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January 11, 2017
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FBI Director James Comey was personally aware of reports from a "credible" Western former intelligence agent about Russia's alleged "cultivating, supporting, and assisting" of President-elect Donald Trump and his campaign, The Guardian reported late Tuesday, because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) personally handed them to Comey in a Dec. 9 meeting, according to "a source aware of the meeting."

The Russia-Trump dossier began as opposition research during the campaign, but "its author was sufficiently alarmed by what he discovered to send a copy to the FBI," The Guardian says, and McCain, who was informed about the allegations from "an intermediary from a Western allied state," then "dispatched an emissary overseas to meet the source," whom he was "sufficiently impressed" with to feel obliged to pass the allegations on to Comey. But FBI agents were already concerned enough about ties between Trump's inner circle and Russia that they had sought court approval to monitor campaign officials, The Guardian reports:

The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (FISA) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The FISA court turned down the application, asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation. [The Guardian]

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court is famously compliant with surveillance requests, declining just 11 of the more than 33,900 it had received in 33 years as of 2013 — or an approval rate of 99.97 percent (though that may be a slightly misleading number) — and no requests were denied in 2014 and 2015, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Comey, when pressed by senators on Tuesday, would not say if the FBI is still investigating any ties between Russia and the president-elect. Trump tweeted that the reports are "FAKE NEWS" and "A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!" You can read more about those alleged ties at The Guardian, and the unverified (sometimes NSFW) allegations themselves at BuzzFeed News. Peter Weber

3:20 a.m. ET
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House Republican leaders proposed a fourth stopgap spending measure to their caucus on Tuesday night, betting that a few popular sweeteners and opposition from Democratic leaders would drum up enough GOP support to send the measure to the Senate, with or without Democratic votes. The continuing resolution would finance the government at current levels through Feb. 16, delay several ObamaCare-related taxes for a year or two, and finance the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years. The third and current short-term spending package expires at midnight Friday.

The spending bill needs 218 votes in the House, and most Republicans reportedly backed the measure Tuesday night, sometimes unenthusiastically. But House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) balked. "Based on the number of 'no' and undecided votes, there is not enough votes for a Republican-only bill," he said, dismissing the ObamaCare tax delays as a "gimmick." In the Senate, nine Democrats would have to vote with every Republican to pass the resolution, and Democrats are threatening to withhold their votes unless Republicans include a solution for DREAMers, the 700,000 young immigrants who are already losing their work permits and face deportation starting in March under President Trump's executive order.

Trump and Republicans are banking on Democrats folding, arguing that not voting to avert the first government shutdown since 2013 would harm the military (a decision that appears to rest at least in part with Trump, who can exempt "essential" personnel). Government shutdowns when one party controls both Congress and the White House are rare. "We don't need any Democrats in the House," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). "And I don't think the Democrats in the Senate have the nerve to shut down the government." Lawmakers are working to salvage a bipartisan plan to protect DREAMers, but are pessimistic they would have it ready by Friday, especially with the White House calling it dead on arrival. Peter Weber

2:06 a.m. ET

While riding on a Red Line train in Chicago Friday night, passenger Jessica Bell watched as an act of kindness quietly took place next to her.

Across from Bell was an older homeless man, whose feet were bleeding through his socks and his tattered sneakers. Maurice Anderson, in Chicago to visit his daughter, sat near him, wearing boots "built for a Chicago winter," Bell wrote on Facebook. Anderson asked the man what size shoe he wore, and when he replied "12" — the same size as Anderson — he didn't hesitate to take his boots off and hand them to the man. Having just arrived from Kentucky, Anderson dug into the suitcase he had with him, pulled out socks for the man, and changed into a different pair of shoes he brought.

"He's already in distress, he's out in the cold, riding the train," Anderson told ABC Chicago. "If I'm not reaching out to help someone, I can't say anything." Anderson and Bell said the homeless man was in shock by Anderson's gesture, and so appreciative, telling them he believed he had frostbite from the cold. Bell took a few pictures of the exchange, feeling compelled to share the simple but important moment. "I think that's what really resonated with me," she said. "It was a really selfless and quiet act, no fanfare. It just happened." Catherine Garcia

1:47 a.m. ET

If you were, for whatever reason, excited about the "Most Dishonest & Corrupt Media Awards Of The Year" that President Trump promised for Jan. 8, then postponed until Wednesday, well, don't get your hopes too high. There's nothing about the "Fake News Awards" on Trump's schedule for Wednesday, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that Trump's awards were merely "a potential event."

Arizona's two Republican U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are using Trump's promised/threatened awards to criticize the president's frequent attacks on the free press, with Flake making comparisons to Joseph Stalin. But late-night TV appears to believe that laughter is the best disinfectant. On Tuesday's Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon's President Trump presented "Fakeys" to CNN, The New York Times, and himself, aided by Melania Trump (Gina Gershon) and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (Rachel Dratch).

