Live Coverage

Today's News: March 15, 2017

A federal judge in Hawaii blocks President Trump's travel ban, the Netherlands voted in a pivotal election, and more from the United States and around the world.

Hugh Gentry / Reuters

—A federal judge in Hawaii temporarily blocked President Trump’s travel ban hours before the order was supposed to go into effect. More here

—The ruling center-right People’s Party (VVD) for Freedom and Democracy claimed a decisive victory in the Dutch elections. More here

—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).


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Rutte's VVD Party Claims Victory in Dutch Election

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte casts his vote in The Hague on March 15, 2017. (Michael Kooren / Reuters)

The ruling center-right People’s Party (VVD) for Freedom and Democracy claimed a decisive victory in the Dutch elections Wednesday. With a quarter of the votes counted, VDD is projected to secure 32 seats in the 150-seat parliament, and likely giving incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte another term in office. Geert Wilders’s far-right Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), which had led in several polls, is projected to win 19 seats. The remaining seats will be split between Christian Democrats with 20 seats, Democrats 66 with 18 seats, and GreenLeft with 14 seats. “It is also an evening in which the Netherlands after Brexit, after the American elections said stop to the wrong kind of populism,” Rutte said claiming victory. Now, the VVD will be tasked with forming a government coalition—one which some say could include as many as five political parties. Both Wilders and Rutte have previously ruled out forming a government with each other, and though the PVV will gain 19 seats, it is unlikely it will be part of any government. Wednesday’s vote was regarded as the latest litmus test for the anti-elite mood sweeping the West and a precursor for similar elections slated to take place across Europe this year. Still, Wilders said on Twitter Wednesday, “Rutte has not seen the last of me yet!” Our coverage of those can elections can be found here.

Hawaii Federal Judge Blocks Trump's Travel Ban

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin answers questions at the U.S. District Court Ninth Circuit after presenting his arguments after filing an amended lawsuit against President Trump's new travel ban in Honolulu on March 15. (Hugh Gentry / Reuters)

Updated at 7:13 p.m. ET

A U.S. federal judge in Hawaii temporarily blocked President Trump’s revised immigration order that temporarily bans the entry of visitors from six Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries, dealing a fresh setback to the White House’s attempt to define who enters the United States. Here’s the key part of the ruling:

The Court turns to whether Plaintiffs sufficiently establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their Count I claim that the Executive Order violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Because a reasonable, objective observer—enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance—would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously-neutral purpose, the Court finds that Plaintiffs … are likely to succeed on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim.

The order by U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson applies nationwide, and it came just hours before the revised order was scheduled to go into effect. The president’s first immigration order was blocked by a federal court in San Francisco. That executive order temporarily blocked the entry of the citizens of seven Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries. But the White House revised the order, dropping Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens were temporarily blocked. The first order also suspended the entry of refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. The new order no longer blocks Syrian refugees indefinitely. The case in Hawaii was brought by the state and Ismail Elshikh, the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, whose mother-in-law’s application for an immigrant visa was being processed. Elshikh argued that the new order would ban his mother-in-law from entering the country. The White House maintains the president has the authority to block the entry of those people who are deemed a threat to the U.S.

Fed Raises Interest Rate as Economic Growth Continues

The U.S. Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points, as economic growth continues and inflation approaches its target of 2 percent. “In view of realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation, the committee decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement Wednesday. “Near-term risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced.” Two more rate increases are likely this year, according to projections. My colleague Bourree Lam has more here.

Justice Department Charges 4 Over Yahoo Hack

Dado Ruvic / Reuters

The U.S. Justice Department issued indictments Wednesday against three Russian nationals and one Canadian in connection with the hacking of at least 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014. The indictments, which target two members of Russia’s intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and two hackers—one Russian and one with dual Canadian and Kazakh citizenship—mark the first time the U.S. has levied criminal cyber charges against Russian government officials. The charges include computer hacking, economic espionage, and other criminal offenses in connection with a conspiracy. The charges are not related to the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s servers. As my colleague Kaveh Waddell notes, though the government has requested Russia send the defendants to be tried in the U.S., “without an extradition treaty, and given that Russia’s own intelligence service is implicated in the indictment, working together will be … a challenge.”

