In a show of support for Ukraine's fledgling new government, the U.S. announced today that it's giving Ukraine $1 billion in loans, and offering technical support. A senior State Department official said the package would be used to help counteract the reduction of energy subsidies from Russia. Part of the deal includes sending experts to Ukraine's financial ministry to offer advice on fighting corruption and training monitors for its upcoming elections.
The announcement came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Kiev on Tuesday to show support for the new government. Western leaders like Kerry are blasting Russia's military invasion of Crimea, and have threatened Moscow with harsh economic sanctions if it doesn't back down. Jordan Valinsky
The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Friday that it is expanding its probe into Russia's influence over the 2016 election to include an investigation of the firing of FBI Director James Comey and, by extension, former President Barack Obama's attorney general, Loretta Lynch, and her "alleged political interference," CBS News reports.
The committee is interested in a New York Times article from April that cited a hacked Russian intelligence memo that quoted a Democratic operative as "express[ing] confidence that Ms. Lynch would keep the [investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server] from going too far." Many U.S. intelligence officials, including the FBI, believe the memo is unreliable or an outright fake.
"Still, the document, according to The Washington Post, factored into then-FBI Director James Comey's controversial decision to publicly announce the end of the Clinton email investigation — without discussing it in advance with Lynch," CBS News writes. And in his letter to President Trump recommending the firing of Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote that Comey "was wrong to usurp [Lynch's] authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement."
The Judiciary Committee letter announcing the new probe was signed by Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) as well as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Jeva Lange
Americans are twice as likely to believe former FBI Director James Comey over President Trump, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Friday found. Forty-five percent of Americans say they are likelier to believe Comey's version of his encounters with Trump regarding the Russia probe, while 22 percent said they're more likely to believe Trump's. Another 21 percent said they believed neither Trump nor Comey, and 8 percent said they believed both men.
Trump has vehemently denied details of Comey's testimony under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Comey's claims that Trump asked for a pledge of loyalty and pushed Comey to drop the investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Opinions about who to believe were starkly divided along party lines. A mere 2 percent of Democrats said they'd believe Trump over Comey, while 76 percent said they'd believe Comey over Trump. While Trump earned significantly more trust than Comey from his fellow Republicans, only 50 percent said they were more likely to believe the president's version of events. Just 10 percent of Republicans said they'd be more likely to believe Comey.
The poll was taken from June 17-20 among 900 adults, and its margin of error is plus or minus 3.3. percentage points. Becca Stanek
The heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps will seek a six-month review period before letting transgender people enlist in their respective branches, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended a ban on transgender service members last fall, although the military chiefs had until July 1 to decide on how policies around new transgender members would be implemented. "Officials said Friday that the chiefs believe the extra half-year would give the four military services time to gauge if currently serving transgender troops are facing problems and what necessary changes the military bases might have to make," AP writes. Three of the four services actually requested even more time, with the Army and Air Force specifically preferring two additional years to review possible concerns.
The Associated Press notes that "key concerns are whether currently enlisted troops have had medical or other issues that cause delays or problems with their ability to deploy or meet physical or other standards for their jobs. Military leaders also want to review how transgender troops are treated, if they're discriminated against, or have had disciplinary problems."
Although government numbers aren't public, a recent RAND study determined there are somewhere between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members in active duty and between 1,500 and 4,000 in reserves. Defense Secretary James Mattis will make the final decision about the potential delay. Jeva Lange
With House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) counting the days until he can head home to Utah, chairman-in-waiting Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is walking into what has the potential to be a powdered keg. But on Friday, Gowdy announced the committee will not investigate Russia's role in the 2016 election or President Trump's possible obstruction of justice, Politico reports.
Throughout the spring, Chaffetz navigated an investigation into Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Flynn's interactions with Russia. Chaffetz was hesitant to expand the probe beyond Flynn, and now Gowdy has confirmed he wants to refocus on the panel's "original 'compulsory' jurisdiction, including overseeing more mundane issues like government procurement and the Census," Politico writes.
"Number one, [the Russia questions are] in the jurisdiction of [Special Counsel] Bob Mueller," Gowdy explained Friday. "And secondarily, I would think Judiciary has jurisdiction over the Department of Justice and the FBI. To the extent that any of those memos are classified, that would be [Intelligence]. And for those that think a third committee ought to look at it, Oversight would have secondary permissive jurisdiction but it would be secondary." Jeva Lange
All loafers are easy to slip on, but the Loewe Slip-On Loafer ($690) tears down the shoe's last wall of resistance. Under new creative director Jonathan Anderson, the Madrid-based fashion house has devised a crushable back so the wearer doesn't have to bother slipping a heel in when a full-dressed look isn't required. The front of the men's version is made of calfskin or crocodile, and the rear of soft deerskin that can be stepped on over and over — "perfect for the quick-change act you have to pull off as you pass through airport security," according to The New York Times.
President Trump was feeling especially jovial Friday afternoon as the weekend approached, even going so far as to "[pantomime] killing off his veterans affairs secretary should he fail to successfully implement new reforms" during a ceremony in the East Room, The Washington Post writes.
Trump said he had "no doubt" Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin would "properly" implement the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which Trump signed Friday. But just to be sure he asked, "Right, David?" Shulkin naturally responded in the affirmative.
Smiling, Trump responded, "Better be, David, or …" He then made a pistol with his right hand, aimed it at Shulkin, and mouthed his signature words: "You're fired!"
The audience of administration officials, lawmakers, and veterans and their families laughed at the president's joke.
"We'll never have to use those words," Trump said. "We'll never have to use those words on our David." [The Washington Post]
Trump's jokes about firing staffers are not an unusual occurrence, a self-aware nod to his reality TV days. Unfortunately, his real-life firings have gotten him into some hot water on more than one occasion. Jeva Lange
Elon Musk's SpaceX will launch a refurbished Falcon 9 rocket from Florida's Kennedy Space Center's launch pad Friday afternoon, marking its first of two planned rocket launches over just three days. On Sunday, SpaceX plans to launch a new Falcon 9 rocket, this one from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The rocket launching Friday will carry a communications satellite for Bulgarian TV service provider Bulsatcom; the rocket Sunday will carry 10 satellites for the American company Iridium Communications Inc.
If SpaceX pulls off what they're calling a "weekend doubleheader," Bloomberg reported it would be "the first time the company launched two rockets the same weekend."
Friday's launch window runs from 2:10 p.m. ET to 4:10 p.m. ET, and you can watch it below. Becca Stanek