What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

Today's essential newsletter. Logging the daily shock and awe in national politics. Read in moderation.
by @matt_kiser

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Day 123: Will not comply.

1/ Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination as he notifies the Senate Intelligence committee that he will not comply with a subpoena seeking documents. (Associated Press)

2/ Trump’s budget is expected to cut $1.7 trillion from Medicaid and anti-poverty programs over the next 10 years. Assuming the GOP health care bill becomes law, the budget proposal will cut $800 billion from Medicaid leaving an estimated 10 million people without benefits. SNAP, the modern version of food stamps, will be reduced by $193 billion – about a quarter. During the campaign, Trump promised not to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / CNN)

3/ Comey believes that Donald Trump was trying to influence his judgment on the Russia probe. He initially thought he could teach Trump and the White House what was appropriate during their communications, despite noting that the new President was not following normal protocols during their interactions. (CNN)

4/ Priebus and Bannon returned to Washington after Saudi visit. Major issues await Trump back home, including the possible hiring of outside legal counsel in the Russia probe, the selection of a new FBI director, and the effort to pivot his domestic agenda. (CNN)

5/ The White House is trying to block the disclosure of ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists who work in the administration or federal agencies. Ethics watchdogs are concerned that former lobbyists are taking high-ranking political jobs working on the exact topics they had previously handled on behalf of private-sector clients — including oil and gas companies and Wall Street banks. The Office of Government Ethics was created in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal to oversee compliance with federal ethics standards. The administration is challenging the legal authority to demand the information. (New York times)

6/ Sheriff David Clarke plagiarized portions of his master’s thesis on homeland security. Clarke will be joining Trump’s administration as assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security. He denied the report, calling the journalist a “sleaze bag.” (CNN / Reuters)

7/ Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said he was pleased that there were no protesters with “a bad placard” during his trip to Saudi Arabia. American-style protest is illegal in Saudi Arabia and can result in a death sentence. (Washington Post)

8/ McMaster won’t say if Trump confronted Russian officials about election interference during the meeting at the White House. He said “there already was too much that’s been leaked from those meetings,” but wouldn’t deny that Trump called Comey “crazy, a real nut job.” (ABC News

9/ The White House plans to ask a federal court for another 90-day delay in a lawsuit over Obamacare insurance subsidies, leaving the future of the health care marketplaces in limbo through late August. The suit centers on Obamacare’s cost-sharing program, which reimburses health insurers to help low-income people make co-payments at the doctor or hospital. House Republicans say the program was never legally funded in Obamacare and Trump has argued that the markets are fatally flawed and will collapse no matter what his administration does. (Politico

Day 120: Kept in the dark. Person of interest.

1/ A White House official close to Trump is now a person of interest in the Russia probe. The senior adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to multiple sources, who would not further identify the official. Investigators are also interested in people who were previously part of the Trump campaign and administration, including Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (Washington Post)

2/ Trump told the Russians in the Oval Office last week that firing Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him. A document summarizing the meeting quotes Trump as saying “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” (New York Times)

3/ The Trump-Russia probe now includes a possible cover-up. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, “has been given the authority to investigate the possibility of a cover-up,” though that “does not mean that is part of the investigation” currently. (McClatchy)

4/ Mike Pence wasn’t informed about Flynn’s alleged wrongdoings, a source close to the administration said. It’s the second time that Pence claims he was kept in the dark about Flynn. The source said there is concern about “a pattern” of keeping the vice president distant from information about possible Flynn wrongdoings, calling it “malpractice or intentional, and either are unacceptable.” (NBC News)

5/ James Comey has agreed to testify in a public session at the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearing will occur after Memorial Day, committee leaders said. (Politico)

  • Comey tried to preserve distance between the FBI and the White House, by educating the administration on the proper way to interact with the bureau. Comey told Trump that if he wanted to know details about the bureau’s investigations, he should not contact him directly but instead follow the proper procedures and have the White House counsel send any inquiries to the Justice Department. (New York Times)
  • Comey may testify as soon as next week despite the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russian meddling into last year’s election. (The Hill)
  • The FBI warned a Republican congressman in 2012 that Russian spies were trying to recruit him. Dana Rohrabacher of California, has been known for years as one of Moscow’s biggest defenders in Washington and as a vocal opponent of American economic sanctions against Russia. He is one of Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill. (New York Times)

