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Putin Gives The US One Month To Cut 755 Diplomatic Jobs In Russia

This week in Washington: The Obamacare repeal is dead after three Republican senators voted against the 'skinny' amendment, Trump is laying into his own attorney general, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was replaced.

Last updated on July 31, 2017, at 9:14 a.m. ET

Posted on July 24, 2017, at 7:07 a.m. ET

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Here's What's Happening This Week

  • White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was replaced by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly Friday.
  • The latest staff shake up came one day after White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci launched into a shocking rant with a reporter, vowing to "kill" leakers.
  • North Korea also fired a rocket that experts estimated could reach the US Midwest.
  • The GOP's bid to repeal and replace Obamacare is over after three Senate Republicans — including John McCain — voted against the so-called "skinny repeal" amendment early on Friday morning.
  • President Trump tweeted Wednesday that transgender people cannot "serve in any capacity in the US military," however, top officials are still awaiting policy directives.
  • Jared Kushner testified before Senate investigators for nearly two hours, and released a lengthy statement saying "I did not collude" with Russia to tip the election to his father-in-law, President Trump.
  • Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort will provide documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee before setting a date to appear publicly.
  • Trump hasn't let up on his criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying he is in a "very weak position" for not looking into what he claims are "Hillary Clinton crimes."
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the US one month to cut 755 people from its diplomatic mission after Congress overwhelmingly approved new sanctions targeting Russia.

Updates

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Putin gives the US one month to cut its diplomatic staff by 755, says Russia is still considering further retaliation to new sanctions

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AFP / Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Sunday that the United States has until September 1 to eliminate 755 workers from its diplomatic mission, confirming the country's aggressive retaliation to a new package of US sanctions.

"Over 1,000 employees — diplomats and technical workers — worked and continue to work today in Russia," Putin said in an interview with state-run television. "755 will have to stop this activity."

in a statement to BuzzFeed News Sunday night, a US State Department official called the demand "a regrettable and uncalled for act."

"The Russian government has demanded the US Mission to Russia limit total Mission staffing to 455 employees by September 1," the official said. "We are assessing the impact of such a limitation and how we will respond to it."

Although the Russian Foreign Ministry had announced the diplomatic expulsion Friday, Putin's comments were the first to confirm the size of the embassy staff reductions. However, many US diplomatic employees in Russia are not American, and will likely not be forced to leave the country.

"We waited a long time for things to perhaps change for the better," Putin said Sunday, according to state media. "We had such hope that the situation would change, but judging by the situation that will not be soon."

"I thought it was time for us to show that we will not leave this without an answer," he added later.

He also warned that Russia is still considering additional measures in response to the new US sanctions, but did not provide details.

"As for other possible measures, or whether it is a lot or not, from the point of view of the work of the diplomatic department, this is quite sensitive," he said. "The question is whether or not we need to do more."

The White House said Friday that Trump intends to sign the new sanctions bill, which overwhelmingly passed both the House and Senate last week.

— John Hudson and Michelle Broder Van Dyke

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President Trump blasts China for doing 'NOTHING for us' about North Korea

US B1 bombers fly over the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea's latest intercontinental ballistic missile test.
US Pacific Air Forces

US B1 bombers fly over the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea's latest intercontinental ballistic missile test.

President Trump blasted China Saturday for its failure to rein in North Korea's nuclear program, voicing his frustration in a pair of tweets just one day after Pyongyang tested yet another intercontinental ballistic missile.

“I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk,” he wrote. “We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”

The comments followed Friday's ICBM test in North Korea, it's second such test in a month. Experts have said that that the latest launch shows a broader range of the US mainland could now be within reach.

I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet...

...they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!

Though Trump has previously boasted about his warm relationship Chinese President Xi Jinping since their visit at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, recent tweets have suggested that things have soured between Washington and Beijing.

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out,” Trump tweeted in June. “At least I know China tried.”

"So much for China working with us," he wrote a few weeks later. "But we had to give it a try!"

And on Saturday, shortly after Trump's tweets, the US announced it had answered North Korea's ICBM test with its own show of military power, sending two supersonic bombers to the Korean Peninsula.

The mission was a "direct response" to North Korea's ICBM launches this month, on July 3 and July 28, US Pacific Air Forces said in statement.

"North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability," said Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said in the statement. "Diplomacy remains the lead; however, we have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario. If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing."

The B1 bombers joined Japanese and South Korean fighter jets to test "combined capabilities and tactical skills" during the 10-hour mission, officials said. The bombers then returned to Guam.

—Salvador Hernandez

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Trump says Republicans are "total quitters" unless they keep Obamacare repeal a top priority in Congress

Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

Unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, Repeal & Replace is not dead! Demand another vote before voting on any other bill!

Donald Trump goaded Republicans in Congress to keep the GOP repeal and replace effort on health care at the top of their agenda before moving on to other business.

“Unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, Repeal & Replace is not dead! Demand another vote before voting on any other bill!” Trump tweeted on Saturday afternoon, an addition to his earlier weekend tweets aimed at shaming Republicans.

His Saturday tweet storm came after a handful of lawmakers spent time at the White House discussing how to move forward on Friday, Politico reported.

—Lissandra Villa

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Trump blasts McConnell to change Senate rules, says they "look like fools"

President Trump continued to blame Senate's failure to repeal Obamacare this week on Senate rules that require 60 votes to move onto most bills, despite the fact the Senate was considering the health care measure under a process known as budget reconciliation that allows bills to pass without being subject to that requirement.

Trump tweeted his demand five times Saturday morning. Republican senators, he said, "look like fools" and need to change Senate procedures.

Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don't go to a 51 vote majority NOW. They look like fools and are just wasting time......

....8 Dems totally control the U.S. Senate. Many great Republican bills will never pass, like Kate's Law and complete Healthcare. Get smart!

Right now, a simple 51 majority vote is technically all that's required to pass a bill in the Senate, but the chamber allows for unlimited discussion on most bills — and 60 votes are needed to stop that debate. Because of that rule, senators can refuse to vote for ending the discussion and stop a bill from ever getting voted on.

Trump has been pushing for the change to the Senate for months. Senate Republicans used the filibuster rule frequently under President Obama to block legislation when they were in the minority, and Democrats eventually moved to change the rules so they wouldn't apply to most presidential nominations. Senate Republicans tweaked the rules again earlier this year so they wouldn't apply to Supreme Court nominees, allowing them to approve Justice Neil Gorsuch. The House does not have the same cloture rule, so the majority party there is able to bring up bills for a vote with less difficulty.

If the Senate Democrats ever got the chance, they would switch to a 51 majority vote in first minute. They are laughing at R's. MAKE CHANGE!

Republicans didn't have a 51 vote majority for the latest health care bill, which is all the bill would have needed to pass on early Friday morning because of the budget reconciliation rules. Three Republicans — Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain — voted with all Democrats against it, so the measure failed 49-51. Vice President Mike Pence had been waiting to vote on the bill in case there was a 50-50 tie.

Republican Senate must get rid of 60 vote NOW! It is killing the R Party, allows 8 Dems to control country. 200 Bills sit in Senate. A JOKE!

The very outdated filibuster rule must go. Budget reconciliation is killing R's in Senate. Mitch M, go to 51 Votes NOW and WIN. IT'S TIME!

Although the president personally called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as 'Mitch M", McConnell has said before that he doesn't want to undo the 60 Senate votes rule. In April, 61 Senators sent him a letter outlining their support of the existing rules.

""There is an overwhelming majority — on a bipartisan basis — not interested in changing the way the Senate operates on the legislative calendar," said McConnell back in May. "And that will not happen."

