Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 21, 2018

The Austin bombing suspect dies in a standoff with police, Trump congratulates Putin against his aides' advice, and more

1

Austin bombing suspect dies in standoff with police

The Austin bombing suspect, identified only as a 24-year-old white male, was killed early Wednesday in a standoff with police along Interstate 35 just north of the Texas capital, police said. The suspect killed himself by detonating a bomb inside his vehicle as police closed in. An officer fired a shot when the device exploded. Since March 2, five explosions have killed two people in Austin and injured five others, including one at a FedEx facility 60 miles away. Investigators tracked down the suspect using video and other clues he left when dropping off packages with FedEx. Police said an incendiary device that injured one person at a Goodwill store on Tuesday evening was unrelated to the serial bombings.

2

Trump congratulates Putin on election victory against aides' advice

President Trump on Tuesday congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin for his re-election victory, but did not mention Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump also did not bring up the attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in England with a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union. Trump said they did discuss "shared interests" such as North Korea and Ukraine. "We had a very good call," Trump said. "We will probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) slammed Trump, saying, "An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections." Trump reportedly ignored aides' advice not to congratulate Putin.

3

Disagreements delay spending deal to avoid year's 3rd government shutdown

Congressional Republicans continued talks early Wednesday on a $1.2 trillion spending bill just days ahead of a deadline to avoid the year's third government shutdown. Lawmakers were aiming to unveil a deal Tuesday night, but they remained stuck on disagreements over immigration, border security, tax breaks, and other policies. Both the House and Senate must pass the legislation, which would keep the government open through September, by midnight Friday. Potentially complicating plans is a winter storm moving through the Washington, D.C., region; a snow day would give lawmakers even less time to review the bill. Still, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, expressed optimism about the bill's passage: "No shutdowns," he said Tuesday morning. "You heard it here first."

4

Maryland student dies in confrontation with officer after shooting 2 classmates

A 17-year-old student shot a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy at Great Mills High School in southern Maryland on Tuesday before being confronted by an armed school resource officer. Both fired shots and the gunman, identified as Austin Wyatt Rollins, 17, was hit and later died from his wound. Investigators could not immediately say whether he was shot by the officer or killed himself with his own Glock 9-millimeter gun. Police said Rollins appeared to have had a "prior relationship" with the girl, who was rushed to a hospital in critical condition with life-threatening injuries. The injured 14-year-old boy was listed in good condition.

5

Cambridge Analytica suspends CEO over undercover video

Cambridge Analytica suspended CEO Alexander Nix pending a full investigation into an undercover video by Britain's Channel 4 News in which he appeared to boast of the data firm's success influencing elections in foreign countries, the company said in a statement Tuesday. Nix's secretly recorded comments "do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation," the statement said. In the report, Nix and two other company executives talked about entrapping politicians with bribery offers and prostitution stings and using online voter profiling. A British parliamentary committee on Tuesday summoned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for questioning on Cambridge Analytica's accessing of information on more than 50 million Facebook users.

6

Trump urges Saudi prince to purchase more U.S. weapons

President Trump met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House on Tuesday on his first U.S. trip since becoming the heir apparent to the throne. Trump urged the 32-year-old prince to buy more U.S. military equipment, calling the $12.5 billion the country is spending "peanuts" for the oil-rich kingdom. "You should have increased it," Trump said. Earlier, the prince met with congressional leaders, who raised concerns over the Saudi-led coalition's role in the civil war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said lawmakers called for Saudi Arabia "to take strong corrective actions."

7

Ex-Apprentice contestant's Trump defamation suit moves forward

A Manhattan judge ruled Tuesday that President Trump must face a defamation lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump's old reality TV show, The Apprentice. Zervos is suing Trump for calling her allegation that he groped her in 2007 "fiction," and saying she had fabricated the account for "personal gain." Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz had called for throwing out the case, or delaying it until Trump leaves the White House, arguing that presidents are shielded from civil cases in state courts. "Thomas Jefferson made clear that the president's responsibilities are 24/7," he said. Justice Jennifer Schecter disagreed. "No one is above the law," she wrote in a 19-page decision.

8

Minneapolis officer charged in July shooting death of Australian woman

Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was charged with murder and manslaughter on Tuesday for fatally shooting an Australian woman, Justine Ruszczyk Damond, in July after she called to report a possible assault behind her house. Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, were in their squad car, and Noor had cleared the call on their computer to indicate that they were safe after checking the scene. Harrity said he heard a voice and a thump behind him and was startled. Then he heard a popping sound and saw a flash, which turned out to be Noor firing his pistol past him out the window. He then looked out and saw Damond, who, the charges said, had a gunshot wound in her abdomen, and said, "I'm dying" or "I'm dead."

9

Former Playboy model sues to break silence on claim of Trump affair

Former Playboy model Karen McDougal filed a lawsuit against the company that owns The National Enquirer, American Media, seeking to be released from a 2016 legal agreement so that she would be free to talk about her claim that she had an affair with President Trump. McDougal is the second woman to go to court to get out of deals with Trump allies silencing women who say they had extramarital sex with Trump more than a decade ago. McDougal was paid $150,000 by American Media's CEO, a friend of Trump's. The other woman was adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Daniels was paid $130,000 by Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

10

Carson tells lawmakers his wife, staff handled $31,000 furniture purchase

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson defended himself Tuesday against pointed questions from a House appropriations subcommittee about the $31,000 furniture set purchased for his office. Carson said he "was not big into redecorating," and that he asked his wife, Candy, to help by choosing something to replace furniture he said was so old it was dangerous. Carson also defended his wife's role in the matter, saying, "She's the most frugal person in the world." Carson's testimony, in a hearing that was supposed to focus on budget cuts in his department, contradicted the initial statements by a HUD spokesperson, who said last month that the Carsons "had no awareness that the table was being purchased."

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