6/ Trump heads out on his first foreign trip since taking office, to meet with some of the most important figures in the Middle East and Europe during a nine-day, five-country journey. He’s bucking tradition by not visiting Canada or Mexico with his first visits abroad, which the past five presidents have all done. The trip will conclude with the president meeting with NATO and attending a G7 summit, where leaders have been told that he prefers short presentations and lots of visual aids. White House aides fear that a difficult trip might lead Trump to hand off future traveling duties to Pence. (ABC News / Associated Press / (Wall Street Journal)

7/ Kushner intervened to help seal a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudis - just in time for Trump’s visit to the kingdom this weekend where he hopes to frame it as a symbol of America’s renewed commitment to security in the Persian Gulf. (New York Times)

8/ Trump said he is “very close” to choosing a new FBI director. A senior White House official said the odds of a selection coming today were “better than 50-50.” Former Sen. Joe Lieberman is his top choice. (CNN / NBC News)

9/ Trump’s attorney didn’t want him to sign his financial disclosure to certify the information was true, because he was filing voluntarily. Trump’s 2016 disclosures will span his general election candidacy, election, and transition to power, which would potentially shed light on the impact his nomination and election had on his Trump Organization. (Associated Press)

10/ Health insurers are planning rate hikes on Obamacare — and they blame Trump. State insurance regulators — both Democrat and Republican — have concluded they cannot count on the Trump administration to help them ensure that consumers will have access to a health plan next year, which is forcing them to make plans to raise premiums to account for the turmoil. (Los Angeles Times)

11/ Nearly 700 positions at the CDC are vacant because of Trump’s hiring freeze. Programs supporting local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control and chronic disease prevention are all affected. At least 125 job categories have been blocked from being filled. (Washington Post)

12/ American warplanes attacked a pro-Syrian government convoy, which ignored warnings and violated a restricted zone around a base where US and British Special Forces train rebels to fight the Islamic State. The Syria and its Russian allies condemned the attack, which marked an escalation in hostile US action toward Bashar al-Assad. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

13/ Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice are telling lawyers to stop representing immigrants in deportation proceedings. They’re accusing immigrant-rights lawyers of breaking a rule that was put in place to protect people from lawyers who take their money and then drop their case. The cease and desist letter could dissuade law firms from letting their lawyers volunteer for these cases, scaring those firms away by convincing them that immigration-related projects are too risky pro-bono projects. (The Nation)

14/ White House lawyers are researching impeachment procedures in an effort to prepare for what officials believe is a distant possibility that Trump could have to fend off attempts to remove him from office. (CNN)

Day 119: Undisclosed.

1/ The Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians during the last seven months of the election. Six of the previously undisclosed contacts were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, and Trump advisers, including Michael Flynn. (Reuters)

2/ Flynn stopped a military plan Turkey didn’t like while being paid $500,000 as its lobbyist. The decision came 10 days before Trump was sworn in as president. Obama’s national security team asked for Trump’s sign-off, since the plan would be executed after Trump had become president. Lawmakers are questioning whether Flynn acted on behalf of a foreign nation when making a military decision, with some going so far as to ask whether it constitutes treason. Flynn also failed to register as a foreign agent, which is a federal crime. (McClatchy)

3/ Flynn told the Trump team he was under investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey weeks before he came to the White House. Trump made Flynn his national security adviser anyway, giving him access to nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies. (New York Times)

4/ Trump pressured a “reluctant” Michael Flynn into accepting the national security adviser job even after Flynn warned that he was under investigation over undisclosed lobbying on behalf of a foreign government. Trump has expressed hopes that a resolution of the FBI investigation might allow Flynn to rejoin the White House in some capacity. (The Daily Beast)

