In major news, North Korea says it will stop testing its nuclear weapons in order to hold talks with the United States. The North Korean officials made this promise on Tuesday to South Korean officials, who had traveled to the North for a rare visit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It was the first time in 10 years that South Korean special envoys traveled to Pyongyang. On Tuesday, the North Korean officials also said it would be willing to relinquish its nuclear weapons program if the military threats against North Korea are resolved. The two countries also set the date for a high-level summit in late April. President Trump has repeatedly made contradictory statements about whether he’d be willing to engage in talks with North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un. Trump has also repeatedly threatened to deploy nuclear weapons against North Korea, severely escalating the threat of nuclear war.
In Syria, human rights monitors say at least 70 people have been killed in the last 24 hours by the Russian-backed Syrian government’s continued airstrikes and artillery fire against Eastern Ghouta, outside the capital Damascus. Monitors say a humanitarian aid convoy has been blocked from delivering supplies to residents trapped in the rebel-held area, which has been besieged by the Syrian government for years. The rescue group the White Helmets says at least 30 people appear to have suffocated from a suspected chlorine gas attack on Monday night. The Syrian government’s ongoing offensive against Eastern Ghouta comes despite a U.N. Security Council ceasefire and a 5-hour daily ceasefire brokered by Russia, the Syrian government’s main backer.
President Trump says he’s not backing down from his plan to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, despite opposition from his own party. Prominent Republicans and business leaders have denounced Trump’s plan, saying the tariffs will hurt the manufacturing industry and U.S. competitiveness. The top two Republicans in Congress—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan—have reportedly implored Trump in private to reconsider his decision. Meanwhile, some Democrats have celebrated the move. We’ll host a debate on Trump’s tariff plan after headlines.
In a series of extraordinary live interviews on Monday, former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg said he would refuse to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Nunberg vowed to defy a grand jury subpoena and repeatedly dared Mueller to arrest him. Mueller has subpoenaed Nunberg for emails and other communications between himself and Trump advisers, including Steve Bannon and Roger Stone. This is Nunberg, speaking with Ari Melber on MSNBC.
Sam Nunberg: “Why do I have to give them my personal communications? Steve Bannon? Roger Stone? Roger is my mentor. I email, Ari, with Roger 15 times a day. … They’re trying to set up a perjury case against Roger Stone, and I’m not going to have it. Roger is my mentor. Roger is like family to me. And I’m not going to do it.”
Ari Melber: “Are you”—
Sam Nunberg: “I’m not going to do it. And Roger did not talk—Roger may have lied about it, but Roger did not talk”—
Ari Melber: “I think some people are worried about you, and they’re worried about what you’re doing. I think other people are upset, because we just showed the White House, which doesn’t want to comment on this, responding to you. So, clearly, you are in”—
Sam Nunberg: “Sarah should—Sarah should shut up.”
The New York Times is reporting the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million allocated since late 2016 to counter alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections. The Times reports that, as a result, not a single one of the 23 analysts who work in the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which is charged with countering Moscow’s alleged election interference, even speaks Russian.
President Trump welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on Monday. The two leaders celebrated Trump’s highly controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy there. Control of Jerusalem is one of the most contested issues between Israelis and Palestinians. Netanyahu’s visit comes as he faces a series of escalating corruption investigations back home. A number of his closest aides have already been arrested. Later today, Trump will hold talks and a joint news conference with Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.
On Capitol Hill, 87 people were arrested on Monday protesting the expiration of DACA, the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants legal permission to live and work in the United States. Among those arrested was a group of imams and Muslim leaders from around the country, including activist Linda Sarsour. Imam Zaid Shakir, who presided over Muhammad Ali’s funeral, took part in the protest but was not arrested. President Trump tried to cancel the DACA program last year, although he has repeatedly been blocked from doing so by the courts. The DACA program would have expired on Monday, but it remains in effect amid the pending legal battle.
