Alex Brandon / AP

The loyalty pledge: The NYT reports that a week after taking office, Trump "summoned" Comey to the White House for a dinner in which he twice asked the FBI Director to promise to be loyal to him — and Comey declined. This tallies with earlier reports that Trump wanted and didn't receive an assurance of loyalty, and is shows the Comey camp clearly wants to get his side of the story out.

Russia on his mind: Trump told NBC's Lester Holt that before pulling the trigger on firing Comey he thought, "you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story."

Our full coverage: Trump blames press team but loves Sanders, Majority of Americans disagree with Comey firing, The White House's evolving explanations, Fallout is just beginning.

The full Trump/Russia quote: "Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. In fact, when I decided to just do it I said to myself, 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.' And the reason they should have won it is the electoral college is almost impossible for a Republican to win."On the timing:"When I did this now I said, 'I probably maybe will confuse people. Maybe I'll lengthen the time, because it should be over with, in my opinion it should have been over a long time ago because all it is is an excuse. I told myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation. But I told myself, I have to do the right thing for the American people. He's the wrong man for the position."On Sally Yates and Michael Flynn:"My White House Counsel Don McGahn came back to me and didn't make it sound like an emergency, and she actually didn't sound that way either in the hearings the other day in the hearings the other day, like it had to be done immediately. This man has served for many years, he's a general, he's in my opinion a very good person. I believe it would be very unfair to hear from somebody who we don't even know and immediately run out and fire a general."

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28 mins ago - World

"I stood up for that": Pope Francis voices support for same-sex civil unions

Pope Francis at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Photo: Vatican Pool - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Pope Francis voiced his support for same-sex civil unions for the first time as pope in the documentary “Francesco,” which premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival, per the Catholic News Agency.

Why it matters: The pope’s remarks represent a break from the position of the Roman Catholic Church, which has long taught that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered" and contrary to natural law.

1 hour ago - World

Countries waiting to see if Trump wins before moving on Israel normalization

The delegation lands at Israel's Ben Gurion airport. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty

The White House is attempting to leverage momentum from Israel's normalization deals with Bahrain and the UAE to get more Arab countries on board before the U.S. election.

Driving the news: President Trump wants Sudan's removal from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list to be accompanied by a pre-election announcement on Israel.

Poll: 92% of battleground state voters are "extremely motivated to vote"

Voters stand in line at the Metropolitan Multi-Services Center in Houston, Texas, on Oct. 13. Photo: Mark Felix for The Washington Post via Getty Images

91% of likely voters nationally say they are "extremely motivated to vote," including 92% in battleground states Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to a Change Research/CNBC Poll.

Why it matters: The 2020 election could see record-breaking levels of voter turnout. Voters last week cast ballots at nearly five times the rate they did at this point in the 2016 election, per the U.S. Elections Project. Over 39 million ballots have been cast in early voting states as of Wednesday.