  • Trump sends Flynn a message: “stay strong.” The two have remained in touch, raising questions about the president’s reported request to James Comey to shut down a federal investigation into Flynn. (Yahoo News)

5/ Trump denies telling Comey to back off the Flynn investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Asked whether he urged Comey to ease up on the Flynn investigation, Trump said at a news conference, “No, no,” before ordering the media to move onto the “next question.” (Washington Post)

6/ Flynn hasn’t responded to a subpoena from the Senate intelligence committee. Legal experts say that it’s unlikely Flynn will agree to turn over the personal documents because he would be waiving his constitutional protection against self-incrimination by doing so. (Washington Post / ABC News)

7/ Trump Tweets: Where was the special counsel for Hillary and Obama? He then called the investigation into his campaign’s links with Russia “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” hours after issuing a more muted official statement in coordination with aides. (CNN)

8/ Rod Rosenstein already knew James Comey was going to be fired when he wrote the three-page memo that the White House used to justify firing Comey. Rosenstein learned Comey was being fired on May 8, but the memo is dated May 9 — the day the firing took place. (Politico / Los Angeles Times)

9/ Sean Spicer is no longer expected to do a daily, on-camera briefing, as Trump is frustrated with the way Spicer defends and explains his message. When Trump returns from his foreign trip, Sarah Huckabee Sanders will likely appear at the podium more with Spicer’s public role being downsized. (Politico)

10/ NATO critic Stephen Miller is writing Trump’s NATO speech. Miller, an anti-globalist, has called the military alliance “incongruent with our current foreign policy challenges.” (BuzzFeed News)

11/ Trump notified Congress that he plans to renegotiate NAFTA, which triggers a 90-day consultation period between the administration and Congress. Negotiations with Canada and Mexico can begin as soon as August 16th. Trump has called NAFTA the worst trade deal in history. (New York Times / CNN Money / Washington Post)

Day 118: Hot mess.

1/ Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Bob Mueller to oversee the investigation of Russian interference in election. Mueller will take command of the prosecutors and FBI agents who are working on the far reaching Russia investigation. Trump said that he expects the probe will find no collusion between his 2016 White House campaign and foreign countries, calling the Russia inquiry a “taxpayer-funded charade.” (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)

  • Former Trump aides Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort have emerged as key figures in the FBI’s investigation into Russian campaign interference. Multiple grand jury subpoenas and records requests have been issued in connection with the two men. (NBC News)
  • Federal investigators have subpoenaed records for Manafort’s $3.5 million mortgage that he took out on his Hamptons home just after leaving the campaign. (NBC News)

2/ The House majority leader told colleagues last year: “I think Putin pays” Trump. Paul Ryan told them not to leak the remarks and swore them to secrecy. (Washington Post)

3/ Jason Chaffetz asked the FBI to turn all documents it has on Trump and Comey’s conversations. The FBI has until May 24 to produce the records before the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee subpoenas them. Chaffetz said that if the memo exists and accurately reflects the conversation, “that seems like an extraordinary use of influence to try to shut down an investigation being done by the FBI.” (NBC News / CNN)

  • Comey’s memos were a product of a culture of note-taking. It is standard for people who work in law enforcement to keep detailed phone and meeting logs. (New York Times)

4/ Senate and House Republicans and Democrats want Comey to testify about his interactions with Trump, including whether Trump tried to obstruct the criminal probe into Michael Flynn. The collective political fallout from the past week “will make it difficult” for Republicans to resist a change in approach, Representative Charlie Dent said. “I think we need to hear from him as soon as possible in public to respond to the issues that have been raised in recent days,” Mitch McConnell said. (Politico / Washington Post / (Wall Street Journal)

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee requested that James Comey testify publicly in the wake of his firing by Trump. Sentors Richard Burr and Mark Warner sent a letter asking Comey to testify before their panel in both open and closed sessions. The senators had previously asked Comey to testify in a closed session, but he declined. (Politico)
  • The House Oversight Committee invited Comey to testify next Wednesday. Jason Chaffetz has officially scheduled the hearing and is in the process of trying to connect with Comey. The hearing will be the day the FBI is due to send documents to the oversight panel. (Politico)

