Dave Lawler
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How Trump risked a key intel relationship

Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, left, and Russian Ambassador Kislyak at the White House in May. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry Photo via AP

Astonishing reporting from Vanity Fair's The Hive, by Howard Blum ... "What Trump ... told Kisylak after Comey was canned ... During a May 10 meeting in the Oval Office, the president betrayed his intelligence community by leaking the content of a classified, and highly sensitive, Israeli intelligence operation to two high-ranking Russian envoys, Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov":

  • Israeli spies and counterterrorism forces had discovered that "ISIS terrorists were working on transforming laptop computers into bombs that could pass undetected through airport security." That led to new U.S. and British restrictions on flights from abroad.
  • "[T]he Israeli mission was praised by [the American espionage community] as a casebook example of a valued ally's hard-won field intelligence being put to good, arguably even lifesaving, use."
  • "Yet this triumph would be overshadowed ... when ... Trump revealed details about the classified mission" to the Russian officials in in the Oval.
  • Why it matters: "[F]resh blood was spilled in [Trump's] long-running combative relationship with the nation's clandestine services. Israel ... would rethink its willingness to share raw intelligence, and pretty much the entire Free World was left shaking its collective head in bewilderment."
  • Listen in.

P.S. Paul Manafort took at least 138 trips to Ukraine between 2004 and 2015 while consulting for Russian and pro-Russian oligarchs, McClatchy'sPeter Stone and Greg Gordon report:

  • "As the GOP platform committee drew up party positions a week before the Republican National Convention, a plank calling for the United States to provide 'lethal weapons' for Ukraine's defense was altered in a controversial and mysterious move."
  • An "American consultant in Ukraine said that Manafort ... had boasted he played a role in easing the language."
  • "Charlie Black, a onetime partner of Manafort's, says he remains baffled by the change. 'It was inexplicable to me that a majority of platform members would have taken a pro-Russian position on Ukraine.'"
Featured

184 reportedly killed in Egypt mosque attack

Egyptian state TV is reporting that 184 people were killed and 125 more wounded in a bomb and gun attack on a mosque in North Sinai, Egypt, per AP. That number has been rising rapidly, and we will continue to update it as we get more information.

Police say men in off-road vehicles fired upon worshippers during Friday prayers at the mosque, in the town of Bir al-Abed. It appears that the explosion happened first, and the attackers fired on the worshippers as they fled.

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Franken apologizes over latest claims, cites "warm" personality

Al Franken at The BookExpo2017 in New York City. Photo: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx

Democratic Sen. Al Franken has issued a statement about the latest allegations that he groped women while posing for photographs, saying he has taken "thousands of photographs" and is a "warm person," but acknowledging he "crossed a line for some women." He says he is sorry he made "some women feel badly."

Why it matters: Franken is in survival mode after four allegations of unwanted contact, and facing an Ethics investigation and some calls to resign. He's walking a tightrope here, not denying the individual accusations while portraying them as rare missteps resulting from his "warm" personality, rather than a pattern of creepy behavior. He says he plans to win back the "trust" of his constituents.

Full statement

"I've met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I'm a warm person; I hug people. I've learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many. Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that.

"I've thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I've made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again. And let me say again to Minnesotans that I'm sorry for putting them through this and I'm committed to regaining their trust."

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New sign Flynn may be planning to cooperate with Mueller

FIle photo of then-National Security Advisor Flynn. Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Michael Flynn's legal team has notified President Trump's lawyers that they are no longer willing to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, the New York Times reports. Michael Schmidt, the lead reporter on the story, says that's "the clearest indication to date that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller" or is planning to.

Why it matters: We know Mueller struck a deal with George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign. A deal with Flynn, who served as Trump's National Security Advisor, could shed light on events both during the campaign and after Trump took office.

A word of caution: "The notification alone does not prove that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with Mr. Mueller. Some lawyers withdraw from information-sharing arrangements as soon as they begin negotiating with prosecutors. And such negotiations sometimes fall apart.

Trump lawyer Ty Cobb to the Times last month: "[Trump] likes General Flynn personally, but understands that they have their own path with the special counsel. I think he would be sad for them, as a friend and a former colleague, if the process results in punishment or indictments. But to the extent that that happens, that's beyond his control."
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Trump tells troops overseas his policies are helping them "win"

Trump speaks with members of the armed forces via video conference. Photo: Alex Brandon / AP

Trump addressed U.S. service members stationed abroad by video conference today, telling them they're "very, very special people to me, and to everyone in this country."

