The White House said the U.S. with U.K. and French forces had launched “precision strikes” against suspected chemical weapons facilities controlled by the Syrian government. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis called the mission a “one-time shot” that was a “harder” strike than last year. He said there had been no losses of coalition aircraft. Russia’s Foreign Ministry denounced the attack and questioned evidence against Assad for the suspected chemical attack that killed more than 40 last week. Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. said that “such actions will not be left without consequences.”
The Presidential Daily Brief
President Trump today pardoned former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., convicted in 2007 for identifying CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Libby outed her after her husband charged that George W. Bush’s administration ignored evidence that Iraq lacked weapons of mass destruction — used to justify invading the country. Trump’s pardon involves multiple contradictions, including that Libby leaked secrets to the media, something Trump has railed against, but observers believe it’s a signal that the president’s willing to pardon those convicted in the Russiagate probe.
The Justice Department today informed a federal court that President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is “under criminal investigation.” A U.S. attorney’s filing — responding to a motion to exclude evidence obtained in FBI raids on Cohen’s home and office, redacted the suspected crimes being probed, but Cohen has admitted paying porn star Stormy Daniels, who’s alleged a Trump tryst. Also, the Wall Street Journal reported today that Cohen arranged payments to a Playboy model claiming she was impregnated by venture capitalist Elliott Broidy, a GOP donor and the party’s deputy finance chairman.
In a meeting with lawmakers and governors yesterday, President Trump asked his advisers to look into rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership — which he abandoned three days after moving into the White House. The sudden reversal left Trump’s associates stunned: “This whole trade thing has exploded,” said top economic adviser Larry Kudlow. Experts say the Obama-negotiated TPP, which Trump routinely criticized on the campaign trail, could temper a rising China. In a late-night tweet, the president said the U.S. would only rejoin if the terms were “substantially better.”
“Hell hath no fury like an FBI director scorned.” That’s what a former White House adviser said about Comey’s new memoir, which casts President Trump as paranoid, clueless and unethical. In A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, the ousted FBI director — who told Congress last year that Trump had demanded his loyalty — describes the president and his team as a Mafia-style organization concerned primarily with strategy and spin rather than sober policymaking. The much-anticipated book will be released next week.
They’re driving each other up the wall. The electric car company clashed yesterday with federal investigators, with conflicting reports about whether Tesla voluntarily left the NTSB investigation or was kicked off for releasing sensitive information. Last month’s Model X accident, which Tesla blamed on the driver despite the car’s Autopilot function being engaged, is also a challenge for the NTSB, which typically investigates conventional automotive and air disasters. Meanwhile, Tesla faces another controversy after reports emerged that it tried to buy a Black employee’s silence over racial discrimination claims.
Know This: President Trump has ordered a review of the U.S. Postal Service’s business model amid $65 billion in losses since 2009. The head of the panel that awards the Nobel Prize for literature has resigned over the mishandling of sexual harassment allegations. And Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno says three journalists kidnapped by drug runners near the Colombian border have probably been killed.
Try This: Feeling presidential after a week of briefings? Prove it with the PDB Quiz.
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Humanitarian organizations in Italy say French police have on multiple occasions altered the documents of teenage refugees traveling alone to say they’re older than 18, allowing the teens to be sent back across the Italian border. Adult migrants must apply for asylum in the first safe country they reach, while children are permitted to cross borders and reunite with family members. Groups like Oxfam Italy and Caritas, which claim the practice has been going on since January, have appealed to the Italian government to “take all measures necessary” to end it.
The findings are sobering. New research on 600,000 people in 19 countries found that consuming 10 alcoholic beverages per week cuts a person’s life expectancy by up to two years, while 18 or more drinks per week reduces it by five years. The negative impact on life expectancy — mostly due to cardiovascular disease and other heart-related problems — only disappeared at five drinks per week. The U.S. government currently recommends no more than two drinks per day, but the study’s authors suggest those recommendations should be dramatically reduced.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, set to launch Monday atop a 230-foot Falcon 9 rocket provided by SpaceX, will take over from the retiring Kepler space telescope. TESS will spend at least two years in close orbit pointing its four cameras just outside our solar system to find nearby planets and study their density and atmosphere. Researchers hope TESS will find enough to help them build a comprehensive database of exoplanets — especially rocky, Earth-sized ones in the habitable zone — to study far into the future.
The prestigious French competition revealed most of its selections — which artistic director Thierry Frémaux described as a “generational renewal” — while marking 50 years since the event was cut short amid widespread civil unrest in 1968. So far, the list is notable for who’s not included: Netflix. The streaming giant’s films were excluded due to a new rule banning pictures without theatrical distribution in France. It’ll also be the first Cannes in recent memory without Harvey Weinstein. More titles are still expected to be announced before the May event.
They’ll pass. Seattle had invited the controversial quarterback for a workout, but reportedly canceled after the former 49er couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t kneel during the national anthem or engage in off-field activism. A league source said the Seahawks want a clearer idea of Kaepernick’s plans, but they’ve left the door open for him while they search for a backup for quarterback Russell Wilson. Meanwhile, Kaepernick — a free agent since after the 2016 season — was deposed by NFL attorneys over his complaint claiming the league conspired to blacklist him.