—Police say five people, including the alleged assailant, were killed in a terrorist attack in London. Forty others were injured. More here
—At Wednesday’s hearing, Democratic senators adopted a new strategy to press Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on abortion and campaign finance. More here
—House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes turned quite a few heads on Capitol Hill when he announced he’s learned that the Intelligence Community “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes turned quite a few heads on Capitol Hill Wednesday when he announced he’s learned that the Intelligence Community “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” He said he received this information through an unnamed source. The vague statement from the congressman and Trump ally did note that the intelligence was gathered legally and that there was no evidence of wiretapping at Trump Tower. But the news does throw a lifeline to President Trump after weeks of alleging his predecessor “wiretapped” him. As my colleague David A. Graham writes:
Nunes’s vague statements raised a host of questions, and his decision to announce them publicly and then go to the White House to brief President Trump, having not informed Democrats on the committee about his new findings, cast a pall of politics over the proceedings.
Trump said felt “somewhat vindicated” by the announcement, as former intelligence officials and Democrats on the Hill said the statement from Nunes was inappropriate.
Possible U.S. Airstrike Kills 33 Civilians in Syria
A possible U.S. airstrike killed 33 civilians in Syria, a monitoring group said Wednesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based network trusted by many news organizations, said the U.S.-led coalition airstrike hit a school in northern Syria in a region controlled by ISIS. The school, located in the town of Mansoura, some 15 miles southwest of Raqqa, was being used as a shelter for displaced families from Raqqa, Aleppo, and Homs. Only two people survived the airstrike. U.S. officials have not confirmed whether the airstrike took place. U.S. military personnel were in the area that day airlifting around 500 U.S.-trained Syrian fighters. Fighting remains intense the northern city of Raqqa, the last ISIS stronghold and self-declared capital.
The U.K. Parliament was placed under lockdown Wednesday after reports emerged of gunfire outside Westminster Palace in central London, according to local media. Details about what exactly happened are not yet known.
This story is developing. For more updates, follow our live blog here.
More Allegations About Manafort's Russia Links, But Trump's Former Campaign Manager Rejects Them
Paul Manafort, who was chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, worked secretly a decade ago for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire, to further Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests, the Associated Press is reporting this morning, citing documents that laid out Manafort’s plan to hurt opponents of Russia across the former Soviet Union. For this work, the AP adds, Manafort received a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006. Manafort and the Trump White House have repeatedly denied that Manafort, who previously worked for Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president, worked to further Russian government interests. Manafort’s repeated that assertion today in response to the AP’s story, acknowledging he worked for Deripaska, but noting his “work did not involve representing Russian political interests.” Here’s more from the AP: “Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. … Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.” The allegations come a day after Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker, said he had evidence Manafort tried to hide about $750,000 as payment in 2009 from a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine; at the time, Manafort was an adviser to Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who was close to Moscow. Manafort called that claim “baseless.” On Monday, FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers the bureau was “investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” including “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
Judge Gorsuch Prepares for the Third Day of His Confirmation Hearings
Judge Neil Gorsuch will face questions for the third day from lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, a day after he went before the panel and defended the independence of the judiciary, but refused to be drawn into more controversial issues such as abortion rights and gun control. As my colleague Matt Ford wrote last night, “attempts by the Democratic senators … to reveal new dimensions of Gorsuch’s ideological beliefs were largely unsuccessful.” Gorsuch is President Trump’s nominee to fill the position on the U.S. Supreme Court made vacant by the death last year of Justice Antonin Scalia. Democrats were angered that President Obama’s nominee for the position, Judge Merrick Garland, was not given a hearing by Republicans, who control the Senate. The fourth and final day of the hearings are scheduled for Thursday. Despite some public opposition from Democrats and their supporters, Gorsuch, a widely respected jurist, is expected to be easily confirmed by the Senate.
An indictment of former President Donald Trump would offer the agency a chance to restore its tarnished reputation.