Trump's overall message: The military is succeeding because he's letting them "fight to win," and the economy back home is doing great too.

To the 82nd Airborne Army division in Afghanistan...

"I have to say just directly to the folks in Afghanistan: everybody's talking about the progress you've made in the last few months since I opened it up. We opened it up, we said go ahead, were going to fight to win."

To the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion in Iraq

"We're being talked about again as an armed forces. We're really winning. We know how to win. But we have to let you win. They weren't letting you win before. They were letting you play even. We're letting you win."

To the Air Force's 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in Turkey

"They say we've made more progress against ISIS than they did in years of the previous administration. And that's because I'm letting you do your job."

To U.S. troops around the world

  • "For each of you, I know its hard to be away from home at this time of the year. We're doing well at home. The economy is doing really great. When you come back, you are going to see with the jobs and companies coming back into our country and the stock market just hit a record high. Unemployment is the lowest its been in 17 years. So you're fighting for something real, you're fighting for something good."
  • "So as we give thanks for this holiday, I know I speak on behalf of all Americans when I say that we totally support you in fact, we love you. We really do. We love you. And this is a Thanksgiving that you wont forget. You're in a very different part of the world than you were used to, but boy are you doing a job there. And thank God for you."
  • "Believe me, I know so much about military families. They respect and appreciate what you're doing for this country, and they respect and appreciate what you're doing for them as a family. So, your families love you and they miss you."
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Trump tells Coast Guard its "brand" is flying high

Photo: Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump stopped by a Coast Guard station in Florida this Thanksgiving, saying he was "very proud" of the entire branch, particularly after rescue efforts from Hurricane Harvey: "If you were looking at it as a brand, theres no brand that went up more than the Coast Guard, with what happened in Texas."

As in his earlier remarks to troops overseas, he spoke a bit about the state of the economy: "The country's doing really well. Stock market, all time high. This is all good stuff."

On military equipment

  • "Were ordering tremendous amounts of new equipment. We're at 700 billion dollars for the military. And, you know, they were cutting back for years. They just kept cutting, cutting, cutting the military. And you got lean, to put it nicely it was depleted, was the word. And now its changing."
  • "Even if they're allies you never know about an ally, an ally can turn... I always say, Make ours a little bit better... Keep about 10 percent in the bag."
  • The F-35 fighter jet is almost like an invisible fighter... I said, 'how good is this plane?' They said, 'well sir you can't see it... it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it.'"
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Zimbabwe grants Mugabe immunity, guarantees his safety

AP Photo/File

Zimbabwe's military has granted ousted dictator Robert Mugabe immunity from prosecution and guaranteed the safety of his family, per the Guardian. Mugabe, 93, has said he wants to spend the rest of his life in Zimbabwe. He will be provided a pension, health care and a travel allowance.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe's former vice president, is set to take office on Friday. He has a reputation as a ruthless strongman. The coup was precipitated after Mugabe fired Mnangagwa, 75, and seemed to be attempting to establish his 52-year-old wife, Grace, as his successor.

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Rep. Barton said he'd go to police if woman shared his explicit photos

Barton. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who has apologized after a nude photo appeared on social media, told a woman in 2015 that he would go to Capitol Police if she went public with explicit photos he had sent her, the Washington Post reports. Barton says he was separated from his then-wife at the time, and took part in multiple consensual relationships. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and the story is raising questions about so-called "revenge porn."
"I want your word that this ends I will be completely straight with you," he says on the call, which the woman recorded. "I am ready if I have to, I don't want to, but I should take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation. And if I do that, that hurts me potentially big time."
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Murkowski backs ACA individual mandate repeal

Photo: Jose Luis Magana / AP

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican who broke ranks over the summer to vote against GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has written an op-ed declaring her support for a repeal of the ACA's individual mandate. She writes, "I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy in order to avoid being taxed."

Why it matters: The Senate tax plan includes a repeal of the mandate, which helps stabilize insurance markets by incentivizing healthy people to buy coverage. This may be a signal Murkowski intends to vote yes on the plan.

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Report: Mueller probing Kushner contacts with foreign leaders

Kushner arrives on Capitol Hill in July to meet behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team are looking into contacts Jared Kushner had with foreign leaders, including over a December UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, before President Trump took office, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: It's illegal under the Logan Act for a private citizen to communicate with a foreign government to attempt to influence U.S. policy, but no one has been convicted under that law and it's unclear whether that's what Mueller is investigating. What is clear is that the Mueller investigation is going far beyond collusion with Russia to influence the election.