5/ Democratic congressman Al Green called for “the impeachment of the President of the United States of America for obstruction of justice.” Green said it was the House of Representative’s “duty” to take up impeachment. More Republicans and Democrats are starting to talk of the possibility that Trump could face impeachment after reports that he pressed James Comey to end an investigation of Michael Flynn. Representative Justin Amash said if the reports about Trump’s pressure on Comey are true, it would merit impeachment. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi both raised concerns about Trump’s action, but avoided the topic of impeachment in their statements responding to the news of Comey’s memo. “At best, President Trump has committed a grave abuse of executive power,” Pelosi said. “At worst, he has obstructed justice.” Democrats can’t impeach Trump without significant Republican support. (CNN / The Hill / BuzzFeed News)

6/ Republicans blocked the Democrats attempt to force a vote on creating a bipartisan congressional commission to investigate Russian interference, how the intelligence community handled the matter, and the Trump’s involvement. “You’re watching an obstruction of justice investigation developing in real time,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “If there were ever any question about the need for an independent special prosecutor, this report is the nail on the argument.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters)

  • Calls grow for an independent investigation. The deputy Republican whip Adam Kinzinger switched his position for an independent commission or special prosecutor to investigate possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, saying the recent news reports had marked a turning point for him. (NBC News / Washington Post)

7/ Paul Ryan tried to contain the political fallout from the Comey memo by urging members to avoid “rushing to judgment.” He called himself “a person who wants to get the facts” and said that “there are some people out there who want to harm the president.” (CNN / Washington Post / Politico)

8/ McCain compares Comey memo about his meeting with Trump to Watergate. “The only thing I can say is I think we’ve seen this movie before. I think it’s reaching the point where it’s of Watergate size and scale,” McCain said. His advice to Trump is “the same thing that you advised Richard Nixon, which he didn’t do… get it all out… it’s not going to be over until every aspect of it is thoroughly examined and the American people make a judgment. And the longer you delay, the longer it’s going to last.” (ABC News / The Daily Beast)

9/ Putin offers to provide Congress with the transcript to prove Trump didn’t pass Russia secrets, turning up the pressure on the White House to provide its own transcript of the meeting. Putin said Russia could hand over a transcript of Trump’s meeting with Lavrov, if the Trump administration deemed it appropriate. (Reuters / New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Adam Schiff: “Last thing” Trump needs “is Putin vouching for him.” Schiff called Putin’s offer “yet another twist in the road” and said, “all of this gets more baffling every day.” (CNN)
  • Senator Susan Collins says Trump needs to “right the ship” and get his “house in order” because “we cannot have this constant chaos” every single day from him. (CNN)

10/ Trump provided Russia with secrets so sensitive that news organizations are being asked not to report it. Trump told the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador that the Islamic State had used stolen airport security equipment to test a bomb that could be hidden in electronic devices. US intelligence officials have asked media organizations not to report on the type of equipment, where it was stolen, and the name of the city where the intelligence was gathered. The intelligence has led to the new rules banning electronic devices in the cabins of certain flights. (NBC News)

11/ Trump: No politician “has been treated worse or more unfairly,” warning graduating Coast Guard cadets that life is unfair. (Politico)

12/ Sally Yates disputed Sean Spicer’s characterization of her warnings that Flynn could be open to blackmail by Russia as a “heads up.” Yates said she expected the White House to act urgently on the information that Flynn had been compromised by his contact with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration. (CNN / NBC News)

13/ Members of the Turkish president’s security team breached police lines and attacked protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in the US. About two dozen demonstrators showed up outside of embassy hours after Erdogan met with Trump and a brawl erupted when Erdogan’s security detail attacked protesters carrying the flag of the Kurdish PYD party. (CNN / The Guardian / New York Times)

14/ The Iran nuclear deal will remain as Trump imposes new penalties over its ballistic missile program. The new sanctions is the latest attempt by the administration to signal its displeasure with Iran while not jettisoning the 2015 nuclear deal. (Politico / New York Times)