Whether Donald Trump is arrested and booked on Tuesday or not for a case involving a payoff to the porn star Stormy Daniels—something only he has predicted—the potential arrest of a former United States president is not only unprecedented but actually quite technically challenging. How does one arrest a former president in a democracy that has never faced this prospect before? The fate Trump may finally face in a courtroom is not the only reckoning coming around the bend. For the U.S. Secret Service, this is an opportunity for a course correction.
After years in which some agents acted as Trump’s loyal servants, the Secret Service must get back to basics. Although the agency faced considerable challenges before Trump became president, by the end of his presidency, its critics charged that its loyalty to the United States had been subsumed by its loyalty to a man. Trump regularly grifted off the service, charging it exorbitant hotel fees for his own protection on his properties. Trump broke the tradition of separating politics from protection when he appointed the deputy assistant director of the Secret Service, Anthony Ornato, to be his own deputy chief of staff; the service seemed a willing accomplice to Trump’s agenda. The roles played by both Ornato and the service in the January 6 insurrection were, at best, an embarrassing mess and, at worst, a sign that the service was not salvageable.
At her epic opening show, the pop star played 44 songs and conjured actual magic.
Updated at 11:24 a.m. ET on March 19, 2023
Breaking: Taylor Swift is not simply a voice in our ears or an abstract concept to argue over at parties, but a flesh-and-blood being with a taste for sparkling pajamas and the stamina of a ram. All concerts are conjurings, turning the audience’s idea of a performer into a real thing, but last night’s kickoff of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour in Glendale, Arizona, heightened the amazement with Houdini-escapes-handcuffs physicality. After years of having their inner lives shaped by Swift’s highly mediated virtual output, more than 70,000 individuals can now attest to the vibrancy of Taylor Swift the person. Somehow, seeing her up close made her seem more superhuman.
“Ship American” might sound nice in theory. This is what it looks like in practice: not shipping much of anything in America at all.
What with everything going on in the world, stewing over an obscure, century-old maritime law might seem odd. But the Jones Act really does warrant such consternation. It’s not just a terrible law that hurts you, me, and everyone we know—especially if they live in Puerto Rico or drive to work on the East Coast. It’s also a cautionary tale against government industrial policies, which can have unintended consequences far beyond higher prices or budget overrun.
The Jones Act, formally known as Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, was ostensibly intended to ensure adequate domestic shipbuilding capacity and a ready supply of merchant mariners and ships in times of war or other national emergencies. Today, it requires that any domestic waterborne shipping of goods be conducted on vessels that are built, owned, flagged, and crewed by Americans. As a result, the U.S. has one of the most (if not the most) restrictive shipping systems in the world.
A new analysis of genetic samples from China appears to link the pandemic’s origin to raccoon dogs.
Updated at 4:13 p.m. ET on March 18, 2023
For three years now, the debate over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic has ping-ponged between two big ideas: that SARS-CoV-2 spilled into human populations directly from a wild-animal source, and that the pathogen leaked from a lab. Through a swirl of data obfuscation by Chinese authorities and politicalization within the United States, and rampant speculation from all corners of the world, many scientists have stood by the notion that this outbreak—like most others—had purely natural roots. But that hypothesis has been missing a key piece of proof: genetic evidence from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, showing that the virus had infected creatures for sale there.
As they look toward the 2024 election, Americans must ask which leader can win the peace.
The next president will almost certainly inherit some kind of peace in Ukraine. As the economist Herb Stein said, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” This war cannot go on forever, certainly not at its current intensity. It will stop or dwindle into a cease-fire, official or otherwise. The potential contenders for the 2024 U.S. presidential election talk about how to deal with the conflict, but by the time one of them gets the job, he or she will most likely face the question of how to deal with the aftermath.
So, in assessing the presumptive candidates for president, a crucial question to ponder is: Who would be the most successful peacemaker?
Ukraine will have to be rebuilt, a mission that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Some of that money can perhaps be squeezed from Russia—for example, by transferring frozen Russian assets to Ukraine. But the greater part will likely have to come from Ukraine’s Western allies.
