What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

Today's essential guide to the daily shock and awe in national politics. Read in moderation.
Curated by @matt_kiser

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Day 456: Unprecedented treachery.

1/ The Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks alleging a conspiracy to help Trump win the 2016 election. The lawsuit claims that Russian hacking and the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia and the public cheerleading of the hacks amounted to conspiracy to interfere in the election and cause damage to the Democratic Party. DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement: "This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for President of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency." (Washington Post / Reuters / New York Times / CNN)

2/ The Justice Department sent partially redacted copies of James Comey's memos – 15 pages in total – to Congress, which leaked to the public within hours. The memos cover the first three months of the Trump administration. Following the release, Trump tweeted that the memos "show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION." (Associated Press / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • READ: James Comey's memos. (DocumentCloud)

  • Six takeaways from the Comey memos. (New York Times)

  • What the Comey memos tell us about Trump. (Axios)

  • At least two of the memos that Comey gave to a friend contained information that officials now consider classified, prompting a review by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog. (Wall Street Journal)

3/ Trump was annoyed with Michael Flynn for making Putin wait six days for a return congratulatory phone call. Trump complained that Flynn "has serious judgment issues" as a result. Days before Michael Flynn was fired, then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked Comey if Flynn's communications were being monitored under a FISA surveillance warrant. (Reuters / The Guardian)

4/ Trump tweeted that Michael Flynn's life is now "totally destroyed" while "Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book." Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to federal agents and is cooperating with Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and whether the Trump campaign was involved. (Bloomberg)

5/ Putin once told Trump that Russia has "some of the most beautiful hookers in the world," according to Comey. In a memo dated Feb. 8, 2017, Comey writes that Trump "brought up the 'Golden Showers thing,'" saying that "'the hookers thing' is nonsense." (The Hill)

6/ Comey explained why he thinks "it's possible" that Russia has compromising information on Trump. First, he says, is that "the President is constantly bringing it up with me to deny it." And, second, Trump "wouldn't criticize Vladimir Putin even in private, which struck me as odd." (CNN)

7/ Trump pressed Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray to find derogatory information on two senior FBI officials. Trump wanted to know why Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were still in their jobs, following allegations by his allies that they had been disloyal and had unfairly targeted him and his administration. Trump wanted information about Strzok and Page turned over to congressional Republicans in order to discredit them. (Vox)

  • BACKGROUND:

  • Strzok helped oversee the probe of Hillary Clinton's email use and the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • Page provided legal and strategic advice about both investigations to both Comey and McCabe.

  • The two repeatedly disparaged Trump in their private text messages to each other.

8/ Trump's legal team is still negotiating a possible interview with Robert Mueller, according to White House lawyer Ty Cobb. "The Cohen searches have not yet changed our strategy or level of cooperation with the special counsel," Cobb said, referring to recent raids on the home, hotel room and workplace of Michael Cohen. At the time, it was reported that Trump was "less inclined" to sit for an interview with Mueller. (Daily Beast)

9/ Trump complained to advisers that Neil Gorsuch has been too liberal in recent cases. Trump was "incensed" that Gorsuch voted against the administration on an immigration case, renewing Trump's doubts that Gorsuch would be a reliable conservative. (Washington Post / The Hill)

10/ In May 1984, Trump – pretending to be a Trump Organization executive – lied about his wealth to a Forbes reporter so he could make the Forbes 400 list. Trump, posing as "John Barron," called Jonathan Greenberg and claimed he was worth $100 million. At the time, Trump was worth less than $5 million. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Trump will not attend Barbara Bush's funeral in order to "avoid disruptions" and out of respect for her family and friends. (CNN)

  2. Scott Pruitt spent $45,000 to fly a five-person "advance" team to Australia to prepare for meetings that were later canceled. (Reuters)

  3. Mitch McConnell is intent on confirming as many conservative judges as possible to lifetime appointments this year, in part out of concern that Democrats take back the Senate. Trump has already nominated 69 judges, but there are still 149 total vacancies. (Politico)

  4. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp will support Mike Pompeo's nomination for secretary of state, becoming the first Democrat to say she'll vote for the current CIA director. Pompeo is expected to receive an unfavorable recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but GOP leaders plan to bring the nomination to the Senate floor anyway late next week. (CNN / New York Times)

  5. A man linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was captured in Syria by U.S.-backed forces more than a month ago. The 9/11 Commission report, a Congressional account of the 2001 attacks, said Mohammad Haydar Zammar was an "outspoken, flamboyant Islamist" who extolled "the virtues of violent jihad." (Reuters)

  6. Jared Kushner's family business received a federal subpoena. Investigators are looking into whether the real estate company repeatedly filed false paperwork that claimed it had zero rent-regulated tenants, when it had hundreds. (Wall Street Journal / The Hill)

  7. **Wall Street banks saved at least $3.59 billion combined in taxes last quarter under Trump's new tax **law. (Associated Press)

Day 455: Clean up the mess.

1/ Rod Rosenstein told Trump last week that he isn't a target of any part of Robert Mueller's investigation. Following the meeting, Trump told his advisers that it's not the right time to remove Rosenstein or Mueller since he's not a target of the probe. Yesterday, at Mar-a-Lago, Trump told reporters "they've been saying I'm going to get rid of [Rosenstein and Mueller] for the last three months, four months, five months." He added: "And they're still here." While Trump may not officially be a target now, he could become one in the future. (Bloomberg)

2/ Trump's congressional allies threatened to impeach Rod Rosenstein if he didn't provide them with documents about the FBI's conduct related to the Russia probe and the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server. Representatives Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan said Rosenstein could also be held in contempt of Congress if he doesn't satisfy their demands for documents. Critics say the two Republicans are attempting to build a case against Rosenstein in hopes of closing the Mueller investigation. (Washington Post)

3/ The Justice Department will send James Comey's memos to three congressional committees, which document the former FBI director's interactions with Trump. It's unclear if the memos will be redacted, but the House Intelligence, Oversight and Judiciary committees requested copies of the memos in both redacted and de-classified/un-redacted form last week. The memos are believed to be central to Mueller's obstruction of justice investigation. (CNN / ABC News / Politico)

4/ The special counsel suspects that Paul Manafort served as a "back channel" between the Trump campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the presidential election. Manafort "had long-standing ties to Russia-backed politicians," Justice Department attorney Michael Dreeben said. "Did they provide back channels to Russia? Investigators will naturally look at those things." Manafort's lawyers argued that Robert Mueller exceeded his authority when he indicted Manafort on charges of laundering millions of dollars while acting as an unregistered agent of the Ukrainian government. (Bloomberg)

5/ Trump: We'll put sanctions on Russia "as soon as they very much deserve it," adding that "there has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump." The third-person comment capped a four-day stretch of confusion over whether the Trump administration would punish Moscow for its role in a recent chemical attack in Syria. (The Hill)

6/ Michael Cohen dropped a pair of libel suits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over the publication of the dossier that details alleged ties between Trump and Russia. The dossier claims Cohen met with Russian operatives somewhere in Europe to "clean up the mess" created by the public disclosures of Trump associates' ties to Russia. Pursuing the suit would require Cohen to "face a discovery process that would have forced him to defend his reputation and address the allegations of the Steele dossier under penalty of perjury." (Politico / Washington Post)

7/ Trump's legal advisers warned that Michael Cohen would flip and cooperate with federal prosecutors if faced with criminal charges. "They're going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings," said lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who met with Trump and his staff over two days at the White House last week. Jay Goldberg, who represented Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s, told the president not to trust Cohen, and on a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Cohen "isn't even a 1." (Wall Street Journal / Politico)

8/ The Justice Department's inspector general referred its finding to federal prosecutors to determine whether Andrew McCabe should be charged with a crime for repeatedly misleading investigators. The referral came days after the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released a report accusing McCabe of demonstrating a lack of candor and releasing sensitive information related to an ongoing criminal investigation. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

9/ Rudy Giuliani is joining Trump's personal legal team to "negotiate an end" to the special counsel's investigation "for the good of the country." Giuliani added: "I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller." (CNBC / Washington Post)

poll/ White evangelical support for Trump is at an all-time high, with 75% holding a favorable view of the president and 22% holding an unfavorable view. (Public Religion Research Institute)


Notables.

  1. Trump will skip his summit with Kim Jong Un if he thinks the talks aren't going to be "fruitful," but said he'll "remain flexible." (Politico)

  2. North Korea said it no longer demands that the U.S. remove troops from South Korea as a condition for denuclearization. For decades, North Korea demanded the withdrawal of 28,500 American troops, citing their presence as a pretext to justify its development of nuclear weapons. (New York Times)

  3. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration's cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program were unlawful. The administration notified 81 organizations last summer that their five-year grants would end in 2018, rather than in 2020. (The Hill)

  4. More than two dozen House and Senate Republicans have refused to endorse Trump's bid for re-election. Trump announced his re-election bid immediately after taking office. (CNN)

  5. 43 House Republican incumbents have raised less money than their Democratic challengers in the first three months of 2018, and 16 Republican incumbents have less cash on hand than their Democratic challengers. (Politico)

  6. The Senate confirmed Trump's pick for NASA administrator, despite deep concerns from Democrats that he lacks the scientific and management expertise to lead the space agency. (Washington Post)

  7. A federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration from making federal grant funding contingent on cooperation with immigration enforcement. A three-judge panel on the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the administration exceeded its legal authority in trying to implement the conditions without approval from Congress. (Politico / The Hill)

  8. Trump tweeted that he will not pay for California's new deployment of National Guard troops after Gov. Jerry Brown said the troops will focus on combating transnational crime and drug smuggling and not immigration enforcement on the Mexican border, as Trump envisioned. (Los Angeles Times)

Day 454: This Russia thing.

1/ Defense Secretary James Mattis wanted to get Congressional approval before bombing Syria last week. Trump overruled him because he wanted his tweets to be supported by action, despite warnings that an overly aggressive strike could spark a larger dispute with Russia. A limited airstrike on three targets was the compromise. (New York Times)

2/ Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend for a top-secret visit to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and the North Korean leader. Pompeo was nominated as secretary of state shortly after the meeting. Trump is expected to meet with Kim by June. While meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday, Trump said his administration has "had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea." (Washington Post / New York Times)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders said "the administration does not comment on the CIA director's travel." Hours later, Trump tweeted that "Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed." (Reuters)

4/ Two Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote against Mike Pompeo, Trump's nominee for secretary of state. Pompeo can still be confirmed by the full Senate without the committee's support. Republicans hold a 11-10 majority on the committee and Republican Rand Paul has already said he's also "no." (Reuters / CNN)

5/ Nikki Haley: "I don't get confused." The comment by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations comes in response to a White House official attributing her statement that Trump would impose sanctions on Russia to "momentary confusion." Larry Kudlow, the president's national economics adviser, said Haley "got ahead of the curve." Later, Kudlow called Haley to apologize, saying "she was certainly not confused." He added: "She was basically following what she thought was policy. The policy was changed and she wasn't told about it, so she was in a box." The White House sent out a document – titled "White House talking points" – to surrogates on Saturday letting them know that Trump had decided to take punitive action against Moscow. (New York Times / Politico / CNN)

  • Haley said her relationship with Trump was "perfect." (Reuters)

6/ Trump denied that he fired James Comey because of the Russia investigation, directly contradicting his own comments on Comey's dismissal. In May 2017, Trump told NBC's Lester Holt that his decision to fire Comey was "this Russia thing," which he called "a made up story" and "an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won." Today, Trump tweeted that "Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation," adding the requisite all-caps "NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!" (CNN / Washington Post / Axios)

7/ Trump dismissed the sketch of the person that Stormy Daniels claims threatened her years ago on Trump's behalf, calling the person a "nonexistent man" and said the sketch was a "total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!" (ABC News / New York Times)

8/ American Media Inc. let Karen McDougal out of her contract that kept her from talking about her affair with Trump. In August 2016 American Media, which owns the National Enquirer, purchased the rights to McDougal's story and spiked it in exchange for $150,000. David Pecker, American Media's chairman, is friends with Trump. (New York Times)

9/ Trump is still "apoplectic" about the FBI raids on Michael Cohen's hotel room, office and home, a source close to the president said. Trump's concerned that the FBI has everything, including everything he's told Cohen, and doesn't feel protected by the FBI "taint team" that's supposed to separate out information subject to attorney client-privilege. (CNN)

poll/ The race between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke is "too close to call." 47% of Texas voters support Cruz while 43% back O'Rourke. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Barbara Bush died at the age of 92 after a series of recent hospitalizations. Bush had recently refused to seek any further medical treatment. (NBC News)

  2. The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up legislation to protect Robert Mueller despite opposition from Mitch McConnell. The legislation is on the agenda for a committee business meeting on Thursday, but an actual vote is expected to be delayed until next week. (The Hill)

  3. Puerto Rico hit with an island-wide blackout after an excavator accidentally downed a transmission line. Officials said it could take 24 to 36 hours to fully restore power to more than 1.4 million customers. (Associated Press)

  4. New York's attorney general is trying change a state law so he can bring criminal charges against aides Trump pardons. Eric Schneiderman wants to exempt New York's double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons. (New York Times)

  5. Mick Mulvaney said the Office of Management and Budget is opening a probe into Scott Pruitt's spending since he took over the EPA. The OMB will look into the $43,000 spent on a "secure phone booth" for Pruitt's office at EPA headquarters. (ABC News)

  6. A group of 131 representatives and 39 senators introduced a resolution calling for Scott Pruitt to resign for ethics lapses. The resolution states that the co-signers have "no confidence in the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and [are] calling for the immediate resignation of the Administrator." (The Hill / Reuters)

  7. Trump's trade representative Robert Lighthizer is spending nearly $1 million on new furniture. He blamed the Obama administration for the costs. (New York Post)

  8. Trump tweeted that sanctuary cities are where undocumented immigrants go for "breeding." (CNN)

  9. Bob Corker said Trump governs in a state of "constant chaos" and denounced his attacks on the FBI and the media. The Republican senator once described the White House as an "adult day-care center." (Washington Post)

  10. Madeleine Albright: Trump is "the least democratic president of modern history." The former secretary of state said the modern world provides a "petri dish" for fascism. (The Atlantic)

Day 453: Crimes of violence.

1/ The Supreme Court ruled that a law subjecting immigrants to deportation for some "crimes of violence" is unconstitutionally vague. Justice Neil Gorsuch – Trump's pick for the Supreme Court – joined with the court's liberal justices, providing the swing vote for the first time in a 5-4 ruling that invalidated the federal statute. (CNN / Politico / USA Today)

2/ The Senate will not take up legislation limiting Trump's ability to fire Robert Mueller. "I'm the one who decides what we take to the floor," Mitch McConnell said, "that's my responsibility as the majority leader and we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate." McConnell's statement comes about a week after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said his panel would take up and vote on the measure during a meeting on April 26. A handful of House Republicans have also endorsed legislation that would protect the special counsel. (The Hill / Washington Post / Politico)

3/ Trump rejected a new round of sanctions that would have been imposed against Russia on Monday. Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that "a decision will be made in the near future," and Trump has now decided to not move forward with the sanctions. She added that Trump "has been clear that he's going to be tough on Russia, but at the same time he'd still like to have a good relationship with them." (New York Times)

4/ Trump's National Economic Council chairman said Nikki Haley "got ahead" of herself in announcing new sanctions on Russia. Larry Kudlow insisted there was no confusion within the administration about the sanctions. Trump signed off on the sanctions package, but changed his mind following the airstrikes in Syria. "Russia sanctions were a part of the agreed-upon plan going into the strike and going into the weekend," said a senior administration official. "As recently as Saturday that was reconfirmed as part of the plan." (CNN / Politico)

5/ A broadband adviser chosen by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was arrested last week and charged with fraud for tricking investors into pouring more than $250 million into an Alaska-based fiber optic cable company. Elizabeth Pierce used forged contracts with other companies to guarantee investors hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue. Pierce stepped down from her role as head of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee in September of last year. (Wall Street Journal / The Verge)

6/ Fox News pledged "full support" of Sean Hannity after it was revealed that he had an "informal relationship" with Michael Cohen. In a statement, the network said it "was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday." (Reuters / CNN)

  • Sean Hannity has been represented by two other Trump-connected lawyers: Victoria Toensing and Jay Sekulow. The duo, acting as "Counsel for Sean Hannity," once sent a cease-and-desist letter to a radio station based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sekulow is Trump's personal attorney working full-time on the response to Robert Mueller's inquiry. He recently announced he was hiring Toensing to join him, but reversed course due to unspecified conflicts. (The Atlantic)

7/ The Trump campaign paid $66,000 to Keith Schiller's lawyer, Trump's former longtime bodyguard. Schiller's lawyers, Schertler & Onorato LLP, received a single payment in January, despite having left his White House job in September. Schiller testified to the House Intelligence Committee in November that someone made an offer to send five women to Trump's hotel room in Moscow during to the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. Schiller said he turned down the offer on Trump's behalf and that no women ever came, as far as he was aware. Federal election law allows the use of campaign money for legal fees, but only if the fees are related to a matter connected to the campaign. (NBC News)

8/ Stormy Daniels and her lawyer unveiled a forensic sketch of the man she said threatened her seven years ago to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. She is offering a $100,000 reward for information about the man she described as handsome and fit with sandy brown, slicked-back hair, about 5-foot-9 to 6 feet tall, and in his 30s or 40s. (USA Today / The Daily Beast)

9/ Trump has been advised not to back a candidate in the race to succeed outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump wanted to endorse House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, but his advisers are concerned that an endorsement could complicate his future relationship with the next GOP leader. (ABC News)

10/ Scott Pruitt upgraded his official car to a larger, customized SUV with bullet-resistant seat covers. The first year's lease of the Chevy Suburban cost $10,200. (Washington Post)

11/ Trump said the U.S. has had "direct talks" with North Korea at "extremely high levels," adding that the U.S. was reviewing five locations for a one-on-one with Kim Jong Un. Trump is tentatively scheduled to meet Kim in early June. (Politico / Washington Post)

12/ North and South Korea are reportedly set to announce an official end to their 68-year war. Pyongyang and Seoul have technically been at war since the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended with a truce – and not a peace treaty. While meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago, Trump said the two Koreas "have my blessing to discuss the end of the war." (CNBC / Associated Press)

poll/ Roughly 7 in 10 Americans support tougher U.S. sanctions on Russia, while nearly half say Trump has done "too little" to address Russia's alleged violations of international law. Meanwhile, 52% say Trump should invite Putin to the White House in order to help improve U.S.-Russia relations; 42% oppose the invitation because they feel it would give Putin legitimacy. (Washington Post-ABC News poll)

poll/ 32% of all Americans have a favorable view of Robert Mueller. 30% view him unfavorably and 38% say they don't know enough to have an opinion. Among Democrats, Mueller's favorability is at 56%, while 49% of Republicans have an unfavorable impression of the special counsel. (NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll)


Notables.

  1. Ryan Zinke refers to himself as a geologist, even though he has never held a job as a geologist. The Interior Secretary has used the credential to justify everything from shrinking the Bears Ears national monument to making decisions regarding coal revenue, seismic activity, climate change, and endangered species, as well as fracking and drilling. (CNN)

  2. GOP Congressman Charlie Dent will resign and leave office in May. Dent initially announced his resignation last year and said he planned to stay on until the end of his term, but has now decided, "after discussions with my family and careful reflection," that he will instead leave office next month. (The Hill)

  3. Sandy Hook parents are suing Alex Jones for defamation. The right-wing conspiracy theorist who operates Infowars has repeatedly claimed that the parents of the 20 dead children are "crisis actors" and that the shooting was "completely fake" and a "giant hoax" perpetrated by opponents of the Second Amendment. The parents are seeking at least $1 million in damages. (New York Times)

  4. The IRS Direct Pay system went down on tax day and is still down. Direct Pay is the service that allows taxpayers to make their payments online. "This service is currently unavailable. We apologize for any inconvenience," the website reads. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said online tax filers will get extension after the website outage. (USA Today / Fortune)

  5. Trump requested an extension to file his 2017 taxes, as so "many Americans with complex returns" do, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. Trumps returns will be filed by the Oct. 15 extension deadline. (New York Times)

Day 452: Morally unfit.

1/ James Comey called Trump "morally unfit to be president" and likened "the loyalty oaths" to a mob boss at "the dominant center of everything" who is doing "tremendous damage" to institutional and cultural norms. In his Sunday interview with George Stephanopoulos, Comey said that it is "possible, but I don't know" if Russia has compromising information on Trump. (ABC News / Reuters)

  • Annotated excerpts from James Comey's "20/20" interview. (New York Times)

  • 📚 Get Comey's book: "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" (Amazon)

2/ Trump tweeted that Comey is a "not smart," "self serving" liar, who deserves jail for being the "WORST FBI Director in history, by far." The tweets came hours before Comey's interview aired. Trump also insisted that Comey's memos are "FAKE!" while doubling down on calling the former FBI director a "Slimeball!" Trump also charged that the only reason Comey reopened the Clinton email investigation in the final days of the 2016 election was because he wanted a job in her administration. Trump added: "I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty." (Washington Post)

3/ Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Comey, accusing the former FBI director of lying to Congress and having "committed many crimes!" Trump did not specify what crimes he believed Comey and others have committed. (New York Times)

  • Obama's ethics lawyer believes Comey could sue Trump for libel and win. (The Hill)

4/ A federal judge rejected an attempt by Trump and Michael Cohen to block prosecutors from reviewing the materials seized in the FBI raids last week on Cohen's office, home, hotel room, and safe deposit box. Trump had asked a federal judge to block the Justice Department from viewing evidence, arguing that some of the evidence seized should first be reviewed by Trump, because it may be covered by attorney-client privilege. (New York Times / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

5/ Michael Cohen also represents Sean Hannity, one of Trump's outspoken advocates on cable TV. The revelation comes as part of a motion for a temporary restraining order to stop federal investigators from reviewing materials seized last week. The judge ordered Cohen to attend and provide information about his clients as she weighs the emergency action. Cohen's attorneys acknowledged that he represented Trump and Elliott Broidy in legal matters, but avoided naming the third client. Under pressure from the judge, Cohen's attorney said that the Fox News host was the third client. (Bloomberg / Politico / CNN / CNBC / NBC News)

  • Sean Hannity responds: "Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees." (Talking Points Memo)

  • Six times Sean Hannity defended Michael Cohen on Fox News. (Politico)

  • How Fox News reacted after Sean Hannity was revealed as Michael Cohen's mystery client. (Slate)

6/ Trump wants the power to hire and fire all "officers of the United States" who "exercise significant authority" under the law. Trump's solicitor general, Noel Francisco, intervened in a minor SEC case to urge the Supreme Court to clarify the president's constitutional "power to oversee executive officers through removal." The move comes as Trump has repeatedly claimed that he has the power to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Francisco could also be in line to oversee the Mueller probe if Rod Rosenstein is fired. (Los Angeles Times)

7/ Paul Ryan: "I don't think it's necessary" to pass a bill to protect Robert Mueller from being fired by Trump. "I don't think he's going to fire Mueller." Hundreds of former Justice Department employees, meanwhile, are urging Congress to "swiftly and forcefully respond" should Trump fire Mueller. (NBC News / Washington Post)

8/ Michael Cohen used the same Delaware LLC to handle the payoffs to Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model who alleged Elliott Broidy impregnated her. Federal prosecutors are examining money flowing in and out of Essential Consultants as part of a broad investigation into Cohen's activities to silence women with allegations against Trump or those near him. Separately, Cohen also killed a 2013 Us Weekly story that would have reported about Donald Trump Jr. having an affair with one of the singers in the group Dumblonde. (Wall Street Journal)

9/ Trump's 2020 reelection campaign has spent about 22% of its funds raised on legal fees related to the ongoing special counsel investigation and a legal challenge by Stormy Daniels. The campaign has also spent about $125,000 at Trump businesses, including Trump International Hotel, Trump restaurants, and Trump Tower. (Washington Post / BuzzFeed News)

poll/ 56% of Americans disapprove of Trump's job performance, versus 40% who approve. Those who strongly disapprove outnumber those who strongly approve by nearly 2-1. (ABC News)

poll/ 47% of voters want a Democratic-controlled Congress, compared to 40% who prefer a GOP-controlled Congress – down from the Democrats' 10-point edge in March. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Trump tried to block Pence's national security adviser appointment. After Trump learned that Pence was bringing on Nikki Haley's deputy, Jon Lerner, Trump told Kelly to get rid of Lerner. (Axios)

  2. Jon Lerner stepped down two days after being named Pence's new national security aide. Trump was told – in error – that Lerner was a "Never Trumper," which caused him to boil over. Lerner offered to withdraw "to minimize the amount of conflict and internal drama." (Reuters)

  3. The Pentagon said there has been a "2,000% increase in Russian trolls in the last 24 hours," following the airstrikes against Syria on Friday night. (Axios)

  4. The Trump administration walked back Nikki Haley's announcement that the U.S. Treasury plans to issue additional sanctions on Russia following the chemical weapons attack in Syria last week. "We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future," Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. (The Hill)

  5. Trump was "furious" that his administration was being portrayed in the media for taking the toughest stance on Russia following the announcement that the U.S. planned to expel 60 Russian diplomats and suspected spies. Trump believed that France and Germany would match the United States' response. Instead, they each expelled four Russian officials. (Washington Post)

  6. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke invited a self-professed "birther" on his radio show in 2013 and raised questions about then-President Obama's college records. (CNN)

  7. Scott Pruitt's $43,000 secure "privacy booth" violated spending laws, the Government Accountability Office said. Pruitt told a congressional committee he needed the booth to make secure calls to the White House and discuss classified information, but he was unable to tell the lawmakers how often he would use it. (ABC News / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

Day 450: Mission accomplished.

Welcome to a rare Saturday edition of WTF Just Happened Today.


1/ The U.S., France, and Britain launched airstrikes targeting three Syrian chemical weapons facilities as Trump attempted to punish Bashar al-Assad for a chemical attack near Damascus last weekend that killed more than 40 people. The strikes targeted a scientific research center, a chemical weapons storage facility, and a command post. "We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents," Trump said from the White House, adding that the U.S. and its allies had "marshaled their righteous power." Putin called the airstrikes an "act of aggression against a sovereign state" and called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations' Security Council. (New York Times / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

  • Trump sought advice on Syria from the lawyers defending him in the ongoing Russia investigation. (Wall Street Journal)

2/ Nikki Haley: Trump is "locked and loaded" to strike again if Syria uses chemical weapons again. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations' comment came during an emergency Security Council meeting called by Russia. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump declared "mission accomplished" following the airstrikes on three Syria targets, drawing comparisons to George W. Bush's optimism about the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Trump added: It "could not have had a better result." (CNN / Bloomberg)

4/ Russian military claimed that Syrian air defenses shot down 71 of the 103 missiles fired by the US and its allies. The Pentagon denied the claim. (The Guardian)

5/ Robert Mueller has evidence that Michael Cohen made a secret trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, entering through Germany in "August or early September." Confirmation of the trip corroborates part of the Christopher Steele dossier that Cohen met with an ally of Putin. Cohen has denied that he has ever been in Prague and that he colluded with Russia during the campaign. (McClatchy DC)

6/ A former Russian spy worked on the Moscow Trump tower deal during the 2016 presidential campaign. The former agent, who had served in the GRU, negotiated for financing for a Trump-branded tower in Moscow from a Russian state-owned bank that was under US sanctions at the time. The former Russian spy also passed intelligence to the US on key national security matters, including al-Qaeda's weapons caches and North Korea's attempts to develop nuclear weapons. (BuzzFeed News)

7/ The FBI seized recordings of conversations between Michael Cohen and the lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Cohen recorded some calls he had with Keith Davidson, who at the time represented both Daniels and McDougal. (CNN)

Day 449: Slime ball.

1/ Rod Rosenstein is prepared to be fired by Trump, telling confidants he has done his job with integrity and repeating the phrase "Here I stand." In recent private conversations, Rosenstein said history will prove he did the right thing by firing James Comey in May 2017, adding that Americans don't have all the facts about what led to his decision to write the memo that led to Comey's dismissal. If Rosenstein is fired, the next in line to oversee Mueller's probe is Solicitor General Noel Francisco. Trump, however, could choose to replace Rosenstein with anyone who has been confirmed by the Senate. (NBC News)

🎁 GIVEAWAY: Win a set of Pee Tape and Robert Mueller III Prayer candles.

  • Rosenstein has consulted with a career ethics adviser at the Justice Department throughout the Russia probe on whether he needs to recuse himself from the investigation. He's followed their advice, which legal experts say legitimizes his decision to stay on. (CNN)

2/ James Comey called Trump an "unethical" man "untethered to truth and institutional values" in his new book, "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership." Comey describes Trump and his advisers as being unconcerned with whether Russia meddled in the election, but rather "debat[ing] how to position these findings for maximum political advantage." Trump, as president-elect, disputed the Steele dossier allegations that he watched sex workers urinate on each other. Comey writes that Trump insisted that "there's no way I would let people pee on each other around me" because he is a self-professed germaphobe. "I don't know," Comey told ABC News, if Trump "was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013." (NBC News / New York Times / CNN)

  • New York Times Book Review: James Comey Has a Story to Tell. It’s Very Persuasive. (New York Times)

  • 📚 Get your copy of "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership."

3/ Trump tweets that Comey is a "weak and untruthful slime ball" who deserved to be fired "for the terrible job he did." He added that Comey is a "proven LEAKER and LIAR" and that "it was my great honor to fire James Comey!" The pair of tweets are Trump's first remarks since advance copies of "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership" surfaced. ABC's "20/20" will air an interview with Comey on Sunday morning, while Fox News will air a special called "The Trial of James Comey" on Sunday night. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News)

4/ The Republican National Committee launched a "Lyin' Comey" website aimed at discrediting the former FBI chief. The GOP plans to fact check James Comey's book and use "rapid response" to highlight any "misstatements" or "contradictions" in it. (Fox News)

5/ Trump's allies are worried that the FBI may have seized recordings of conversations between Michael Cohen and his associates. "We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes," said one Trump adviser. "Now we are wondering, who did he tape?" Cohen is known to record some of his conversations and store them as digital files. On Monday, FBI agents seized Cohen’s computers and phones. (Washington Post)

6/ Trump's advisers believe the investigation into Michael Cohen poses a greater and more imminent threat to his presidency than Robert Mueller's investigation. Cohen and Trump, through their lawyers, argue that the seized records were protected by attorney-client privilege. Trump called Cohen to "check in" as lawyers for the two men went to court to block the Justice Department from reading the seized documents. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, said she wasn't sure if Cohen was still Trump's personal attorney. (New York Times / Bloomberg)

7/ Cohen and a lawyer for Trump requested an emergency temporary restraining order to prevent prosecutors from looking at the materials seized in the FBI raids on Cohen's office, home, and hotel room earlier this week. Cohen and the lawyer argued that the president has "an acute interest in this matter" because some of the materials are protected by attorney-client privilege. (CNBC / Reuters / NBC News)

8/ Cohen has been "under criminal investigation" for months in New York for his business dealings, federal prosecutors said in court documents. The revelation came as Cohen and Trump sought a court order barring federal prosecutors from accessing the records they took during raids on Cohen's home and office Monday morning. (ABC News / NPR / CNN)

  • FBI agents who raided Cohen's office sought information about taxi owners who had financial dealings with Trump's personal attorney. The warrant specifically identified two Ukrainian immigrants who own a large taxi operation in Chicago. Cohen repeatedly loaned money to Semyon and Yasya Shatayner within the past 10 years. (CNN)

9/ Cohen negotiated a deal in late 2017 to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who said she was impregnated by a top Republican fundraiser. Cohen arranged the payments to the woman on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee with ties to Trump. In a statement, Broidy acknowledged that he "had a consensual relationship with a Playboy Playmate" who got pregnant. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

10/ Elliott Broidy resigned as Republican National Committee deputy finance chair following reports that Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, had negotiated a $1.6 million payment on his behalf to a Playboy Playmate who said that Broidy had impregnated her. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

11/ The Justice Department inspector general found that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe "lacked candor" on four occasions when discussing the alleged improper authorization of information to a newspaper reporter and then misleading investigators about it. Trump tweeted that the report "is a total disaster. He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey - McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!" McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions just hours before his retirement and the FBI officially filled McCabe's roll with Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich today. (CNN / New York Times / Politico)

  • McCabe's lawyer may file a defamation lawsuit against Trump and his "colleagues" in response to a Trump tweet that claimed McCabe had "LIED! LIED! LIED." (ABC News)

  • [PDF] Inspector General Report of allegations relating to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. (New York Times)

poll/ 69% of Americans support Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. 64% support Mueller investigating Trump's business activities, and 58% support looking at allegations that Trump’s associates paid hush money to women who say they had affairs with him. (ABC News)

poll/ 48% to 32% see Comey as more believable than Trump. 47% disapprove of Trump's decision to fire Comey, compared to 44% who approve. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Trump pardoned Scooter Libby for lying to investigators probing the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. Libby served as the former chief of staff for Dick Cheney during the George W. Bush administration. Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month prison sentence while leaving the 2007 conviction intact. (ABC News / Bloomberg)

  2. A Health and Human Services appointee shared an image in 2017 that said "our forefathers would have hung" Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason. (CNN)

  3. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai rejected a request from a dozen senators to investigate Sinclair Broadcast Group for "distorting news" coverage, saying an investigation would conflict with the First Amendment and freedom of the press. Sinclair forced anchors to read a scripted promo warning of "fake news" and media bias. (The Hill)

  4. The U.S. accused Syrian of using banned chemical arms at least 50 times since Syria’s civil war began seven years ago. (New York Times)

  5. Trump has been pushing for an attack on Syria that would punish the Syrian regime, Russia, and Iran. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, is warning that retaliation must be balanced against the threat of a wider war in order to "keep this from escalating." (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

Day 448: Retroactive privilege.

1/ Steve Bannon is working with White House aides and Congressional allies on a plan to undermine Robert Mueller's probe. The plan involves firing Rod Rosenstein, refusing to cooperate with Mueller's team, and having Trump assert executive privilege "retroactively" in order to argue that Mueller's interviews with White House officials over the past year should now be null and void. Bannon also said "Ty Cobb should be fired immediately." Trump, however, tweeted that he has "full confidence in Ty Cobb." (Washington Post)

2/ A Trump interview with Robert Mueller is now unlikely to take place following Monday's FBI raid of Michael Cohen's home, office, and hotel room, which has "significantly complicated" negotiations for a presidential interview, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Trump's lawyers wanted a potential interview to last only a few hours, as well as force Mueller to release his report within three or four months. An interview was considered one of the last steps Mueller needed before closing the obstruction of justice portion of his Russia investigation. (NBC News)

3/ Trump asked James Comey to investigate "the golden showers thing" and "prove it was a lie" in January 2017 so he could "lift the cloud" because it upset Melania Trump. The infamous dossier, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, alleges that Trump watched sex workers urinate on themselves in the same Moscow suite that the Obamas had stayed in previously "as a way of soiling the bed." Comey said Trump was obsessed with the sex workers portion of the dossier, asking about it at least four times. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump's allies plan to discredit James Comey with digital advertising branding him "Lyin' Comey" in an effort to undermine the credibility of the former FBI director ahead of his book launch next week. Republican talking points attack Comey's credibility, conduct, and point out contradictions. (CNN)

  • Trump tweet-promoted Sean Hannity's segment last night, in which Hannity tried to connect the "obvious Deep State crime families trying to take down the president" to the Clinton "family," the Comey "family" and the Mueller "family." (Washington Post)

5/ The White House is preparing talking points designed to undermine Rod Rosenstein's credibility and cast the deputy attorney general as too conflicted to fairly oversee the Russia investigation. The White House is hoping that Trump's defenders will paint Rosenstein and Comey as close colleagues and argue that Rosenstein is approving an expanding investigation as "payback for the President firing one of his best friends." (CNN)

6/ Trump tweeted that an attack on Syria "could be very soon or not soon at all!" Trump, trying to clarify his tweet yesterday that U.S. missiles "will be coming," claimed that he "never said when an attack on Syria would take place." In response, Syria moved its military aircraft to the Russian base near Latakia yesterday. (New York Times / Washington Post)

7/ During his Secretary of State confirmation hearing, CIA Director Pompeo told senators that he has been interviewed by Robert Mueller. He declined to answer questions about his testimony to Mueller — or conversations with Trump — saying that the investigation is ongoing. (The Hill / Axios)

  • Pompeo failed to disclose last year that he owned a business that imported equipment from a company owned by the Chinese government. Pompeo's new questionnaire submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his Secretary of State nomination is not publicly available. (McClatchy DC)

8/ A former doorman was paid $30,000 in late 2015 to sign over the rights to a story about a rumor that Trump fathered a child with an employee in the 1980s at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations. American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, paid Dino Sajudin to give up exclusive rights to the rumor – and then never published an article about it – five months after Trump had launched his Presidential campaign. (The New Yorker / CNBC / Washington Post / CNN)

9/ The company that owns the National Enquirer also paid Karen McDougal $150,000 for a story it never published. The payout to McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, came eight months after American Media Inc. paid $30,000 to Trump's former doorman for his story. American Media Inc. is facing a Federal Election Commission complaint claiming that the $150,000 payment represented an illegal campaign contribution. (Associated Press / New York Times)

10/ Stormy Daniels's attorney said Michael Cohen is threatening to plead the Fifth Amendment if an upcoming motion to stay a defamation suit from Daniels is not successful. "We've learned within the last two hours that Michael Cohen will be filing a motion, an emergency motion to stay, or temporarily stop our case," Michael Avenatti said. "And the grounds for that motion are going to be that it is his intention to plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination if our case goes forward." (The Hill)

poll/ 56% of Americans believe that the National Enquirer paid for the exclusive rights to stories that may be damaging to Trump in order to keep them from being published. 39% said the allegation was "probably true," while 17% said it was "definitely true." (CNN)

poll/ 51% of Americans support a national health care plan, while 43% oppose it. (Washington Post)

poll/ Obama is more admired than Trump in every country except one: Russia. Obama ranked first in 19 of 35 countries, including the U.S. Trump, meanwhile, ranked 2nd in the U.S. and 11th in Russia. Obama ranked 12th. (YouGov)


Notables.

  1. A Pennsylvania school district armed teachers with wooden, 16-inch baseball bats in the event of an active shooter situation. School Superintendent William Hall said the bats are a "last resort" for teachers who want to fight back. (NBC News)

  2. Jared and Ivanka are heading to Lima, Peru with Pence for the Summit of the Americas. Trump originally planned to attend the summit but canceled to stay in Washington and monitor the situation in Syria. (Politico)

  3. Federal judges indicated they have a problem with Mick Mulvaney's dual role as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because he also heads the White House Office of Management and Budget. (Los Angeles Times)

  4. Trump's federal judicial nominee refused to say whether she agreed with Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated U.S. public schools. Wendy Vitter also maintained she could "put aside" her "pro-life" advocacy, and as a judge enforce the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights. (HuffPost / NPR)

  5. Trump wants to roll back billions in spending from the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill he signed into law last month. Republicans who helped craft the legislation are skeptical. (Politico)

  6. Trump asked officials to look at rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multination trade agreement he pulled the U.S. out of shortly after taking office. (Washington Post)

  7. A fired EPA staffer gave congressional investigators a detailed list of what he describes as Scott Pruitt's wasteful spending and unethical behavior. Democrats in turn asked Pruitt to provide documents regarding allegations made by Kevin Chmielewski about his "unethical and potentially illegal" behavior. (BuzzFeed News / ABC News / Washington Post)

Day 447: Get ready.

1/ Trump tweets that "smart" missiles "will be coming" toward Syria in response to a chemical attack, taunting Russia to "get ready." Russia's ambassador to Lebanon said any U.S. missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launch sites targeted. Trump also condemned Moscow's backing of Bashar al-Assad, saying: "You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" In a pair of subsequent tweets, Trump said relations between the U.S. and Russia are "worse now than it has ever been" and the "Fake and Corrupt Russia Investigation," Democrats, and everybody that worked for Obama are to blame. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Trump's tweets broke national security policy, known as operations security. The objective is to not publicly announce information that can be used to jeopardize a mission. The Department of Defense lists "social network sites, tweets, text messages, blogs, videos, photos, GPS mapping, newsletters" as a few of the ways in which operations security can be compromised. (CNBC)

2/ Paul Ryan will not seek re-election in November, ending what will be a three-year run as the leader of House Republicans. Ryan will serve until the end of this Congress in January, which will mark 20 years in Congress for him. He said that he won't run for public office again. (Axios / Politico / New York Times)

3/ Trump is considering firing Rod Rosenstein following the FBI raid on Michael Cohen's office, in order to limit Robert Mueller's investigation through a new deputy attorney general. Rosenstein has been in charge of the Mueller probe since Jeff Sessions recused himself last year from all investigations involving the 2016 election. Trump is also weighing whether to fire Jeff Sessions and install a new attorney general. (CNN)

4/ Trump tried to fire Robert Mueller in December after incomplete news reports surfaced that subpoenas coming from Mueller's probe were targeting his business dealings with Deutsche Bank. To Trump, the subpoenas suggested that the investigation had expanded beyond his "red line." Trump backed down after his lawyers and advisers assured him that the reports were not accurate. (New York Times)

5/ Robert Mueller asked to subpoena 35 witnesses for Paul Manafort's trial, which is set to begin on July 10th. (Bloomberg)

6/ The FBI agents who searched Michael Cohen's office wanted all records related to the "Access Hollywood" tape, where Trump bragged about being able to sexually assault women, including that he would "grab them by the pussy" whenever he wanted and that he would sometimes "just start kissing them." Federal prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible bank fraud, but are also looking at whether these efforts amounted to improper campaign donations to Trump. (New York Times)

  • Michael Cohen said the FBI was "extremely professional, courteous and respectful" during the raids on his home, office, and hotel. "I am unhappy to have my personal residence and office raided," Cohen said. "But I will tell you that members of the FBI that conducted the search and seizure were all extremely professional, courteous and respectful. And I thanked them at the conclusion." (CNN)

7/ A bipartisan Senate bill designed to protect Robert Mueller's job is on track for an an April 19 vote in the Judiciary Committee. If the bill passes out of committee, the legislation would allow the special counsel to be fired only "for good cause" by a senior Justice Department official, with a reason given in writing, and it would provide recourse if Mueller is fired without good cause. The bill will also require that materials be saved from the pending investigation. Mitch McConnell said that he is not convinced that a Mueller protection bill merits floor time in the chamber. "I haven't seen a clear indication yet that we need to pass something to keep him from being removed," he said. (Reuters / The Hill / Politico)

8/ Rebekah Mercer asked Facebook for an independent investigation into Cambridge Analytica, data collection, and the 2016 election in an attempt to get the data platform's ban lifted. The meeting came four days after Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica, and a day after Cambridge agreed to let Facebook audit the firm's servers. Facebook initially considered the independent investigation, but then declined. Robert Mercer invested $15 million in Cambridge Analytica, where his daughter Rebekah is a board member. The Mercer family were major donors to Trump's presidential campaign. (BuzzFeed News / New York Times)

  • Cambridge Analytica's acting CEO is stepping down. Julian Wheatland, the chairman of Cambridge Analytica's British affiliate, will take over. (Wall Street Journal / Politico)

9/ California's governor agreed to deploy 400 National Guard troops at Trump's request, but they won't used for "enforcing federal immigration laws." Gov. Jerry Brown said he would accept federal funding to add California National Guard troops to a program to "combat transnational crime," which targets gangs, human traffickers and firearm and drug smugglers. (San Jose Mercury News / KCRA)

poll/ 48% of voters support Trump's order to send National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, while 42% oppose and 9% have no opinion. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Trump ordered the Department of Justice to hire a former White House official who was fired for showing Devin Nunes classified documents. Ezra Cohen-Watnick will advise Jeff Sessions on national security matters. (Bloomberg)

  2. The US deputy national security adviser for strategy resigned. Nadia Schadlow is the third senior national security official to resign or be pushed out in the wake of national security adviser John Bolton's arrival to the White House. She will leave her position at the end of the month. (CNN)

  3. The NRA said it accepted contributions from about 23 Russians, or Americans living in Russia, since 2015. (NPR)

  4. A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit claiming that Trump's financial disclosures are insufficient because they blur the lines between his personal debts and those owed by the businesses he owns. The judge said that even if the forms are insufficient, there's nothing she can do about it because ethics law has no provision allowing the public to enforce it. (Politico)

  5. The Trump administration is considering a plan to allow states to require some food stamp recipients to undergo drug testing. Roughly 5% of participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could be affected. (Associated Press)

  6. James Comey sat down for a five-hour interview with George Stephanopoulos. In the interivew, Comey compared Trump to a mob boss. Comey's book, "A Higher Loyalty," comes out next Tuesday. (Politico / Axios)

  7. Former House Speaker John Boehner will join the board of directors of a marijuana holdings corporation, nine years after he said he was "unalterably opposed" to legalization. (Bloomberg)

Day 446: "Why don't I just fire Mueller?"

