HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Lisa Desjardins joining us from Capitol Hill, thanks so much.
In the day’s other news: The president carried his call for a major military buildup to a U.S. Navy audience. Mr. Trump spoke aboard the newly built aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford in Newport News, Virginia, and touted his plan for Naval expansion.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: After years of endless budget cuts, that have impaired our defenses, I am calling for one of the largest defense spending increases in history. Our military requires sustained, stable funding to meet the growing needs placed on our defense.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The president’s draft budget calls for boosting overall defense spending by $54 billion, or 10 percent.
The U.S. struck hard at al-Qaida militants today in Yemen, with more than 20 airstrikes. Local officials reported at least nine suspected militants were killed. The Pentagon says the strikes targeted fighters, weapons and equipment in a remote mountainous region. It follows a raid in January when a U.S. Navy SEAL died and a number of Yemeni civilians were killed.
Meanwhile, al-Qaida confirmed today that a U.S. drone strike killed its second-in command, Abu Al-Khayr Al-Masri, in Syria last Sunday.
A suspected U.S. drone strike killed two Taliban militants in Northwest Pakistan today. They were hit in a tribal region near the Afghan border. It is the first such strike ordered since President Trump took office.
In Syria, the government announced it has fully recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from the Islamic State group again. Syrian army troops drove out the militants for the second time in a year. They were backed by Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and Russian airstrikes. ISIS fighters have already destroyed many of Palmyra’s ancient Roman sites.
An international family planning conference raised nearly $200 million today for family planning initiatives. That’s after President Trump reinstated a U.S. ban — a ban on U.S. funding for organizations with any link to abortion, representatives from some 50 nations at a conference in Brussels dubbed She Decides.
ALEXANDER DE CROO, Belgian Deputy Premier: I think that the Trump administration decision is the wrong decision. And I have never seen any evidence that supports that decision, but we have a voice and we have a choice.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Conference organizers say the U.S. funding cutoff left a global shortfall of about $600 million for family planning efforts.
Back in this country, the Environmental Protection Agency dropped a requirement that oil and gas interests report information on methane emissions. The Obama administration issued that rule in November. In a statement, the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, said withdrawing the rule will ease burdens on business, while he conducts a full review.
Two more Cabinet officers took their seats today. The Senate confirmed Ben Carson to be secretary of housing and urban development and Rick Perry to be energy secretary. They were sworn in this afternoon by Vice President Pence. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who ran for president last year. Perry is a former governor of Texas.
The new interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, made a memorable entrance today for his first day on the job. The former Montana congressman rode a National Park Service horse several blocks to department headquarters. Once there, he dismounted to greet hundreds of staffers.
And on Wall Street, stocks gave back a big chunk of yesterday’s big gains, as investors took profits. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 112 points, but still managed to stay above 21000. The Nasdaq fell nearly 43 points, and the S&P 500 slipped 14. We will have more on the markets’ bull run later in the program.