President Trump’s communications director said she would be leaving the administration to explore opportunities outside of government on Wednesday. The decision comes a day after she testified before Congress in a closed hearing on the Russia investigation, during which she admitted to lying for the president on occasion. The White House said her decision to leave was unrelated to the hearing. Hicks previously had no experience in politics before joining Trump’s campaign. She is expected to vacate her job as the president’s trusted aide in the coming weeks.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The retailers were explicit in making the decision in light of the Parkland, Florida shooting and current debate on gun control. Dick’s also said it will no longer sell assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines while Walmart announced it would remove all toys resembling assault-style weapons (they stopped selling the real thing in 2015). “We felt we needed to do something,” Dick’s CEO Edward Stack said on Good Morning America. The decisions comes on the same day that President Trump urged lawmakers to push gun control measures.
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, a senior White House adviser entrusted with negotiating Middle East peace, has lost his top-level security clearance and will now be barred from seeing the presidential daily brief and attending high-level meetings. Kushner reportedly had foreign contacts that weren’t coordinated through official channels, and intelligence sources say at least four countries were attempting to manipulate the “naive” adviser. It’s unclear how the White House will navigate sharing classified information going forward, but chief of staff John Kelly says he has “full confidence” in Kushner.
A leaked U.N. report alleges that North Korea sent President Bashar Assad’s regime both experts and the supplies to manufacture chemical weapons in at least 40 shipments from 2012 to 2017. Syria, which is accused of multiple chemical attacks on civilians, reportedly claimed that all North Koreans in the country were athletes or sports coaches. Meanwhile, a planned Russian cease-fire in eastern Ghouta has already collapsed, with Syrian regime forces gaining ground in the besieged area and resuming the bombardment that’s killed hundreds in the last 10 days.
In a 5-3 decision, America’s highest court opted yesterday to throw out a verdict from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that had guaranteed immigrants a bail hearing after six months of detention. An estimated 10 to 20 percent of the 36,000 immigrants being detained while facing deportation proceedings have been held for at least six months, according to the ACLU. The Justice Department says the statute was burdening the system. The case will now be sent back to appellate court to consider whether indefinite detention violates immigrants’ constitutional rights.
They’re trying to keep the issue at arm’s length. Companies like Delta and FedEx that have long given promotional discounts to members of the National Rifle Association are being drawn into the raging national debate on gun rights. Calls for boycotts of NRA-friendly companies are mounting, and over a dozen firms have cut ties with the organization. But that can have consequences too: After Delta canceled discounts for NRA members, a leading Republican gubernatorial candidate in Georgia said he’ll nix tax legislation favorable to the company unless it backtracks.
Know This: The EU has published its draft of guidelines for the Brexit withdrawal process, including what amounts to a trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Amazon has bought video doorbell maker Ring in what’s seen as a step toward delivering packages into people’s homes instead of just to their doors. And a new study indicates blind humans could learn to use echolocation the way bats do.
Remember This Number: $31,561. That’s how much the Department for Housing and Urban Development reportedly spent on a dining room furniture set for HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s office — after demoting the chief administrative officer who refused to authorize the expense. The Trump administration recently proposed slashing funding from the department that helps poor Americans find affordable housing.
Hear This: How did Starbucks grow from zero to a gazillion? This week on Masters of Scale, Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz gives us his secret recipe for how the company made it. Listen to the episode here.
Known nationwide as a bastion of conservatism, the Lone Star State is now home to a record 49 LGBT candidates running for public office. One impetus for that was an anti-transgender “bathroom bill,” since defeated in the Statehouse. The March 6 primary will be the first test for candidates like Shannon McClendon, a lesbian Republican vying for a state Senate seat. And while discrimination lingers against LGBT candidates, congressional hopeful Gina Ortiz Jones explains, “You cannot be surprised that the people who have the most to lose are standing up.”
Do the Ns justify the means? After China’s ruling Communist Party proposed ending term limits, allowing President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely, social media platforms Weibo and WeChat exploded with coded dissent. Now authorities have cracked down, banning mentions of Winnie the Pooh — long used to refer to Xi — and phrases like “personality cult” and “emigrate.” The letter N was also temporarily and inexplicably censored. Many comments and memes were posted for hours before being removed, a sign that Chinese authorities hadn’t expected such an unfavorable reaction.
When NASA probe Cassini surveyed geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, it discovered molecular hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane in the plumes. That got University of Vienna researchers thinking: Earth microbe Methanothermococcus okinawensis consumes hydrogen and carbon dioxide and produces methane, surviving in deep-sea thermal vents. Could it thrive in the waters under Enceladus’ icy crust? They’ve replicated the moon’s environment to test the hypothesis, and now hope to compare their samples to Cassini’s data to determine if the methane produced on Enceladus shows signs of being biological.
Earlier this month, E! ended an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against the star due to a lack of evidence. Seacrest, who’s set to host the Oscars red carpet show this weekend, has denied former stylist Suzie Hardy’s allegations that he grabbed her crotch on multiple occasions, gave her unwanted hugs while wearing only underwear and once slapped her butt hard enough to leave a bruise. Hardy says when she reported Seacrest’s behavior to HR in 2013, she was fired. Now she’s calling on E! to improve its harassment reporting policies.
They’re cheesed off. The chain has been marketed as the league’s official pizza since 2010, but now both sides have reportedly agreed to end the deal, making Papa John’s the first NFL sponsor to prematurely cancel its agreement. Last fall, founder John Schnatter — who often appears in his own commercials — blamed a dip in sales on NFL player protests. Schnatter later apologized for the remarks but was replaced as CEO by Steve Ritchie. Meanwhile, Papa John’s will still have local deals with 22 teams and some individual athletes.