1/ Michael Cohen is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and violations of campaign finance law. Two potential crimes – bank and wire fraud – suggest prosecutors believe Cohen may have misled bankers about his use of certain funds or improperly used banks to transfer funds. Among the documents taken in Monday's FBI raids on Cohen's office, home and hotel room were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to Stormy Daniels. (Washington Post)

  • Lou Dobbs urged Trump to fire Robert Mueller in response to the raid of Michael Cohen's offices. "This is now a man that has to be brought under control, it would seem to me," Dobbs said. "Frankly, I can't imagine ― because each of us has to come to terms with our own heart and conscience ― I would fire the SOB in three seconds if it were me." (HuffPost)

  • "Why don't I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens," Trump said. "But I think it's really a sad situation, when you look at what happened. And many people have said, you should fire him." (CNN / Politico)

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said "it would be suicide for the President to fire" Mueller. "I think the less the President says about this whole thing, the better off he will be. And I think Mueller is a person of stature and respected and I respect him. Just let the thing go forward." (CNN)

  • Trump "certainly believes" he has the power to fire Robert Mueller, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. The White House's stance on firing Mueller has been rejected by many legal experts who say Trump does not have the power to fire the special counsel directly. Sanders later added that "we've been advised that the president certainly has the power to make that decision." (CNBC / The Hill)

  • The White House is "not sure" if Cohen still represents Trump. (The Guardian)

2/ Rod Rosenstein signed off on the FBI's decision to raid Cohen's office. Agents were looking, in part, for records about payments Cohen made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, as well as information related to the publisher of The National Enquirer's role in silencing one of the women. Rosenstein, a Republican prosecutor, was picked by Trump to serve as deputy attorney general. The interest in both Daniels and McDougal indicates that federal investigators are trying to determine whether any crimes were committed in the course of buying their silence. (New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ Federal prosecutors asked the Trump Organization for records related to the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels by Michael Cohen. The request came in connection with FBI raids on Cohen's office, hotel room, and home. (Wall Street Journal)

4/ Stormy Daniels is cooperating with federal authorities investigating the $130,000 hush-money payment Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen paid her just before the 2016 election. Daniels has said the money was paid in exchange for her keeping quiet about an affair with Trump. FBI agents raided and seized evidence related to Daniels from Cohen's office and residence on Monday. (CNBC)

5/ In a pair of morning tweets, Trump declared that the raids are "A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!" and that "attorney–client privilege is dead!" Attorney-client privilege is intended to encourage open communications between lawyers and their clients, so that lawyers can provide legal advice. The privilege is not absolute and there are exceptions for communications made to further a crime. The FBI would have to demonstrate probable cause to a magistrate judge that evidence of a crime would be found in Cohen's offices, or in a hotel where he was living. "No question, a search warrant for a lawyer is an extraordinary act," Frank Montoya, a former senior FBI official, said. "Everyone involved in this process, including the judge who signed the warrant, understood the scrutiny that would follow its execution. As such, everyone in the process would have done their damnedest to make the warrant as bulletproof as possible." (Reuters / NBC News)

6/ Trump is "less inclined" to sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller after the raid on Michael Cohen's office. One source said Trump is "understandably less trusting" of Mueller and his team. (ABC News)

7/ The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is recused from the Michael Cohen investigation. Geoffrey Berman is a Trump appointee with ties to Rudy Giuliani, who donated money to the 2016 Trump campaign. The recusal was approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. (ABC News)

  • Former US Attorney Preet Bharara: The FBI raids were done by officials who were all "handpicked" by Trump. "If the reporting is true, particularly the part about this being approved by the Southern District of New York Attorney's Office which I used to lead, are all people who are Republican, and all people who have basically been handpicked by Donald Trump." (CNN)

8/ Robert Mueller is investigating a $150,000 donation to the Trump Organization in 2015 from Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk. The donation by the Ukrainian steel magnate was made in return for a 20-minute video appearance by Trump at a conference in Kiev, and is being investigated as part of Mueller's efforts to examine foreign money Trump and his associates received prior to the election. (New York Times)

9/ Mueller is using the Paul Manafort investigation to probe Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, search warrant documents reveal. Mueller is seeking information from Manafort about foreign political donations and the meeting between top Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives in Trump Tower, in addition to Manafort's interactions with a Russian real estate magnate and possible campaign finance violations. (CNN / Associated Press)

poll/ 25% of 18- to 29-year-olds approve of Trump's job performance. 37% of Americans under 30 who are eligible to vote said they will "definitely be voting" in the midterms, compared to 23% who said the same thing in 2014. And 69% said they want to see Democrats in control, compared with 28 percent who favor Republican control. (Harvard University's Institute of Politics)

poll/ 69% of voters, including 55% of Republicans, oppose Trump firing Mueller. 13% of voters said they support Trump firing Mueller. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Trump's homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, resigned at the request of new National Security Adviser John Bolton. Bossert is the second national security official to leave the White House since Bolton began the job on Monday. Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, announced his resignation on Sunday. (Bloomberg / CNBC)

  2. Mitch McConnell opened the door to a vote on cutting federal spending and a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. Republicans would then need just 50 votes to rescind billions in spending under Senate rules. (Politico)

  3. Trump won't attend the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, this week as planned. He will, instead, stay in the U.S. and "oversee the American response to Syria." Pence will take Trump's place at the meetings. (Politico / New York Times)

  4. Mike Pompeo asked Hillary Clinton for guidance on how to prepare for the secretary of state confirmation process. Pompeo once called Clinton's response to the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, "morally reprehensible." (Politico)

  5. The chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group met with Trump at the White House to pitch a new broadcasting standard the company is heavily invested in, which would allow authorities to broadcast directly to any American's phone. During the 2016 campaign, David Smith told Trump: "We are here to deliver your message." (The Guardian)

  6. The Russian military has been jamming the GPS systems of U.S. military drones operating in Syria. The Defense Department did not say whether the jamming is causing drones to crash. (NBC News)

  7. The EPA's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, claimed responsibility for the pay raises given to two of Scott Pruitt's top aides. Jackson also said that the pay raises had been reversed. "Administrator Pruitt had zero knowledge of the amount of the raises, nor the process by which they transpired," Jackson wrote in an email statement. (Bloomberg)

Day 445: Barbaric.

1/ The FBI raided Michael Cohen's office, home, and Manhattan hotel room seizing records related to Stormy Daniels and several other topics. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrants after receiving a referral from Robert Mueller. The search warrants were executed by the office of the U.S. Attorney for Southern District of New York and are "in part" related to Mueller's investigation. Trump characterized the FBI raid on his longtime personal attorney as a "disgraceful situation" that has reached a "new level of unfairness" and "an attack on our country in a true sense." (New York Times / Politico / Los Angeles Times / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Trump vowed to make "major decisions" in the next 24 to 48 hours about how to respond to a suspected chemical attack in Syria that killed dozens of people. Trump said there will be a "big price to pay" for the "atrocious," "horrible," and "barbaric act." Trump directly criticized Putin, Russia, and Iran for backing "Animal Assad" in a tweet. Later, Trump said "Everybody's going to pay a price. [Putin] will, everybody will." (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters)

3/ John Kelly threatened to quit on March 28 after he blew up at Trump during an Oval Office meeting – the same day Trump fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. "I'm out of here, guys," Kelly said, and packed up some personal belongings. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attempted to calm Kelly down. (Axios / Washington Post)

  • "To hell with it": Trump increasingly weary of staff advice. (Associated Press)

4/ The federal government's top ethics officer asked the EPA to review Scott Pruitt's actions and take "appropriate actions to address any violations." In a letter from David Apol, the acting director and general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics, to Kevin Minoli, the EPA's top ethics official, Apol summarizes reports of Pruitt's conduct, including a rental agreement with a lobbyist whose husband's firm lobbies the EPA as well as EPA spending on Pruitt's travel and security. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News / CNN)

5/ An internal EPA email contradicts Scott Pruitt's account that he "didn't know" about a controversial pay raise for an aide last month. In mid-March, the staffer, Sarah Greenwalt, emailed HR to confirm that her pay raise was being processed. According to an administration official who saw the email chain: Greenwalt "definitively stated that Pruitt approves and was supportive of her getting a raise." (The Atlantic)

6/ The U.S. budget deficit will surpass $1 trillion by 2020 – two years sooner than previously estimated. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts 2% less revenue and 1% more spending from 2018 to 2027. The Trump administration promised that tax cuts will lead to faster economic growth, which would offset deficit expansion. (Bloomberg / New York Times)

7/ White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow blamed threats of a trade war on China's "decades of misdeeds," saying "This president's got some backbone, others didn't and he's raising the issue in full public view, setting up a process that may include tariffs." (CNBC)

8/ Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook should have done more to prevent third-party apps from collecting users' data without their permission and for being "too slow to spot and respond to Russian interference" during the U.S. election. In written testimony, Zuckerberg said that "It's clear now that we didn't do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well" and that Facebook "didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake." Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees on Tuesday, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. The social network said it would form an independent commission of academic researchers to study social media's impact on elections. (Reuters / Washington Post / New York Times)

poll/ Nationwide, whites over the age of 60 with college degrees now favor Democrats over Republicans for Congress by a 2-point margin. The shift represents a 12-point swing from 2016. (Reuters)


Notables.

  1. Trump's top national security spokesman will leave the White House. Michael Anton was one of the earliest and most forceful defenders of Trump's "America First" foreign policy. Anton will join Hillsdale College as a writer and lecturer. (Politico)

  2. Trump expects to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in May or June, and expressed hope they'd reach a deal on "de-nuking" the Korean peninsula. (Bloomberg)

  3. Stormy Daniels' legal team plans to release a composite sketch of the man who Daniels says threatened her in 2011. "We're going to be releasing that tomorrow," said Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti, "along with a significant reward, asking that the public come forward, asking to identify this individual." (CNN)

  4. Paul Manafort's lawyers filed a motion to suppress evidence found in an Alexandria, Va. storage unit. Manafort's defense team contends that the initial entry was illegal because the employee did not not have authority to let the FBI into the locker. (Politico)

  5. Manafort was denied bail, again, by a judge handling one of his criminal cases. The court, however, gave the former Trump campaign chairman a list of assets that could secure his release from house arrest. (Politico)

  6. One man died after a fire broke out at Trump Tower. One resident said the phones inside the building didn't work and that "Michael Cohen, who is Trump's lawyer was texting me and said 'are you in the building? I said 'yes.' He said 'you better get out ASAP!'" In the 1990s, Trump argued against retrofitting existing buildings with fire sprinklers. (ABC 7 / Washington Post)

  7. The Trump Organization asked the Panamanian president to intervene in a dispute over the control of a luxury hotel. Trump's business invoked a treaty between the two countries. (Associated Press)

  8. Senator Tammy Duckworth became the first sitting senator to have a baby while in office after giving birth to her daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Day 442: TOTALLY under siege.

1/ Trump is informally preparing for a potential interview with Robert Mueller. The preparation efforts were described as "in its infancy" and include going over potential topics with Trump that Mueller would likely ask in an interview. Trump has not formally agreed to sit for an interview with Mueller. (CNN)

2/ Robert Mueller has evidence that questions Erik Prince's congressional testimony about a chance meeting last year in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, the manager of a state-run Russian investment fund close to Putin. George Nader, a cooperating witness with limited immunity, told investigators that he facilitated and personally attended a meeting between Prince and Dmitriev days before Trump was inaugurated. The goal of the meeting was to discuss foreign policy and to establish a line of communication between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration. Prince told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in November that "I didn't fly there to meet any Russian guy," and the meeting with Dmitriev was unexpected. Prince founded the private military contractor Blackwater USA and is the brother of Betsy DeVos, who serves as Trump's secretary of education. As of late March, Mueller's team has not asked Prince to appear before the grand jury. (ABC News)

3/ Mueller's investigators questioned a Trump Organization associate about Michael Cohen's involvement in business deals in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. The special counsel's team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate this week with a subpoena seeking information about the efforts by Trump's personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee to expand the Trump brand abroad. (McClatchy DC)

  • Last year, Mueller seized three bank accounts a day before Paul Manafort was indicted. The previously unknown move was revealed in a list of warrants prosecutors submitted to a federal court in Washington after Manafort's defense team complained that the government was withholding information about how the warrants were obtained. The special counsel also obtained a search warrant for information on five phone numbers last month. (Politico)

4/ A Trump foreign policy adviser asked the FBI, State Department and the Intelligence Community Inspector General to review materials from the dark web that he thought were Hillary Clinton's deleted emails during the summer of 2016. Joseph Schmitz also took a memo outlining his claims to the House Intelligence Committee. The FBI interviewed him as a part of its ongoing criminal investigation into Clinton's emails. Officials at the State Department and the Inspector General also interviewed Schmitz, but they declined to review or accept the information. The material was never verified. (CNN)

5/ The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on 17 Russian government officials, a state-owned weapons company, and seven oligarchs and 12 companies affiliated with them. "The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. "Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government's destabilizing activities." The sanctions were in response to the "totality of the Russian government's ongoing and increasingly malign activities in the world," including interfering in the 2016 election and aggressions in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News)

6/ Trump proposed an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese products beyond the $50 billion in tariffs the White House announced earlier this week. China responded by announcing $50 billion in tariffs on American goods. Trump said the move was a direct response to "unfair retaliation" by China. (CNBC / New York Times / NBC News)

7/ Trump's top economic adviser learned about the president's latest tariffs last night. The White House announced the move at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said he found out about Trump's decision to impose an additional $100 billion in tariffs "last evening." (Politico)

8/ John Kelly urged Trump to remove Scott Pruitt last week following a series of negative reports about his spending habits and management style. Trump, however, is not ready to fire the EPA chief, who he sees him as an ally in his effort to roll back environmental protections. Trump tweeted that Pruitt is doing "a great job," and that he is "TOTALLY under siege." White House aides believe that Pruitt's position is untenable. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

  • The lobbyist couple that Pruitt rented the Capitol Hill condominium from changed the locks in order to push him out. Pruitt reportedly didn't leave when his lease end, causing Vicki and Steve Hart to kick him out. (Politico)

9/ 64 House Democrats called on Trump to fire Pruitt or force him to resign. "Scott Pruitt's unethical behavior, wasteful use of taxpayer money, and his efforts to undermine the EPA's core mission to protect our environment and public health demand an appropriate response: his resignation or his firing," they wrote. (The Hill / Politico / Axios)

poll/ 20% of Americans attended a political protest, rally or speech since 2016. Among rallygoers, 44% are 50 or older, and 36% earn more than $100,000 a year. (Washington Post)

poll/ 41% of voters approve of Trump's job performance – a record low in the Morning Consult poll. 54% disapprove of Trump's job performance. (Morning Consult)


Notables.

  1. The economy added 103,000 jobs in March while the unemployment rate stayed at 4.1%. The average hourly pay grew 2.7% from March 2017. March's figures were below analysts' expectations. (Washington Post / NBC News)

  2. Trump will again skip the White House Correspondents' Dinner this year. He'll send Sarah Huckabee Sanders instead. (Politico)

  3. Corey Lewandowski to House Intelligence Committee Democrats: I'm not answering your "f—ing" questions. Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager, was the final witness in the yearlong House investigation, which resulted in two separate partisan reports. (CNN)

  4. Blake Farenthold abruptly resigned from the House of Representatives today following news that he used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment suit. He had promised to repay those funds but apparently has not done so. (Dallas Morning News / Texas Tribune / CNN)

  5. A group of "concerned" evangelical leaders plan to meet with Trump amid sex-scandal allegations. "We're very concerned" about the payout to Stormy Daniels to cover up a sexual encounter, said a leader of a faith-based ministry. (NPR)

Day 441: Can't speak to the future of __________.

1/ Trump denied knowing about the $130,000 payment his lawyer made to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to buy her silence. Trump said he didn't know where Michael Cohen got the money from and he declined to say if he ever set up a fund for Cohen to cover expenses like that. "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael," Trump said. Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted: "We very much look forward to testing the truthfulness of Mr. Trump's feigned lack of knowledge concerning the $130k payment as stated on Air Force One. As history teaches us, it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath." (USA Today / Bloomberg / New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Trump considered replacing Jeff Sessions with Scott Pruitt as recently as this week. "He was 100% still trying to protect Pruitt because Pruitt is his fill-in for Sessions," a person familiar with Trump's thinking said. Trump remains frustrated that Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation more than a year ago. (CNN)

3/ The EPA's top ethics official said he lacked key facts when he concluded that Scott Pruitt's lease with a lobbyist last year didn't violate federal gift rules. Kevin Minoli said Pruitt's lease was predicated on the use of a single room, but Pruitt's daughter stayed in the apartment's second bedroom while she was a White House intern. (Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ At least five EPA officials were reassigned, demoted, or requested new jobs after raising concerns about Scott Pruitt's spending and management of the agency. Officials were concerned about Pruitt's unusually large spending on office furniture, first-class travel, as well as requests for a bulletproof vehicle and a 20-person security detail. (New York Times)

  • Samantha Dravis, a top Pruitt aide, resigned to work in the private sector. Separately, Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, has grown frustrated enough with his boss that he has considered resigning. (CNN / Politico / New York Times)

5/ John Kelly to Scott Pruitt: The negative stories need to stop. Kelly called Pruitt a day after Trump told the EPA administrator that "we've got your back" to ask if there is anything else that "hasn't come out" yet. Kelly impressed upon Pruitt that, even though he has the full public confidence of Trump for now, the flow of stories need to stop. (The Daily Beast)

6/ A White House spokesman: "I can't speak to the future of Scott Pruitt." The comment by deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley came during a Fox News interview following revelations about Pruitt's travel expenses and ties to lobbyists, which has thrown his job security into question. Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that "the president's not" OK with reports the agency chief rented a condo from a lobbyist for $50 a night. (Politico)

7/ A cooperating witness in Robert Mueller's investigation may have information linking the United Arab Emirates to Russia. George Nader has received at least partial immunity for his cooperation. Nader's international connections helped him arrange several meetings that have drawn the attention of the special counsel, including a meeting in the Seychelles between Kirill Dmitriev, the manager of a state-run Russian investment fund, and a Trump adviser days before Trump took office. (New York Times)

  • Paul Manafort authorized a secret media operation on behalf of Ukraine's former president featuring "black ops" "placed" articles in the Wall Street Journal and US websites, as well as briefing writers at Breitbart to attack HillaryClinton when she was US secretary of state. (The Guardian)

8/ Robert Mercer spent $2 million to back a far-right organization that purchased anti-Muslim ads on Facebook and Google targeted at voters in swing states in 2016 who were most likely to be receptive to them. Secure America Now, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, promoted travel ads meant to stoke fears of Muslims. (OpenSecrets)

  • The Kremlin accused Facebook of censorship for taking down more than 200 pages and accounts that were run by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency — the "troll factory" that is under indictment for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. (NPR)

9/ Trump: Women are being "raped at levels that nobody's ever seen before" and "caravans" of immigrants are headed for the U.S.-Mexico border, bringing drugs and crime with them. Trump didn't provide evidence to support his claims. The comment came during a West Virginia event where Trump was supposed to speak about tax reform. (NBC News / Axios)

  • "You Hate America!": How the "Caravan" Story Exploded on the Right. (New York Times)

10/ Trump dropped his "boring" prepared remarks about the Republican tax bill. Instead, he repeated his claim that "millions" of people are voting illegally. "In many places like California, the same person votes many times," Trump said. "You’ve probably heard of that. They always like to say, 'Oh, that's like a conspiracy theory.' Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people. And it's very hard, because the state guards their records. They don't want to see it." (Politico / The Guardian)

11/ The National Guard troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border will not have physical contact with immigrants, and they will not be responsible for processing them at the border. Trump wants to send between 2,000 and 4,000 National Guard members to the US-Mexico border until a "large portion of the wall is built." (NBC News / Associated Press)

poll/ 41% of Americans approve of Trump's immigration policies, while 38% "strongly disapproved." (Reuters)

poll/ Democrat Phil Bredesen has a 10-point lead over Republican Marsha Blackburn in the race to replace retiring Senator Bob Corker. 45% of respondents would vote for Bredesen if the race were held today, compared to 35% for Blackburn. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The White House is considering a proposal to strip protections from hundreds of threatened species to give oil and agriculture companies more freedom to use land that was previously off-limits due to the presence of certain protected species. The proposal is called "Removal of Blanket Section 4(d) Rule," which is used by the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect animals and plants that are at risk of becoming endangered. (The Hill)

  2. A Las Vegas GOP political adviser has been accused of sexual enslavement and battery by his ex-fiancee. Benjamin Sparks' ex-fiancee turned over copies of emails, texts, and a signed contract to police, which lay out her duties as Sparks' "slave in training." (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

  3. John Bolton met with White House attorneys about possible conflicts of interest shortly before Trump nominated him for national security advisor. The details are unclear, but experts believe the sticking points may be related to Bolton's possible future role with PACs and Super PACs. (CNBC)

  4. Rex Tillerson spent roughly $12 million on consultants to "redesign" the State Department. As many as 90 consultants worked on the project, with some charging more than $300 an hour. (Politico)

  5. A record-setting 309 women are running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives – the majority of them Democrats. That previous record of 298 was set in 2012. (Los Angeles Times)

Day 440: Short-term pain.

1/ Robert Mueller: Trump is not currently a criminal target in the Russia probe, but he remains under investigation. The special counsel also told Trump's lawyers during negotiations in early March regarding a possible Trump interview that he is preparing a report about Trump's actions and potential obstruction of justice. Mueller is required to report his conclusions confidentially to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has the authority to decide whether to release the information publicly. Mueller's investigators plan to report on their findings in stages, starting with the obstruction issue. Trump has privately expressed relief at his legal status and has repeatedly told allies that he is not a target of the probe and believes an interview will help him put the matter behind him. (Washington Post)

  • Analysis: Mueller told Trump he's not a criminal target in the Russia probe. That may not mean what you think. (Washington Post)

  • Analysis: Mueller's assurances that Trump is not a "target" don’t mean much. (Politico)

2/ Mueller's team has been questioning Russian oligarchs who travel to the US. Investigators want to know if wealthy Russians illegally funneled money directly or indirectly into Trump's presidential campaign and inauguration. Foreign nationals are prohibited under campaign finance laws from donating to US political campaigns. Mueller's team has stopped at least three Russian oligarchs for questioning in recent weeks. (CNN)

3/ H. R. McMaster denounced Russia and said "we have failed to impose sufficient costs" in his last public remarks as Trump's national security adviser. "Russia has used old and new forms of aggression to undermine our open societies and the foundations of international peace and stability," McMaster said. Hours earlier, Trump claimed that "nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have." (Washington Post)

4/ Trump is expected this week to impose additional sanctions against Russia, which are designed to target oligarchs with ties to Putin. The United States is expected to target individuals on a list of influential Russian political and business leaders that the Treasury Department released in January. (Washington Post)

5/ Roger Stone predicted "devastating" leaks about the Clinton Foundation the same day he sent an email saying he dined with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Stone's comments came during an appearance on InfoWars on August 4, 2016. Stone sent an email to Sam Nunberg on August 4, 2016, about a dinner with Assange the night before. He also mentioned in the email that he spoke with then-Republican nominee Donald Trump on August 3. (CNN)

6/ The White House said the U.S. will remain in Syria despite Trump's instructions to military leaders to withdraw all 2,000 troops. No date has been set. Yesterday, Trump told reporters that "I want to get out — I want to bring our troops back home." Meanwhile, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that "the United States and our partners remain committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated." (New York Times / Washington Post)

7/ Trump will deploy the National Guard to protect the southern U.S. border. Trump signed a proclamation directing the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security to work with governors to send troops to the southwest border to assist the Border Patrol in combating illegal immigration. "It's time to act," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said. "Unfortunately – time and again – Congress has failed to act. Worse still, some members of Congress have continually opposed efforts to secure the border." (Politico / CBS News / Washington Post / New York Times)

8/ China proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of American goods after the Trump administration proposed similar tariffs on Chinese goods. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that the U.S. was "not in a trade war with China" and "that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S." Stocks fell early in the day after talks of a trade war escalated. The Dow erased a 510-point loss for a gain of 230. (New York Times / Reuters / CNN Money)

  • The White House said there could be some "short-term pain" if there's a trade war with China. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it would be worth it because "we're certainly going to have long-term success." (Politico)

  • A U.S.-China trade war will cost 190,000 American jobs, according to the chief economist at Moody's Analytics. (Axios)


Notables.

  1. A Defense Department appointee resigned after being outed for posting birther conspiracies and other controversial things about Obama on social media. Todd Johnson is a former Trump campaign state director in New Mexico and joined the Defense Department in 2017. His job was to provide logistical support for the secretary's events and appearances. (CNN)

  2. Trump and congressional Republicans want to cut billions of dollars from the bipartisan funding deal they passed last month. They are being pressured by conservatives who don't like the deal. (Politico)

  3. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner tried to bribe her with an increase in federal funding for Planned Parenthood in exchange for agreeing to stop providing abortion services. The bulk of federal money Planned Parenthood receives goes toward preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women's health services. Federal law prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortions. (CNN)

  4. At least 18 email domains managed by the Executive Office of the President are not in compliance with a Department of Homeland Security protocol. Of the 26 domains tested, only one had fully implemented the security protocol, which means someone could theoretically send misinformation from a presidential aide's account. (Axios)

  5. Seventeen states, Washington, D.C., and six cities are suing the Trump administration to stop it from asking people if they are citizens on the 2020 census. A citizenship question has not appeared on the decennial census form since 1950. (Reuters)

  6. Mark Zuckerberg: Most Facebook users should "assume" that their public profile has been scraped. "It is reasonable to expect," Zuckerberg said, that "someone has accessed your information in this way." (CNBC)

  7. Cambridge Analytica improperly gained access to the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users – roughly equivalent to a quarter of the population of the United States. "That was a huge mistake," Zuckerberg said. (New York Times)

Day 439: We've got your back.

1/ Rod Rosenstein authorized Robert Mueller to investigate Paul Manafort for allegedly "colluding with Russian government officials" in a classified August 2017 memo. Mueller was also given authority to probe Manafort's work for the Ukrainian government. The memo was disclosed in a court filing as Mueller's prosecutors seek to counter arguments by Manafort's lawyers that his indictment should be thrown out. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Alex van der Zwaan is the first person sentenced in Robert Mueller's investigation. The Dutch attorney, who admitted to lying to federal agents about his work in Ukraine with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, was sent to prison for 30 days and will pay a $20,000 fine. (Politico / Bloomberg / ABC News)

3/ Mueller's investigation is asking about a private consulting firm working with the United Arab Emirates. Mueller's team is asking about Wikistrat's business relationship with George Nader, a Lebanese-American who serves as a top adviser to U.A.E. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and was also close to the Trump administration last year. Wikistrat was contracted by the U.A.E. beginning in 2015 to conduct war game scenarios on Islamist political movements in Yemen. (Wall Street Journal)

4/ The EPA will revoke an Obama-era standard requiring cars to average more than 50 mpg by 2025. "The Obama Administration's determination was wrong," Scott Pruitt said, adding that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will establish a new standard that "allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford." The EPA will also "reexamine" a waiver that allows California to set stricter standards than those mandated by the federal government. (New York Times / ABC News / Washington Post / Los Angeles Times)

5/ Scott Pruitt bypassed the White House in order to give substantial pay raises to two of his closest aides. After the Presidential Personnel Office rejected Pruitt's raise request, the EPA administrator reappointed the aides using an obscure provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act. The move gave Pruitt total control over their contracts to grant the raises on his own. (The Atlantic)

6/ The EPA approved a pipeline-expansion project last year while Scott Pruitt was renting a $50-a-night condo linked to the company's lobbying firm. The expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline, an Enbridge Inc. project, would allow for hundreds of thousands more barrels of oil a day to flow through this pipeline to the U.S. from Canada's tar sands. At the time, Pruitt was living in the condo owned in part by Vicki Hart, the wife of J. Steven Hart, the chairman of Enbridge. (New York Times)

7/ The DC energy lobbyist and his wife helped fund Pruitt's campaigns for Oklahoma attorney general starting in 2010. J. Steven Hart, as well as two principals at his firm, donated to Pruitt's Oklahoma Strong Leadership PAC. The firm hosted a fundraiser for Pruitt's reelection effort in 2014. Steven and Vicki Hart rented a room in their Capitol Hill home to Pruitt for $50 per night last year. (The Daily Beast)

8/ Trump called Pruitt to say "we've got your back," urging him to "keep his head up" and "keep fighting." John Kelly reiterated those sentiments in a call to Pruitt Tuesday morning. According to a senior administration official, Kelly has considered firing Pruitt, but is waiting for the outcome of an EPA inspector general's report into Pruitt's travel expenses. (Associated Press / Politico)

9/ Trump wants to deploy the U.S. military to guard the southern border until he can build a wall and tighten immigration restrictions. "We are going to be guarding our border with our military," Trump said. "That's a big step." At a separate press conference, Trump said: "We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States. We have a meeting on it in a little while with [defense secretary] Gen Mattis and everybody and I think its something we have to do." (Bloomberg / The Guardian / New York Times)

poll/ Trump's support among women fell from 41% to 35% this month. Trump's support among men rose 3 points to 53%. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that it identified cellphone spying devices in Washington, DC last year. The unauthorized cell-site simulators are known as Stingrays and often used by foreign powers to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages. (Associated Press)

  2. A senior leader in Russia's spy agency has agreed to plead partially guilty to sharing information with foreign intelligence. Dmitry Dokuchaev is wanted by the FBI and suspected to be linked to Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. (McClatchy DC)

  3. Trump's lawyers are asking a federal judge to order that an arbitrator resolve a dispute with Stormy Daniels over the alleged "hush money" agreement she signed just before the 2016 presidential election. (Politico)

  4. Stormy Daniels' lawyer wants the Treasury Department to release the "suspicious activity report" filed by the bank that Michael Cohen used to facilitate the $130,000 payment. (CNN)

  5. Beto O'Rourke raised more than $6.7 million in the first quarter of 2018 to take on Ted Cruz. The $6.7 million came from more than 141,000 contributions. O'Rourke has outraised Cruz for three of the last four reporting periods. (Texas Tribune)

  6. An Ohio State University study suggests that fake news stories dissuaded 4.2% of Obama voters from voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Hypothetical, fake news cost Clinton about 2.2 or 2.3 points apiece in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Clinton lost Michigan by 0.2 points and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by 0.72 and 0.76 points, respectively. (Washington Post)

Day 438: DACA is dead.

1/ Trump invited Putin to the White House, according to Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov. "When our presidents spoke on the phone, Trump suggested having the meeting in Washington at the White House," Ushakov said. "This is quite an interesting, positive idea." During a March 20 phone call, Trump congratulated Putin for his reelection victory and discussed a possible meeting. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that "a number of potential venues, including the White House," were discussed during the phone call. (Washington Post / Bloomberg)

2/ Trump tweeted that "DACA is dead" and there would be no "NO MORE DACA DEAL" while pressing Congress to "immediately pass border legislation" because "our country is being stolen!" Trump claimed that "a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA," even though the program is only available to people who have lived in the U.S. since 2007. Trump ended DACA in September. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)

3/ Local news stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting were forced to recite the same script warning of "biased and false news" and "the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories" that have been plaguing the country. Local news anchors have reportedly been uncomfortable with the "forced read." Sinclair is the country's largest broadcaster and owns or operates 193 TV stations. (New York Times / Deadspin)

4/ Trump tweet-defended Sinclair's "fake news" promotional campaign, which alleges "irresponsible, one-sided news stories" by mainstream media. "So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased," Trump tweeted. "Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke." (Politico / Washington Post)

5/ Trump patched in Lou Dobbs, the Fox Business host, via speakerphone to senior-level meetings on issues such as trade and tax policy during his first year in office. Trump would often interrupt officials so Dobbs could offer his opinion. (The Daily Beast)

6/ Trump demanded that the Washington Post register as a "lobbyist" for Amazon while accusing the online retailer of a "Post Office scam" in a series of weekend tweets. Trump continued his Twitter attack on Monday, saying that "only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon […] and this will be changed." The Post is owned by Bezos. However, the Post and Amazon are two separate entities. (CNBC / The Hill / Politico / Washington Post)

  • Shares of Amazon.com fell 6% after Trump attacked the online retailer over the pricing of its deliveries through the United States Postal Service and promised unspecified changes. (Reuters)

  • The Dow dropped more than 600 points and the Nasdaq fell about 3% as Trump attacked Amazon on Twitter. Trump accused Amazon of taking advantage of the US Postal Service, and he suggested that Amazon does not pay its fair share of taxes. (CNN Money)

7/ Trump's presidential campaign spent $158,498.41 on office supplies at Amazon in 2015 and 2016. The Trump for President committee continued to use Amazon after the election, spending more than $2,000 in 2017. (CBS News)

poll/ 48% of Americans overall trust CNN as a source of information more than Trump. In addition, 45% trust MSNBC more than Trump while 30% trust Fox News over Trump. Republicans, however, trust Trump as a source more than either CNN (12% versus 75% for Trump) or MSNBC (11% versus 72% for Trump). Republicans are also more likely to trust Trump than Fox News (35% versus 21%). (Monmouth University)


Notables.

  1. China will impose tariffs on 128 U.S. goods in response to Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum. The new Chinese tariffs will affect more than $3 billion in U.S. exports to China, including a 15% tariff on American fruit and nuts and a 25% tariff on pork, recycled aluminum, and more. (Politico)

  2. A third woman has sued to nullify a Trump-related non-disclosure agreement, which prohibits disparagement and disclosure of information about Trump, his company and family members. Jessica Denson claims she was harassed by a superior while working for the campaign. (Bloomberg)

  3. Scott Pruitt's daughter also stayed in the Capitol Hill condo where Pruitt rented a bedroom from a lobbyist. Ethics officials at the EPA signed off on the arrangement, which allowed Pruitt to pay roughly $2,150 less than other tenants would have paid during the same five-and-a-half-month stay. (CBS News)

  4. Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he didn't resign his position, as the White House previously claimed. Shulkin said he was never asked to submit a letter of resignation. (Politico)

  5. Trump called the FBI and Justice Department "an embarrassment to our country!" in a tweet. House Republicans recently subpoenaed the Justice Department for its records relating to the probe of Hillary Clinton's private email server. (Politico)

  6. A new book claims that Kellyanne Conway is the "number one leaker" in Trump's White House, and that she leaks more information to the press than any other individual. (CNN)

  7. Robert Mueller's team has been asking about Roger Stone's 2016 claim that he met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Stone wrote in a August 2016 email that "I dined with Julian Assange last night," which Mueller's team has been asking about during grand jury testimony. (Wall Street Journal)

  8. Chris Christie is worried that Trump won't be able to stop himself from committing perjury if he sits down with Robert Mueller. "He's a salesman. And salesmen, at times, tend to be hyperbolic. […] That's okay when you're on the campaign hustle. […] It is not okay when you're sitting talking to federal agents because, you know, 18 USC 1001 is false statements to federal agents. That's a crime. That can send you to jail." (Washington Post)

Day 435: Climate of change.

1/ Scott Pruitt's lease of a D.C. apartment cost him $50 a night but only when he slept there. Vicki Hart, the healthcare lobbyist who co-owns the building the apartment is in, is the wife of J. Steven Hart, an energy industry lobbyist. The EPA administrator worked directly with Hart to set up the $50-a-night rental room in a prime Capitol Hill building. The arrangement required him to pay rent for just a single bedroom, even though the other bedrooms in the unit were unoccupied. Hart's firm represents clients in the industries that are regulated by the EPA. (Bloomberg / ABC News)

2/ Pruitt's 24-hour security in Washington extended to personal trips to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl game, as well as trips home to Tulsa, Oklahoma. House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy recently made Pruitt turn over all of his travel records for his first year. The EPA's inspector general is also investigating Pruitt's 2017 travel. (CNN)

  • Scott Pruitt's protective detail broke down the door at the Capitol Hill condo where he was living last year, believing he was unconscious and unresponsive and needed rescue. The incident occurred in the late afternoon on March 29, 2017. The EPA agreed to reimburse the condo owner for the damage to the door. (ABC News)

3/ The EPA is expected to roll back greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards for automobiles. Pruitt and the Trump administration plan to frame the initiative as eliminating a regulatory burden on automakers in order to make more affordable trucks, vans and SUVs available for buyers. (New York Times)

4/ The White House office responsible for recruiting and vetting political appointees is inexperienced and understaffed, with less than a third of the staffing than in previous administrations. The Presidential Personnel Office is led by a college dropout with arrests for drunken driving and bouncing checks, and a lance corporal in the Marine Corps reserves with arrests for assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing an officer and underage drinking. On the campaign trail, Trump pledged to surround himself with "only with the best and most serious people." (Washington Post)

5/ A federal judge ruled that a lawsuit seeking to preserve DACA can continue, citing Trump's "racially charged language." The order, by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, rejected a motion to dismiss the case, saying that Trump's "racial slurs" and "epithets" as a candidate and as president are enough to warrant a "plausible inference" that the decision to end DACA would be a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. (New York Times)

6/ Trump told White House aides not to publicly discuss a plan to provide new U.S. weapons to Ukraine to help the country fight back against Russian-backed separatists. Officials said Trump was concerned that doing so might agitate Putin. "He doesn't want us to bring it up," said one White House official. "It is not something he wants to talk about." (NBC News)

7/ Russia's ambassador to the U.S. can't remember a period of worse relations between Washington and Moscow. Anatoly Antonov also said it's "impossible to imagine" that the Kremlin was responsible for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, adding that "there is great mistrust between the United States and Russia" at present. (NBC News)

8/ The FBI detained Ted Malloch and issued him a subpoena to testify before Robert Mueller about potential collusion between Trump's campaign and the Russian government. FBI asked Malloch about his relationship with Roger Stone and if he had ever visited the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange resides. Malloch is reportedly close to Trump, Steve Bannon, UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, and Stone. (The Guardian / NBC News)

poll/ 60% of Americans between the ages of 15 and 34 describe Trump as "mentally unfit," 62% call him "generally dishonest," and 63% say he "is a racist." 33% approve of Trump's job performance – 9 points lower than all adults. (Associated Press)

poll/ 57% of Americans say they are upset enough about an issue that they would carry a protest sign for a day. Among Democrats, 69% feel passionate enough about an issue to carry a protest sign, compared to 50% of Republicans and 43% of independents. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Czech officials have extradited a Russian hacker to the U.S. to face charges that he hacked into LinkedIn, Dropbox, and other American companies. Yevgeniy Nikulin, who denies that he is a hacker, was arrested by Czech officials in Prague in cooperation with the FBI in October 2016. (Associated Press)

  2. Trump wants the U.S. to end its military presence in Syria "very soon." The comment comes hours after the Pentagon highlighted the need for US troops to remain in the country for the immediate future. (Politico / CNN)

  3. The Trump administration will require nearly all visa applicants to submit five years of social media history. The move will affect nearly 15 million would-be immigrants to the U.S. (CNN)

  4. Congress is investigating an August 2016 flight from Moscow to New Jersey in connection with a meeting between Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik. The jet, which is linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties with the Kremlin, landed in the U.S. shortly before Manafort and Kilimnik met in Manhattan. Kilimnik is the unnamed person with "ties to Russian intelligence" in Robert Mueller's indictment of Rick Gates. (Vice News)

  5. More than 10,000 people have donated more than $460,000 to Andrew McCabe's legal defense fund. The original goal was $150,000. (ABC News)

Day 434: Freewheeling.

1/ Robert Mueller's team pushed Rick Gates last year to help them connect the Trump campaign to the Russians. Mueller's team plans to use information from Gates to tie Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, directly to a Russian intelligence agency. As part of Gates' agreement to cooperate with the special counsel last month, he earned a reduced potential sentence and had several charges against him dropped. (CNN)

2/ Mueller's team has also been questioning witnesses about an event attended by both Jeff Sessions and Sergei Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention. The team also has been asking if Sessions had private discussions with the now former Russian Ambassador to the United States on the sidelines of a Trump campaign speech at the Washington Mayflower Hotel in April 2016. (Reuters)

3/ Trump's outside advisers told him he doesn't need a chief of staff or a communications director. While John Kelly has tried to bring order to the policymaking process, Trump has grown frustrated by the long-established West Wing management structure, because it doesn't fit his freewheeling style. As a result, Kelly has been absent from several key decisions lately. Since Hope Hicks' departure, Trump has been open to rethinking the traditional communications director role. He'd like Kellyanne Conway to assume the role. (CNN / Bloomberg)

4/ EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt lived in a condo tied to an energy industry lobbyist. The townhouse near the U.S. Capitol is co-owned by J. Steven Hart, who wouldn't say how much Pruitt paid to live there. Hart's firm has lobbied on "issues related to the export of liquefied natural gas." During a December 2017 trip to Morocco, Pruitt pitched "the potential benefit of liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports on Morocco's economy." (ABC News)

5/ Michael Cohen's attorney denied that Trump knew about the $130,000 hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, saying that "the president was not aware of the agreement." David Schwartz added: "At least Michael Cohen never told him about the agreement. I can tell you that." Experts suggest the denial could insulate Trump, but could also undermine the nondisclosure agreement that Daniels signed, which prevented her from disclosing her alleged affair with Trump. (Washington Post)

  • A federal judge in California temporarily stopped efforts by Stormy Daniels' attorney to depose Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The court denied Michael Avenatti's motion for an expedited trial and discovery process because Trump and Essential Consultants LLC have not yet filed a petition to compel arbitration, which they have stated they're going to do. Essential Consultants LLC is the company established by Cohen to pay Daniels the $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair between her and Trump. (CNN)

6/ David Shulkin said he was fired as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs because he was standing in the way of the Trump administration privatizing the VA, with "some political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what's best for veterans." The former secretary said the "people who want to put VA health care in the hands of the private sector … saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed." (New York Times / NPR)

7/ Trump's nominee to run the VA has never managed a large bureaucracy. White House physician Ronny Jackson is the doctor who gave Trump a positive physical and mental health assessment in a televised briefing in January. Trump liked the way Jackson handled himself with reporters during the briefing, which played a part in Jackson's nomination for secretary of Veterans Affairs. (Politico / CNN)

8/ The Department of Housing and Urban Development is attempting to reverse federal efforts to enforce fair housing laws. Under Ben Carson, HUD has been freezing enforcement actions against local governments and businesses while sidelining officials who have attempted to pursue civil rights cases. The goal is to roll back the Obama administration's efforts to reverse racial, ethnic, and income segregation in housing and development projects subsidized by the federal government. (New York Times)

9/ The Justice Department will investigate the surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign official. The inspector general has faced increasing political pressure from Republicans in Congress and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to examine whether law enforcement officials complied with the law and DoJ policies while seeking approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Page. (New York Times)

10/ Jeff Sessions said he will not name a second special counsel at this time. Instead, Sessions revealed that Utah's top federal prosecutor, John Huber, is investigating allegations that the FBI abused its powers in surveilling Carter Page, and that more should have been done to investigate Hillary Clinton's ties to a Russian nuclear energy agency. (CNN / Washington Post)

poll/ 54% of Americans expect Trump to lose his campaign for re-election. 79% of Republicans expect Trump to win his 2020 re-election bid, while 87% of Democrats expect him to lose. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Six House Democrats are calling for the FBI to investigate whether Jared Kushner leaked classified information to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The Intercept reported that the Saudi prince told confidants last year that Kushner had discussed Saudi leaders who are disloyal to the crown prince. (CNN)

  2. The FBI investigated Trump's plans to build a hotel in Latvia following Latvia's request for assistance with an anti-corruption investigation. The investigation targeted Igor Krutoy, a wealthy Putin supporter who was in on the plans and with whom Trump and daughter Ivanka met for several hours at Trump Tower in 2010. The hotel plan was abandoned after the investigation began. (The Guardian)

  3. Russia will close the American consulate in St. Petersburg and kick out 60 U.S. diplomats. The move comes in response to the coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats from the U.S. and several European countries. (Washington Post)

  4. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is raising funds to help cover costs defending against ongoing government probes. McCabe was fired by Jeff Sessions but says he was terminated because he is a witness in the Russia investigation. (Reuters)

  5. Mike Pence's hometown will host its first gay pride parade next month. A high school student who is hosting the parade said that just because Pence is "openly anti-LGBT, it doesn't mean that the rest of us in his hometown are." A spokeswoman for Pence says he supports the young activist's efforts. (CNN)

  6. Trump tweeted photos taken in 2009 and tried to claim that they were "the start of our Southern Border WALL". The photos were from an ongoing project to replace sections of an existing border wall in California. (BuzzFeed News)

  7. Trump took time out of his busy presidential schedule to congratulate Roseanne Barr on the "huge" ratings "Roseanne" had received. The show returned to the air this week more than two decades after it ended its run. The first episode attracted 18.2 million viewers. (New York Times)

Day 433: Pertinent to the investigation.

1/ Rick Gates knowingly communicated with "a former Russian Intelligence Officer" during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to documents filed by Robert Mueller's investigators. Gates was in frequent contact with "Person A" – who has been identified as Konstantin Kilimnik – during the time he worked for Trump's campaign, including September and October 2016. The documents Mueller filed indicate that the communications between Gates and Kilimnik are "pertinent to the investigation." Kilimnik worked with Paul Manafort for four years on behalf of a Kremlin-aligned Ukrainian political party. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Go Deeper:

  • Gates is a longtime business associate of Paul Manafort and served as Manafort's deputy when Manafort was Trump's campaign manager.

  • Gates pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy and lying to the FBI in a cooperation deal with Mueller.

2/ Gates told Alexander van der Zwaan that Kilimnik was a former intelligence officer with Russia's foreign intelligence service. The London-based lawyer, who previously worked with Gates and Manafort, pleaded guilty last month to lying to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators about his interactions with Gates and Kilimnik. Gates communicated with Kilimnik and van der Zwaan in a "series of calls" in September and October 2016. (CNN / Politico / The Hill)

  • Mueller's office is asking for jail time for Alexander van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty to lying to special prosecutors and the FBI. The special counsel's office didn't say how much jail time van der Zwaan should receive, but it did push back against van der Zwaan's argument that he should receive no jail time at all. Earlier court filings show he faces up to six months behind bars. (BuzzFeed News)

3/ Trump discussed the idea of pardoning both Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn with his lawyers last year as Robert Mueller was building cases against both men. John Dowd, who resigned last week, was hired last year to defend Trump during the Mueller inquiry. Dowd told Flynn's lawyer last summer that Trump was prepared to pardon Flynn. Dowd also discussed a pardon with Manafort's attorney before Manafort was indicted in October 2017 on charges of money laundering and other financial crimes. (New York Times)

4/ Paul Manafort expects Trump to pardon him. Manafort doesn't plan to cooperate with Robert Mueller and will fight the charges of conspiracy, money laundering, tax and bank fraud, and making false statements to investigators. Manafort's co-defendant, Rick Gates, has agreed to work with the special counsel. (CBS News)

  • Paul Manafort asked a federal judge in Virginia to dismiss an indictment brought by Robert Mueller, saying the case falls outside the scope of Mueller's authority and is unrelated to Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The motion to dismiss was similar to one filed this month in another federal court in Washington, DC, where Manafort is facing a separate but related indictment also brought by Mueller. (Reuters)

5/ Pro-Trump media outlets have been circulating tweets and videos critical of Robert Mueller's investigation in an effort to undermine it. "It looks like the beginnings of a campaign," a person familiar with Trump's legal strategy said. "It looks like they are trying to seed the ground. Ultimately, if the president determines he wants to fire Mueller, he's going to want to make sure there’s ample public record that he can fall back on." (Politico)

6/ A pair of senators called on Trump to let Robert Mueller's investigation proceed "without impediment." In a bipartisan bill, Senators Thom Tillis and Chris Coons "urge President Trump to allow the Special Counsel to complete his work without impediment, which is in the best interest of the American people, the President, and our nation." (Politico)

7/ A federal judge will allow an emoluments lawsuit against Trump to proceed. The ruling from the US District Court of Maryland said the District of Columbia and Maryland may proceed with an unprecedented lawsuit against Trump alleging that Trump's business dealings have violated the Constitution's ban on improper payments from individual states and foreign governments. The case is required to focus on payments made by foreign officials for services at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. It cannot include visits to Mar-a-Lago in Florida or other Trump properties. (CNN / Washington Post)

8/ Stormy Daniels' attorney filed a motion to depose Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, about their knowledge of an agreement to pay the porn star $130,000 a week and a half before the 2016 election. In the court filing, Michael Avenatti said each deposition would last for no more than two hours. He also filed a motion seeking a jury trial in no more than 90 days. (CBS News / NBC News)

9/ At least 12 states plan to sue the Trump administration over the proposed addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington will join New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman in a multi-state lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from including the question on the next census. California has filed a separate suit. (New York Times)

10/ The EPA sent staffers a list of eight "approved talking points" about how to downplay climate change. The memo, sent by the EPA's Office of Public Affairs, encourages staffers to suggest that humans are only responsible "in some manner" for climate change and that there are "clear gaps" between "our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it." (Huffington Post / The Hill)

poll/ Overall, 45% of Americans surveyed said global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetimes – the highest overall percentage since Gallup first asked the question in 1997. However, just 18% of Republicans consider global warming a serious threat compared to 67% of Democrats. Meanwhile, 69% of Republicans think global warming is exaggerated, compared to 4% of Democrats. (Gallup)

poll/ 56% of Americans believe Trump had an affair with Stormy Daniels and 51% believe Daniels' allegations that they had an affair. 91% said honesty is "very important" for elected officials to embody and 75% said the same about morality. 80% said extramarital affairs were morally wrong. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Trump secured a bilateral trade deal with South Korea ahead of nuclear talks with North Korea. The deal, expected to be announced this week, opens South Korea's markets to American automobiles, extends tariffs for South Korean truck exports, and restricts the amount of steel South Korea can export to the United States by nearly a third. (New York Times / Politico)

  2. Trump: "THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED!" Trump tweeted the all-caps statement in response to retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens calling yesterday for the Second Amendment to be repealed, citing the right to bear arms is outdated and misunderstood. (New York Times)

  3. Trump fired David Shulkin via tweet, announcing that he'll nominate his personal physician, Ronny Jackson, for Secretary of Veterans Affairs. (Axios / New York Times)

  4. A Democratic candidate challenging House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes raised more than $1 million in the first quarter of 2018. The California congressman has aligned himself closely with Trump. (CNN)

  5. A former Disney Channel star will join the Trump administration as a White House press aide. Caroline Sunshine is known for her role as Tinka Hessenheffer in "Shake It Up," a 2010 show about teen dancers. (CNN)

  6. James Comey will sit down with Anderson Cooper for a town hall on April 25th at 8pm ET. Comey will also talk with Jake Tapper at 4pm ET on April 19th. (The Hill / CNN)

Day 432: Botched obligations.