– Amber Jamieson

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Immigration advocates aren't necessarily jumping for joy over John Kelly's move from DHS

Eduardo Verdugo / AP

The announcement Friday that John Kelly would be leaving his perch atop the Department of Homeland Security to become the White House chief of staff, there were few immigrant advocates sad to see him go.

What started out as an homeland security appointment with promise, they said, turned out to be a soldier in step with the hardline agenda put forth by President Trump.

“People who knew him said he’s an adult who will stand up to Trump, he’s not a white nationalist, he’s a balanced guy who can impose some order,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund. “But all we’ve seen him do is be a good foot soldier for mass deportation."

In fact, prior to announcing that Kelly would be replacing Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff, Trump praised the retired general for his role in confronting illegal immigration and overseeing a rise in the number of arrests and deportations.

But Kelly's exit isn't necessarily bringing a sense of hope for immigrant advocates, who expect Trump to keep the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) firmly in line with the strong anti-immigration platform that helped propelled his campaign.

Read more here.

—Adolfo Flores

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McCain wasn't expected to kill Republicans' health care plan. Here's why he did.

Cliff Owen / AP

As John McCain walked into the Senate at midnight on Thursday, reporters asked him how he would vote on an imminent make-or-break vote on the Republican health plan. His response: “Watch the show.”

And what a show it was. After an hour of desperate, last-minute lobbying by Republican leadership failed, McCain strutted to the center of the Senate floor, held his hand in the air to grab a clerk’s attention, then swung his thumb downward in a no vote. With a literal flick of his wrist, McCain killed the Obamacare repeal plan his party had struggled for six months to keep alive.

The other two no votes were already known. Susan Collins of Maine had long been vocal about her opposition to the plan since the Senate started took up health care, citing its cuts to Medicaid and removal of protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski had kept her cards closer to her chest but was well known to oppose the GOP plan over Medicaid cuts, defunding Planned Parenthood and other issues. Throughout the week Senate Republicans spent voting on various leadership-backed health care plans, Murkowski and Collins lined up to oppose them.

All eyes were on the final vote, which they were also expected to oppose, but it was unclear if Collins and Murkowski had a third Republican to go along with them.

Few people expected McCain to be the one to join them. The Arizona senator had made a dramatic return to Washington after a brain cancer diagnosis days earlier to keep the bill alive in a procedural vote on Tuesday. Many thought he would vote the same way early Friday morning.

And yet, it was clear just before the vote that something was up with McCain.

Read more here.

—Paul McLeod

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North Korea missile could have reached US Midwest, estimates show

The missile that North Korea fired Friday flew higher than any previous test, suggesting that the regime in Pyongyang is developing a capability to strike the United States, perhaps even to hit targets in the US Midwest, according to experts and US defense officials.

The missile also landed closer to Japan than previous tests had, the Pentagon said, falling just 88 nautical miles from the top US ally in Asia. The previous North Korean test missile, on July 4, landed about 200 nautical miles from Japan.

Pentagon officials said North Korea launched the missile from its northern Mupyong-ni launch site at 10:41 a.m. EDT. Like the July 4 test, the missile went essentially straight up in the air before landing in the Sea of Japan near Hokkaido, the northernmost Japanese island, according to Japanese officials.

But experts said the test was no simple repeat of the July 4 firing.

Read more here.

—Nancy A. Youssef

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This is the retired general who is taking over for Reince Priebus

Mike Balsamo / AP

President Donald Trump announced Friday that Secretary of Homeland Security Gen. John F. Kelly will be his new White House chief of staff, pushing a person with no past legislative experience into a role that an establishment Republican operative was apparently unable to satisfactorily fill.

Despite having a 45-year military career, much of the American public knows little about the person who will now take on a White House role that has traditionally come with a great deal of power.

Trump has a clear affinity for the secretary. In a speech before announcing Kelly's new job Friday in New York, the president praised him as being a "star."

Just a month after winning the presidential election, Trump picked Kelly, a retired general, to be his DHS secretary, trusting him to help carry out one of the central missions of his campaign: increased immigration enforcement.

Read more here.

—Lissandra Villa and Nancy A. Youssef

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Trump heaped praise on John Kelly at speech before announcing his chief of staff decision

Evan Vucci / AP

In a speech meant to highlight his efforts to crack down on gangs and undocumented immigrants, President Trump heaped praise on his homeland security secretary in what would become a prophetic moment after he was named the White House chief of staff a short time later.

Upon returning from the speech, Trump tweeted that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly would be replacing Reince Priebus.

Earlier in the day while addressing a crowd of law enforcement officials in Long Island, Trump also praised Kelly as "truly, one of our stars," noting a reduction in illegal border crossings from Mexico.

"John Kelly is one of our great stars," the president said.

Read more here.

—Mike Hayes

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Trump's new lawyer says he took the job to help a "president in need"

Evan Vucci / AP

Ty Cobb, in a goodbye email to his law firm, defended his decision to represent President Trump and highlighted his support for "equality for all races, ethnicities, genders, and the LGBT community."

"I wasn't going to say NO to a President in need," Ty Cobb wrote in his goodbye email to the lawyers at the law firm he has called his own for nearly 30 years before departing to join the Trump White House next week.

"However you may feel about my next assignment, trust that I take my ethics, and my strongly held views on the importance of support, tolerance and equality for all races, ethnicities, genders, and the LGBT community with me into that new workplace," he wrote — a sign of the growing difficulty lawyers and others face in choosing to work for the Trump administration.

Read more here.

—Chris Geidner

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What Trump’s chaotic 48 hours means for the rest of 2017

Evan Vucci / AP

President Donald Trump on a gloomy Friday afternoon finally announced that his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, would be leaving his administration, hours after the president saw Obamacare repeal fail in the Senate, Congress tie his hands on Russian sanctions, and his new communications director tell a reporter that Priebus is a “paranoid schizophrenic” and that his chief strategist is infatuated with himself to the point of attempted autofellation.

More than just being dramatic in their own right, the last 48-hours illuminate the Trump administration’s inability to focus and notch a signature legislative accomplishment, giving Republicans an idea of how dangerous the path ahead may be.

Priebus, an ally told BuzzFeed News, “was never fully empowered to do the job in the first place, but did the best he could under the circumstances and was incredibly loyal. If the President was dissatisfied, a lot of that is on him, not Reince.”

Read more here.

—Adrian Carrasquillo, Tarini Parti, and Alexis Levinson

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Homeland security secretary replaces Priebus as White House chief of staff

Susan Walsh / AP

In yet another sign of upheaval at the White House, chief of staff Reince Priebus was ousted on Friday, replaced by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, President Trump announced via Twitter.

"I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff," Trump tweeted. "He is a Great American and a Great Leader. John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my Administration."

In recent days, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway had told people that Priebus was "gone" and that he was trying to figure out his next steps, a source with knowledge told BuzzFeed News. According to Conway, White House staffers who came from the Republican National Committee were out and the administration was "going back to Trump loyalists," the source said.

Read more here.

—Amber Jamieson

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Murkowski on health care: "both sides must do better"

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Friday released a statement explaining why she joined two other senators in scuttling their own party's attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The Alaska senator, who along with Maine Sen. Susan Collins has consistently been wary of the GOP proposals for overhauling the country's health care, said both Republicans and Democrats "must do better on process and substance."

She described the Affordable Care Act as a "flawed law" that she is committed to reforming, but said the Senate must "fully devote itself" to improving health care in a more "open" setting — a dig at the secrecy with which Sen. Mitch McConnell led his party's legislative efforts.

"I stand ready to begin work with my colleagues — all of them — to reform healthcare in a more open process," Murkowski said.

