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Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

ICYMI, Axios had an exclusive this morning on Sean Spicer's attempts to push back on reports that Trump campaign aides "had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election." And it was a hot topic at Spicer's press briefing today along with the budget and the revised travel ban executive order...

  • Spicer responds to Axios' exclusive: Spicer refused to comment directly on our reporting that he connected CIA Director Mike Pompeo with reporters. He instead stated that the White House continued to deny the accuracy of the NYT story and directed reporters to engage with "subject matter experts" to corroborate that.
  • On a special prosecutor for Russia: "Special prosecutor for what?" Spicer added: "At what point, how many people have to say there's nothing there until you realize that there's nothing there?"
  • The budget: OMB Head Mick Mulvaney was a special guest to discuss the topline budget numbers officials received today. Mulvaney reiterated that this is only a blueprint, and the full budget will come in early May.
  • The revised travel ban can be expected in the "middle of this week." The White House will continue defending the original executive order, though, "because [the administration] was right the first time."
  • Yemen raid: On the heels of criticism from a fallen Navy SEAL's father, Spicer said that 3 DoD investigations will occur, but affirmed that they're all standard operating procedure. He again characterized the mission as "successful."
  • Internal leak inquiry? Spicer said he isn't aware of one.
  • The art of the deal: When asked if Trump secured something for the U.S. in exchange for his support of the One-China policy, Spicer said, "The president always gets something."

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.