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March 2, 2018

A Russian politician has spent the last several years forging deep bonds with leaders of the National Rifle Association, documenting his relationship with the organization along the way, NPR reports.

Alexander Torshin is a deputy governor of the Bank of Russia, a former Russian senator, and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Police in Spain believe Torshin directs financial transactions for the Russian mob, and McClatchy reported in January that the FBI is investigating whether he illegally funneled money to the NRA in order to help President Trump's campaign. Torshin joined Twitter in 2011, and since then, NPR says, he has used his verified account to tweet about how he used his NRA connections to meet Trump in 2015 and serve as a foreign election observer in Tennessee in 2012.

NPR translated many of Torshin's Twitter messages from Russian into English. In response to comedian Larry David calling Trump a racist in 2015, Torshin wrote: "I know D. Trump (through NRA). A decent person." He later added that he "saw him in Nashville" in April 2015, the same time and place that year's NRA convention was held. Torshin is a lifetime NRA member, and his Twitter timeline reveals that he attended every NRA convention from 2012 to 2016 and has met every head of the organization since 2012. In 2015, he tweeted he was in the U.S. when former President Barack Obama was re-elected, and "the NRA card, to me as an observer from Russia, opened access to any [polling] station."

The NRA and Torshin both did not respond to NPR's request for comment. For more on Torshin's deep ties to the NRA and its leaders, and why experts think Russia is trying to infiltrate the NRA, visit NPR. Catherine Garcia

November 17, 2018

President Trump flew to California on Saturday to survey and discuss the massive fires still raging throughout the state. But one very, very important topic didn't come up.

While flying back to Washington Saturday night, Trump told reporters he and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom (D) didn't talk about climate change — a factor that's likely made the deadly fires far worse than expected. "We have different views but maybe not as different as people think," Trump said of his visit with Newsom, presumably because the two didn't discuss a reality that Trump doesn't quite believe in.

California is at highest risk of wildfires during the summer. But this year's fire season started earlier than usual, per The Sacramento Bee, and the worst of it came after the season typically ends with November's Camp and Woolsey fires. The Camp Fire has left 71 dead and burned 148,000 acres as of Saturday morning, per the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The Woolsey Fire is now 82 percent contained, but still left 3 dead and 98,362 acres ravaged, Cal Fire reports. And California's increasingly dry climate, made even worse by climate change, is likely to blame.

Trump conceded in a Friday interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace that climate change "contributes maybe a little bit" to harsher wildfires, but went on to say "management" and a lack of raking dry leaves were mostly to blame. After visiting an entire town destroyed by the Camp Fire on Saturday, Trump told reporters nothing changed his mind.

Watch that moment below. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 17, 2018

Democrat Andrew Gillum has officially ended his bid for Florida governor, conceding to former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) in a Saturday Facebook video.

The progressive Tallahassee mayor was expected to be the state's first black governor, seeing as he consistently polled ahead of the President Trump-backing DeSantis. Election Day results were far tighter, and Gillum actually conceded that night after DeSantis secured 49.9 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

But after reports showed votes in some Democratic strongholds, including the notorious Broward County, had not yet been counted, Gillum retracted his concession. A gap of just 34,000 votes, or 0.41 percent, between Gillum and DeSantis triggered a recount. DeSantis eventually finished with 49.6 percent of the vote to Gillum's 49.2 percent, per The New York Times.

Gillum reflected the protracted ballot-counting process in his concession video, calling for updates to Florida's voting system.

Gillum's concession comes after Trump tweeted congratulations to the Democrat for "running a tough race" Saturday morning. Florida's Senate race between current Gov. Rick Scott (R) and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is still undergoing a manual recount. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 17, 2018

Elon Musk's tweets often seem like jokes. They never are.

In September, the Tesla and SpaceX founder tweeted that he'd be opening a "brick store" in about two months. "Only 10 cents a brick!" he touted. And while Musk's self-imposed due date has come and gone, The Brick Store LLC is set in stone, TechCrunch reports.

Musk has spent the past two years working on a project called The Boring Company, which literally bores holes through the Earth to create tunnels that alleviate traffic. Just Friday, The Boring Company completed a tunnel under Los Angeles that Musk has called "disturbingly long." Another tunnel to Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium is also in the works, which people will travel through on "autonomous electric skates" that travel up to 150 miles per hour, per the company's website.