If arrested, he’s called on “protesters” to come to his defense.
Let us begin with the obvious thing that just happened: This morning, Donald Trump threatened to summon a mob—for the second time in two years—to his defense. The former president of the United States and a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for the White House in 2024, facing a possible indictment in New York, claimed to know the exact day on which he would be arrested and then called on his supporters to “protest.” Trump and his cult know what a call for “protest” means: The last time he rallied his faithful supporters this way, they stormed the U.S. Capitol, which resulted in death and destruction and many, many prison sentences.
Spokespeople from the former president’s office have already walked back Trump’s statement, noting that they have not been told of any specific date for an indictment or an arrest. Indeed, any attempt to book Trump is unlikely to happen as soon as Tuesday, for many reasons. But that’s not the point. Trump’s message today to the American people has already come through loud and clear: I am too dangerous to arrest.
Several years ago, Christian Rutz started to wonder whether he was giving his crows enough credit. Rutz, a biologist at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, and his team were capturing wild New Caledonian crows and challenging them with puzzles made from natural materials before releasing them again. In one test, birds faced a log with drilled holes that contained hidden food; they could get the food out by bending a plant stem into a hook. If a bird didn’t try within 90 minutes, the researchers removed it from the data set.
But, Rutz says, he soon began to realize that he was not, in fact, studying the skills of New Caledonian crows. He was studying the skills of a subset of New Caledonian crows that quickly approached a weird log they’d never seen before—maybe because they were especially brave or reckless.
“Big government” just isn’t the effective attack it used to be.
During Barack Obama’s first term, the American right became fixated on the supposed threats of communism and socialism. At the time, it felt like another weird throwback trend from the Cold War, along with flared jeans, gated reverb, or Jell-O molds. The proximate causes were clear enough—huge government spending to bolster the economy (by, uh, bailing out banks, but whatever) and efforts to expand health-insurance coverage—even if fears of a coming socialist America were clearly overhyped.
Seen from today, that moment looks less like a quirky cyclical trend and more like the passing of an era. “Wokeness” has supplanted socialism as the primary bogeyman among conservative politicians and pundits. The eclipse is evident in Google search trends and Fox News time allocation, and it has also been on vivid display over the past week, as leading figures in the Republican Party and right-wing media have portrayed the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank as a case of woke values undermining sound business practices and diversity, equity, and inclusion supplanting the profit motive. Complaints about bailouts have been mostly the province of the left—which objects not to government spending but to helping the wealthy.
These titles conjure their settings so vividly that you’ll feel as if you’re there.
Much of the plot of Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop is lost to me, though I consider it one of my favorite books. I have a sense that it involves a young priest rising through the ranks of the Catholic Church as New Mexico is flooded by settlers, and I also know that—spoiler alert!—he dies at the end. But what remain indelible are two oddly mathematical vistas. In the novel’s opening pages, a man winds his way through an endless landscape of conical red hills, so alike that “he seemed to be wandering in some geometrical nightmare.” Later, the bishop rides through the country and notices that the world is like a giant mirror: “Every mesa was duplicated by a cloud mesa, like a reflection, which lay motionless above it or moved slowly up from behind it.”
Five years ago, the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean. Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say.
1. The Disappearance
At 12:42 a.m. on the quiet, moonlit night of March 8, 2014, a Boeing 777-200ER operated by Malaysia Airlines took off from Kuala Lumpur and turned toward Beijing, climbing to its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The designator for Malaysia Airlines is MH. The flight number was 370. Fariq Hamid, the first officer, was flying the airplane. He was 27 years old. This was a training flight for him, the last one; he would soon be fully certified. His trainer was the pilot in command, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who at 53 was one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines. In Malaysian style, he was known by his first name, Zaharie. He was married and had three adult children. He lived in a gated development. He owned two houses. In his first house he had installed an elaborate Microsoft flight simulator.