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January 18, 2016

Three American contractors were kidnapped from a Baghdad apartment known to be a brothel on Friday afternoon, U.S. and Iraqi officials told CNN Monday.

The men — two Iraqi-Americans and an Egyptian-American working for the security service company Sallyport — were kidnapped from the Dora neighborhood, and officials spent Monday searching the al-Saha portion of the area, CNN reports. Authorities are trying to figure out if the men were lured to the apartment, or if they were found to be there and then kidnapped. An Iraqi official told CNN they were taken away from the apartment in a vehicle convoy. U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the department is aware of the report that American citizens are missing in Baghdad, and "we are working with the full cooperation of the Iraq authorities to locate and recover the individuals." Catherine Garcia

6:38 p.m. ET

Dozens of teenagers participated in a "lie-in" outside of the White House on Monday, calling for stricter gun laws and an end to school shootings like the massacre last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, which left 17 dead and 15 injured.

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The protest was organized by a group called Teens for Gun Reform; on Facebook, the organization said it wanted to "make a statement on the atrocities which have been committed due to the lack of gun control, and send a powerful message to our government that they must take action now." The teens stretched out on the sidewalk, remaining on the ground for just a few minutes, "in order to symbolize how quickly someone, such as the [Florida] shooter, is able to purchase a gun in America," the group said.

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Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have also mobilized, and are planning a rally against school and gun violence, March for Our Lives, March 24 in Washington, D.C., with sister events across the United States. "We're going to have, in every major city, somewhere that people all across the country can go to," student Brendan Duff told NPR. Students "want to feel engaged, and they want to do something to help. And this is it." Catherine Garcia

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4:47 p.m. ET

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted 4-3 to approve a new congressional map created to erase partisan gerrymandering state Republicans set in 2010. The new boundaries, drawn by Stanford law professor Nate Persily, splits only 13 counties, from 28 counties in the old map, and appears to make the map generally more favorable for Democrats, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. (For more details, read new rankings from Dave Wasserman at the Cook Political Report.) Under the old map, Republicans consistently won 13 of the 18 districts even as Democrats and Republicans voted in roughly equal proportions.

"But don't expect the map to end the battle," the Inquirer says, since Republicans said before the new map was even issued that they would challenge in federal court whatever the state high court approved. Republicans will likely argue that the court usurped the legislature's role in deciding political boundaries, but the U.S. Supreme Court already declined to hear that challenge, says election law expert Rick Hasen. "Bottom line: It is hard to see where Republicans go from here to successfully fight these maps." Also, he adds, "given Nate Persily's general reputation for fairness, I expect that these maps will be fair and comply with the requirements set out by the state Supreme Court."

The state Supreme Court also approved a new nomination calendar that keeps the May 15 primary election date. Peter Weber

2:06 p.m. ET

"President Trump began the weekend believing that something good had just happened to him: An indictment leveled against 13 Russians for interfering with the 2016 election had not accused him or anyone around him of wrongdoing," The New York Times reports. But "the president's mood began to darken as it became clearer to him that some commentators were portraying the indictment as nothing for him to celebrate," and Trump then unleashed what The Washington Post calls "a defiant and error-laden tweetstorm that was remarkable even by his own combative standards."

On CNN's New Day, host Dave Briggs asked Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) about this, noting that Trump sent "12 tweets just about this indictment, but none pushing back on Russia, none suggesting how we might punish them or prevent it from happening again in 2018." Dent, who is retiring after this term, said "the Russians meddling in our election is well-known," and "I think the president has been very soft on Russia. His rhetoric, he's been very accommodating to Vladimir Putin."

It's time for Trump and his team "to step up and start fighting fire with fire," Dent said. "Maybe we should be sharing with the Russian people the corrupt nature of the Russian regime and how they've all profited. ... I can't, for the life of me, understand why the president is so reluctant to push back much harder on the Russians."

Dent also said he thinks after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, people "have had enough of this," and between stricter background checks and no guns for people on the no-fly list, "there are things we can do and should do."

Dent is retiring after this term. Peter Weber

1:24 p.m. ET
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When Britain's Daily Mail first published the allegations that then-White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter had been physically and verbally abusive to his two ex-wives, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), whom Porter worked for as chief of staff, was quoted as saying "it's incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man." A day later, after Porter resigned — reportedly against Hatch's urging — Hatch said he was "heartbroken" by the allegations and said "domestic violence in any form is abhorrent." Now, Hatch has sent letters of apology to the two wives, Jennie Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, CNN reported Sunday.

"It was a sincere apology for pain he may have caused us," Willoughby told CNN. In his letter, Hatch explained that he "was unaware of the nature of the article and was under the impression political enemies were mounting an attack against Rob, which is why he released the first statement to the White House," she said, and he "reiterated his explanation as to why his statement changed." Holderness said simply, "I appreciate his apology." Peter Weber

12:44 p.m. ET

In the last four Winter Olympics, Team USA was either first or second in terms of medals won, but this year "the U.S. is struggling to keep up in the medal race," John Dickerson noted at CBS This Morning on Monday. The U.S. is currently No. 6 in total medals, with 10 medals, one behind the Russians — who are competing without some of their star athletes and without a country, due to doping-related bans.

Norway is cleaning up, with 28 medals, including 11 golds, followed by Germany and Canada.

If the U.S. wants to live up to its computer-predicted glory, it has a week left. Peter Weber

12:04 p.m. ET
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The presidential motorcade left Mar-a-Lago at a little before 9 a.m. on Presidents Day, on the last day of President Trump's long weekend in southern Florida, and pulled into Trump's nearby golf club 15 minutes later. The presidential press pool, represented Monday by The Hill's Jordan Fabian, did not see Trump enter the motorcade, he wrote in the raw pool report, and in fact pool reporters have "not laid eyes on POTUS since Friday night, when he met with injured victims and first responders from the Parkland shooting," Fabian said.

The press pool was diverted to the Palm Beach International Airport lounge as Trump's motorcade veered into Trump's club, and there's "no word on the president's activities at the golf club," Fabian said, but the "press had an eventful morning before entering Mar-a-Lago":

Driver of one of the press pool vans was detained during security screening for what he said was a personal firearm found in his baggage. Driver said he forgot to leave the firearm inside his personal vehicle before entering van. Screening took place off club grounds in parking lot across the street and roughly an hour before press vans joined up with presidential motorcade. Driver was not allowed onto club property so a White House staffer drove the van instead. White House staff said all drivers were replaced after the incident. When press loaded back into vans, driver was being questioned by an officer. When on club grounds, another van grazed a Secret Service vehicle in the parking lot. Damage to vehicles appeared to be very minor and no one was hurt. [Press pool report]

Perhaps that explains Trump's Presidents Day tweet:

Or, more likely, he paid no attention to the press van. You can read the entire pool report here. Peter Weber

11:18 a.m. ET
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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has faced criticism over travel expenses, has canceled a planned trip to Israel, agency officials said Sunday. "We decided to postpone; the administrator looks forward to going in the future," EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told The Washington Post. Pruitt faced a backlash over his travel costs last week after reports that, on the recommendation of his security detail, Pruitt had been traveling business or first class to avoid public confrontations with critics.

In Israel, Pruitt had been scheduled to spend Sunday through Thursday at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, meeting with Israeli officials and business officials "to gain an understanding of Israel's unique infrastructure and environmental challenges," EPA officials said. Harold Maass

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