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January 11, 2017
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On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed a report from the U.S. intelligence community that asserted Russia tried to sway the U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump, saying the "amateurish" findings are "reminiscent of a witch hunt." On Tuesday, CNN and other news organizations reported that a former British MI6 agent had found evidence that Russia has "compromising personal and financial information" on Trump, and after Trump tweeted that the new allegations were "A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT," Peskov said early Wednesday that "the Kremlin has no compromising information on Trump."

"This report does not correspond to reality and is nothing but an absolute fiction," Peskov told reporters. "This is a total bluff, an absolute fabrication, complete nonsense.... The Kremlin does not collect compromising information." Whether or not that's true, technically, neither does the White House; typically, intelligence gathering is done by spy agencies. "The Kremlin might not" collect "kompromat," or compromising information, "but the FSB probably does," notes Politico's Jake Sherman, referring to the Russian successor to the KGB. Peter Weber

2:26 p.m. ET
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If you like your beef fresh and weighing four ounces, McDonald's will soon be offering what it hopes will be your dream burger.

On Thursday, the company said that starting next year, after using frozen meat for decades, most of its locations in the United States will grill up fresh beef for its Quarter Pounder burgers. McDonald's is trying to shake things up in order to appeal to customers who want their food less processed, and to bring some former fans back into the fold — McDonald's shared earlier this month that in the United States from 2012 to now, the company has lost 500 million customer transactions, The Associated Press reports.

McDonald's USA President Chris Kempczinski said this new version of the burger was tested for around a year in the Dallas and Tulsa areas, and the fast food giant found that customers ordered more of them and made more return visits. It's not known yet if the price will go up, and while the Quarter Pounder is getting the fresh treatment, other Mickey D staples, like Big Macs, will still be made with frozen beef. Catherine Garcia

2:04 p.m. ET
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Two White House officials assisted in getting intelligence reports to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) last week that showed members of President Trump's team were incidentally caught up in foreign surveillance, The New York Times reports.

Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, discussed the reports with Trump before consulting with his fellow members of the committee. Later, Nunes said the night before he spoke with Trump, he received a phone call from a whistle-blower who met him on the White House grounds. U.S. officials have said the reports mostly were just about ambassadors and other foreign officials discussing their attempts to develop contacts in the Trump family and with his friends before the inauguration. Nunes has repeatedly said he will not reveal who gave him the information, and the Times is reporting it came from Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer working on national security issues at the White House Counsel's Office.

The House Intelligence Committee is conducting what is supposed to be an independent investigation into meddling by Russia into the 2016 presidential election. Catherine Garcia

1:58 p.m. ET

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) might want to watch out; there's a new punk rocker in town.

Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) reportedly plans to declare Friday that he is running for Cruz's Senate seat in 2018, people familiar with the decision have told The Houston Chronicle. Described by the paper as a pro-marijuana term-limit-supporting liberal who "played in three punk rock bands during and after his college years at Columbia University," O'Rourke, 44, said he was "very moved" to run for Senate in an interview earlier this month.

While Cruz failed in his bid for presidency last year, he still has a wealth of fundraising sources across the nation and O'Rourke would face an uphill battle against him in the perennial red state. But "Beto brings a fresh approach, a new face, and is someone who is able to connect with Texans across the board," said Matt Angle, the executive director of the Lone Star Project, which promotes Democrats in Texas.

Additionally, because Cruz, as a conservative leader, is a juicy target for liberal groups, O'Rourke could also potentially attract the attention of the senator's out-of-state opponents — and their money.

May the best punk rocker win. Jeva Lange

1:49 p.m. ET

GOP Rep. Ted Yoho (Fla.) "misspoke" when he claimed Thursday morning that congressmen work "for the president," Yoho's spokesman has clarified in a statement. Yoho made the claim while defending House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who has faced scrutiny for meeting an undisclosed source on White House grounds the day before he announced President Trump and his team's communications may have been inadvertently swept up in routine surveillance.

"You gotta keep in mind who he works for," Yoho said during an interview on MSNBC. "He works for the president. He answers to the president." "Does he?" MSNBC's Craig Melvin said. "Or does he work for the constituents in the district?"

"Well, you do both," Yoho said. "But when you're in that capacity — you know, if you've got information — I'm okay with what he did." Democrats, on the other hand, have called for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation of President Trump's ties to Russia's election meddling.

Yoho's spokesman clarified later Thursday that Yoho "knows that every member is here because of the people that voted them into office" and that he understands "members work for their constituents, whether they are rank and file or if they have the honor of serving as a committee chairman." Becca Stanek

1:46 p.m. ET
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The North Carolina House and Senate approved legislation Thursday that would repeal House Bill 2, the controversial "bathroom" law that prohibits transgender people from using restrooms that match their gender identity; Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to sign the bill.

Details about the measure weren't released when it was announced by North Carolina state Senate leader Phil Berger (R) and state House Speaker Tim Moore (R) on Wednesday night, but the bill would reportedly repeal HB2, block local governments from passing anti-discrimination ordinances for three years, and prohibit cities from regulating restrooms and locker rooms.

LGBTQ groups panned the package, but Cooper said in a statement, "It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation." The NCAA threatened that North Carolina had until Thursday to repeal HB2, or else no college sports championships would be held in the state through at least 2020, The Washington Post reports. Jeva Lange

1:07 p.m. ET
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Elena Ferrante is getting the HBO treatment. The elusive author's wildly popular Neapolitan novels are headed to television, with HBO announcing that the miniseries based on the first book, My Brilliant Friend, is set to start filming this summer, Entertainment Weekly reports. The series will be directed by the Italian filmmaker Saverio Costanzo; casting announcements have not yet been made, but Costanzo's script is being co-written with Ferrante.

"Through [Ferrante's] characters, Elena and Lila, we will witness a lifelong friendship set against the seductive social web of Naples, Italy," said HBO's programming president, Casey Bloys, in a statement. "An exploration of the complicated intensity of female friendship, these ambitious stories will no doubt resonate with the HBO audience."

Read more about the mysterious Elena Ferrante and her powerful decision to author her novels with a pseudonym at The Week here. Jeva Lange

12:47 p.m. ET

The Environmental Protection Agency meant to include a laudatory quote from coal industry supporter Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) in its news release Thursday about President Trump's recent executive order on energy independence. Instead, a quote from Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) — who did not support Trump's order rolling back several Obama-era policies addressing climate change — got sent out.

The quote, incorrectly attributed to Capito, was a far cry from laudatory:

With this executive order, President Trump has chosen to recklessly bury his head in the sand. Walking away from the Clean Power Plan and other climate initiatives, including critical resiliency projects is not just irresponsible — it's irrational. Today's executive order calls into question America's credibility and our commitment to tackling the greatest environmental challenge of our lifetime. With the world watching, President Trump and Administrator Pruitt have chosen to shirk our responsibility, disregard clear science, and undo the significant progress our country has made to ensure we leave a better, more sustainable planet for generations to come. [Carper, via the EPA]

The EPA quickly sent out a revised version of the news release that included Capito's actual quote praising Trump for keeping his "promises" and advancing "environmentally responsible policies that grow the economy." Trump's order, signed Tuesday, reversed a ban on new coal leases on federal land and ordered the EPA to review the Clean Power Plan.

The EPA explained the mix-up happened because "an internal draft was mistakenly sent with a quote that belonged to Senator Carper but was wrongly attributed to Senator Capito." "We apologize for the error and are making sure that our process is improved as we build our team," EPA spokesman John Konkus said in a statement. Becca Stanek

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