October 18, 2017

President Trump invited scrutiny of his condolences after erroneously claiming Monday that presidents before him did not call the bereaved families of fallen troops. "I think I've called every family of someone who's died," Trump said, although The Associated Press found that isn't true.

Critics reacted to Trump's statements as going a step too far, especially after the president reignited the controversy Tuesday by telling Fox News: "You could ask General [John] Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?"

"I just wish that this commander in chief would stop using Gold Star families as pawns in whatever sick game he's trying to play here," said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran.

Trump has also been criticized for how he's handled phone calls to grieving families, with a Democratic congresswoman reporting Wednesday that the president made the widow of Army Sgt. La David Terrence Johnson break down in tears. The wife, Myeshia Johnson, reportedly told Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) that Trump "didn't even know" her husband's name. Jeva Lange

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized Sgt. La David T. Johnson's Army role. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.

10:39 a.m. ET
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An Iowa family of four was found dead Friday inside their vacation condo in Tulum, Mexico, local authorities reported. Police said there are "no signs of traumatic injury," and a relative of the family reported on Facebook there "was no foul play." Autopsies will be conducted to determine the cause of death, which some reports have suggested was a gas leak.

Kevin Sharp, 41, his wife Amy, 38, and their children Sterling, 12, and Adrianna, 7, were from Creston, Iowa. The Sharps owned a beer distribution company, and Kevin raced stock cars.

"We watched the flights leave Cancun and land in St. Louis. We watched the last one leave Cancun. We were hoping that we would hear from them then. When we did not we knew that something was wrong," said Jana Wedlund, Amy's cousin. "The only thing we're thankful for, the only thing they've given us hope for, is that it was very peaceful." Bonnie Kristian

10:33 a.m. ET
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The London offices of Cambridge Analytica were raided overnight Friday by agents of the United Kingdom's Information Commissioner's office. The seven-hour search, which completed early Saturday, was authorized by a warrant to investigate the company's database and servers.

"This is just one part of a larger investigation into the use of personal data and analytics for political purposes," said the Information Commissioner's office of the raid. "As you will expect, we will now need to collect, assess, and consider the evidence before coming to any conclusions."

Cambridge Analytica is the data firm alleged to have illicitly acquired and used information from the Facebook profiles of tens of millions of Americans for targeted campaign ads. The Trump campaign was among its clients, as was a super PAC organized by incoming National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook both deny illegal conduct, and Facebook has suspended the data firm from its service. Bonnie Kristian

10:27 a.m. ET

South Korea announced Saturday it has finalized plans for high-level talks with North Korea this coming Thursday.

Each country will be represented by three delegates who will meet in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in advance of planned negotiations between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which will in turn be followed by discussion between Kim and President Trump. The date of the Trump-Kim summit has yet to be set.

"Through these talks and future talks, we must end the nuclear and peace issue on the Korean Peninsula," Moon said of the arrangement. "It is necessary to make it possible for the two Koreas to live together peacefully without interfering with each other or damaging each other." Bonnie Kristian

8:20 a.m. ET
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Student-led March for Our Lives rallies are scheduled in Washington and cities across the United States on Saturday. About 500,000 people are expected to gather in the capital alone, and some 700 additional protests for stricter gun laws are listed on the march website.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where the mass shooting on Valentine's Day left 17 people dead, are among the 20 speakers scheduled for the primary event in Washington. All the speakers are 18 or younger, and they will be accompanied by performances from celebrities including Ariana Grande, Common, and Miley Cyrus.

March for Our Lives' student organizers say Saturday's protests are just the beginning of their gun control campaign. "We want to continue what we're doing, especially leading up to November," said Jaclyn Corin, 17, from Parkland. "We want every young person to register to vote and head to the polls, no matter who they're voting for or what party they've voting for." Bonnie Kristian

7:58 a.m. ET
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President Trump on Friday issued an order banning transgender people who "may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery" from the military "except under certain limited circumstances."

The question of transgender troops has been in limbo for the better part of a year since Trump's surprise announcement via Twitter last summer of a complete ban on transgender service. That initial rule was blocked in court, and the Justice Department dropped its challenge to the stay in December pending a recommendation from Defense Secretary James Mattis. The Friday memo said Mattis reached a conclusion in favor of this new ban, which will still face court challenge.

"This new policy will enable the military to apply well-established mental and physical health standards — including those regarding the use of medical drugs — equally to all individuals who want to join and fight for the best military force the world has ever seen," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the memo. Mattis likewise argued against exemptions "from well-established mental health, physical health, and sex-based standards, which apply to all Service members" in a February report to Trump.

But critics contend the plan discriminates against the LGBT community and will reduce military readiness. "The Trump-Pence administration's continued insistence on targeting our military families for discrimination is appalling, reckless, and unpatriotic," said Ashley Broadway-Mack of the American Military Partner Association. Bonnie Kristian

March 23, 2018
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George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to President Trump, communicated with top Trump campaign officials like Stephen Bannon and Michael Flynn about his foreign outreach efforts and received encouragement from a senior-level official to make contact with Russians, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts last year, was reportedly urged to accept an interview with a Russian news agency by the campaign’s deputy communications director, Bryan Lanza. "You should do it,” Lanza wrote, per an email that was "described" to the Post. The message further touted the potential gains to be had from a U.S. “partnership with Russia.”

Trump and his staffers have sought to downplay the role that Papadopoulos played in the campaign, calling him a "low-level volunteer" and merely a "coffee boy." But emails revealed to the Post show that Bannon, then the campaign CEO, and Flynn, then a top campaign adviser, were frequently in touch with Papadopoulos to discuss possible meetings between Trump and foreign officials.

Papadopoulos is cooperating in the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign was involved. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

March 23, 2018

As the national conversation on gun violence comes to a head, 63 percent of gun owners maintain they keep guns for self defense. Others point out times the "good guy with a gun" argument went wrong.

A new story from BuzzFeed News looks at those times.

Since 2015, at least 47 people have been shot by someone who mistook them for an intruder, per an analysis by BuzzFeed News and gun violence-focused newsroom The Trace. The victims were actually family members, friends, or emergency responders — and 15 of them died.

BuzzFeed News turned four of these stories into a harrowing Twitter thread describing the moment each shooter realized what they'd done, like this snippet of Alexis Bukrym's story:

Bukrym's story continues, describing how she learned gun safety as a child and kept a handgun under her pillow while living with the roommate she shot. She knew about the risk of an accident, but her roommate didn't have a gun, and it seemed worth the risk to protect them both.

Read the rest of the story — including Bukrym's views on guns after the accident — at BuzzFeed News. Kathryn Krawczyk

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