In a surprise move, Murkowski and Collins were joined by Sen. John McCain in defeating the Republican measure.

—David Mack

Here is my following statement on the healthcare bill:

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Trump calls MS-13 gang members "animals," encourages authorities to rough them up

Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump on Friday encouraged authorities to rough up undocumented immigrants suspected of committing crimes as part of speech to highlight his administration's efforts to crack down on gang members and illegal immigration.

“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, 'Please don't be too nice,'" Trump to cheers and applause. “Like, when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over. Like, don't hit their head and they've just killed somebody. Don't hit their head. I said, 'You can take the hand away, OK?'"

Trump made the comments while speaking in Long Island to law enforcement officials. He and his administration have been pointing to a streak of violence at the hands of MS-13 gang members as a justification for cracking down on illegal immigration — even though federal data show the link is tenuous, at best.

Trump began to focus on the transnational gang after a series of killings earlier this year in Suffolk County, Long Island. In September, two girls were found beaten to death, and in April, the badly beaten bodies of four men were also found in a wooded area, with MS-13 members being the suspected culprits.

"They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into blood-stained killing fields,” Trump said. “They're animals. We cannot tolerate, as a society, the spilling of innocent, young, wonderful, vibrant people, sons and daughters, even husbands and wives."

Trump also blamed the spread of MS-13 in part to so-called sanctuary cities and “pathetic mayors” who won't allow local police to work with federal immigration officials.

"It is the policy of this administration to dismantle, decimate, and eradicate MS-13,” Trump said. "We will find you, we will arrest you, we will jail you, and we will deport you."

Read more here.

—Adolfo Flores

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North Korea launched an ICBM into the Sea of Japan

Kcna / Reuters

North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan on Friday, Defense Department officials said.

It was launched from Mupyong-ni and was in the air for 41 minutes, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said, noting it essentially went straight up in the air and came down.

"The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America," Davis said. "Our commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, remains ironclad. We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation."

The last time the North fired an ICBM was July 4. It was in the air for 37 minutes, notable because Friday's was airborne longer.

North Korea claimed this year that one of its ballistic missiles could carry a nuclear warhead — although it is not believed to currently have that capability.

—Nancy Youssef

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McCain urged lawmakers to look at last night's health care vote as a fresh start

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

"The vote last night presents the Senate with an opportunity to start fresh. It is now time to return to regular order with input from all of our members – Republicans and Democrats – and bring a bill to the floor of the Senate for amendment and debate," McCain, who cast one of the decisive GOP-votes that killed Republicans' health care effort, said in a statement.

Republicans had largely moved ahead without Democrats throughout their health care repeal and replace efforts, even refusing to take questions from Democrats on the floor in the hour leading up to the floor. McCain and Collins, both GOP-no votes, have called for a bipartisan effort to work on health care.

—Lissandra Villa

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House Speaker called on the Senate to keep working on health care

Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was "disappointed" by the Senate's failure to pass a health care bill this week but expressed desire that the Senate keep working on it.

"I am disappointed and frustrated, but we should not give up. I encourage the Senate to continue working toward a real solution that keeps our promise," Ryan said in a statement Friday morning.

In the meantime, Ryan seemed to indicate the House had completed its part in the effort and would move on to focus on other House GOP priorities, with an emphasis on taxes.

—Lissandra Villa

Statement from Speaker Ryan: "I am disappointed and frustrated, but we should not give up."

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Susan Collins calls on Republicans and Democrats to work together on health care.

Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters

In a statement on Friday morning, GOP Sen. Susan Collins, an early critic of the Republican health care effort, explained the reasoning behind her votes concerning health care this week, with a large emphasis on policy.

She also called on Democrats and Republicans to work together on health care.

"Rather than engaging in partisan exercises, Republicans and Democrats should work together to address these very serious problems," Collins said in a statement. "Neither party has a monopoly on good ideas, and we must work together to put together a bipartisan bill that fixes the flaws in the ACA and works for all Americans."

Collins was one of three Republican senators whose vote against the health care bill sank the effort.

—Lissandra Villa

Sen. Collins' statement on health care vote. https://t.co/xgSqPgUuKg

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Trump tweeted about controversial Senate supermajority rules Friday

Responding to the defeat of the Affordable Care Act repeal, President Trump tweeted that "if Republicans are going to pass great future legislation," they must "immediately go to a 51 vote majority, not a senseless 60."

"Even though parts of healthcare could pass at 51, so many great future bills and budgets need 60 votes," he tweeted.

The president was referring to Senate rules that require a supermajority of 60 votes to cut off debate and move on to passing legislation. In the past, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has opposed undoing those rules, which Trump appeared to endorse Friday, though he did change them for Supreme Court nominees earlier this year.

Democrats have also called for Senate rules to be rewritten in the past, most recently for non-SCOTUS nominees.

If Republicans are going to pass great future legislation in the Senate, they must immediately go to a 51 vote majority, not senseless 60...

...Even though parts of healthcare could pass at 51, some really good things need 60. So many great future bills & budgets need 60 votes....

But Thursday night's health care measure only needed 51 votes for approval. The bill was being considered under the Senate's budget reconciliation rules, which allow the Senate to pass legislation with a simple majority if it relates directly to government spending and revenue, with some additional conditions. In the event of a 50-50 tie, Vice President Mike Pence would have been able to serve as a tie-breaker.

-- Cora Lewis

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The New York Post's Friday cover illustrates the drama in the White House as reality TV

The New York Post's humorous front cover depicts the week's White House in-fighting as a new "Survivor" spin-off.

"Survivor White House: Outspin, Outlast," the headline reads with a picture of Trump surrounded by Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Rex Tillerson, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, and Anthony Scaramucci.

–Jessica Simeone

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Russia has ordered the US to reduce the number of diplomatic staff in the country and closed a recreational retreat in response to new sanctions bill

Alexander Nemenov / AFP / Getty Images

Russia's foreign ministry has ordered the number of US consular and diplomatic personnel in the country to be reduced to 455 people in response to Congress adopting a bill toughening sanctions on Moscow.

The foreign ministry also said it was suspending US use of warehouse buildings and a recreational retreat in the Moscow suburbs from August 1. In December, the US ordered the closure of two Russian diplomatic retreats near New York City and Moscow, which the Obama White House said were used for intelligence-gathering purposes.

"We suggest the American side should equal the number of diplomatic and technical staff working in the US Embassy to Moscow and the consulates general in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok to the exact number of Russian diplomats and technical staff members working in the US before September 1," the ministry said in a statement published by the official TASS news agency.

"This means that the total number of the staff engaged in US diplomatic and consular establishments will be reduced to 455 people."

The ministry added that "the Russian side suspends from August 1 use by the US embassy in Russia of all the warehouses in Dorozhnaya Street in Moscow and of the property in Serebryany Bor."

Congress voted nearly-unanimously in favor of a bill toughening sanctions on Moscow, which then passed through the Senate 98-2. The bill strips President Trump's ability to lift sanctions without Congress' approval.

In a statement, the Foreign Minister said that "the measure is further proof the United States’ extremely hostile foreign policy," and Friday morning, the Russian embassy tweeted that "Russia has been doing everything in its power to improve Russia-US relations, to encourage ties, cooperation with #US on the most pressing issues... The adoption of [the] new sanctions bill is an obvious indication that relations [with] Russia are being dragged down by political infighting in US."

The embassy tweeted that "Russia reserves the right to resort to other measures affecting #US’ interests on a retaliatory basis."

An official at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, who declined to be named because they were not allowed to speak to the media, told Reuters there were around 1,100 U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia. That included Russian citizens and U.S. citizens.

Most staff, including around 300 U.S. citizens, work in the main embassy in Moscow with others based in outlying consulates.