But all that boring moves a lot of dirt. And with dirt, you can make bricks. That's the simple premise behind The Brick Company, which Musk started in July, per public documents obtained by TechCrunch. Bricks will be available for purchase at a brick-and-mortar shop called — what else — The Brick Store, the documents show. The Brick Store will be made of bricks and accented by "forbidding black steel security grilles," TechCrunch writes, and will be located right outside the just-completed tunnel.

Musk branded what seemed to be The Brick Store as "a watchtower" in a tweet yesterday, and announced The Boring Company was hiring "a knight to yell insults at people in a French accent" from its dirt brick facade. Please, read more at TechCrunch. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 17, 2018

About 500 Georgians have been told to evacuate their homes after a train carrying propane derailed in their small town.

"Several" railroad cars tipped off the tracks in Byromville, Georgia, which is 55 miles south of Macon, CSX Railroad tells The Associated Press. Some of the cars contained pressurized propane, prompting the county's sheriff to order anyone within half a mile of the incident to evacuate.

That radius contains "practically the whole town" of Byromville, town fire chief Brett Walls tells local CBS affiliate WMAZ. Walls put the number of derailed cars anywhere from 15 to 30, and said the propane that spilled from them was odorless. No injuries have been reported.

Check out the station's footage of the incident below. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 17, 2018

Mass shootings have hit music festivals and movie theaters. They've rocked every level of the education system. They've spared people who've gone on to be killed another day. And now, the names of those lost in America's everyday tragedy have filled a whole page in The Washington Post.

On Saturday, the Post published a scathing piece from its editorial board, condemning how "sadly — maddeningly — Congress has failed to" combat the ever-growing scourge of shootings in America. But below its argument for action was something even more moving: A list of victims who'd been killed in mass shootings since the 1999 attack at Columbine High School. The names filled an entire page in the Post's print edition. And, as the Post noted, the list was surely incomplete. Look at the whole spread below. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 17, 2018

President Trump won't stop proclaiming House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should be the next speaker of the House. And Pelosi won't stop waving those endorsements away.

In a Saturday morning tweet, Trump continued his push for Pelosi in a very Trumpian way: bragging that he could get Pelosi "as many votes as she wants" to become speaker. Trump also called out Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), a Republican who told The Buffalo News Thursday he's willing to support Pelosi, in his tweet. But when asked about Trump's endorsement — and any possible support from Republicans — Pelosi was not so kind.

Trump's endorsement comes in the wake of yet another incoming House Democrat, this time Virginia's Abigail Spanberger, saying Friday she wouldn't vote for Pelosi to become speaker. She joins 17 other Democrats who've publicly denounced Pelosi's bid, CNN reports. Pelosi met with Spanberger and several other members of her opposition on Friday, including Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who's considering a run against Pelosi for the top role.

Just after Democrats regained the House last week, Trump similarly tweeted that he could throw a few Republican votes her way if Democrats don't pull through. Less surprisingly, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also tweeted that he "fully support[s]" Pelosi on Saturday morning. And Pelosi seems as confident as ever, with a spokesman telling The Washington Post Saturday that she'll "win the speakership with Democratic votes." Kathryn Krawczyk

November 17, 2018

The Supreme Court has opted to hear arguments over President Trump's administration's decision to add a question of citizenship to the 2020 census.

The question, which would directly ask if "this person is a citizen of the United States," has been challenged in six lawsuits around the U.S. This has led to disputes over what evidence can be brought up during the trials, and if Trump officials' motives in enacting the addition can be discussed as well. But the Supreme Court's timing on this decision is "curious," seeing as the controversial census is already undergoing one trial in New York, The Washington Post writes.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the addition in March, originally claiming the Justice Department ordered the move. But documents unveiled in one of the lawsuits later showed Ross talked about adding the question with former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon, suggesting Ross drove the change himself. Ross and other administration officials' motivations for the addition are now slated for discussion in the forthcoming Supreme Court hearing.

The Trump administration has fought to block Ross from facing questioning over the matter, and last month the Supreme Court refused to allow the deposition of Ross in the New York case, per NPR. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman has scheduled closing arguments in the New York case for Nov. 27, while the Supreme Court has the case slated for next February.

The citizenship question has faced criticism from advocates who say undocumented people will avoid answering the census out of fear. That would lead to undercounts in Democrat-heavy areas, and perhaps cut federal aid that undocumented immigrants in those areas rely on. Kathryn Krawczyk

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