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January 12, 2017

On Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump and his incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer, conflated CNN's report about unverified intelligence presented to Trump about Russian blackmail material on him and BuzzFeed's publishing of the entire unsubstantiated dossier. Anderson Cooper began his heated and entertaining interview with Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway by futilely asking for clarification: "Do you acknowledge here and now that CNN did not release the 35-page unsubstantiated claims against Donald Trump and it was misleading and untrue for Sean Spicer to suggest otherwise?" She would not. "CNN went first yesterday," Conway said, "and BuzzFeed went second."

"We didn't report what BuzzFeed reported," Cooper protested. Conway said that CNN's headline on Tuesday "is just false," and to prove it she cited "NBC News reports" and "tweets from people at Politico." Cooper pointed out the NBC News article just says the dossier summary was not verbally presented to Trump, something CNN did not assert. "Anderson, CNN went first and had this breathless report, you know, everybody said it was a 'bombshell,'" Conway said, and when Cooper noted that CNN never referred to it as a bombshell, Conway said that Seth Meyers had called it that on Late Night.

"What you're saying doesn't make sense," Cooper told Conway. "On the one hand you're saying our reporting is inaccurate, on the other hand you're saying you don't know if it was in the intelligence briefing and you can't say even if you did know." "I can tell you credible news reports today say it was not in there," she replied. "An NBC News report based on one source," Cooper said. "And what is yours based on?" Conway asked. "Multiple sources, and The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal as well say it," Cooper said.

"I get why politically it makes sense for you to link CNN to what BuzzFeed did," Cooper said, but it's apples and oranges. Conway argued that CNN is complicit because a story on its website linked to the BuzzFeed article, and "I think if you link to something on your website, you're reporting it." She never did say what CNN got wrong, but she did find a way to tie up loose ends. "CNN and BuzzFeed have a lot in common," she said, because "you both were absolutely convinced and told all of your viewers that Hillary Clinton was going to win this election." Peter Weber

11:08 a.m. ET

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, because it is as yet 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; certainly there are more who support only a plurality of these positions, and 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 to this five-point agenda come 2020. Bonnie Kristian

10:42 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and Google artificial intelligence developer Mustafa Suleyman head a list of 116 tech experts who implored the United Nations to preemptively ban lethal autonomous weapons — in layman's terms, killer robots — before it's too late.

"Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend," the experts warned, in a letter reported Monday. "These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora's box is opened, it will be hard to close."

Central to the experts' concern is how killer robots could change the risk calculations and casualties of war. While autonomous weapons may make battlefields safer for soldiers who can be removed from the scene, the same is not true for civilians who have the misfortune to be nearby. A killer robot's ethics will only be good as its programming, which could vary widely depending on the government or terrorist organization controlling it. Autonomous weapons also raise troubling and complicated questions of accountability and recourse in the event of mistakes.

The letter asks the U.N. to add killer robots to list of banned conventional weapons, which currently includes landmines, intentionally blinding lasers, and other technologies "deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects." Bonnie Kristian

10:35 a.m. ET

Worried you won't be able to escape the confines of your cubicle to catch the solar eclipse? NASA has you covered.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET Monday, NASA will start streaming a four-hour-long show that will feature coverage from 12 locations along the eclipse's corridor, which spans from Oregon to South Carolina. The space agency will offer "images captured before, during, and after the eclipse by 11 spacecraft, at least three NASA aircraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons, and the astronauts aboard the International Space Station." The show will also pop in on various celebrations and events happening across the country so you can feel like you're part of the festivities.

Watch NASA's live-stream below or via NASA Television, Facebook Live, Twitter/Periscope, Twitch TV, or Ustream. The preview show kicks off at 12 p.m. ET, and the eclipse coverage starts at 1 p.m. ET. Becca Stanek

10:29 a.m. ET

Advertisers have rapidly and steadily fled Breitbart News this year as the site's reputation is increasingly tied to the alt-right. So far, more than 2,500 companies have jumped ship, reports Sleeping Giants, an organization that describes its mission as stopping "racist and sexist media by stopping its ad dollars."

