The Apollo loan was triple the size of the average Apollo property loan. Citigroup also lent Kushner Cos. $325 million last spring after CEO Michael Corbat met with Kushner in the White House to discuss financial and trade policy. Both companies said their executives who met with Kushner had no role in approving the loans.

7

Trump calls Sessions' handling of surveillance-abuse allegation 'disgraceful'

President Trump renewed his public criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, tweeting that Sessions' failure to order an investigation into possible surveillance abuse early in the Russian election meddling investigation was "DISGRACEFUL." Sessions, who has taken most of Trump's criticism silently, responded by pledging to always "discharge my duties with integrity and honor." Trump skewered Sessions for having Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz look into how the FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, instead of referring the matter to prosecutors. Sessions said referring the issue to the inspector general, who can refer findings of misconduct to prosecutors, was the "appropriate process."

8

Putin boasts of new weapons, vows to slash poverty

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday in his annual state-of-the-nation speech that Russia had developed a new high-speed nuclear-powered cruise missile capable of getting past any air-defense system. He also said his country had tested a high-speed, nuclear-powered underwater drone that could target both aircraft carriers and coastal facilities with a nuclear warhead. Putin also pledged to dramatically cut the number of Russians living in poverty, saying it was "unacceptable" that 20 million Russians live below the poverty line. The speech comes as Putin faces seven challengers in a March 18 election. He is expected to win a fourth term easily.

9

Mueller team reportedly asking what Trump knew about hacked Democratic emails

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is trying to determine whether President Trump knew in advance that WikiLeaks was going to publish hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign, NBC News reports. In July 2016, WikiLeaks published a trove of emails from the Democratic National Committee that U.S. intelligence agencies believe were obtained unlawfully by Russian hackers. Mueller's investigators reportedly have asked witnesses whether Trump knew before the public did that Democratic emails had been stolen, and whether he colluded in their strategic release. Mueller's team pointed to remarks Trump made at a press conference in July 2016 appealing directly to Russia, saying, "I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."

10

Ta-Nehisi Coates to write new Captain America comic books

Ta-Nehisi Coates has signed on to write a new Captain America comic book series, with the first issue to be released on the Fourth of July this year. Captain America was created in 1941, and the character has been portrayed in a number of recent Marvel films. Coates is the author of another Marvel series, Black Panther, and he confirmed that he will "continue working in that world" even as he begins his new project. Artist Leinil Yu will work on Captain America's interior panels, while Alex Ross will do the covers. "I'm not convinced I can tell a great Captain America story," Coates said in his Wednesday announcement, "which is precisely why I want so bad to try."

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