Multiple Blasts Kill at Least 25 People in Damascus

A man rides a bicycle past a cemetery in Damascus’s Douma neighborhood on January 3, 2017. (Bassam Khabieh / Reuters)

At least 25 people were killed and several others wounded Wednesday after a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside the Palace of Justice in Damascus, Syria, state-run media reports. A second blast was reported two hours later in the Syrian capital’s western district of Rabweh. No one has claimed responsibility for either attack. These are the second such attacks to hit Damascus this week. On Saturday, at least 40 people were killed and 120 others wounded after a double suicide attack targeted a shrine frequently visited by Shia pilgrims. The attack was claimed by Syria’s al-Qaeda branch, Tahrir al-Sham. Wednesday marks the sixth anniversary of the Syrian Civil War, which has left nearly half a million people dead and approximately 11 million people—nearly half the country’s population—displaced.

EC President Tusk Says Turkey Is 'Completely Detached From Reality'

Donald Tusk, the EC president (Vincent Kessler / Reuters)

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, has said Turkey is “completely detached from reality” if its political leadership compares the Dutch to Nazis. The remarks are likely to escalate the tensions between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and European leaders that has seen Erdogan liken the Germans and the Dutch to Nazis, call the Dutch “spineless and ignoble” because of the Srebrenica massacre, and launch other invectives. On Wednesday, hackers, assumed to pro-Erdogan, took over Twitter accounts, including those belonging to Amnesty International and the BBC’s North American service, reiterating the Nazi claims. At issue is a refusal by Dutch authorities over the weekend for a Turkish politician to campaign in the Netherlands ahead of a referendum in Turkey next month that would greatly expand Erdogan’s power. Many Turks in the Netherlands and in other parts of the EU hold dual citizenship and are eligible to cast their votes in the referendum. Dutch authorities said their decision was based on “security concerns.” Turkish law bars overseas campaigning, but most parties ignore that rule. The dispute could further diminish Turkey’s prospects of joining the EU.

Dutch Vote in Key Elections

A voter at a polling station inside a bar in Kinderdijk, Netherlands (Dylan Martinez / Reuters)

Voters in the Netherlands are headed to the polls today in what is seen as the latest test in the West of the mood toward elites. The two parties expected to perform best are center-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party (VVD) for Freedom and Democracy and far-right leader Geert Wilders’s  Dutch Freedom Party (PVV). Recent polls also show the Christian Democrats, who are also center-right, gaining ground. Polls show the PVV and VVD running neck and neck, but because of the nature of Dutch politics, no one party is expected to gain a majority in Parliament to govern the country. The major parties have all rejected alliances with Wilders, so any future government is likely to comprise Rutte’s party in some capacity. The Dutch elections are seen as the latest test for the anti-elite mood sweeping the West: Last summer, voters in the U.K. chose to leave the EU. Then last November, U.S. voters sent Donald Trump to the White House. The Dutch election sets the scene for other major votes across Europe this year. Later this spring, French voters will pick a new leader, with Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, expected to reach the second round; in the fall, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will face rivals from both the center-left and far-right. Our coverage of Europe’s elections are here.

Trump's Tax Return

Last night, MSNBC disclosed President Trump’s tax return from 2005. In it, Trump took a $100 million business loss to pay about $38 million in taxes on $150 million in income. The White House responded even before the report aired: “The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans.” But as my colleague Matt Ford wrote: “The White House’s ire notwithstanding, the 2005 return isn’t really a bombshell. The two pages show tax information one would expect for someone with Trump’s wealth and businesses. He paid roughly $5.3 million under regular federal income tax guidelines—a pittance for someone with his reported fortune—but also paid $31 million in what’s known as the ‘alternative minimum tax,’ bringing his federal payment that year to about 25 percent of his income. Trump’s tax plan released during his campaign vowed to eliminate ‘the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) while providing the lowest tax rate since before World War II.’ One thing the return does reveal is that, at least in 2005, that change might have lowered Trump’s effective tax rate from 25 percent to just 4 percent.” This morning on Twitter, Trump dismissed the report as “fake news.”