President Trump on Friday argued that critics, like Otto Warmbier’s parents, had “misinterpreted” his suggestion that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was not responsible for the college student’s death. After a summit with Kim in Hanoi on Thursday, Trump said he didn’t believe Kim would have allowed Warmbier, a U.S. citizen, to die in a North Korean prison camp in 2017 if he had known about his treatment. “[Kim] tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I take him at his word,” said Trump. Warmbier’s parents said “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son,” and “no excuses or lavish praise can change that.” Trump tweeted, without blaming Kim specifically, that he “hold[s] North Korea responsible” for Warmbier’s death. “Remember, I got Otto out,” he wrote.
[Donald J. Trump, Axios]
House investigators on Friday demanded that the White House provide documents regarding security clearances, after The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that President Trump overruled intelligence officials and then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn and ordered Chief of Staff John Kelly to give his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner top-secret security clearance. Trump claimed earlier this year he played no role in Kushner’s clearance level. House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) suggested the next step may be a subpoena for the documents, calling the Friday letter his “final” such request.
[The New York Times, The Washington Post]
Fighting between Pakistan and India in the disputed region of Kashmir resumed on Saturday following Pakistan’s return of a captured Indian pilot on Friday evening, which was cast as a peace gesture. Shelling picked up again overnight and carried into Saturday morning. At least six civilians, including two children and their mother, have reportedly been killed in the fighting. India also reported the deaths of two paramilitary soldiers and two counterinsurgency police officers, while Pakistan’s military says two of its soldiers are among the fatalities. The two sides have been engaged in intermittent shelling since a suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed 40 Indian troops on Feb. 14.
[The Associated Press, Al Jazeera]
SpaceX and NASA successfully launched the Falcon 9 rocket, which delivered the spacecraft Crew Dragon into orbit from NASA’s Kennedy Space Flight Center in Florida on Saturday morning. While there were no people aboard during the test launch, the Dragon is the first American spacecraft since 2011 and the retirement of the space shuttle that is capable of carrying humans into space. The Dragon is supposed to dock with the International Space Station within the next 24 hours. “Tonight was a big night for the United States of America, a great night for NASA,” Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, said following the launch.
[The New York Times, Ars Technica]
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday that they are close to expelling the Islamic State from its last bastion of territory in Baghouz, Syria. The battle is expected to over “soon,” Mustafa Bali, the head of the Kurdish-led SDF’s media office, said. The fighting began on Friday after the last remaining citizens evacuated Baghouz, leaving only ISIS fighters in the territory. An SDF victory would be significant, as ISIS once held a large swath of territory in the region. But the insurgents are expected to remain a guerrilla threat despite losing their last stronghold.
[Reuters, Al Jazeera]
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is returning to his roots on Saturday morning. The presidential hopeful, who announced his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic primary in February, will officially launch his campaign in Brooklyn. Sanders will host a rally at Brooklyn College, where he once attended class, which will kickoff at 11 a.m. EST. On Sunday, the senator is scheduled to make his next stop in Chicago. He is expected to speak at both events about how his upbringing and education shaped his political views.
[Reuters, Brooklyn Daily Eagle]
Striking teachers in Oakland reached a tentative agreement to a seven-day walkout on Friday. The Oakland Education Association, Oakland’s teachers’ union, struck a deal with the district that includes an 11 percent pay raise over four years, additional counselors and other support, and smaller class sizes. “Our power in the streets prevailed,” union President Keith Brown said. The agreement is still pending a ratification vote that is expected to take place Saturday, but both sides are optimistic that classes will resume as normal on Monday. 36,000 students were affected by the strike, which was met with widespread support from parents.
[CBS SF BayArea, ABC News]
Amazon is planning to open dozens of grocery stores in major U.S. cities, sources told The Wall Street Journal on Friday. Its first location could be up and running by the end of the year in Los Angeles, and leases have been signed for two other grocery locations with an expected opening of early 2020. Amazon bought the popular organic grocery store Whole Foods in 2017; the company also operates several checkout-free grocery stores across the country, in addition to an online grocery subscription and delivery service. The new grocery endeavor would reportedly be different from Whole Foods, but it is unclear whether there will be overlap with Amazon’s other grocery options.
[The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch]
The Canadian government approved a U.S. extradition request for Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei. The decision drew ire from the Chinese government. Meng, who was detained in December in Vancouver, is accused of lying to banks about Huawei’s dealings with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions placed upon the country. China believes the accusations are part of a U.S. political stunt to hurt a potential competitor to U.S. tech companies. Although the Canadian government approved the request, it could be years before Meng is sent to the U.S. since Canada’s justice department allows many decisions to be appealed.
[Reuters, The Associated Press]
Katherine Helmond, known for shows like Who’s the Boss? and Soap died last week, her agency announced on Friday. Helmond won two Golden Globes and a Tony Award, and was nominated for several Emmy Awards during her five-decade career. She died of complications from Alzheimer’s at age 89 on Saturday. Her Who’s the Boss? co-star Tony Danza called her a “national treasure” after news of her death was made public, and her husband, David Christian, said, “We spent 57 beautiful, wonderful, loving years together, which I will treasure forever.”