— Francis Whittaker, Cora Lewis, John Hudson and Nidhi Prakash

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John McCain has issued a statement after voting "no" on the "skinny" health care repeal, and warned against making "the mistakes of the past."

"From the beginning, I have believed that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. The so-called "skinny repeal" amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals. While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare's most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens. The Speaker's statement that the House would be 'willing' to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time. I've stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare's collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace. We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearing, receive input from both sides of the aisle, heed the recommendations of the nation's governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve."

— Francis Whittaker

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President Trump tweets those who voted against the health care repeal bill "let the American people down" and threatens to "let Obamacare implode."

3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!

— Francis Whittaker

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It's over: Senate Republicans just failed to pass their last-ditch health care bill

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Senate Republicans failed to pass their final Obamacare repeal plan just after 1am Friday morning, with Arizona Sen. John McCain casting a surprise, deciding vote to kill the effort.

McCain was joined by Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in voting against the bill.

The vote is a huge blow to repeal plans in Congress. The Senate has no other plan to repeal Obamacare. Leadership held a prior 15-minute vote open for more than an hour trying to get the votes they needed. But ultimately, they failed. After that, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said they'd be moving on.

"This is clearly a disappointing moment," McConnell said, sounding emotional in a speech just after the vote ended. "From skyrocketing costs to plummeting choices and collapsing markets, our constituents have suffered through an awful lot under Obamacare. We thought they deserved better."

"It's time to move on," McConnell added, saying that it is now time for Democrats to offer their ideas on health care.

The vote came as a huge surprise to even to Republican senators. "Guys, I'm shocked at this. ... I did not expect this. This is sad," Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson told reporters.

Read more here.

— Paul McLeod

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Congress just tied Trump's hands on Russia sanctions by a veto-proof margin

Evan Vucci / AP

The Senate on Thursday took time out from debating health care to pass a bill to keep current sanctions on Russia in place until Congress says otherwise, setting up a potential clash with the White House.

Despite weeks of vacillating from the president's spokespeople over whether President Donald Trump would sign the bill, it passed easily by a margin of 98-2. Along with hardening sanctions already in place against Moscow, stripping Trump of his ability to lift them without Congressional approval, the bill adds new economic penalties against Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

The House of Representatives voted 419-3 to enact the sanctions package on Tuesday, giving it a veto-proof majority moving forward. Two-thirds of both the House and Senate are required to overturn a presidential veto.

The White House did not immediately respond to a BuzzFeed News request for comment on whether the president will sign the bill or force an override.

Read more here.

—Hayes Brown

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Sessions says he is staying on the job until Trump asks him to leave

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

After enduring a week of attacks by the president, Jeff Sessions said Thursday that he is sticking around for as long as Trump wants him.

The embattled attorney general told the Associated Press that he plans to serve the president for "as long as he sees that appropriate," and continues to share his agenda, but if Trump “wants to make a change, he has every right."

“I serve at the pleasure of the president. I’ve understood that from the day I took the job," he added.

Much to the dismay of his fellow Republicans, who have rallied around Sessions, Trump has lambasted the former Alabama senator on Twitter, calling him "beleaguered" and "very weak" for not going after Hillary Clinton and leakers.

Trump is also incensed by the attorney general's decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, telling the New York Times last week that it was "very unfair to the president."

Sessions, however, is downplaying the feud, telling the AP that "it hasn’t been my best week .... for my relationship with the president.”

The two have not spoken recently, he acknowledged. “But I look forward to the opportunity to chat with him about it.”

Brianna Sacks

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Anthony Scaramucci threatens to "kill" White House leakers in shocking rant to reporter

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci told a reporter he wants to kill government leakers, called White House chief strategist Steve Bannon a cocksucker, and suggested he'd fire all of the assistants to the president.

Seriously.

The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza on Thursday published a full account of the angry tirade he heard from Scaramucci over the phone on Wednesday night, headlined "Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon."

Read more here.

—Claudia Koerner

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Sen. Lindsey Graham said it will be the "beginning of the end" of Trump's presidency if he fired Mueller.

video-cdn.buzzfeed.com

Republican senator Lindsey Graham said he believes "there will be holy hell to pay," if the president fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay," he told reporters Thursday. "And any effort to go after [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong."

—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos

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Interior Secretary reportedly threatened retribution against Alaska over Murkowski's health care vote.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

Senators from Alaska reportedly received phone calls from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday, who threatened retribution against the state over Lisa Murkowski's "no" in the health care vote this week, according to Alaska Dispatch News.

Sen. Dan Sullivan told the paper that Zinke's call carried a "troubling message," and that it was clear the call was in response to Murkowski's vote.

"I'm not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop," Sullivan told Alaska Dispatch News. "I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans. … We're facing some difficult times and there's a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear."

According to the paper, issues concerning the state include nominations of Alaskans to Interior posts and expanding drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, among others.

Sullivan's spokesperson Mike Anderson told the Alaska Journal the senator is "very concerned about Alaska's economy," following the phone call.

Sullivan said Zinke also contacted Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

When asked about the reported call, Murkowski told BuzzFeed News in a statement that she "pledged early on" that she would work with Trump to "help advance Alaska's interests."

"While I have disagreed with the Senate process so far, the President and I agree that the status quo with healthcare in our country is not acceptable and that reforms must be made," the statement reads. "I continue working to find the best path for what I believe will achieve that — a committee process where we can work issues in the open and ensure Alaskans have the healthcare choices they want, the affordability they need, and the quality of care they deserve."

Messages from BuzzFeed News to Sullivan, the White House and the Interior Department were not immediately returned.

—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos

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Scaramucci denies calling for FBI to investigate Priebus over "leak" and deletes tweet

Anthony Scaramucci / Via Twitter

The new White House communication director, Anthony Scaramucci, posted a tweet early Thursday morning denying that he had asked the FBI to investigate White House chief of staff Reince Priebus for leaking information.

Scaramucci tweeted that an Axios headline stating he wanted the FBI to investigate Priebus was "Wrong!" and came after Scaramucci had earlier tweeted that he "will be contacting FBI" over a "leak" of a financial disclosure form. He later deleted the tweet.

Anthony Scaramucci / Via Twitter

The financial disclosures that Scaramucci referred to in the tweet were apparently published by Politico on Wednesday and showed assets worth up to $85 million.

The disclosure form was filed with the government on June 23 in connection to a previous job Scaramucci held with the Trump administration at the Export-Import Bank, the New York Times reported. Federal law allows anyone to request such a report after 30 days.

Asked by the Times why he thought the report had been illegally leaked, Scaramucci said in a text: "They aren't in process yet." When he was told that the document could be released by July 23, he did not respond again.

— Michelle Broder Van Dyke

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New White House communications director says he will contact FBI over financial disclosure form "leak"

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, raised eyebrows Wednesday night when he tweeted that he will be contacting Justice Department officials regarding a "leak" of his financial disclosure form.

"In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45," he tweeted, further confusing observers by tagging White House Chief Of Staff Reince Priebus.

It appears Scaramucci was referring to a Politico report that showed financial gains from his investment firm, SkyBridge Capital.

Scaramucci "earned $4.9 million from his ownership stake in SkyBridge in addition to more than $5 million in salary between Jan. 1, 2016, and the end of June, when he joined the Export-Import Bank," Politico reported after viewing a copy of his financial disclosure filed with the Office of Government Ethics.

Scaramucci's financial disclosure form included salaries from Export-Import Bank, Fox News, several mortgages, and a minority stake in the New York Mets.

In response to Scaramucci's tweet, the Justice Department emphasized Wednesday night it agreed with the former financier that a "staggering number of leaks are undermining the ability of our government to function and to protect the country."