Still, nobody will be more disappointed if Trump bails than Late Show host Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show's Trevor Noah, and Samantha Bee at Full Frontal, all of whom are in full-on campaign mode for "Fakeys" of their own. "Personally, I'm excited for the Most Dishonest and Corrupt Media Awards of the Year, or as we call them in the biz, the Fakeys, because nothing gives you more credibility than Donald Trump calling you a liar," Colbert said, kicking off the late-night jockeying. "And I, of course, don't want to be snubbed." He took out a For Your Consideration ad in "Failing New York Times Square."

The Daily Show shot back, claiming that Colbert's Late Show and Bee's Full Frontal were were too fact-based.

Not to be outdone, Bee's decidedly NSFW retort leaned heavily on the F-bombs. If that doesn't bother you, watch below. Peter Weber

1:37 a.m. ET
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They lost their home and all of their possessions in the devastating Montecito mudslides, but Lindsey and Woody Thompson said they held out hope they would be reunited with their cat, Koshka.

The Thompsons didn't know if they were going to survive the mudslide earlier this month, and they said their goodbyes to each other, ABC Los Angeles reports. Because the road outside their house was wiped out, they had to be airlifted to safety, and once they were settled they immediately asked for help finding Koshka. "We knew that she was alive and we knew that she was smart and she would find a safe spot to be and she did," Woody Thompson said.

It still wasn't safe to access the house, but a fire team told Santa Barbara County Animal Services that they saw muddy paw prints. Starting Jan. 9, the property was checked by animal services every day, and on Monday, after officers entered the house through a window, they found Koshka in the rubble "with mud-caked fur ... thankful to see her rescuers." The Thompsons were overwhelmed when they got to hold Koshka again."We needed this," Lindsey Thompson said. "Thank you. You're our heroes." Catherine Garcia

1:08 a.m. ET

It might not have impressed Brian Wilson's high school music teacher, but "Surfin'" was good enough to launch The Beach Boys to stardom.

While a student at Hawthorne High School 58 years ago, Wilson composed "Surfin'" and received an "F" from his teacher, Fred Morgan. On Twitter Monday, Wilson shared that he went back to visit his alma mater, and a new teacher changed his grade to an "A." Morgan used to say the composition earned an "F," Wilson wrote, "but it made a million dollars."

"Surfin'" was The Beach Boys' first hit off of their debut album, Surfin' Safari, and although Wilson was known for writing song ("Surfin' USA") after song ("Catch A Wave") about surfing, the 75-year-old wrote in his autobiography, I Am Brian Wilson, that he failed miserably at the sport. "I tried once," he wrote, "and got conked on the head with the board." Catherine Garcia

12:38 a.m. ET

President Trump appears remarkably healthy for a 71-year-old man who doesn't eat well or exercise, and he aced a rudimentary cognitive ability test (you can take it yourself here), according to Dr. Ronny Jackson, the White House doctor appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2013. But not everyone is buying Jackson's assessment that Trump is 6-foot-3 and weighs 239 pounds, giving him a barely sub-obesity body mass index (BMI) of 29.9. MSNBC's Chris Hayes came up with the name:

The main argument seems to be that since muscle weighs more than fat, Trump can't possibly weigh the same as professional athletes of roughly the same build. One example of many:

Sports Illustrated compiled many other Trump vs. athlete visual comparisons. Did the commander-in-chief order Jackson, a two-star Navy admiral, to tip the scales, so to speak? Some "girthers" are putting their money where their doubts are.

Others doubt that Trump is actually 6-foot-3.

The "girthers" already have counter-girthers, including Fox News analyst Brit Hume.

The Hume conversation ended on kind of a strange note, but that's par for the course in 2018. Peter Weber

12:06 a.m. ET
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For the first time since she left the Today show after just a year as co-anchor, Ann Curry is talking about the pain she felt upon her departure, and why she's proud of how she handled her very public exit.

"Experience has taught me, as a journalist, the No. 1 thing you have to be is humble," she told People. "It's not about you." Curry left Today on June 28, 2012, and it was hinted she was fired because she didn't have "chemistry" with her co-host, Matt Lauer, who was fired from the show last November over allegations of sexual misconduct. "It hurt like hell," Curry said. "It hurt so much, but I learned a lot about myself. I can say I've done nothing wrong. I've been honest and true. I've tried to stay pure. I've tried to not respond in a knee-jerk manner, and I've stayed very close to who I am. So it hurt, but I'm also proud of myself."

The Emmy winner said she had to "let it go," and is "stronger now. I'm smarter. I'm happier, as happy as I've ever been. And my compassion has only grown. When you go through the pain and learn the lessons, you will be changed for the better." Read more of Curry's interview at People, and watch her first live interview since leaving Today Wednesday on CBS This Morning. Catherine Garcia

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