1/ The 2020 census will ask respondents if they are United States citizens, despite concerns from the Census Bureau. Inclusion of a citizenship question could prompt immigrants who are in the country illegally not to respond, resulting in an undercount of the population, which would affect government agencies and groups that rely on the census data. The effects could also affect redistricting of the House and state legislatures over the next decade. It's been 70 years since the government has included a question about citizenship on the census. (New York Times)

  • Why putting a citizenship question on the census is a big deal. (CNN)

2/ California has sued the Trump administration, arguing that the question about citizenship in the 2020 Census violates the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution requires a census every 10 years to count the "number of free persons" in each state. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra alleges the change violates the constitutional requirement of "actual Enumeration" of every person in every state, every 10 years, and that "California simply has too much to lose for us to allow the Trump Administration to botch this important decennial obligation." New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he would lead a multi-state lawsuit, which Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said she would join. (Washington Post / Politico)

3/ Trump has privately suggested that the US military could pay for the construction of his border wall. Trump told advisers and discussed the idea in a private meeting last week with House Speaker Paul Ryan, saying the Pentagon could fund his wall by citing a "national security" risk. The latest reports echo Trump's tweet last week: "Build a WALL through M!" (Washington Post / CNN)

4/ The White House is investigating whether two loans – totaling more than $500 million – to Jared Kushner's family business violated federal ethics regulations. A letter from the Office of Government Ethics, made public Monday, revealed that White House attorneys are looking into whether a $184 million loan from Apollo Global and a $325 million loan from Citigroup Inc. violated rules and laws governing the conduct of federal employees. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that White House attorneys are "not probing whether Jared Kushner violated the law." She added that "the White House counsel's office does follow up with staff to assist with compliance with various ethics standards." (The Hill)

5/ Trump has been telling some of his advisers that he hopes Rob Porter will return to the West Wing. Porter stepped down after allegations surfaced that he had abused both of his ex-wives, but Trump has stayed in touch with Porter since his departure. (New York Times)

6/ Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called for a repeal of the Second Amendment, saying the right to bear arms is outdated and misunderstood. (The Hill / New York Times)

poll/ 21% of Americans support a repeal of the Second Amendment. 46% favor modifying the Second Amendment to allow for stricter regulations. (Washington Post)

poll/ 42% of Americans approve of the job Trump's doing as president – up seven points from a month ago. 58% disapprove. (Associated Press)

poll/ 47% of Americans say they approve of how Trump is handling the economy. 46% approve of Trump's tax policy. (Associated Press)

poll/ 58% of Americans want to see the investigation into Russian interference fully investigated, compared to 36% who think it's an effort to discredit Trump's presidency. 55% of Americans don't think Trump is doing enough to cooperate with the investigation. (CNN)

poll/ 62% of Americans approve of Trump's decision to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, while 31% disapprove. Overall, 43% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the North Korea situation. (CNN)

poll/ 63% of Americans believe the women who have alleged affairs with Trump over the president's denials. 21% say they believe Trump. 16% say they have no opinion. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Paul Ryan denies that he will resign later this year. Nevada Republican Mark Amodei said there is a rumor going around that Ryan will resign in the next 30 to 60 days. "The speaker is not resigning," a spokesperson for Ryan said. (CNN / The Hill / Washington Post)

  2. Trump is reportedly planning to fire Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin amid several investigations into Shulkin's alleged spending abuses. An unnamed White House official said the chance of Shulkin being pushed out in the next few days is about "50-50." (Associated Press)

  3. Two more attorneys have declined offers to join Trump's legal team. Trump reached out to Tom Buchanan and Dan Webb and asked them to represent him. Both refused the offer. Buchanan and Webb said in a statement that they were "unable to take on the representation due to business conflicts." (The Daily Beast)

  4. The NRA confirmed that it accepts foreign donations but denied that it uses the money for election purposes. The Federal Election Commission is investigating whether a top Russian banker with Kremlin ties illegally funneled money to the NRA to aid Trump's campaign for president. (NPR)

  5. The FBI arrested a man near Seattle after suspicious packages were found at military bases and CIA headquarters in the Washington, D.C. area. The packages contained potential destructive devices. (ABC News)

  6. Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has invited Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to a hearing on data privacy on April 10. (CNN)

  7. Facebook shares fell 4.9%. The social network has lost nearly $80 billion in market value since March 16th, when it was announced that Facebook would suspend Cambridge Analytica. (CNN Money)

  8. Trump will let the Deferred Enforced Departure status for Liberians expire on March 31st as is scheduled and will not extend legal protection for them to remain in the U.S. (Axios)

  9. The author of the Trump dossier provided a report to the FBI asserting that Putin's former media czar was beaten to death by hired thugs in Washington, DC. The assertion contradicts the US government's official finding that RT founder Mikhail Lesin died by accident. (BuzzFeed News)

Day 431: Conflicts.

1/ Trump won't hire two attorneys who were supposed to join his legal team after all. The appointments were announced last week, but Trump's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement that "conflicts prevent Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing from joining the president’s special counsel legal team." He added: "Those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the president in other legal matters." (New York Times)

2/ Trump's personal legal team is down to one member as he struggles to find lawyers willing to represent him. Jay Sekulow is the only personal lawyer for Trump working full time on Robert Mueller's investigation. He is assisted by Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer paid by taxpayers to represent the institution of the presidency rather than Trump personally. John Dowd, who had been leading the team handling the Russia inquiry, resigned last week after strategy disputes with Trump, while Marc Kasowitz's role was reduced after a series of clashes with Trump over the summer. Emmet Flood, the lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment process, said he will not represent Trump if Kasowitz has any role on the team, and another, Theodore Olson, declined to represent Trump. (New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ Trump expects to "make one or two major changes to his government very soon," according to Trump's friend Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax. "He told me he thinks the White House is operating like a smooth machine – his words," said Ruddy, and that Trump is "perplexed by all these reports that there’s chaos at the White House or mass staff changes." (ABC News)

4/ Stormy Daniels said she was threatened not to speak about her affair with Trump, Daniels told Anderson Cooper during her 60 Minutes interview. She also discussed statements and denials she previously made about the affair. After the interview aired, Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen sent Daniels a "cease and desist" letter, demanding that she stop speaking out about her relationship with Trump. (CBS News / Reuters)

5/ Trump "does not" believe Stormy Daniels was threatened and that "there is nothing to corroborate her claim," according to White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah. "The president doesn't believe any of the claims Ms. Daniels made in the interview last night were accurate." (Bloomberg / Politico)

  • The attorney for Stormy Daniels said Trump hasn't tweeted about Daniels because he knows her allegations of an affair are true. After 61 weeks in the White House and more than 2,900 tweets, Trump hasn't attacked two people on Twitter: Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model. (Politico / New York Times)

6/ Stormy Daniels accused Michael Cohen of defaming her by implying that she lied about her affair with Trump. "Just because something isn’t true doesn't mean that it can't cause you harm or damage," Cohen said in a mid-February statement. "I will always protect Mr. Trump." Daniels amended her existing lawsuit against Trump, adding Trump's personal attorney as a defendant in the case, and charging that the confidentiality agreement was illegal, because Trump never signed it. The new complaint also says Cohen's $130,000 payment exceeded federal campaign contribution laws and was never reported. (Washington Post / Politico)

7/ A government watchdog group accused Cambridge Analytica of violating federal election laws in a pair of legal complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice. The laws prohibit foreigners from participating directly or indirectly in the decision-making process of U.S. political campaigns. Cambridge Analytica sent dozens of non-U.S. citizens to provide campaign strategy and messaging advice to Republican candidates in 2014. The complaints were filed by Common Cause. (ABC News / Washington Post)

  • A government watchdog group has filed 30 ethics complaints with the White House and various federal agencies alleging that employees are working in violation of Trump's executive order intended to "drain the swamp" and keep the government free of former lobbyists. Public Citizen identified 36 lobbyists who'd been tapped for government jobs dealing with issues they'd lobbied on, and only six of those appointees have received waivers since then. (NBC News)

8/ The Federal Trade Commission confirmed that it's opened a non-public investigation into Facebook for its user privacy practices. Shares of Facebook fell as much as 6% after the FTC announced it is investigating the company's data practices in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica leak of 50 million users' information. (Axios / CNBC)

poll/ 69% of Americans support tougher gun control laws, up from 55% when the question was first asked in October of 2013. While 60% believe that making it harder to legally obtain a gun would result in fewer mass shootings, only 42% expect elected officials to take action. (Associated Press)

poll/ 62% of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. 32% say they think things will get better while 45% expect things to get worse. (Associated Press)

poll/ 42% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency, 54% disapprove. It is Trump's highest approval rating since the 100-day mark of his presidency. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. The U.S. will expel 60 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil. The Russian consulate in Seattle will also be closed as part of the response. (NBC News)

  2. George Papadopoulos was encouraged to improve relations with Russia because it was a top foreign policy goal of the campaign. Emails turned over to investigators, show Papadopoulos had more contact with key Trump campaign and transition officials than has been publicly acknowledged. (Washington Post)

  3. Andrew McCabe: "Not in my worst nightmares did I ever dream my FBI career would end this way." … Trump's cruelty reminded me of the days immediately following the firing of James B. Comey, as the White House desperately tried to push the falsehood that people in the FBI were celebrating the loss of our director. The president’s comments about me were equally hurtful and false, which shows that he has no idea how FBI people feel about their leaders. (Washington Post)

  4. Kim Jong-Un made a surprise visit to Beijing. It was his first known trip outside North Korea since taking power in 2011. (Bloomberg)

  5. Jimmy Carter: John Bolton as his new national security adviser is "the worst mistake" Trump has made. Bolton will be Trump's third national security adviser since taking office. (CBS News)

  6. Ryan Zinke told Interior Department employees that diversity isn't important and won't be a department focus. Instead, Zinke has told employees that he's looking for "the right person for the right job." (CNN)

  7. Zinke has appointed 15 representatives of the outdoor recreation industry to advise him on how to operate public lands, including three people who were flagged as potentially having a conflict of interest. (Washington Post)

  8. Hundreds of thousands of people joined the Parkland survivors in Washington to "March for Our Lives" while Trump spent the day at the Trump International Golf Club. The White House released a statement saying "We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today." Thousands more rallied at about 800 sister marches around the country and abroad, where students, like those in the capital, called for gun control and pledged to exercise their political power in the midterm elections this fall. (New York Times)

  9. An NRA representative to the Parkland students: "No one would know your names" if a gunman hadn't killed three staff members and 14 students at their school. The comment came on the eve of the March for Our Lives protest. (Washington Post)

  10. Rick Santorum said kids calling for stricter gun control measures should take CPR classes instead of protesting. "How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem," Santorum said, "do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that." (CNN)

  11. Remington, the oldest gun manufacturer in the US, filed for bankruptcy in the wake of slumping sales in order to cut a deal with its creditors. (BBC)

  12. Trump issued orders to ban transgender troops who require surgery or "substantial" medical treatment from serving in the military except in select cases. LGBTQ advocates called the decision "appalling, reckless and unpatriotic." (Politico)

Day 428: Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.

1/ The Senate passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill late last night, avoiding another government shutdown with less than a day before the deadline. The bill funds the federal government through the end of September and includes $700 billion for the military ($66 billion more than last year) and $591 billion for domestic agencies ($52 billion more than last year). (Washington Post / NBC News)

2/ Trump threatened to veto the spending package because it didn't provide funding for his border wall, but he signed it anyway. He was "unhappy" about it. The bill also doesn't address the fate of young undocumented immigrants and bill adds nearly $1.6 billion for border security, including $641 million for about 33 miles of fencing. In a tweet, Trump said he is "considering a VETO" because the budget doesn't include the $25 billion needed to build his wall or protections for young undocumented immigrants. Trump, who has tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, wanted to trade long-term wall funding for protections for some young immigrants. (New York Times / CNBC / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

3/ Another Trump lawyer is expected to step down later this year, contingent on Trump finding a replacement. White House counsel Don McGahn has told associates he'd like to leave the White House by the summer, but his departure might be put on hold through the 2018 midterms. Trump personal lawyer John Dowd resigned on Thursday. Trump wants to have in place a new White House counsel with whom he's comfortable before McGahn exits. (Politico)

4/ Trump will replace H. R. McMaster with John Bolton as his national security adviser. Bolton is a Fox News commentator and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations. McMaster had reportedly been discussing his departure with Trump for several weeks. "The two have been discussing this for some time. The timeline was expedited as they both felt it was important to have the new team in place, instead of constant speculation," a White House official said. "This was not related to any one moment or incident, rather it was the result of ongoing conversations between the two." McMaster, a three-star Army general, also announced that he would retire from the military. Bolton will be Trump's third national security adviser in 14 months. Bolton was also passed over for a State Department job last year, because Trump didn't like his mustache. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN)

5/ Trump's tweet firing McMaster disrupted John Kelly's plan to announce multiple administration departures at once. The White House has been waiting for an inspector general report on Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who have both been accused of misspending taxpayer money. The McMaster announcement was not expected to be made for at least another week. (Politico)

6/ Trump has reportedly considered firing and not replacing John Kelly, leaving Trump to essentially serve as his own chief of staff. Trump has discussed the possibility of having a handful of aides report directly to him, instead of going through a chief of staff. Steve Bannon said he doesn't expect Trump to replace Kelly if he leaves. "I've actually argued that if General Kelly at any time does decide to leave — (or) the president decides it’s time for him to move on — I don't believe there will be another chief of staff," Bannon said. "I think there will be five or six direct reports like there was in Trump Tower." (NBC News / The Hill)

7/ Steve Bannon oversaw Cambridge Analytica's early efforts to collect Facebook data as part of a program to build detailed profiles of millions of American voters. The 2014 effort was part of a form of voter persuasion touted by the company, which Bannon used to identify and test anti-establishment messages that later would be used in Trump's campaign speeches. Among the messages tested were "drain the swamp" and "deep state." (Washington Post)

  • The political action committee founded by John Bolton was one of the earliest customers of Cambridge Analytica. Bolton, of course, is Trump's incoming national security adviser. (New York Times)

  • The blueprint for how Cambridge Analytica claims it won the White House for Trump has been leaked. The 27-page presentation, produced by the Cambridge Analytica officials who worked closely on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, shows how they used Google, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. (The Guardian)

8/ Former Playboy model Karen McDougal said Trump once offered to pay her after they had sex. "After we had been intimate," McDougal told CNN, "he tried to pay me, and I actually didn't know how to take that." McDougal said Trump tried to hand her money immediately after their first sexual encounter more than a decade ago and that they were together "many dozens of times." (CNN / New York Times)

9/ Stormy Daniels' attorney implied that he has hard evidence of Trump's affair with the porn star, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford. Michael Avenatti tweeted a photo of what appears to be a CD in a safe, with the caption: "If 'a picture is worth a thousand words,' how many words is this worth?????" The White House has denied that Trump ever had an affair with Daniels, who was paid $130,000 by Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in 2016, weeks before the presidential election. The payment, Daniels says, was intended to buy her silence on the alleged affair. (The Hill)

10/ The "lone hacker" known as Guccifer 2.0 is actually a Russian intelligence officer. Guccifer claimed responsibility for the breach of the Democratic National Committee and the data dump of the stolen DNC emails. He publicly portrayed himself as the "lone hacker" who was able to penetrate the DNC, but a team of investigators identified him as an officer of Russia's military intelligence directorate, or GRU, after he failed to turn on the virtual private network (VPN) that he used to disguise his IP address. As a result, he left a real, Moscow-based IP address in the server logs of an American social media company. (The Daily Beast)

Day 427: Another one bites the dust.

1/ Trump's lead attorney dealing with the special counsel investigation resigned. John Dowd's departure comes days after Trump called for an end to Robert Mueller's inquiry and days after Dowd said the investigation should end, initially claiming he was speaking for Trump before saying he was only speaking for himself. Trump's attorneys are in negotiations with the special counsel's team over a potential interview with Trump. It is not clear who will take over the president's legal team. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

2/ Trump: "Yes, I would like to" testify before Robert Mueller. His comment came shortly after John Dowd resigned from his personal legal team. (CBS News / CNN)

3/ Mueller's team has discussed four main topics with Trump's lawyers for a potential Trump interview. Specifically, the special counsel wants to know about Trump's role in crafting a statement aboard Air Force One about Trump Jr.'s June 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower; the circumstances surrounding the Trump Tower meeting; and the firings of James Comey and Michael Flynn. Mueller's team is also looking at connections between Trump's campaign and Cambridge Analytica and how the data firm collected and utilized voter data in battleground states. (CNN / Associated Press)

  • House Democrats are attempting to force a vote on a bill that would protect Robert Mueller in the event that Trump tries to fire the special counsel. Steve Cohen, a member of the House Ethics Committee, filed a petition to call for a vote on a bill called the Special Counsel Integrity Act, which would prevent anyone from firing Mueller without just cause. "Recent events particularly concern me," Cohen wrote in a statement, "because it seems the President fears that Mueller is close to revealing findings relevant to his mandate and that ending the investigation is the only way to prevent its public release." (The Hill)

4/ Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to end their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, concluding that the evidence failed to amount to collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. (Politico)

5/ The House passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September. The budget boosts military and domestic spending, and includes $1.6 billion for more than 90 miles of physical barriers along the border with Mexico. The bill provides no resolution for DACA. The Senate will now need unanimous consent from all members to waive procedural rules in order to vote before the Friday midnight deadline when government funding is set to expire. (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post)

  • Congress rejected Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's school choice agenda and her attempt to spend more than $1 billion on promoting choice-friendly policies and private school vouchers. DeVos had sought to cut Education Department funding by $3.6 billion — about 5%. (Washington Post)

6/ Trump signed an executive memorandum to impose about $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports, saying "this is the first of many." The Trump administration said the tariffs are designed to penalize China for trade practices that involve stealing American companies' intellectual property. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer now has 15-days to come up with a proposed list of products that will face higher tariffs. The White House granted exemptions to American allies from steel and aluminum tariffs that go into effect on Friday, including the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. (CNBC / Bloomberg / New York Times)

  • The Dow dropped 724.42 points to close at 23,957.89 over concerns from investors about Trump's tariffs on China and the threat of a global trade war. Earlier in the session, the Dow dropped more than 500 points. (CNN Money / CNBC / Bloomberg)

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he doesn't think this will be the start of a trade war with China, but he does expect that "there will be some ultimate retaliation." (CNBC)

7/ Jeff Sessions wants prosecutors to seek the death penalty in drug-related cases whenever it's "appropriate." The move comes less than a week after Trump called for the execution of opioid dealers and traffickers. "In the face of all of this death, we cannot continue with business as usual," Sessions wrote in a memo to U.S. Attorneys offices. (Reuters)

8/ Trump tweeted that he would beat Joe Biden in a fight in response to Biden's suggestion that he would "beat the hell out of" Trump if they were in high school together. "Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy," Trump tweeted. "Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault. He doesn't know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don't threaten people Joe!" (CNN)

poll/ 28% of Americans have a favorable view of Robert Mueller, compared to 19% who view him negatively. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Washington, D.C., and Maryland filed a lawsuit against Trump for violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits public officials from receiving gifts and payments from foreign governments without approval from Congress. The suit claims that Trump's refusal to divest from his personal businesses has allowed foreign governments to pay the Trump Organization directly for bookings and events. (WAMU)

  2. Rex Tillerson called D.C. "a very mean-spirited town" in his farewell address to State Department employees. He didn't mention Trump by name, said he hopes the department will "continue to treat each other with respect." (CBS News)

  3. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his wife took a security detail on their vacation to Greece and Turkey last year, in what one watchdog group said could be a "questionable" use of taxpayer resources. (Politico)

  4. Kellyanne Conway is poised to take over as the White House communications director in the wake of Hope Hicks' departure. Melania Trump and Mike Pence's chief of staff have recently encouraged her to take the job. (The Atlantic)

  5. The FEC is investigating whether Devin Nunes violated campaign finance laws. Nunes has until April 24 to respond to the FEC. (The Daily Beast)

  6. New York City's buildings regulator is investigating possible "illegal activity" at more than a dozen Kushner Cos. properties following a report that the real estate developer routinely filed false paperwork claiming it had zero rent-regulated tenants in its buildings across the city. (Associated Press)

  7. CBS will air its 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels on Sunday, March 25, at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT. The adult-film star says she had an affair with Trump. The president has denied having an affair with Daniels. (CBS News)


Today's update is brought to you by Gogo Inflight Internet. I'm on my way to the Society for News Design conference in New York to speak about how WTF Just Happened Today is powered by membership, and all the forms membership can take (financial vs non-financial).

Day 426: No sense of urgency.

1/ The Senate Intelligence Committee recommended that states buy voting machines that produce paper ballots and that they secure voter databases ahead of November's midterm elections. Senators, concerned about Russian meddling in the midterms, called on Congress to "urgently" make funds available for states to update their voting systems, institute vote audits, and hire staff focused on cybersecurity. (New York Times)

2/ Senators criticized the Trump administration for not doing enough to prepare for the 2018 midterms. "I hear no sense of urgency to really get on top of this issue," Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said. Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before the committee, saying the 2018 midterms and future elections are "clearly potential targets for Russian hacking attempts." (CNN)

3/ Trump ignored specific warnings from his national security advisers not to congratulate Putin on his recent election win. Instead, Trump called Putin and opened by congratulating him. A section in Trump's briefing materials was titled "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" in all-capital letters. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump and John Kelly are reportedly furious over the leak that Trump congratulated Putin despite warnings from multiple national security advisers and briefing materials that said "DO NOT CONGRATULATE." It's still unclear if Trump read the guidance that was given to him by his advisers, but Trump defended his congratulatory call, tweeting that "Getting along with Russia… is a good thing," and that his "energy and chemistry" with Putin will be constructive. He capped off his second tweet with an all-caps: "PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!" (CNN / Axios)

  • A senior White House official who is not authorized to discuss the leak publicly commented that "leaking [president's briefing papers] is a fireable offense and likely illegal." A person in close contact with national security officials said John Kelly is "on a warpath" and "there's going to be a scalp over this." (Los Angeles Times)

5/ The former director of the CIA suggested that Russia may have compromising information on Trump "that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult." John Brennan, the CIA director under Obama, said the fact that Trump "had this fawning attitude toward Mr. Putin, has not said anything negative about him, I think continues to say to me that he does have something to fear and something very serious to fear." Brennan was the CIA director in 2016 when the dossier surfaced that claimed the Russians had compromising information on Trump. (CNN / New York Times)

poll/ 40% of voters view the NRA negatively, compared with 37% who view the organization positively. the first time since before 2000 that more people in the poll have viewed the NRA in a negative light than in a positive light. (NBC News)

poll/ 70% of millennial women now identify as Democrats, up from 54% in 2002. 23% of millennial women identify as Republicans, down from 36% in 2002. (Pew Research Center)

poll/ 67% of voters say Trump is not a good role model for children. 55% don't think Trump has a good sense of decency. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. The Austin bombing suspect blew himself up as a SWAT team tried to apprehend him on the side of a highway. Mark Anthony Conditt is believed to have been responsible for at least six bombs that killed at least two people and wounded five. Police were closing in on Conditt's vehicle on Interstate 35 when "the suspect detonated a bomb inside the vehicle, knocking one of our SWAT officers back," Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said. (NBC News / New York Times)

  2. Mark Zuckerberg on Cambridge Analytica: "We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you." Zuckerberg said Facebook will investigate all apps with access to Facebook data, limit access to data to prevent other kinds of abuse, and release a tool to help users understand who has access to their data. (Bloomberg / CNBC)

  3. Andrew McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Jeff Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russians. McCabe authorized the investigation nearly a year before he was fired by Sessions for a "lack of candor." (ABC News)

  4. Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold is considering stepping down from Congress before the end of his term, which would allow him to dodge an Ethics Committee investigation into allegations of inappropriate office behavior. (Politico)

  5. A Holocaust denier won the Illinois Republican primary in the state's Third Congressional District. The Illinois Republican Party tried to distance itself from Arthur Jones, blanketing the district with campaign fliers and robocalls urging voters to "stop Illinois Nazis." (New York Times)

  6. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spent more than $163,000 on first-class flights, military aircraft, and charter flights in his first year in office. The agency has said the expensive flights were necessary because of the high number of security threats Pruitt has received. (Politico)

  7. The Republican National Committee spent at least $271,000 at Trump's private businesses in February. The expenditures represent 86% of the RNC's February spending. (Washington Post)

Day 425: Shuffling the deck.

1/ Trump has discussed firing one of his lawyers, while another is contemplating resignation. Ty Cobb, who has urged Trump to cooperate with Mueller's investigation, appears to be on the chopping block, while John Dowd has considered leaving the team because Trump ignores his legal advice. Trump tweeted that he's "VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow," although he recently met with Emmet Flood, the lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings. Trump also added Joseph E. diGenova to his legal team on Monday. DiGenova is a regular Fox News commentator who has suggested that the FBI and the Justice Department conspired to deny Trump his "civil rights." (New York Times)

  • A seasoned, high-profile litigator declined to join Trump's legal team. Theodore Olson served as solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration and has more experience on landmark cases than any of Trump's current lawyers. (Washington Post)

2/ Paul Ryan says he received "assurances" that firing Robert Mueller is "not even under consideration." The House Speaker did not elaborate on the assurances. In January, Mitch McConnell declined to take up proposed legislation to protect Mueller because he knew of no "official" White House effort to undermine him. Today, McConnell said legislation was "not necessary" to protect Mueller against the threat of being fired by Trump. (CNN)

3/ Stormy Daniels passed a polygraph exam in 2011 about her relationship with Trump. The examiner found there was a 99% probability Daniels was telling the truth when she said she had unprotected sex with Trump in 2006. The White House and Trump's attorney have denied that the president had a sexual relationship with Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford. (NBC News)

4/ A former Playboy model, who alleges she had an affair with Trump, is suing to be released from a 2016 legal agreement requiring her silence. Karen McDougal is suing American Media Inc., the company that owns The National Enquirer, which paid her $150,000 to buy her story and bury it, a practice known as "catch and kill." David Pecker is the CEO of American Media Inc. and a friend of Trump's. (New York Times)

5/ A Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled that Trump must face a defamation lawsuit by a former "Apprentice" contestant and that his job as commander-in-chief does not give him immunity from the lawsuit. Trump had argued that presidents are shielded from civil litigation in state courts under the US Constitution's supremacy clause. The assertion has never been fully tested by the courts, however, making the ruling a first-of-its-kind decision. (New York Post / Washington Post / The Hill)


Dept. of #FacebookExit.

  1. Cambridge Analytica harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users without their permission, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network's history. Cambridge Analytica – owned by Robert Mercer and headed by Steve Bannon at the time – hired Aleksandr Kogan, who built "a very standard vanilla Facebook app," which would scrape information from participants' profiles and those of their friends under the premise that the company was collecting information for academic purposes. (New York Times / The Guardian)

  2. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree over Cambridge Analytica's access and use of the personal data of 50 million Facebook users. Under the settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for changes to privacy settings. (Bloomberg)

  3. Facebook's chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, is leaving the company following disagreements among top Facebook executives over their response to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections and potential interference in the 2018 midterms. The issue is rooted in how much Facebook should publicly share about the ways in which their platform was misused in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections. Stamos oversaw Facebook's security team, which was once 120 people, but is currently down to three people. Stamos plans to leave the company by August. (New York Times)

  4. Cambridge Analytica's CEO was caught on tape suggesting that the company could entrap political rivals through seduction or bribery. In an undercover investigation by Britain's Channel 4 News, Alexander Nix said the British firm secretly campaigns in elections across the world using front companies, former spies, and contractors. (Channel 4 / New York Times / Washington Post)

  5. Cambridge Analytica claimed it "ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy" for Trump, according the undercover investigation by Channel 4 News. (Channel 4)

  6. Cambridge Analytica suspended CEO Alexander Nix and is launching an independent investigation to determine if the company engaged in any wrongdoing. (Wall Street Journal)

  7. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg didn't attend an internal employee briefing about Facebook's role in the Trump-Cambridge Analytica scandal. The session was instead conducted by a Facebook attorney. (The Daily Beast)

  8. Facebook's stock fell about 7% on Monday, cutting about $37 billion off the value of the company. Mark Zuckerberg personally lost about $5 billion in net worth. (CNN Money / Wall Street Journal)

  9. How to delete Facebook. First, download your archive by going to "Settings," click "Download a copy of your Facebook data" at the bottom of General Account Settings, and then click "Start My Archive." When you're ready to delete your account, click this link, which will take you to the account deletion page. Once you delete your account, it cannot be recovered. (The Verge)


Dept. of Swamp Things.

  1. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will testify before the House Appropriations Committee about her "Education Reform Plan," which calls for a 5% spending cut and eliminates dozens of programs. It includes a $1 billion school choice proposal. Department staff said DeVos tried to withhold information in the budget justifications submitted to Congress. (New York Times)

  2. Ben Carson defended the purchase of a $31,000 dining set, telling the House Appropriations Committee that the furniture was necessary because "people were stuck by nails, and a chair had collapsed with someone sitting in it." He admitted, however, that he failed to adhere to a $5,000 federal spending cap for the purchase. (Bloomberg / New York Times)

  3. Three Trump appointees with pro-abstinence beliefs directed the process to end a federal teen pregnancy prevention program last year, over the objections of career experts in the Department of Health and Human Services. One appointee was previously the president of Ascend, an association that promotes abstinence until marriage as the best way to prevent teen pregnancy. (NBC News)

  4. A new Mississippi law bans most abortions after 15 weeks' gestation with no exceptions for rape or incest. The only exceptions are if a fetus has health issues that are "incompatible with life" outside of the womb, or if a pregnant woman's life is threatened by the pregnancy. (NBC News)

  5. A federal judge temporarily blocked the new Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. The temporary restraining order was requested by the state's only abortion clinic. (Associated Press)


Notables.

  1. An "ashamed" Fox News Commentator quit the "propaganda machine," denouncing both the network and Trump in an email to colleagues. (BuzzFeed News)

  2. Trump is preparing to impose $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese products. Trump plans to unveil the tariffs on by Friday. (Washington Post)

  3. Shutdown Watch: Congress and the White House are moving closer to a $1.3 trillion spending bill ahead of a Friday deadline to fund the government. (Politico)

  4. Trump called Putin to congratulate him on his recent re-election. The call comes days after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and "malicious cyberattacks." The Trump administration has also recently criticized Russia for its apparent role in a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. (New York Times)

Day 424: Brilliant and courageous.

1/ Trump's legal team recently turned over documents to Robert Mueller in hopes of limiting the scope of a possible presidential interview and minimizing Trump's exposure to the special counsel. The documents include summaries of internal White House memos and communication about key moments, including the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey. (Washington Post)

2/ Trump hired a lawyer who promoted the theory that the FBI and Justice Department framed Trump in order to keep him from becoming president. On Fox News in January, Joseph diGenova said: "There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn't win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime." He added, "Make no mistake about it: A group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime." (New York Times)

3/ Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe 24 hours before he was set to retire. Sessions announced the decision to fire the now-former deputy director of the FBI just before 10 pm ET on Friday, saying McCabe was fired because he "made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions." In an interview, McCabe defended himself. "The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong," he said. McCabe added: "This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness" and to undermine Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign. (New York Times / Washington Post)

4/ Three sources contradicted Jeff Sessions' claims that he "pushed back" against a George Papadopoulos proposal for Trump's campaign to meet with Russians in 2016. Some Democrats think the discrepancies in Sessions' testimony suggest the attorney general may have committed perjury. (Reuters)

5/ Trump's personal lawyer wants Rod Rosenstein to end Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. "I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier," John Dowd wrote in an email comment about McCabe's firing. Dowd initially said he was speaking on behalf of Trump "as his counsel," but later said he was not speaking on the president's behalf. (The Daily Beast)

6/ McCabe met with Mueller and turned over memos detailing his interactions with Trump, similar to the notes compiled by James Comey. The memos apparently include corroborating details about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. It's unclear when McCabe's interview took place. (Axios / Associated Press / CNN)

7/ Trump attacked Mueller by name for the first time on Twitter, calling the special counsel's investigation a "WITCH HUNT!" in a tweet. Trump also charged that the memos written by James Comey and Andrew McCabe were "Fake Memos" because he "spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me." In one tweet, Trump also complained that Mueller's team is partisan with "13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?" Mueller and Rosenstein are both Republicans. (Washington Post / New York Times)

8/ Republican senators warned Trump not to fire Robert Mueller and to let federal investigators do their jobs. Lindsey Graham said if Trump were to dismiss Mueller, it would mark "the beginning of the end of his presidency." Trey Gowdy, meanwhile, said if Trump is innocent, he should "act like it" and leave Mueller alone. Paul Ryan issued a statement advising Trump that "Mueller and his team should be able to do their job." Mitch McConnell, however, had no comment. Following the pushback, White House lawyer Ty Cobb issued a statement on Sunday night saying Trump was not considering firing Mueller. (Reuters / Politico)

poll/ 74% of Americans feel that a "deep state" of unelected government officials is probably manipulating national policy. 27% believe a deep state definitely exists, 47% think it probably exists, 21% don't believe a deep state exists, and 5% don't know. 31% of Republicans and 33% of Independents said they definitely believe in the existence of a deep state. 19% of Democrats, meanwhile, said the deep state definitely exists. (Monmouth)


Notables.

  1. Jared Kushner's family real estate company routinely filed false documents with the New York City housing department. Kushner Companies claimed that it had zero rent-regulated tenants, even though there were actually hundreds of such tenants living in dozens of buildings it owned throughout the city. The move allowed the company to circumvent rules that would have prevented developers from pushing low-rent tenants out of the buildings. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he is "very concerned about the allegations" and plans to meet with tenant representatives in the coming days. (Associated Press / Bloomberg)

  2. The DACA-border wall deal fell apart after the White House refused to provide a pathway to citizenship to 1.8 million young immigrants eligible under the DACA program. Trump wants $25 billion for his border wall in exchange for extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program through fall of 2020. (Politico)

  3. The Supreme Court declined to take up a Republican challenge to the redrawn Pennsylvania congressional map ahead of the 2018 elections. Republicans drew a gerrymandered map in 2011 that resulted in a 13-5 congressional district advantage. (NPR)

  4. Senior White House officials are considering whether to re-hire Trump's personal aide John McEntee, days after he was abruptly fired and escorted off the property. The reasons for McEntee's firing are still unclear, but they are believed to be related to his gambling habits. (Politico)


Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and Trump

*There's a huge story here, but I haven't had time to make sense of it. Here's a few of the stories making the rounds. I'll have a summary update tomorrow. *

  1. How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions (New York Times)

  2. 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach (The Guardian)

  3. Cambridge Analytica, Trump-Tied Political Firm, Offered to Entrap Politicians (New York Times)

  4. The CEO of the Trump 2016 data firm was recorded pitching illegal overseas campaign tactics (Washington Post / Channel 4)

  5. Ted Cruz under fire in Cambridge Analytica scandal (Dallas News)

  6. Facebook's value plunges $37 billion on data controversy (CNN Money)

Day 421: 100% safe.

1/ Trump plans to remove national security adviser H.R. McMaster and is currently considering potential replacements. Trump plans to take his time with the transition in order to avoid humiliating McMaster and ensure he has a strong replacement. Other Trump officials, like Ben Carson and Mick Mulvaney, are also rumored to be on the chopping block. "There will always be change," Trump said. "I think you want to see change. I want to also see different ideas." Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, disputed the story that Trump had decided to fire McMaster, tweeting: "Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster — contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC." (Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Trump is on track to hire multiple cable news personalities to fill out his cabinet. Trump has discussed having Fox News contributor John Bolton succeed McMaster as national security adviser. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin could be replaced with Pete Hegseth, the co-host of Fox and Friends Weekend. Trump has already named Larry Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn as his chief economic adviser. (Washington Post)

3/ John Kelly, whose departure has been rumored to be imminent, has settled on a temporary truce with Trump. After a meeting with Kelly, Trump told advisers that his chief of staff was "100% safe." Kelly told colleagues that the two of them have patched things up for the moment. "I'm in," Kelly told his staff. Later, Kelly speculated that all the recent news about possible staffing changes is because Trump has been talking with people outside of the White House when he's not around. (Wall Street Journal / Axios)

4/ Stormy Daniels was threatened with "physical harm" in response to her claims that she had an affair with Trump in 2006. When Mika Brzezinski asked on MSNBC's Morning Joe "Was she threatened [with] physical harm?," Daniels' lawyer said yes but didn't say what the specific threats were, or whether Trump was the one who personally threatened her. During a CNN interview later in the day, Daniels' lawyer confirmed that some of the threats have taken place during the Trump presidency. Daniels' interview with 60 Minutes is set to air on March 25. (MSNBC / CNN / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Ivanka Trump will meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha in the U.S. in the wake of the abrupt firing of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (The Hill)

  2. Vanessa Trump filed for divorce from Trump Jr. The filing comes a day after Robert Mueller subpoenaed documents related to Trump's family businesses, which Eric Trump and Trump Jr. have been running while their father is in office. (Page Six)

  3. All seven U.S. troops aboard a military helicopter that crashed in western Iraq on Thursday are dead. The cause of the crash is currently under investigation, but U.S. officials do not believe it was downed as a result of enemy action. (New York Times)

  4. Rep. Louise Slaughter died Friday at age 88, while serving her 16th term in the House of Representatives. Slaughter was the oldest sitting member of Congress, and had been planning to seek reelection in November. (NPR)

  5. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a rule that required financial advisers to act in the best interest of their clients. In a 2-1 ruling, the court said the fiduciary rule bears the hallmarks of “unreasonableness” and constitutes an arbitrary and capricious exercise of administrative power. (The Hill)

  6. A resolution denouncing white nationalists and neo-Nazis died in the Tennessee statehouse 36 seconds after being introduced. (CNN)

Day 420: Malicious.

1/ Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents related to Russia and other topics he's investigating. The subpoena was delivered in "recent weeks" and is the first known order directly related to Trump's businesses. (New York Times)

2/ A lawyer for the Trump Organization filed documents to keep Stormy Daniels from talking about her alleged affair with Trump. A "demand for arbitration" document dated February 22, 2018, names Jill Martin, a top lawyer at the Trump Organization, as the attorney representing the company Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, established to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Daniels. The new documents, marked "HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL PROCEEDING," show a direct connection between Trump's company and the nondisclosure agreement Daniels signed, raising questions about Cohen's previous statement that "neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford." Stormy Daniels' real name is Stephanie Clifford. (Wall Street Journal / CNN)

3/ BuzzFeed wants to use Michael Cohen's libel suit against them to demand that Stormy Daniels preserve all records related to her relationship with Trump, including all negotiations, agreements, and payments involving Cohen and the $130,000 payment she received before the 2016 election as part of a nondisclosure agreement she is now trying to void. Cohen filed a libel suit in January against BuzzFeed and four staffers over the publication of the dossier of allegations about Trump's relationship with Russia.(Politico)

  • Stormy Daniels said multiple women are exploring potential legal cases against Trump. Michael Avenatti, who represents Stephanie Clifford — known professionally as Stormy Daniels — said other women have reached out to him for representation in cases against Trump. (BuzzFeed News)

4/ Trump's lawyers are preparing for a potential interview with Robert Mueller. They're working out answers to possible questions and negotiating the terms of the interview. Trump's lawyers argue that Mueller must first show that his investigation can't be completed without an interview with Trump. They've also studied the possibility of answering questions in writing. (Politico)

5/ Trump imposed sanctions on Russian organizations and individuals in retaliation for interference in the 2016 presidential election and other "malicious" cyberattacks. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the cyberattacks "the most destructive and costly cyberattack in history," having caused billions of dollars in damage in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

6/ The Trump administration accused Moscow of a deliberate, ongoing hacking operation to penetrate the U.S. energy grid, aviation systems, and other infrastructure. "Since at least March 2016, Russian government cyber actors" have targeted "government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors," including those of energy, nuclear, water and aviation, according to an alert issued by the Department of Homeland Security and F.BI. (Associated Press / Bloomberg / Politico)

7/ At a fundraiser Trump bragged that he made up facts about U.S. trade relations with Canada during a meeting with Justin Trudeau, insisting that the U.S. runs a trade deficit with Canada without knowing whether that was true. Canada and the U.S. calculate the trade balance differently. According to Statistics Canada, Canada runs a surplus, while the U.S. Commerce Department reports a $12.5 billion U.S. surplus. Regardless, Trump doubled down on his claim of a deficit, tweeting: "We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive)." (Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)

Excerpt from Trump's fundraising speech

"Trudeau came to see me. He's a good guy, Justin. He said, 'No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,'" Trump said during fundraising speech, according to audio obtained by the Washington Post. Trump continued: "I said, 'Wrong, Justin, you do.' I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, 'You're wrong.' You know why? Because we're so stupid. … And I thought they were smart."


Notables.

  1. The American military acknowledged that U.S. special forces were involved in another firefight in Niger in December. The battle took place two months after four U.S. soldiers died in an ambush in Niger, and after senior commanders imposed additional restrictions on U.S. military operations in the country. No American or Nigerien forces were injured during the firefight. (New York Times)

  2. Conor Lamb officially won the special House election in Pennsylvania. Lamb won by a very small margin, securing his victory after just a few thousand absentee ballots came in. Rick Saccone may still contest the outcome of the election. (New York Times)

  3. Paul Manafort asked a federal judge to dismiss five criminal charges against him, arguing that special counsel Robert Mueller had no right to indict him for work done before he joined the Trump campaign as chairman in 2016. (CNN)

  4. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes Trump will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in May. Israeli officials say that the departure of Rex Tillerson is another sign that Trump is headed towards withdrawing from the Iran deal. (Axios)

  5. John Kelly may also be on the way out, according to congressional and administration sources. (CBS News)

Day 419: A movement, not a moment.

1/ Students from more than 3,000 schools walked out today to demand stricter gun regulation, including bans on assault weapons and expanded background checks. The National School Walkout started at 10 a.m. ET and will continue across the country at 10 a.m. in each time zone, sparked by last month's school shooting in Florida. The protests will last for 17 minutes to honor each of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one month ago. Some school districts have said they will discipline students who participate in the walkouts. "Change never happens without backlash," Pope High School senior Kara Litwin said. "This is a movement, this is not simply a moment, and this is only the first step in our long process." (NPR / CNN / USA Today / New York Times)

2/ A teacher who is also a reserve police officer injured three students after accidentally firing a gun inside a California classroom during a class devoted to public safety. Immediately before the gun fired, Dennis Alexander told the class that he wanted to make sure the gun wasn't loaded as he pointed it to the ceiling. "I think a lot of questions on parents' minds are, why a teacher would be pointing a loaded firearm at the ceiling in front of students," the district superintendent said. [Editor's note: Why would a teacher be bringing a loaded firearm to school?] (KSBW / Washington Post)

3/ In a separate incident, a school resource officer with the Alexandria, Virginia, Police Department accidentally fired his weapon at George Washington Middle School. The officer was inside his office at the time, and a department representative declined to say whether the officer had taken his gun out of his holster. No one, including the officer, was injured. (WTOP / NBC Washington)

4/ The House of Representatives passed a school safety bill by a vote of 407-10 to help schools and local law enforcement prevent gun violence. The bill provides training for school officials and local law enforcement to respond to mental health crises, as well as money to develop systems for reporting threats. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. (Reuters / CNN)

5/ Democrat Conor Lamb is narrowly leading Republican Rick Saccone in a Pennsylvania special election that's still too close to call. With 100% of votes counted, Lamb has a 627-vote lead over Saccone in a district that Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points and that was once considered an easy win for Republicans. The district will not exist in 2019, however, because the State Supreme Court ruled in January that Pennsylvania's House map was gerrymandered unlawfully and district lines have been redrawn. Whoever wins will be forced to run in a new district in November. (New York Times / The Hill / Vox / FiveThirtyEight)

  • Republicans don't plan to concede in the contested special election in Pennsylvania. The National Republican Congressional Committee said it is "not ruling out a recount." Democrat Conor Lamb holds a lead of less than 700 votes over Republican Rick Saccone. There are still about 203 absentee ballots and then additional provisional and military ballots left to be counted. (The Hill)

6/ Emails show Ben Carson and his wife selected the $31,000 furniture set for his Department of Housing and Urban Development dining room, undercutting claims by his spokesman that he had little or no involvement in the purchase. An August email, with the subject line "Secretary's dining room set needed," refers to "printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out." (CNN)

7/ The family of a slain DNC staffer filed a lawsuit against Fox News, an investigative reporter, and one of the network's frequent guests over a story about Seth Rich and their allegations that he was involved in a conspiracy. (ABC News)

8/ Trey Gowdy contradicted his own Republican-led House Intelligence Committee's findings in the Russia probe. Gowdy said Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election was motivated in part "by a desire" to hurt Hillary Clinton's candidacy. The committee disagreed with the intelligence community's assessment "with respect to Putin's supposed preference for candidate Trump." (CNBC)

9/ Trump is open to a short-term DACA deal in exchange for border wall funding. One idea under consideration is a three-year extension of DACA in exchange for three years of wall funding. Trump canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in September. (Washington Post)

poll/ 51% of Trump voters think his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels was immoral, and 75% think the allegations are not relevant to Trump's presidency. (HuffPost)

poll/ 41% of voters think Trump should meet with Kim Jong Un without preconditions. 36% want Trump to meet with Kim only if North Korea makes concessions regarding its nuclear program beforehand. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Trump floated the idea of developing a "Space Force," a new branch of the military that would operate outside of earth's atmosphere. The Space Force apparently started as a joke, but Trump has since decided it's "a great idea," because "space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea." (CNBC)

  2. Jeff Sessions is reviewing a recommendation to fire former F.B.I. deputy director Andrew McCabe days before he retires on Sunday. Justice Department officials expect McCabe to be fired before Friday, which would jeopardize his pension as a 21-year F.B.I. veteran. (New York Times)

  3. Rand Paul opposes Mike Pompeo's nomination to replace Rex Tillerson, and is vowing to do everything he can to stop Pompeo from becoming secretary of state. (Politico)

  4. Trump will name economist and CNBC senior contributor Larry Kudlow to head the White House's National Economic Council. Kudlow will replace Gary Cohn, who resigned over disagreements with Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. (CNBC / CNN)

  5. British Prime Minister Theresa May expelled 23 Russian "undeclared intelligence officers" following the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. May said there is "no alternative conclusion" other than Russia being responsible for their attempted murder. (Sky News)

  6. Nikki Haley said U.S. believes Russia was responsible for the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. Haley told the U.N. Security Council it should hold the Kremlin "accountable." (NBC News)

  7. Melania Trump plans to meet with Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Snap next week to discuss cyberbullying and ways to combat online harassment and promote Internet safety. (Washington Post)

Day 418: You're fired.