Brianna Sacks

New statement from DOJ spokeswoman about Anthony Scaramucci's comments re: a forthcoming leaks probe

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Democrat to propose constitutional amendment to limit presidents from pardoning themselves

Alex Brandon / AP

Rep. Al Green plans to propose a constitutional amendment on Thursday that would explicitly bar the president from granting himself a pardon.

"Nobody wants to see that," the Texas Democrat told BuzzFeed News. "Bigger than the current president, this is for all presidents. If we can't stop one, we'll stop the rest."

Green said on Wednesday evening that he doesn't think such an amendment is needed — he thinks the Constitution doesn't allow such a self-pardon. But he's laying the groundwork to try to pass an amendment like this, should it become necessary.

"Our president has given signals that he is reviewing the Constitution and, in the process of reviewing it, it has been published that the review includes that possibility of his considering pardoning himself," Green — who already has filed articles of impeachment against President Trump — said.

Trump has discussed pardon issues in the Oval Office, his new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, acknowledged this past week.

Read more here.

—Chris Geidner

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Trump takes credit while announcing new Foxconn plant in Wisconsin

Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump on Wednesday welcomed the creation of 3,000 jobs in Wisconsin by Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn — and took credit for the company's plans to build a large US plant.

"To make such an incredible investment, Chairman [Terry] Gou put his faith and confidence in the future of the American economy," Trump said. "In other words, if I didn't get elected, he definitely would not be spending $10 billion."

The company, which manufactures parts used by Apple, will invest $10 billion by 2020 to create a campus in southeastern Wisconsin. The new plant is expected to employ about 3,000 people in manufacturing LCD screens, and including construction work, it could create up to 13,000 jobs, according to Trump and Gov. Scott Walker.

The idea for a domestic campus, however, dates back to at least 2014, when Foxconn's chairman first said he wanted to manufacture LCD screens in the US.

Before the plans move forward, Wisconsin lawmakers will have to approve up to $3 billion in taxpayer subsidies, the Journal Sentinel reported. The subsidies are the largest the state has ever offered — nearly 50 times larger than any previous package, according to the newspaper.

—Claudia Koerner

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Tech CEOs are calling on Trump to reverse decision on trans service members

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Silicon Valley CEOs and companies urged President Trump to reverse his decision trans people cannot serve in the military.

They included Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Apple, with some are using the hashtag #LetThemServe.

Some of the first CEOs to respond to Trump's tweets were those who did not attend his technology roundtable in June. The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google's founder Eric Schmidt did attend that meeting.

Read more here.

—Blake Montgomery and Katie Notopoulos

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Here's the Senate Republicans' real plan for repealing Obamacare

Alex Brandon / AP

Senate Republicans have not been able to reach an agreement on a repeal bill but they may have found a new compromise — punting the decision down the road.

One Obamacare repeal plan was voted down on Tuesday evening and a second plan, to just repeal Obamacare and it replace it later failed on Wednesday afternoon, with seven GOP no votes. But Republicans are already looking toward the end of the week, when the true life-or-death vote will take place.

The current plan by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to a spokesperson, is to pass a bill — any bill — through the Senate just to move it ahead to the next step, which is a conference with the House. Senate and House Republicans would then try to hash out a bill that they hope can pass both chambers without any Democratic support.

The pitch from Senate leadership will be to pass a bare-bones repeal bill now, and then figure the rest out in conference.

Read more here.

—Paul McLeod

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Trump says transgender people cannot "serve in any capacity" in the military

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that transgender people cannot "serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," repeating a claim from conservative Republicans that transgender service members disrupt the ranks and add medical costs that undermine troop readiness.

The announcement comes one week after the US House narrowly rejected an effort to roll back transgender military rights, with a couple dozen Republicans joining every Democrat to vote down an amendment that would have denied medical care required for gender transition, such as prescription drugs and surgeries.

In 2016, under the Obama administration, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter expressed support for transgender people serving in the military, stating nothing "but their suitability for service should preclude" them from serving. He enacted a policy that allowed transgender people to serve openly and receive transition related care, while setting a plan in motion to enlist new transgender troops. Most recently, the Defense Department said it would delay the policy on enlisting.

Read the full story here.

–Cora Lewis and Dominic Holden

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The first Senate proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare has been defeated by an unexpectedly wide margin

Aaron P. Bernstein / Via Reuters

The first Senate proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare was defeated by an unexpected, wide margin Tuesday evening.

Nine Republicans opposed the plan, which was a combination of Senate leadership's most recent replacement bill plus amendments from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.

In some ways this vote was a trial balloon. It was a first vote of at least two necessary on that plan. And it was never expected to pass because the two amendments were not eligible for the Senate's special reconciliation process and thus needed 60 votes to pass. Republicans hold only 52 seats in the Senate. Still, that nine Republican senators voted against the bill was an unexpected blow to repeal plans.

One move that surprised many was Sen. John McCain's vote in favor of the amended bill, given his comments earlier in the day. Tuesday afternoon McCain had flown into Washington after undergoing surgery and being diagnosed with a brain tumor in order to pass the crucial vote on a motion to allow the GOP health plans to go to a vote.

Read more here.

— Paul McLeod

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Trump returns to Ohio for a campaign-style rally with supporters

Carolyn Kaster / AP

President Trump returned Tuesday to the familiar space of a rally in front of thousands of supporters in Youngstown, Ohio, where he gave a speech that strongly echoed the dozens of speeches he gave on the campaign trail.

Trump railed against the media, promised to build the wall on the southern border and vowed to support military veterans and police as he did several times before the presidential election.

The president did, however, make sure to point out to supporters that hours before his speech the US Senate had approved a vote to begin debate on repealing Obamacare.

"You think that's easy? That's not easy," Trump said. "We're now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare and delivering great healthcare for the American people."

He also took time to address senators who might vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act.

"Any senator who votes against repeal and replace is telling America they are fine with the Obamacare nightmare," he said. "I predict they will have a lot of problems."

But more than a speech listing Trump's victories during his first six months in office, his comments seemed more reminiscent of talking points from the campaign, even borrowing some of the same lines he used before the election.

Trump attempted to link illegal immigration to violent crime, tying the administration's efforts to crackdown on the notorious MS-13 gang to immigration reform.

"We are throwing MS-13 the hell out of here so fast," he said.

Despite the president's claims that MS-13, a gang that started in Los Angeles in the 1980s, is making its way across the border illegally, data from immigration agencies do not support his contention.

But like he's done in the past, Trump tried to paint a dire and violent picture, linking it to his efforts to crackdown on immigration.

"You've seen the stories about some of these animals. They don't want to use guns because it's too fast and it's not painful enough," Trump said, in reference to MS-13. "So they'll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15, and others, and they'll slice 'em and dice 'em with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die."

Trump also pointed to his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, and said it was still possible for him to pull the US out of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"Let's see what happens, but we will no longer be the foolish people," Trump said.

He also decried the division in Washington and his difficulty with Democrats, but even seemed to brush those troubles aside.

"When America is united America is totally unstoppable," he said. "Although to be honest with you, even when it's not united it's unstoppable."

—Salvador Hernandez

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President Trump suggested he won Youngstown, Ohio, before a rally there. He didn't.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

President Trump suggested Tuesday before a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, one of the state's Democratic strongholds, that he was able to turn the city red during the 2016 presidential election.

He didn't.

"But Democrats, they win in Youngstown, but not this time. Right?" Trump said at the Salute to America's Heroes event Tuesday prior to a rally for thousands of supporters. "(Democrats) started to get a little nervous at the beginning of that evening when they see, 'Youngstown seems to be going the other way.'"

