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April 14, 2014

For many years now, the internet has been giving celebrity vaccine deniers like Jenny McCarthy a lot of grief, on account of all the, you know, children killed due to vaccine refusals. Apparently some of that finally got through, because over the weekend McCarthy published an aggrieved op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times claiming she's been misrepresented:

I am not "anti-vaccine." This is not a change in my stance nor is it a new position that I have recently adopted. For years, I have repeatedly stated that I am, in fact, "pro-vaccine" and for years I have been wrongly branded as "anti-vaccine." [Chicago Sun-Times]

Nope! As detailed here and here, McCarthy has, for years, loudly and angrily asserted scientifically false things about vaccines: most prominently, that they're filled with toxins, and that they cause autism. No, this is a tactical retreat to a less outrageous anti-vaccine position, motivated by the total scientific and ethical collapse of the purported vaccine-autism link. Because despite her attempted whitewash of history, McCarthy is still effectively scaremongering about vaccines:

I believe in the importance of a vaccine program and I believe parents have the right to choose one poke per visit. I've never told anyone to not vaccinate. Should a child with the flu receive six vaccines in one doctor visit? Should a child with a compromised immune system be treated the same way as a robust, healthy child? Shouldn't a child with a family history of vaccine reactions have a different plan? Or at least the right to ask questions? [Chicago Sun-Times]

As Aaron Carroll points out, these less alarming "questions" about vaccines are either strawmen or scientifically bogus:

She asks that we consider the "gray zone." But in many areas, there is no gray zone. Do vaccines cause autism? No... Do they overwhelm the immune system? No... She's conflating totally different things here... She asks if a sick kid should get vaccines. If they're not more than mildly ill, yes. Maybe if they'd gotten the flu vaccine they wouldn't have the flu. She brings up immunocompromised kids, but they absolutely do get considered differently already. No decent physician would not consider a child's individual medical history. Same with those kids with a history of adverse reactions. We consent people for vaccines, and ask if they've had bad reactions before.

And no one, absolutely no physician I know, refuses to answer the questions of parents. [The Incidental Economist]

Yet again, she's been sowing scientific controversy where there is none. Sorry we hurt your feelings, Jenny, but lives are literally at stake here. Ryan Cooper

7:16 p.m. ET
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner is under scrutiny by the FBI in the Russia investigation, several U.S. officials told NBC News and other media outlets.

Officials said it is believed he has information that could be helpful in the inquiry, but that doesn't mean he is suspected of any crimes and is in a different category than Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, and Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, who are considered subjects of the investigation.

In 2016, Kushner met at least once with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and a Russian banker named Sergey Gorkov who has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014. It's unclear if Kushner has received any requests from federal investigators for documents, and his lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, told NBC News he "previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry." The probe into whether Trump associates colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election is now being led by a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Catherine Garcia

6:39 p.m. ET
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British police are once again sharing intelligence information with the United States, following a suspension announced Thursday morning in the wake of several leaks about the Manchester bombing by U.S. officials to the media.

Sensitive details that were revealed to reporters include the name of the suspected bomber and the type of backpack he carried; British officials had wanted to keep the bomber's identity a secret for at least 36 hours as to not tip off any accomplices. Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday she would "make clear to President Trump that intelligence shared between our security agencies must remain secure," and on Thursday night, Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations in the Metropolitan Police Service Mark Rowley said that after receiving "fresh assurances" from the U.S., the two countries were once against sharing material. Catherine Garcia

4:41 p.m. ET
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President Trump on Thursday attended a meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels, where he apparently decided to air his grievances over Germany's trade surplus with the U.S. "The Germans are evil, very evil," Trump reportedly complained in the meeting, attendees told German newspaper Der Spiegel. "Look at the millions of cars they sell in the U.S. We'll stop that."

Der Spiegel reported that EU Commission leader Jean-Claude Juncker disagreed with Trump, defending the merits of free trade for the global economy. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman notes that depending on the translation, Trump may have been calling the Germans merely "very bad" and not "very evil."

European Council President Donald Tusk acknowledged earlier Thursday that there had been some notable differences of opinion between EU leadership and the U.S. government, including on matters of climate politics, trade, and most openly, Russian relations. "I am not 100 percent sure that we can say today ... that we have a common position, common opinion, about Russia," Tusk said.

