1/ Rudy Giuliani claimed that "I never said there was no collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia. In a remarkable interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night, Giuliani argued that he had only ever said Trump himself had not colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, leaving open the possibility that campaign aides could have colluded. "There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC." Trump has tweeted at least 13 times directly saying there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. (CNN / The Guardian / Washington Post)

2/ Hours later Giuliani backtracked his "no collusion" claim, saying he has "no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign." Giuliani's statement added: "There was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form." (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • A woman from Belarus claiming to have recordings that showed contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians was detained at a Moscow airport on prostitution allegations. Anastasia Vashukevich was deported from Thailand earlier in the day after spending nine months in prison on charges of conspiracy and soliciting prostitution. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump directed Michael Cohen to hire a company to rig CNBC and Drudge Report online polls in his favor. Cohen then stiffed John Gauger, who owns RedFinch Solutions. Gauger went to Trump Tower in early 2015 to collect the $50,000 he was owed for the work, but instead Cohen apparently gave him a blue Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash and a boxing glove that Cohen said had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter. Cohen disputed that he handed over a bag of cash, but confirmed that he had hired RedFinch Solutions, adding in a tweet that "what I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of @realDonaldTrump @POTUS." Gauger said he never received the rest of what he was owed. However, in early 2017 Cohen received a $50,000 reimbursement from Trump and his company for the RedFinch work. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)

  • Cohen also hired RedFinch Solutions to promote him as a "sex symbol" on Twitter. The @womenforcohen account was created in May 2016 and run by a female friend of Gauger. (Wall Street Journal / The Guardian)

4/ The Trump administration separated thousands more migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border than previously reported and whether they have been reunified is unknown, according to a report released by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services. Before the administration officially implemented its zero-tolerance policy in the spring of 2018 that forcibly separated more nearly 3,000 children, the staff at the Department of Health and Human Services had noted a "sharp increase" in the number of children separated from a parent or guardian, according to the report. (Politico / The Guardian / NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times)

5/ Trump postponed Nancy Pelosi's planned trip to Belgium, Egypt and Afghanistan in retaliation for her suggesting he delay his State of the Union address. He called it a "public relations event." Military transport is typically provided to the House speaker for foreign trips. Trump instead called on Pelosi to remain in Washington during the shutdown, but she is welcome to make the trips on commercial flights. (NBC News / Politico / New York Times)

  • The White House is discussing whether Mitch McConnell could invite Trump to deliver the State of the Union address in the Senate chamber. (CBS News)

  • The State Department is calling back its furloughed diplomats after finding enough money to cover payroll for two weeks. The 8,000 employees will still have to wait to get their back pay. (Washington Post)

poll/ 39% approve the job Trump is doing as president – down from 42% approval since last month. Since December, Trump's approval is down 18 percentage points among suburban men, down 13 points among white evangelicals, down 10 points among Republicans, and down 8 points among white men without a college degree. (NPR)

poll/ 57% of voters said they would "definitely" vote against Trump in 2020, 30% said they plan to vote for Trump, and an additional 13% said they had no idea who they'll vote for. (PBS)


Notables.

  1. Betsy DeVos is recovering in a wheelchair after breaking her pelvis and hip socket in a bicycling accident. She described the recovery as "very painful." (Politico)

  2. The Trump Organization requested and received at least 192 visas for foreign workers in 2018, according to Department of Labor data – the highest for the company going back to at least 2008. (Talking Points Memo)

  3. The Trump administration called extending disaster funding for Puerto Rico's food stamp program "excessive and unnecessary" after the House passed a measure that would have provided the island with $600 million in disaster relief funding. (BuzzFeed News)

  4. More than 130 Republicans joined House Democrats in opposing a Treasury Department plan to lift sanctions against companies controlled by a Putin ally. Senate Republicans narrowly blocked a similar measure yesterday. Oleg Deripaska is a Russian oligarch with ties to Paul Manafort. (Washington Post)


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