In fact, according to Mahoning County, Clinton won the county with 49.34% of the vote, or more than 3,000 ballots than Trump got.

Clinton went on to win Mahoning County, partly due to the 17,905 votes she received from Youngstown, according to The Vindicator.

However, Trump did appear to have performed better than expected in the county, winning Ohio in the end. The paper reported it was the first time in 80 years a candidate won the county without grabbing 50% of the vote.

—Salvador Hernandez

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Senate committee withdraws subpoena for Paul Manafort after he agrees to cooperate

Mary Altaffer / AP

Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign manager, is handing over documents to a Senate committee investigating attempts by the Russian government and foreign agents to influence American elections, the committee announced Tuesday night.

Manafort had been subpoenaed by the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a public hearing Wednesday, but the committee has agreed to withdraw the subpoena in exchange for him committing to "negotiate in good faith" to find a future date to interview with the committee.

"Faced with issuance of a subpoena, we are happy that Mr. Manafort has started producing documents to the Committee and we have agreed to continue negotiating over a transcribed interview," committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley and ranking Democratic member Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement Tuesday night.

Read more here.

–Zoe Tillman

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The House votes to limit Trump's ability to alter US-Russia relations

Evan Vucci / AP

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a sanctions package on Tuesday that would limit President Donald Trump's ability to set the tone of US-Russia relations.

The vote was nearly unanimous, with just three Republicans opposing it.

While the future of the legislation remains unclear, House GOP support of the bill, which clumps together new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, is a sign that Republicans outside of the administration want to make sure the White House doesn't ignore Congress when it comes to foreign adversaries.

The bill would require Trump to get congressional approval before making any changes to sanctions against Russia. This comes in the midst of an FBI investigation and several congressional probes looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.

Asked what Republicans are hoping to accomplish with the sanctions bill, South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, a frequent Trump critic, said "a degree of control."

Read more here.

—Lissandra Villa

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Trump says it's "unfair to the presidency" that Sessions recused himself on Russia matters

Tasos Katopodis / AFP / Getty Images

The president told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that he thinks it's "unfair to the presidency" that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from investigations over Russian involvement in the U.S. election.

"He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me prior to taking office and I would have quite simply picked somebody else," Trump said, in response to a question about why he hasn't made a decision about whether or not he will fire Sessions. "So I think that's a bad thing not for the president but for the presidency. I think its unfair to the presidency and that's the way I feel."

He made the comments during a joint press conference held in the Rose Garden with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Responding to a question from another reporter, who asked if Sessions should stay on the job or if he should be fired, Trump said he would like Sessions to be more diligent in following the sources of leaks from the intelligence community.

"I want the attorney general to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before at a very important level," Trump said. "We cannot have that happen."

The president then expressed, once again, his disappointment with his pick for the head of the Justice Department, saying he was "disappointed."

"I told you before, I'm very disappointed with the attorney general but we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell," Trump said.

—Nidhi Prakash and Talal Ansari

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Trump says he's thinking about firing Sessions: "I'll just see"

Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions' loyalty in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, stating that he is "disappointed" with Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

Trump spoke after days of criticizing Sessions on Twitter. A reporter from the Journal asked how long the president could continue to do that without firing Sessions.

"I'm just looking at it," Trump responded. "I'll just see. It's a very important thing."

Though he would not say if he planned to fire Sessions, Trump went on to question whether the attorney general supported him. Sessions was the first senator to publicly support Trump — which Trump on Tuesday minimized in the interview.

"When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama," Trump said about Sessions' endorsement during the campaign. "I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot, massive numbers. A lot of the states I won by massive numbers. But he was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, 'What do I have to lose?' And he endorsed me. So it's not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement. But I'm very disappointed in Jeff Sessions."

Trump, who has called the Russia investigation a "witch hunt," blamed Democrats for the probe and said it wouldn't be newsworthy if Sessions hadn't recused himself.

"They've lost an election and they came up with this as an excuse," Trump said. "And the only ones that are laughing are the Democrats and the Russians. And if Jeff Sessions didn't recuse himself, we wouldn't even be talking about this subject."

— Claudia Koerner

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Anthony Scaramucci says he's willing to "fire everybody" to stop White House leaks

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Anthony Scaramucci spent his second day as White House communications director telling reporters he will "fire everyone" in the press office if leaks from the administration don't stop.

"If they don't stop leaking I'm going to put them out on Pennsylvania Avenue," Scaramucci told reporters outside the White House.

Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short seemed to be the first part of Scaramucci's overhaul — he resigned on Tuesday. Politico first reported Scaramucci planned to fire Short.

A few hours after the Polico report, Scaramucci berated reporters outside the White House for reporting on Short's possible firing and said the story was an example of "the problem with the leaking" when asked to confirm whether or not Short would be fired.

Read more here.

—Nidhi Prakash and Adrian Carrasquillo

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A DC Federal Court just ruled carrying guns in public is a "core" 2nd Amendment right

Jim Young / AFP / Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down Washington, DC's latest attempt to limit residents from carrying guns in public.

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit held in a 2-1 decision that public carrying of firearms is a "core" Second Amendment right, and that the District's regulations amounted to a "total ban" on exercising that right. The ruling breaks with several federal appeals courts that upheld similar regulations in other states.

"For that long struggle against gun violence, you might see in today's decision a defeat; you might see the opposite. To say whether it is one or the other is beyond our ken here. We are bound to leave the District as much space to regulate as the Constitution allows — but no more," DC Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith wrote in the majority opinion.

Read the full story here.

–Zoe Tillman

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While the Democratic party is trying to reinvent itself, Tim Kaine is staying away

Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

On a long flight last winter from Washington to San Francisco, Sen. Tim Kaine noticed the man seated next to him wouldn't stop looking at him.

"All the flight long he kept looking over, like he was trying to figure it out," Kaine says. As they landed, the man realized who Kaine was. "We land and he goes, 'Flying coach with us, huh?' And I said, 'I've always flown in coach with you, except for 105 days," Kaine says, smiling. "And yep, I'm back in coach with you."

The 59-year-old Democratic senator stepped into the national spotlight one year ago this week when Hillary Clinton chose him, a veteran of the Virginia political scene, as her running mate for the 2016 presidential election.

But following a devastating election result for Democrats, Kaine is hesitant to weigh in on the future of a party facing a battle between a resurgent, anti-Trump left and calls from moderates to refocus on blue-collar voters in flyover states that went Republican in 2016.

When Democrats on Monday gathered in rural Virginia to release a new platform, one they believe will help them retake Congress in 2018 and, perhaps, the White House in 2020, Kaine, the party's vice presidential candidate and a local senator, wasn't there.

Read the full story here.

–Emma Loop

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Lindsey Graham defends Sessions, says Trump tweet is "highly inappropriate"

Graham and Sessions in 2005.
Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Graham and Sessions in 2005.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday criticized President Trump's extraordinary Twitter attack on his own attorney general as "highly inappropriate," defending Jeff Sessions as a man of integrity.

After days of undermining Sessions, Trump on Tuesday tweeted that the attorney general had been "very weak" in investigating former campaign rival Hillary Clinton for alleged wrongdoing. (Although, Trump previously said after the election that he did not want Clinton prosecuted). The president has been angered by Sessions' recusing himself from all Russia investigation matters — a move that led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel.

"I know that he is certainly frustrated and disappointed in the Attorney General for recusing himself," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News on Tuesday.

"But that frustration certainly hasn't gone away and you know, I don't think it will but given the fact that the president is being attacked unnecessarily and certainly for no reason on something that I think he, and I think most America think, is a complete hoax," she added.

