5 things for Friday, March 31: Russia, Atlanta, Assad, settlements

trump putin kremlin manafort flynn composite

(CNN)Welcome to the weekend, when the days of shopping tax-free on Amazon comes to an end. (But you have more space on Twitter to vent about it). Here's what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door.

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1. The Russia saga

We could do the entire newsletter on the twists and turns of the White House-Russia controversy. Let's recap developments from yesterday alone:
    -- Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn apparently has a "story to tell," but he wants immunity before he spills the beans to feds. Flynn, who was forced to resign as one of President Trump's closest advisers over his communications with the Russian ambassador to the US, said last year, "When you are given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime." It didn't take long for Democrats to pounce.
    -- It wasn't just the Dems that the Russians targeted with cybermeddling during the election. They also took aim at all Republican opponents of Trump -- and the meddling didn't stop after the election, a cybersecurity expert told a Senate panel.
    -- So, did Russia do it? Here's President Putin's response: "Read my lips: No."
    -- The cast of characters in this drama can be confusing. Here's our explainer.

    2. Interstate collapse

    Massive fire crumbles interstate bridge
    Massive fire crumbles interstate bridge


      Massive fire crumbles interstate bridge


    Massive fire crumbles interstate bridge 01:59
    Traffic is always hellish in Atlanta. And it's only going to get worse after a section of the city's busy Interstate 85 collapsed during a fire that broke out under an elevated part of the roadway. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the interstate could be closed there for months. It isn't just a problem for Atlanta. I-85 is a major north-south artery in the Southeast, so drivers passing through the area -- including hordes of spring breakers this weekend -- will need to find alternate routes.

    3. Bathroom bill

    North Carolina repeals bathroom law
    north carolina roy cooper bathroom bill repeal sot_00003518


      North Carolina repeals bathroom law


    North Carolina repeals bathroom law 01:15
    North Carolina's controversial bathroom law is officially history. It was repealed after a year of turmoil that featured protests, demonstrations and a boycott by sports leagues and entertainers that hit the state's economy and its reputation. But is the repeal enough to calm things down? LGBTQ groups are still ticked off; they say the new law stills allows for discrimination against transgender people because it forbids cities from granting them extra protections until 2020, by which time the Supreme Court likely would have weighed in. And it's not clear yet if leagues like the NCAA or the NBA will start bringing events back to the state.

    4. Settlements

    Building in the West Bank settlement blocs
    west bank settlement building blocks liebermann pkg _00001017


      Building in the West Bank settlement blocs


    Building in the West Bank settlement blocs 03:04
    Despite a request from the White House to hold off, Israel has approved plans for new settlements in the West Bank. These would be the first new settlements in Palestinian territory in more than 20 years. The UN immediately criticized the decision; it has declared such construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal because those are territories where Palestinians plan to create their future state. The United States and most other nations consider Israeli settlements in those areas an obstacle to a two-state solution.

    5. Syria

    The Trump administration says its priority in Syria is fighting ISIS and not so much getting rid of President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian people will decide Assad's future, says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. And US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley says sure, Assad's a hindrance, but "are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No." At the same time, though, Haley called Assad, whose nation is now in its sixth year of bloody civil conflict, a "war criminal." If the US does definitively abandon the get-rid-of-Assad-policy, that would put it closer in line with Russia and at odds with allies in Europe.


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