February 14, 2017 / 12:01 PM / 2 years ago

Tuesday Morning Briefing: Out like Flynn

Digits of the day: 24

White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (C) arrives prior to a joint news conference between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSYJ9E

That's the number of days into the Trump administration before the first top-level resignation. The person was Michael Flynn. The post was national security adviser. And the reason was that he discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office – this after promising otherwise to Vice President Mike Pence. Such contacts could run afoul of the Logan Act, which bans private citizens from engaging in foreign policy.

Here are some remaining questions:

- Are Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials the reason President Vladimir Putin declined to retaliate when the United States imposed additional sanctions on Russia in the waning days of the Obama administration?

- Did Flynn act alone, or did someone higher up in Trump’s circle instruct or authorize, tacitly or otherwise, these interactions?

- Where does this leave relations between the United States and Russia?

How it's playing out in Russia: Senior Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky said it was clear that Flynn had been forced to resign in an effort to damage relations between Russia and the United States.

The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been killed in Malaysia, the Yonhap News Agency and other South Korean media outlets reported, citing unidentified sources. This is a breaking story. Watch Reuters.com for updates.

Around Wall Street

Moneyball on Wall Street: Technology whizzes who helped Goldman Sachs eliminate hundreds of trading jobs over the past few years are venturing into the bank's flagship M&A business, making some junior bankers uneasy. Programmers are now supporting those handling equity underwriting, leveraged buyouts and deals within the financial services and real estate sectors. They are also analyzing client data to offer better advice on deal targets. Conventional wisdom holds that investment banking does not lend itself to automation the way trading does, because it relies so much on personal relationships forged over years of business lunches, rounds of golf and boardroom presentations. Baseball fans have seen this movie before.

A South Korean special prosecutor's office is seeking an arrest warrant for Samsung leader Jay Y. Lee. He was questioned for 15 hours yesterday as part of an investigation into a graft scandal that could topple President Park Geun-hye. In January, the special prosecutor wanted to arrest Lee for paying bribes to win the state pension fund's support for the merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries.

Toshiba expects to book a $6.3 billion hit to its U.S. nuclear unit. The company also failed to release its earnings on time, noting that it needed more time to investigate the Westinghouse nuclear business. Toshiba also said it might sell a majority stake in its memory chip business to raise capital. Previously, it had sought to sell just under 20 percent of its prize business. The company plans to meet with creditors tomorrow, its CFO said.

Around the country

The Senate confirmed former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin as Treasury secretary on essentially a party line vote (again, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin broke ranks). Mnuchin‘s  to-do list includes tax reform and how to handle delicate economic cooperation efforts with China, Mexico and other trading partners.

A damaged spillway with eroded hillside is seen in an aerial photo taken over the Oroville Dam in northern California, Feb. 11, 2017. California Department of Water Resources/William Croyle

A damaged spillway with eroded hillside is seen in an aerial photo taken over the Oroville Dam in northern California, Feb. 11, 2017. California Department of Water Resources/William Croyle

Tens of thousands of Northern California residents are in shelters as engineers worked to shore up a crumbling overflow channel and drain the rain-swollen reservoir at the Oroville Dam before new storms sweep the region. Residents below the dam were ordered from their homes on Sunday when an emergency spillway that acts as an automatic overflow channel appeared on the brink of collapse from severe erosion.

The biggest legal challenge to Trump's ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations will proceed on two tracks in the next few days. In a federal court in Seattle, the state of Washington, which has argued that the ban discriminates against Muslims, will attempt to probe the president's motive in drafting the order. In the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, judges will decide whether to reconsider the Trump administration's appeal in that same case decided last week.

Around the world

Indonesian authorities in parts of the Muslim-majority nation have confiscated condoms and banned students from celebrating Valentine's Day, saying the romantic tradition encourages casual sex and runs counter to cultural norms.

The U.N. Security Council denounced North Korea's weekend missile launch, urging members to enforce sanctions against the country. North Korea denounced the U.N. denouncement.

Today’s reason to live

The Replacements - Valentine

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