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
To everyone who missed Monday's total eclipse: Don't worry, you've got another shot at seeing one on April 8, 2024. In exactly 6 years, 7 months, and 18 days, the moon will once again eclipse the sun.
While Monday's eclipse spanned from Oregon to South Carolina, the 2024 eclipse will be visible from Mexico up to Canada, crossing the paths of American cities including Dallas, Indianapolis, and Cleveland. Take a look at the map below, and start planning for 2024. Becca Stanek
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) August 21, 2017
On Monday, President Trump stared directly at the sun during the solar eclipse and proceeded to give the moon a big thumbs up. As Trump snuck a peek sans glasses, defying common sense and the advice of scientists, a bystander reportedly shouted: "Don't look."
The president watched the rare event from the White House's Truman Balcony. He was joined by first lady Melania Trump and their 11-year-old son Barron, neither of whom appeared to look directly at the sun without the necessary protective eyewear, which is intended to prevent permanent eye damage.
Watch Trump watch the eclipse below. Becca Stanek
— ABC News (@ABC) August 21, 2017
Pres Trump gives the eclipse a thumbs up. pic.twitter.com/kSmkAynYp9
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) August 21, 2017
On Monday afternoon, portions of the United States fell dark as the moon eclipsed the sun. For those who missed the rare coast-to-coast event — or for those who simply want to relive its spectacular beauty — check out some photos and videos of the total solar eclipse below. Becca Stanek
— Al Seib (@AlSeibPhoto) August 21, 2017
The solar eclipse reaches its peak as seen from Salt Lake City on August 21, 2017. (Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) pic.twitter.com/pI3nW1pfc5
— Salt Lake Tribune (@sltrib) August 21, 2017
— TIME (@TIME) August 21, 2017
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) August 21, 2017
— Jeva Lange (@Jee_vuh) August 21, 2017
— NASA (@NASA) August 21, 2017
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) August 21, 2017
Spanish police confirmed Monday that they shot and killed 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaquob, the man suspected to have driven the van down Barcelona's La Rambla on Thursday in a terrorist attack that killed 13 people in the city center. Police shot Abouyaaquob in the outskirts of Subirats, a region west of Barcelona, after an extensive manhunt took place over the weekend. He was apparently wearing a fake suicide belt.
Abouyaaquob escaped from Thursday's crash scene on foot and was believed to be the last remaining member of a wider terrorist cell suspected of planning last week's attacks in Barcelona and the coastal city of Cambrils, where another vehicle attack killed one and injured six. Kimberly Alters
GOP Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) isn't so sure President Trump will be the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 2020. While Trump apparently doesn't think it's too early to start campaigning for 2020 — he's holding a campaign-style rally Tuesday night in Phoenix, after all — Collins said in a MSNBC interview Monday that she thinks it's "far too early to tell now" what the future will hold for Trump.
"Do you think he will end up the party's nominee in 2020?" MSNBC's Hallie Jackson asked. "It's too difficult to say," Collins said.
Collins, notably, did not support Trump as the party's nominee in 2016, and she was one of three Republicans to oppose the party's ObamaCare repeal. At this point, Collins said she is particularly disappointed in Trump's hesitancy to directly condemn white supremacists in the wake of the Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist rally. "I think the president failed to meet the standard we should have expected a president to do in a time like that," Collins said.
Watch the interview below. Becca Stanek
The New York Times has been talking about today's total eclipse since 1932. On Monday, ahead of the solar eclipse that will sweep the country from Oregon to South Carolina, the Times shared an archived clip from 85 years ago that accurately predicted the totality of today's eclipse:
New York Times in 1932 discusses today's eclipse: pic.twitter.com/pHJYOod2Oq
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) August 21, 2017
Citing a study by Dr. S.A. Mitchell, director of the Leander McCormick Observatory of the University of Virginia, the Times warned that if viewers didn't catch the Aug. 31, 1932 eclipse, they'd be waiting until Aug. 21, 2017 for "conditions that are really favorable and promise scientific success."
With that prediction seemingly coming true, we'll have to wait and see if the Times is also right in predicting the next similarly phenomenal solar eclipse — mark your calendars for April 8, 2024. Becca Stanek
How many voters could ousted White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon take from President Trump? The question has become pertinent since Bannon's firing Friday, as it is still unclear how the once and future (err, current) Breitbart News chief will use his role in relation to the president.
Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight has done the math: By Enten's calculations, the "Bannon wing" of the Republican Party — which he defines as "Trump voters who are pro-police, against free trade, against the U.S. playing an active role (militarily and diplomatically) in the international community, strongly against illegal immigration, and in favor of more infrastructure spending" — accounts for about 15 percent of the GOP voter base. That's the proportion of Republicans who agree with Bannon on all five of those points, though there are certainly more who support only a plurality of these positions. Only 2 percent of Republicans disagree with all five.
While 15 percent is not a huge number, it's more than enough to swing an election. For comparison, Enten notes, Hispanic voters for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election accounted for just 12 percent of her vote. And in the GOP primaries, Trump won only 45 percent of Republican support, a figure that makes 15 percent look pretty crucial.
Of course, it's not as if Bannon could simply command these voters to drop Trump, but he is positioned to significantly influence their assessment of Trump's service come 2020. Bonnie Kristian