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July 22, 2014
CC by: DonkeyHotey

There are lots of reasons to believe the November elections should be great for the Republican Party: Midterms are generally kind to the out-of-power party, the president's party almost always loses seats in year six of an administration, the 2014 map is favorable to Republicans, and President Obama's approval ratings are pretty low. Republicans even have reasonable hopes for a really big "wave" election, like every election since 2006, minus 2012.

But if the Republicans are going to ride an anti-Democratic wave to big pickups in the House and Senate, there are scant signs of it now, says Nate Cohn at The New York Times.

The race for the Senate, at least right now, is stable. There aren't many polls asking whether voters would prefer Democrats or Republicans to control Congress, but the Democrats appear to maintain a slight edge among registered voters. Democratic incumbents in red Republican states, who would be all but doomed in a Republican wave, appear doggedly competitive in places where Mitt Romney won by as much as 24 points in 2012.... The light-blue Democratic states and purple presidential battleground states, like Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Hampshire, all seem to be heading toward tight races or Democratic wins, as one would expect in a fairly neutral year. [New York Times]

None of that means Republicans will have a bad year, or even that they won't win control of the Senate in a non-wave election. In fact, there weren't clear signs of a wave election in 2006, 2008, or 2010 until after this point in the election cycle, Cohn writes. "But as July turns to August, the GOP is now on the clock.... Every day that goes by without a shift toward the GOP increases the odds that there will not be a wave at all." Peter Weber

10:24 p.m. ET
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Say bye, bye, bye to your dreams of an 'NSYNC reunion at the Super Bowl.

Joey Fatone told TMZ Sports that when Justin Timberlake performs at the Super Bowl LII halftime show on Feb. 4, his former band mates won't be dancing beside him. "I'm here right now," Fatone said, while standing outside a West Hollywood, California, restaurant. "If I was doing something, I'd be at rehearsals right now. There's your proof."

Fatone was singing a different tune last October, after it was announced Timberlake was going to be the halftime entertainment — at the time, he said an 'NSYNC reunion was possible, just a few things needed to be worked out. This could be an elaborate distraction and 'NSYNC is planning a surprise set, but it sounds like fans who were hoping for a "Tearin' Up My Heart" singalong and J.C. Chasez wardrobe malfunction have to keep waiting. Catherine Garcia

9:32 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

During a meeting later described as "disturbing," President Trump asked then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe a very personal and pointed question about the 2016 presidential election: Who did you vote for?

Several current and former U.S. officials told The Washington Post about the meeting, held last May in the Oval Office. McCabe responded that he didn't vote in the election, the Post reports, but Trump wasn't done with him — he then shared his displeasure over donations McCabe's wife accepted in 2015, when she ran unsuccessfully for the Virginia state Senate. Jill McCabe, a Democrat, received $500,000 from a political action committee control by then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton; at the time of the race, McCabe was the assistant director of the FBI's Washington Field Office, and recused himself from cases involving Virginia politicians.

McCabe, who was serving as deputy FBI director when former FBI Director James Comey was fired last May and is back in the role under current FBI Director Christopher Wray, thought the conversation was "disturbing," one person told the Post, and his fellow FBI officials were also bothered by Trump asking a civil servant to share how he voted. The Post says this conversation is of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump has tweeted several unfavorable things about McCabe, and Axios reported on Monday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions urged Wray to fire McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe is pushed out. Read more about the conversation, plus Trump's intense dislike of McCabe, at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

8:16 p.m. ET
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Jerome Powell as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, with a vote of 85-12.

Powell, 64, will lead the country's central bank and have major influence over the economy. He is succeeding Janet Yellen, whose term ends on Feb. 3. Powell, a lawyer and investment manager, has spent nearly six years on the Fed's board, and is viewed as a centrist, The Associated Press reports. He's been praised by Republicans and Democrats, with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) calling him a "thoughtful policymaker." Catherine Garcia

7:44 p.m. ET
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Novelist Ursula K. Le Guin, known for her sci-fi and fantasy books like The Left Hand of Darkness and winning — multiple times — the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, died Monday in Portland, Oregon. She was 88.

Le Guin was a writer for most of her life, submitting her first short story at age 11. She wrote about everything from gender roles to violence to conformity, and her Earthsea books have sold millions of copies worldwide. Author Mary Robinette Kowal told NPR Le Guin was "a gateway drug" into science fiction and fantasy for many readers, and "embraced new forms of technology" while "constantly pushing boundaries and barriers." In 2014, Le Guin received a lifetime achievement award at the National Book Awards. Catherine Garcia

6:59 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Special Counsel Robert Mueller would like to interview President Trump sometime within the next few weeks regarding the events surrounding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, people familiar with his plans told The Washington Post Tuesday.

Flynn left the White House last February after it was reported he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with former Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak; in December, he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Mueller was fired in May, and later testified that Trump had asked him to let go of the FBI's investigation into Flynn. Mueller also wants to learn more about Trump's reported pressuring of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to quit, and if this is a pattern of behavior for Trump, the Post reports. The Department of Justice confirmed Tuesday that Sessions was interviewed by the special counsel's team for several hours last week.

Trump's attorneys are negotiating the terms of an interview with the special counsel's team, and would like Trump to provide some testimony face-to-face with investigators and the rest in a written statement. Trump's informal adviser Roger Stone told the Post Trump should do whatever it takes to get out of an interview, because it's "a death wish. Why would you walk into a perjury trap? The president would be very poorly advised to give Mueller an interview." Catherine Garcia

6:00 p.m. ET
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Virtual reality headsets may look impossibly dorky — but you know what doesn't? An Olympic gold medal.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has worked for the past two years with the virtual-reality company STRIVR Labs to prepare its athletes for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Barring secret training operations by other countries, the Post says the U.S. is the first country to use VR in its Olympic training.

Because the Jeongseon Alpine Centre, where the skiing events will be held, is only two years old, VR headset training is especially helpful as most Olympic athletes have only traversed the course a handful of times, the Post explains. The U.S. team took advantage of 2016 pit stop in South Korea during the World Cup to gather its footage, sending one of its coaches barreling down the Jeongseon course over and over again, armed with a 360-degree video camera. STRIVR then made a composite of the coach's various runs and recalibrated the footage to approximate the intensity of an Olympic ski run.

The Post reports that "most of the U.S. team" has had a virtual run down the Olympic slopes. But these VR ski runs can be somewhat nauseating, which makes some athletes reluctant to train with VR. STRIVR tried to mitigate the risk of motion sickness, encouraging athletes to use the VR footage while perched on motion-simulating equipment so that their bodies align more closely with the images they were seeing. Still, "you watch it and you get pretty sick and dizzy," one athlete told the Post.

Read more at The Washington Post. Kelly O'Meara Morales

5:43 p.m. ET
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Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) will give birth to her second child in April, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday. Ten lawmakers from the House of Representatives have given birth while in office — including Duckworth, back in 2014 — but Duckworth will be the first sitting senator to give birth while serving, the Sun-Times notes.

The journey to Duckworth's second pregnancy was an arduous one. "I've had multiple [in vitro fertilization] cycles and a miscarriage trying to conceive again, so we're very grateful," she told the Sun-Times, adding that the miscarriage happened while she ran for her Senate seat in 2016.

The 49-year-old senator was a House representative for Illinois' 8th district when she gave birth to her daughter in 2014. "As tough as it's been to juggle motherhood and the demands of being in the House and now the Senate, it's made me more committed to doing this job," Duckworth said. Kelly O'Meara Morales

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