In our Friday news wrap, President Trump said the U.S. intends to withdraw support for the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which President Obama signed in 2013 but which the Senate never ratified. Trump told the NRA’s annual meeting the pact threatens Second Amendment freedoms. Also, Sri Lanka’s president said the suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday attacks died in one of the hotel suicide bombings.
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President Trump railed against special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation today, calling the probe a — quote — "coup."
Mueller didn't find any evidence of Russian collusion in the 2016 election, but he did find proof that Mr. Trump tried to interfere in the investigation multiple times. The president's comments came during a speech to the National Rifle Association in Indianapolis.
President Donald Trump:
They tried for a coup. It didn't work out so well. And I didn't need a gun for that one, did I? All was taking place at the highest levels in Washington, D.C.
The president's remarks came hours after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended his handling of the two-year-long Russia investigation. It was his first public comments since the special counsel's redacted report was released.
Rosenstein also lashed out at lawmakers, the news media, and the Obama administration as he spoke to a lawyers' group in New York.
The previous administration chose not to publicize the full story about Russian computer hackers and social media trolls and how they relate to Russia's broader strategy to undermine America.
Today, I believe our nation is safer, elections are more secure, and certainly citizens are better informed about covert foreign influence operations.
In a related development, FBI Director Christopher Wray sounded a new warning today about threats of Russian interference in the coming presidential election. He called Russia's actions in the 2018 midterms a — quote — "dress rehearsal" for 2020.
President Trump also announced today that the U.S. is withdrawing its support for the United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty. He told the NRA that the pact threatens the Second Amendment's freedoms. The treaty regulates the international trade of weapons, from small arms to warships. President Obama signed it in 2013, but the Senate never ratified it.
The U.S. economy grew at a better-than-expected 3.2 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year. That is despite the partial federal government shutdown and trade tensions. The upbeat news pushed stocks higher on Wall Street.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 81 points to close at 26, 543. The Nasdaq rose 28, and the S&P 500 added 14.
Admitted Russian secret agent Maria Butina was sentenced today to 18 months in prison. The 30-year-old pled guilty in December to conspiring with a Russian official to infiltrate and influence conservative political groups in this country. Butina will be deported back to Russia after completing her sentence.
Sri Lanka's president announced today that the suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday attacks died in a suicide bombing at one of the targeted hotels. Police are searching for 140 people they say are linked to the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the blasts that killed at least 250 people.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's Muslim community gathered for Friday prayers under tight security, and voiced hope that the tragedy won't define their country.
It's a very sad situation. We work with the Christians, Buddhists and the Hindus. It has been a threat for all of us, because of these few people and what they have done to this beautiful country. I urge the people around the world to visit this beautiful country, and then just don't isolate Sri Lanka.
Catholic Churches on the island also canceled all Sunday masses until further notice, out of precaution.
In Mozambique, the death toll from the second cyclone to hit the country in six weeks rose to three people today. The storm has weakened to a tropical depression, but continues to bring heavy downpours and high winds. The Southern African nation is expected to get twice as much rain over the next 10 days as it did from last month's cyclone. U.N. officials warned that, without immediate aid, the situation could worsen.
Cyclone Kenneth may require a major new humanitarian operation at the same time that the ongoing Cyclone Idai responds, targeting three million people in three countries, remain critically under-funded. The disaster comes only six weeks after Cyclone Idai devastated Central Mozambique, killing more than 600 people.
Mozambique's Disaster Management Agency estimated some 700,000 people remain at risk.
Back in this country, former Vice President Joe Biden has raised $6.3 million in the first 24 hours of his presidential campaign. He's now bested the rest of the 20-person Democratic field in first day fund-raising. The Biden campaign says that small-dollar donors contributed most to the haul.
And the Kansas Supreme Court ruled today that its state constitution protects a woman's right to abortion. It did so while blocking a ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure. The ruling will keep abortion legal in the state, even if the Roe v. Wade decision that established the right to an abortion nationally is ever reversed.