1/ Trump fired Rex Tillerson. CIA Director Mike Pompeo will replace Tillerson as Secretary of State. John Kelly told Tillerson that Trump wanted to replace him last Friday. Tillerson received a call from Trump more than three hours after he'd been fired. A spokesman said Tillerson "had every intention of staying" in his job and was "unaware of the reason" for his firing. Trump said the move had been considered for "a long time" and that "we were not thinking the same." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 🔥 Who The Fuck Has Left The Trump Administration

  • Tillerson will remain in his post until March 31st, but is delegating all authorities for running the State Department to Deputy Secretary John Sullivan.

  • Tillerson thanked career diplomats for their "honesty and integrity" during a press conference. He did not thank Trump or praise his policies.

  • The White House fired Rex Tillerson's spokesman, Steve Goldstein, for contradicting the official administration account of Tillerson's own firing. (CNBC)

2/ Hours before being fired, Rex Tillerson called the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter an "egregious act" that "clearly" came from Russia. He added that Russia is "an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens." On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it is "highly likely" Russia is responsible for the poisoning, either directly or because it lost control of the nerve agent. The two were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent in the U.K. and were found unconscious. (NBC News)

  • Trump: "As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be." (Reuters)

  • Russian exile Nikolai Glushkov was found dead at his home in London. The Metropolitan police said there was no evidence at present to suggest a link to the incident in Salisbury, where Sergei and Yulia Skripal remain in a critical condition. (The Guardian)

3/ Gina Haspel, currently the deputy director of the CIA, will replace Pompeo as the head of the CIA. Haspel oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects and later took part in an order to destroy videotapes documenting their interrogations at a secret prison in Thailand. (New York Times)

4/ Trump's personal assistant, John McEntee, was fired because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for financial crimes, which prevented him from obtaining a full security clearance. McEntee will rejoin Trump's reelection campaign as a senior adviser of operations. (Wall Street Journal / CNN / Washington Post)

5/ Trump is considering firing Veterans Affairs chief David Shulkin and replacing him with Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Shulkin has been under scrutiny over ethics concerns, including ordering the VA's third-most-senior official to alter an email to make it appear that he was receiving an award from the Danish government so the VA could pay more than $4,300 for his wife's airfare. (New York Times)

6/ House Intelligence Committee Republicans said their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. The committee agreed with the findings of the intelligence community that Russia had interfered, but they disagreed that the Russians favored Trump. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, said the Republican decision to end the investigation was "another tragic milestone for this Congress, and represents yet another capitulation to the executive branch," adding: "By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the Majority has placed the interests of protecting the President over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly." (New York Times / CNN)

  • A Russian national who was extradited to the U.S. last year over Kremlin objections pleaded guilty to conspiracy and aiding and abetting computer intrusion, admitting he operated a dark web service that helped thousands of hackers conceal malware from detection. (The Daily Beast)

7/ In the spring of 2016, Roger Stone said he learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that the organization had obtained the emails of John Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee. WikiLeaks released the documents in late July and October. U.S. intelligence concluded the hackers who obtained the emails were working for Russia. Stone has since denied any communication with Assange or knowledge of the document dumps by WikiLeaks. Assange and WikiLeaks have also said they never communicated with Stone. (Washington Post)

8/ A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman resigned over what he says were "false" and "misleading" statements by Justice Department officials, including Jeff Sessions and ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan. James Schwab said he couldn't continue to do his job after Trump administration officials made false public statements about a key aspect of a recent Northern California sweep. (San Francisco Chronicle / Washington Post)

poll/ 42% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of North Korea, but 64% of Americans are uneasy about the situation. (CBS News)


Notables.

  1. Rick Saccone asserted that his political opponents "hate" the president, the United States, and God. The Pennsylvania Republican congressional candidate trails Democrat Conor Lamb by six percentage points heading into today's special election for the state's 18th congressional district. (NBC News)

  2. Paul Manafort could spend the "rest of his life in prison," a federal judge said. Manafort was ordered to "home incarceration" and "24-hour-a-day lockdown at his residence" while he awaits trial. (Politico)

  3. Trump wants to impose tariffs on $60 billion of Chinese imports, targeting the technology and telecommunications sectors, as well as imposing investment restrictions in response to allegations of intellectual property theft. (Politico / Reuters)

  4. Trump blocked Broadcom's $117 billion bid for the chip maker Qualcomm, citing national security concerns. Trump said "credible evidence" led him to believe that if the Singapore-based company were to acquire Qualcomm, it "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States." (New York Times)

  5. Trump has been seeking counsel on how to handle the Stormy Daniels situation. Confidants have advised Trump not to fight Daniels' decision to break a confidentiality agreement because it would make him look guilty, which is the only reason Trump has stayed quiet on the issue and hasn't tweeted about it. (CNN)

  6. Trump missed the deadline to accept the return of a $130,000 settlement payment from Stormy Daniels, who had offered to return the money in exchange for the freedom to speak about her alleged affair with Trump. "Time to buckle up," Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti said. (The Guardian)

  7. Trump is in San Diego personally examining eight prototypes for his border wall to, as he put it, "pick the right one." (NBC News)

Day 417: Still intends to cooperate.

1/ Trump still "intends to" meet with special counsel Robert Mueller under oath, according to White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah. He added that Trump doesn't plan on firing Mueller, yet. "There's no intention whatsoever to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel, right now," he said. "We've been fully cooperative. We respect their process. We're hoping it will come to a conclusion in the near future." (ABC News)

2/ Robert Mueller's obstruction of justice investigation is said to be near completion, but the special counsel may wait until other parts of his probe are completed. The calculus: Any clear outcomes in the obstruction of justice case might undercut the broader investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Mueller "is not an unguided missile. I don't believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel." (Bloomberg / USA Today)

3/ Trump is considering whether to add Bill Clinton's impeachment lawyer to his legal team. Emmet Flood met with Trump in the Oval Office last week to discuss the possibility, but no final decision has been made. (New York Times)

4/ The Qatari government chose not to provide information to Robert Mueller for fear of hurting their relationship with the Trump administration. Qatari officials gathered evidence of what they claim is illicit influence by the United Arab Emirates on Jared Kushner and other Trump associates, including details of secret meetings. (NBC News)

5/ Ivanka Trump received $1.5 million in 2017 from three companies affiliated with the Trump Organization. Ivanka's continued ties to the family business and work as a special assistant to the president has created numerous potential conflicts of interest prohibited by federal law. Some Trump-branded developments have hired state-owned companies for construction, received public land or relaxed regulations from foreign governments, and accepted payments from foreign officials. Ivanka has been accused of violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids government officials to accept gifts from foreign governments without the approval of Congress. (McClatchy DC)

  • Trump Jr. has a previously undisclosed business relationship with a friend who helped raise millions of dollars for his father's 2016 presidential campaign. Gentry Beach last year met with top National Security Council officials to push a plan that would curb U.S. sanctions in Venezuela and open up business for U.S. companies in the oil-rich nation. (Associated Press)

6/ The Trump administration promised to fund "rigorous firearms training" for schoolteachers while walking back its commitment to raising the legal purchasing age for firearms to 21. The White House also formally endorsed a bill to improve the federal background check system, and Trump plans to establish a Federal Commission on School Safety to explore possible solutions, which will be chaired by Betsy DeVos. (Washington Post / NBC News)

7/ Education Secretary Betsy DeVos struggled to answer basic questions about education policy and schools during a "60 Minutes" interview. In particular, DeVos had a hard time explaining why public schools in her home state of Michigan have performed poorly despite the school choice policies she's championed. A student who survived last month's mass shooting at a Florida high school mocked DeVos on Twitter, saying "It's unfair to put the United States Secretary of Education on the spot like that." (CBS News / Washington Post / The Hill)

8/ White House lawyers are considering legal action to prevent "60 Minutes" from airing an interview with adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. The legal argument behind the move to suppress the footage remains unclear. To stop the interview from airing, Trump would need to secure a restraining order against CBS, which makes it almost certainly too late for Trump to disrupt the telecast. The interview is slated to air on Sunday, March 18, on CBS. (BuzzFeed News / Washington Post)

9/ Stormy Daniels offered to return the $130,000 she received from Trump's personal lawyer in 2016 for agreeing not to discuss her alleged relationship with Trump. In the letter sent to Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, Stephanie Clifford would wire the money into an account of Trump's choosing by Friday. (New York Times / Reuters)

10/ Putin suggested that Jews were responsible for the cyberattacks during the 2016 election when asked about 13 Russian citizens charged by the special counsel Robert Mueller. "Maybe they are not even Russians," Putin mused, "but Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews, but with Russian citizenship, which should also be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship or a Green Card. Maybe the U.S. paid them for this. How can you know that? I do not know either." Top Democratic leaders in the House and Senate urged Trump to employ "all resources available" to extradite the 13 Russians. (New York Times / NBC News)

11/ More than two-thirds of House Democrats have signed a letter "strongly urging" Trump to enact sanctions on Russia and adhere to the law he signed last summer. At least 137 of the Democrats in the House have signed the letter, which urges Trump to "reverse course, follow the letter and spirit of the law, and demonstrate that the security of our country and integrity of elections are sacrosanct." (Reuters)

  • In 2013, Trump personally invited Putin to the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. At the bottom of the typed letter, Trump added that he looked forward to seeing "beautiful" women during his trip. (Washington Post)

12/ The House Intelligence Committee has finished interviewing witnesses in its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Republican-run committee is preparing a report based on witness testimony and thousands of pages of documents. The panel is unlikely to come to a bipartisan conclusion on some of the central questions in the probe. (Wall Street Journal)

13/ Theresa May said it was "highly likely" that Russia was responsible for poisoning a former Russian double agent and his daughter last week in the U.K. The British leader said the poison was identified as a "military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia" and that Russia either engaged in an "indiscriminate and reckless" attack against Britain or it lost control of the nerve agent it developed. Russian officials called May's remarks "a provocation" and "circus show." (The Guardian / BBC / Washington Post)

poll/ Democrat Conor Lamb has a 6-point lead over Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania's special election. Lamb holds a 51% to 45% lead over Saccone if the Democratic turnout is similar to voting patterns seen in other special elections over the past year. (Monmouth University Polling Institute)


Notables.

  1. Steve Bannon: "Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists," he told a crowd of far-right French politicians. "Wear it as a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker." (ABC News)

  2. Trump thinks Republican Rick Saccone is a terrible, "weak" candidate despite appearing at a rally for Saccone's campaign in the Pennsylvania special congressional election. Trump barely mentioned Saccone during his 80-minute speech. Instead, he focused on Oprah, his plan to deal with drug dealers, and unveiling his new campaign slogan for 2020: "Keep America Great." (Axios / CNN)
  3. Some White House officials believe the chances of a Trump-Kim Jong-un meeting happening are less than 50%. The administration is deliberating over the logistics and location of the meeting although it hasn't established direct contact with North Korea. (New York Times)

  4. The White House "scolded" four Cabinet-level officials last month for embarrassing stories about questionable ethical behavior at their respective agencies. (CNN)

  5. The Trump administration is studying a new policy that could allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for drug dealers. The White House wants to make trafficking large quantities of fentanyl a capital crime because even small amounts of the drug can be fatal. A final announcement could come within weeks. (Washington Post)

Day 414: But his emails.

1/ Michael Cohen used his Trump Organization email to arrange the $130,000 transfer to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about her affair with Trump. Trump's personal attorney regularly used the same email account during 2016 negotiations with the actress – whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford – before she signed a nondisclosure agreement. Daniels filed a civil suit against Trump alleging the contract she signed is invalid because it's intentionally missing Trump's signature "so he could later, if need be, publicly disavow any knowledge of the 'Hush Agreement'" or the affair. (NBC News / NPR)

2/ Michael Cohen's use of Trump Organization email address to organize payment to Stormy Daniels may have violated federal election law. Corporations and labor organizations are prohibited from making contributions to candidates or political committees. Daniels alleges that the money was paid to keep her from talking about a sexual relationship she had with Trump. Cohen, meanwhile, has argued that he used his personal funds to "facilitate" the payment and that he did not get reimbursed by the Trump Organization or campaign. (Washington Post / CNBC)

3/ Trump has added another lawyer in his outside legal team to take on Stormy Daniels. Lawrence Rosen, a New York attorney described as a "pit bull," will join Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in responding to the growing legal issues surrounding reports that Cohen paid the adult-film star to keep quiet about her affair with Trump. (ABC News / The Hill)

4/ Trump will meet with Kim Jong-un to negotiate "permanent denuclearization" of North Korea, which will cease all missile testing while the negotiations are being held. The two leaders are expected to meet in the next 60 days. News of a potential meeting has been met with positive reactions from China, Russia, and South Korea. (New York Times / Fox News)

  • Dennis Rodman is one of two people who have met both Trump and Kim Jong-un. The other is South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, who extended the invitation from Kim to Trump during a visit to Washington this week. (Washington Post)

5/ Trump's lawyers want to trade a Trump interview with Robert Mueller in exchange for ending the Trump-related portion of the special counsel's Russia investigation. Trump's legal team wants Mueller to commit to ending the probe 60 days after the interview, as well as limiting the scope of the questioning. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

6/ Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation to tighten gun restrictions, which raises the legal age for gun purchases to 21, institutes a three-day waiting period, and establishes a program to arm some school personnel. The NRA's Florida lobbyist denounced the bill as an unconstitutional infringement on the Second Amendment and said it passed the state House in "a display of bullying and coercion." (Washington Post / NPR)

7/ John Kelly stopped Scott Pruitt from staging a public debate to challenge climate change science. The EPA administrator wanted to hold military-style exercises known as red team, blue team debates in which one team attacks and another defends the robustness of climate change science. (New York Times)

8/ Sen. Dean Heller believes Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire this summer, which would set up Trump to fill a second Supreme Court seat. Last year he nominated Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016. Heller is one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in 2018, and he's hoping a Supreme Court vacancy "will get our base a little motivated because right now they're not very motivated. But I think a new Supreme Court justice will get them motivated." (Politico / The Hill)


Notables.

  1. Obama is negotiating a deal to produce a series of shows for Netflix. Netflix reportedly plans to pay Barack and Michelle Obama for exclusive content, which is expected to highlight inspirational stories. (New York Times)

  2. Joe Biden is preparing for a 2020 run. He's discussing with aides about announcing his candidacy either really early or really late in the primary process so that he'd either define the field around him or let it define itself. (Politico)

  3. The U.S. economy added 313,000 jobs in February while the unemployment rate held steady for the fifth straight month at 4.1%, a 17-year low. (Washington Post)

  4. The head of Veterans Affairs now has an armed guard standing outside his office. He has also revoked access to his 10th-floor executive suite for several people he believes have lobbied the White House to oust him. David Shulkin has canceled his morning meetings with his senior management team and instead meets with the aides he trusts. (Washington Post)

  5. The Interior Department spent almost $139,000 on new doors for Ryan Zinke's office. Zinke was apparently unaware of the expenditure until a reporter from the Associated Press reached out to him to confirm the cost. (Associated Press / Politico)

  6. The White House rejected a House Oversight Committee request for a "list of employees" in the White House with pending security clearances or clearances that have been resolved since Trump's inauguration. The panel's senior Democrat called for a subpoena to compel the White House to respond. (ABC News)

  7. Sam Nunberg appeared at a federal courthouse in Washington to deliver federal grand jury testimony as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Nunberg made no comment to reporters as he entered the courthouse, other than to say that he would not make a statement after his grand jury testimony. (Reuters / CNN)

Day 413: Very unhappy.

1/ Trump authorized tariffs on aluminum and steel imports, exempting Canada and Mexico, and leaving the door open for other countries to be excluded. The moves will impose a 25% levy on steel and 10% charge on aluminum. The tariffs will take effect in 15 days. (New York Times / CNBC)

2/ Trump said he still likes "globalist" Gary Cohn and he has a "feeling" he'll come back to the White House. Trump's economic advisor resigned Tuesday after losing his fight against stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum. (CNBC)

3/ White House counsel Don McGahn issued ethics waivers to 24 ex-lobbyists and corporate lawyers allowing them to regulate the industries in which they previously worked. Trump signed an executive order a week into his presidency that barred former lobbyists and lawyers from participating in matters that they previously lobbied for or worked on for private clients, purportedly as a way to prevent corruption and "drain the swamp." (NBC News)

4/ Trump asked Don McGahn and Reince Priebus about their discussions with Robert Mueller's investigators. In one episode, Trump wanted McGahn to issue a statement denying that McGahn told investigators that Trump once asked him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. McGahn had to remind Trump that he did ask him to have Mueller fired. In the other, Trump asked Priebus how his interview with Mueller's investigators had gone, and whether they were "nice." (New York Times)

5/ Jared Kushner met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday in an attempt to reduce tensions between the U.S. and Mexico in the wake of a contentious phone call about Trump's proposed wall on the southern U.S. border. Kushner, however, did not invite the U.S. ambassador to Mexico to accompany him on the trip. Ambassador Roberta Jacobson is among the State Department's top Latin American experts, with more than 30 years of diplomatic experience in the region. (The Hill / New York Times)

6/ The head of Trump's voter fraud commission acknowledged that their plan for identifying voter fraud wasn't a good one. The White House wanted to check voter information against federal databases to identify people who were on voting rolls illegally. (HuffPost)

7/ Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty to an 18-count indictment as part of Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The judge set the trial to begin July 10. Last week Manafort pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent. (ABC News / Reuters)

8/ A federal judge expressed skepticism about whether Trump can constitutionally block Twitter users and recommended that Trump mute rather than block his critics in order to resolve a First Amendment lawsuit. Trump's lawyer in the case argued that Trump's use of Twitter was personal and didn't qualify as a state action. A lawyer for the plaintiffs said that the account is operated in an official capacity because Trump often uses Twitter to announce policies or policy proposals. (Reuters / Associated Press)

poll/ 41% of American voters think Trump is the worst president since World War II. The same poll shows Trump with a 38% approval rating. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. California Gov. Jerry Brown shot back at Jeff Sessions and Trump for suing the state over its immigration laws. Brown called the administration "full of liars" and said Robert "Mueller is closing in. There are more indictments to come. So obviously the attorney general has found it hard to be just a normal attorney general. He's been caught up in the whirlwind." (CNN)

  2. Trump is "very unhappy" with Sarah Huckabee Sanders over her handling of questions about his alleged affair with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. (The Hill)

  3. Kellyanne Conway declined to say whether Trump would discipline her for violating the Hatch Act. "The president and I have spoken about this," Conway said, adding: "I won't reveal my private conversations with the president about anything except that he would like me to speak about publicly, including steel and aluminum." (Politico)

  4. The head of the U.S. Forest Service resigned following reports of sexual harassment and retaliation at the agency. (Politico)

  5. Republicans in Utah wanted to name a highway after Trump to thank him for reducing the national monuments in the state. The sponsor of the bill, who believed he had enough votes to pass the measure, dropped the bill after receiving too many personal attacks for the plan. (New York Times)

  6. Corey Lewandowski met with the House Intelligence Committee for three hours, telling reporters he answered "every relevant question you could imagine." (ABC News)

  7. Eleven countries signed a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which spans a market of 500 million people. The U.S. withdrew from the deal three days after Trump's inauguration. (Reuters)

Day 412: Hush agreement.

1/ Stormy Daniels is suing Trump for failing to sign the non-disclosure agreement that prevented her from discussing their "intimate" relationship. Both Daniels and Trump's attorney Michael Cohen signed the agreement, but Trump never did. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, filed a civil suit with the Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday night seeking to void the 2016 "hush agreement," as it's referred to in the suit. (NBC News)

2/ Michael Cohen, meanwhile, obtained a restraining order to prevent Stormy Daniels from speaking out about her affair with Trump. Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that Trump's lawyer had won an arbitration proceeding against the actress, Stephanie Clifford. Trump and Cohen have been trying to keep the affair and payoff involving the porn star quiet for well over a year. (New York Times)

3/ George Nader, former Trump aide and adviser to the United Arab Emirates, is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is looking at how foreign money may have influenced Trump's political activities and whether Nader funneled money from the UAE to support Trump's political efforts. Nader testified last week to a grand jury. (New York Times)

4/ Robert Mueller has evidence about an effort to establish a back-channel between the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin. Erik Prince, the founder of the private military company Blackwater, met with a Russian official close to Putin in January, 2017. Prince described the meeting to congressional investigators as a chance encounter. A cooperating witness told Mueller's investigators that the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the two countries. (Washington Post)

5/ Hope Hicks told the House Intelligence Committee last week that one of her email accounts had been hacked and that she could no longer access it and another account. It's unclear which email account she was referring to: her personal account or the one she used during Trump's campaign. (NBC News)

6/ The Trump administration is suing California over the state's so-called sanctuary laws. The Justice Department claims California's immigration policies are unconstitutional and make it impossible for federal immigration authorities to do their jobs, which include deporting criminals who are in the U.S. illegally. Justice Department officials have asked a judge to block California's sanctuary laws. (New York Times)

7/ The Florida House approved gun control legislation that would impose a 3-day waiting period on most gun purchases, raise the minimum age to 21, and create a "school marshal" program to arm some classroom teachers. The bipartisan vote passed 67-50. The Hillsborough County School Board in Florida on Tuesday unanimously opposed a motion to arm school employees. (Washington Post / USA Today / Tampa Bay Times)

  • Trump plans to meet with the video game industry to discuss how violent imagery in games desensitizes young people to firearms. Industry leaders said they had not been invited to the meeting. (The Daily Beast)

8/ Trump is expected to sign a presidential proclamation establishing the tariffs on steel and aluminum tomorrow. On Monday, Trump said that Canada and Mexico would only be excluded after the successful renegotiation of NAFTA. European Union officials have pledged to place tariffs on an array of American-made goods if Trump follows through on his plan to impose 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% tariffs on aluminum imports. (Reuters / New York Times)

  • 107 House Republicans sent a letter to Trump "urging" him not to impose broad tariffs on steel and aluminum. In the letter, Republicans warned that "adding new taxes in the form of broad tariffs would undermine this remarkable progress" on tax reform. (CNBC)

poll/ Trump trails a generic Democratic candidate in 2020 by 8 points, 44% to 36%. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Democrats unveiled a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that would be financed by reversing two-thirds of the GOP tax bill and reinstating a top income tax rate of 39.6%. The plan includes $140 billion for roads and bridges, $115 billion for water and sewer infrastructure and $50 billion to rebuild schools. (Washington Post)

  2. Trump tweet-blamed presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama for the U.S. trade deficits and the loss of manufacturing jobs over the last 30 years. "From Bush 1 to present," Trump tweeted, "our Country has lost more than 55,000 factories, 6,000,000 manufacturing jobs and accumulated Trade Deficits of more than 12 Trillion Dollars." (Politico)

  3. Ben Carson removed the promise of inclusive and discrimination-free communities from the Housing and Urban Development's mission statement. A HUD staffer explained that the statement is being updated "in an effort to align HUD's mission with the Secretary's priorities and that of the Administration." (HuffPost)

  4. Several White House staffers have been terminated or reassigned for issues related to their security clearances. Several more are under consideration for possible termination or reassignment in the coming days. (ABC News)

Day 411: There is no chaos.

1/ Trump's personal attorney received leaked witness testimony from within the House Intelligence Committee. The lawyer representing Michael Cohen contacted the lawyer of a former John McCain staffer after someone from the House Committee told Cohen's lawyer that the former staffer had information about the Steele dossier that could help Cohen. The information came from closed-door, committee-sensitive testimony. The dossier alleges that Cohen met with Kremlin officials, which Cohen denies. The conversation was reported to the House Intelligence Committee. Robert Mueller, meanwhile, has requested documents and interviewed witnesses about two or more episodes involving Russian interests and Cohen's involvement. (The Daily Beast / Washington Post)

2/ Gary Cohn will resign over Trump's plan to impose large tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, although officials insist there was no single factor behind the departure. Trump's top economic advisor had been working to stop the tariffs that threaten to cause a global trade war, which Paul Ryan said he was "extremely worried about." Cohn is expected to leave in the coming weeks. (New York Times)

3/ Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act on two occasions, the Office of Special Counsel said as it referred its findings to Trump "for appropriate disciplinary action." In her official capacity, Conway endorsed and advocated against political candidates during two television appearances in 2017. The Hatch Act prohibits government employees from engaging in political activities. The OSC is not affiliated with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. (The Hill / ABC News)

4/ Trump tweets "there is no chaos" in the White House, but there are "some people that I want to change" because he is "always seeking perfection." The tweet comes a week after Trump called Jeff Sessions "disgraceful," Hope Hicks resigned, and Jared Kushner's security clearance was downgraded. (Washington Post / CNBC)

5/ Sam Nunberg says he'll probably cooperate with Robert Mueller's subpoena after all. Yesterday, the former Trump aide appeared on multiple cable news programs to announce his plans to defy the special prosecutor's demands. Nunberg conceded that he'll likely find a way to comply with the requests for testimony and documents. "I'm going to end up cooperating with them," Nunberg said. (Associated Press / Axios)

6/ The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee wants to interview Nunberg as part of its Russia investigation. Adam Schiff said Nunberg's assertion that Trump knew about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting before it occurred is an area that the committee needs to explore. Nunberg said he would be willing to testify. "I would go there, sure." (CNN / The Hill)

7/ Kim Jong-un may be willing to negotiate with the U.S. on abandoning its nuclear arsenal in exchange for security guarantees, according to South Korean president Moon Jae-in. North Korea would suspend all nuclear and missile tests while the negotiations are in progress. It's the first time North Korea has indicated that it's willing to negotiate away its nuclear weapons. Trump tweeted: "We will see what happens!" Later, Trump attributed the progress to his administration's sanctions against North Korea, but warned that he is "prepared to go whichever path is necessary." (New York Times / Politico)

8/ The Trump administration will allow hunters to import elephant trophies on a "case-by-case" basis, breaking Trump's earlier pledge to maintain the Obama-era protections. The Fish and Wildlife Service issued a memorandum last week withdrawing its 2007 Endangered Species Act findings for elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia, saying that "the findings are no longer effective for making individual permit determinations for imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies." Trump previously called trophy hunting a "horror show." (The Hill)

9/ A White House report shows that the benefits from "major" federal regulations between 2006 and 2016 outweighed the costs. The Office of Management and Budget report, released late last Friday, estimates that the aggregate annual benefit from the Obama-era regulations was between $287 and $911 billion, while the estimated aggregate annual costs were between $78 and $115 billion, as reported in 2015 dollars. The regulations offered a net benefit of up to $833 billion. (Vox)

poll/ 64% of American disagree with Trump's stance that a trade war would be good for the U.S. and easy to win. 28% said they agreed with Trump's position. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Michael Flynn is selling his house to pay his legal bills after pleading guilty last year to lying to the FBI. The house went on the market in December and is listed at $895,000. Flynn's brother, Joe, says Flynn will use the money to pay for his legal defense. (ABC News)

  2. House Democrats are calling for an ethics investigation into the practice of lawmakers sleeping in their offices. They argue it's an abuse of taxpayer funds. (Politico)

  3. Nashville Mayor Megan Barry resigned after pleading guilty to felony theft of more than $10,000 related to her affair with her former police bodyguard. Barry agreed to reimburse the city. (The Tennessean)

  4. West Virginia lawmakers reached a deal intended to end a teachers' strike by raising their pay by 5%. The strike has canceled nine consecutive school days across the state. (CNN)

  5. The 2018 congressional midterms begin today in Texas. These are the four most important races and six storylines to watch.

Day 410: President for life.

1/ Robert Mueller's grand jury issued a subpoena requesting all communications involving Trump's associates, including Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Keith Schiller, Michael Cohen, and Sam Nunberg. Investigators are asking for emails, texts, working papers, telephone records, and more from November 1st, 2015, to the present. (NBC News / Axios)

  • Mueller's investigators are questioning witnesses for information about any attempts by the United Arab Emirates to buy political influence by funneling money to Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. (New York Times)

2/ Sam Nunberg plans to defy a subpoena to appear in front of Mueller's grand jury. The former Trump aide said he will not provide the testimony or documents requested and that he refuses to cooperate with the subpoena because he believes investigators will make him testify against his mentor Roger Stone. Nunberg then went on MSNBC and said he thought Trump "may have done something" illegal during the presidential campaign. Soon after, Nunberg appeared on CNN for a pair of interviews where he challenged Mueller to arrest him, saying "I'm not cooperating. Arrest me." He added that Mueller has "something" on Trump. "Perhaps I'm wrong, but he did something." (Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)

  • MORE:

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders refuted Nunberg's suggestion that the campaign colluded with Russia, saying "I definitely think he doesn't know that for sure, because he's incorrect. He hasn't worked at the White House, so I can't speak to him or the lack of knowledge he clearly has. As we've said many times before, there's been no collusion."

  • Nunberg then went on NY1, the New York cable news channel to respond: "If Sarah Huckabee wants to start debasing me, she's a joke. Okay, fine, yeah, she's unattractive. She's a fat slob. Fine. But that's not relevant. The person she works for has a 30% approval rating, okay?" (Mediaite)

  • Following the NY1 appearance, Nunberg went back to MSNBC, this time with Ari Melber, to say: "Sarah should shut up, frankly… she should shut her mouth." As Melber tried to move on, Nunberg underscored his position: "I'm warning her to shut her mouth!" (Mediaite)

3/ A Belarusian escort claims to have more than 16 hours of audio recordings that prove Russia meddled in the U.S. elections. Anastasia Vashukevich, who is close to a Russian oligarch, said she would hand over the recordings if the U.S. granted her asylum. (New York Times)

4/ The author of the Trump dossier told Mueller's team that Russia asked Trump not to hire Mitt Romney as secretary of state. Instead Russia advised Trump to pick someone who would ease sanctions against Moscow for its actions in Ukraine. Christopher Steele spoke with the special counsel's investigators last September. In his 2012 presidential run, Romney called Russia "our No. 1 geopolitical foe." (The New Yorker)

5/ 12 days before the election, Stormy Daniels threatened to cancel the nondisclosure agreement about her alleged affair with Trump after Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, missed the deadline to pay her $130,000. The payment arrived 10 days later on October 27th, 2016 – 13 days after the initial deadline – because First Republic Bank flagged the transaction as suspicious and reported it to the Treasury Department. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

6/ Trump praised President Xi's consolidation of power in China and said he wouldn't mind doing the same for himself. "He's now president for life," Trump said at a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, adding: "I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day." China's ruling Communist Party eliminated the presidential two-term limit, which paves the way for Xi to serve indefinitely. (CNN / Reuters / New York Times)

7/ The State Department has spent $0 of the $120 million it has been budgeted for combatting foreign interference in U.S. elections. None of the 23 analysts speak Russian at the Global Engagement Center, which is tasked with countering Moscow's disinformation campaigns. A hiring freeze has prevented the department from recruiting the kind of computer experts needed to track foreign efforts to meddle in the U.S. election process. (New York Times)

  • Former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Mitch McConnell "watered down" a warning about Russia's attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. McDonough defended the Obama administration's response to foreign meddling in the campaign. (NBC News)

Notables.

  1. Senate Republicans and more than a dozen Democrats are preparing to repeal major banking regulations put in place after the 2008 financial crisis. The new bill allows roughly two dozen financial firms with up to $250 billion in assets to avoid the highest levels of scrutiny from the Federal Reserve. (Washington Post)

  2. Paul Ryan urged the Trump administration not to move forward on new tariffs on steel and aluminum, arguing the move runs counter to the core of their economic agenda and could cause political problems heading into the 2018 midterms. Ryan said he is "extremely worried" about the tariffs. Trump replied, "We're not backing down." (Reuters / CNBC)

  3. Canada and Mexico pushed back against Trump's suggestion that tariffs could be waived if they signed a new and "fair" NAFTA deal, threatening to retaliate unless they are exempted from the planned tariffs on steel and aluminum. Canada and Mexico export more than 75% of their goods to the United States. (Reuters)

  4. Jared Kushner has "got to go" if reports about his role in the Qatar blockade are true, said Senator Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "The situation is made much worse by the fact that we have family members in the White House," Chris Christie added. (ABC News / NY Post)

  5. The Trump Organization ordered a set of Presidential Seal replicas for its golf course tee markers. Under federal law, the seal's use is permitted only for official government business. (ProPublica)

Day 407: Leverage.

1/ A Kremlin-linked Russian politician spent six years building leverage and connections in order to influence the NRA and gain access to American politics. Alexander Torshin, a Putin ally, also claimed that his ties to the NRA afforded him access to Trump. Robert Mueller's team is investigating whether Torshin, who serves as the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia, illegally funneled money to the NRA in order to help the Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential election. (NPR)

2/ Georgia lawmakers stripped Delta Air Lines of a $50 million sales tax exemption on jet fuel in retaliation for Delta ending its NRA member discount. The Georgia House and Senate had previously approved the tax break. The Atlanta-based airline said only 13 passengers have ever bought tickets with the NRA discount. (New York Times / USA Today)

3/ Mitch McConnell said the Senate will skip debate on gun legislation and instead turn to a banking bill next week, reflecting the reality that negotiators have not settled on legislation that can pass the House and Senate. (CNN)

4/ The NRA said it persuaded Trump to back away from his embrace of gun control. After a meeting with both Trump and Pence, NRA lobbyist Chris Cox tweeted that the two "support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don't want gun control." (New York Times)

5/ A large cache of internal documents from a Russian troll farm were leaked and put up for auction on a Russian "information exchange" in February 2017. The auction received no bids for the Internet Research Agency documents, which promised "working data from the department focused on the United States." The listing revealed details about the Kremlin-backed troll farm's efforts to push propaganda and disinformation in the U.S. (The Daily Beast)

6/ Trump defended his plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, tweeting that "trade wars are good, and easy to win." According to two officials, however, Trump's decision was born out of his frustration with an internal process that didn't provide him with consensus advice from his team. As one official familiar with Trump's state of mind said: the president became "unglued." Investors are concerned that the tariffs could invite U.S. trade partners to retaliate. Paul Ryan and Trump's economic advisors asked the president to reconsider the tariffs in order to avoid "unintended consequences." (CNN / NBC News)

7/ A week before Trump announced his intention to impose tariffs on steel imports, his friend and former adviser Carl Icahn sold almost 1 million shares of Manitowoc Company Inc. – a steel-dependent company and the "leading global manufacturer of cranes and lifting solutions." (ThinkProgress)

8/ FBI Counterintelligence is investigating Ivanka Trump's role in the negotiations and financing surrounding the Trump Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, which opened just after Trump took office. The Trump Organization received more than $5 million in royalties and $21,500 in management fees from the Vancouver property. (CNN)

9/ Jared Kushner's real estate firm appealed directly to Qatar's minister of finance in an attempt to secure investment for a critically distressed property — the Kushners' signature development located at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City. The deal fell through, and a month later Kushner supported Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – Qatar's neighbors – in a Middle East blockade of Qatar. Kushner also undermined Rex Tillerson's efforts to bring an end to the impasse. (The Intercept)

  • Inside the 28 days of tumult that left Jared Kushner badly diminished. "Once the prince of Trump's Washington, Kushner is now stripped of his access to the nation’s deepest secrets, isolated and badly weakened inside the administration, under scrutiny for his mixing of business and government work and facing the possibility of grave legal peril in the Russia probe." (Washington Post)

10/ Robert Mueller's team is investigating whether any of Jared Kushner's foreign business ties influenced White House policies. Investigators want to know if Kushner's discussions during the presidential transition later led to policies designed to either benefit or retaliate against those he spoke with. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. The possibility of oil and gas exploration in Bears Ears National Monument in Utah was central to the Interior Department's shrinking the monument by 85%, according to internal documents. Utah's senator Orrin Hatch asked a senior Interior Department official to consider reducing the Bears Ears boundaries about a month before Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke started his review of national monuments. Bears Ears was subsequently reduced to conform to a map Hatch had provided. (New York Times)

  2. A Justice Department review is expected to criticize the former FBI deputy director for authorizing the disclosure of information about a continuing investigation. Andrew McCabe is at the center of Trump's theory that the "deep state" has been working to sabotage his presidency. McCabe's disclosures, however, contributed to a negative article about Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration – not Trump. (New York Times)

  3. Former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates canceled a planned trip after an online commenter invoked the Russian mafia. Gates told a federal court that he and his wife believe it's "not prudent" to travel with their four children to Boston for spring break. (CNN)

  4. Trump's pick for the Sentencing Commission has publicly called for the commission to be abolished and has a history of making racially charged remarks about crime. The commission sets policy used to punish 70,000 federal criminals every year. (NPR)

Day 406: No one listened.

1/ The White House is preparing to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser as early as next month. The move, orchestrated by John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis, comes after months of strained relations between Trump and McMaster. (NBC News)

  • Gary Cohn, Trump's top economic adviser, has been on the brink of leaving the White House for months. He stayed to stop Trump from imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. One person close to Cohn said he wouldn't be surprised if Cohn left as a result of the decision. (Politico)

2/ Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were behind the leak of text messages between the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a Russian-connected lawyer. The text messages between Senator Mark Warner and Adam Waldman, a Washington lawyer with Russian connections, were leaked to Fox News. They show that the senator tried to arrange a meeting with Christopher Steele, author of the so-called Trump dossier. Warner and Richard Burr, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, were so "perturbed" by the leak that they met with Paul Ryan to raise their concerns about House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and the Republicans willingness to leak classified text messages. (New York Times)

3/ Putin warned that Russia has developed nuclear weapons that can't be intercepted by missile-defense systems and that they're planning to add nuclear-powered cruise missiles to their arsenal, which would allow them to strike any target on the globe. Putin added that Russia would consider any nuclear attack against itself or any of its allies an attack on Russia, warning that such an incident would lead to immediate retaliation. "No one listened to us," Putin warned. "Listen to us now." (Associated Press / Washington Post)

4/ Jared Kushner's family real estate business received a total of $509 million in loans from two lenders shortly after White House meetings. Chief executives from Apollo Global Management and Citigroup had multiple meetings with Kushner at the White House and, following those meetings, Kushner Companies received $184 million in loans from Apollo – triple Apollo's average loan size – and $325 million from Citigroup. Government ethics experts say the meetings and the subsequent loans are virtually unprecedented for such a high-level White House staffer. (New York Times)

  • A New York regulator asked Deutsche Bank AG and two other banks to provide information about their relationships with Jared Kushner, his family, and Kushner Companies. All three banks are chartered in New York, placing them under the regulatory eye of the state's Department of Financial Services. (Bloomberg)

  • Jared Kushner has recently started focusing on the 2020 election, leading some in the White House to wonder if he'll transition out of the West Wing to become an adviser to Trump's reelection bid. (Politico)

5/ Robert Mueller's team is looking into Trump's attempts to fire Jeff Sessions last July, in order to determine whether those alleged efforts to oust Sessions were part of a larger pattern of attempted obstruction of justice by Trump and the administration. Mueller wants to know if Trump attempted to remove Sessions in order to install a loyal attorney general who would exercise control over the special counsel investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia during the 2016 presidential election campaign. (Washington Post)

  • Robert Mueller is assembling criminal charges against Russians who carried out the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails. The possible charges are expected to rely intelligence gathered by the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security. (NBC News)

6/ The White House is reportedly "furious" over the stories about excessive spending at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Aides have been trying to manage the negative publicity, which includes Ben Carson spending $31,000 to replace a dining room set and demoting an administrative officer for refusing the spend more than the $5,000 legal limit on office decorations. Carson now wants to cancel the order for a $31,000 dining set, saying "I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered." (CNN)

7/ Trump is in favor of forgoing due process in order to confiscate guns from people who are deemed to be dangerous. "I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man's case that just took place in Florida … to go to court would have taken a long time," Trump said during a bipartisan meeting on community and school safety, interrupting Mike Pence. Trump added: "Take the guns first, go through due process second." (New York Times / The Hill)

poll/ 58% of Americans say they want to elect a Congress that stands up to Trump – not one that cooperates with him. 60% of those surveyed say they disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president. (USA Today)

poll/ 57% of Americans think Trump is racist, including more than 8 in 10 blacks, three-quarters of Hispanics, and nearly half of whites. 85% of Democrats consider Trump racist versus 21% of Republicans. 57% of Americans think Trump's policies have been bad for Muslims, 56% think Trump's policies have been bad for Hispanics, and 47% think they’ve been bad for African Americans. (Associated Press)

poll/ 74% of Americans said they had a favorable view of Medicaid and 52% said it was working well. 41% believe the main reason for introducing Medicaid work requirements pushed by the Trump administration is to cut government spending. 33% believe the primary motivation is to help lift people out of poverty. (Kaiser Family Foundation / Vox)


Notables.

  1. The three top ranking officials in the Justice Department met for dinner on the same day Trump called one of them, attorney general Jeff Sessions, "disgraceful." Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the dinner was "in no way planned as pushback or an act of solidarity against the president." Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein was the third member of the party. (Axios)

  2. More than 30 Trump aides have been downgraded to lower-level "secret" interim security clearances. None have been asked to leave the administration. Their portfolios on top secret matters will be distributed to other staff members. (Bloomberg)

  3. The U.S. will impose 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% on aluminum. Trump is expected to sign a formal order next week. (Bloomberg / New York Times)

  4. The Dow closed 420 points lower after Trump said the U.S. will implement tariffs on steel and aluminum imports next week. Before the announcement, the Dow was up more than 150 points. (CNBC)

  5. Melania Trump was granted a green card in 2001 under a program reserved for those with "extraordinary ability" and "sustained national and international acclaim." The EB-1 visa program was created for renowned academic researchers, Olympic athletes, and award-winning entertainers. Melania worked as a Slovenian model, appearing in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated. (Washington Post / Axios)

  6. Somebody forged a nomination of Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize – twice. While identities of the candidates are kept secret, the committee announced that it had uncovered what appeared to be a forged nomination of Trump for the prize. A forged nomination of Trump was also submitted last year. (New York Times)

  7. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin blocked UCLA from releasing a video of him being heckled by students during a lecture and moderated discussion. The official video footage has not been posted because Mnuchin revoked his consent for it to be released. (New York Times)

  8. John Kelly joked (?) that his job at the White House is a punishment from God. Speaking at an event in Washington honoring former leaders of the Department of Homeland Security, Kelly said he didn't want to leave his job running the department, adding, "but I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess." (ABC News)

Day 405: White lies.

1/ Hope Hicks will resign as White House communications director. Hicks, one of Trump's longest-serving advisers, had been considering leaving for several months. Her resignation came a day after she testified for more than eight hours before the House Intelligence Committee. She declined to answer many questions during her appearance. (New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico)

2/ Hope Hicks told the House Intelligence Committee that she sometimes has to lie for Trump. After an extended conversation with her lawyers, however, the White House communications director insisted that she has never lied about matters related to Russian interference or possible collusion with Trump associates. (New York Times)

3/ Robert Mueller's investigators have been asking witnesses about Trump's business activities in Russia prior to the 2016 campaign. Mueller's team has been asking about the timing of Trump's decision to run, any potentially compromising information the Russians may have, and why a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow fell through. (CNN)

  • A judge in Washington, D.C., set a September 17th trial date for Paul Manafort, putting the former Trump campaign chairman on trial at the height of midterm election season. (Politico)

  • Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in federal court to a rewritten set of charges that had been levied against him late last week. (CNN)

4/ Mueller's team is also asking witnesses whether Trump knew about the hacked Democratic emails before they were publicly released, and whether he was involved or aware of WikiLeaks' plan to publish the emails. Investigators have also asked about the relationship between GOP operative Roger Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and why Trump took policy positions favorable to Russia. (NBC News)

5/ Trump attacked Jeff Sessions on Twitter for his "disgraceful" handling of an investigation into potential surveillance abuses. "Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc," Trump tweeted. "Isn't the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!" Yesterday, Sessions announced that the Justice Department is looking at whether the FBI properly handled FISA applications to monitor members of Trump's transition team. (CNN / The Hill)

  • Jeff Sessions pushed back: "I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor." (Bloomberg / ABC News)

6/ ICE arrested more than 150 suspected undocumented immigrants in the Bay Area, two days after Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf publicly warned of imminent ICE raids in Northern California. ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan called Schaaf's decision "reckless" and that "864 criminal aliens and public safety threats remain at large." Schaaf said she didn't regret sharing the information, calling it her "ethical obligation" and that "It is Oakland's legal right to be a sanctuary city and we have not broken any laws. We believe our community is safer when families stay together." (The Mercury News / Washington Post)

  • After a U.S. judge rejected an attempt by California to stop Trump from building a border wall, Trump "decided" that the California wall will not be built until the entire southern wall is approved. "I have decided that sections of the Wall that California wants built NOW will not be built until the whole Wall is approved," Trump tweeted. It was unclear what Trump meant about parts of the wall "that California wants built." (Reuters)

7/ HUD agreed to spend $165,000 on "lounge furniture" and $31,000 on a dining set for Ben Carson's office while the Trump administration proposed a $6.8 billion budget cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Details of the furniture purchases were revealed after a senior career official filed a whistle-blower complaint that she was demoted for refusing to break a $5,000 spending limit on improvements to Carson's office. (The Guardian / New York Times)

8/ United Nations investigators accused North Korea of supplying Syria with materials used in the production of chemical weapons. North Korean missile technicians have also been spotted working at known chemical weapons and missile facilities inside Syria. (New York Times)

poll/ 83% of Americans are in favor of continuing DACA. The program has support from 94% of Democrats, 83% of independents and 67% of Republicans. (CNN)

poll/ 54% of Floridians disapprove of Trump's handling of the issue of gun violence and 50% disapprove of Trump's response to the recent school shooting in Florida. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 38% of Floridians approve of Marco Rubio's job performance – an all-time low. Rubio was criticized following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this month for his stance on gun control reform. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Democrats flipped state legislative seats in Connecticut and New Hampshire, bringing the total number of flipped seats since Trump was elected to 39. The latest mark the fifth and sixth seats flipped in 2018. (The Daily Beast)

  2. Reigning NBA champs the Golden State Warriors traded a White House visit for a trip to the Museum of African-American History with a group of students.💛💙 (CNN)

  3. The NRA asked Trump not to raise the age limit for buying firearms. Instead, the NRA asked Trump to pursue school safety programs, which the White House plans to unveil on Thursday. (CNN)

  4. A teacher was arrested after firing a gun inside a Georgia high school classroom and then barricading himself there for about 30 minutes before he was taken into custody. No students were harmed. (WGNO / Associated Press)

  5. Trump stunned a group of lawmakers by telling them to pursue gun bills that have been opposed by the Republican Party and the NRA for years. Trump repeatedly suggested that lawmakers start with the bipartisan bill put forward in 2013, which died months after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, following intense Republican opposition. (New York Times)

Day 404: Taking things seriously.

