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10 things you need to know today: January 31, 2019

Trump calls his own intelligence chiefs "naive" after they contradict him, death toll rises in the Midwest's historic cold blast, and more


Trump clashes with intelligence chiefs

President Trump on Wednesday lashed out at his own intelligence chiefs after they contradicted some of his assertions on rivals such as North Korea and Iran. Trump defended his own optimistic take on North Korea's promise to denuclearize, countering warnings in the annual "Worldwide Threat Assessment" that North Korea does not intend to give up all of its nuclear weapons. He also called intelligence officials "naive" for suggesting that Iran was not actively working toward developing its own nukes. "Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school," Trump tweeted. Democrats called Trump's comments irresponsible. "If you're going to ignore that information, then you're going to make poor decisions," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. "It means the country is fundamentally less safe."


Polar vortex blamed for at least 10 deaths

The arctic cold blast sweeping across the Midwest was linked to at least 10 deaths by late Wednesday. The historic cold weather, fueled by the polar vortex, pushed temperatures to 21 degrees below zero in Chicago, with the wind chill hitting 51 below. The temperature in Minneapolis dropped to minus-28 degrees, near a record set more than a century ago. The National Weather Service warned of "life-threatening wind chills, likely leading to widespread record lows and low maximum temperatures" as the system moved east. "Stay inside if you can," Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. "And try to make sure that, if you see someone in need, you take action."


Lawmakers start talks on border security

House and Senate negotiators held their first meeting Wednesday on a border-security deal, but President Trump warned they will be "wasting their time" if they don't discuss funding a wall on the Mexican border. Some Democrats said they would not discuss physical barriers of any kind. "The wall doesn't work. You can go under. You can climb over. You can go around," said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who's on the 17-member bipartisan House-Senate conference committee created under Friday's deal to end the 35-day partial government shutdown. One thing both sides can agree about, said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), is that "we must do everything we can to prevent another unnecessary and destructive government shutdown."


Mueller: Files on indicted Russian company leaked

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office said Wednesday that a pro-Russia Twitter account tried to discredit the investigation into Russian election meddling by releasing more than 1,000 sensitive files from an active criminal case. Mueller filed a complaint objecting to a discovery request from Concord Management and Consulting, a Russian agency owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Last February, Prigozhin and Concord were indicted on charges of disrupting the 2016 election. Concord's lawyers in the U.S.-based law firm Reed Smith were given access to about four million documents from Mueller's office. In October, the Twitter account @HackingRedstone tweeted a link to a website with 300,000 files, more than 1,000 of which had watermarks unique to materials shared with Concord during discovery.


Fed keeps rates unchanged in new 'patient' approach

The Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged and signaled that it's done with its steady pace of hikes, for now. In a shift, the Federal Open Market Committee said it "will be patient as it determines what future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate may be appropriate." The news sent stocks rising sharply, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 1.8 percent to close above 25,000 for the first time since Dec. 4. The broader S&P 500 closed up by 1.6 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq surged by 2.2 percent. "It seems like the Fed is becoming more market dependent rather than data dependent," said Jack Ablin, founding partner of Cresset Wealth.


Europe sets up system to allow some Iran trade despite U.S. sanctions

Germany, France, and Britain have set up a European mechanism to facilitate trade with Iran so it can continue to benefit from its 2015 agreement to curb its nuclear program, despite U.S. sanctions, Reuters reported Thursday, citing two diplomats. The European Union has spent months preparing the system to provide a clearing house that allows transfers in currency other than dollars, although technical issues could prevent the system from becoming operational for several more months. Europe has been trying to encourage Iran to continue honoring the nuclear deal since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from it last year. The system will not fully revive trade. Its focus will be on food, medicine, and humanitarian transactions, not oil-related ones targeted by the U.S.


Apple supplier Foxconn changes plans in Wisconsin

Apple supplier Foxconn said Wednesday that it is abandoning a plan to build a major new factory in Wisconsin, a project President Trump had touted as a massive source of new jobs, and will instead build a research and development center. The Taiwanese tech giant said that it still would hire 13,000 people but that they would be engineers and researchers, instead of factory workers. "The global market environment that existed when the project was first announced has changed," Foxconn said. Wisconsin had agreed to give the company $3 billion in state tax credits and breaks, although critics complained that the state would make no money on it for 25 years. Under the contract, Wisconsin can withhold some of the breaks if Foxconn changes the deal.


Kentucky governor's lawyers say Kim Davis responsible for gay couples' legal fees

Attorneys for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) said in a court filing that former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis failed to do her job when she denied same-sex couples marriage licenses, so she should be held responsible for the nearly $225,000 in legal fees of affected couples who sued her, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported Wednesday. Bevin has praised Davis as "an inspiration," but his lawyers argue that she violated people's civil rights and "stood in direct conflict" with the law. The governor's lawyers said that means that if a court makes somebody pay the court costs of people who sued it should be the Rowan County Clerk's office, not the state government. A three-judge panel is scheduled to hear arguments in the case Thursday. Davis lost a re-election bid in November.


Facebook shuts down controversial iOS app that collected teens' data

Facebook is shutting down an iOS app that gave the company access to users' private data in exchange for gift cards. The social media giant for the past three years has been paying up to $20 a month to people between the ages of 13 and 35 who downloaded a VPN on their phone, a TechCrunch report found. Users who agreed to do so were giving Facebook "nearly limitless access" to their devices and data, including their private messages, emails, and web activity, the report said. Just hours after the report was published, Facebook said it would discontinue the iOS app, and Apple banned the company from using a program intended for businesses that it says Facebook misused.


Maduro warns U.S. invasion would be worse than Vietnam

Venezuela's embattled president, Nicolas Maduro, warned that if the U.S. intervenes to push him out of power it "will have a Vietnam worse than they can imagine." President Trump has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president, as the South American nation's legitimate leader. Maduro has accused the U.S. of trying to oust him in a coup. There was a burst of speculation that Trump is considering sending troops to Venezuela this week after his national security adviser, John Bolton, was seen holding a notepad with a line reading, "5,000 troops to Colombia." Guaido said Wednesday in an op-ed piece that the opposition had held secret meetings with members of Venezuela's military, whose support he said would be critical in a transition to a new government.


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