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News Wrap: After threat assessment, Trump criticizes ‘naive’ intelligence officials

In our news wrap Wednesday, the Federal Reserve kept a key interest rate unchanged and pledged to be patient about ordering future rate hikes. Chair Jerome Powell insisted the cautious response reflects changing economic conditions, not fear of political criticism. Meanwhile, President Trump fired back at intelligence chiefs who contradicted him before Congress on global security threats Tuesday.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: The Federal Reserve kept a key interest rate unchanged, and it pledged to be patient in ordering future rate hikes. The Central Bank raised rates four times last year, and drew fire from President Trump.

    But, today, Fed Chair Jerome Powell insisted today that the turnabout is a response to economic conditions, not criticism.

  • Jerome Powell:

    We're always going to do what we think is the right thing. We're never going to take political considerations into account or discuss them as part of our work. You know, we're human. We make mistakes, but we're not going to make mistakes of character or integrity. I would want the public to know that and I would want them to see that in our actions.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Fed announcement went down well on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped nearly 435 points to close at 25014. The Nasdaq rose 154 points, and the S&P 500 added 41.

    President Trump fired back today at his own intelligence chiefs, who had contradicted him before Congress. They testified Tuesday that North Korea is unlikely to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and that the Iran nuclear deal is still working. But the president tweeted today that the relationship with North Korea is — quote — "the best it has ever been."

    He also declared — quote — "The intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to Iran." And he suggested: "Perhaps intelligence should go back to school."

    U.S. and Chinese officials began high-stakes trade talks today in Washington. Negotiators say they do not expect a resolution after this round. Instead, they hope for a deal before March 2. If there is no deal by then, the U.S. is set to increase tariffs on Chinese goods from 10 to 25 percent.

    The European Union has roundly rejected talk of renegotiating Britain's deal to leave the bloc. British lawmakers voted yesterday to replace a provision that keeps Britain in the E.U. customs union. It's designed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

    In Brussels today, European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the withdrawal agreement will not be renegotiated.

  • Jean-Claude Juncker:

    The withdrawal agreement remains the best and only deal possible. The European Union said so in November. We said so in December. We said so after the first meaningful vote in the Commons in January. The debates and votes in the House of Commons yesterday do not change that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    British Prime Minister Theresa May will now try to negotiate better terms, as time grows short. Britain is less than two months away from its deadline of leaving the E.U.

    In Brazil, the death toll to 99 in the collapse of a mine waste dam last Friday. More than 250 people are still missing. The collapse also released a torrent of iron oxide sludge. It's heading downstream toward a river that provides drinking water to hundreds of towns and cities.

    Dangerous levels of air pollution in Thailand shut down more than 400 schools in Bangkok today. Officials said heavy traffic and stagnant air are causing a buildup of tiny particles and that the air may not clear until next week.

    Back in this country, electronics giant Foxconn is shifting a major Wisconsin project from manufacturing to research. It cited changing market conditions today, but said it still wants to create 13,000 jobs. The original plan was hailed by President Trump. It called for Foxconn to build liquid crystal display panels and to receive $4 billion in tax incentives.

    And the U.S. House approved a pay raise for federal civilian workers today, in the wake of the government shutdown. It amounts to 2.6 percent. That's the same as what was given to the military last year. Majority Democrats argued that federal pay needs to keep up with the cost of living. Most Republicans opposed granting a blanket raise without performance reviews. The bill now goes to the Senate.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": the connection between climate change and the deadly cold sweeping the Midwest; protesters take to the streets amid political upheaval in Venezuela; Congress grapples with border security ahead of another looming deadline; and much more.

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