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10 things you need to know today: March 13, 2018

Harold Maass
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1.

House Republicans say no evidence of Russia-Trump collusion

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee said Monday they had concluded their inquiry and found no evidence of collusion by President Trump's campaign aides in Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who led the investigation, said he and his GOP colleagues agreed with U.S. intelligence agencies that Moscow meddled, but disagreed "with the narrative that they were trying to help Trump." Democrats said the panel had overlooked key witnesses and failed to subpoena important records. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the committee's top Democrat, said Republicans "placed the interests of protecting the president over protecting the country." The Senate and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are continuing their investigations. [The New York Times]

2.

Austin police say three package-bomb explosions related

Two package bombs exploded at homes in Austin, Texas, on Monday. One killed a 17-year-old boy and left a woman in her 40s hospitalized with potentially life-threatening injuries. The other left a 75-year-old woman badly injured. Police said that "similarities" indicated that the two blasts were related to a March 2 package explosion that killed Anthony Stephan House, 39. The victims of the fatal blasts were African American or Hispanic. Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said investigators were not ruling out any possible motive, but they were no longer "making the connection to a hate crime." He urged Austin residents to report any suspicious packages. [Austin American-Statesman, CBS News]

3.

Stormy Daniels offers to return $130,000 in 'hush' money

Porn star Stormy Daniels offered on Monday to repay the $130,000 she said President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid her shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about her alleged 2006 extramarital affair with Trump. "This is an extremely fair offer," her attorney, Michael Avenatti, said in an interview. "It accomplishes the goal of allowing the American people to decide who is telling the truth after hearing both sides." Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing Trump because she says the "hush" agreement is invalid because Trump never signed it, so she should be allowed to discuss it freely. Trump has denied he had a relationship of any kind with the adult-film actress. [Reuters]

4.

Pennsylvanians vote in high-stakes special House election

Voters in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district go the polls Tuesday in a special House election that has attracted attention and contributions from around the country. Democrat Conor Lamb made a late push in the polls, leading Republican Rick Saccone 51 percent to 44 percent in a model with high turnout often seen in presidential election years, according to a Monmouth University survey released on Monday. The Monmouth poll shows Lamb leading by just two percentage points if turnout is light, as it typically is in midterm elections. President Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the district by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016. Republicans, facing a potentially painful loss in a deep-red district, have made a frantic push to support Saccone, with Trump himself appearing with the longtime state lawmaker on Sunday. [Politico, Monmouth University]

5.

U.K. says 'highly likely' Russia behind spy's poisoning with nerve agent

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that it was "highly likely" that Russia was behind last week's poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in southern England. May said that British scientists had determined that the Skripals had been attacked with Novichok, a class of nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War. May said Russia would face "extensive" retaliation if it could not prove the poison got into someone else's hands. Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, remained in critical condition eight days after they were found unconscious in the town of Salisbury. A police detective who touched them remained in serious condition. [The Associated Press]

6.

Trump heads to California to see border-wall prototypes

President Trump on Tuesday is scheduled to make his first visit to California since taking office. He plans to go to the U.S.-Mexico border to promote prototypes of the border wall he has vowed to build to discourage illegal immigration. Trump will examine eight prototypes that are 18- to 30-feet tall, and has said he plans to "pick the right one." Opponents and supporters of the wall are planning demonstrations. Supporters of the wall say it is needed to deter illegal border crossings, while opponents, including California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), say it is divisive and detrimental to the environment. [NPR, NBC News]

7.

White House officials express alarm over DeVos interview

White House officials on Monday expressed alarm at the difficulty Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had answering basic questions about the nation's schools during a Sunday night appearance on 60 Minutes, CNN reported, citing two sources familiar with reaction within the administration. DeVos also was widely considered to have failed to adequately defend President Trump's new proposal on improving school safety, which partly involves helping states train and arm some teachers. At one point DeVos told interviewer Lesley Stahl that she had not "intentionally" visited underperforming schools as she struggled to defend her belief that public schools do better when charter schools and private school voucher programs are expanded. [CNN]

8.

Trump blocks Broadcom takeover of Qualcomm

President Trump on Monday night blocked Singapore-based chip-maker Broadcom's proposed $117 billion hostile takeover of U.S. rival Qualcomm. The Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. had flagged the deal over national security concerns. Aimen Mir, a top Treasury official and member of the committee, suggested in a letter to both companies on Sunday that the panel was leaning toward recommending against a deal, saying the committee had "confirmed" the security risks posed by such a deal. Qualcomm made Mir's letter public on Monday. The Trump administration's wariness over the deal stemmed from fears that allowing the sale of a U.S.-based technology company as important as Qualcomm would give China a technological advantage and erode the U.S.'s edge in the semiconductor industry. [The New York Times]

9.

Apple to buy 'Netflix of magazine publishing'

Apple is buying the virtual newsstand Texture, known as the "Netflix of magazine publishing," Apple's senior vice president of internet software and services, Eddy Cue, said in a statement Monday. Texture gives readers access to roughly 200 magazines for a $9.99 monthly fee. Texture was formerly known as Next Issue, and is owned by Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Rogers Media, and KKR. It is the latest in a series of Apple acquisitions that have included Spotify/Pandora competitor Beats for Apple Music, and BookLamp, which TechCrunch once referred to as the "Pandora for books." "We could not imagine a better home or future for the service," said John Loughlin, CEO of Next Issue Media/Texture, in a statement. [TechCrunch]

10.

Palestinian prime minister survives explosion in Gaza

An explosion hit Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah's convoy as he made a rare visit to Gaza on Tuesday. Hamdallah was unharmed and proceeded with plans to inaugurate a sewage plant in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. His Fatah party called the blast an assassination attempt by Gaza militants. Windows were blown out in three cars in the convoy. Gaza's ruling Hamas faction condemned the "cowardly attack," saying it was an attempt to "hurt efforts to achieve unity and reconciliation" between the Islamic Hamas faction and Fatah. It promised an investigation. Hamdallah, based in the West Bank, said the attack would "not deter from seeking to end the bitter split" between the two Palestinian factions. [The Associated Press]