Graham, who has been critical of the president in the past, said Trump's tweet suggesting Sessions investigate his former political rival was "highly inappropriate."

"Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation," Graham said. "To do otherwise is to run away from the long-standing American tradition of separating the law from politics regardless of party."

The senior Republican senator from South Carolina also defended Sessions, his former Senate colleague, as "one of the most decent people I've ever met in my political life."

"Jeff Sessions is a rock-solid conservative, but above else he believes in the Rule of Law. He understands we are a nation of laws, not men," Graham said.

—David Mack

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Paul Manafort is being subpoenaed to testify before Congress

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign manager, has been subpoenaed to testify at a public hearing on Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Tuesday.

The committee said last week that it would not subpoena Manafort as it negotiated an agreement with him to provide documents and be interviewed by committee members and staff. But Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and the ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said in a joint statement on Tuesday that they had been unable to finalize the deal.

"Mr. Manafort, through his attorney, said that he would be willing to provide only a single transcribed interview to Congress, which would not be available to the Judiciary Committee members or staff. While the Judiciary Committee was willing to cooperate on equal terms with any other committee to accommodate Mr. Manafort's request, ultimately that was not possible," Grassley and Feinstein said.

It was not immediately clear what other committees Grassley and Feinstein were referring to. The subpoena was issued Monday evening, according to the statement.

Read the full story here.

–Zoe Tillman

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Trump accused the acting FBI chief of being influenced by Clinton-connected donations — despite no evidence

Pete Marovich / Getty Images

As part of Trump's morning tweetstorm today, he alleged that the acting FBI chief failed to uphold law and order because his wife received money from Hillary Clinton while he investigated the former secretary of state for "crimes."

Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!

Except, that isn't entirely accurate.

Andrew McCabe is acting FBI head after the firing of James Comey. Back in 2015 his wife, Jill McCabe, made an unsuccessful race for Virginia State Senate as a Democratic nominee.

During that campaign, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe's PAC donated $467,500 to her campaign, according to campaign finance records, the Wall Street Journal reported.

McAullife is a close Clinton ally – he was chairman of her 2008 campaign and a prolific fundraiser for Bill Clinton during his presidency.

Plus, the Virginia Democratic Party, which McAuliffe essentially controls, donated $207,788 to Jill McCabe's 2015 campaign.

That makes for a total of $675,288 in donations, from organizations linked to McAuliffe.

But there's no evidence that Clinton knew anything about the donations, despite the president tweeting she "got $700,000 from H!".

Trump has been obsessed with this issue since before becoming president, tweeting about it back in October 2016:

'Clinton Ally Aided Campaign of FBI Official’s Wife' https://t.co/U0w99gfyKE

It wasn't until February 2016 that McCabe was promoted to deputy director and had oversight over the investigation into Clinton's emails. His wife had already lost her campaign back in November 2015.

Comey said in his Senate testimony that Trump brought up what the president called "the McCabe thing" during a phone call.

Trump's new pick to led the FBI, Christopher Wray, will take over as soon as the full Senate votes to confirm him. The Senate committee voted to approve him last week.

– Amber Jamieson

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Scaramucci says it's "probably right" that Trump wants Sessions gone

Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci addressed President Trump's latest tweets about Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that "they need to work this thing out."

"The President's been tweeting this morning. I'm sure you're aware of it," Hewitt said. "Why not just fire Jeff Sessions?"

Scaramucci answered that he had proposed getting the two of them together, but that so far the president was uninterested.

"Well, listen, I mean, I think the President has a certain style, certain skill set," Scaramucci said. "He's obviously frustrated. I said yesterday — I think to [CNN reporter] Sarah Murray — maybe the two of them [ought] to get together. My guess is the president doesn't want to do that. So I think him and Jeff — sorry, Attorney General Sessions, need to work this thing out."

"It's clear the president wants him gone, isn't it, Anthony?" Hewitt asked.

"I have an enormous amount of respect for the Attorney General, but I do know the president pretty well, and if there's this level of tension in the relationship that's public, you're probably right," said Scaramucci. "But I don't want to speak for the president on that because he's a cabinet official and I sort of thing that has to be between the president of the United States and the cabinet official."

Scaramucci later told ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl, "They need to either get together or separate."

-- Cora Lewis

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Democrats worry they'll keep losing if they can't get organized around voting rights

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

While Democrats have howled for decades that contrived, oddly drawn voting districts minimize their wins in elections, and that voter ID laws suppress votes among typically Democratic blocs, the Trump era has ushered in a growing sense of a crisis among progressives.

The situation, they say, is dire.

At a standing room–only luncheon before the NAACP on Monday, former US Attorney General Eric Holder warned the crowd, "The right to vote is under siege."

"The Republican Party has decided to lash itself to short-term political expediency and put itself on the wrong side of history," he intoned, calling the head of President Trump's voter commission a "fact-challenged zealot."

Read the full story here.

—Dominic Holden

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Senate Republicans will take a key vote on Obamacare today

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Republicans will take their first actual vote on health care on Tuesday afternoon. If it fails — a likely possibility — the health care debate is essentially dead. But if it passes, there's still more work to do before they can repeal Obamacare and it's unclear how they'll do it.

Check here for what to expect and updates throughout the day on the vote.

—Paul McLeod

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Trump continued to attack his own attorney general during a wide-ranging Tuesday morning tweetstorm

President Trump continued to lay into his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, on Twitter on Tuesday morning, following reports he had discussed firing him emerged on Monday evening.

He questioned why Sessions had not instigated an investigation into alleged discussions between Ukraine and the 2016 Clinton campaign — something Trump surrogates have tried to push as a counter to allegations about his campaign's Russia controversies in recent weeks.

He continued by saying that Sessions is in a "very weak position" on his failure to look into "Hillary Clinton crimes," before accusing acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe as having "got $700,000 from H for wife" in his third tweet of the morning.

Trump then moved onto health care in his fourth and fifth tweets, urging Republican lawmakers to "step up to the plate" and saying that Obamacare is "torturing the American people."

In a sixth tweet, he praised Sen. John McCain for returning to work in DC despite his recent cancer diagnosis, before addressing his son-in law and adviser Jared Kushner's congressional testimony on Monday, joking that his 11-year-old son Barron was "next up."

—Francis Whittaker

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Trump has reportedly discussed firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Matt Rourke / AP

President Trump has spoken privately with his advisers about the possibility of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions after criticizing Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, according to reports published late Monday.

The president lashed out earlier in the day at Sessions on Twitter, calling him "our beleaguered A.G." and asking why "the Committees and investigators" are not looking into Hillary Clinton's "crimes and Russia relations."

The president has seethed for months over Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, and according to the Associated Press and Washington Post has floated the idea of firing the once-close ally.

Sessions has tried unsuccessfully to mend his relationship with Trump and has asked senior White House staff for help going about it, the AP reported. Sessions was seen Monday in the West Wing of the White House, but did not meet with the president.

Possible replacements for Sessions include former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, the reports said, citing unnamed sources. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was also under consideration, the Post said.

Sessions has previously offered to resign over mounting tensions with the president, and last week Trump said he regretted picking Sessions as his attorney general.

"Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else," Trump told the New York Times.

—Jon Passantino

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Trump attacks the Washington Post, accusing the paper of being a "lobbyist weapon"

President Trump lashed out at the Washington Post on Twitter late Monday, accusing the paper of being a "lobbyist weapon."

In a series of tweets, Trump seemed to suggest that the newspaper has been conspiring against him and that its owner, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has been using the paper as a "weapon" to keep politicians from properly taxing the giant online retailer. Trump had suggested the same conspiracy theory last year before he took office.

The president's tweetstorm did, however, appear to confirm the Post's story that his administration had ended a covert CIA program to train Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad — a move long sought by Russia.