Just getting Trump to actually attend the meeting with the EU was considered a success, however. Trump did not extend an invitation for EU leaders to visit the White House. Shivani Ishwar

3:25 p.m. ET

President Trump famously loves bullet points, graphs, and maps, so naturally when German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to warn Trump about his new buddy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in March, she came armed, Politico reports:

Merkel brought a 1980s map of the former Soviet Union and noted the way its borders stretched for hundreds of miles to the west of Russia's current boundary, according to a source who was briefed on the meeting. The German leader's point was that Putin laments the Soviet Union's demise and, left unchecked, would happily restore its former borders. Merkel left Washington unconvinced that Trump had gotten the message, the source said. (A White House official said a top Merkel aide showed such a map to national security adviser H.R. McMaster, though neither the official nor a spokesman for the German embassy would provide details on Merkel's private meeting with Trump.) [Politico]

During Trump's visit to the European Union and NATO headquarters Thursday, senior officials added that the question of America's policy toward Russia was, "of course, the elephant in the room," given Trump's vague and shifting statements on the matter. Jeva Lange

2:12 p.m. ET

On Thursday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia upheld a nationwide block of President Trump's ban on travel from six majority Muslim countries. "The ruling is the most bruising the White House has suffered in its attempts to defend the ban, as it was rendered by 13 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit — which deemed the case important enough to skip the usual three-judge process that the vast majority of cases go through," The Huffington Post writes.

"Surely the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment yet stands as an untiring sentinel for the protection of one of our most cherished founding principles — that government shall not establish any religious orthodoxy or favor or disfavor one religion over another," Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote, adding that the president's power to deny entry to aliens is "not absolute" and "cannot go unchecked."

Trump can now appeal to the Supreme Court, a move he has promised he would pursue if necessary. Jeva Lange

1:52 p.m. ET

Jared Kushner failed to record what is likely a multimillion-dollar art collection that he shares with Ivanka Trump on the couple's government financial disclosures, Artnet reports. Kushner had previously failed to record his stake in the real estate finance startup Cadre, or loans of at least $1 billion from more than 20 lenders to his properties.

One of Kushner's lawyers told Artnet that "Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump display their art for decorative purposes and have made only a single sale. To avoid any doubt, however, they will report their art collection." Artnet adds, "Ethics experts say that it's not uncommon for administration officials to update financial disclosures with more information."

Kushner and Trump broke with many other administration officials in failing to disclose their art collection, though. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross disclosed a collection worth $50 million and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin showed he had a $14.7 million Willem de Kooning painting as an asset.

A post shared by Ivanka Trump (@ivankatrump) on

The couple's collection often appears in Ivanka Trump's Instagram photos and includes what Artnet describes as "both blue-chip and emerging artists, including Alex Israel, Dan Colen, Nate Lowman, Alex Da Corte, and David Ostrowski." Read more about the art collection, and how it is potentially used, here. Jeva Lange

1:09 p.m. ET

Concerning reports about Trump campaign officials' possible collusion with Russian operatives often lead to big, glaring questions: How and why exactly did the Trump campaign end up hiring people who were clearly red flags? The problem might come down to some really terrible vetting, The Washington Post reported Thursday:

As Trump was starting to win primaries, he was under increasing pressure to show that he had a legitimate, presidential-caliber national security team. The problem he faced was that most mainstream national security experts wanted nothing to do with him.

"Everyone did their best, but there was not as much vetting as there could have been," former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said.

Another longtime campaign official put it this way: "Anyone who came to us with a pulse, a résumé, and seemed legit would be welcomed." [The Washington Post]

Consider, for example, Carter Page, a former national security adviser for President Trump who also has deep ties and apparent loyalty toward Russia. When Page came to Trump Tower to be interviewed, "a top Trump adviser, Sam Clovis, employed what campaign aides now acknowledge was their go-to vetting process — a quick Google search — to check out the newcomer," the Post writes.

Unfortunately, "a thorough vetting of Page might have revealed several red flags," the Post adds. "Page had spent three years working in Moscow, for instance, and he held stock in the Russian company Gazprom, meaning that he could have a personal financial stake in the future of U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia."

"We were not exactly making due diligence the highest priority," one campaign veteran admitted. Read the entire scoop at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

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