Sam's Top 5 Things to Know for 02/15/17


1. Officials say that Trump knew Michael Flynn misled the White House weeks before the ouster.

Just six days into his presidency, Donald Trump was informed his national security adviser had misled his vice president about contacts with Russia. Trump kept his No. 2 in the dark and waited nearly three weeks before ousting the aide, Michael Flynn, citing a slow but steady erosion of trust.

Flynn was interviewed by the FBI about his telephone conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., a sign his ties to Russia had caught the attention of law enforcement officials.

 But in the White House's retelling of Flynn's stunning downfall, his error was not that he discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russian before the inauguration — a potential violation of a rarely enforced law — but the fact that he denied it for weeks, apparently misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other senior Trump aides about the nature of the conversations. White House officials said they conducted a thorough review of Flynn's interactions, including transcripts of calls secretly recorded by U.S. intelligence officials, but found nothing illegal.

Pence, who had vouched for Flynn in a televised interview, is said to have been angry and deeply frustrated.

2. US officials say that Russia deployed a missile in violation of treaty

Russia has deployed a cruise missile in violation of a Cold War-era arms control treaty, a development that complicates the outlook for U.S.-Russia relations amid turmoil on the White House national security team.

The Obama administration three years ago accused the Russians of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by developing and testing the prohibited cruise missile, and officials had anticipated that Moscow eventually would deploy it. Russia denies that it has violated the INF treaty.

U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that the missile became operational late last year.

3. The evacuation order for 200,000 Californians living below a dam has been lifted.

The Northern Californians who live downstream of the country's tallest dam were allowed to return home yesterday after two nights of uncertainty, but they were warned they may have to again flee to higher ground on a moment's notice if hastily made repairs to the battered structure don't hold.

The fixes could be put to their first test later this week with the first of a series of small storms forecast for the region. But the real test is still to come in the weeks ahead when a record amount of snowfall melts in nearby mountains.

The Butte County Sheriff said "There is the prospect that we could issue another evacuation order if the situation changes and the risk increases,” also telling residents they could return home but to remain vigilant.

4. Harrison Ford had a potentially serious run-in with an airliner at a Southern California airport

Ford, 74, was told to land his single-engine plane on a runway at John Wayne Airport in Orange County on Monday, but he mistakenly landed it on a parallel taxiway, passing over an American Airlines jet holding nearby.

"Was that airliner meant to be underneath me?" Ford is heard asking air traffic controllers in a recording. American Airlines Flight 1456, with 110 passengers and six crew, departed safely for Dallas a few minutes later.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor couldn't confirm that Ford was piloting the Aviat Husky that overflew the Boeing 737, but he said the pilot received and had read back the proper landing instructions. He didn't indicate how high the plane was when it flew over the jetliner.

Ford collects vintage planes and has a long and good record as an aviator, but he has had several close calls.

In March 2015, Ford was seriously injured when his World War II-era trainer crashed on a Los Angeles golf course when it lost power shortly after takeoff.

In 1999, Ford crash-landed his helicopter during a training flight in which he and an instructor were practicing auto rotations in Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles. Ford and the instructor were unhurt.

Ford was flying a Beechcraft Bonanza in 2000 when wind shear forced him to make an emergency landing at Lincoln Municipal Airport in Nebraska. Ford and his passenger were uninjured when the plane clipped the runway, but its wing tips were damaged.

5. MnDOT is working on bringing driverless buses to Minnesota

The project is called the "Minnesota Autonomous Bus Pilot" and it's already underway. Hietpas said it's only in the planning stages and MnDOT still needs a partner to provide the buses.

The hope is that Minnesotans ultimately have a say in how the new technology is developed, especially given the state's harsh climate and streets that get covered with both snow and road salt.

The pilot project will be done in two phases. The first, already underway, is a planning stage. Hietpas said it will cost about $355,000, money that will come from MnDOT's research fund.

The second phase is when MnDOT will actually test the buses. The cost is undetermined at this time, but the hope is that the testing kicks off sometime next year.


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