The House Intelligence Committee is holding a rare public hearing on Monday, with FBI Director James Comey and NSA chief Adm. Mike Rogers expected to face questions about Russia's involvement in the U.S. election, any ties between Russia and President Trump's campaign, who leaked information to the media about Trump aides' communications with Russia, and whether there is any evidence to back up Trump's claim that former President Barack Obama had his Trump Tower phones wiretapped. Comey is expected to say there is no evidence Trump's phones were tapped, but nobody is sure what other questions he will answer. Rogers is predicted to say less than Comey.
Democrats are most eager to discuss any Russian role in the election and any connections between Trump and the Kremlin, while Republicans are focused on who has been disclosing potentially classified information about Trump team members. Comey briefed lawmakers on Friday about the state of the Russian investigation and Trump's wiretapping accusations (he said no about Trump and wiretapping, and "it was a categorical denial," a U.S. official tells The Washington Post). What he told House Intelligence Committee members about Trump and Russia is apparently still up for debate.
On Fox New Sunday, committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said he has seen "no evidence of collusion" between Trump's circles and Russia to sway the election his way. But on NBC's Meet the Press, ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (Calif.) said there is already "circumstantial evidence of collusion" and "direct evidence" of "deception" by the Trump campaign, and "there is certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation."
Here’s where we begin our investigation into Russian interference – with circumstantial evidence of collusion & direct evidence of deception pic.twitter.com/1tobpyCjkj
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 19, 2017
Regarding Trump's wiretapping allegations, "I hope that we can put an end to this wild goose chase, because what the president said was just patently false," Schiff said. "It's continuing to grow in terms of damage, and he needs to put an end to this." Peter Weber
Syrian government strikes have killed some 500 civilians, including about 120 children, over the course of a week in the East Ghouta suburb of Damascus, reports the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The activist group says Russian planes are assisting with the attacks, but Russia denies direct engagement.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces reportedly used barrel bombs and artillery shells to target the area where some 400,000 people have no option of escape. Civilians are "being forced into bunkers and many of them can't even find the time to bury their dead," reports NPR's Lama Al-Arian. The Assad regime says its goal is to liberate civilians from a nearby rebel enclave.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is pushing for a U.N. resolution implementing a 30-day ceasefire so humanitarian aid can be delivered to East Ghouta. "I am deeply saddened by the terrible suffering of the civilian population," he said, describing the situation as "hell on Earth." If the resolution passes — Moscow is demanding edits in exchange for its support — its prospects for enforcement are dubious.
Delta and United Airlines on Saturday announced they are cutting ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Delta is reaching out to the NRA to let them know we will be ending their contract for discounted rates through our group travel program. We will be requesting that the NRA remove our information from their website.
— Delta (@Delta) February 24, 2018
United is notifying the NRA that we will no longer offer a discounted rate to their annual meeting and we are asking that the NRA remove our information from their website.
— United Airlines (@united) February 24, 2018
The airlines join the Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, Alamo, and National car rental brands as well as First National Bank of Omaha, Best Western hotels, MetLife insurance, and more than a dozen other companies in ending deals with the NRA. Delta previously offered discounted airfare for NRA members, and United offered discounts on flights to and from the organization's annual conference.
Companies are distancing themselves from the NRA in response to outrage following last week's mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school. Customer responses to the tweeted announcements were predictably mixed. Bonnie Kristian
A daring squirrel narrowly cheated death Saturday while attempting to sprint across the course of the women's parallel giant slalom competition at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Austrian snowboarder Daniela Ulbing just barely maneuvered around the animal, which appeared to reconsider its choices after she passed. Watch the squirrel's moment of destiny below. Bonnie Kristian
WATCH OUT SQUIRREL. pic.twitter.com/rtQ94MQeDj
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 24, 2018
Billionaire Warren Buffett published his annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway on Saturday. Berkshire's net worth grew by $65.3 billion in 2017, Buffett said, but $29 billion of that gain came from savings effected by the Republican tax plan passed in December. The new tax law lowered the nominal corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent.
For individual investors, Buffett cautioned against going into debt to purchase stock because the market may drop. "There is simply no telling how far stocks can fall in a short period," he wrote. "Even if your borrowings are small and your positions aren't immediately threatened by the plunging market, your mind may well become rattled by scary headlines and breathless commentary. And an unsettled mind will not make good decisions."
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Friday began soliciting public input on restoring work requirements for food stamp recipients in high-unemployment areas where rules were waived in recent years.
"Long-term dependency has never been part of the American dream," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. "USDA's goal is to move individuals and families [using food stamps] back to the workforce as the best long-term solution to poverty."
Able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) are eligible for only three months of food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) unless they spend at least 80 hours per month working or at a qualified training. In five states — Alaska, California, Louisiana, Nevada, and New Mexico — and economically struggling localities in 28 other states, that rule is currently suspended.
No changes have been formally proposed at this time, but the USDA estimates about 2.9 million ABAWDs are currently unemployed and would therefore be affected if the waiver were rescinded. They make up about 7 percent of the 43.6 million people who used food stamps in 2017. Bonnie Kristian
Heavy rains over the weekend are expected to exacerbate deadly flooding in the Midwest and southern Plains regions. Hundreds of people have evacuated their homes in affected areas from eastern Texas through southern Indiana, and at least three people, including one child, have been killed in connection to the floods.
***There is now a HIGH RISK of flash flooding from the Arklatex region into the Ohio Valley for SATURDAY*** pic.twitter.com/fa4yxMW433
— NWS WPC (@NWSWPC) February 23, 2018
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has declared a 30-day state of emergency, and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has issued a disaster proclamation for three counties. The National Weather Service advises caution of flash floods and tornadoes throughout the weekend. Bonnie Kristian
The United States men's curling team took its first-ever gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on Saturday. After nearly being eliminated from the competition, the team made a comeback win, besting both the Canadian team — prior to this victory, no American team in men's or women's curling has ever beaten Canada at the Olympics — and the Swedish team, which was ranked first in the world.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 24, 2018
"During the entire end we could kind of feel it building," said team leader John Shuster of the gold-medal victory over Sweden. "Their margin for error got really small."
Also Saturday, Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic became the first woman to take gold in two separate events at the Winter Games. Last Saturday, she was the surprise victor in Alpine skiing, and this week, Ledecka triumphed in her primary event, women's parallel giant slalom snowboarding. Bonnie Kristian