Sleeping Giants has spent months encouraging its supporters to take screenshots of ads next to objectionable content on Breitbart and politely tweet a complaint with the image to the company involved. While the organization did not specify how many businesses are still advertising at Breitbart, The Independent reports Amazon is currently among them — albeit indirectly, via the ad services it uses. The company may soon depart, however, as employees have petitioned chief executive Jeff Bezos to cut all such ties.

Ousted White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is returning to this diminished Breitbart after his departure from the Trump administration. His post-firing remarks do not make clear what his approach to President Trump, his former boss, will be in this new role. Bonnie Kristian

9:39 a.m. ET

Morning Joe's Joe Scarborough couldn't help but wonder Monday what's next for fired chief strategist Stephen Bannon, now that his tenure at the White House has ended. "If I'm Steve Bannon and I look at the landscape and I look at Fox News trying to figure out exactly what it's going to be after Roger Ailes, I team up and start a conservative populist network," Scarborough said. "I mean, the money there would be outrageous."

Mark Halperin pointed out that Breitbart News was "influential" prior to and during Bannon's tenure at the White House. Now that Bannon is back at Breitbart with White House experience under his belt, Halperin noted that Bannon has "the capacity ... to increase their influence." "And their influence in offices of House Republican members is bigger on many days than Fox News is," Halperin said of Breitbart.

Meanwhile, Scarborough was still thinking about that television network. "I would just be surprised if he and [Breitbart financial backers] the Mercers weren't trying to figure out a way to start a TV network that competes with Fox," Scarborough said.

Watch Scarborough imagine the possibilities below. Becca Stanek

8:55 a.m. ET
John Moore/Getty Images

The combination of President Trump's frequent travel, numerous properties, and large family is gobbling up the Secret Service's funds at an unprecedented rate. USA Today revealed Monday that roughly a third of America's Secret Service agents have "already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year," forcing Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex" Alles to turn to Congress for additional funding.

Alles is pushing to raise the salary and overtime cap for agents to ameliorate the situation. But even if that were to happen, 130 agents would still not be "fully compensated for hundreds of hours already amassed," USA Today reported.

With the rate of attrition already high and the demanding workload expected to continue, Democrats and Republicans are concerned. "We cannot expect the Secret Service to be able to recruit and keep the best of the best if they are not being paid for these increases [in overtime hours]," a spokeswoman for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said.

Read more on the burgeoning crisis at USA Today. Becca Stanek

7:47 a.m. ET

With Stephen Bannon now out at the White House, a war is reportedly brewing between President Trump's former chief strategist and Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. Vanity Fair's The Hive reported Sunday that after Bannon was fired Friday, he told a friend, "We're going to war." Kushner is reportedly his biggest enemy:

The chaotic, war-torn West Wing of the past six months will be prologue, but the coming struggles will be as personal as they are ideological, waged not with leaks but with slashing Breitbart banners. On Sunday, Breitbart took renewed aim at McMaster, with a headline claiming he advocated “Quran Kissing.” But most of all, there's a deep animosity between Bannon and Kushner, amplified by a lack of respect. Bannon finds Kushner's political instincts highly questionable. "He said Jared is a dope," one Bannon ally recalled. The two clashed fiercely on personnel decisions and policy debates, both domestic and international, many of which Bannon lost. [The Hive]

While Bannon was "tarred as a prime West Wing leaker" in recent weeks, his allies apparently suspect that Kushner has "cultivated a relationship with Matt Drudge, who frequently pushed anti-Bannon headlines" and also pushed Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch to convince Trump to fire Bannon.

Back at Breitbart, Bannon has big plans for using the site to exact his revenge.

Read the full story at The Hive. Becca Stanek

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