15/ Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke accepted a job at the Department of Homeland Security. Clarke has made a name himself for supporting Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration and for patrolling of Muslim neighborhoods. (Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel / Los Angeles Times)

16/ Trump has turned to Corey Lewandowski, Jason Miller, and David Bossie as scandals pile up. The former campaign aides have slid back into his group of advisers as a steady stream of damaging leaks and critical blind quotes that have flowed out of the West Wing. (Politico)

17/ Trump’s education budget calls for deep cuts to public school programs in pursuit of school choice. Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end, and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health and other services would vanish under the plan, which cuts $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives. (Washington Post)

poll/ Trump’s approval rating hits a new low: 42% – and that’s before claims that he disclosed sensitive information to Russian officials and tried to shut down an FBI investigation into Michael Flynn. (Politico)

Day 117: Undercut. Wow.

1/ Trump asked James Comey to shut down the Michael Flynn investigation in a February memo he wrote shortly after meeting with Trump. “I hope you can let this go,” Trump told Comey. The request is the clearest evidence that he tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigations. Comey kept detailed notes of his meetings with Trump, documenting what he perceived as improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An FBI agent’s notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations. (New York Times)

2/ Trump defended his decision to share ISIS intelligence with Russia, tweeting that he had an “absolute right” to do so in the interest of fighting terrorism. Trump’s tweets undercut his administration’s effort to contain the report, where Rex Tillerson, H.R. McMaster, and the deputy national security adviser for strategy all called the report that Trump revealed highly classified information to Russia false. The information was considered so sensitive that US officials had not shared it widely within the government or among allies. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

UPDATE:

Three administration officials conceded that Trump simply did not possess the interest or knowledge of intelligence gathering to leak specific sources and methods that would do harm to United States allies. (New York Times)

  • Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats during their Oval Office meeting last week, which has jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. (WTF Just Happened Today)
  • “This is really the nightmare scenario for the intelligence community,” a former CIA officer said, and as a result Trump could have hampered the US response to ISIS. (Politico)
  • Initial thoughts on the Washington Post’s game-changing story: It matters who we have running the most powerful institution in the world. (Lawfare)

3/ McMaster backs Trump’s sharing of sensitive intelligence with Russians: “It is wholly appropriate for the president to share whatever information he thinks is necessary.” He added that Trump “wasn’t even aware where this information came from. He wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either.” McMaster refused to confirm whether the information the president shared with the Russians was highly classified. (ABC News / Washington Post / Politico)

4/ Israel was the source of ISIS-related intelligence that Trump shared with Russia last week. Two Israeli officials said that the intelligence shared by Trump “syncs up” with intelligence that shared with its US counterparts. The revelation is Israel’s “worst fears confirmed” as it raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the Middle East. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

5/ CIA Director Mike Pompeo will brief the members of the House intelligence committee today on what Trump discussed with Russian officials last week, following claims that Trump apparently revealed classified information. (CNN)

6/ Republican and Democratic lawmakers to Trump: hand over the transcript of the meeting with the Russians. Members of Congress have spent several days demanding that Trump turn over tapes of White House meetings after he suggested that he records his conversations. Those calls intensified after Trump acknowledged on Twitter that he had shared sensitive information during his meeting with the Russians. White House aides have neither confirmed nor denied the possibility that Trump records his conversations at the White House. (Washington Post)

  • Lawmakers express shock and concern about Trump disclosure of classified information. “They are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee said of the Trump administration. “The chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think makes — it creates a worrisome environment.” (Washington Post)

7/ Mitch McConnell called for “less drama” from Trump. “I think it would be helpful if the president spent more time on things we’re trying to accomplish and less time on other things,” McConnell said. (Bloomberg)

8/ Trump will disclose some of his personal finances this year, which will likely indicate his personal income, assets, and liabilities. They won’t contain details like his tax rate or any charitable donations. (Associated Press)

9/ Paul Manafort took out a $3.5 million mortgage and never paid taxes on it. The former Trump campaign manager took out the mortgage through a shell company just after leaving the campaign and never paid the $36,000 in taxes that would be due on the loan. (NBC News)

