It was “information warfare.” Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged 13 Russian nationals and three organizations with using online platforms to aid the candidacy of President Donald Trump and disparage Hillary Clinton. It’s the first time Mueller’s probe has brought election meddling charges, but the 37-page indictment implicates neither the Russian government nor the Trump campaign as anything other than unwitting helpers. The alleged scheme, dating back to 2014, worked to “spread distrust” toward candidates and the electoral system. It’s unlikely that those charged will be arrested soon, but their warrants should make international travel difficult.
The Presidential Daily Brief
There were warnings. Nikolas Cruz, 19, told Florida police he took an Uber to his former high school Wednesday afternoon, where he gunned down students and teachers before fleeing. He’s been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Cruz was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, and staff had been warned not to allow him on campus with a backpack. Gov. Rick Scott said he’ll “do everything I can to make sure this never happens again,” and that “everything is on the table” — even gun restrictions.
They don’t have the votes. The bipartisan plan, which would have funded $25 billion for a border wall and created a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, fell six votes shy, leaving 1.8 million “Dreamers” in legal limbo. President Donald Trump, who canceled the DACA program, had promised to veto the bill even if it passed Congress. Some doubt legislators will be given more time to devise a new bill, and the government is expected to stop renewing DACA permits beginning March 5.
He’s got a lot to do. Parliament chose Cyril Ramaphosa, who ran unopposed and leads the ruling African National Congress, to replace disgraced President Jacob Zuma, who resigned Wednesday after a formal request from his own party. Markets perked up at the news, with the South African rand reaching a three-year high. While the country boasts Africa’s most industrialized economy, it has become rickety under Zuma, leaving former union leader and businessman Ramaphosa to contend with an almost 30 percent unemployment rate as he takes office.
It’s back on the market. Last August, Securities and Exchange Commission officials recommended approving the sale of the privately held exchange, which handles just 0.5 percent of America’s equities trading, to a group led by China-based investors. But the decision was put on hold pending further review, and now — after harsh criticism from many quarters, including President Trump — commissioners say it would be impossible to adequately access the records of foreign owners. The decision is likely to increase trade tensions between the U.S. and China.
Know This: The chief of staff for U.S. Veteran’s Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has resigned following a finding that she doctored an email to get ethics officials to approve federally funded foreign travel for the secretary’s wife. Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu has cut ties with Oxfam over the charity’s burgeoning sexual misconduct scandal. And President Trump’s inaugural committee reportedly paid $26 million to an event planning firm founded by one of the first lady’s advisers.
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He dug too deep. Acting on orders from Russia’s communications watchdog, internet providers are reportedly blocking the website of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, as well as his YouTube and Instagram posts. Last week Navalny published a report about illicit ties between a senior Kremlin official and billionaire Oleg Deripaska — who is accused of being a messenger between the Russian government and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Navalny, who’s been barred from running in next month’s presidential election, has refused to comply with the orders to remove his report.
Everyone’s being thrown off balance. Users on Reddit, Twitter and other forums are complaining that cryptocurrency exchange startup Coinbase has been repeating transactions unprompted, emptying users’ bank accounts and incurring overdraft fees. The company’s transactions were recently reclassified as “cash advances” by most banks and card companies, and Coinbase blamed Visa for the mess, saying it retroactively applied that change to payments made after Jan. 22, recharging and refunding all transactions. Coinbase promised to repay overdraft fees, but this blunder could cause customers to shy away from the relatively new startup.
They’re running out of time. A new study reveals the island of Borneo lost nearly 150,000 of its native orangutans in the last 16 years, with human activity mostly to blame. While deforestation contributed to the great apes’ decline, stark population drops also occurred in areas that remained forested. That suggests hunting by humans has been another major cause. The study’s authors predicted that over 45,000 more orangutans will disappear in the next 35 years just from loss of habitat, and that hunting is likely to drive those numbers up further.
“Profoundly disappointed.” That’s how Jeffrey Tambor, who starred as a transgender woman on the award-winning show, described feeling after being fired following Amazon’s investigation into multiple sexual harassment allegations. A personal assistant and a fellow cast member, both transgender women, had accused him of behaving inappropriately. Tambor denied the allegations, claiming the investigation was “biased toward the toxic politicized atmosphere that afflicted our set.” The show is now preparing to work around his character’s absence for its fifth season, as Netflix did after dropping Kevin Spacey from House of Cards.
He put himself in the line of fire. Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach and security guard killed in Wednesday’s Florida school shooting, reportedly stepped between the shooter and a student to allow her time to escape. Feis graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School himself before returning as a coach. The school’s athletic director, Chris Hixon, and a cross-country coach, Scott Biegel, were also killed protecting students. Feis was described as a “teddy bear” in tributes from students and players, with one noting, “Everyone loved him.”