10 things you need to know today: March 22, 2018

Lawmakers release $1.3 trillion spending bill as shutdown looms, Zuckerberg admits Facebook mistakes in data-mining case, and more

Mark Zuckerberg
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

1. Lawmakers release $1.3 trillion budget bill to avert shutdown

Congressional leaders reached a bipartisan deal Wednesday night on a proposed $1.3 trillion spending package needed to avoid a looming government shutdown. The bill, which would keep the government funded through September, increases military and domestic spending but does not give President Trump all of the money he wants to build a southern border wall or address the protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. "No bill of this size is perfect," House Speaker Paul Ryan said. "But this legislation addresses important priorities and makes us stronger at home and abroad." Both the House and Senate must pass the legislation by midnight Friday to avoid a government shutdown.

The Associated Press CNN

2. Zuckerberg admits mistakes in Cambridge Analytica privacy breach

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday broke his silence on the scandal over the accessing of more than 50 million users' data by a data-mining firm that did work for President Trump's campaign, saying Facebook had made mistakes and had a "responsibility" to do more to protect people's privacy. "If we can't then we don't deserve to serve you," he posted on his Facebook page. The data firm, Cambridge Analytica, faces question from lawmakers and regulators in the U.S. and the U.K. over suspicions that it used improperly obtained personal information to try to sway elections. Zuckerberg said the company would monitor thousands of apps in response to the "breach of trust."

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The Associated Press CNN

3. Trump defends decision to congratulate Putin

President Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his disputed re-election victory. Trump said he was trying to improve relations with Putin to get his help reining in North Korea's nuclear weapons program and fighting ISIS in Syria. Republicans and Democrats alike criticized Trump, saying it was shameful for him to praise a dictator for winning what critics called a sham election. The Washington Post reported that aides had written in Trump's briefing papers, "DO NOT CONGRATULATE." A Trump confidant said the president was angry about the leaking of the briefing, which a White House official said had left Chief of Staff John Kelly "frustrated and deeply disappointed."

The Washington Post Reuters

4. Fed raises interest rates for sixth time since financial crisis

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised its benchmark short-term interest rate by a quarter point, the sixth such increase in three years. The Fed hiked the rate to a range of 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent, the highest in a decade. The move came at the end of the first two-day policy meeting under its new chairman, Jerome Powell. The central bank's leaders forecast two more rate hikes this year and three in 2019, signaling a cautious but toughening approach to slowly unwinding the measures they took to stimulate the economy during the financial crisis. Powell, who succeeded Janet Yellen last month, said the Fed is trying to raise rates fast enough to keep the strengthening economy from overheating, without moving too fast. "We're trying to take that middle ground," he said.

Bloomberg The New York Times

5. Austin bomber's family expresses shock as motive remains elusive

The family of the man identified as the Austin serial bomber, Mark Anthony Conditt, said Wednesday they had no idea of the "darkness" that must have consumed him. Five of his bombs exploded over the last three weeks, killing two people and injuring several others. Police said Conditt, 23, left behind a 25-minute confession video on his phone and a list of targets, but no indication of a motive. Conditt blew himself up in his car early Wednesday as police closed in. An aunt said the family is "devastated and broken at the news ... Right now our prayers are for those families that have lost loved ones, for those impacted in any way, and for the soul of our Mark."

Los Angeles Times

6. Saudi crown prince reportedly boasted Kushner 'in his pocket'

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told people close to him that President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, shared with him the names of Saudis who were disloyal to him, and also told the crown prince of Abu Dhabi he has Kushner "in his pocket," current and former White House and government officials told The Intercept. Before his security clearance was downgraded, Kushner read the President's Daily Brief, filled with classified intelligence. A spokesperson for Kushner's lawyer told The Intercept Kushner did not discuss any names with the crown prince.

The Intercept

7. Report: McCabe authorized investigating Sessions

Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe authorized an investigation into whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied to Congress nearly a year before Sessions fired him for "lack of candor." Democrats on Capitol Hill have accused Sessions of giving misleading testimony because he said he never met with any Russians while serving as a campaign surrogate for President Trump, even though he met several times with Russia's ambassador. Sessions later said those meetings occurred in his capacity as a senator, not as a representative of Trump. Sessions reportedly said he did not know about the investigation, which ended without charges, when he fired McCabe a day before he would have qualified to retire with full pension benefits.

ABC News

8. Peru's president resigns after corruption scandal

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned on Wednesday after facing a corruption scandal. Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former Wall Street banker, acknowledged in a closed-door meeting with lawmakers last week receiving a $700,000 payment from an affiliate of a Brazilian construction firm, Odebrecht, for "verbal" products and "contacts." The exchange took place before he became president but after he had served as prime minister and economy minister. He denied wrongdoing but said he didn't "want to be an obstacle to our nation finding the unity and harmony that it so needs." Separately, an ally in Congress was caught on video appearing to offer kickbacks to lawmakers if they voted against impeachment.

9. Rick Saccone concedes election loss to Conor Lamb

Republican Rick Saccone on Wednesday conceded defeat in Pennsylvania's recent special congressional election to Democrat Conor Lamb. A 33-year-old former Marine and federal prosecutor, Lamb got a boost from an energized Democratic base. He won by about 750 votes in a deeply conservative district that President Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016. As it became clear that Republicans could lose a seat long considered safe for them, Trump made two appearances to drum up support for Saccone, a veteran state lawmaker. On Twitter Wednesday night, Lamb tweeted that Saccone had called and "graciously conceded last Tuesday's election. I congratulate Mr. Saccone for a close, hard-fought race."

USA Today

10. French judges place Sarkozy under formal investigation in Libya bribery case

A panel of French judges on Wednesday put former President Nicolas Sarkozy under formal investigation over allegations that he received bribes and millions of euros in illegal financing for his 2007 campaign from the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The decision came after two days of questioning over the case, which Sarkozy said had "made my life a living hell." Being placed under "formal investigation" in France indicates that investigators have found sufficient evidence of wrongdoing, and that there is now a real chance Sarkozy will be brought to trial. Sarkozy has called the case "grotesque" and unjustified. "I stand accused without any material evidence," he said.

The Washington Post France24

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