The man President Trump picked to succeed Michael Flynn as national security adviser has turned down the job, several media outlets are reporting. Retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward reportedly was frustrated that he couldn’t hire his own staff, while holdovers from Flynn’s tenure would remain. According to CBS News, Harward did not want to keep K.T. McFarland as his deputy. Officials told The Washington Post that “family considerations,” including the financial impact of leaving a job at Lockheed Martin, were also a factor. Flynn resigned from the position on Monday after reports came out that he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. over the phone before Trump took office. Flynn also misled Vice President Mike Pence about that phone call. The Trump administration had hoped that Harward would bring balance back to Trump’s foreign policy team. The former Navy SEAL was heavily involved in Iraq and Afghanistan operations.
—Retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, the man President Trump picked to succeed Michael Flynn as national security adviser, has turned down the job. More here
—At least 70 people were killed and more than 150 wounded Thursday after a suicide bomber targeted a crowded Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Trump's Replacement for Michael Flynn Turns Down Offer
Samsung Executive Arrested in South Korean Corruption Scandal
Samsung Group Vice President and de facto leader Lee Jae-yong was arrested Thursday on bribery charges in connection to a corruption scandal that has embroiled South Korean President Park Geun-hye. The arrest concerns multimillion-dollar donations the Samsung executive made to companies associated with Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of Park whose Rasputin-like relationship with the president prompted allegations of undue influence and ultimately led to Park’s impeachment. Prosecutors allege Lee made the donations in exchange for political support for a 2015 merger between Samsung and Cheil Industries, an affiliated firm. Though Lee confirmed he made the donations, he denied that they were bribes. Though a previous request for a warrant to arrest Lee was rejected last month, a South Korean court accepted this latest request, citing “new charges and additional evidence collected.” South Korean lawmakers voted in December to impeach Park, who currently awaits the Constitutional Court’s ruling on whether or not to uphold the lawmakers’ decision. The ruling is expected to be announced next month.
Mark Zuckerberg Issues a New Manifesto for Facebook
In a 6,000-word blog post, and in a series of interviews with news outlets across the globe, Mark Zuckerberg announced on Thursday that Facebook would take a more aggressive and anti-isolationist approach in moderating its enormous community. He says this policy will lead to discrete changes for users: The platform will now seek to reduce sensationalism and misinformation in articles shared on the service, and it will act more proactively to protect its users from bullying and self-harm.
“Progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community,” he writes in the post. “Yet now, across the world there are people left behind by globalization, and movements for withdrawing from global connection. In times like these, the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.”
Zuckerberg’s manifesto represents an admission that Facebook, where he is chairman and CEO, has more power over democratic discourse than almost any other firm. While Zuckerberg has long talked about Facebook as a neutral platform, he admitted in December that the company is “not a traditional technology company.” (It’s not a traditional media company either, he added.)
More than 1 billion people use Facebook every day, and the site claims more than 1.8 billion monthly active users overall. It’s unclear how Facebook can accomplish some of the goals Zuckerberg sets out. It may not be able to do much to protect its users from self-harm, but the site has enormous latitude over what news articles are successful through its News Feed feature.
The billionaire’s manifesto will likely lead to more speculation that he is considering running for president in 2020.
Trump Will Sign New Executive Order on Travel Restrictions
The Trump administration plans to rescind the executive order that banned immigration from seven Muslim and predominantly Muslim countries and replace it with a new executive order. Following a bruising legal fight, the Justice Department said in court documents Thursday the administration will no longer seek an appellate panel to review last week’s ruling from a three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocking the current ban, which targets Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. “In so doing,” the administration says, “the president will clear the way for immediately protecting the country rather than pursuing further, potentially time-consuming litigation.” The administration says Trump “intends in the near future to rescind” the executive order and “replace it with a new, substantially revised” version. President Trump, though, seemed to contradict his administration in a press conference on Thursday, where he said his administration intends to continue “appealing” the Ninth Circuit’s ruling. Indeed, that falls in line with his statements after last week’s ruling when he said he would continue the legal fight to reinstate the travel ban. The new executive order will come next week.
ISIS Claims Deadly Shrine Attack in Pakistan
At least 70 people were killed and more than 150 wounded Thursday after a suicide bomber targeted a crowded Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan, according to local media. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blast through its Amaq News Agency. Attendance at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was heightened Thursday due to evening prayers, where worshippers gathered to participate in the Sufi ritual of Dhamal. The blast comes days after a similar attack, claimed by the Taliban’s Pakistan affiliate Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, in Lahore, in which 14 people were killed and nearly 60 injured. Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, vowed to fight attacks by Islamist militants, adding: “We can't let these events divide us, or scare us. We must stand united in this struggle for the Pakistani identity, and universal humanity.”
Nearly 50 Killed in Baghdad Car Bombing
Nearly 50 people were killed Thursday after a car bomb was detonated in Baghdad, the third such blast to occur in the Iraqi capital in three days. The car, said to be packed with explosives, was detonated in the predominantly-Shia neighborhood of Bayaa, leaving at least 45 people dead and dozens wounded, according to the Interior Ministry. At least 18 people were killed in a similar attack Wednesday in Baghdad’s Sadr City suburb, and at least four people were killed Tuesday when a car bomb was detonated in the southern part of the capital. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for at least one of the blasts, and has claimed similar attacks on the city in the past. Such attacks have increased in frequency since Iraq began its campaign to retake Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, from the militant group last October. Iraqi forces recaptured the eastern part of the city in January, and are working to dislodge ISIS from the western part, where they still maintain control.
More Arrests in Death of North Korean Leader's Half-Brother
Malaysian authorities arrested Thursday an Indonesian woman and a Malaysian man in connection with the killing this week of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader. A woman traveling on a Vietnamese passport was arrested Wednesday in connection with the case. Authorities said Wednesday they are still pursuing other suspects. As my colleague Yasmeen Serhan previously reported: “Kim Jong Nam, 45, died Monday after allegedly being poisoned at the airport by two unidentified women. The exact cause of death has yet to be determined, but South Korean lawmakers have already pointed to North Korea as likely behind the attack.” Kim Jong Nam, once seen as a likely successor to his father and late North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il, he fell out of favor after an incident in 2001 in which he attempted to use a forged passport to travel to Tokyo. He is believed to have lived in exile ever since.
Intelligence Agencies Reportedly Keep Material From Trump
U.S. intelligence agencies are keeping sensitive information from President Trump because they fear the material will be leaked or compromised, The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning. The report, based on interviews with current and former officials, is a reflection of the mistrust between the president and the agencies based on two matters: the extent of contact between Trump’s aides and Russia, and the president’s repeatedly stated belief the agencies are undermining him via the sorts of leaks that have dominated headlines since his inauguration and resulted in the resignation of Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice for national-security adviser. The White House told the Journal: “There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening.” Full Journal report [paywall] here