Former National Security Council spokesman Ned Price responded on Twitter, pointing out "that If the media reports are true, the President of the United States just confirmed a CIA covert action program. On Twitter."

The tweets came after a segment aired Monday evening on Tucker Carlson's Fox News program discussing the newspaper.

I found it. Trump is responding to this Tucker Carlson segment https://t.co/Z4ZEOXmwI4 https://t.co/tj1uOfHTyA

—Brianna Sacks

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Sen. McCain is returning to Washington for Senate health care vote

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Just days after announcing he has an aggressive form of brain cancer, Sen. John McCain said Monday that he will return to Washington to vote on the struggling Republican health care bill.

The 80-year-old Arizona senator tweeted that he will be back in the Senate on Tuesday and is looking forward to "continue working on important legislation, including health care reform, the National Defense Authorization Act, and new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea."

His quick return is a surprise to many, given the severity of his diagnosis, but his vote is critical to helping Republican lawmakers push forward their health care legislation, which has stalled several times over the past few months. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs at least 50 votes to advance the bill, and several Republican senators have already said they would vote against it.

Brianna Sacks

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Trump urges Senate Republicans on health care vote, declares "Obamacare is death"

Trump says "Obamacare is death" but it doesn't matter because it's failing so no one will have it anyway 😐

Flanked by people he described as victims of Obamacare, President Trump on Monday pushed Senate Republicans to keep their promise to repeal and replace the "nightmare" Affordable Care Act.

Speaking the day before the Senate's planned health care vote, Trump painted a grim picture of Obamacare, sharing stories of struggling Americans whose lives have been negatively impacted by the law.

"Behind me today we have real American families, great families. Just spent a lot of time with them, who are suffering because 7 years ago a small group of politicians and special interests in Washington engineered a government take over of health care," he said. "Every pledge that Washington Democrats made to pass that bill turned out to be a lie."

In an attempt to sell the Senate version of the health care bill, the contents of which are still unclear, the president described Obamacare as "death" and the worst-case scenario for Americans.

"The Senate bill protects coverage for pre-existing conditions, and you don't hear this from the Democrats. They like to tell you just the opposite, and they didn't even know the bill," he said. "They run out, they say death, death, death. Well, Obamacare is death. That's the one that's death. And besides that, it's failing, so you won't have it anyway."

Trump reminded his party, who has struggled in recent months to vote on its version of health care reform, that they had promised to repeal President Obama's signature legislative achievement for years.

"Now is the time for action. We are here to solve problems for the people. Obamacare has broken our health care system. It's broken. It's collapsing. It's gone. And now it is up to us to get great health care for the American people," he concluded.

Brianna Sacks

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Kushner testified for nearly two hours before Senate investigators, then delivered a sort-of-odd address

Yuri Gripas / AFP / Getty Images

Jared Kushner testified before Senate investigators for nearly two hours on Monday and detailed four contacts with Kremlin-connected Russians over the course of President Trump's campaign and transition into the White House.

After the closed-door hearing on Capitol Hill, Kushner gave a rare — and sort of strange — public address outside the White House, in which he again denied colluding with Russian officials to tip the election in favor of his father-in-law.

"My name is Jared Kushner. I am senior adviser to president Donald J. Trump," he began the statement. "I did not collude with Russia. Nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses."

Kushner said the president "had a better message and ran a smarter campaign," and "that is why he won." He added, "Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him."

"I have not sought the spotlight," said Kushner, a multimillionaire Manhattan real estate investor whose portfolio at the White House includes the high-level job of bringing peace to the Middle East.

"First in business, and now in public service, I have always focused on setting and achieving goals, and have left it to others to work on media and public perception," added Kushner, who owned the New York Observer for more than 10 years.

Read more here. —Emma Loop and Cora Lewis

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The president just called his own attorney general "beleaguered"

So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?

President Trump on Monday fired off a tweet asking why "our beleaguered A.G." and "the Committees and investigators" are not looking into Hillary Clinton's "crimes and Russia relations."

Remember, this is the president calling his own attorney general beleaguered.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously offered to resign after he recused himself from the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, according to multiple reports, but the president declined his offer. Last week, Trump said he regretted choosing Sessions as his attorney general because of the recusal, which led many to wonder if Sessions would resign or be fired.

Sleazy Adam Schiff, the totally biased Congressman looking into "Russia," spends all of his time on television pushing the Dem loss excuse!

Trump added choice words for Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, calling him "sleazy" and "totally biased."

—Cora Lewis

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Trump criticized the "fake news" media and said there was "zero evidence" of Russian interference in Monday morning tweets

President Trump tweeted twice on Monday morning, criticizing the news media as "much worse than anyone ever thought," and stating that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had said Democrats should take responsibility for their electoral loss instead of blaming Russia.

Drain the Swamp should be changed to Drain the Sewer - it's actually much worse than anyone ever thought, and it begins with the Fake News!

After 1 year of investigation with Zero evidence being found, Chuck Schumer just stated that "Democrats should blame ourselves,not Russia."

The president was referring to comments Sen. Schumer made to the Washington Post, in which he said, "When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don't blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself."

The interview came as the Democrats' unveiled their new slogan for the 2018 midterm elections: "A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future." Sen. Schumer also debuted the Democrats' new branding in an op-ed in the New York Times on Monday.

"People didn't know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that," the senator told the Post.

—Cora Lewis

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Jared Kushner has detailed four meetings with Kremlin-connected Russians during the campaign and transition

Pool / Getty Images

Jared Kushner has issued a statement ahead of his congressional testimony on Monday, in which he details four contacts with Kremlin-connected Russians over the course of the campaign and transition, and denies any collusion.

At the conclusion of the 11-page document, Kushner said: "I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form, above and beyond what is required."

In the statement, Kushner insisted he did not read the infamous email chain about a meeting with a Russian lawyer revealed by Donald Trump Jr. at the time, and regarded the meeting as "a waste of time."

Read the full story here.

—Francis Whittaker

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Anthony Scaramucci on hot mic: I called on CNN to send a message to Jeff Zucker

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Anthony Scaramucci is already working to smooth over the Trump administration's rocky relationship with CNN.

In a transcript of comments Scaramucci made on a hot microphone between Sunday appearances on Fox News, CNN, and CBS News talk shows, Scaramucci described his mindset when he took the lectern at his first press briefing on Friday, hours after his appointment was announced and press secretary Sean Spicer resigned.

"In the back of my mind I have to call on CNN and send a message to [CNN President Jeff] Zucker that we are back in business," Scaramucci said, according to the transcript obtained by BuzzFeed News. He referred to Zucker having "helped me get the job by hitting those guys," a reference to the network's decision to force the resignation of three employees over a retracted Russia article that mentioned Scaramucci.

According to the transcript, Scaramucci — who was filming the interviews remotely — joked that Zucker is "not getting a placement fee for getting me the job."

Scaramucci confirmed to BuzzFeed News that he made the comments and said that some of his colorful remarks were jokes.

Read the full story here.

—Steven Perlberg

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Donald Trump's new communications director thinks Brexit is a bad idea — unlike his boss

Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

President Trump is one of Brexit's biggest cheerleaders, describing Britain's withdrawal from the European Union as "great" and "wonderful." But his latest senior White House appointment seems to see things very differently.

Anthony Scaramucci, Trump's new director of communications, tweeted repeatedly last year about his negative views on Brexit, and went as far as describing UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a leading Brexiter, of risking being "on the wrong side of history."

After his appointment was announced last week, Scaramucci announced that he was deleting all his old tweets. But here are the ones laying out his strongly anti-Brexit views.

Read the full story here.

—Alberto Nardelli

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