1/ Jared Kushner's security clearance was downgraded from "Interim Top Secret" to "Interim Secret." The Interim Top Secret clearance, which Kushner has been operating under for about a year, allowed him to attend classified briefings and read the President's Daily Brief, among other things. (Politico / Reuters / Axios)

2/ At least four countries privately discussed ways they could manipulate Jared Kushner by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial issues, and lack of foreign policy experience. Officials in the White House were concerned that Kushner was "naive and being tricked" in conversations with foreign officials. (Washington Post)

3/ Robert Mueller moved to dismiss 22 tax and bank fraud charges against Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign official. Gates pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to federal investigators. As part of his plea, Gates agreed to cooperate with Mueller's probe regarding "any and all matters" deemed relevant to his investigation. (Washington Post / Axios / CNBC)

4/ Trump tapped Brad Parscale to manage his 2020 presidential re-election campaign. Parscale was the digital director for Trump's 2016 campaign. Trump filed a letter of intent to run for re-election with the FEC on January 20th, 2017 – the day he took office. (CNBC / Reuters)

5/ Hope Hicks refused to answer questions under instructions from the White House during a closed-door House Intelligence Committee session today on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. "We got Bannoned," a member of the House intelligence committee said, in reference Steve Bannon's earlier refusal to answer committee questions. The White House communications director is one of Trump's closest confidants and advisers. She was originally expected to appear before the committee in January, but her interview was cancelled due to concerns about the scope of questioning and conflicts over the White House's assertions of executive privilege. (Bloomberg / CNN / Washington Post)

6/ A Department of Housing and Urban Development officer was demoted and replaced after she refused to illegally fund a redecoration of Ben Carson's office. Helen Foster said she was told "$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair" after she reminded her superiors that $5,000 was the legal limit for improvements to Ben Carson's suite in Washington. (The Guardian)

7/ The Supreme Court ruled that immigrants facing deportation are not entitled to periodic bond hearings. The 5-3 decision reversed a Ninth Circuit ruling that immigrant detainees and asylum seekers can't be detained indefinitely and must be given a bond hearing every six months and that detention beyond the initial six-month period is permitted only if the government proved that further detention is justified. (NPR / Washington Post)

8/ Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation in both chambers of Congress to reverse the FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can strike down new rules with a simple majority vote. The bill currently has 50 supporters in the Senate, putting it one vote shy of the 51 needed to ensure passage. Even if the measure passes the Senate, it faces an uphill battle in the House where it needs 218 votes. There are 150 Democrats supporting the resolution and no Republicans. (The Verge / The Hill / Politico)

9/ Russian operatives "compromised" election systems in seven states prior to 2016 election, from hacking state websites to penetrating voter registration databases, according to a top-secret intelligence reported requested by Obama during his last weeks in office. Three senior intelligence officials said the intelligence community believed the states were Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas, and Wisconsin. Several of those states were notified that foreign entities were probing their systems, but none were told the Russian government was behind it. (NBC News)

10/ The NSA director told lawmakers that he has not received orders from Trump to stop Russian hacking targeting U.S. elections. US Cyber Command chief Adm. Mike Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "I haven't been granted any additional authorities," adding, "I need a policy decision that indicates there is specific direction to [disrupt Russian election hacking]. The president ultimately would make this decision in accordance with a recommendation from the secretary of Defense." (The Hill / CNN)

poll/ 58% of Americans don't think Trump is taking the Russia investigation seriously enough, and 60% say they are not confident Trump is doing enough to prevent foreign countries from influencing future American elections. Meanwhile, 55% believe Trump attempted to interfere with the Russia investigation, up from 51% in January. (CNN)

poll/ 48% of Americans believe it is likely or very likely that Russia will meddle in the upcoming midterm elections – a seven-point increase from earlier this month. (The Hill / Marist)


Notables.

  1. The EPA is dissolving a program that funds studies on the effects of pollution and chemical exposure on adults and children. The National Center for Environmental Research will no longer exist following plans to combine three EPA offices. (The Hill / Common Dreams)

  2. Bob Corker will not run for reelection after all. The Tennessee Republican reconsidered running for re-election after some senators and state party officials urged him to stay in the Senate. (CNBC / Politico)

  3. Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci called for John Kelly to resign, citing low White House morale. (Axios)

  4. The Justice Department is investigating allegations from the House Republican memo that a FISA court was misled by prosecutors and FBI agents when applying for warrants to surveil a Trump campaign adviser with ties to Moscow. (Politico)

  5. Melania Trump parted ways with her senior adviser and friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, after news surfaced that Wolkoff's firm had received $26 million to plan Trump's inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017. Wolkoff was terminated last week because the Trumps were unhappy with the news reports about the contract. (New York Times)

  6. The lieutenant governor in Georgia threatened to kill a tax cut for Delta after the airline eliminated its discount for NRA members. In a tweet, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle added: "Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back." (USA Today / New York Times)

  7. Obama: "We didn't have a scandal that embarrassed us. I know that seems like a low bar." (Reason)

Day 403: They're on our side.

1/ The Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration's request to skip the appeals court process and review a district court judge's ruling requiring the administration to resume renewals of protected status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In September, Trump announced that he would shut down DACA on March 5, but two federal judges ordered the administration to allow people to renew their protected status while legal challenges move forward. DACA shields some 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants from deportation. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post)

2/ Trump's refusal to drop his demand that Mexico pay for a border wall derailed a planned White House visit by President Enrique Peña Nieto. A contentious phone call between the two presidents led to an impasse over the promised border wall, which Mexico considers offensive and has no intention of paying for. (Washington Post / New York Times)

3/ The House Intelligence Committee released a redacted version of the Democratic memo rebutting the memo written by Devin Nunes, which claimed the FBI and Justice Department were biased against the Trump campaign and abused their power. Trump blocked the release of the latest memo two weeks ago. It was released after undergoing a review by top law enforcement officials and redactions. The White House dismissed the Democratic memo as an attempt "to undercut the president politically." Click here to read the redacted version of the Democratic memo. (New York Times)

4/ Trump's reelection campaign used a photo of one of the survivors from the school shooting in an email soliciting campaign donations. The photo shows 17-year-old Madeline Wilford in a hospital bed surrounded by members of her family and the president and first lady. "Trump is taking steps toward banning gun bump stocks and strengthening background checks for gun purchasers," the email reads with a link to the campaign's donation page. (CNN)

5/ Trump claimed he would have run into the Florida high school during the shooting without a gun to stop the gunman. "I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon," Trump told a group of governors at the White House. He added: "Don't worry about the NRA. They're on our side." (The Hill / NBC News)

6/ Ivanka Trump thinks it's "inappropriate" to ask her about her father's sexual misconduct because she has a "right as a daughter to believe my father." In the same interview, Trump also said her father's proposal to arm teachers is "an idea that needs to be discussed." She added: "I think that having a teacher who is armed who cares deeply about her students or his students and who is capable and qualified to bear arms is not a bad idea." (NBC News / CNN)

7/ The White House declined to say if any interim security clearances have been revoked. In a memo earlier this month, John Kelly directed aides to "discontinue" interim security clearances for individuals whose security clearance applications have been pending since June 1 or earlier. Jared Kushner has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance. (CNN / Politico)

poll/ Trump's approval rating is back down to 35%, matching his lowest to date. Trump also earned his lowest approval rating among Republicans at 80%. Trump holds a 5% approval rating among Democrats and 35% among independents. (CNN)

poll/ 54% of registered voters say they back a Democrat in their congressional district. 38% say they back a Republican. (CNN)

poll/ 58% of Americans say they trust Robert Mueller's investigation, while 57% say they don't trust Trump's denials, and 76% believe Russian will continue to meddle in American elections. (USA Today)


Notables.

  1. Every public school in West Virginia was closed because of an ongoing teachers' strike over pay, insurance and health care costs. All 680 public schools in the state's 55 counties were closed. (CNN)

  2. Net neutrality activists are holding a day of action to push for one more Republican senator to support a bill that would vacate the FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality laws. The senator would become the tie-breaking vote needed to send the bill to the House. (The Hill)

  3. Trump's personal pilot is in the running to become the next leader of the Federal Aviation Administration. John Dunkin flew Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign, and is now on the shortlist to head the FAA, which sets civil aviation policies and regulations for the entire country. (Washington Post)

  4. Trump privately talks about how he would love to execute all drug dealers in America. He's been telling friends for months that Singapore's policy of executing drug traffickers is the reason its drug consumption rates are so low. (Axios)

  5. Stephen Miller was caught dozing off during a meeting with governors about school safety following the mass shooting at a Florida high school. (The Hill)

  6. The Trump Organization said it donated profits from "foreign government patronage" at its hotels to the U.S. Treasury, but declined to identify those foreign customers, the amount donated, or how it was calculated. (ABC News / Washington Post)

Day 400: Bit of a bonus.

1/ Rick Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements and will cooperate with Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, according to a letter Gates gave to family and close friends. Gates admitted to taking part in a conspiracy to hide tens of millions of dollars he and Paul Manafort obtained for their lobbying and consulting work related to Ukraine. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / ABC News)

2/ Jared Kushner has been unable to obtain a full security clearance because of Robert Mueller's investigation and is unlikely to obtain the full clearance as long as the special counsel's probe is ongoing. (CNN)

3/ The Trump administration announced new sanctions against North Korea that target 27 shipping companies and 28 vessels registered in North Korea and six other countries, including China. The Treasury Department said the shipping firms are part of a campaign to help North Korea evade United Nations sanctions restricting imports of refined fuel and exports of coal. Trump called the sanctions the "largest-ever set of new sanctions on the North Korean regime." They are intended to increase pressure on Kim Jong Un's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. (New York Times / Reuters)

4/ Trump suggested that armed teachers should get a "bit of a bonus" for carrying a gun in the classroom. The White House indicated that the U.S. could find the money to arm and train up to a million teachers. Trump said arming teachers would be a "great deterrent" to would-be killers, and suggested that up to 40 percent of teachers could be given a bonus of $1,000 if they agree to carry a weapon and undergo training to make them "gun adept." The White House said the plan, if implemented, would involve distributing a total of roughly $1 billion to a million teachers across the country. (The Guardian / New York Times)

  • "We should change the names of AR-15s to 'Marco Rubio' because they are so easy to buy," Stoneman Douglas junior Sarah Chadwick tweeted. (The Hill)

5/ Trump directed the Department of Defense to schedule his military parade for Veterans Day, according to an unclassified February 20th memo written by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. The memo also said that the parade route should begin at the White House and end at the Capitol. (Politico)

6/ The Republican National Committee has been paying more than $37,000 a month in rent at Trump Tower after the RNC came under pressure to stop paying Trump's personal legal bills in the special counsel's Russia investigation. (CNBC)


Notables.

  1. John Kasich is reportedly considering a Republican primary challenge to Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Kasich's team is counting on the "very real, maybe even likely, possibility" that Trump will not run again in 2020 — either by choice or due to the constantly changing political landscape surrounding the administration. (Politico)

  2. Missouri's Republican governor was indicted for felony invasion of privacy. Eric Greitens is alleged to have taken a semi-nude photo of a woman he was having an extramarital affair with, and then threatened to blackmail her by publishing it if she revealed their relationship. Missouri is holding one of the most competitive Senate races in the country, between the Democrat incumbent, Claire McCaskill, and her GOP opponent, Josh Hawley (NPR / The Hill / NBC News)

  3. A Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin, said Russian mercenaries who attacked US troops in Syria this month were in close touch with the Kremlin and Syrian officials shortly before and after the assault. (Washington Post)

  4. A car intentionally hit a security barrier near the White House, prompting a lockdown. The Secret Service said the car didn't breach the secure complex that surrounds the executive mansion. (CNN)

Day 399: "ATTACKS WOULD END!"

1/ National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster could leave the White House after months of personal tension between him and Trump. The Pentagon is searching for a "four-star military job suited for McMaster." This is not the first time that speculation has been floated over the future of McMaster's role in the Trump administration. (CNN)

2/ A Trump-appointed federal judge who donated to the Trump campaign and worked on his presidential transition team is refusing to recuse himself from overseeing a legal battle involving Fusion GPS, the research firm that produced the dossier of intelligence that contains claims Trump has ties to Russia. U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden donated $1,000 to Trump's presidential campaign. (ABC News)

3/ Robert Mueller filed additional criminal charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. The 32-count indictment adds new tax and bank fraud changes to the one filed on October 27th, which charged the two with failing to disclose their political consulting work in Ukraine and laundering millions of dollars. (Washington Post / Bloomberg / Associated Press)

  • Michael Flynn will not accept financial support from Trump's "Patriot Legal Expense Fund," which was established using Trump's campaign funds to help White House and campaign aides with the legal expenses related to the special counsel's probe. (ABC News)

4/ The NRA blamed the Florida school shooting on a "failure of school security" and a "failure of family." Wayne LaPierre, CEO and vice president of the NRA, accused Democrats of "exploit[ing] tragedy for political gain," blamed "rogue" leadership of the FBI, and attacked the left for promoting a "socialist agenda" intended to strip firearms away from law-abiding citizens. (ABC News / NBC News / NPR)

5/ In 2016, Trump tweeted that he didn't want "guns in classrooms." Yesterday, he made a "concealed carry" proposal to arm teachers. Today, Trump tweeted that he never said he wanted to "give teachers guns." In the same tweet, however, he suggested that the government would "look at the possibility of giving 'concealed guns to gun adept teachers.'" And, at a White House "listening session," Trump said that "gun-free" school zones make it like "going in for ice cream" for school shooters. While on Twitter, he promised that "ATTACKS WOULD END!" with his strategy of arming "highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive." (Washington Post / BuzzFeed News)

6/ Trump's listening session talking points had to remind him to say "I hear you" and to ask "What would you most want me to know about your experience?" A photographer captured a picture of the talking points Trump was given for Wednesday's listening session with survivors of the school shooting in Florida. (Washington Post)

7/ Marco Rubio and the NRA were repeatedly heckled after they refused to back a full ban on military-style assault weapons while discussing gun violence with the high school students who survived the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Rubio said he supported legislation to raise the legal age to purchase a rifle to 21 and to create gun violence restraining orders. He said he was "reconsidering" support for a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, and that he opposed Trump's proposal to arm teachers or put armed security in classrooms. (CNN / The Guardian / New York Times)

8/ Paul Ryan removed the chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The House speaker will now recommend a nominee for the commissioner post, which Trump will formally nominate. The reason for passing on Matthew Masterson for a second four-year term, and whether the decision originated with Ryan or the White House, is unclear. (Reuters)


Notables.

  1. A Republican congresswoman claimed that "so many" people who commit mass murders "end up being Democrats." Claudia Tenney didn't provide evidence to back up her claim. She is the incumbent for a contested congressional seat in Central New York. (Washington Post)

  2. A man threw an explosive device over the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Montenegro, but ended up killing himself with the blast. The blast didn't injure anyone else or cause any major property damage. (New York Times)

  3. Trump Jr. "liked" conspiracy theories on Twitter about last week's school shooting in Florida, including one that called a survivor an agent of "the deep state media." (ABC News)

  4. Melania Trump's parents may have relied on "chain migration" – the same process that Trump has publicly called on Congress to end. Melania's parents are lawful permanent residents of the United States and are reportedly close to obtaining their citizenship. (Washington Post)

  5. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner drank chocolate milk to demonstrate his commitment to diversity. The Republican governor called the drink "really, really good" and exclaimed: "Diversity!" (Chicago Tribune)

  6. Trump is considering pulling Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from California as punishment for what he claimed was a "lousy management job" in patrolling illegal immigration. (CNN)


✏️ What'd I Miss? Let me know by adding links and notes here.

Day 398: Subversion.

1/ Trump challenged Jeff Sessions to investigate the Obama administration for not doing enough to stop Russian interference in the 2016 election. "If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation?" Trump tweeted. "Why didn't Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren't Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!" Trump has singled out his own attorney general several times for not doing enough to protect him from the Russia probe. In July, Trump tweeted that Sessions "has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes." A few hours later, Trump called Sessions "beleaguered." (CNN / New York Times)

2/ Jared Kushner is pushing back against attempts to revoke his access to highly classified information, setting up an internal struggle with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Last week, Kelly issued a five-page memo outlining that the White House will no longer allow some employees with interim security clearances access to top secret information if their background investigation has been pending since before last June. Kushner's security clearance has been pending for more than 13 months. The White House, meanwhile, insists that Kushner can continue in his role as a senior adviser even without a security clearance. (New York Times / CNN / Reuters)

3/ Mueller is investigating whether Paul Manafort promised a Chicago banker a job in the Trump White House in return for $16 million in home loans. Manafort received three separate loans in December 2016 and January 2017 from Federal Savings Bank for homes in New York City and the Hamptons. (NBC News)

4/ Mueller filed new charges against former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. The sealed, single-page document does not shed light on the charges, but the new charges signal that Mueller may have filed a superseding indictment that replaces the one from October last year. (The Guardian / Politico)

5/ Alex van der Zwaan pleads guilty in Robert Mueller's probe. The son-in-law of a Russia-based billionaire admitted to lying to investigators about his communications with Rick Gates, the former Trump campaign aide. Van der Zwaan also admitted that he deleted records of emails that prosecutors had requested. It's the fourth guilty plea Mueller has secured, but van der Zwaan is the first not to enter into a cooperation agreement with the special counsel's office. (New York Times / Bloomberg)

  • Mueller's decision to charge van der Zwaan puts additional pressure on Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, both of whom worked with van der Zwaan on a report supporting the legitimacy of the criminal prosecution of a former Ukrainian prime minister. Prosecutors have also accused Manafort and Gates of laundering millions of dollars and concealing their lobbying efforts in Ukraine. (Bloomberg)

6/ Trump endorsed arming "adept" teachers or former military officers to prevent or shorten school shootings. He pledged to cover "every aspect" of school safety and he intends to be "very strong on background checks," putting a "very strong emphasis" on mental health. (CNBC)

  • A superintendent in a Texas school district is threatening to suspend students for three days if they join the nationwide protests over the shooting at a Florida high school last week. (Houston Chronicle)

poll/ 51% of voters say they have not noticed an increase in their paychecks under the new tax law. 25% say they have. (Politico)

poll/ 67% of voters think Trump should publicly release his tax returns. 52% of voters think Trump has not released his tax returns because he has something to hide. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ Trump's approval rating stands at 37%, down slightly from 40% approval earlier this month. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Democrats flipped a Kentucky state legislature seat in a district that Trump won by 49 points in 2016. Linda Belcher won the special election in Kentucky's House District 49 by a 68-32 margin. Trump carried the district by a 72-23 margin in 2016, which also went 66-33 for Mitt Romney in 2012. (Vox)

  2. Pence was set for a secret meeting with North Korea while at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. The meeting never happened, according to Pence's office, because the North Koreas pulled out of the scheduled meeting. (Washington Post)

  3. A senior Department of Health and Human Services official was placed on administrative leave for promoting stories filled with baseless claims and conspiracy theories on social media. The agency is investigating Jon Cordova's postings. (CNN)

  4. The White House has given David Shulkin permission to purge "subversion" at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Shulkin says. The cabinet head said that those who have defied his authority "won't be working in my operation" and "those who crossed the line in the past are going to have to be accountable for those decisions." The move comes after a recent inspector general report found that Shulkin pressured the VA's third-most-senior official to alter an email to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government in order to have the VA pay for his wife's airfare. The IG investigation also found that Shulkin had improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets from a friend. Shulkin's foes have been using the report in their push to oust the Veterans Affairs secretary. (Politico)

  5. Former Trump political adviser Sam Nunberg will be interviewed by Robert Mueller's investigators Thursday. Mueller’s office has informed him that he’s not a target of the probe and won’t be prosecuted unless he’s found to have lied to investigators (Bloomberg)

  6. The Republican National Committee is paying Trump's former bodyguard $15,000 a month for "security consulting." Keith Schiller's private security firm is being paid out of the RNC's convention fund, – not its campaign fund – for consulting on the site selection process for the 2020 Republican National Convention. (CNBC)

Day 397: Criminal information.

1/ Robert Mueller charged an attorney with making a false statement to federal authorities as part of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors charged Alex Van Der Zwaan with lying to the FBI and Mueller's office about conversations he had with Rick Gates, the former Trump campaign aide who is cooperating in the Mueller probe, about work done in Ukraine six years ago. Van Der Zwaan was charged by criminal information, which typically precedes a guilty plea because it can only be filed with a defendant's permission and usually indicates the person is cooperating with investigators. (Bloomberg / New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Trump endorsed Mitt Romney's run for a U.S. Senate seat in Utah. Romney accepted Trump's support but not endorsement in a carefully worded tweet 45-minutes later despite his frequent criticism of Trump and his policies. During the 2016 campaign, Romney tweeted that he would never have accepted Trump's endorsement for his 2012 presidential bid had the former reality TV star publicly said the offensive things he did about the KKK, Muslims, Mexicans, and people with disabilities. (Reuters / Vox / ABC News)

3/ The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to California's 10-day waiting period for firearms purchases, which is intended to prevent impulsive violence and suicides. The gun rights groups who challenged the waiting period argued that it violated their right to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment. (Reuters)

4/ Trump recommended that Jeff Sessions declare so-called bump stocks illegal. Bump stocks are a device that enable semi-automatic rifles capable of firing hundreds of rounds a minute. Trump's directive does not address restrictions on the purchase of AR-15-style rifles, like the one used in the Florida school shooting last week that killed 17 people. The gunman who killed 58 people and wounded hundreds of others in Las Vegas in October had at least 12 rifles fitted with bump stocks. (CNBC / Bloomberg)

5/ The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Trump's decision to end transgender military service "was unexpected" and that he was "not consulted." Less than 24 hours after Trump tweeted that "after consultation with my Generals and military experts" he was ending transgender service in the military, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the highest-ranking military general, emailed the generals of the Air Force, Army, Marines, National Guard, and Navy to say "I know yesterday’s announcement was unexpected" and that he would "state that I was not consulted" if asked at a scheduled Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on September 26th. (BuzzFeed News)

6/ More than twice as many women are running for Congress in 2018 compared to 2016. At latest count, 431 women were running for or were likely to run for the House nationwide — 339 Democrats and 92 Republicans. At this point in 2016, there were fewer than half that: 212. Likewise, 50 women are running for or likely to run for Senate, compared to 25 at this point in 2016. (NPR)

7/ The Trump administration proposed regulations that would allow health insurers to sell so-called "short-term" policies that could last up to 12 months. The plans don't have to meet the Affordable Care Act's consumer protections, or offer a comprehensive benefit package. The proposal would reverse an Obama administration decision to limit the duration of short-term health plans to no more than 90 days in order to make them less attractive. (CNN / CNBC)

poll/ 62% of Americans blame Trump and Congress for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings. 77% say they think more effective mental health screening and treatment could have prevented the Parkland, FL shooting. (Washington Post-ABC News poll)

poll/ 66% of Americans support stricter gun laws. 50% of gun owners also support stricter gun laws. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ The Presidential Greatness Survey ranked Trump as the worst president ever. He came in first as the most polarizing president. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Scott Pruitt's EPA is facing legal challenges to his rollback of Obama-era environmental protections and laws. The court challenges and legal delays have slowed rule rollbacks on everything from preventing dentists from washing excess mercury down the drain to curbing methane gas emissions. (The Guardian)

  2. Trump's infrastructure plan no longer includes the requirement that energy companies use American-made steel to build their pipelines. (CNBC)

  3. Pennsylvania's new congressional district map will give Democrats a better chance of winning back the House this fall. Early estimates of the new map, drawn by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, suggest that the number of Trump seats available has dropped from around 13 down to 10 – which could bring the Democrats a few steps closer to securing a majority in the House. (Politico)

  4. Fox News is launching a new subscription-based streaming service for Fox super fans. It's called "Fox Nation." The stand-alone subscription service will focus on right-leaning commentary and feature original shows and appearances by right-wing personalities, like Sean Hannity. Fox Nation is expected to launch by the end of the year. (New York Times)

  5. A Texas couple is suing the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops alleging that weren't allowed to foster a refugee child because they don't "mirror the Holy Family." (Dallas News)

  6. A dating site for Trump supporters featured a man who was convicted for having sex with a minor on its homepage. In 1995, Barrett Riddleberger was convicted of videotaping himself having sex with a 15-year-old girl. He was 25. (Gizmodo / CBS News)

  7. Trump denied a woman's accusation that he forcibly kissed her when she worked at Trump Tower in 2006. Rachel Crooks is one of the 19 women who have accused Trump of sexual assault. (CNBC)

Day 396: Incontrovertible.

1/ March For Our Lives: Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are calling for a March 24 march on Washington and a national student walkout to demand action on gun control and challenge the politicians that have failed to protect them. A shooting at the Parkland, FL, high school on Feb. 14 left 17 dead. The March 24 march is to bring attention to school safety, ask lawmakers to enact gun control, and "demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end this epidemic of mass school shootings." They're encouraging students from around the country to join the protest. (Reuters / ABC News / March For Our Lives)

  • CHART: How Have Your Members Of Congress Voted On Gun Bills? (NPR)

🏴 Do Something: March For Our Lives.

2/ Former Trump aide Rick Gates will plead guilty to fraud-related charges and has agreed to testify against Paul Manafort. Gates, currently facing roughly 18 months in prison, could see "a substantial reduction in his sentence'' if he cooperates with Mueller's investigation. (Los Angeles Times)

3/ Several conservatives want Trump to issue presidential pardons as a way of limiting Robert Mueller's investigation. Larry Klayman, a conservative legal activist, said: "I think he should pardon everybody" – Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos – "and pardon himself." (Politico)

4/ The new White House security clearances policy puts a "bull's eye" on Jared Kushner, according to an official. John Kelly announced Friday that the White House will no longer allow some employees with interim security clearances access to top-secret information. Abbe Lowell, one of Kushner's lawyers, said Kelly's directive "will not affect Mr. Kushner's ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the president." Kushner requests more information from the intelligence community than any White House employee. (Washington Post)

5/ Robert Mueller's interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition. Mueller's investigators have been asking about Kushner's conversations during the transition to finance a Kushner Companies-backed New York City office building facing financial troubles. (CNN)

6/ Trump blamed everybody but Russia as he lashed out against the Russia investigation in a nine-hour, profanity-laced, and error-laden tweetstorm. He attacked the FBI, CNN, the Democratic Party, his national security adviser, former president Obama, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Hillary Clinton, and more. He never criticized Russia or Putin's attempts to undermine U.S. elections. (Politico / Washington Post / CNN)

  • "They are laughing their asses off in Moscow": Trump takes on the FBI, Russia probe and 2016 election. (Washington Post)

  • America Is Under Attack and the President Doesn't Care. Trump's gravest responsibility is to defend the United States from foreign attack – and he's done nothing to fulfill it. (The Atlantic)

  • 👑 Portrait of a President: The WTF Guide to Presidential Behavior.

7/ National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster said the "evidence is now incontrovertible" that Russia meddled in the U.S. political system, essentially telling the Munich Security Conference to ignore Trump's tweet. Trump countered on Twitter, naturally: "General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems." (Washington Post)

8/ Trump suggested that the FBI could have stopped the school shooter at a Florida high school if they spent less time on the Russia investigation. "Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!" Trump tweeted. (The Hill)

  • Trump "is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system" for gun purchases, according to Raj Shah, principal deputy press secretary. (CNN)

  • A prominent Republican political donor vowed not to contribute to any candidates or election groups that didn't support a ban on the sale of military-style firearms to civilians. Al Hoffman Jr. said he would seek to marshal support among other Republican political donors for a renewed assault weapons ban. (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Trump Jr. will give a foreign policy speech while on an "unofficial" business trip to India promoting his family's real estate projects. (Washington Post)

  2. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court issued a new congressional map to replace the state's current gerrymandered one, which the court said is so partisan it violates the state’s Constitution. (HuffPost)

  3. Trump called Oprah "very insecure" and accused her of being "biased and slanted" after she moderated a discussion between 14 pro- and anti-Trump voters. (CNN)

  4. Trump went golfing today, three days after skipping a weekend of golf out of respect for the 17 people killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week. (The Hill)

Day 393: Information warfare.

1/ Robert Mueller's federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for violating criminal laws with the intent to interfere "with U.S. elections and political processes." Mueller's office said that the government accuses all the defendants of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Three defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. The indictment charges that a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency, waged "information warfare" against the U.S. by using social media platforms and fictitious American personas for "supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump … and disparaging Hillary Clinton." Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said this "information warfare" didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential election. (CNBC / ABC News / Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg)

  • A California man charged with identity theft pleaded guilty in Mueller's probe. Richard Pinedo is cooperating with prosecutors. (Bloomberg / CNN)

  • 🔗 Read the Internet Research Agency indictment. (Justice Department)

2/ Mueller's investigation into collusion and potential obstruction of justice by Trump and his campaign is expected to continue for months. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that the Russian indictments are vindication that there was "No collusion!" Rod Rosenstein said during his press conference today that there is "no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant" in the alleged scheme to interfere with the 2016 election. Mueller could still indict Americans for knowingly helping Russia. (Bloomberg)

3/ Rick Gates is close to a plea deal with Robert Mueller. The former Trump campaign adviser has been involved in plea negotiations for about a month, and people familiar with the case say he is poised to cooperate with the investigation. If Gates agrees to a plea deal, he will be the third known cooperator in the special counsel's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (CNN)

4/ The FCC is investigating whether its chairman "improperly coordinated with Sinclair" on rule changes that benefited the broadcaster. Ajit Pai is under investigation by the agency's independent watchdog for his role in the FCC's adopting new rules that allowed television broadcasters to increase the number of stations they own. The rules were adopted weeks before Sinclair announced a $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media. The deal would not have been possible without the new rules. The investigation into Pai's relationship with Sinclair began at the end of last year. (New York Times / Ars Technica)

  • The Justice Department wants to prevent AT&T from using Trump's criticism of its merger with Time Warner in its arguments. AT&T intends to argue that politics played a role in government's decision to stop the merger. (Reuters)

5/ The FBI acknowledged that it failed to act on a tip in January that Nikolas Cruz had the potential of "conducting a school shooting." The tipster said Cruz had a "desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts." The FBI said some "protocols were not followed." (Politico / New York Times)

  • Paul Ryan doesn't think the time is right to wage political battles over the issue of guns in America. "This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings," Ryan said, adding: "We need to think less about taking sides and fighting each other politically, and just pulling together." (CNN)

  • The vice mayor of Florida's Broward County called Trump visit with the victims of the school shooting "absolutely absurd." Trump "coming here, to me, is absurd. Him coming here is absolutely absurd, and he’s a hypocrite," Mark Bogen said. (CNN)

  • Florida's governor called on the FBI director to resign. In a statement, Rick Scott said: "The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable … We constantly promote 'see something, say something,' and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act. 'See something, say something' is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow through from law enforcement. The FBI director needs to resign." (ABC News)

  • Russia-linked bots are promoting pro-gun messages on Twitter in an attempt to sow discord in the aftermath of the Florida school shooting. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 16-5 in favor of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, despite protests from Jeff Sessions that the bill would increase violent crime and hamstring federal law enforcement. The bill would reduce some federal sentencing rules along with implementing reforms in the federal prison system. (CNN)

  2. Mitt Romney announced that he is running for the Senate seat being vacated by seven-term GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. During the 2016 campaign, Romney called Trump a "phony" and a "fraud." (NPR)

  3. Trump set the record for the longest period of time without a formal press conference in the last 50 years. The last time a president went more than a year between press conferences was during Lyndon B. Johnson's administration. By the end of his first year in office, Obama had held 11 solo press conferences; George W. Bush had held five. (The Daily Beast)

  4. Jared Kushner filed a new addendum to his personal financial disclosure form last month, revealing previously undisclosed business interests. (Talking Points Memo)

  5. Scott Pruitt's security team recommended he fly first class because somebody yelled at him: "You're f—ing up the environment." (Politico)

  6. Steve Bannon told the House Intelligence Committee yesterday that he had been instructed by the White House to invoke executive privilege on behalf of Trump and declined to answer questions pertinent to the Russia investigation. Lawmakers are considering whether to hold him in contempt. (CNN)

  7. 40% of Trump's first Cabinet-level picks have faced ethical or other controversies. Nine out of the 22 people Trump initially picked for Cabinet-level posts have found themselves facing scrutiny over their actions. (Washington Post)

  8. John Kelly approved an overhaul for how the White House manages security clearance investigations. The onus is now on the FBI and the Justice Department to now hand-deliver updates and provide more information. (Washington Post)


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Day 392: "You guys are the adults."

1/ Trump, in a tweet, suggested that students and neighbors should have reported the Florida shooter to authorities, because there were "so many signs" that the shooter "was mentally disturbed." The FBI was warned in September about a possible school shooting after a YouTube user named Nikolas Cruz – the same name as the shooter who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – left a comment that read: "Im going to be a professional school shooter." The FBI said it had investigated the comment, but was unable to identify the person who posted it. (NBC News / CNN / BBC)

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called on Congress to look into issues related to gun violence. He is the first senior Trump administration official to call for a congressional review of gun violence. According to a Treasury official, however, says Mnuchin doesn't support Congress examining new gun laws. (Washington Post / Politico)

  • Trump's budget would cut millions of dollars from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which gun dealers use to verify if someone is banned from buying a gun before selling it to them. (HuffPost)

  • One of Trump's first actions as president was to undo a regulation that would have made it more difficult for people with a known mental illness to buy guns by requiring their names to be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Nikolas Cruz legally purchased the AR-15. (ABC News)

2/ A student who witnessed the shooting called out lawmakers on TV, looking directly into the camera and saying: "We're children. You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done." He added: "Ideas are great but without action, ideas stay ideas and children die." (CNN)

3/ The leader of a white supremacist group said the gunman in the Florida shooting was a member of his "white separatist paramilitary proto-fascist organization." Nikolas Cruz, 19, is accused of killing 17 people in one of the deadliest school shootings in modern American history. His peers say he also wore a "Make America Great Again" hat in school. (Anti-Defamation League / The Daily Beast / New York Times)

4/ The admission that Michael Cohen facilitated a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels is raising legal and ethical questions. In particular, Cohen declined to say whether Trump or another party later reimbursed him for the payment. He insisted that the payment was a legal, personal gift by him to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. A lawyer who represented Clifford in the 2016 transaction issued a statement that said Cohen told him that the $130,000 payment was coming from his personal funds. (New York Times)

  • Stormy Daniels said she has a "Monica Lewinsky dress" from the July 2006 night she allegedly had sex with Trump. According her, she's kept the dress "in pristine condition" and wants to have it tested for samples of hair, skin or "anything else" that would contain DNA. (The Mercury News)

5/ Trump's travel ban unlawfully discriminates against Muslims, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 9-4 vote. The court ruled that the ban, which targeted people from six Muslim-majority countries, violated the U.S. Constitution by discriminating on the basis of religion. (Reuters)

6/ The bipartisan immigration bill failed in the Senate after Trump threatened to veto the deal, which would have created a pathway to citizenship for nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants and allot $25 billion for border security. Negotiators in both parties reached a tentative agreement yesterday, but the measure fell short of the 60-vote threshold needed today. The final vote was 54-45. (Bloomberg / CNN / Politico)

7/ At least 130 White House officials did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Dan Scavino, and Rob Porter. 47 of them report directly to Trump. (CNN / NBC News)

  • Rob Porter was informed in September that his security clearance check was "delayed" in part because of concerns that he was "violent," according to one of his ex-wives. (CNN)

8/ Steve Bannon was interviewed by Robert Mueller over several days this week, spending more than 20 hours in conversation with the team investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Bannon and his legal team also appeared for a closed-door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, despite the White House telling lawmakers Bannon would not be answering questions pertinent to the Russia investigation. (NBC News / ABC News / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The IRS and the Justice Department issued subpoenas for documents from lenders and investors related to projects managed by Jared Kushner's family. The projects in question date back to at least 2010 and are reportedly unrelated to the Mueller investigation. (Bloomberg)

  2. Reince Priebus convinced Jeff Sessions not to resign shortly after Trump fired James Comey in May 2017. Trump berated Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation in a meeting in the Oval Office, which lead to Sessions offering his resignation. (New York Times / Vanity Fair)

  3. Trump's inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by Melania's adviser and longtime friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. The firm was created in December 2016. (New York Times)

  4. Trump's 25-cent per gallon gas tax would wipe out 60% of tax cut benefit for individuals. The increased cost of gas at the pump would be about nine times larger than the estimated $4 billion companies are handing to workers in the form of bonuses, due to corporate tax cuts. (CNBC)

  5. The Department of Defense has five options for Trump's military parade, ranging from $3 million to as much as $50 million. (NPR)

  6. A week after Rob Porter resigned following allegations of domestic violence, Trump said that he is "totally opposed to domestic violence." It was his first condemnation of the conduct behind the allegations. (New York Times)


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Day 391: Unconvinced.

1/ Trump's lawyer paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket in order to buy the porn star's silence about Trump's alleged affair with her. "Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. [Daniels]," Michael Cohen said in a statement, adding: "And neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly." Cohen made the October 2016 payment through his LLC in exchange for the adult-movie star signing a nondisclosure agreement about her allegations of an affair that took place shortly after Melania gave birth to Barron. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  • Stormy Daniels believes she can now discuss her alleged sexual encounter with Trump after Michael Cohen invalidated her non-disclosure agreement. Cohen told the New York Times he paid her $130,000 in exchange for her signing an NDA. He's also shopped a book proposal that would detail her relationship with Trump. (Associated Press / The Blast)

2/ Trump doesn't believe Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, even though the heads of U.S. intelligence agencies testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia meddled in 2016 and is planning to do so again in 2018. (CNN)

  • Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats doesn't think Jared Kushner should have full access to classified information. The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, accused the White House of "showing a blatant disregard for national security." (Washington Post / ABC News)

  • A former senior FBI official is leading BuzzFeed's effort to verify the Trump dossier and defend itself from a Russian billionaire's lawsuit. BuzzFeed in turn is suing the DNC for information the publisher believes could show a link between the Russian billionaire and the e-mail hacking, which would undercut his libel claim. (Foreign Policy / Vanity Fair)

  • Democrats have had "good discussions" with the FBI on declassifying their memo and hope to resolve the issue "very soon." Adam Schiff the White House and FBI initially wanted too much information kept from the public. (Reuters)

3/ The House Oversight Committee is investigating the White House's handling of the Rob Porter scandal and who knew what and when about the accusations of domestic violence. "I'm troubled by almost every aspect of this," House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said. "How in the hell was he still employed?" (NPR / CNN / Politico)

4/ Scott Pruitt has a "blanket waiver" to book first-class flights using taxpayer funds because past interactions that have "not been the best." The EPA says concerns about Pruitt's safety have required him to travel first and business class. (The Hill / CNBC)

5/ A bipartisan group of senators have reached an immigration deal that would include $25 billion for border security, provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers, and change the visa lottery program to a merit based system. The White House wants any immigration legislation to include the "four pillars" agreed to during a January meeting: A fix for DACA, border security, and changes to family-based immigration, and the Diversity Visa Lottery. (Politico / The Hill)

6/ Trump, meanwhile, called on lawmakers to oppose the bipartisan effort to address immigration and protections for Dreamers. Trump urged the Senate to support legislation offered by Republican Chuck Grassley, which would provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants, end the visa lottery program, build a border wall, and end what he calls “chain migration,” which is family-based immigration. (New York Times / Reuters)

poll/ On a generic ballot, 39% of voters say they'll support the GOP candidate for Congress in their district. 38% say they'll support the Democratic candidate. 23% are undecided. (Politico)

poll/ Voters favor Democrats 49-41 on a generic Congressional ballot. 65% of Clinton voters say they’re "very excited" to vote in the election this fall, compared to 58% of Trump voters. (Public Policy Polling)


Notables.

  1. A suspected shooter is in custody and as many as 7 people are dead after a school shooting at a South Florida high school. The authorities said there were 14 victims, but did not say if they were injured or dead. *[Developing…] *(CBS Miami / New York Times)

  2. The Veterans Affairs secretary had his chief of staff doctor an email and make false statements in order to justify the cost of his wife's travel on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer. David Shulkin ordered the VA's third-most-senior official to alter an email to make it appear that he was receiving an award from the Danish government. The VA paid more than $4,300 for his wife's airfare. (Washington Post)

  3. Refugee resettlement agencies are preparing to close more than 20 offices across the U.S. and cut back operations in more than 40 other offices after the State Department told them to pare down their operations. (Reuters)

  4. Trump's military parade would cost between $10 million and $30 million. The White House hasn't budgeted for the parade, which would require Congress to appropriate the funds, or use money that already has been approved. (Washington Post)

  5. A third White House official resigned after being informed that he would not receive a permanent security clearance due to his past use of marijuana. (Politico)

  6. Trump wants a 25-cent hike to the federal gas tax in order to pay for the White House infrastructure plan. The current federal levy is 18.4 cents a gallon on retail gasoline and 24.4 cents a gallon for diesel. The increase floated by the president would presumably put the gasoline tax at 43.4 cents and diesel tax at just under 50 cents. (CNBC)

  7. Democrats flipped a Republican seat in Florida's special election. Margaret Good beat the Republican by 7 percentage points in a district that President Trump won two years ago by a 5-point margin. (NPR)

Day 390: The United States is under attack.

1/ U.S. intelligence agencies expect Russia to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections through hacking and social media manipulation. During testimony at the Senate Intelligence Committee's annual hearing on worldwide threats, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the committee: "Frankly, the United States is under attack" and that Russia will continue to engage in cyber attacks to "degrade our democratic values and weaken our alliances." He added: "There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations." (New York Times / USA Today / NBC News)

2/ FBI Director Christopher Wray contradicted the White House's timeline for Rob Porter, saying the Bureau's file on Porter was closed in January 2018. Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah issued a statement last week saying that Porter's "background investigation was ongoing" and that the White House was first contacted about Porter's clearance in July. Wray, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the FBI submitted a partial report on Porter's clearance in March 2017 and that the investigation was completed in July. The FBI closed the file in January 2018, but received additional information in February, and "we passed that on as well." (Axios / Washington Post / USA Today)

  • The system used to issue security clearances for top officials is "broken," according to Dan Coats. "We have a broken system and I think everybody's come to agree with that now." (Associated Press)

The Porter Timeline:

  1. March 2017: The FBI submitted a "partial report" on Rob Porter to the White House.

  2. July: The FBI submitted a completed review in "late July."

  3. November: The White House requested follow-up information from the FBI on Porter's review.

  4. January 2018: The FBI "closed the file."

  5. February 6th: The Daily Mail story is published, detailing Porter's abusive marriage with his second ex-wife.

  6. February 7th: John Kelly called Porter "a man of true integrity and honor." The Intercept published a story reporting that both of Porter's ex-wives told the FBI that he abused them. Porter resigned, insisting that he is innocent. Kelly issued a second statement: "There is no place for domestic violence in our society."

  7. February 8th: It's reported Kelly knew that Porter's permanent security clearance was on hold in "early fall" and that both of his ex-wives had made allegations against him. White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said that Porter was "terminated" shortly after the "full nature" of the allegations became clear. "In this instance, in the case of Rob Porter, we relied on the background check investigative process. That process hadn't been completed."

  8. February 9th: Trump addressed Porter's resignation, wishing him well and a "wonderful career."

  9. February 10th: Trump tweets: "Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?"

  10. February 11th: Kellyanne Conway said that Trump was "very disturbed" by the allegations against Porter.

  11. February 12th: Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to explain why Trump hasn't offered a statement clarifying his tweet.

  12. February 13th: FBI Director Chris Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the bureau completed its background investigation on Porter in July 2017, responded to a follow-up request in November, and then closed its file in January 2018. The timeline contradicts the White House's February 8th statement that the background check "process hadn't been completed."

3/ Rob Porter was up for a promotion despite allegations that he abused his two ex-wives. John Kelly and several other White House officials were receptive to promoting Porter. Kelly has found himself increasingly isolated in the White House as his timeline of the events surrounding Porter's departure doesn't align with what happened. The FBI's "timeline makes one thing clear: the Kelly coverup is unraveling right before our eyes," a White House official said. (Politico / CNN / Axios)

4/ The Trump administration proposed replacing food stamps with a monthly "American Harvest Box," full of government-picked, nonperishable foods. The proposal, buried in the White House fiscal 2019 budget, would include items like milk, peanut butter, canned fruits, and cereal. The administration claims the plan would save more than $129 billion over 10 years. (Politico)

  • Nancy Pelosi shared a 2015 tweet from Trump claiming that he would not cut Medicare and Medicaid after his budget proposed cuts to both programs. "There really is a tweet for everything," Pelosi wrote. (The Hill)

5/ Trump warned Democrats that March 5 is the "last chance" to pass DACA. The deadline is the same one he announced last year, but a federal injunction temporarily blocking the plan to rescind work permits for young undocumented immigrants essentially renders the deadline meaningless. "Wouldn't it be great if we could finally, after so many years, solve the DACA puzzle," Trump tweeted. He added: "This will be our last chance, there will never be another opportunity! March 5th." (ABC News)

6/ A second U.S. judge blocked Trump's decision to end DACA in March while litigation plays out in the courts. The Supreme Court is due to consider whether to take up the administration's appeal to the first ruling as Friday. (Reuters / The Hill)

poll/ Trump's job approval climbed to 44%, compared to 53% who disapprove in a Priorities USA poll – a Democratic super PAC. In November, the same survey found Trump's approval rating at 40%, with 54% disapproving. (McClatchy DC)


Notables.

  1. Israeli police recommended that Benjamin Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two corruption cases. The recommendations now go to Attorney General Avihai Mendelblit, who will review the material before deciding whether to file charges. Netanyahu can remain in office during that process. (Associated Press / New York Times)

  2. More than 200 Russian mercenaries were killed in a clash with U.S. forces in Syria last week. The fighters attacked a base and refinery held by the U.S. and were defeated. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the situation "perplexing," because it's not clear whether the attack was a rogue operation or if it was ordered by Russia. (Bloomberg)

  3. Kirsten Gillibrand pledged to stop accepting donations from corporate PACs. She joins Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Maria Cantwell who have pledged to reject corporate money. (BuzzFeed News)

  4. Of Trump's 87 picks for federal judges, 92% are white. There is one African American and one is Hispanic nominee. (USA Today)

  5. America First: Of the 144 job openings for seasonal work from across three Trump properties, one went to a US worker. (Vox)

Day 389: Ready, larger, and more lethal.

