Under fire, Trump weighs new changes to refugee ban - Axios
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Under fire, Trump weighs new changes to refugee ban

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Republican sources tell us that the Department of Homeland Security may issue "implementation guidance" that would allow for softening, and even policy changes, to President Trump's travel restrictions on migrants. The White House insists that any further guidance wouldn't constitute a walk-back.

But the internal conversation, led by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, reflects the widespread view among top Republicans that the current chaotic situation — beset with blame-casting, backstabbing and unintended consequences — is untenable.

An official at one of the top firms in corporate America emails: "The pressure from inside these companies is intense. One of my deputies spent all day with a relative who needs to go back to Iran to see her mom who is dying. Worried she might get stuck but had to go. Lots of needless worrying. They have been Americans since the Shah left."

Yesterday was a day that'll be dissected by historians and political scientists forever:

  • A made-for-the-movies twist came at 9:16 last night, after a day in which corporation after corporation had condemned the policy, helping produce the worst stock-market day of 2017. A White House statement announced that the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, had been fired because she "has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States" and is "weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.
  • Hours earlier, Yates had sent a letter to Justice Department lawyers telling them not to defend the travel ban in court arguments, because she was not "convinced that the Executive Order is lawful."
  • The N.Y. Times, which reports that Yates was informed of her dismissal two minutes before the statement went out, writes in its lead story that the sacking "recalled the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon fired his attorney general and deputy attorney general for refusing to dismiss the special prosecutor in the Watergate case."
  • Fox News employees got a corporation-wide email last night from their parent, 21st Century Fox (signed by Lachlan and James Murdoch), saying: "We deeply value diversity and believe immigration is an essential part of America's strength."

That all happened AFTER a crazy day of drama over the executive order that has become the defining opening act of Trump's presidency. Forget the merits of the refugee ban for a second. Let's just recap the fallout from the refugee ban over a 12-hour period, from Trump allies alone

  • "Morning" Joe Scarborough, fresh off meeting with Trump and his foreign-policy team, blamed policy chief Stephen Miller for botching the order and P.R.
  • Steve Bannon, one of the authors of the executive order, said in an email to the Washington Post that there was an adult deeply involved in setting "policy and philosophy": incoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
  • Rex Tillerson, soon to be Sec of State, made plain through friends he was cut out of the loop -- and not happy: "Tillerson has told the president's political advisers that he was baffled over not being consulted on the substance of the order."
  • Capitol Hill aides secretly helped draft the EO and signed non-disclosure agreements to assist WITHOUT telling their bosses, Politico reported — an extraordinary move given the separation of powers between the White House and Congress.
  • Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was also cut out and upset, on top of feeling the White House was trying to jam a hard-liner he didn't want in as his number two.
  • Retired Gen. James Mattis, the incoming SecDef, "is said to be particularly incensed," AP reports. "Mattis, along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, was aware of the general concept of Trump's order but not the details."

But Dems are more torn about how to react than you'd think. Some well-known Democrats told us they think the first polls will show Trump's plan is more popular than the current coverage suggests — maybe 45% to 52% support, tracking the fault lines of the country. So Dems thinking about the presidency, like Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, will make hay. But senators facing reelection in Trump states have a tricky balancing act.

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WhatsApp adds Snapchat-like features

WhatsaApp

WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service that dominates the messaging app market globally, is adding a photo and video sharing capability within their status feature that mimics that of Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Users will have the ability to annotate photos and videos with emojis, text, etc. and photos and videos will expire from users' statuses after 24 hours.

Why it matters: This is just the latest of steps Facebook has taken to mimic Snapchat-like features on its apps. They've already introduced similar features for Facebook Messenger and Instagram. While Facebook has spent the past year adding Snapchat-like product features, Snapchat has spent the past year adding Facebook-like measurement and audience targeting-features.

What we're watching: Mark Zuckerberg's $19 billion bet on WhatsApp in 2014 was based largely on WhatsApp's incredible reach in emerging markets. But in addition to the growth opportunity, the acquisition also gives Facebook the opportunity to experiment with unique new features with lots of users, before potentially integrating them into other Facebook-owned apps. In January WhatsApp announced it was testing the ability to temporarily track friends' locations and the ability to recall sent messages that haven't been viewed yet.

