1/ Trump’s advisers are floating the idea of replacing Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo after Morongate. Trump was reportedly furious that Tillerson didn’t deny he called the president a “fucking moron,” leaving many to believe their relationship is broken beyond repair. Tillerson praised Trump and insisted he never considered resigning in a public statement he made later that day. (Axios / NBC News)
2/ Surrounded by military leaders, Trump warned that “maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” The unprompted comment came during a photo-op at the White House with the top national security officials. “We have the world’s great military leaders in this room,” Trump said to reporters. When pressed to explain what he meant, he simply said: “You’ll find out.” (Politico)
3/ Robert Mueller’s investigators met with the author of the Trump dossier, Christopher Steele, this past summer in an effort to understand if people associated with the Trump campaign and suspected Russian operatives broke any laws. US intelligence agencies reportedly took the Steele dossier more seriously than previously acknowledged, keeping it out of a publicly-released January report on Russian meddling in order to not divulge which parts of the dossier they had corroborated. Trump and his allies have repeatedly called the dossier “totally made-up stuff” written by a “failed spy.” (CNN / Associated Press)
4/ Christopher Steele is talking with the Senate Intelligence Committee about formally speaking with its leaders. The sticking point for the former British intelligence operative, who authored a 35-page dossier alleging that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia, has been over his unwillingness to discuss who underwrote his work. Steele was hired by Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research, which was originally funded by undisclosed Republican opponents of Trump. During the general election, unknown Democrats began picking up the tab. Senators had previously said they have had unable to get traction on the dossier, because Steele had not agreed to meet with investigators or the senators. (NBC News)
5/ White House tech support believes John Kelly’s personal cellphone was compromised. Staff discovered the suspected breach after Kelly turned his phone in to White House tech support this summer complaining that it wasn’t working properly or updating. Kelly now uses a different phone. Yesterday, Rachel Maddow reported the Secret Service will now ban personal mobile devices in the West Wing, according to a memo sent to agents. Other news outlets have not confirmed the authenticity of the memo. (Politico)
- The Senate Judiciary Committee does not have an active “Russia probe” going. A staffer said the committee is engaged in routine oversight of the Justice Department. (The Daily Beast)
6/ Trump rolled back the federal requirement for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. The new regulation allows for a broad group of employers and insurers to exempt themselves from covering contraceptives on religious or moral grounds. More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act. (Washington Post / New York Times)
Critics fear the policy may provide a loophole for discrimination. l Jeff Sessions instructed federal agencies and attorneys to protect religious liberty in a broad guidance memo that critics fear could give people of faith — including government workers and contractors — a loophole to ignore federal bans on discrimination against women and LGBT people. (BuzzFeed News)
ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the roll back of the birth control mandate. The rollback “basically gives broad license to employers to discriminate against their employees and withhold a benefit guaranteed by law,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney at the ACLU. (The Hill)
7/ FEMA removed statistics about drinking water access and electricity in Puerto Rico from its website. A FEMA spokesman said both measures are still being reported, but are available on a website maintained by the Puerto Rican governor’s office. He did not explain why FEMA no longer maintains the statistics on the main FEMA website. (Washington Post)
As of Friday afternoon, FEMA’s website is now reporting the two statistics about access to drinking water and electricity.
8/ Trump nominated a coal lobbyist to help lead the EPA. Andrew Wheeler, who is an outspoken denier of established science on climate change, would become the second most powerful person at the EPA. (New York Times)
9/ Treasury employees allege its Intelligence and Analysis unit is illegally spying on Americans’ private financial records. At least a dozen employees in the Financial Crimes Enforcement division at the Treasury Department have warned officials and Congress that banking and financial data had been illegally searched and stored. They say that other intelligence agencies have been using the Treasury’s intelligence division as a back door in order to gain access to citizens’ financial records. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin oversees how the department conducts intelligence operations. (BuzzFeed News)
- Steven Mnuchin has flown on military aircraft seven times at a cost of more than $800,000 to taxpayers. In total, the treasury secretary has made nine requests for military aircraft, including a request to use a military plane for his European honeymoon with his wife. (New York Times)
poll/ 24% of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction, representing a 10-point drop since June. 44% of Republicans agree that the country is headed in the right direction, down from 60% in June. (ABC News)
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