1/ Rachel Brand quit the Justice Department in part over fears that she'd have to take over the Russia investigation if Trump fired Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The Justice Department's No. 3 attorney had been unhappy with her job for months, telling friends that she felt overwhelmed and unsupported in her job, primarily because four of the 13 divisions she oversaw as the associate attorney general remained unfilled. (NBC News)

2/ The White House proposed a $4.4 trillion federal budget that would add $7 trillion to the deficit over ten years. The plan calls for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and other social programs in favor of higher spending on a "ready, larger, and more lethal military," $23 billion for border security and immigration enforcement, and $200 billion over the next decade for infrastructure spending. The State Department budget would be cut by 27% and the EPA would be cut by 34%. The budget will likely be ignored by Congress, which passed its own two-year spending plan last week. (Bloomberg / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Here are the 22 agencies and programs Trump's budget would eliminate. (The Hill)

  • The Trump budget falls short of the longtime Republican goal of eliminating the federal deficit. The administration has reportedly conceded that the recent federal tax cuts and new spending increases have made eliminating the deficit an unattainable goal. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump's infrastructure plan will provide up to $200 billion in federal funding to encourage cities and states to invest in roads, bridges, and other building projects. The goal is to incentivize $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending over the next 10 years without investing significant federal funding, while also reducing the time required to obtain environmental permits for the projects. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post)

  • Read the full text of Trump's infrastructure plan. (CNBC)

4/ The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau dropped a lawsuit against a lender that allegedly charged people up to 950% interest rates. Led by Trump appointee Mick Mulvaney, the CFPB will operate for the years 2018 through 2022 under a "revised mission and vision of the bureau" that will call upon the agency to "fulfill its statutory responsibilities but go no further." (NPR / CNBC)

5/ Scott Pruitt often uses taxpayer funds to fly first-class and stay at luxury hotels, using unspecified security concerns as justification. The Environmental Protection Agency administrator typically brings a large group of aides with him on trips and usually flies with Delta, even though the government has contracts with specific airlines for specific routes. (Washington Post / CNN)

6/ The Education Department won't investigate or take action on any complaints filed by transgender students who are banned from restrooms that match their gender identity. The Education and Justice Departments withdrew the Obama-era guidance on transgender restroom access in February 2017. (BuzzFeed News)

  • U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon said he would boycott a visit to the White House. Rippon also refused a meeting with Pence before the competition, citing the Trump administration's values and Pence's support of "gay conversion therapy." (The Hill)

7/ Jeff Sessions called sheriffs a "critical part" of the "Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement" during a speech at the National Sheriffs' Association. "We must never erode this historic office," Sessions continued. The "Anglo-American" phrase was not in the prepared remarks released by the Justice Department early Monday before his speech. (NBC News / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The U.S. and South Korea have agreed on terms of further engagement with North Korea – first by the South Koreans and then by the U.S. The U.S. will not stop imposing sanctions on Pyongyang until it begins denuclearization, but the Trump administration is now willing to sit down and talk with the regime. (Washington Post)

  2. Trump's inaugural committee won't reveal what it's doing with tens of millions of dollars it pledged to charity last year. The committee raised about $107 million, but only spent about half of it. The rest, it said, would go to charity. (The Daily Beast)

  3. Trump's pick to run the 2020 census withdrew from consideration after Democrats in Congress pushed back against the appointment. Thomas Brunell is a political science professor who has defended Republican redistricting efforts in more than a dozen states. (Mother Jones)

  4. Trump Jr.'s wife was taken to the hospital after opening a letter containing an unidentified white powder that was later determined to be non-hazardous. (Reuters)

  5. Devin Nunes' "news" site went down after a distributed denial of service attack. The Nunes campaign has paid roughly $8,000 to a communications consultant since July to create "The California Republican," which is listed as a "Media/News Company" on Facebook and claims to deliver “the best of US, California, and Central Valley news, sports, and analysis.” (The Hill / Politico)

  6. Kirsten Gillibrand wants Congress to hold Trump accountable for the allegations of sexual misconduct against him. "I think he should resign, and if he's unwilling to do that, which is what I assume, then Congress should hold him accountable. We're obligated to have hearings," Gillibrand said in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes." (The Hill)

Day 386: Fully aware.

1/ The Justice Department's No. 3 official resigned. Rachel Brand was next in line behind Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel's inquiry into Russian influence in the 2016 election. Trump has called the investigation a witch hunt and even considered firing Rosenstein. (New York Times / CNN)

2/ Top White House officials knew about the allegations of Rob Porter's verbal and physical abuse for months. White House Counsel Donald McGahn knew in January 2017 that accusations by Porter's ex-wives could threaten his security clearance. John Kelly learned this past fall that the domestic violence claims were delaying Porter's security clearance after the FBI flagged its findings to the White House. He gave Porter more responsibilities. Until his resignation on Wednesday, Porter was one of Trump's most senior aides. The White House has said Kelly was not "fully aware" of the abuse until this week. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • John Kelly sent a memo to White House staffers Thursday night addressing the allegations made against Rob Porter. Kelly wrote, "While we are all processing the shocking and troubling allegations made against a former White House staffer, I want you to know that we all take matters of domestic violence seriously. Domestic violence is abhorrent and has no place in our society." (CNN)

3/ Trump is frustrated with Hope Hicks' role in the Porter scandal and is placing much of the blame on John Kelly. Trump is questioning the White House's response and has told associates that he thinks Hicks put her romantic relationship with Porter ahead of his own priorities. Trump was not consulted on the White House statement, which defended Porter. Kelly, meanwhile, initially defended Porter and urged him to fight the allegations and to remain in the job. But after graphic photos emerged of the abuse, Kelly accepted Porter's resignation. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)

4/ Meanwhile, Trump said the allegations of domestic abuse are "very sad," but that he wishes Rob Porter "well" because "he did a very good job while he was in the White House. We hope he has a wonderful career ahead of him." Trump added that he believes Porter is innocent, because Porter said "very strongly" that he was innocent. (Reuters / CNN)

5/ Trump has recently asked advisers what they think of Mick Mulvaney as a possible replacement for John Kelly as chief of staff. Mulvaney currently holds two posts, as director of both the White House budget office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Kelly has told Trump in the last 24 hours that he's willing to resign, but has not offered his resignation. (New York Times / ABC News)

6/ Trump doesn't read the President's Daily Brief, which outlines the most important information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from around the world. Instead, he receives an oral briefing on select intelligence issues, because reading is not Trump's preferred "style of learning." (Washington Post)

7/ The government shut down for five hours last night, the second shutdown in three weeks. The House passed a spending bill late last night, which Trump signed into law early Friday morning. The measure keeps the government open until March 23. The bill also increases federal spending for the military and domestic and disaster relief programs by hundreds of billions of dollars. (Washington Post / New York Times)


Notables.

  1. The FBI was monitoring Carter Page when he spoke to Steve Bannon about Russia in January 2017. The details of the call are vague, but national security experts say the FBI would have retained the conversation as evidence if it seemed pertinent to their investigation into allegations that Trump associates coordinated with the Kremlin. (Politico)

  2. Dozens of White House employees still don't have permanent security clearance. Employees have been working for months with temporary approvals as they continue to handle sensitive and classified information while they wait for the FBI to issue permanent clearances. (Washington Post)

  3. Tim Kaine wants Trump to release a secret memo outlining his interpretation of his legal authority to wage war. Kaine sent a letter to Rex Tillerson seeking the seven-page memo the administration has kept under wraps for months. (NBC News)

  4. Trump said the White House would release a letter regarding the possible release of the Democrat's memo written which rebuts a Republican document claiming FBI and Justice Department bias against him in the federal probe of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election. (Reuters)

Day 385: Clear evidence.

1/ Russian hackers penetrated voter registration rolls in several U.S. states before the 2016 presidential election. A Homeland Security Department official said that of the 21 states that were targeted, a "small number" were successfully penetrated. Officials maintain that there is no evidence that voter rolls were altered. (NBC News)

  • George W. Bush: "Clear evidence that the Russians meddled" in the 2016 presidential election. Intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia meddled in the presidential election, but Trump has consistently disputed allegations that members of his campaign team in any way "colluded" with Moscow. (USA Today)

2/ The Trump administration may target immigrants who use certain taxpayer-funded benefits to make it harder for them to gain permanent residency. The Department of Homeland Security has drafted rules that could weigh against an applicant if they received non-cash benefits, such as government food assistance programs or preschool programs – even if they were for the immigrant's U.S. citizen children. (Reuters)

3/ Scott Pruitt suggested that climate change could benefit humans, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. The EPA administrator said: "I think there's assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100?" The National Climate Assessment concluded that "climate change presents a global public health problem, with serious health impacts predicted to manifest in varying ways in different parts of the world." NASA's consensus is that humans are the primary drivers of climate-warming trends, which are "proceeding at a rate unprecedented over decades to millennia." (CNN)

4/ House Democrats are targeting 101 Republican-held congressional districts in the November midterm elections. Polling by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shows Trump trailing not just in the 23 GOP-held districts Hillary Clinton won, but also in more than 60 districts Trump won, and 11 others where retirements have left the seat open. (NBC News)

5/ Members of Congress from both parties are calling Trump's request for a military parade a waste of money that would break with democratic traditions. Defense Secretary James Mattis told a White House news briefing that preparations for a celebration are underway. (Politico)

6/ The House and Senate are expected to vote tonight on a budget deal that would increase federal spending by more than $300 billion over two years and avert another shutdown. The Senate is expected to pass its bill, which the House will then vote on. Conservative House Republicans, however, currently oppose the deal over its increase in spending, while some House Democrats are threatening to vote against the deal because it doesn't address protections for Dreamers. The current temporary funding measure is set to expire tonight at midnight. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

poll/ 57% of Americans believe Russia will try to influence this year's midterm elections and 55% believe the federal government isn't doing enough to prevent it. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. The Dow dropped more than 1,000 points, closing down 4.15%. The S&P 500 closed at 3.75% down – a two-month low – erasing its gain for the year and putting it on track for its worst week since the financial crisis. (Bloomberg)

  2. Trump has decided to focus on opioid law enforcement instead of opioid treatment. "People form blue ribbon committees," Trump said earlier this week during a speech in Cincinnati. "They do everything they can. And frankly, I have a different take on it. My take is you have to get really, really tough, really mean with the drug pushers and the drug dealers." (NPR)

  3. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California has been accused of misusing campaign funds. A grand jury in San Diego is in the process of questioning several former aides to find out whether Rep. Hunter diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign and spent the money on his family and friends. (Politico)

  4. Senior Trump aides knew for months about the allegations of domestic abuse against top White House staffer Rob Porter by his two ex-wives. Porter continues to deny the allegations and the White House continues to defend Porter, even after his resignation on Wednesday. Democrats have requested an investigation into the White House's "apparent low and inconsistent threshold" for granting security clearances. (CNN / The Hill)

Day 384: Marching orders.

1/ Senate leaders struck a budget deal to increase defense and domestic spending by about $315 billion over two years and add $90 billion more in disaster aid for victims of recent hurricanes and wildfires. The agreement also includes a four-year extension for the Children's Health Insurance Program, in addition to the six-year extension that Congress approved last month. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House supported the deal, calling it "steps forward." A vote on the plan in the Senate could come as soon as this afternoon. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, said she cannot agree to any budget deal without a vote on an immigration bill to protect Dreamers. Pelosi began reading stories about Dreamers who aspire to become U.S. citizens from the House floor at 10:04 a.m. and she hasn't stopped. "Without a commitment from Speaker Ryan comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support," Pelosi said. (USA Today / Politico)

3/ A White House staff secretary resigned following allegations that he physically assaulted and emotionally abused his two ex-wives. Rob Porter, who is dating White House communications director Hope Hicks, called the allegations "outrageous" and "simply false," but resigned with an undetermined effective date anyway. John Kelly defended Porter, calling him "a man of true integrity and honor." (CNN / Politico)

4/ Trump wants a grand military parade with soldiers marching and tanks later this year in order to showcase the might of America's armed forces. "The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France," a military official said. From the Washington Post: "The inspiration for Trump’s push is last year's Bastille Day celebration in Paris, which the president attended as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump was awestruck by the tableau of uniformed French troops marching down Avenue des Champs-Elysees with military tanks, armored vehicles, gun trucks and carriers — complete with fighter jets flying over the Arc de Triomphe and painting the sky with streaks of blue, white and red smoke for the colors of the French flag." (Washington Post)

5/ Trump's allies are calling for a compromise when it comes to an interview with Robert Mueller. They don't want Trump to sit down and speak freely with Mueller, but they also want to avoid a standoff that could make its way to the Supreme Court if neither side budges. Trump's legal team is exploring the possibility of a written exchange with Mueller. (Politico)

6/ Trump still wants to talk to Mueller, despite lawyers, friends and lawmakers urging him to avoid a sit-down. Trump reportedly believes that he is entirely innocent, and his experience with lawsuits and testifying under oath during his time as a real estate mogul will allow him to get through his interview with Mueller unscathed. (CNN)

7/ Rex Tillerson: Russia is already trying to influence the 2018 midterm election. Tillerson warned that Russia has "a lot of different tools" that it can use to influence the election. He added: "I don't know that I would say we are better prepared, because the Russians will adapt, as well. The point is, if it's their intention to interfere, they are going to find ways to do that." (Fox News / NBC News)

poll/ 40% of Americans approve of Trump's job performance and 60% say Trump is doing more to divide the country than to unite it. In addition, 85% of Republicans say Trump is not a racist, 55% of men say Trump is not a racist, and 51% of white voters say Trump is not a racist. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Democrats are contemplating a post-Pelosi Democratic Party, which would likely trigger "an intraparty war," according to Rep. Alcee Hastings. (Politico)

  2. Democrats flipped a Missouri state House of Representatives seat in a district that went for Trump in 2016. Mike Revis, a 27-year-old Democrat, managed to beat out Republican David Linton by 108 votes, or about 3% of the vote. (The Hill)

  3. Pence vowed that the Trump administration "will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever." (Washington Post)

Day 383: Total cooperation mode.

1/ Trump's lawyers want him to refuse an interview with Robert Mueller, because they're concerned that he could be charged with lying to investigators. Trump, however, has said that he is "looking forward" to speaking with Mueller as part of the investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia's election interference, and whether he obstructed justice. Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer Trump tapped to deal with Mueller's investigation, has said the White House is in "total cooperation mode." (New York Times)

2/ Steve Bannon will not testify before the House Intelligence Committee today, thus risking being held in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena. The panel wants Bannon to testify a second time in its investigation of Russian election meddling. Bannon's January 16th appearance failed to satisfy members of the committee. (CNN / Reuters)

3/ Trump is not expected to extend the DACA deadline past March 5th. John Kelly said "Dreamers," however, would not be a priority for deportation, even if their protections expire. Kelly told reporters that he was "not so sure this president has the authority to extend" the program. (Washington Post / Associated Press)

4/ A FEMA contractor delivered just 50,000 of 30 million ready-to-eat meals to Puerto Rico before the contract was terminated. The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded the $156 million contract to an entrepreneur with no experience in large-scale disaster relief, who also had at least five previously canceled government contracts. (New York Times)

5/ Government funding set to expire on Thursday. House Republicans have moved ahead with a temporary spending measure that would raise strict caps on military and domestic spending. Senate Democrats have promised to block the bill. They want to pair an increase in military spending with a similar increase in domestic spending. The measure needs 60 votes to pass the Senate, where Republicans hold 51 seats. (New York Times)

6/ Trump: "I'd love to see a shutdown" if Democrats don't agree to his immigration plan, which would offer a path to citizenship for as many as 1.8 million immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children in exchange for funding for his border wall and deep cuts to legal immigration. Government funding will lapse if Congress cannot pass a spending bill by the end of Thursday. (The Hill / CNBC)


Notables.

  1. Devin Nunes admitted that the FBI actually did disclose the political backing of the Steele dossier in its FISA application to surveil Carter Page. The Republican memo accused the FBI and Justice Department of anti-Trump bias because they allegedly didn't disclose that the Steele dossier was financed by Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The FBI's FISA application disclosed this detail in a footnote, which the GOP memo failed to mention. (Politico)

  2. Trump will be briefed on the Democratic memo. John Kelly said that Trump has the 10-page document, but has not yet read it, telling reporters that "it's pretty lengthy." (The Hill)

  3. Jeff Sessions called for a "fresh start" at the FBI following Andrew McCabe's decision to step down. Sessions added that there has been an "erosion" of public trust in the Justice Department and that "we need to go the extra mile to make sure that everything we do is not political." (CNN)

  4. Kellyanne Conway's "opioid cabinet" has been relying on political staff to address the crisis instead of drug policy professionals. Trump hasn't named a permanent director for the office and the acting director hasn't been invited to Conway's opioid cabinet meetings. (Politico)

  5. The House passed a measure requiring lawmakers to pay their own awards and settlements in sexual harassment cases instead of using taxpayer funds. (Reuters)

  6. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump as "clearly joking" when he accused Democrats of treason for not standing and applauding during his State of the Union address. (CNN)

  7. A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to impeach five Democratic state justices who found the Republican-drawn congressional districts map to be in violation of the Pennsylvania constitution. (New York Magazine)

Day 382: A total waste of time.

1/ Trump accused Democrats of being un-American and treasonous because they didn't clap for him during his State of the Union address. "Can we call that treason?" Trump asked during a speech at a factory in Ohio. "Why not? I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much." He added: "Your paychecks are going way up" and "your taxes are going way down." (New York Times)

2/ The Dow had its worst single-day decline ever, plunging 1,175 points to close at 24,346. The drop came as Trump was touting the strength of the economy during his speech in Ohio. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News all cut away from Trump's speech to cover the market plunge. The S&P 500 fell by more than 4%. (CNN Money)

3/ Senators John McCain and Christopher Coons will introduce a bipartisan immigration deal aimed at reaching a budget deal before the federal government's current funding expires on Friday. The legislation does not contain funding for the border wall. (Wall Street Journal)

4/ The White House dismissed the bipartisan immigration deal as a non-starter before it was formally introduced. Trump tweeted that "any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time." (CNN)

5/ The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau scaled back its Equifax probe. Hackers stole the personal data from more than 143 million Americans in a September breach at the credit bureau. (Reuters)

6/ Paul Ryan celebrated a secretary's $1.50 weekly increase on Twitter as a sign of the Republican tax plan's success. He deleted the tweet after lawmakers and social media users criticized him. "A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week … she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year," the tweet read. (New York Times)

7/ The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the Democratic memo public, which rebuts allegations that the FBI abused surveillance laws. Trump has five days to review the request to release the memo. (Politico / Reuters)

  • Trump's lawyers want to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the FBI and Justice Department's actions during the 2016 presidential campaign. (Axios)

  • The New York Times asked the FISA court to unseal documents related to the wiretapping of Carter Page. Trump's decision to declassify the Republican memo signifies that the public interest in the documents outweighs the need to protect the information. The Times argues that there is no longer a justification "for the Page warrant orders and application materials to be withheld in their entirety," and that "disclosure would serve the public interest." (New York Times)

8/ Trump accused Adam Schiff of being "one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington." He called the California representative "Little Adam Schiff" and that he "Must be stopped!" Schiff fired back: "Mr. President, I see you’ve had a busy morning of 'Executive Time.'" Later, Schiff told CNN that "It may be time for General Kelly to give the President a time out." (New York Times / CNN)

9/ The U.S. Supreme Court will allow Pennsylvania to redraw its congressional districts, rejecting an emergency GOP request to stop a reworking of the electoral districts. Last month the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the current maps violate the state constitution and unfairly benefits Republicans. The new districts are expected to be in place by February 19th for use in the May 15th congressional primaries. (Associated Press / Reuters)


Notables.

  1. Some Philadelphia Eagles players plan to skip the White House visit because of opposition to Trump. (CNN)

  2. Department of Homeland Security documents for a Super Bowl terrorism drill were found in the seat-back pocket on a commercial plane. The reports were based on exercises designed to evaluate the ability of public health, law enforcement and emergency management officials to engage in a coordinated response were a biological attack to be carried out in Minneapolis on Super Bowl Sunday. (CNN)

  3. Audit: A Pentagon agency can't account for more than $800 million in construction projects. The Defense Logistics Agency failed to properly document its spending and cannot reconcile balances from its general ledger with the Treasury Department. (Politico)

  4. The former leader of the American Nazi Party is running unopposed in the Republican primary for Illinois' 3rd Congressional District. Arthur Jones is a Holocaust denier and also oversees the America First Committee, whose membership "is open to any white American citizen of European, non-Jewish descent." (Washington Post)

  5. The Justice Department sided with Robert Mueller in a lawsuit filed against him by Paul Manafort. Manafort filed the civil suit against Mueller on January 3rd, saying the special counsel's investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia exceeded its legal authority. (Reuters)

Day 379: Disgrace.

1/ Trump approved the release of the Nunes memo after first attacking both the FBI and the Justice Department in an early-morning tweet. He accused them of having "politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats." The memo, which alleges anti-Trump bias at the FBI and DOJ, was approved for release without the redactions that the FBI and the Justice Department had lobbied for. The House Intelligence Committee then made the memo public. Trump told reporters, "I think it's a disgrace what's happening in our country … A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that." (New York Times / Washington Post)

The tl;dr

  1. The memo didn't provide the evidence to support the claim that the FBI abused its surveillance power under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act during the 2016 campaign leading to "a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process."

  2. The memo also doesn't provide all the evidence the FBI and Justice Department used to obtain the initial warrant to surveil Carter Page, the former Trump campaign adviser.

  3. The memo confirms that actions taken by George Papadopoulos, the former Trump foreign policy adviser, were a factor in the opening of the investigation. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.

  • Sean Hannity advised Trump on the memo all week. Trump reportedly had several phone calls with Hannity over the last few weeks, reinforcing Trump's determination to release the memo to the public. (The Daily Beast)

  • Comey praised the FBI in a tweet for speaking up against "weasels and liars". He called on more leaders in the government to do the same. (The Hill)

  • John McCain: "The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party's, no president's, only Putin's." (The Hill)

2/ Yesterday, Paul Ryan said the memo is not "an indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice" and that he supports the release of the Democrats' memo, which counters the GOP memo. Republican leaders in Congress have been arguing that the release of the memo reveals mistakes and bias at the FBI – not Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation set up by the Justice Department. Trump undermined that argument with his tweet saying the memo would prove political bias at the FBI and Justice Department. (The Hill / Washington Post)

3/ Trump refused to say if he will fire Rod Rosenstein, who has been overseeing Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation. "You figure that one out," Trump told reporters, when asked if he has confidence in Rosenstein. (CNN)

4/ Two attorneys representing clients caught up in Robert Mueller's probe believe Mueller could indict Trump for obstruction of justice. Many legal experts don't believe Mueller has the standing to bring criminal charges against Trump, however. Neither attorney had specific knowledge of Mueller's plans, but suggested that could try to bring an indictment against Trump if only to illustrate the gravity of his findings. (Politico)

5/ The Trump administration called for the development of two new, "lower-yield" types of nuclear weapons for ballistic and cruise missiles launched from submarines. The weapons could be used to respond to "extreme circumstances," including non-nuclear attacks. The White House also publicly acknowledged for the first time that Russia is "developing" a "new intercontinental, nuclear armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo." (Politico)

6/ The White House wants to see more options for a military strike against North Korea, and is frustrated by what they consider to be the Pentagon's unwillingness to provide them. The national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster ,believes threats are only credible if they are backed by well-developed military plans, but sources say the Pentagon is worried that the White House is too eager to use military action against the Korean Peninsula. (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Seven of the top nine jobs at the State Department are empty, including positions to oversee the agency's role in trade policy, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, refugee issues, and efforts to counter human trafficking. (Bloomberg)

  2. K.T. McFarland asked to withdraw her stalled nomination to be the U.S. ambassador to Singapore. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was concerned about her testimony to Congress over communications with Russia. (Reuters)

  3. CIA Director Mike Pompeo met with the head of Russia's foreign intelligence agency, even though the head of the GRU was barred from entering the US under sanctions put in place in 2014. Pompeo defended the meeting and claimed that he and other officials only met with the Russian operatives "to keep Americans safe." The Russian Embassy in Washington announced the meeting with Pompeo in a tweet on January 30th. (CNN)

Day 378: Never get out.

1/ Hope Hicks allegedly told Trump that the emails involving Trump Jr. and the Trump Tower meeting "will never get out" because only a few people have access to them. The White House communications director's comment was in response to Mark Corallo, who served as the spokesman for Trump's legal team, saying the statement they drafted aboard Air Force One would backfire when documents surface that the meeting was setup to get political dirt about Hillary Clinton from the Russians – and not about Russian adoptions. Corallo believed Hicks' comment indicated that she could be contemplating obstructing justice. Corallo will tell Robert Mueller about the previously undisclosed conference call with Trump and Hicks when he meets with the special counsel's team sometime in the next two weeks. Corallo resigned from Trump's legal team in July. (New York Times / CNN)

2/ The White House is worried that FBI Director Christopher Wray will quit if The Memo™ is released. Wray has "grave concerns" that "material omissions of fact" make the document inaccurate. Trump is expected to approve the release of the memo on Friday, which alleges surveillance abuse by the FBI, without the bureau's requested redactions. (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ Trump Jr. tweeted that Andrew McCabe was "fired" because of the contents of The Memo™. Trump Jr. claimed that the information in the memo was "good enough" for the administration to "fire McCabe." On Monday, the White House specifically denied involvement in McCabe's decision to resign. (The Hill)

4/ Adam Schiff accused Devin Nunes of giving Trump a "secretly altered" version of The Memo™ which contained "substantive" changes that had not been approved by the House Intelligence Committee. A spokesperson for Nunes denied Schiff's allegations, referring to them as another "strange attempt to thwart publication of the memo." (The Hill)

5/ Trump is telling friends that The Memo™ is a way of discrediting the Russia investigation. He believes it would expose bias at the FBI and that the bureau is prejudiced against him. (CNN)

  • A top Republican senator urged House Republicans to consider the FBI's "grave concerns" before making the memo public. John Thune also said the Senate Intelligence Committee should be allowed to see the document before its release. (New York Times)

6/ Trump falsely claimed that his State of the Union address had "the highest number in history" in terms of viewers. Nielsen reported that 45.6 million people watched Trump's address. In 2002, 51.7 million people watched George W. Bush's address, 48 million watched Obama's first address, and 46.8 million tuned in for Bill Clinton's first SOTU speech. (Associated Press)

7/ The Trump administration took away enforcement power from a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau office that pursued lending discrimination cases that imposed interest rates on minorities higher than those for whites. Mick Mulvaney said staffers will now be focused on "advocacy, coordination and education," rather than enforcement and oversight of companies. (Washington Post)

8/ Three attorneys representing Rick Gates abruptly withdrew as counsel for the former Trump campaign aide. Lawyers Shanlon Wu, Walter Mack, and Annemarie McAvoy said the reasons for quitting is currently under seal, but added that "The document speaks for itself." Gates recently added Tom Green, a prominent white-collar attorney, to his defense team. (Politico / CNN)

poll/ 71% of Americans think Trump should agree to an interview with Robert Mueller if asked. 82% think the interview should be under oath. (Politico)


Notables.

  • Trump sacked this year's traditional pre-Super Bowl interview, rejecting requests to appear on NBC this Sunday. (CNN)

  • Mike Pence is launching a nationwide campaign tour to raise money for Republican candidates running in the 2018 midterms. Pence believes Republicans could expand their majority in both chambers. (Politico)

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will cut its epidemic prevention activities by 80% because it's running out of money. (Washington Post)

  • Robert Mueller's office isn't ready to schedule a sentencing hearing for Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI. George Papadopolous' case was also delayed, signaling that Mueller doesn't plan on wrapping up his investigation before the spring. (CNN)

  • Carter Page was on the radar of U.S. intelligence agencies several years before he became a member of Trump's campaign. Page had his first brush with a U.S. intelligence official back in 2013, when he was interviewed by FBI counterintelligence agent Gregory Monaghan about his contacts with Victor Podobnyy, who was serving as a junior attaché at the Russian consulate in New York City at the time. (Wall Street Journal)

  • A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate blamed human trafficking on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and '70s. Josh Hawley told a Christian political group in Missouri that "We're living now with the terrible aftereffects of this so-called revolution. […] The sexual revolution has led to exploitation of women on a scale that we would never have imagined." (Washington Post)

Day 377: Grave concerns.

1/ The FBI said in a statement that it has "grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy." FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went to the White House on Monday in hopes of preventing the release of the memo, which was written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. Wray told John Kelly that The Memo™ contains inaccurate information and paints a false narrative. Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines on Monday to release the memo, as well as voting against releasing the Democrats' 10-page point-by-point rebuttal of the document. Trump has five days to stop the release of the document, if he chooses to do so. While the FBI Director isn't part of the official White House review process, he was allowed to read the memo on Sunday. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg)

  • Devin Nunes refused to say whether he worked with Trump's team on The Memo™. "I'm not answering," Nunes said during a contentious closed-door meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. (The Daily Beast)

2/ Trump promised "100 percent" to release The Memo™ as he was leaving the House chamber following his first State of the Union address. C-SPAN cameras captured Rep. Jeff Duncan on a hot mic asking Trump to "release the memo." Trump replied: "Oh yeah, oh, don’t worry. 100 percent." This morning, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "There are no current plans to release the House Intelligence Committee's memo" and that Trump had not "seen or been briefed" on the memo's contents. John Kelly, meanwhile, said the memo will "be released here pretty quick." The Justice Department previously warned that the memo's release could compromise intelligence gathering and threaten national security. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump asked Rod Rosenstein if he was "on my team" during a December meeting at the White House. "Of course, we're all on your team, Mr. President," Rosenstein said, who wanted Trump to push back on the Nunes memo. Trump, however, wanted to know where Robert Mueller's Russia investigation was going. It's Trump's fourth loyalty request from a Justice Department official. Last year, Trump asked for Comey to pledge his loyalty at a private dinner seven days after the inauguration. Comey declined. (CNN / Axios)

4/ The FBI agent Trump accused of "treason" wrote the first draft of the James Comey letter reopening the Hillary Clinton email probe. Republicans have accused Peter Strzok of being a Clinton supporter, charging that the text messages between him and FBI lawyer Lisa Page prove that Mueller's investigation is biased against Trump. (CNN)

5/ The Justice Department turned over documents on a proposed Jeff Sessions resignation prior to his interview with Robert Mueller's team. The documents also included emails with the White House about Michael Flynn. (ABC News)

6/ Trump signed an executive order to keep Guantanamo Bay open, prior to the start of his first State of the Union address. During the speech, Trump reiterated the Bush-era notion that suspected terrorists should be treated as "unlawful enemy combatants" instead of criminals. The majority of detainees held in the facility were never charged with a crime. Of the 41 detainees that remain at Guantanamo, only seven are facing any formal charges. (CNBC)

7/ The director of the CDC resigned following a report that she purchased shares of tobacco stock after taking charge of the agency. Brenda Fitzgerald bought the shares a month into her tenure as CDC director, where her mission was to convince smokers to quit and keep children from becoming addicted. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death. (Politico / CNN)

poll/ 48% of Americans who watched Trump's State of the Union address had a "very positive" impression of the speech, the lowest net positive rating for a State of the Union address since 1998. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. A train carrying members of Congress to their legislative retreat in West Virginia hit a truck, leaving at least one person dead. (CNN)

  2. Trey Gowdy will not seek reelection in 2018. "I will not be filing for re-election to Congress nor seeking any other political or elected office; instead I will be returning to the justice system," the chairman of the House Oversight Committee said in a statement. (Politico)

  3. The Trump administration is seeking a 72% budget cut to the Energy Department's renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, underscoring the administration's focus on "beautiful clean coal." (Washington Post)

  4. Secretary of Defense James Mattis wants to ban personal cell phones from the Pentagon. There are approximately 23,000 military and civilian staff that work in the Pentagon. (CNN)

  5. Trump called for Democrats and Republicans to come together in his first State of the Union address, while hailing his administration's first year as an "extraordinary success" that represents "our new American moment." (New York Times / Washington Post)

  6. Fact-checking Trump's first State of the Union address. (New York Times)

Day 376: Serving as a deterrent.

The State of the Fucking Union.

Here's what you need to know for Trump's inaugural State of the Union address:

  1. Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. E.S.T.

  2. Stream the address: CBS News, C-SPAN, PBS and Reuters, or watch from the White House pages on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Or watch on the broadcast on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News or MSNBC.

  3. Live blogs to follow: New York Times, NBC News

  4. What Wall Street is watching for. (USA Today)

  5. A dozen Democrats plan to skip Trump's State of the Union address. "The President is unworthy of the podium, the position and the power," Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen said. (Roll Call)

  6. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and four other Supreme Court Justices won't attend Trump's address. Notorious RBG will instead host a fireside chat with students and faculty at the Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island. (NBC News)


1/ The FBI is investigating a second Trump-Russia dossier. This one, written by former journalist Cody Shearer, was provided to the FBI by Christopher Steele in October 2016. Steele warned that he could not vouch for the accuracy of the memo, but provided a copy because it corroborated what he had separately heard from his own sources. The FBI is still assessing details in the "Shearer memo," which suggests investigators have taken some aspect of it seriously. Both documents allege that Trump was compromised during a 2013 trip to Moscow that involved prostitutes urinating on a bed where the Obamas once stayed. (The Guardian)

2/ Paul Ryan called for a "cleanse" of the FBI as he defended the way that Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes handled a vote to declassify The Memo™ of alleged surveillance abuses by federal law enforcement agencies. Ryan, however, warned against trying to use it to discredit Robert Mueller's probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. "Let it all out, get it all out there," Ryan said. "Cleanse the organization." (Fox News / Washington Post)

3/ Mitch McConnell sees no need to protect Robert Mueller's Russia investigation or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. "My understanding is there's no effort under way to undermine or remove the special counsel," McConnell said. "Therefore I don't see any need to bring up legislation to protect someone who appears to need no protection." Trump has discussed both possibilities. (Bloomberg)

4/ Trump is considering having Jeff Sessions prosecute Robert Mueller and his team in order to discredit the investigation and the FBI without officially firing them. As one Trump advisor said: "Here's how it would work: 'We're sorry, Mr. Mueller, you won't be able to run the federal grand jury today because he has to go testify to another federal grand jury.'" (NBC News / CNBC)

5/ Senate Democrats have been discussing whether to tie a bill protecting Robert Mueller's investigation to the must-pass government funding bill. Current funding expires on February 8th. Chuck Schumer said he would "very much like to" merge the two efforts, which has strong support from the rest of the caucus. (The Daily Beast)

6/ Trump will not impose new sanctions on Russia because the threat is already "serving as a deterrent," a State Department official said. A bipartisan bill overwhelmingly passed in July imposes penalties on companies doing "significant" business with Russian defense and intelligence entities. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: "We estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions." (Politico / Washington Post)

7/ The US Treasury published a list of Russian oligarchs and senior officials at the Kremlin as part of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The report includes 114 senior political figures with close ties to Putin and 96 oligarchs with a net worth of $1 billion or more. The list is designed to shame individuals and put them on notice that they could be the subject of future sanctions. (CNN)

8/ The Congress-mandated sanctions report was lifted from the Forbes "200 richest businessmen in Russia 2017" list, a Treasury Department spokesperson confirmed. Almost all 96 oligarchs listed in the government-issued report appear in the Forbes' ranking. (BuzzFeed News)

9/ CIA Director Mike Pompeo has "every expectation" that Russia will attempt to influence this year's midterm elections. Pompeo said he still sees Russia primarily as an adversary and he hasn't "seen a significant decrease in their activity." (BBC)

10/ Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's decision to step aside was likely the result of a forthcoming inspector general report focused on why FBI leadership took three weeks to act on Hillary Clinton-related emails found in the latter stages of the 2016 election campaign. The internal investigation is asking if McCabe tried to avoid taking action until after the November 8, 2016 election. In a message sent to all bureau employees, FBI Director Chris Wray said "It would be inappropriate for me to comment on specific aspects of the IG's review right now," but that McCabe had submitted his intention to retire following a meeting in which the inspector general's investigation was discussed. (Washington Post / NBC News)

poll/ Trump's 2017 job approval rating averaged 38% throughout the U.S., ranging from a high of 61% in West Virginia to a low of 26% in Vermont. Trump averaged 50% or higher approval in 12 states in total. By comparison, Obama had an approval rate of 50% or greater in 41 states in his first year in office. (Gallup)


Notables.

  1. Julian Assange thought he sent a direct message to Sean Hannity on Twitter offering news about Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Instead it was just a fake Sean Hannity account. (The Daily Beast)

  2. Betsy DeVos wants to put student loan money onto prepaid debit cards. The move would allow the Education Department to monitor, and potentially control, how and when students spend excess federal student loan and grant money. (BuzzFeed News)

  3. A procedural vote to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy failed in the Senate, which voted 51-46 against advancing the bill. (Politico)

  4. FEMA will end food and water aid for Puerto Rico. A third of Puerto Ricans are still without power, but "the reality is that we just need to look around. Supermarkets are open, and things are going back to normal." (NPR)

  5. The person responsible for sending a false missile alert to people in Hawaii was fired despite investigators determining that the worker believed the U.S. was under attack when he sent the alert. The worker sent the alert after mishearing a recorded message that was part of an unscheduled drill. (HuffPost)

  6. The CEO of the Democratic National Committee is stepping down after less than a year on the job. Jess O'Connell didn't offer a specific reason for her departure, but DNC officials say her decision was a personal one. (NBC News)

  7. For $35, you can have your name displayed on the Trump campaign website during the State of the Union broadcast. (Washington Post)

  8. Melania Trump was "blindsided" and "furious" with Trump after reports of his affair with porn star Stormy Daniels surfaced. She canceled a trip to Davos, visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and flew to Mar-a-Lago to relax at the spa. Melania will attend tonight's State of the Union address. (New York Times)

  9. Trump also cheats at golf, according to LPGA legend Suzann Pettersen. "He cheats like hell," the 15-time LPGA Tour winner said. "So I don't quite know how he is in business. They say that if you cheat at golf, you cheat at business." (Golf)

  10. In 2016, Scott Pruitt said Trump would take "unapologetic steps to use executive power to confront Congress in a way that is truly unconstitutional." (Axios)

Day 375: Stepping aside.

1/ Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to release The Memo™ that accuses the Justice Department and FBI of misusing their authority to obtain a secret surveillance order on Carter Page. The vote effectively declassifies the memo, which was written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. Trump now has five days to review the document and decide whether to prevent it from going public. Last week, Trump called for the release of The Memo™, despite his own Justice Department warning him that releasing the memo to the public would be "extraordinarily reckless." Trump reportedly erupted in anger aboard Air Force One when he learned that a top Justice Department official advised against releasing the memo, warning Jeff Sessions and others that they need to excel at their jobs or go down as the worst in history. Democrats said the three-and-a half-page document is an effort to build a false narrative in order to undercut the ongoing Russia investigation, using inaccurately summarizes classified investigative materials that are designed to smear the FBI. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

  • The Memo™ claims Rod Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign associate, which relied on research by Christopher Steele, the author behind the dossier containing claims about Trump's ties to Russia. Republicans argue that the FBI and Justice Department didn't adequately explain this when initially seeking a warrant for surveillance from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. (New York Times)

2/ Republicans won't advance bills to protect Robert Mueller and future special counsels, despite a report that Trump tried to fire Mueller last June. Two bipartisan bills under consideration would empower a panel of federal judges to review the case for firing the special counsel and determine whether there was good cause to do so. "It's pretty clear to me that everybody in the White House knows it would be the end of President Trump's presidency if he fired Mr. Mueller," Lindsey Graham said. (New York Times)

3/ FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is "stepping aside," but will remain on the FBI payroll until he is eligible to retire with full benefits in mid-March. Trump has accused McCabe of political bias and has repeatedly pressured him to step down. McCabe's retirement was widely expected, but the decision to immediately go on leave was sudden. (NBC News / New York Times)

4/ Trump demanded to know why James Comey was allowed to fly on an FBI plane after he had been fired in a phone call to then-acting director Andrew McCabe. McCabe hadn’t been asked to authorize the flight, but said he would have approved it anyway. Trump then suggested McCabe ask his wife how it feels to be a loser, referencing her failed 2015 campaign for state office in Virginia. In the past, Trump also asked McCabe how he voted in the 2016 election. (NBC News)

5/ The deadline to implement the Russia sanctions is today. In August Trump reluctantly signed the sanctions, which are designed to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 election, into law. The Treasury Department is required to produce a report on Putin-linked oligarchs and impose sanctions on entities doing business with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors. (Politico)

6/ Russia accused the US of meddling in its upcoming presidential election. Moscow called the timing of the US Treasury report on Russian sanctions "a direct and obvious attempt" to interfere with the upcoming vote. (CNN)

7/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that "poll after poll" says that nobody cares about the Trump-Russia investigation. She did not cite a specific poll. However, poll, after poll, after poll, after poll, after poll, after poll, after poll suggest Americans do care about the issue. (Washington Post)

8/ Lawmakers in both parties are calling on Trump to drop his demands to slash legal immigration and focus more narrowly on DREAMers and border security. Many lawmakers are worried that Trump's positions on legal immigration will sink a bipartisan deal. The White House's DACA plan proposes a path to citizenship for 1.8 million DREAMers in exchange for $25 billion for the border wall and cuts to family immigration visas. (Washington Post / CNN)

9/ Democrats are well-positioned to end one-party government in Washington in the November elections. A Bloomberg analysis of historical data, election maps and public polling points to Democratic gains in the midterms, when all 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate are on the ballot. (Bloomberg)

  • "Since the end of World War II, the party in control of the White House has, on average, had a net loss of 26 House seats in midterm elections. Democrats can win control of the House with a net gain of 24 seats in November. They'd need to win two seats to gain a majority in the Senate."

  • "Trump's approval rating at this stage of his presidency, 36 percent, is lower than any of his predecessors going back to Harry Truman, according to Gallup polling data. The less popular the president, the more seats his party tends to lose."

poll/ 63% of millennials think the country is on the wrong track. 63% of millennials also disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job. 46% strongly disapprove. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. The finance chairman of the RNC resigned amid controversy over sexual misconduct allegations by dozens of women. (Politico / CNN)

  2. The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee will not seek reelection. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a 12-term congressman, is the eighth Republican committee chairman to forgo reelection in the House ahead of a midterm cycle. (Politico)

  3. Melania Trump took 21 flights on Air Force jets at a cost of more than $675,000 in a three-month period before she moved to the White House in June 2017. (Wall Street Journal)

  4. A Russian military jet came within five feet of a US Navy P-3 Orion surveillance plane while flying in international airspace over the Black Sea. (CNN)

  5. The Russian lawyer from the Trump Tower meeting has been named in a Swiss court case involving bribery, corruption, and "unauthorized clandestine behavior." (The Daily Beast)

  6. Scott Pruitt was personally involved in erasing climate data from EPA website and directed staff to manipulate search results on the site, according to a Freedom of Information Act request. (Think Progress / Environmental Defense Fund)

  7. Trump says he sometimes tweets from bed, because he is "very busy during the day, very long hours. I am busy." He added: "I will sometimes just dictate out something really quickly and give it to one of my people to put it on." (Reuters)

  8. Hillary Clinton trolled Trump at the 2018 Grammys by reading an excerpt from Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," about Trump's first year in the White House. (CNN)


Stuff Trump Said.

A few choice quotes from Trump's interview with Piers Morgan. (The Guardian)

  • "I think I'm very popular in [Britain] … I get so much fan mail from people in your country."

  • "I have tremendous respect for women … I wouldn't say I'm a feminist … I think that would be, maybe, going too far. I'm for women, I'm for men, I'm for everyone."

  • On climate change: "There is a warming and there is a cooling … I believe in crystal-clear beautiful water. I believe in just having good cleanliness and all."

Day 372: Confrontation.

1/ Trump tried to fire Robert Mueller in June, but backed down after Don McGahn threatened to quit if Trump went through with it. After receiving the order from Trump, the White House counsel refused to ask the Justice Department to fire Mueller and said he would resign instead. Mueller learned about Trump's intention in recent months through interviews with current and former senior White House officials. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Trump and his allies have repeatedly denied that Trump ever considered firing Mueller. At least eight times since June 2017 Trump and his team have said Mueller's job was safe. (CNN)

3/ Mueller's investigation is moving much faster than previously thought, and he appears to be wrapping up the part of the investigation that deals with possible obstruction of justice. Even if Mueller concludes the obstruction probe, other elements of the investigation are likely to continue for several more months. (Bloomberg)

4/ John Dowd said he is the one who will decide if Trump will sit down with Mueller. The statement from Trump's attorney comes days after Trump said he would be glad to speak with Mueller and would do so under oath. (CNN)

5/ Trump's immigration proposal is DOA after Chuck Schumer opposed the framework released by the White House. The one-page proposal would allow as many as 1.8 million young immigrants to become citizens in exchange for spending $25 billion on a border wall and security, as well as imposing restrictions on family-based immigration and eliminating the visa lottery system. (Politico / Axios)


Notables.

  1. Trump said he'd be willing to publicly apologize for retweeting three anti-Islamic videos posted by a leader of Britain First, one of the U.K.'s far-right groups. Trump said he didn't know who the group was and that he didn't want to cause any difficulty. (CNBC)

  2. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency gained access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, which gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and real-time location tracking data. (The Verge)

  3. Jeb Bush warned Republicans that Trump's leadership, tweeting, and "racist" comments could cost the party control of Congress in November if they don't distance themselves from the former reality TV star. (USA Today)

  4. Several State Department employees have retained attorneys, charging that they have been put in career purgatory because of their previous work for Obama. (CNN)

  5. Patrick Meehan will not seek reelection after coming under scrutiny for alleged inappropriate behavior with a longtime female aide that resulted in a congressional payout. (Washington Post)

  6. Hillary Clinton kept a senior adviser accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a young subordinate on her 2008 presidential campaign, despite recommendations by her campaign adviser to fire Burns Strider. (New York Times)

  7. The RNC finance chairman does not plan to step down despite dozens of people describing a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct by Steve Wynn. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

  8. Robert Mueller's team has interviewed at least one member of Facebook's team that was associated with Trump's 2016 campaign. Facebook had embedded staff on Trump campaign. (WIRED)

  9. Trump will ask for $716 billion in defense spending in his 2019 budget, which will be unveiled next month. The proposed budget would be a 13% increase over 2017. (Washington Post)

  10. Trump was booed at Davos for criticizing the media as "nasty" and "fake." (HuffPost)

Day 371: Extraordinarily reckless.

1/ Trump proposed immigration legislation that could provide a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million DREAMers in exchange for a $25 billion "trust fund" to build a border wall and assorted border security upgrades. The plan will be sent to the Senate on Monday, which White House officials called an "extremely generous" take-it-or-leave-it proposal. Yesterday, Trump said he'd be willing to consider a path to citizenship for DREAMers that would allow young undocumented immigrants to "morph" into citizens after 10 to 12 years. The off-the-cuff comment sent White House staffers scrambling in what one official called a "fire drill." (Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Ty Cobb walked back Trump's statement that he was "looking forward" to speaking with Robert Mueller's team and that he would "absolutely" do so under oath. The White House lawyer said Trump was speaking hurriedly and only wanted to say that he was willing to meet, adding that Trump is "ready to meet with them, but he'll be guided by the advice of his personal counsel." (New York Times)

3/ Robert Mueller gave Trump's lawyers a list of potential topics he wants to ask Trump about. The move is part of the ongoing negotiations surrounding an interview involving Trump and the special counsel. The topics are focused primarily on obstruction of justice issues, including the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey. (CNN)

4/ The Senate Judiciary Committee intends to share Trump Jr.'s testimony with Robert Mueller. Democrats suggested that Trump Jr. may have made false statements to the committee, and are pressing the committee's Republican chairman to give Mueller the transcripts from the panel's interviews with key witnesses in the Russia probe. Chairman Chuck Grassley said he wants to release the transcripts the committee has done about the meeting at Trump Tower. (Politico / Reuters)

5/ A "spooked" Jared Kushner won't agree to an interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to Chairman Chuck Grassley. Kushner's legal team has not officially decline an appearance, but has asked for guidance on when committee members would disclose information. (Bloomberg)

6/ Dutch intelligence spied on the Russian group believed to be behind the hack of the Democratic Party ahead of U.S. elections. AIVD provided information about the Moscow-based group known as Cozy Bear, who are believed to be linked to the Russian government to the FBI. (Reuters / de Volkskrant)

7/ The Justice Department warned the House Intelligence Committee chairman that releasing The Memo™ would be "extraordinarily reckless." The memo claims that the FBI abused its powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in order to spy on the Trump campaign. (New York Times)

poll/ 60% of Americans support marijuana legalization. 37% of Trump voters support legalization. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. The NSA has deleted "honesty" and "openness" from its core values website. The page outlines the agency's mission statement, which now features “commitment to service" as its top value, instead of honesty. (The Intercept)

  2. The Trump administration wants to end support for the International Space Station program by 2025. The ISS costs NASA between $3 and $4 billion each year, and represents a more than $87 billion investment by the US government. (The Verge)

  3. Trump said he'd be willing to re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership if it were renegotiated into a "substantially better deal" for the U.S. Last January Trump signed an executive withdrawing the U.S. from the trade pact. (Politico)

  4. A one-page memo from Paul Manafort suggests that federal investigators had an informant inside Manafort's consulting firm. Manafort's attorneys appear to have accidentally filed the memo in court as part of a routine scheduling motion. (Politico)

  5. The missing texts between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page have been recovered, the Justice Department said. (Axios / Twitter)

  6. The Doomsday Clock moved forward 30 seconds as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists called the current state of geopolitical affairs "grim." It's now 2 minutes to "midnight." (Washington Post)

Day 370: Looking forward to it.

