May 19, 2017

Richard Rojas, the driver who plowed into pedestrians in New York City's Times Square on Thursday, has been charged with murder, 20 counts of attempted murder, and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide. Rojas, 26, was arrested Thursday after he drove his car through the crowded tourist site just before noon, killing an 18-year-old tourist and injuring 22 others, four of them critically. He was arrested after he attempted to flee his vehicle.

Initial tests indicated that Rojas, a resident of the Bronx and a Navy veteran discharged due to disciplinary issues, was under the influence of the drug PCP, The Washington Post reported. Police reported Rojas said he was "hearing voices." He has been arrested twice before for drunken driving. Becca Stanek

1:33 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The House passed the $1.3 trillion spending bill Thursday, approving the massive package to fund the federal government through September.

The 2,232-page bill was released late Wednesday after congressional negotiators finalized its terms. The proposal increases spending on the military and border protection and provides $1.6 billion for President Trump's proposed border wall — a fraction of the $25 billion the president sought. It does not address the DACA immigration program or defunding sanctuary cities, two hotly-contested provisions, though it does include provisions to increase school safety.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle applauded victories achieved in the omnibus bill while some criticized the ways it fell short. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) called it "the worst bill I have seen." The Senate will vote on the bill next, as lawmakers move quickly to meet a Friday night deadline to prevent a government shutdown.

Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

1:13 p.m. ET

Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) questioned if the GOP "has lost its soul" during grave comments Thursday ahead of a vote on the $1.3 trillion budget bill. "For the Republican Party to have the presidency, and for the Republican Party to have the Senate, the Republican Party to have the House of Representatives, and for us to be passing a bill today — obviously it couldn't happen without us, we control the agenda here — for us to be in a situation where we're getting ready to pass a bill that adds $2 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years … does have to be a wakeup call to people as to whether that's the case," he said.

Corker added: "[If] we had a Democratic president and [Republicans] controlled the House and Senate, I can't imagine us being in a situation where we would vote tonight or tomorrow for a bill that's going to add $2 trillion in debt without offsets. Matter of fact, I can just tell you, that would not be the case." Watch his sobering speech on the Senate floor below. Jeva Lange

1:00 p.m. ET

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 500 points by noon Thursday ahead of President Trump's announcement of new China-specific tariffs. Trump said the tariffs "could be about $60 billion" and come in response to complaints that Chinese companies "force U.S. companies operating in the country to transfer technology and intellectual property rights to local business partners," CNBC writes.

Supporters of the tariffs, like White House adviser Peter Navarro, argue they combat China's "forced transfer of intellectual property." China has responded by threatening Trump-friendly Farm Belt states with retaliatory tariffs that would target American soybean, sorghum, and live hog exports.

"This is the first of many," Trump vowed as he signed the memorandum. Watch some of the president's comments below. Jeva Lange

11:56 a.m. ET

John Dowd, President Trump's personal attorney, resigned Thursday, The New York Times reported. The news comes just days after Dowd called for the end of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign was involved.

Dowd reportedly resigned after concluding that Trump was ignoring his advice. The president "lost confidence" in Dowd's handling of the investigation, and sought to bring new attorneys on to help, The Washington Post reported. Trump downplayed rumors that he was looking for new blood on his legal team last week, tweeting that he was "VERY happy" with his lawyers, including Dowd.

Dowd had reportedly considered resigning before, but continued to urge the president to cooperate with Mueller's investigation. Dowd and Trump clashed over whether Trump should sit for an interview with Mueller, however; Trump reportedly wanted to do so, while Dowd advised him not to.

It is not clear who will take the lead in Trump's legal team. Summer Meza

11:43 a.m. ET

A floating clump of garbage in the Pacific Ocean has grown to be more than twice the size of Texas, research published Thursday found. That's at least four times larger than previously thought, the researchers noted.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch lies between California and Hawaii and comprises at least 79,000 tons of plastic, the study found, spanning across 617,763 square miles. To track the patch's growth, researchers flew over the area and used 18 boats to survey its true size and density.

"Ocean plastic pollution within the GPGP is increasing exponentially," they concluded. Microplastics, which are tiny fragments of plastics, make up the bulk of the 1.8 trillion pieces of debris in the patch, though the number of fishing nets present has also alarmed scientists, reports The Washington Post. The nets account for at least 46 percent of the patch's mass — a concerning statistic given sea life often become entangled in them.

The size of the patch is not changing as rapidly as is the sheer amount of trash, the study noted. The patch is becoming more dense, as plastics travel from all over the world on ocean currents and settle in the Pacific.

The findings present a daunting challenge to organizations seeking to clean up the mass. The United Nations estimates that there will be more plastic waste in the world's oceans than fish by 2050 without a major reduction in single-use plastic consumption.

Read more about the research at The Guardian. Summer Meza

11:07 a.m. ET

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) delivered blistering opening remarks during Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson's hearing Thursday before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. "I voted to confirm you," Brown said at one point. "I'm not sure I made the right decision."

After citing a litany of controversies in the department, Brown told Carson: "Instead of taking responsibility, Mr. Secretary, you seem to want to blame others" — a reference to a Carson's numerous excuses for using the HUD budget to order a $31,000 dining table. "Your wife picked out the furniture without knowing the price," Brown counted off. "Your spokesman said something, but not you. You shouldn't be blamed for not listening to your ethics lawyers. The press is unfair — it goes on and on and on and on."

Brown then added bluntly: "I think you need to take responsibility and get things right."

He wasn't finished yet. The furniture came up again as Brown said: "There's no funding for capital spending, for public housing, despite a backlog of needed repairs of tens of billions of dollars. Under your leadership, Secretary Carson, HUD has decided a wobbly chair in a private D.C. dining room requires the urgent attention of no fewer than 16 staffers and thousands — thousands — of taxpayer dollars."

To further make his point, Brown said: "Unsafe and unsanitary conditions in public housing that put working families and children at risk? Not our problem, you say. Let them use vouchers. Sounds rather [18th century], doesn't it?" Watch the entire scolding here, via CSPAN. Jeva Lange

10:31 a.m. ET

Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin sparred with Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz in a Wednesday night Anderson Cooper 360 appearance, expressing disappointment in his former professor's views on Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

President Trump recently extolled Dershowitz's views on Twitter, sharing a paraphrased quote from a recent op-ed by the professor that opposed the decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Dershowitz defended his position Wednesday, arguing that the investigation should have been handled by a bipartisan "commission" or Justice Department officials.

Toobin appeared aghast at his former mentor's words — and immediately expressed as much. "I don't know what's going on with you," he said. When Dershowitz claimed that Mueller was obligated to "find crimes" rather than simply investigate the situation, the tension escalated.

"How has this come about that in every situation over the past year you have been carrying water for Donald Trump?" said Toobin. "This is not who you used to be. And you are doing this over and over again in situations that are just obviously ripe with conflict of interest. And it's just, like, what's happened to you?"

Dershowitz disagreed that his views were simply supportive of Trump. "I have attacked President Trump for many, many things," he said. "I'm not carrying his water. I'm saying exactly the same thing I've said for 50 years. And, Jeffrey, you ought to know that. You were my student. I have never deviated from this. I have never deviated from this point. The fact that it applies to Trump now, rather than applying to Bill Clinton, is why people like you have turned against me."

Watch the debate below, via CNN. Summer Meza

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