In environmental news, President Trump has nominated Dow Chemical lawyer Peter Wright to head up an Environmental Protection Agency unit tasked with overseeing the disposal of hazardous waste and chemical spills at toxic Superfund sites. Meanwhile, new data says coal ash—the residual byproduct of burning coal—has contaminated groundwater with arsenic and radium and other toxic chemicals near coal-fired power plants across the country. The new data was released on Friday, only one day after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the EPA would weaken federal regulations on coal ash disposal.
According to The New York Times, emails sent by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch show oil extraction was central in the decision to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah last year, despite fierce opposition from Native Americans and environmentalists. One of the emails sent by Senator Hatch’s office to the Interior Department reads, “The new boundary depicted on the map would resolve all known mineral conflicts … within the Bears Ears.” This email directly contradicts Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s statements last year in which he claimed, “Bears Ears isn’t really about oil and gas.”
In Kashmir, tens of thousands of people poured into the streets to protest Indian rule over the disputed territory Monday, after Indian soldiers shot and killed four civilians and two alleged militants at a military checkpoint overnight Sunday. Following the shooting, Indian authorities tried unsuccessfully to suppress protests by putting the region on lockdown, closing schools, cutting off internet access and deploying soldiers and riot police throughout the region.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at least 79 people have been killed in recent days amid fighting in the resource-rich northern province of Ituri, which borders Uganda. The region is rich in gold, diamonds and coltan, and home to a long-running land dispute between two tribes. The fighting is part of a nationwide surge in violence as DRC President Joseph Kabila tries to hold on to power, two years past the end of his term. In January, the International Organization for Migration warned the humanitarian crisis in the DRC has reached a “breaking point,” with hundreds of thousands of people displaced by fighting in recent months alone.
In Panama, the silver letters spelling out the name “Trump” were pried off the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Panama City on Monday, as a hotel owner claimed victory in a two-week battle against the Trump Organization. The removal of the name came as a Panamanian court ruled to evict the Trump management team and allow the hotel owner to regain control of the property.
In West Virginia, a historic teachers’ strike continues, with every public school in the state shut down. Teachers are demanding a 5 percent raise and a cap on spiraling healthcare costs. Meanwhile, graduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are entering their second week of a strike over wages and health insurance for the graduate employees.
In Argentina, teachers have launched a 2-day strike that has shut down schools in 17 of Argentina’s 23 provinces amid a dispute about wages and inflation. This is Alejandro Demichelis, with the Confederation of Education Workers.
Alejandro Demichelis: “We want dignified salaries. We want more investment in education. We want them to continue handing out netbooks and books. We want school infrastructure and the creation of new schools. This government promised to create 3,000 early childhood schools, and they haven’t created one. That is what we are demanding today: the social right to education that the state should guarantee.”
At Michigan State University in East Lansing, at least two dozen people were arrested on Monday amid clashes between white supremacists and hundreds of anti-fascist students and activists, who were trying to stop white nationalist Richard Spencer from speaking on campus. The protests delayed and cut short Spencer’s speech.
This year’s midterm elections are officially beginning today with the Texas primaries. Texas is one of four minority-majority states in the country. In an unusual development in one of the races, one of the Democratic Senate candidates, El Paso Congressmember Beto O’Rourke, has reported raising almost three times more money in the last few months than the Republican senator he’s looking to unseat: Senator Ted Cruz.
And the Florida state Senate has narrowly passed a package of moderate gun control measures, in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17 people. The measures raise the age for purchasing firearms statewide, ban the purchase and possession of bump stocks and impose a 3-day waiting period to buy guns. But the measures do not include a ban on the sale of assault rifles or limits on high-capacity magazines. A last-minute amendment to the bill rolled back the plan to arm teachers at schools across Florida, now allowing school districts to decide whether they want armed teachers or not. Before the Florida Senate voted, some of the families of the victims of the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida, gathered to demand gun control. This is Ryan Petty, the father of 14-year-old Alaina Petty, who was killed during the massacre.
Ryan Petty: “Today we have gathered to support passage of legislation aimed at improving safety of children and teachers in our schools. Our message is simple: We must be the last families to lose loved ones to mass murder in a school.”
The bill will now go to the Florida House.