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July 31, 2012

Bulgari's latest incarnation of the Serpenti watch bracelet (Price upon request, at 800-285-4274) extravagantly reimagines a classic accessory. The jeweler's snake-inspired timekeepers "were a hit when they were introduced in the late 1940s" and "have continued to rule the wrists of fashion icons through the years." (Elizabeth Taylor wore one on the set while filming Cleopatra.) The latest made-to-order line is available in 18-karat gold, white gold, or rose gold, with your choice of emerald, onyx, and sapphire. The watch face is "cunningly concealed" inside the serpent's head. Source: Harper's Bazaar The Week Staff

1:34 p.m. ET

Chief strategist Stephen Bannon was ousted from the White House on Friday, following a series of bizarre interviews this week that raised speculation of his imminent dismissal. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the decision was "mutually agreed" upon by Bannon and Chief of Staff John Kelly.

New York reporter Gabriel Sherman said Bannon is expected to return to Breitbart, the far-right news website he helmed before joining the White House. Not only that, however, but Sherman also reported that Bannon is "ramping up for war" against President Trump now that he's been fired:

Meanwhile, Breitbart editor Joel Pollak added fuel to that fire in a tweet, which you can see below. Kimberly Alters

1:17 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump has decided to fire his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, two administration officials told The New York Times on Friday. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Bannon and Chief of Staff John Kelly "have mutually agreed that today would be Steve's last day."

It was initially unclear whether Bannon resigned his post or whether he was fired, though CNN reported Bannon "was offered" the option to resign, implying that if he had declined, he would have been unilaterally fired. The Times reported that contrary to what Trump has told aides, "a person close to Mr. Bannon insisted the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week, but it was delayed in the wake of the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia." Circa reporter Sara Carter said Friday that Bannon told her he resigned from the White House two weeks ago.

The former Breitbart executive chair "may return" to the website, Drudge Report writes. New York's Gabriel Sherman cited a "source close to Bannon" to confirm that Bannon is "expected" to return to the hard-right outlet.

In a series of interviews earlier this week, Bannon broke with the president to say there is "no military solution" to North Korea and he called the far right, who he helped Trump mobilize to win the election, "a collection of clowns." The Week Staff

This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout.

1:08 p.m. ET

On Friday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed censuring President Trump over his response to the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. "The president's repulsive defense of white supremacists demands that Congress act to defend our American values," she said in a statement.

Censure is a formal statement of disapproval; it does not mean the public official in question must give up their office although it "would be a formal and historic rebuke from Congress of Trump's remarks," ABC News explains.

Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.) intend to introduce the censure resolution against the president, with 79 co-sponsors, on Friday. The resolution specifically cites Trump's failure to "condemn the 'Unite the Right' rally or cite the white supremacist, neo-Nazi gathering as responsible for actions of domestic terrorism." It also condemns Trump for "surround[ing] himself with, and cultivated the influence of, senior advisors and spokespeople who have long histories of promoting white nationalist, alt-right, racist, and anti-Semitic principles and policies within the country."

"Democrats will use every avenue to challenge the repulsiveness of President Trump's words and actions," Pelosi said. Jeva Lange

12:16 p.m. ET

President Trump on Friday elevated the U.S. Cyber Command to become the 10th unified command in the U.S. military, putting it on equal footing with the likes of the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Strategic Command. The move is aimed to "strengthen our cyberspace operations and create more opportunities to improve our nation's defense," Trump said in a statement, per Politico.

Trump added that the promotion will also "help streamline command and control of time-sensitive cyberspace operations by consolidating them under a single commander with authorities commensurate with the importance of such operations."