1/ Trump said he was "looking forward" to speaking with Robert Mueller's team of prosecutors under oath as they investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as possible obstruction of justice. "I would love to do it, and I would like to do it as soon as possible," Trump said. "I would do it under oath, absolutely." He is expected to talk to Mueller's team in two or three weeks. (CNBC / New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Michael Flynn didn't tell the White House about his 2017 interview with the FBI. Flynn met privately with FBI investigators a year ago today to discuss his communications with Russia's ambassador. The meeting took place without a lawyer present and without the knowledge of the president or top White House officials. (NBC News)

3/ Robert Mueller's team has interviewed Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Agency director Mike Rogers, and CIA director Mike Pompeo. The three have been described as "peripheral witnesses" to the James Comey firing. Of note: Pompeo "was allegedly asked by Trump to lean on Comey to drop his investigation." (NBC News)

4/ Trump asked the acting director of the FBI how he voted in the 2016 election shortly after he fired James Comey in May 2017. Andrew McCabe said he didn't vote. Trump then "vented his anger at McCabe over the several hundred thousand dollars in donations that his wife, a Democrat, received for her failed 2015 Virginia state Senate bid from a political action committee controlled by a close friend of Hillary Clinton." (Washington Post)

5/ Steve Bannon will meet with Robert Mueller by the end of the month, where he'll be asked about the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey. Bannon's attorney has said that his client will not be able to use the protections of executive privilege, like he did when he refused to answer questions from the House Intelligence Committee about his work during the presidential transition and in the West Wing. (CNN)

6/ Sarah Sanders: Trump hasn't fired Robert Mueller partly because of how the press would react. Sanders told reporters that "I think we all know what everybody in this room would do if the President did that, and I don't think that is helpful to the process." (CNN)

7/ Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates added an attorney to his legal team. The move to hire Tom Green suggests there is an ongoing negotiation between Gates and Robert Mueller's office. Gates pleaded not guilty in October to eight charges of money laundering and failure to register foreign lobbying and businesses. (CNN)

8/ Trump will declassify the Devin Nunes memo that alleges FBI surveillance abuse if the House Intelligence Committee approves the release. The four-page summary of Nunes' investigation into the FBI and Justice Department's use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was written by staffers for Republican members of the House. (CNN)

  • Your guide to the anti-FBI conspiracy theories: The memo. The text messages. The dossier. (Washington Post)

poll/ 78% of Americans say Trump should testify if Robert Mueller asks him. 51% say Trump has obstructed justice, while 41% say he has not. (CNN)

poll/ 84% of American voters say the shutdown was "mainly unnecessary." 32% blame Democrats, while 31% blame Trump, and 18% say Republicans were responsible. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. The Justice Department threatened 23 so-called sanctuary cities with subpoenas if they fail to provide documents showing compliance with federal immigration officials. (USA Today)

  2. A group of mayors canceled their meeting with Trump after the administration threatened to withhold funding from local governments they claimed aren't following immigration laws. (NBC News)

  3. The Justice Department wants to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census. Noncitizens are counted for the purposes of distributing federal funding, assigning congressional seats, and drawing district maps for elections. (Washington Post)

  4. Tammy Duckworth will become the first US senator to give birth while in that office when she delivers her second child this spring. (New York Times)

  5. Mick Mulvaney dropped a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau lawsuit against four payday lenders charging 900% interest rates without any explanation. The CFPB has also dropped an investigation into a lender that contributed directly to Mulvaney's campaign. (NPR)

  6. Trump is expected to tell world leaders at Davos that his "America First" doctrine has benefited the US exactly the way he said it would. (Washington Post)

Day 369: Under pressure.

1/ Robert Mueller wants to interview Trump in the coming weeks about his decisions to fire Michael Flynn and James Comey. Trump's legal team wants his testimony to be part face-to-face interview and part written statement. (Washington Post)

2/ Jeff Sessions was questioned by Mueller's team last week as part of the investigation into Russia's meddling in the election and whether Trump had obstructed justice since taking office. As attorney general, Sessions was involved in the firing of James Comey and it's the first time that special counsel investigators have interviewed a member of Trump's cabinet. Sessions was not under subpoena and was questioned for several hours. (New York Times / CNN)

3/ Mueller's team reportedly interviewed Comey last year. The interview focused on a series of memos Comey wrote about his meetings with Trump, documenting what he perceived as improper efforts to influence an investigation. In one memo, Comey said that Trump had asked him to end the FBI's investigation into Michael Flynn. (New York Times)

4/ The head of the FBI threatened to resign after Jeff Sessions pressured him to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Christopher Wray told Sessions that he would resign if McCabe was removed from his position. Sessions and White House Counsel Don McGahn agreed that the issue wasn't worth losing the FBI director over. Trump and other Republicans have repeatedly attacked McCabe – a Comey appointee – for his role in the Clinton investigation. In December, the New York Times reported that McCabe "is expected to retire after he becomes eligible for his pension [in] early [2018]. (Axios)

  • Christopher Wray is replacing two senior positions previously held by people who served under James Comey. The moves come as Wray has faced pressure from Jeff Sessions to make personnel changes. (Washington Post)

5/ Jeff Sessions ordered an investigation into the missing text messages exchanged between two FBI staffers that referred to Trump as an "idiot" and a "loathsome human." The texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page are among a batch of messages that the FBI failed to properly archive because of a software update issue with Samsung 5 phones. (Reuters)

6/ Chuck Schumer retracted his offer to give Trump $1.6 billion in wall funding in exchange for a DACA deal. Trump turned down the deal last week, prompting a three-day government shutdown. One Democratic aide said Trump has now "missed an opportunity to get the wall." A White House spokesman, meanwhile, said the Schumer offer "never existed." (Politico)

7/ A Michigan man was arrested after allegedly threatening to shoot and kill CNN employees. The FBI launched an investigation after the man reportedly called CNN 22 times about a week ago and said, among other things, "Fake news. I'm coming to gun you all down." (WGCL-TV / The Hill)

8/ Melania Trump will no longer accompany her husband at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Melania has not made a public statement since it was reported that President Trump paid $130,000 to a porn star a month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement to prevent her from publicly discussing an alleged affair. (CNN)

poll/ 39.5% of Michigan voters approve of Trump while 54% disapprove. In addition, a majority of those polled said they don't believe Trump is qualified to be president. (The Detroit News)

poll/ In a series of hypothetical 2020 one-on-one matchups Trump trails Bernie Sanders by a 55% to 42% margin among registered voters. He trails Joe Biden 57% to 40%, as well as Oprah Winfrey 51% to 42%. (CNN)

poll/ 38% of Americans trust Trump to handle the authority to order nuclear attacks on other countries, while 60% do not. Among those who distrust Trump, almost 9 in 10 are very or somewhat concerned the president might launch an attack. (Washington Post / ABC News)


Notables.

  1. A Republican U.S. senator from Mississippi was caught on a hot mic making comments about "beautiful" high-school-age girls. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) made the comments as the Senate prepared to pass the continuing resolution that would re-open the government. (Raw Story / CSPAN)

  2. Montana became the first state to pass its own net neutrality laws in the wake of the FCC's decision to deregulate the communications industry. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) signed an executive order on Monday that requires all internet service providers with state contracts to adhere to net neutrality standards. (New York Times)

  3. Floridians will decide in November to amend the state constitution and restore voting rights to felons once they complete their sentences. The move that could expand voting rights to more than 1.5 million people. (HuffPost)

  4. The Trump administration is waiving dozens of environmental regulations to speed up construction of Trump's proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. (The Hill)

  5. A 7.9 magnitude earthquake occurred roughly 167 miles off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska. (USGS)

  6. One person was killed and multiple others wounded after a shooting at a Kentucky high school. (WPSD 6)

Day 368: Shutdown shut down.

1/ Senate Democrats voted with Republicans to approve a short-term spending bill to fund the government through February 8th. The bill will also reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program for six years and roll back several health care taxes. Democrats received assurances from Mitch McConnell that the Senate will vote on a bipartisan DACA bill in the coming weeks in exchange for reopening the government. The Senate voted 81-18 to move forward on a bill to fund the government, which the House passed, sending the bill to Trump to sign. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico)

  • How every Senator voted on ending the government shutdown. The vote passed 81-18-1. (New York Times)

  • Mick Mulvaney thought it was "kind of cool" to be the person in charge of shutting down the government. The director of the Office of Management and Budget told Sean Hannity: "I found out for the first time last night that the person who technically shuts the government down is me, which is kind of cool." (Vox)

  • The White House changed its public comment line to blame Democrats over the weekend for "holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate. Due to this obstruction, the government is shut down." (CNN)

2/ The deal to end the government shutdown included $31 billion in tax cuts. The deal includes a temporary delay in implementing three Affordable Care Act taxes that will add to the federal budget deficit. (New York Times)

3/ Paul Ryan received $500,000 in campaign contributions from one of the Koch brothers after the House passed the federal tax bill. The Koch brothers spent millions of dollars lobbying to get the tax bill passed, and are currently spending millions more on a PR campaign to boost public support for the bill. (HuffPost)

4/ The FBI said Devin Nunes refused to produce a memo that alleges abuses by the intelligence community. Democrats say the Republican's refusal to show the memo has them concerned, and that releasing the memo to the public before showing it to the FBI could make tensions between the Hill and the bureau even worse. (The Daily Beast)

  • #SchumerShutdown became the top trending hashtag promoted by Russian social media bots. The Alliance for Securing Democracy, a national security group led by national security officials from both parties, says the topic surpassed #releasethememo to become the highest trending hashtag as of 10 p.m. on Sunday. (HuffPost / The Hill)

5/ Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruled that the state's GOP-drawn congressional districts were unconstitutional, ordering all 18 districts redrawn by February 9th. (Washington Post)

6/ Trump's voter fraud commission asked Texas to identify all voters with Hispanic surnames as part of their request for detailed voter registration data. The voter data was never delivered because a lawsuit stopped the data handoff. The voting commission was then disbanded on January 3rd. (Washington Post)

7/ A member of the House Ethics Committee used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint against him. Patrick Meehan had been tasked with investigating sexual misconduct claims against at least four congressmen. A spokeswoman for Paul Ryan said that Meehan would be removed immediately from the committee and that the panel would investigate the allegations against him. (New York Times)

poll/ 48% of voters think Trump is mentally stable, versus the 47% of voters who think he is not. 73% believe Trump is not a genius. (ABC News)

generic ballot poll/ 51% of voters say they would support the Democratic candidate in their congressional district over the Republican. 39% said they would support the Republican candidate. (Washington Post)

pre-shutdown poll/ 41% of voters said they would blame Republicans in Congress for a shutdown, compared to 36% who said they would fault Democrats. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. A new book about the Trump administration is set to publish on Jan. 29. The book is titled "Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War Over the Truth," and it paints yet another picture of a White House in chaos. (Washington Post)

  2. Trump sarcastically tweeted that Saturday was a "perfect day for all women to march. Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months. Lowest female unemployment in 18 years!" (Twitter)

  3. Deutsche Bank reported "suspicious transactions" related to Kushner family accounts to German banking regulators. The bank also said it was willing to provide the information to special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators. (Mother Jones)

  4. The Army is preparing to send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan this spring, beyond the 14,000 already in the country. (Washington Post)

Day 365: The 11th hour.

1/ The Senate is heading toward a showdown vote on spending legislation to keep the government open past midnight. Democrats appear ready to vote against the short-term spending bill in an effort to secure concessions that would offer protections for young undocumented immigrants, increase domestic spending, provide aid to Puerto Rico, and more. The Senate adjourned Thursday night without scheduling a vote. (New York Times / Politico)

2/ Trump invited Chuck Schumer to the White House to discuss a deal with less than 12 hours to go before a possible government shutdown. Neither Mitch McConnell nor Paul Ryan plans to attend the White House meeting. Schumer left the closed-door meeting with Trump at the White House, saying, "We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements." Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said the Senate would vote on the House-passed spending bill, but didn't offer any details. (Washington Post / New York Times)

3/ Trump canceled his trip to Mar-a-Lago in hopes that lawmakers will avoid a shutdown. Trump had been planning to celebrate the first anniversary of his inauguration at the Florida resort. He's hosting a Saturday night fundraising party. Tickets cost $100,000 per couple and include a photograph with Trump. (CNN)

4/ House Republicans are threatening to head home for the weekend, "virtually guaranteeing a shutdown unless some last-minute deal is struck." The House passed a stopgap spending bill on Thursday night in a 230 to 197 vote to keep the government open through February 16. (Politico / CNN / New York Times)

5/ The Supreme Court will decide the legality of Trump's latest travel ban, which targets people from six Muslim-majority countries. The court will hear arguments in April and issue a ruling by the end of June on whether the policy to block entry into the United States by most people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen violates federal immigration law or the U.S. Constitution. (Reuters / New York Times)

poll/ 57% of Americans disapprove of Trump's job performance, the lowest mark for any modern-day president ending his first year. 51% strongly disapprove with 26% strongly approving of Trump's performance. (NBC News)

poll/ 56% of Americans say approving a budget in order to avoid a shutdown is more important than continuing DACA, while 34% say DACA is more important than a shutdown. (CNN)

poll/ 48% of Americans blame Trump and congressional Republicans for the potential government shutdown. 28% fault Democrats. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. The chief of external affairs for the federal government's volunteer service organization resigned after racist, sexist, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBT comments he made on the radio in 2013 surfaced. (CNN)

  2. A year into Trump's presidency, five of his top staffers still have not certified their financial disclosures, which are required by law to ensure that these senior officials aren't personally benefiting from their White House jobs. (McClatchy DC)


Swamp Things.

  1. Omarosa Manigault-Newman may have taped confidential West Wing conversations. The former White House staffer believes she may become a fixture in Robert Mueller's investigation into possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia's election meddling. (NY Daily News)

  2. Hannity declared that Robert Mueller's "witch hunt is now over." In a monologue, Hannity claimed there is a memo circulating among lawmakers that reportedly details surveillance abuses by the U.S. government that are "far bigger" than Watergate. (The Hill)

  3. Chris Christie was blocked from the VIP entrance at Newark Liberty International Airport, which he had used for eight years. The former New Jersey governor was directed to stand in the general TSA screening lines. (Bloomberg)

Day 364: Irresponsible.

1/ Trump will back a short-term funding legislation after causing confusion on Twitter. Hours earlier Trump tweeted: "CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!" Trump contradicted the Republican legislative strategy by calling for a separate, long-term extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program with less than 48 hours before a shutdown. The Republican proposal included a six-year extension of CHIP as part of their short-term spending bill, which would fund the government through February 16. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Senate Democrats have the votes needed to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, raising the likelihood the government will close. At least nine members of the Senate Democratic Caucus said they will oppose the latest short-term spending bill, which would keep the government open through February 16th, extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years, but also roll back several Affordable Care Act taxes. It doesn't, however, include a deal on DACA, which Democrats have demanded in exchange for their votes. Paul Ryan believes that he has the votes needed in the House to pass the short-term funding measure on Thursday night. (Politico / Washington Post)

3/ In the event of a shutdown, Mitch McConnell plans to keep the Senate in session and stage a series of votes. They're intended to place blame for the shutdown on 10 Democratic senators, who are up for reelection this fall in states won by Donald Trump in 2016. McConnell called the Senate Democrats' plan "irresponsible" for being "willing to shut down the government and the Children's Health Insurance Program because they have yet to conclude a deal on DACA." (Politico)

4/ Trump contradicted John Kelly's statements about the proposed border wall, saying "The Wall is the Wall" and his plan "has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it." Yesterday, Kelly said that the U.S. would never actually build a physical wall along the entire U.S. border with Mexico. Trump recently said that the wall would be funded by Mexico "indirectly through NAFTA." (The Hill / New York Times / Washington Post)

5/ Ty Cobb said Trump is "very eager" to talk to Robert Mueller in the hope that this will help wrap up the Russia investigation as quickly as possible. Trump's personal lawyer expects the investigation to end in the next four to six weeks. (The Hill)

6/ The White House's top lawyer may have a conflict of interest. Don McGahn was personally involved in instructing Steve Bannon about what questions he shouldn't answer from the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation. He is also a witness to events under investigation by both Congress and Robert Mueller. (Bloomberg)

7/ The House Intelligence Committee released the interview transcript with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson. In the interview, Simpson claimed the Kremlin used the publication of the Trump dossier as pretext to "purge" people, including those who may have been sources for the American intelligence community. Dianne Feinstein previously released a transcript of Simpson's interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Politico / The Daily Beast / Reuters)

8/ The FBI is investigating whether a Russian banker illegally funneled money to the NRA in order to help Trump win the presidency. Alexander Torshin is the deputy governor of Russia's central bank and has a close relationship with Putin. Torshin spoke with Trump Jr. during an NRA gala in May 2016, when Trump won the NRA's presidential endorsement. The NRA spent $30 million to support Trump in the 2016 election – three times what they devoted to Mitt Romney in 2012. (McClatchy DC)

poll/ 53% of Americans see Trump's first year as a failure. 61% believe Trump has divided the country. (NPR)

poll/ 37% of Americans approve Trump's job performance after his first year in office. (CBS News)


Notables.

  1. Trump released his 2017 Fake News Awards. (GOP.com)

  2. Hundreds of Yelp reviewers have been giving the Trump International Hotel in Washington one-star reviews, describing the property as a "shithole." (Washington Post)

  3. The Trump administration is finalizing its infrastructure plan, which it hopes will encourage more than $1 trillion in state, local, and private financing to build and repair bridges, highways, and other infrastructure. Trump is expected to preview parts of the plan on January 30th during his State of the Union address. (Reuters)

  4. The past four years were the hottest recorded period in the planet's history, according to both NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Washington Post)

  5. Haitians will no longer be eligible to receive temporary agricultural and seasonal work visas. The decision by the White House removes Haiti from the list of countries that are eligible for H-2A and H-2B visas. (CNN)

  6. House members introduced a bipartisan sexual harassment bill that would prohibit lawmakers from using taxpayer funds to settle claims. (NBC News)

  7. Mick Mulvaney requested no additional funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bureau has $177 million in the bank. Last quarter the CFPB asked for $217.1 million and it required $86.6 million the quarter before that. (Politico)

  8. The Trump administration will protect health workers who oppose abortions or gender confirmation surgery based on religious or moral objections. Officials want people to report discrimination to the new conscience and religious freedom division of the office for civil rights at the Department of Health and Human Services. (New York Times) *[Editor's note: I originally used the term "sex-change operation" but changed it to "gender confirmation surgery," the correct term. More here.] *

Day 363: Gag order.

1/ Trump accused Russia of helping North Korea evade sanctions and claimed that Pyongyang is getting "closer every day" to being able to deliver a long-range missile to the United States. Russian tankers were caught supplying fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months. North Korea requires imported fuel to keep its intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear program functioning. "Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea," Trump said. (Reuters)

2/ The Pentagon wants to allow nuclear retaliation in response to cyberattacks against the United States. The latest draft of the U.S. nuclear strategy, which was sent to Trump's desk for approval, is the first to expand the list of justifications for "first use" nuclear strikes. It includes attempts to destroy national infrastructure via cyberattack. (New York Times / HuffPost)

3/ Steve Bannon cited executive privilege and refused to answer questions from the House Intelligence Committee yesterday. House investigators in both parties were outraged by his refusal, leading the committee to subpoena Bannon on the spot, vowing to force him to answer their questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Politico)

  • What Steve Bannon told Congress yesterday. Bannon admitted that he'd had conversations with Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and legal spokesman Mark Corallo about Don Junior's infamous meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower in June 2016. (Axios)

4/ Bannon didn't respond to House Intelligence Committee questions because the White House directed him not to. During Bannon's testimony, his attorney relayed questions in real time to the White House asking if his client could answer the questions. Bannon was instructed not to discuss his work on the transition or in the White House. White House officials believed they had an agreement with the committee to limit questions to the presidential campaign. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, called the "gag order" an "audacious" move by the White House. (Associated Press / CNN / CNBC)

5/ Bannon struck a deal with Robert Mueller to be interviewed by prosecutors instead of testifying before the grand jury. A source close to Bannon said he will cooperate with the special counsel and that "Mueller will hear everything Bannon has to say." (The Daily Beast / CNN)

6/ The chance of a government shutdown increased as Trump aligned himself with the conservative House Freedom Caucus on immigration, criticizing a proposed bipartisan deal as "horrible" on border security and "very, very weak" on legal immigration reform. Democrats are threatening to vote against any spending bill that doesn't include a DACA fix. Republicans, meanwhile, need 60 votes to pass a spending bill in order to keep the federal government funded past the Friday deadline. Trump is confident that Americans will blame Democrats for a shutdown, despite Republicans controlling the House, Senate, and the White House. (Reuters / NBC News)

7/ Robert Mueller's probe would continue in the event of a government shutdown. Employees in the special counsel's office are exempt from furlough and would continue their work, despite a potential lack of appropriations. The government is set to shut down Friday night if lawmakers are unable to agree on a spending bill. (CNN)

8/ The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to review an order to restart DACA. A federal judge ordered that previous beneficiaries of DACA must be allowed to renew their status in the program, but the government is not required to accept new applications. The Justice Department also appealed a related decision, which imposed a nationwide stop on the Trump administration's decision to end the program until the case can be heard. (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Robert Mueller's team is investigating newly uncovered financial transactions from Russian diplomatic accounts and people or businesses inside the United States. Among them are transactions by former ambassador Sergey Kislyak 10 days after the 2016 presidential election and a blocked $150,000 cash withdrawal five days after the inauguration. (BuzzFeed News)

  2. Trump's alleged affair with a porn star and the reported $130,000 in hush money scandal, explained. (Vox)

  3. Three-quarters of the National Parks Service advisory panel resigned in frustration. Nine out of 12 members abruptly quit, citing frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or hold a single meeting last year. All of the members who resigned had terms that were set to expire in May. (Washington Post)

  4. Wisconsin Democrats flipped a state senate seat in a special election. The district voted for Trump and Mitt Romney in the past two presidential elections. (The Hill)

  5. Jeff Flake delivered a speech from the Senate floor comparing Trump's anti-press rhetoric to former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin that Trump inspires modern-day authoritarians. Trump promised to announce his "Fake News Awards" today. (Los Angeles Times / Reuters)

  6. John Kelly told Democratic lawmakers that the U.S. will never construct a physical wall along the entire stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border and that some of Trump's campaign promises on immigration were "uninformed." (Washington Post)

  7. Border patrol agents routinely vandalize containers of water and supplies left in the Arizona desert for migrants in an attempt to deter and punish people who illegally cross from Mexico. (The Guardian)

Day 362: Subpoenaed.

1/ Steve Bannon was subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. It's the first time Mueller has used a grand jury subpoena to get information from someone in Trump's inner circle. Mueller, however, may end up letting Bannon forgo the grand jury appearance if he allows investigators to question him at the special counsel's offices in Washington. (New York Times)

2/ Bannon met with the House Intelligence Committee this morning behind closed doors. Lawmakers are sure to question Bannon on what he knew about the Trump Tower meeting, which he's previously called "treasonous." (The Hill)

  • Hope Hicks is expected to meet with the House Intelligence Committee as early as Friday. The White House Communications Director will be one of the closest Trump confidants to be privately interviewed as part of the Russia probe. The committee plans to ask her about any contacts that may have occurred between Trump associates and the Russians. (CNN / NBC News)

3/ The government could shut down if lawmakers can't agree on a spending bill by Friday. GOP leaders are looking to a short-term funding measure to keep certain government agencies open while talks continue, but Democrats are unlikely to support any deal that doesn't include protections for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump preemptively blamed democrats for a shutdown, tweeting "The Democrats want to shut down the Government over Amnesty for all and Border Security. The biggest loser will be our rapidly rebuilding Military, at a time we need it more than ever." Democrats presented Trump with a bipartisan immigration bill last week, and said Trump and Republicans would be to blame for a government shutdown. Current federal funding expires on Saturday. (NBC News)

5/ Senate Democrats have 50 votes in favor of restoring net neutrality. Only one more Republican vote is needed in order to reverse the FCC's decision to deregulate the broadband industry. The attorneys general from 22 states have filed a lawsuit to block the net neutrality repeal. (Washington Post / New York Times)

6/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Trump can't be racist because he was on "The Apprentice." Sanders said claims that Trump is racist were "outrageous," adding, "Frankly, if the critics of the president were who he said he was, why did NBC give him a show for a decade on TV?" (Bloomberg)

7/ The White House doctor said Trump is in "excellent" overall health and that he performed "well" on a cognitive exam. At 6'3", 239 pounds, Trump is one pound away from being considered obese as defined by the Centers for Disease Control. (The Hill / Politico)

poll/ The number of uninsured Americans rose by 3.2 million in Trump's first year in office. The uninsured rate increased 1.3 percentage points since the last quarter of 2016, leaving 12.2% of Americans without health insurance. (Gallup)

poll/ 42% of Republicans consider negative news stories that are accurate to be "fake news." (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee want Devin Nunes to release the Fusion GPS transcript. Fusion also supports the release of the transcript. (Business Insider)

  2. U.S. counterintelligence officials warned Jared Kushner about Wendi Deng Murdoch, who could be using their friendship to further the interests of the Chinese government. (Wall Street Journal)

  3. Kim Jong-Un called Trump's nuclear button tweet the "spasm of a lunatic." (The Independent)

  4. Paul Manafort's trial will likely to start in September at the earliest after a federal judge rejected Robert Mueller's bid to kick off the trial in May. (Politico)

  5. Sixty-four trade groups, foreign governments, Republican candidates and more stayed at or held events at Trump properties during his first year in office. Before taking office, Trump said he would hand off control of his global business empire to his sons Donald Jr. and Eric. He didn't, however, divest himself of assets that could cause a conflict of interest. (Reuters)


Watch Orrin Hatch remove a pair of glasses he's not wearing:

Day 358: Racist.

1/ Trump vaguely denied calling Haiti a "shithole country," tweeting that "the language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough." Trump then blamed Democrats for the "outlandish proposal," which he called "a big setback for DACA!" He did not, however, deny that he called El Salvador or African countries "shitholes." (NBC News / Washington Post)

2/ Senator Richard Durbin contradicted Trump, saying the comments were "hate-filled, vile and racist" and that he repeatedly referred to African countries as "shitholes" during the private immigration meeting. Durbin said, "The most disheartening thing to me is my belief that that was the first time words that hateful had been spoken in the Oval Office of the White House." (New York Times / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

3/ The United Nations human rights office called Trump's comments "shocking," "shameful," and "no other word for this but racist." Haiti, the African Union, Mexico, and France all rejected Trump's comments. (Reuters / USA Today)

4/ Don Lemon: "The president of the United States is racist." The CNN Tonight host added that "A lot of us already knew that," and that Trump's comments were "disgusting," but not shocking. "They're not even really surprising." (Washington Post)

5/ Anderson Cooper: "The sentiment the President expressed today is a racist sentiment." Cooper also said that Trump's remarks about American immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations were "Not racial. Not racially charged. Racist." (CNN)

6/ At an event to honor Martin Luther King Jr, Trump decried racism, saying: "No matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal." He then signed a proclamation on Friday declaring Monday Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which every president since Ronald Reagan has signed. (The Guardian / USA Today / CNN)

poll/ 55% of Americans think Trump's mental fitness is an issue. Republicans called the question "unfair and politically motivated." (Axios)

poll/ 50% of Americans would vote for Oprah over Trump, but 54% voters don't want her to run. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Trump canceled his visit to London to avoid mass protests. He was originally scheduled to open a new U.S. embassy, but will send Rex Tillerson to do it instead. Trump tweeted that the "reason" he canceled his "trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration" and their decision to sell the previous embassy. (The Guardian)

  2. The US ambassador to Panama resigned over differences with the Trump administration. (CNN)

  3. Jeff Bezos donated $33 million to a scholarship fund for young "dreamers," which will help fund 1,000 college scholarships. (Washington Post)

  4. Corey Lewandowski is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week. Lewandowski said he won't plead the fifth as other witnesses have done. (The Daily Beast)

  5. Trump extended the Iran nuclear deal, but said he will "terminate" the agreement unless Congress and European allies agree to improve it. (Politico)

  6. The Education Department awarded a debt-collection contract to a company Betsy DeVos invested in before becoming education secretary. (Washington Post)

  7. Trump paid a former porn star $130,000 one month before the 2016 election so she wouldn't publicly discuss an alleged sexual encounter from 2006. Michael Cohen, the top attorney at the Trump Organization, arranged the payment to Stephanie Clifford. (Wall Street Journal)

Day 357: To surveil and abuse.

1/ Trump questioned why the US would admit people from "shithole countries" like Haiti or African after lawmakers floated the idea of restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal. "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Trump said, suggesting that the U.S. should instead bring more people from countries like Norway than African or Haiti. The White House didn't deny Trump that called those countries "shitholes." In a June meeting on immigration, Trump said Haitians "all have AIDS" and complained that Nigerians would never "go back to their huts" in Africa. (Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ The Trump administration will let states require people to work for Medicaid. Under the new guidance, states can now require Medicaid beneficiaries to work, volunteer or participate in job training. The elderly, disabled, pregnant women, and children are excluded. It's the first time in the fifty-year history of the program that Medicaid recipients may be required to hold down a job in order to receive benefits. (Washington Post / New York Times / NPR)

3/ The House reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the US intelligence community to collect Americans' email, text messages, photos, and other electronic communication without a warrant. The legislation, which passed 256 to 164, renews the program for six years and will now head to the Senate. (New York Times)

4/ Trump sent a series of confusing tweets about his position on the bill after a Fox News analyst appealed directly to Trump on-air, urging him to oppose the bill. First, Trump tweeted in apparent opposition to the bill that the "controversial FISA ACT … may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?" About 90 minutes later, Trump reversed course, tweeting that "today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!" (CNN / USA Today)

5/ Democrats plan to invite sexual assault victims to Trump's State of the Union address later this month to highlight the issue of sexual misconduct. The idea of inviting victims of Trump's alleged harassment to the speech has been scrapped. (NBC News)

6/ Steve Bannon hired a lawyer in preparation for his interview with the House Intelligence Committee next week. Bannon retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel. (The Daily Beast)

poll/ Trump is losing ground with women, in particular Millennial, white-collar, and blue-collar white women, according to an unpublished SurveyMonkey poll of 605,172 Americans. [Editor's note: this is a must read] (The Atlantic)

poll/ 79% of Americans say "Dreamers" should be allowed to remain in the US and apply for citizenship. 63% oppose building a wall along the Mexico border. (Quinnipiac)

  1. 58% of voters say that marijuana use should be made legal.

  2. 70% oppose enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

  3. 47% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Jeff Sessions.

  4. 52% of voters disapprove of the Republican tax plan.


Notables.

  1. Joe Arpaio resurrected false claims that Obama was not born in the United States. Arpaio claimed that Obama's birth certificate is a "forgery document." He is seeking the Republican nomination in Arizona's 2018 Senate race. (The Hill)

  2. Republicans have four convicted criminals running for Congress in 2018. Three of the men have suggested that their convictions show they were persecuted by the Obama administration for their political beliefs. (HuffPost)

  3. Trump has not formally proposed any new resources or spending to tackle the opioid epidemic. The 90-day public health emergency declaration ends on January 23rd. (Politico)

  4. The FBI will notify U.S. companies and the public about Russian efforts to manipulate social media and interfere in upcoming elections. The FBI's "foreign influence" task force, which was created last year, could dramatically reshape the relationship between the government and social media companies. (Bloomberg)

  5. Ryan Zinke announced a massive overhaul of the Interior Department that would move tens of thousands of government employees to new locations across the country and reorganize the management of federal lands. (The Hill)

  6. Kellyanne Conway said Trump "discovered" there doesn't need to be a "physical wall" along the country's entire southern border. Trump has said he will not sign an immigration deal that doesn't include funding for the border wall. (The Hill)

Day 356: A flawed legal premise.

1/ A federal judge blocked the Trump administration's attempt to end DACA, the Obama-era program that allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children to remain in the United States. A San Francisco-based U.S. District Court judge said Jeff Sessions' claim that the program is illegal was "based on a flawed legal premise," and ordered the administration to resume accepting DACA renewal applications. Trump responded, calling the court system "broken and unfair." Sarah Huckabee Sanders added that the decision was "outrageous." (Politico / Reuters / New York Times)

  • Immigration agents raided 7-Eleven stores nationwide, arresting 21 people. Agents targeted 98 stores nationwide. (NBC News)

2/ Trump declined to commit to an interview with Robert Mueller when asked at a news conference today. He said it "seems unlikely," but that "we'll see what happens." Trump repeatedly argued there has been "no collusion" between his campaign and Russia, and questioned why he would need to be interviewed. (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times)

3/ Trump's personal attorney filed lawsuits against Fusion GPS and BuzzFeed over the Steele dossier. The lawsuits, one in federal and the other in state court, both claim that the dossier contained "false and defamatory" allegations against Trump that resulted in "harm to his personal and professional reputation, current business interests, and the impairment of business opportunities." (ABC News / CNN)

  • Trump said his administration would take a "strong look" at libel laws. He criticized the current laws as a "disgrace" and a "sham." He pledged to make it easier for people to sue news organizations and publishers for defamation. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

4/ A panel of federal judges ruled that North Carolina's congressional map was unconstitutional on the grounds that Republicans drew the map with the intention of gaining a political advantage. The ruling, which imperils Republican seats in the upcoming election, marks the first time a federal court has blocked a congressional map on partisan gerrymandering grounds. (The New York Times)

5/ A member of Trump's National Security Council proposed withdrawing U.S. forces from Eastern Europe as a way to please Putin during the first months of the Trump presidency. Kevin Harrington's proposal, which was rejected, is the first known instance of senior Trump aides attempting to alter U.S. military actions to please Putin. (The Daily Beast)

6/ The Trump administration waived fines for Deutsche Bank and four other multinational banks convicted of manipulating global interest rates. Trump owes Deutsche at least $130 million in loans. The German bank was also fined $425 million by New York State for laundering $10 billion out of Russia. (International Business Times)

7/ The Interior Department removed Florida "from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms" and won't allow oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean off Florida. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said drilling would be "off the table" when it comes to waters. The move, following pressure from Republican Gov. Rick Scott, exempts Florida from the Trump administration's plan to open up offshore drilling in coastal waters. (NBC News)

8/ The White House plans to destroy the data collected for Trump's voter fraud commission rather than giving it to the Department of Homeland Security. White House Director of Information Technology Charles Herndon added that the commission did not create any "preliminary findings," despite Sarah Huckabee Sanders' previous assertion that such findings would also be turned over to DHS. (The Hill / Politico)

9/ Canada believes Trump intends to pull the United States out of NAFTA. The three countries will meet in Montreal this month for the sixth of seven planned rounds of negotiations. Major differences remain between the United States on one side and Mexico and Canada on the other. (Reuters)

poll/ 49% of Americans believe Obama is more responsible for the current U.S. economy than Trump. 40% believe Trump is responsible. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. Rep. Darrell Issa will not seek reelection to the House, becoming the second California Republican to quit this week. Rep. Ed Royce also said he did not plan to seek reelection. (Politico)

  2. A Senate Foreign Relations Committee report says the US is not prepared to defend against possible Russian meddling in the 2018 midterm elections or the 2020 presidential contest. (CNN)

  3. Robert Mueller has added a veteran cyber prosecutor to his team, signaling a recent focus on possible computer crimes. (Washington Post)

  4. Trump's companies sold more than $35 million in real estate in 2017, primarily to shell companies that obscure the buyers' identities. (USA Today)

  5. White House aides must decide before the end of January if they plan to stay through the November midterm elections or leave the administration. The deadline is intended to bring a sense of order to an anticipated staffing exodus. (CNN)

  6. Vermont's Senate approved a bill legalizing adult consumption and cultivation of marijuana, defying Jeff Sessions' escalating war on weed. (Vice News)

Day 355: Sunk.

1/ Trump's secretaries of state and defense are trying to convince him not to conduct a "bloody nose" attack against North Korea. Mattis and Tillerson are warning Trump that "a sharp, violent response to some North Korean provocation" is risky and could result in a global – possibly nuclear – catastrophe. (Business Insider)

  • The Trump administration plans to loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons and develop a new low-yield nuclear warhead for US Trident missiles. (The Guardian)

2/ Dianne Feinstein released the full transcript of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The head of the research firm behind the dossier of allegations against then-candidate Trump told congressional investigators that someone from inside Trump's network had also provided the FBI with corroborating information during the campaign. Simpson had asked the committee last week for the transcript to be made public, but Republican leaders declined prompting Feinstein to post the transcript today with "no agreement" from committee Republicans. (CNBC / Washington Post / Politico)

3/ Robert Mueller could interview Trump in the next few weeks on a limited set of questions. Mueller told Trump's lawyers in late December that he'd likely request an interview with Trump. A person familiar with the discussions said Mueller is most interested in whether Trump tried to obstruct justice. (The Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Trump's Russia ambassador warned lawmakers that the U.S.-Russia relationship would be "done" if the Kremlin interferes in the 2018 midterm elections. Jon Huntsman warned the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a closed-door meeting that "I don't think Russia is going to quit," and that "Putin probably has never been stronger." (The Daily Beast)

4/ White House officials believe that Trump will be "sunk" if Robert Mueller looks into Trump's finances as part of the Russia probe. "People don't think in the White House — don't think that he colluded with Russia," Michael Wolff said, author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. "They do think that if the investigation goes near his finances, he's sunk." (The Hill / CNBC)

5/ The Russian lawyer met Ivanka Trump after the Trump Tower meeting with Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner in June 2016. Natalia Veselnitskaya said that as she was leaving the building and waiting for an elevator, she exchanged pleasantries with a blond-haired woman whom she believed was Trump. (NBC News)

6/ Steve Bannon stepped down as executive chairman of Breitbart News. The moves comes after Rebekah Mercer cut financial ties with Bannon over his unflattering comments about Trump and his family in the Michael Wolff book. (New York Times / Politico)

7/ Trump said he would support a two-phase, bipartisan immigration deal in order to avoid a government shutdown. A potential deal would first address DACA protections and border security with what he called a "bill of love," followed by a comprehensive immigration bill. Trump said such a deal must include money for his border wall and strict immigration limits. (New York Times / Associated Press)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration spending plan calls for cuts to proven security measures in order to pay for his wall along the Mexican border. (New York Times)

  2. Trump renominated two judicial nominees that the American Bar Association rated as "not qualified" to serve. The ABA said one was unqualified for a lifetime seat on the bench due to his "work habits," while the other wasn't qualified due to her lack of trial court experience. In total, Trump resubmitted 21 judicial nominees to the Senate after their nominations expired in 2017. (HuffPost)

  3. Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff known for his hard-line immigration tactics, says he's running for Senate. Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt for defying a court order to stop racially profiling Latinos. He was pardoned by Trump. (CNN)

  4. The White House wants to find a new role for Andrew Puzder, the former head of Carl's Jr. who declined the nomination to become labor secretary after old domestic abuse allegations resurfaced. The White House, however, is apparently considering finding another role for Puzder inside the Trump administration. (Politico)

  5. Ahead of his first diplomatic trip to Israel, Jared Kushner's family real estate company received roughly $30 million in investment from one of Israel's largest financial institutions. (New York Times)

  6. Trump was named the world's most oppressive leader for "overall achievement in undermining global press freedom" by the Committee to Protect Journalists, beating out Erdoğan and Putin. Trump plans to announce his "MOST DISHONEST AND CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR" on Wednesday. (HuffPost)

  7. Trump will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos – an event synonymous with wealth and elite prestige. (New York Times)

Day 354: Executive time.

1/ Trump's legal team anticipates that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will try to directly interview Trump as part of the Russia probe. The team wants to submit written responses to Mueller's questions instead of having Trump appear for a formal, one-on-one sit-down. Mueller informed Trump's lawyers last month that he may want to interview Trump "soon." A person with direct knowledge of the discussions described them as "preliminary and ongoing." (NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

2/ Trump requires more "executive time" to watch TV, make phone calls, and tweet than he did in the early days of his presidency. The official schedule says Trump spends "executive time" in the Oval Office every morning from 8am to 11am, but officials say it's spent in his residence. Trump often comes down to the Oval Office around 11am. By comparison, George W. Bush usually started his day in the Oval at 6:45am and Obama would arrive between 9 and 10am, after his morning exercise. That's not all, Trump has several additional hours of "executive time" sprinkled throughout his schedule. All told, Trump spends roughly 5 hours on executive time over the course of an 8-hour workday. (Axios)

  • How much of your life is spent on Trump's "executive time." (Washington Post)

3/ Over the weekend, Trump defended his mental fitness, describing himself as a "very stable genius" in response to details in Michael Wolff's book that he is mentally unfit to serve. He insisted that opponents and the media were attacking his mental capacity because they had failed to prove collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump tweeted that "my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart." (New York Times / CNN / The Guardian)

  • Trump tweeted about his "consensual presidency," misquoting a New York Post column that had said Trump's presidency has been "enormously consequential." (The Hill)

4/ Jake Tapper abruptly ended an interview with White House adviser Stephen Miller on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday. Miller was there to talk about Michael Wolff's new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, but refused to answer questions about Trump directly and repeatedly attempted to shift the conversation toward criticism of CNN. "I think I've wasted enough of my viewers' time. Thank you, Stephen," Tapper said as he cut off the interview. Miller then refused to leave the CNN set and had to be escorted off the premises. (CNN / Business Insider)

5/ The prospect of Trump's removal from office is an almost daily topic of conversation in the White House, according to Michael Wolff. The author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House said the situation in the White House is so bad, "the 25th Amendment is a concept that is alive every day in the White House." The 25th Amendment outlines the process of removal in case a sitting President is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." (NBC News / Newsweek)

6/ Steve Bannon walked back his critical comments of Trump Jr. He said he "regrets" his "delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting" that the Trump Jr. meeting with Russians at Trump Tower during the campaign was "treasonous," "unpatriotic," and "bad shit." In a statement, Bannon called Trump Jr. "both a patriot and a good man," adding that "there was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt." (Axios / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration canceled provisional residency permits for 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived in the country since at least 2001, leaving them vulnerable to deportation. (Washington Post)

  2. Oprah Winfrey is "actively thinking" about running for president, according to two friends. Winfrey's speech at the Golden Globes, where she said "a new day is on the horizon," spurred chatter about a 2020 run. (CNN)

  3. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg signaled that she intends to outlast Trump by hiring law clerks for at least two more terms. (CNN)

  4. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said there was already evidence of Russian meddling in Mexico's election, which is set for July. (Reuters)

  5. The US Army's official Twitter account liked a tweet critical of Trump by "The Office" and "The Mindy Project" star Mindy Kaling. (Washington Post)

  6. A Senate bill that would reverse the FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality received its 30th co-sponsor, ensuring it will receive a vote on the Senate floor. (The Hill)

  7. Federal regulators rejected a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to subsidize coal and nuclear plants. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sided with critics, who argued that Perry’s proposal would upend competition in the nation’s electricity markets, which favors lowest-cost power sources. (New York Times)

Day 351: Possible obstruction.

1/ Trump ordered the White House's top lawyer to stop Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation, saying he expected his attorney general to protect him. Don McGahn unsuccessfully lobbied Sessions to remain in charge in March 2017. Trump reportedly erupted in anger in front of several White House officials. The previously unreported details have legal experts suggesting that there is currently a larger body of public evidence tying Trump to a possible crime of obstruction. Robert Mueller's investigation is currently investigating whether Trump obstructed justice while in office and whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. (New York Times)

  • THE TIMELINE:

  • Comey testified on May 3rd that the Russia investigation was ongoing to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Two days after Comey's testimony, a Sessions aide approached a Capitol Hill staff member asking for derogatory information about the FBI director. The attorney general wanted one negative news article about Comey per day.

  • Comey was fired on May 9th.

  • 🇷🇺 What you need to know about the Russia investigation.

2/ A third Republican called on Jeff Sessions to resign, saying he "is not able to take the reins and direct" the Russia probe because of his recusal. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, joins Mark Meadows, Freedom Caucus chair, and Jim Jordan, a member who sits on the oversight and judiciary committees in the US House of Representatives, who have called for Sessions to resign this week. (CNN)

3/ Paul Ryan supported House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes' threat to hold officials at Justice and the FBI in contempt of Congress if they didn't meet Nunes' subpoena demands. Over the summer, Nunes subpoenaed the Justice Department and FBI for documents related to the dossier about Trump's connections to the Kremlin and whether the FBI used information from the dossier to apply for warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to conduct surveillance on Trump associates. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray argued that the documents were highly classified and would not be released or shared outside the bureau. (CNN)

4/ Republican senators recommended possible criminal charges for the author of the Trump-Russia dossier. Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham suggested that the Justice Department investigate Christopher Steele for possibly lying to the FBI. (Washington Post / New York Times)

5/ The FBI is actively investigating allegations of corruption related to the Clinton Foundation. Prosecutors shut down the investigation in 2016 due to lack of evidence. FBI agents from Little Rock, Arkansas, are looking into whether Hillary Clinton promised or performed policy favors in exchange for donations to the foundation while she was secretary of state. (The Hill / CNN / New York Times)

6/ Michael Wolff called Trump the least credible person to ever walk on earth and that he "absolutely" spoke to Trump as part of reporting his book. The "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" author added that "100% of the people around" Trump "questions his intelligence and fitness for office." Trump tweeted that "I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book," adding "watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve" Bannon. (NBC News)

poll/ 61% of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized. In 2000, the adults who supported marijuana legalization stood at 31%. (Pew Research Center)


Notables.