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Trump picks McMaster to replace Flynn

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Trump told reporters today that Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will be taking over as national security advisor. He's replacing Michael Flynn who stepped down after controversy surrounding Russia ties. Trump called McMaster "a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience."

Who is McMaster? Tom Ricks of Foreign Policy, who says he's known McMaster since he was a major, wrote before the announcement that he's "smart, energetic, and tough" and has good combat experience. Ricks also identifies the key challenge facing McMaster: "To do the job right, McMaster needs to bring in his own people. And it remains unclear if he can get that." Ricks says most people he talked to who have worked for McMaster would follow him into the Trump White House.

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Snapchat sells Spectacles online

Snap Inc.

Snapchat spectacles now available for purchase online.

Spectacles are smartphone-connected glasses that take Snapchats — up-to 10-second videos or stills — with the click of a button. Previously, the glasses were only available for purchase at pop-up vending machines in New York and California, where lines were long and the allure was strong. Now, Snap Inc. is making their glasses available to all consumers for $130 USD.

Why it matters: In its S-1 filing with the New York Stock Exchange, Snapchat calls itself a "camera company" instead of a social media app or a messaging service. This is critical in understanding how Snapchat plans to monetize its reach and technology, which investors are monitoring closely ahead of its IPO. In its S-1 filing, Snapchat noted that Spectacles have not initially generated any revenue. While Snapchat makes the majority of its money from advertising now, opening up sales for its new camera now signals that Snap Inc. sees camera technology and sales as a lucrative business model in the future.

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Russia's UN ambassador dies in NYC

John Minchillo / AP

The Russian foreign ministry says Vitaly Churkin, its ambassador to the United Nations, has died in New York City. He was 64. Russia did not offer details on his death, but said in a statement:

A prominent Russian diplomat has passed away while at work. We'd like to express our sincere condolences to Vitaly Churkin's family — Russian Foreign Ministry
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Not invited to administration Obamacare meeting: Treasury

(Carolyn Kaster / AP)

Members of the Trump administration got together on Sunday to talk about President Trump's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare — but a photo tweeted by White House chief of staff Reince Priebus doesn't show any Treasury Department officials at the table, despite the likelihood that the plan will involve big tax changes.

At the table were many members of the president's health care and policy teams, including Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, yet-to-be confirmed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services head Seema Verma, and White House aide Stephen Miller.

But no one from the Treasury Department was there, and a source who heard about the snub from a White House economic adviser said the department feels shut out of the process. A White House spokesperson responded that while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "wasn't in attendance at this particular meeting, he is absolutely involved in the discussion of how best to repeal and replace Obamacare."

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The growing fight to save local newsrooms

Non-profits and media distribution companies are stepping in to support local newsrooms as they navigate the chaotic news cycle of the new administration and the rapidly-changing digital news environment.

The non-profits

Poynter is dedicating a reporter to cover the transformation of local and regional journalism full-time, in addition to launching a weekly newsletter. The Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative made a $5 million investment to continue a program that helps local papers transform their newsrooms to support digital storytelling. Local News Lab relaunched its site to include updated guidebooks to help local newsrooms survive the transition into the digital age. MuckRock started a Slack channel in January to help journalists all over the country, including 50% local news reporters, better cover the Trump Administration.

The platforms

Facebook finally took its initiative to reach out to local journalists to the road, hosting around 70 print and broadcast reporters — mostly from Texas — for a Dallas forum about best practices and the future of news. The move is part of the Facebook Journalism Project. Google introduced a local news source tag in May that algorithmically favors local sources in users' feeds. The tag labels stories that are reported first-hand by local sources.
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10 Axios stories to get you caught up on last week

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Use the holiday to get caught up on last week.
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Yes, your commute is really that awful

Julie Jacobson / AP

Reuters flags the latest Global Traffic Scorecard from INRIX Inc, a traffic data company based in Washington state. It found that 5 of the 10 most congested cities globally are in the U.S., and that drivers waste an average of $1,200 a year in lost fuel and time sitting in traffic jams.

The five worst U.S. offenders: Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami.

The worst road: The Cross Bronx Expressway in New York City.

But at least you're not in Bogota or Moscow: Drivers in those two cities deal with the worst traffic in the world, when you break it down by the percentage of time spent in traffic jams compared to total drive time.