Cyber Command will continue to be led by the director of the National Security Agency, Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, although Defense Secretary James Mattis will reportedly consider further separating it from the NSA, with a recommendation expected at a later date, The Washington Post reports.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) responded to the news positively in a statement. "I am pleased with today's announcement elevating U.S. Cyber Command to a unified combatant command," he said. He added that "while we welcome this elevation, there is much more to be done to prepare our nation and our military to meet our cybersecurity challenges." Jeva Lange

11:56 a.m. ET
Mark Lyons/Getty Images

President Trump is headed to Camp David on Friday to discuss national security, joined for his sojourn to Maryland by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Though the topic at hand for the weekend is South Asia strategy, a long-running foreign policy struggle within the Trump administration is what the president will do about the 16-year war in Afghanistan. On Friday, Foreign Policy published a deep dive into Trump's approach to the conflict — including the revelation that Trump personally met with the CEO of a mining company last July about the prospect of harvesting Afghanistan's natural resources:

In his conversation with Michael Silver, the head of American Elements, a firm specializing in the production of advanced metals and chemicals, Trump learned of the enormous wealth buried beneath the Afghan soil: perhaps more than $1 trillion in untapped mineral resources in the form of copper, iron, and rare earth metals.

Trump's interest in the mining plan was first sparked by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who met with Trump in Riyadh in May, according to an administration official. "We are sitting on enormous wealth," Ghani told Trump. “Why aren't the American companies in this instead of China?"

Deeply reluctant to continue a 16-year-old war that has left more than 2,400 Americans dead and cost more than one trillion dollars, the news of Afghanistan's mineral wealth struck a chord with the president. "Trump wants to be repaid," said a source close to the White House. "He's trying to see where the business deal is." [Foreign Policy]

Two unnamed administration officials confirmed the meeting to Foreign Policy, and the prospect of "an incredible economic windfall" apparently has the president considering handing the war off to thousands of private military contractors who could get the job done on the conflict side of things. That's the proposal pitched to Trump by Erik Prince, the founder of private security firm Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, though even Prince admits the idea isn't very popular: "McMaster generally does not like this plan," Prince told Foreign Policy, while Mattis at least seems to be "not hating me."

Read more about the quagmire in Afghanistan and Trump's varied options to solve it at Foreign Policy. Kimberly Alters

10:36 a.m. ET

With the effort to remove Confederate monuments back on the national stage after violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, historian Erin Blakemore took to Twitter to discuss the Jefferson Davis Highway, an effort by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) to "memorialize their version of history" in the 1910s and 1920s. While the grand vision of a cross-country superhighway was never realized, the highway was constructed in bits and pieces, leading to many so-called Jefferson Davis Highways that have lasted into the 21st century.

(University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee/Library of Congress)

"Since there was no federal highway system [in the early 1900s], states often relied on public support — sometimes from interest groups — for road [funding]," Blakemore explains. "And the Lincoln Highway — named after the great emancipator — infuriated members of the UDC. They decided to build a Southern analog. Their vision was just as grand. It would stretch from Arlington, Virginia, to San Diego, California, and spread the Lost Cause vision of the South."

Blakemore added: "Imagine how tempting it would have been for a county, city, or state to be presented with ample funding for a highway with the only caveat being that it was named after the man who symbolized the Confederacy and the UDC's vision of heroic white supremacy."

By the 1920s, the government had started numbering highways and it "was not enthused" by the idea of naming one after Jefferson Davis. "But states could do whatever they wanted!" Blakemore writes. "So highways named after Jefferson Davis — and the markers that went along with them — remained. This is how you got memorials to the Confederacy in surprising places like San Diego."

Markers that remain today have become targets after Charlottesville: One monument in Arizona was covered in what was likely tar Thursday. Rep. Reginald Bolding (D-Ariz.) said that while he is working to change the highway's name, "vandalizing these monuments is not productive," 12 News reports.

Read Blakemore's full thread below. Jeva Lange

9:47 a.m. ET

Mitt Romney issued a stirring plea on Facebook on Friday for President Trump to apologize over his comments earlier this week that apparently equivocated white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, with counter-protesters. "Whether [Trump] intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn," Romney wrote.

Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, added gravely that "our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America's ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished."

The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100 percent to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis — who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat — and the counter-protesters who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband, and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association. [Mitt Romney, via Facebook]

Many other Republicans have spoken up about Trump's approach to the Charlottesville violence. On Thursday, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R) said: "We're at a point where there needs to be radical changes that take place at the White House itself."

Read Mitt Romney's full comments on Facebook. Jeva Lange

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