10/ Trump to meet with Turkey’s president amid differences over the Trump administration’s plan to directly arm Kurdish rebels in Syria for the fight against ISIS. Turkey considers the group a terrorist organization, because it maintains ties with a Kurdish revolutionary group inside Turkey. (ABC News)

11/ Gingrich urged Trump to shut down White House press room in order to send a message to the country “that the media is a corrupt institution and [Trump] is tired of being harassed by people whose only interest is making him look bad.” (Politico)

poll/ 48% of voters support impeaching Trump compared to 41% that are opposed to the idea. 43% of voters think Trump is actually going to end up serving his full term, while 45% think he won’t. 12% aren’t sure one way or the other. (Public Policy Polling)

Day 116: Frustrated and angry. Jeopardized.

1/ Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats during their Oval Office meeting last week, which has jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. Trump’s decision to disclose information risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. A US official said Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.” Trump’s disclosures are not illegal as he has the power to declassify almost anything. But sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it represents a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship. (Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Trump is considering a “huge reboot” that could take out everyone from Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and Sean Spicer. Trump is irritated with several Cabinet members and “frustrated, and angry at everyone.” (Axios)

3/ Senate Republicans are looking at steep cuts to Medicaid that could drop millions of people from coverage and reduce programs for the poor. Under pressure to balance the budget, Republicans are considering slashing more than $400 billion in spending on food stamps, welfare, and even veterans’ benefits through a process to evade Democratic filibusters in the Senate. If the Medicaid cutbacks get passed by both chambers, it could significantly scale back the federal-state insurance program that covers 73 million low-income or disabled Americans and shift significant costs onto hospitals and states. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

4/ James Clapper said that US institutions are under assault from Trump and warned that federal checks and balances are eroding. Former Director of National Intelligence called on the other branches of the federal government to step up in their roles as a check on the executive. (CNN / Associated Press)

  • Republicans and Democrats agree that if Trump has tapes, he’ll need to turn them over to Congress. Lawmakers from both parties said any White House recordings must be preserved for congressional review and that “it’s probably inevitable” that they would be subpoenaed. (Washington Post)

5/ North Korea successfully test-fired a new type of ballistic missile, signaling an advance in their development of an intercontinental ballistic missile program. North Korea said the new “medium long-range” missile is capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead, warning that the United States’ military bases in the Pacific were within its range. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Reuters / Associated Press)

  • Putin warns against “intimidating” North Korea after its latest missile launch. Putin called for a peaceful solution to the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula and said that Russia is “categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear states.” (CNN)

6/ The 9th Circuit Court will hear the travel ban appeal, again. A three-judge panel will hear a challenge to a Hawaii judge’s decision to halt travel ban 2.0. Lawyers at the Justice Department must convince at least two of the judges to ignore Trump’s record of campaign calls to ban Muslims from entering the US. (CNN)

7/ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will brief the full Senate on Thursday about the firing of James Comey. The briefing is classified and will take place in the regular secure room in the Capitol Visitors Center. (CNN / Washington Post)

8/ The Supreme Court rejected an appeal to reinstate North Carolina’s voter identification law, which a lower court said targeted African-Americans “with almost surgical precision.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. issued a statement noting that there was a dispute about who represented the state in the case and that nothing should be read into the court’s decision to decline to hear it. (Associated Press / Politico / New York Times)

9/ The Dakota Access pipeline has its first leak. The $3.8bn oil pipeline is not yet fully operational, but managed to spill 84 gallons of crude oil. (The Guardian)

10/ White Nationalist Richard Spencer led a torch-bearing group protesting the sale of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Virginia. The group chanted “You will not replace us.” Spencer added: “What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced.” (NPR / Washington Post)

11/ Trump thinks that exercising too much uses up the body’s “finite” energy. Trump mostly gave up athletics after college because he “believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted.” (Washington Post)

12/ Comey said he’d be willing to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, but wants it to be in public. Comey originally declined an invitation from the committee to be interviewed in a closed-door hearing. (New York Times)