  1. North and South Korea will sit down for their first formal talks in more than two years next week to find ways to cooperate on the Winter Olympics in the South and to improve their poor relationship. (Associated Press)

  2. The Trump administration froze $125 million in funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency – about a third of the annual US donation to the agency. (Axios)

  3. Scott Pruitt told friends and associates that he'd like to be attorney general if Jeff Sessions leaves the administration. (Politico)

  4. Pence's chief lawyer and domestic policy director are leaving his office. (CNN)

  5. The home of Roy Moore's accuser burned in a fire that is now under investigation by the Etowah County Arson Task Force. (Al.com)

  6. The White House asked to screen "The Post," a recently released political drama about the Washington Post's 1971 decision to publish the top-secret Pentagon Papers and the newspaper's legal victory over the Nixon administration. (Hollywood Reporter)

  7. Comcast fired about 500 salespeople, despite saying that the company would create thousands of new jobs in exchange for a big tax cut. (Ars Technica)

  8. The economy added 148,000 jobs in December, which means 2017 had the slowest rate of job growth in six years. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1% – a 17-year low. (MSNBC / Wall Street Journal)

Day 350: Cease and desist.

1/ Steve Bannon received a cease and desist letter from Trump's lawyer accusing him of breaching his confidentiality agreement by making "disparaging" and "outright defamatory statements" about Trump and his family. The letter comes after excerpts from Michael Wolff's book were made public, with Bannon calling the Trump Tower meeting with Russians "treasonous," "unpatriotic," and "bad shit." During the campaign, Trump had staffers sign a non-disclosure agreement which required all staff to refrain from making any disparaging comments about Trump, his family, or the campaign. (ABC News)

2/ Trump's lawyer also demanded that Michael Wolff and his publisher immediately "cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination" of the forthcoming book. Trump's lawyers are pursuing possible charges, including libel, in connection with the book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," which is scheduled to be released Friday – four days earlier than planned. (Washington Post / ABC News)

3/ Michael Wolff has tapes to back up the quotes in his book, including conversations with Steve Bannon and former White House deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh. On Twitter, Wolff thanked Trump for making his book the current best seller on Amazon. (Axios)

  • Senior White House officials are debating whether Katie Walsh should be fired from America First after she was quoted as reportedly saying that dealing with Trump is "like trying to figure out what a child wants." Walsh, a former White House adviser, has disputed the comment. (Axios)

4/ Breitbart board members are debating whether to fire Steve Bannon. Earlier in the day, Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that Breitbart News should consider removing its executive chairman. But that's not all, Bannon's billionaire benefactors, Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, formally cut financial ties with Bannon today. (Wall Street Journal / Politico)

5/ The White House banned staff from using personal cell phones in the West Wing. Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited security concerns for the ban. Staff will now be required to use their government-issued devices in the West Wing, which don't accommodate texting. The White House weighed a similar move in early November, after leaks to the media from within the administration angered Trump. (Bloomberg / NBC News)

6/ Trump dissolved his voter fraud commission. He blamed states for refusing to comply with the panel's requests for voter information, including birth dates and partial Social Security numbers. The commission was set up in May to investigate Trump's unfounded claims that massive voter fraud had cost him the popular vote. (CNN)

7/ Jeff Sessions will allow federal prosecutors to more aggressively enforce marijuana laws. Sessions is expected to rescind an Obama-era policy of discouraging federal prosecutors from bringing charges of marijuana-related crimes or from interfering with marijuana sales in states that have legalized sales of the drug. In February, Sessions said that while states "can pass the laws they choose," he said it remains "a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States." (Associated Press / New York Times / Politico)

8/ The Trump administration plans to allow offshore oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the proposal would make about 90% of the U.S. outer continental shelf available for offshore leasing. (CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Freedom Caucus leaders called for Jeff Sessions to step down, citing recent leaks from the Justice Department and FBI. (The Hill)

  2. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray met with Paul Ryan about the House Russia investigation. The meeting was related to a document request by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes this summer. (Politico)

  3. Dianne Feinstein asked Dan Scavino and Brad Parscale to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Scavino is the White House social media director and Parscale oversaw the Trump campaign's digital operation. (Mother Jones)

  4. More than a dozen members of Congress met with a Yale University psychiatry professor last month to discuss Trump's mental state and recent behavior. (Politico)

  5. Virginia determined the outcome of a tied House of Delegates race by random drawing after two delegates each received at 11,608 votes – a Republican won. Republicans will hold a 51-49 majority in Virginia's state house. (Vox)

  6. The US will suspend nearly all security aid to Pakistan as frustration mounts with the country's efforts to fight terror groups. (New York Times)

  7. The Trump administration proposed rules for health plans that bypass some Affordable Care Act protections. The alternative health care plans would be reclassified so they no longer would have to include a set of 10 essential health benefits that the ACA requires. (Washington Post)

Day 349: Treasonous.

1/ Steve Bannon called the Trump Tower meeting with Russians "treasonous," "unpatriotic," and "bad shit." He added: "The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower … with no lawyers … You should have called the FBI immediately." Bannon's comments come from forthcoming book the Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff. (The Guardian)

2/ Trump responds: "Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind." Trump's statement added: "Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books." (Bloomberg / Politico)

3/ Paul Manafort sued Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, and the Justice Department. The lawsuit challenges the authority given to Mueller by Rosenstein, and argues that Mueller's decision to charge Manafort with alleged money laundering crimes had nothing to do with the 2016 campaign and went too far. (CNN / New York Times)

4/ Trump taunts North Korea: My "Nuclear Button" is "much bigger and more powerful" than Kim Jong-un's – and "my Button works!" Trump's tweet came after Kim said he has a "nuclear button on the desk in my office" and "all of the mainland United States is within the range of our nuclear strike." (New York Times / The Hill)

  • The "Nuclear Button" explained: There is no button. (New York Times)

  • A House Democrat called on lawmakers to pass a measure restricting Trump's ability to launch a preemptive nuclear strike on North Korea without congressional approval. (The Hill)

5/ Fusion GPS defended the dossier of alleged Trump-Russia ties and called on Republicans to release the firm's testimony. "The attack on our firm," the Fusion GPS founders wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed, "is a diversionary tactic by Republicans who don't want to investigate Donald Trump's ties to Russia." Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch write they hired Christopher Steele to investigate Trump's repeated efforts "to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun." They added: "As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the [FBI] had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp," referring to a drunk George Papadopoulos, who bragged about Russia having political dirt on Hillary Clinton to one of Australia's top diplomats. (New York Times)

6/ Trump tweets that the "corrupt media awards" will be presented to the "fake news media" next week. In November, Trump suggested there should be a contest among news networks, except for Fox News, for a "Fake News Trophy." A Rasmussen poll conducted after Trump's suggestion found that most Americans would award Fox News the trophy. "THE MOST DISHONEST AND CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR" will be presented Monday at 5:00 pm ET. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. In 2017 US manufacturing had its strongest year since 2004. (Bloomberg)

  2. Trump's pick to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement called for politicians in sanctuary cities to be charged with crimes. Thomas Homan said the Department of Justice needs "to file charges against the sanctuary cities" and "hold back their funding," and the politicians enforcing sanctuary city policies need to be held "personally accountable." (The Hill)

  3. Rupert Murdoch called Trump a "fucking idiot" after a conversation about immigration. "Murdoch suggested [in a Dec. 2016 phone call] that taking a liberal approach to H-1B visas, which open America's doors to select immigrants, might be hard to square with his promises to build a wall and close the borders. But Trump seemed unconcerned, assuring Murdoch, 'We'll figure it out.' 'What a fucking idiot,' said Murdoch, shrugging, as he got off the phone." (New York Magazine)

  4. Democrats Doug Jones and Tina Smith will both be sworn into the Senate today, narrowing the GOP majority. (NPR)

  5. North Korea and South Korea established contact on a hotline that's been dormant for almost two years. (CNN)

  6. Sheriff David Clarke was temporarily blocked from tweeting after Twitter users complained that three of his messages violated the terms of service. Clarke was placed in read-only mode until he deleted three tweets that called for violence against members of the media. (CNN)

  7. The National Security Agency is losing its top talent because of low pay, slumping morale, and unpopular reorganization. (Washington Post)

Day 348: Just a coffee boy.

1/ A drunk George Papadopoulos bragged about the political dirt Russia had on Hillary Clinton to Australia's top diplomat at a London bar in May 2016. Australian officials passed the information about Papadopoulos to their American counterparts two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online. The FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 into Russia's attempts to disrupt the election following the revelation that the Trump campaign had information about the DNC's hacked emails Trump and his advisers have dismissed Papadopoulos' campaign role as just a "coffee boy." (New York Times)

2/ Trump suggested that former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin should face jail time after the State Department posted emails it found on Anthony Weiner's computer. Abedin had forwarded State Department passwords to her personal Yahoo account. In a tweet, Trump called on the "deep state" Justice Department to prosecute both Abedin and James Comey. (Washington Post)

3/ Orrin Hatch will retire at the end of the year, resisting pressure from Trump to seek an eighth term. The move opens the door for Mitt Romney to run for the seat. During the 2016 campaign, Romney called then-candidate Trump a "fraud" and "phony" who was unfit to serve. Hatch is 83-years-old and the longest-serving Senate Republican. (New York Times / Politico)

4/ 2017 was the safest year on record for commercial passenger air travel with airlines recording no commercial passenger jet deaths. Trump took credit for the record on Twitter, but didn't provide details what he did to improve airline safety. (Reuters / The Hill)

  • Workplace deaths in the coal mining industry increased last year to their highest point in three years. 15 miners died on the job in 2017, compared with eight in 2016. (The Hill)

5/ White House aides are worried about 2018 as several senior officials are expected to depart in the coming year – with no replacements lined up – and Robert Mueller's Russia investigation looms. Aides expect few things to get done in Washington this year as they head into a contentious midterm election season. (Politico)

  • Democrats are already campaigning for 2020. Many Democrats and some Republicans say there's a chance Trump may not be on the ballot in 2020 for any number of reasons: He resigns; gets removed from office; chooses not to seek re-election; or loses in a GOP primary. Steve Bannon placed Trump's odds of completing his first term at 30%. (NBC News)

6/ More women than ever are considering a run for governor. At least 79 women — 49 Democrats and 30 Republicans — are running for governor or seriously considering it as filing deadlines approach. A record 34 women ran for governor in 1994. (Washington Post)

  • Elizabeth Warren is positioned to run for president in 2020 if she decides to. (Politico)

  • Kirsten Gillibrand's voting record suggests she's running for president in 2020. Gillibrand's record is consistently anti-Trump. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Trump has made 1,950 false or misleading claims in 347 days – an average of 5.6 claims a day. (Washington Post)

  2. Anthony Scaramucci is telling friends that Trump misses him and want him back in the West Wing. (The Daily Beast)

  3. Trump rescinded proposed rules that would have required companies to disclose the chemicals used in fracking. (Associated Press)

  4. The Interior Department won't criminally prosecute energy companies and other businesses that accidentally kill migratory birds, reversing a longstanding practice at the agency. (Reuters)

  5. Trump renewed leases for a copper and nickel mining operation on the border of Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which reversed an Obama-era decision. (Washington Post)

  6. Trump scrapped Obama's proposal for the federal government to underwrite half the cost of an Amtrak tunnel connecting New Jersey to Penn Station. (Crain's New York)

  7. The Justice Department wants a question about citizenship to be added to the 2020 census. Critics say the move could limit participation by immigrants who fear that the government could use the information against them. (ProPublica)

  8. South Korea proposed holding high-level talks with North Korea, a day after Kim Jong-un suggested inter-Korean dialogue to discuss easing military tensions and his country's participation in the Winter Olympics in the South. (New York Times)

  9. Trump tweeted that the US is watching the "brutal and corrupt Iranian regime" amid deadly protests in the country. The State Department lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. (CNN)

  10. Trump tweets the US "foolishly" handed Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years while getting "nothing but lies and deceit" in return. He's pledged to put a stop to it. (Reuters)

Day 344: Looks bad.

1/ Trump: The Russia investigation makes the US "look very bad" and "puts the country in a very bad position." The comment came during an impromptu 30-minute interview with The New York Times at his golf club in West Palm Beach. Trump insisted 16 times that there has been "no collusion" discovered by Robert Mueller's investigation. Additional quotes below. (New York Times)

  1. On collusion with Russia: "There is no collusion" and even if there was collusion, "it's not a crime."

  2. On reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails: "I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department."

  3. On China: "China's hurting us very badly on trade, but I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war."

  4. On North Korea: "…a nuclear menace…"

2/ Russia said the worsening relationship with the US is a major disappointment. A Putin spokesman told reporters that Russia still wants improved relations with the US, but they have to be based on a "mutual trust and mutual respect" and that "it takes two to tango." (Associated Press)

3/ Trump tweets that the US could use some "good old Global Warming" right now while most of the Northeast is experiencing record-breaking cold weather. Weather and climate change are two different things: Weather is the short-term atmospheric conditions, while climate change is how the atmosphere acts over long periods of time. (The Hill)

4/ Trump fired the remaining 16 members of his HIV/AIDS advisory council. Members received a FedEx letter informing them that they were fired. There was no explanation or reason given. (Washington Blade / Newsweek)


Notables.

  1. Trump accused China of being caught "RED HANDED" for allowing oil into North Korea after U.S. spy satellites detected Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels about 30 times since October. (Reuters)

  2. The Trump administration rolled back offshore drilling rules put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The rule change will save operators $288 million over 10 years. (Bloomberg)

  3. Romanian hackers took over two-thirds of Washington DC's outdoor surveillance cameras a week before Trump's inauguration. 123 of the D.C. police department's 187 outdoor surveillance cameras were hacked, leaving them unable to record for several days. (Washington Post)

Day 343: Back to work.

1/ Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign and the RNC coordinated their voter outreach using Russian-acquired information. Russian hackers stole voter information from election databases in several states in 2016. Mueller's prosecutors want to know if the Trump campaign used that information to target voters in key swing states and determine if the joint RNC-Trump campaign data operation effort was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing the election. Jared Kushner was in charge of the campaign's digital operation and has recently searched for a crisis public relations firm to handle press inquiries. (Yahoo News / Business Insider)

2/ A jailed Russian said he can prove he hacked the Democratic National Committee computers on behalf of Russian intelligence. Konstantin Kozlovsky claims he left behind a data signature in a hidden data file that corresponds to his Russian passport number and the number of his visa to visit the Caribbean island of St. Martin. (McClatchy DC)

3/ Robert Mueller may indict Paul Manafort and Rick Gates a second time. Washington legal experts believe Mueller is preparing to file a superseding indictment to formally charge both men with violating tax laws. (The Daily Beast)

4/ Trump's legal team plans to call Michael Flynn a liar seeking to protect himself if he accuses the president or his senior aides of wrongdoing. Flynn is the most senior former Trump adviser known to have provided Mueller's team with information, and the lenient terms of his plea agreement suggest he has promised significant information to investigators. (Washington Post)

5/ Trump golfed two days in a row after tweeting "it's back to work in order to Make America Great Again." On the second day, a box truck was parked between cameras and the president in order to block the view of Trump golfing. (Associated Press / BuzzFeed News)

6/ Trump falsely claimed that he has signed more legislation than any other president at this point in their term. While Trump did sign more bills in his first 100 days than any president since Truman, he has now signed the fewest number of bills into law of any first-year president dating back to Eisenhower. (Politico)

7/ 34% of senior Trump administration officials have resigned, been fired, or been reassigned this year. It's the highest first-year departure rate of any other administration in the last 40 years. The next-highest first-year turnover rate was Ronald Reagan's, with 17% of senior aides leaving the administration in 1981. (Wall Street Journal)

poll/ Obama and Hillary Clinton are the most admired man and woman in the United States. Trump was the second-most admired man. (Gallup)

poll/ 26% of Americans think Trump's Twitter use is appropriate, with 59% disapproving and 15% unsure. (The Hill)

poll/ 44% of Republicans think Trump successfully repealed the Affordable Care Act. Overall, 31% believe Trump repealed the Affordable Care Act, 49% say he hasn’t, and 21% aren't sure. (Vox)

poll/ 52% of Americans say the U.S. is less respected in the world than a year ago. 21% said they think the U.S. became more respected in the world and 26% think there was no change. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. Trump has spent 110 days as president at one of his properties. (CNN)

  2. New York City, San Francisco, and Philadelphia filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense, saying the system for reporting service members disqualified from gun ownership is broken. (Associated Press)

  3. China is projected to overtake the US economy by 2032. (Bloomberg)

  4. The Virginia State Board of Elections postponed plans for a name-drawing to decide the winner of a deadlocked House of Delegates race after one of the candidates announced plans for a court challenge over whether the election was really a tie. (Washington Post)

  5. A US appeals court rejected a legal challenge to Trump's voter fraud commission, saying the Electronic Privacy Information Center is "not a voter" and does not have legal standing to sue the voter fraud commission for alleged violations of the 2002 E-Government Act. (The Hill)

  6. Roy Moore filed a complaint alleging "systematic voter fraud." The Alabama secretary of state dismissed complaints of election fraud and officials plan to certify the results today. Moore was the first Republican to lose a United States Senate race in Alabama in 25 years and has refused to concede the election. (New York Times / NBC News)

Day 341: Pile of garbage.

1/ Trump claimed the "tainted" FBI is using the "bogus," "pile of garbage" dossier to go after him. The dossier contains allegations about Trump's connections to Russia and possible coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin during the 2016 election. Many of the details contained in the dossier have been verified. (Washington Post / Politico)

2/ Andrew McCabe plans to retire in March when he becomes fully eligible for pension benefits. Trump attacked the FBI's deputy director on Twitter, saying McCabe is "racing the clock to retire with full benefits." McCabe served as James Comey's deputy and has been the focus of conservatives who question whether the FBI conducted an impartial investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. McCabe cannot be fired by Trump. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)

  • The Justice Department's inspector general review of the Clinton email investigation continues. Authorities are examining whether the Justice Department and FBI followed established "policies and procedures'' when then-FBI Director James Comey announced that the bureau would not recommend criminal charges against Clinton. (USA Today)

3/ House Republicans are investigating an FBI lawyer's contacts with the reporter that broke the dossier story. James Baker communicated with Mother Jones reporter David Corn weeks before the November 2016 election. Corn was the first to report the existence of the dossier on October 31st, but has denied that Baker was the source for his story. Baker was reassigned last week. (Politico)

4/ In a June meeting on immigration, Trump said Haitians "all have AIDS" and complained that Nigerians would never "go back to their huts" in Africa. Sarah Sanders called the report "outrageous." (New York Times)

5/ A federal judge blocked Trump's restrictions on reuniting refugee families and partially suspended the ban on refugees coming from 11 mostly Muslim countries. Trump's October executive order banned entry of spouses and children of refugees who have already settled in the US, known as "follow-to-join" refugees. (Washington Post)

6/ The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the latest version of Trump's travel ban violates federal law, but will remain in effect anyway. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court issued an order saying the ban can be enforced while challenges to the policy move through the legal system. (CNN)

7/ A federal appeals court rejected Trump's bid to block the military from accepting transgender recruits starting on January 1st. It was the second appeals court to reject the administration's policy change. (Reuters)

8/ A federal judge ruled that Trump's voter fraud commission must give Democrats access to the panel's records. The group held its last meeting in September and will not meet again this year. The commission is expected to issue a report early next year. (Politico)

9/ The United Nations Security Council placed new sanctions on North Korea, cutting off fuel supplies and ordering North Koreans working overseas to return home. North Korea called the sanctions an act of war. (New York Times / Reuters)

  • The Trump administration linked financial support for the United Nations to compliance with American demands at least four times in the past week. (New York Times)

10/ Trump told his friends Mar-a-Lago: "You all just got a lot richer." The comment was in reference to tax reform Trump signed into law hours earlier. (CBS News)

11/ More than 4 in 5 Americans who enrolled in Affordable Care Act health insurance live in states that Trump won. The four states with the highest number of sign-ups – Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia – account for nearly 3.9 million of the 8.8 million consumers who have signed up for coverage. (ABC News)


Notables.

  1. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin received a gift-wrapped box full of horse manure. A Christmas card inside the package read, "We're returning the 'gift' of the Christmas tax bill. It's bullshit," adding "P.S. - Kiss Donald for me." (NBC News / AL.com)

  2. Federal prosecutors subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records related to Jared Kushner's family real estate business. The bank has lent the family hundreds of millions of dollars. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  3. The FBI asked Cyprus for financial information about a defunct bank that was used by wealthy Russians with political connections. The FBI's request appears to be connected to Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation of Paul Manafort and money that flowed between former Soviet states and the US through Cypriot banks. (The Guardian)

  4. Russian submarines have been prowling around undersea data cables that provide internet to North America and Europe. (Washington Post)

  5. Where is Trump’s Cabinet? It's anybody’s guess. (Politico)

  6. What happened to Trump's wall? It's in pieces, in the desert. (Bloomberg)

Day 337: Very intense.

WTF Just Happened Today will be back on Tuesday, December 26th. Until then, join me in the community forum to share and discuss what the fuck is going on. ✌️


1/ The House Intelligence Committee asked Steve Bannon and Corey Lewandowski to testify as part of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Both were asked to testify in early January as part of a voluntary, closed-door meeting. The committee hasn't received a response from either Bannon or Lewandowski, yet. (Bloomberg)

2/ Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law after cable news networks questioned if he would keep his promise to sign the legislation before Christmas. Trump was initially schedule to sign the bill in early 2018 in order to delay automatic spending cuts and give companies time to adjust to the changes in the new tax code. Instead, Trump called his staff to the Oval Office after seeing the news coverage and said the the legislation needed to be signed "now." (New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ The Koch brothers network will launch a multimillion-dollar push next year to sell the GOP tax bill, with paid advertising and town halls to educate voters. About one-third of the country supports the tax plan. (Politico)

4/ More than 700 people have left the EPA since Trump took office and most are not being replaced. Of the employees who have left, more than 200 are scientists. (New York Times)

5/ Trump has visited his properties more than 100 times this year. His prolonged holiday visit to Mar-A-Lago will mark the 106th day Trump has visited one of his properties as President. (CNN)

6/ A meeting between Trump and his top advisers turned into a heated exchange over the midterm elections. Corey Lewandowski criticized the Republican National Committee and several White House departments for not raising enough money and not doing enough to support Trump's agenda. Later, outside the Oval Office, Lewandowski political director Bill Stepien had a "very intense" conversation about the broader political operation that stretched for 10 minutes. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • The White House is bracing for a bloodbath in the 2018 midterms, which could eliminate the Republican congressional majorities and stymie Trump's legislative agenda. (Politico)

7/ Trump's deputy chief of staff will leave the administration early next year to pursue private-sector work. Rick Dearborn oversaw the White House's political operation, public outreach, and legislative affairs. (Wall Street Journal)

poll/ 28% of Americans have a positive view of Robert Mueller's investigation compared to 21% who have a negative view, and 15% who have a neutral view. 36% of those polled have no opinion of Mueller yet. (Wall Street Journal)


Notables.

  1. Trump left the White House without holding an end-of-the-year press conference. It's the first time in 15 years that a president has opted not to. (CNN)

  2. The Trump administration is considering separating parents from their children when families are caught entering the country illegally. The move is meant to discourage border crossings, but immigrant groups have called it draconian and inhumane. (New York Times)

  3. Carter Page failed his Ph.D. twice and blamed it on "anti-Russian bias." Examiners called the former Trump foreign policy advisor's thesis "verbose" and "vague." (The Guardian)

  4. Nearly $1.5 million in taxpayers' money has been spent over the past two decades to cover harassment claims across all Senate offices, a report released by the Senate's Rules and Appropriations committee shows. (CBS News)

Day 336: A formula for success.

1/ Nearly 2 million children will lose health coverage if Congress doesn't fund the Children's Health Insurance Program by Friday. CHIP covers 9 million children across the country, but Congress failed to authorize new funding in September. (NBC News)

2/ Current government funding expires at the end of the day Friday. House Republicans are working toward passage of a stripped-down, temporary funding measure to keep the government funded through January 19th. The current plan includes $2.85 billion for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which lapsed in October. (New York Times)

3/ Two measures intended to stabilize the Affordable Care Act markets were kicked to next year after conservatives in the House said they wouldn't support the legislation. The inclusion of the ACA fixes as part of the year-end spending deal was a promise Mitch McConnell made to Susan Collins in order to get her vote on tax reform. (Bloomberg / Politico)

4/ Trump won't sign his "big, beautiful" tax cut before Christmas due to a technical snafu. He will sign the bill on January 3rd so that automatic spending cuts to Medicare and other programs don't take effect. (Bloomberg)

5/ Trump's personal tax cut could save him as much as $15 million a year. Jared Kushner could see his tax burden cut by $12 million, while five other members of Trump's inner circle will see benefits worth as much as $4.5m from changes to the estate tax. (The Guardian)

6/ Democrats tapped a constitutional law expert as their leader on the House Judiciary Committee. Jerry Nadler takes over as the ranking Democrat on the panel following the resignation of John Conyers. The Judiciary Committee would be responsible for initiating impeachment proceedings against Trump if Democrats win back the House in 2018. (Politico / Washington Post)

7/ The White House counsel knew Michael Flynn had probably violated two federal laws in January. Don McGahn learned on December 29, 2016, that Flynn had counseled Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, not to retaliate against economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. McGahn then researched federal laws dealing with lying to federal investigators and negotiating with foreign governments. He also warned Trump about Flynn's possible violations. (Foreign Policy)

  1. January 24th: Flynn lied to the FBI in an interview.

  2. January 27th: Sally Yates told McGahn that Flynn was in a "compromise situation"

  3. January 27th: Trump asked James Comey to pledge his loyalty. He declined.

  4. February 13th: Flynn was fired.

  5. February 14th Trump asked Comey to shutdown the FBI investigation into Flynn.

  6. May 9th: Trump fired Comey.

8/ Jeff Sessions asked the FBI to reexamine evidence in the dormant Uranium One deal. Trump and some Republicans have called the 2010 deal to sell U.S. uranium mining facilities to Russia's state atomic energy company corrupt, because several people involved had contributed millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary Clinton, however, wasn't involved in the decision while secretary of state, the State Department official who approved the deal has confirmed. (NBC News)

9/ A secret group of House Republicans has been investigating Justice Department and FBI officials for what they believe is corruption as it relates to the handling of a dossier describing allegations of Trump's ties to the Kremlin. The group hasn't informed Democrats about its plans. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said committee rules require cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, but it requires that Paul Ryan enforce them – that hasn't happened. (Politico)

poll/ 47% of Americans approve of Robert Mueller's handling of the Russia investigation. 56% say Trump's comments on the Russia probe have been mostly or completely false. (CNN)

poll/ Voters prefer Democrats by 10 points on a generic 2018 midterm election ballot. The 44% to 34% preference by voters is the party's largest lead of the year. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Al Franken will step down on January 2nd following allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior and groping. (Reuters)

  2. The Trump administration has approved the commercial sale of weapons to Ukraine, which will be used by Ukrainian forces fighting a Russian-backed separatist movement. (Washington Post)

  3. The GOP tax bill will open up oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Congressional Budget Office projects that Alaska and the federal government could make about $1 billion from leases and sales in the area over the next decade. (ABC News)

  4. Russian trolls promoted autocracy and fear during key events in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They infiltrated the online conversations of millions of Americans on Facebook and Twitter. (NBC News)

  5. The United Nations General Assembly rejected Trump's unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The General Assembly voted 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, to demand that the US rescind its December 6th declaration on Jerusalem. (The Guardian)

  6. "Fox & Friends" was named the "most influential" show in media because Trump watches it. Trump congratulated the hosts in a tweet: "You deserve it - three great people! The many Fake News Hate Shows should study your formula for success!" (The Hill)

Day 335: Taking names.

1/ The Republican tax bill passed the Senate in a 51 to 48 vote. No Democrats backed the bill. The House, forced to vote a second time on the $1.5 trillion tax bill, approved it in a 224 to 201 vote. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is expected to head to Trump's desk in the coming days. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Trump claimed the Republican tax bill "essentially repealed Obamacare." The bill eliminates the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, but Trump said "we didn't want to bring it up" until the legislation had passed. (Bloomberg / Talking Points Memo)

3/ Trump criticized the news media for its "demeaning" coverage of tax reform. "The Tax Cuts are so large and so meaningful, and yet the Fake News is working overtime to follow the lead of their friends, the defeated Dems, and only demean," Trump tweeted, adding: "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!" (The Hill)

4/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders attributed Trump's low approval rating to the media's coverage of him. The tax bill is Trump's first legislative accomplishment since entering the White House nearly a year ago. Trump's 35% approval rating is a historic low for a president at this point in their first term. (Washington Post)

5/ Donald Trump Jr. suggested that "people at the highest levels of government" have conspired to block his father's agenda, saying they "don't want to let America be America." He added that the investigations into Russian election meddling and his father's campaign are evidence of a "rigged system." Trump Jr. made the comments at a gathering of young conservative activists during an event in West Palm Beach, Florida. (CNN)

6/ Congressional Democrats are stepping back from their pledge to force a vote on DACA by the end of the month. Dozens of Democrats vowed to withhold support for the Republican legislation if the GOP refused to allow a vote on the Dream Act, which would allow roughly 1.2 million immigrants to legally remain in the United States. But a group of Democrats facing reelection in conservative states next year say they aren't willing to hold the line, which means the party will likely be unable to block the spending bill. (Washington Post)

  • John Kelly met with a bipartisan group of senators to lay the groundwork for an immigration deal in January. Congressional Republicans and the White House have long said any DACA deal would need to be paired with security and other enforcement measures. (Politico)

7/ Nikki Haley told the United Nations that Trump would be "taking names" of the countries that vote against his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a letter to several countries – including US allies – Haley warned that "the president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us. We will take note of each and every vote on this issue." (Bloomberg / The Guardian)

poll/ 79% of Americans say they're frequently stressed out and 41% say they lack the time to do what they want. (Gallup)

poll/ 56% of voters say they'll vote for a Democrat in the 2018 midterm election. 38% plan to vote for a Republican. (CNN)

poll/ 36% of Americans say they would vote for Trump in 2020. 38% are dead set on voting against Trump and an additional 14% say they’ll probably vote for the Democrat on the ballot. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Use of the "angry" button on Facebook by Democrats more than doubled since the presidential election. (Pew)

  2. Paul Ryan called reports of his retirement greatly exaggerated "rank speculation." It was previously reported that Ryan told confidants that he will not seek another term as speaker and expressed a preference for retiring shortly after next year’s midterm elections. (Politico)

  3. France will ban the production of all oil and gas by 2040. (The Hill)

Day 334: "The single worst piece of legislation."

1/ The House passed tax reform today, but will have to vote again tomorrow after the Senate parliamentarian said three provisions violated the Byrd Rule and would have to be removed from the bill. Senate Republicans plan to vote on the measure tonight with the provisions removed, which would require the House to revote on the measure tomorrow, since both chambers must pass identical bills. The House initially passed the bill in a 227-203 vote with all but 12 Republicans voting for the bill. No Democrats supported it. Trump is expected to sign the Tax Cuts And Jobs Act into law before the end of the week. The bill will add $1.5 trillion to the federal debt over the next decade as it cuts tax rates for corporations, provides new breaks for private businesses, and reorganizes the individual tax code. The legislation also repeals the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate that most Americans buy health insurance coverage or face a fine. (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Tax Bill Calculators: Will Your Taxes Go Up or Down? (New York Times) / Washington Post)

  • What's in the final Republican tax bill. The legislation would cut taxes for corporations. Taxpayers in large part would receive temporary tax cuts that expire after 2025. (New York Times)

  • The GOP tax bill will impact large, high-tax, high-cost-of-living cities most by capping the state and local income and property deductions at $10,000. Capping the benefit will potentially expose residents of those areas to a higher tax liability and reduce their property values. (Politico)

  • Senator Mark Warner called the GOP tax plan "the single worst piece of legislation that I've seen." (CNBC)

2/ The GOP tax bill will lower taxes for 95% of Americans in 2018, but within a decade 53% of Americans will pay more in taxes under the plan with 82.8% of the bill's benefit going to the top 1%. In 2018, the highest earners on average will receive a larger tax cut than those making less. Those earning between $49,000 and $86,000 will receive an average cut of about $900, or roughly 1%. Those earning more than $733,000 would receive a cut of about $51,000, or roughly 6.9%. (Washington Post / Vox)

3/ Trump's new campaign slogan is "How's your 401(k) doing?" More than half of Americans don't have one. (Bloomberg)

4/ Trump considered rescinding Neil Gorsuch's nomination after the Supreme Court pick said he found Trump's repeated attacks on the federal judiciary "disheartening" and "demoralizing." Trump called the report "FAKE NEWS" on Twitter. (Washington Post)

5/ Members of Robert Mueller's team believe their investigation will continue through 2018. White House lawyers were expected to meet with Mueller later this week in hopes of a sign that Mueller's focus on Trump is nearing its end. White House lawyers said they'll cooperate with Mueller despite Trump and his allies have recently accused the Justice Department and FBI of bias and overreach. (Washington Post)

poll/ 55% of Americans oppose the Republican tax reform bill with 66% saying the bill does more to help the wealthy than the middle class. (CNN)

poll/ 23% of Americans say "fake news" is the second more annoying phrase in 2017. "Whatever" was the most annoying phrase. (Marist)

  1. Trump vs Fake News: What you need to know.

Notables.

  1. The Senate Banking Committee rejected Trump's nominee for the Export-Import Bank. Scott Garrett once called the institution "corporate welfare" and tried to have it shut down. (Bloomberg)

  2. Tim Kaine's request for data on Senate sexual harassment claims was rejected. The Office of Compliance said "confidentiality provisions" means that "the OOC does not possess reliable information regarding the number of sexual harassment claims that have been filed or settled." (Politico)

  3. The EPA terminated its contract with a GOP opposition research firm after Senate Democrats said Definers Public Affairs' close ties to the GOP "presents an appearance of impropriety to which you as administrator should never be a party." (The Hill)

  4. Connecticut will close its health care program for low- and middle-income children on January 31st unless Congress provides new federal funding. Congress let the Children's Health Insurance Program lapse in September, which provides insurance for nearly 9 million children nationwide. (The Hill)

  5. The Senate Intelligence Committee is looking at Jill Stein for potential "collusion with the Russians." The Green Party candidate attended a 2015 dinner in Moscow, which was also attended by Michael Flynn. Putin was seated next to Flynn and across the table from Stein. (Washington Post)

  6. Control of the Virginia legislature came down to a single vote with the Republican seat getting flipped Democratic in a 11,608 to 11,607 vote. (Washington Post)

Day 333: Not looking good.

1/ The FBI warned Trump in 2016 that Russia would try to infiltrate his campaign. Both Trump and Hillary Clinton received counterintelligence briefings by senior FBI officials, which advised them to alert the FBI to any "suspicious overtures to their campaigns." Trump was "briefed and warned" at the session about potential espionage threats from Russia. (NBC News)

2/ Robert Mueller obtained "many tens of thousands" of Trump transition emails, including the emails of Jared Kushner and 11 others. The emails came from the General Services Administration, which hosted the transition email system, and include exchanges about potential appointments, gossip about senators, vulnerabilities of Trump nominees, PR strategies, and policy planning. (Axios)

3/ A lawyer from Trump's transition team accused Robert Mueller of unlawfully obtaining the emails in a seven-page letter sent to the House and Senate oversight committees. Kory Langhofer argued that the General Services Administration "unlawfully produced" emails which were subject to attorney-client privilege. Peter Carr, a spokesman from Mueller's office, said: "When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process." (Politico / Axios)

4/ Trump said he is not considering firing Robert Mueller, but that "my people" are "very upset" with how Mueller obtained his transition team's emails and the situation is "not looking good." Congresswoman Jackie Speier, meanwhile, said "rumors" on Capitol Hill suggest Trump plans to fire Mueller on December 22nd, after Congress leaves Washington for the winter recess. (Washington Post / CNN / KQED)

  • The cooperation between Trump's lawyers and Robert Mueller is fracturing. As the investigation has reached deeper into Trump's inner circle, Trump's lawyers and supporters have increased their attacks on Mueller. (New York Times)

5/ Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are trying to wrap up their Russia probe by the end of the year. Democrats have requested as many as 30 additional interviews with new witnesses, but none have been scheduled beyond the end of this month. Some witnesses are scheduled to be interviewed in New York this week, leaving Democrats to choose between attending those depositions or voting on the tax bill coming before the House. (New York Times / NBC News)

6/ Trump has been telling people close to him that he expects Robert Mueller to clear him soon. His allies, meanwhile, are worried he's not taking the threat of the probe seriously enough. (CNN)

7/ Trump unveiled his "America First" foreign policy, presenting both Russia and China as "revisionist powers" who "want to shape a world antithetical to US values and interests." Trump's strategy has four organizing principles: protect the American homeland, protect American prosperity, preserve peace through strength, and advance US influence. Trump attacked past administrations on immigration, the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, trade pacts, and more. (Washington Post / CNN)

8/ The Trump administration ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop using "diversity," "fetus," "transgender," "vulnerable," "entitlement," "science-based," and "evidence-based" in their 2018 budget documents. "Certain words" in the CDC's budget drafts have been sent back to the agency for correction. (Washington Post)

9/ Chuck Schumer will force a Senate vote to reinstate the FCC's net neutrality rules. Congress can overturn an agency by invoking the Congressional Review Act with a simple majority vote, without the possibility of a filibuster. The Republican majority will be 51-49 after Alabama Democrat Doug Jones is sworn in. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she opposes the net neutrality repeal. (Ars Technica)

poll/ 50% of voters prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 39% want Republicans in charge. Democrats hold a 48-point lead in congressional preference among voters under 35 years old (69% to 21%) and a 20-point lead among female voters (54% to 34%). (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. At least four senators are urging Al Franken to reconsider his resignation, saying the calls for his resignation were a rush to judgment. Franken plans to formally resign in early January. (Politico)

  2. Bob Corker hasn't read the GOP tax bill, but denied changing his vote in exchange for a provision slipped into the bill that could personally enrich him. (International Business Times)

  3. Witch Hunt at the EPA: Multiple employees have come under scrutiny after speaking out about the agency. Within a matter of days, requests were submitted for copies of their emails that mentioned either Scott Pruitt or Trump, or any communication with Democrats in Congress that might have been critical of the agency. (New York Times)

  4. Puerto Rico ordered a recount of the number of people who have died because of Hurricane Maria. The official death count is 64. A New York Times review suggests that 1,052 more people died than usual in the 42 days after Maria hit. (New York Times)

  5. A federal appeals judge abruptly retired today after 15 women accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior. (Washington Post)

  6. Trump's judicial nominee withdrew himself from consideration after a video went viral of him failing to answer basic questions about the law during his confirmation hearing. (HuffPost)

  7. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are being sued over omissions on their public financial disclosure forms. The two failed to identify the assets owned by 30 investment funds they have stakes in. (Politico)

  8. Putin called Trump to thank him for CIA intelligence that allegedly stopped a planned bombing in St. Petersburg. A readout of the conversation said that Trump appreciated the call and "stressed the importance of intelligence cooperation to defeat terrorists wherever they may be." (NBC News)

  9. At least six people were killed after an Amtrak train derailed from a bridge onto Interstate 5 near Olympia, Washington. 77 people were sent to hospitals after 13 cars of the 14-car train jumped the tracks. Trump tweeted that train accident "shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly." (Seattle Times)


🔮 Looking ahead.

  1. Congressional Republicans will try to pass both their tax reform bill and a budget plan by Friday in order to avoid a government shutdown. "GOP leaders hope to hold tax votes early in the week before moving to the budget bill. They need Democrats’ help to pass the budget measure through the Senate, and thus far they have made little progress bringing them aboard amid disagreements over spending levels, protection from deportation for certain undocumented immigrants and a federal health insurance program for low-income children." (Washington Post)

Day 330: Shame.

What's in the GOP tax bill.

  1. Top income tax rate drops to 37% from 39.6%

  2. Corporate tax rate cut to 21% from 35%

  3. Eliminates the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate that requires most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty

  4. The estate tax would remain but the exemption from it would be doubled.

  5. The seven individual income tax brackets will remain, but at different rates: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%.

  6. Latest Senate version will cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years

  7. The child tax credit will double

  8. The standard deduction will increase to $12,000 for an individual or $24,000 for a family

  9. The Senate is expected to vote Monday and House is expected to vote Tuesday


1/ Marco Rubio and Bob Corker will vote "yes" on the GOP tax bill, giving Republicans the votes needed to pass the measure in the Senate. Rubio announced his support after Republican leaders agreed to expand the Child Tax Credit for low and middle-income families. Corker called the bill a "once-in-a-generation opportunity." Republicans will release the bill's text today and will vote on it next week. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Cambridge Analytica handed over employees' emails to Robert Mueller's team as part of the special counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The firm provided the Trump campaign with data, polling, and research services during the race. The emails had previously been voluntarily turned over to the House Intelligence Committee. (Wall Street Journal)

  1. 🇷🇺 What you need to know about the Trump-Russia investigation.

3/ Trump called the FBI a "shame" shortly before speaking at the FBI's National Academy. He told the graduating class of law enforcement managers that he has their "back 100%." Trump promised "to rebuild the FBI" and make it "bigger and better than ever." He called himself a "true friend and loyal champion" of law enforcement – "more loyal than anyone else can be" – but also said "people are very angry" with the FBI and Justice Department. Last week Trump said the FBI was in "tatters." (NPR / Axios)

4/ Trump won't rule out the idea of pardoning Michael Flynn. "I don't want to talk about pardons with Michael Flynn yet," Trump told reporters. "We'll see what happens, let's see." (CNN)

5/ Trump's lawyers will meet with Robert Mueller's team next week. John Dowd and Jay Sekulow are hoping for signs that Mueller's investigation is nearing its end, or at least the part that has to do with Trump. The meeting comes after Mueller's team completed interviews of White House personnel. (CNN)

6/ Jared Kushner's legal team is trying to hire a crisis public relations firm. Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has called at least two firms "to handle the time-consuming incoming inquiries on the cases in which I am working that receive media attention." (Washington Post)

7/ Trump spoke with Rupert Murdoch "to make sure [he] wasn't selling Fox News" as part of the Disney deal. He also congratulated Murdoch for the $52.4 billion deal to sell a portion of 21st Century Fox. (CNN / Bloomberg)

8/ One of Trump's judicial nominees struggled to answer basic questions about the law during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing. Matthew Petersen is a member of the Federal Election Commission and a lawyer with no trial experience. During an uncomfortable five minutes of quizzing on the basics of trial procedure by Senator John Neely Kennedy, Petersen said, "I understand the challenge that would be ahead of me." (Washington Post / NPR)

9/ Funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program lapsed three months ago. CHIP covers 9 million poor and middle-class children with health care. No state has had to kick a child off its CHIP so far, but the Trump administration did send emergency funding to several states to bridge the gaps. (Politico)

9/ A federal judge temporarily blocked Trump's order allowing employers to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage if they have religious or moral objections. Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the Federal District Court in Philadelphia said the rule contradicts the text of the Affordable Care Act. (New York Times)

poll/ 54% of voters think Robert Mueller's "relationship" with James Comey represents a conflict of interest because he is "the former head of the FBI and a friend of James Comey." (Harvard CAPS-Harris)

poll/ 30% of Americans believe the US is heading in the right direction, and 52% think the country is worse off since Trump became president. (Associated Press)


Notables.

  1. The EPA hired an opposition research firm to track and shape press coverage using taxpayer money. Scott Pruitt's office signed the no-bid $120,000 contract with Definers Corp. (Mother Jones)

  2. Betsy DeVos was hit with two lawsuits in one day over the letting more than 50,000 student debt relief claims pile up. (Washington Post)

  3. Trump Jr. called Ajit Pai "Obama's FCC chairman" in a tweet attacking the "outrage" over the agency's repeal of net 'neutality.' Obama appointed Pai to the commission. Trump made him chairman. (USA Today)

  4. A Wall Street Journal op-ed urging "everybody calm down about net neutrality" was written by a former Comcast attorney. (The Intercept)

  5. Internet traffic sent to and from Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft was briefly routed through a previously unknown Russian Internet provider on Wednesday. Researchers called it suspicious and intentional. (Ars Technica)

Day 329: Break the internet.

1/ The FCC voted to repeal net neutrality, which required internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. The measure passed 3-2 with the Republican appointees supporting repeal and the Democratic appointees opposing. 83% of Americans supported the rules that are in place. Internet providers are now free to speed up services for some apps and websites, while blocking or slowing down others. In Ajit Pai's first 11 months as FCC chairman, he's lifted media ownership limits, eased caps on how much broadband providers can charge business customers, and cut back on a low-income broadband program that was supposed to be expanded. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • In a letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, 18 attorneys general asked the commission to delay the net neutrality vote pending an investigation into fake comments. Of the 22 million public comments filed with the FCC, 94% of them "were submitted multiple times, and in some cases those comments were submitted many hundreds of thousands of times." (The Hill / NPR)

  • The New York attorney general said the net neutrality public comment process was corrupted by more than two million comments that used stolen identities. Eric Schneiderman called on the FCC to delay the vote and cooperate with his investigation into illegal criminal impersonation under New York law. (New York State Office of the Attorney General)

2/ Trump's pick to regulate toxic chemicals at the EPA has withdrawn his nomination due to his ties to the chemical industry. Michael Dourson spent decades conducting research that chemical manufacturers used to downplay the risks of hazardous substances. (NBC News)

3/ Paul Ryan is considering retirement. Three dozen fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists all said they believe Ryan will leave Congress after the 2018 midterm elections – and possibly even sooner than that. (Politico)

4/ Marco Rubio will vote against the Republicans' $1.5 trillion tax plan unless it includes a larger expansion of a child tax credit. Republicans control 52 seats in the Senate and need 50 votes in order to pass their bill. Bob Corker already opposes the plan. (Washington Post)

5/ Omarosa Manigault: There "were a lot of things that I observed during the last year that I was very unhappy with" and "made me uncomfortable." The former "Apprentice" contestant reportedly tried to enter the White House residence after a confrontation yesterday with John Kelly, who told her that her employment in the administration would end on January 20th. Manigault was then escorted off the White House grounds. (ABC News)

6/ Trump's daily intelligence briefings are often structured to avoid upsetting him. Russia-related intelligence, specifically, is usually only included in the written assessment and not addressed orally. When it is, the CIA analyst leading the briefing will adjust the presentation's structure in order to soften the impact (Washington Post)

poll/ 53% of voters think Trump should resign over the allegations of sexual harassment. 42% think he should remain in office. 53% of voters believe the women who have accused Trump of harassment compared to 31% who think they aren’t telling the truth. (Public Policy Polling)


Notables.

  1. Congressman Blake Farenthold will not seek re-election following reports that he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint by a former staffer, who was fired after she confronted him about his behavior. (ABC 25)

  2. Kentucky State Rep. Dan Johnson died from a single gunshot wound to the head. He was under investigation for alleged sexual molestation. (WDRB)

  3. A congressional ethics official overseeing the investigations into misconduct by lawmakers is being sued of verbally abusing and physically assaulting women and using his federal position to influence local law enforcement. (Foreign Policy)

  4. Mike Pence delayed his visit to Israel as Congress prepares to vote on tax reform. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate and Pence holds the tie-breaking vote. (CNN)

  5. Trump Jr. testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, spending nine hours answering questions from the panel. (Reuters)

  6. Lindsey Graham said there is a 30% chance Trump attacks North Korea, because "time is running out." (The Atlantic)

Day 328: "I was right."

1/ Democrat Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama U.S. Senate race, buoyed by 96% of the African American vote, which represented 29% of overall voter turnout. Jones won 49.9% of the vote to Moore's 48.4%. The victory cuts the GOP's Senate majority to 51-49. (New York Times / Bloomberg / Washington Post)