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February 15, 2017

When White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on Monday afternoon that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had President Trump's "full confidence" — hours before Flynn stepped down — she was apparently "out of the loop," The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night. The newspaper's look at Flynn as canary in the Trump coal mine, by reporters Michael C. Bender and Rebecca Ballhaus, begins like this:

Dining at his oceanside resort in Florida on Friday, President Donald Trump was surprised to learn that National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was sitting at a nearby table, a person familiar with the event said. "What is he doing here?" the president said, describing the man who was once at the center of his political orbit as "very controversial." [The Wall Street Journal]

Flynn, despite his loyalty to Trump and simpatico worldview, was always viewed warily by some White House officials, The Journal reports, giving as an example a red-eye flight senior advisers Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner took to Washington before Trump's inauguration to reassure future Cabinet members about Flynn. "We tried to help him succeed," a senior administration official told the newspaper. "It was absolute dysfunction." And Flynn isn't likely to be the last casualty of Trump's chaotic, power-jockeying White House, WSJ suggests. The conservative-media circle of the Trump orbit is apparently gunning for Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

"Reince Priebus walked Mike Flynn to the gallows," political operative Roger Stone said Tuesday, calling his departure a "Pearl Harbor moment" for Trump supporters. "Trump loyalists are fed up with Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer whose loyalties are to the Republican National Committee, and not to the president." Priebus is also reportedly in a power struggle over ambassador nominations with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, while Conway is facing ethics inquiries and Press Secretary Sean Spicer is being ridiculed on Saturday Night Live. You can read more at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

12:34 p.m. ET

Defense Secretary James Mattis warned of grave consequences for failure to resolve the United States' differences with North Korea via diplomacy while speaking on CBS Sunday.

"A conflict with North Korea would probably be the worst kind of fighting in most people's lifetimes," Mattis said in a Face the Nation interview. "This regime is a threat to the region, to Japan, to South Korea. And in the event of war, they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well," he added. "But the bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we're not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means." Pyonyang claimed to test an anti-aircraft missile Sunday morning, its third weapons test in as many weeks.

In the same conversation, Mattis described pursuing a more aggressive approach to the fight against the Islamic State. "The bottom line is we are going to move in an accelerated and reinforced manner, throw them on their back foot. We have already shifted from attrition tactics where we shove them from one position to another in Iraq and Syria, to annihilation tactics where we surround them," he said. Watch an excerpt of his comments below. Bonnie Kristian

12:12 p.m. ET
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A man named Willie Cory Godbolt confessed Sunday to fatally shooting eight people in three homes in the towns of Brookhaven and Bogue Chitto, Mississippi. Among the dead was a sheriff’s deputy called to investigate after a neighbor reported a disturbance. The identities of the victims have not been released.

"I ain't fit to live, not after what I done," Godbolt confessed to a local paper after he was arrested. "Not in y'all eyes, not in nobody else's eyes." Godbolt said he did not intend to hurt the deputy — "My pain wasn't designed for him. He was just there" — but planned to provoke police into killing him: "Suicide by cop was my intention."

A 16-year-old boy Godbolt took hostage escaped unharmed, and law enforcement are expected to bring charges soon. Godbolt is believed to have been disputing custody of his children when he attacked. Bonnie Kristian

11:50 a.m. ET
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"The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday in Munich in comments understood to reference Europe's reliance on the United States. "I've experienced that in the last few days," she continued. "We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands" and "fight for our own destiny."

When President Trump met with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday, he reiterated his critique that allies are too dependent on the United States, calling their failure to make meet a pledged 2 percent of GDP defense spending target unfair to the U.S.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis on Sunday maintained Trump is supportive of the alliance. "I think when President Trump chooses to go to NATO personally and stand there alongside the other more than two dozen nations in NATO, that was his statement, not words, actions," he said in a CBS interview. Bonnie Kristian

11:23 a.m. ET
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British police on Sunday arrested a 25-year-old man in connection to the suicide bombing in Manchester that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert Monday. This is the 14th arrest linked to the attack; 12 people remain in custody.

On Saturday, police released photos of Salman Abedi, the Manchester-born man responsible for the bombing. "We are gathering a detailed picture of Abedi as the investigation develops and now need people to tell us if they have any information about his movement," said an official statement.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has also implemented a temporary exclusion order, requiring special vetting for "suspected Islamic terrorists" seeking to return to the U.K. until it is certain Abedi does not have accomplices still on the loose. "The operation is still at full tilt," Rudd said, with about 1,000 people working the case. Bonnie Kristian

10:40 a.m. ET
Fox News/Screenshot

The Department of Homeland Security "might" prohibit laptops as carry-on items for all international flights in and out of the United States, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

The United States being a "free and open society" is "one of our vulnerabilities," Kelly said. "There's a real threat — numerous threats against aviation. That's really the thing that they're obsessed with, the terrorists: the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it's a U.S. carrier, particularly if it's full of mostly U.S. folks." Electronic carry-ons are already limited for flights from 10 Muslim-majority countries in the Mideast and North Africa.

Kelly also said he would "likely" expand nationwide a new TSA policy of requiring passengers to more substantially unpack their carry-on bags at the checkpoint, separating food and paper items into different bins. A 2015 DHS investigation found TSA officers failed to detect 95 percent of explosives and weapons passed through airport security in an internal test. Terrorism experts say the long lines caused by slow TSA checkpoints are themselves a security risk. Bonnie Kristian

10:04 a.m. ET

President Trump revisited familiar territory on Twitter Sunday morning, raging against "fake news" and urging his followers to disbelieve any news reports citing unnamed sources.

These posts come just two days after unnamed sources alleged Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner attempted to arrange backchannel communications between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin, deepening suspicion of election manipulation collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Bonnie Kristian

9:56 a.m. ET
Ted Aljibe/Getty Images

The bodies of eight men who appeared to be civilians executed for attempting to flee hostilities were found Sunday on the outskirts of Marawi City in the Philippines, where militants claiming ties to the Islamic State terrorist group have staged a six-day occupation. By one body, a sign was placed reading "munafik," which means "traitor" or "hypocrite."

This brings the death toll of the conflict to about 85, including at least 19 civilians. Controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in the area as government forces combat the rebels using ground troops and airstrikes.

Civilian evacuations are also underway. "Some have no food at all. Some fear for their lives," said Zia Alonto Adiong, an official organizing rescue efforts. "This is a conflict that has gone beyond proportion. The magnitude of the degree of the damage and the people that are affected ... it's really massive." Bonnie Kristian

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