13/ Syria is using a crematorium to hide executions, the State Department said. The US believes Syria’s “building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Saydnaya prison.” A State Department official said the regime could be killing as many as 50 detainees a day. (CNN / BuzzFeed News / Washington Post)

14/ Senate Republicans are breaking away from Trump as they try to forge a more traditional Republican agenda and protect their political fortunes. Republican senators are drafting a health care bill with little White House input and pushing back on Trump’s impending budget request. Many high-ranking Republicans have said they will not support any move by Trump to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement. (New York Times)

poll/ 29% approve of Trump’s firing of James Comey. Trump’s job-approval rating stands at 39%. (NBC News)

Day 113: Another fucking Twitter tirade.

1/ In a tweet, Trump threatened to cancel all future press briefings for the “sake of accuracy,” saying it’s “not possible” to always tell the truth. While the White House can’t get its story straight about the firing of FBI director James Comey, Trump has offered his solution: cancel all press briefings. Spicer declined to say whether Trump had decided to stop holding daily news briefings, saying that Trump is “a little dismayed” about the unwillingness of reporters to focus on the policy actions of his administration. (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ In a tweet, Trump warned James Comey against leaking to the press, suggesting there are “tapes” of their private conversations. It’s unclear if any tapes exist. Regardless, Comey is “not worried about any tapes,” a CNN source said, adding that “if there is a tape, there’s nothing [Comey] is worried about” that could be on it. (Washington Post / Politico / CNN)

3/ Trump asked for Comey to pledge his loyalty at a private dinner seven days after the inauguration. Comey declined to make the pledge, but instead told Trump that he would always give him “honesty.” Trump pressed him on whether it would be “honest loyalty.” Comey agreed. Trump claims Comey assured him “three times” that he was not under FBI investigation. (New York Times / NBC News / CNN)

4/ Comey declined to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The panel is investigating Russia’s election meddling and allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Testifying would have provided Comey a chance to discuss with lawmakers the circumstances of his firing. (Politico)

5/ Sean Spicer won’t say if Trump is taping conversations in the Oval Office. The White House won’t deny Trump taped meetings with Comey — or that Trump may be recording conversations in the Oval Office. “The president has nothing further to add on that,” Spicer said, repeating the answer or some variation of it several more times as reporters pressed. (NBC News / New York Times)

6/ Trump shifts his reason for firing Comey to “this Russia thing” being a “made-up story.” He labeled it “an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.” (New York Times)

  • Comey’s reportedly furious by the lack of respect the White House showed him. Trump called Comey a “showboat” and “a grandstander,” and even suggested he was not “competent.” (ABC News)

7/ Jeff Sessions directed prosecutors to seek the toughest drug charges for offenders. The new sentencing guidelines roll back an Obama-era policy of avoiding charging nonviolent, less-serious drug offenders with long, mandatory-minimum sentences, and instead revives a Bush-era policy that tasked federal prosecutors with charging “the most serious readily provable offense.” (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / CNN)

8/ The lawyers who said Trump has no ties to Russia was named Russian law firm of 2016. Morgan Lewis tax partners said that a review of Trump’s last 10 years of tax returns don’t show “any income of any type from Russian sources.” Except for some income from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant that was held in Moscow as well as a property sold to a Russian billionaire in 2008 for $95 million. The attorneys did not release copies of Trump’s tax returns. (The Guardian / Associated Press / Reuters)

9/ The EPA may allow a massive gold and copper mine at the headwaters of one of Alaska’s salmon fisheries. The Trump administration will allow a Canadian-owned company to seek a federal permit to build a mine near Bristol Bay. In 2014, the EPA released a study that concluded large-scale mining in the bay posed significant risk to salmon and could adversely affect Alaska Natives in the region. (Associated Press)

10/ Rex Tillerson signed a declaration acknowledging climate change. The move is at odds with the Trump administration’s skepticism of climate change and comes at a time when he is weighing a potential withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The Fairbanks Declaration acknowledges the threat posed by climate change to the Arctic and the need for action to curb its impact on the region. (The Hill)