February 15, 2017

The New York Times' Thomas Friedman argued in his most recent column that the day President Trump won the election should be a date that lives in infamy, not unlike Dec. 7, 1941, when more than 2,400 Americans were killed at Pearl Harbor, or Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorist attacks left nearly 3,000 dead:

We need to rerun the tape. Ladies and gentlemen, we were attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and we were attacked on Nov. 8, 2016. That most recent attack didn't involve a horrible loss of lives, but it was devastating in its own way. Our entire intelligence community concluded that Russia hacked our election by deliberately breaking into Democratic National Committee computers and then drip-by-drip funneling embarrassing emails through WikiLeaks to undermine Clinton's campaign. And what have we done about it? Other than a wrist slap against Moscow, we've moved on.

That is not okay. [The New York Times]

What America needs to do now, as was done in both previous incidents, is to ask questions and demand answers, Friedman writes. At this point, it's not clear "whether Russian oligarchs own [Trump] financially or whether Russian spies own him personally because of alleged indiscreet behavior during his trips to Moscow" — but Americans "need to know," Friedman says.

He implores Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to consider what they would do if the tables were turned, and the "CIA, NSA, and FBI had concluded that the Russians had intervened to help Hillary Clinton get elected." If that were the case, Friedman writes, "you would have closed the government and demanded a new election." "Now it's all okay?" Friedman asks. "So you can get some tax cuts?"

Read the rest of what Friedman has to say about Trump and Russia over at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

8:53 p.m. ET
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On Wednesday, President Trump will announce his plan to overhaul the tax code, including his proposal to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, White House officials told The Washington Post Monday.

Independent analysts have estimated a cut this severe could cost the federal government $2.4 trillion over 10 years, and it's a deeper cut than one House Republicans have proposed. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday that such a tax plan "will pay for itself with economic growth," but Edward Kleinbard, the former chief of staff for Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation, told the Post that if Trump's administration is "going to rely on the principle that tax cuts can pay for themselves, history has demonstrated that tax policies move the growth needle a bit but no more than that."

Most companies do not pay the 35 percent rate because of deductions, and these changes will have to be backed by Congress with bipartisan support in order to pass. During his speech, Trump is expected to discuss changes to personal income tax as well. Catherine Garcia

8:16 p.m. ET
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In his first podcast since being fired from Fox News last week, Bill O'Reilly said he misses being beamed into living rooms across the country, and teased that some major revelations will be made regarding his departure from the network amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

"I am sad that I'm not on television anymore," he said on Monday's No Spin News. "I was very surprised how it all turned out. I can't say a lot, because there's much stuff going on right now. But I can tell you that I'm very confident the truth will come out, and when it does, I don't know if you're going to be surprised — but I think you're going to be shaken, as I am. There's a lot of stuff involved here." He was ousted last Wednesday, a few weeks after The New York Times reported O'Reilly and Fox News paid $13 million to settle with five women who accused the host of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.

During his podcast, O'Reilly touched on a few headlines from the day, and explained how No Spin News will work; ultimately, it will become a "genuine news program," with guests and an extended version of the Talking Points Memo segment from his now-canceled show, The O'Reilly Factor. He used a good chunk of the podcast to tout his book tour and membership to his website; while free all this week, No Spin News will usually only be available to paid subscribers. Membership costs $4.95 a month, $15.95 for 90 days, or $49.95 for a year, and O'Reilly enticed listeners by announcing that with your annual membership, you'll receive one of 50 free gifts — options include one of his books, one of his books on CD, or a tie from the American Patriot Collection, which technically isn't free because it still has a supplemental cost of $25. Catherine Garcia

7:28 p.m. ET
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Sonny Perdue, the former governor of Georgia, was confirmed as agriculture secretary Monday by the Senate with a vote of 87-11.

His father was a farmer, and he has owned several agricultural businesses. He is not affiliated with Perdue Farms or the Perdue food company. Perdue, 70, will oversee 100,000 employees and such programs as food safety, agricultural subsidies, and rural development projects. Catherine Garcia

7:03 p.m. ET
Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images

A local government worker was shot and killed Monday in the Venezuelan state of Merida, as anti-government protests in the country entered a fourth week.

Another person was shot and seriously injured. The shooting brings the death toll up to 11 people killed since the unrest began a month ago. The protests started when the Supreme Court, supportive of President Nicolas Maduro and his socialist government, took over the powers of the opposition-led congress. After public outrage, they rescinded their ruling, but protesters still took to the streets and are holding sit-ins to force early elections and autonomy for congress.

Maduro has accused the protesters of wanting a violent coup, while they say Maduro is silencing peaceful protesters. Venezuela was already facing an economic crisis and food and medicine shortages when the protests began. Over the past month, more than 1,400 people have been detained during the protests. Catherine Garcia

6:26 p.m. ET
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Happy Days star Erin Moran, who was found dead Saturday inside her Indiana home, "likely succumbed to complications of stage 4 cancer," the Harrison County sheriff and coroner said in a statement Monday.

They did not say what kind of cancer the actress, 56, had. Born in Burbank, California, in 1960, Moran first started playing Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days in 1974. After word spread of her death, she was remembered by many of her former co-stars, including Henry Winkler, who said she "will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on Earth," and Ron Howard, who will always recall "you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs, and lighting up TV screens." Catherine Garcia

5:54 p.m. ET

If success is measured by whether or not you have an obscure animal species named after you, the British rock band Radiohead has officially made it. Following the likes of Bono, who has a spider named after him, and Lady Gaga, who has a family of ferns named after her, Radiohead has inspired the name of a newly discovered species of "fungus-farming ant," Mashable reported.

The ant, found in Venezuela's portion of the Amazon rainforest, has been christened Sericomyrmex radioheadi. And these Radiohead ants aren't your average ants: Part of the genus of "silky ants," the ant species can "grow its own food and is covered with a filamentous layer of white crystals," Live Science reported.

Scientists said they picked the name to honor Radiohead's music and the band's activism work. "[W]e wanted to acknowledge the conservation efforts of the band members, especially in raising climate change awareness," said Ana Ješovnik, the study's lead author. Becca Stanek

5:32 p.m. ET

New portions of President Trump's budget blueprint obtained by Foreign Policy have revealed what exactly could get the ax if Trump's plan to slash funding for foreign aid were to get the stamp of approval from Congress. Apparently, Trump is eyeing merging USAID — an agency that focuses on issues like "disease prevention and food security" — with the larger State Department.

The change is pegged as a part of the administration's effort to put "America first" and "pursue greater efficiencies through reorganization and consolidation," but Foreign Policy noted the move could prove "polarizing." Andrew Natsios, the former USAID administrator under former President George W. Bush, warned folding USAID into the State Department "will end the technical expertise of USAID" and "be an unmitigated disaster for the longer term."

"What you're basically doing is eviscerating the most important tool of American influence in the developing world, which is our development program," Natsios said.

USAID isn't the only program at risk of elimination. The budget plan also proposes slashing global health funding in 41 countries. The Bureau for Food Security could lose as much as 68 percent of its funding, and the State Department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs could say goodbye to nearly its entire budget.

The results could prove disastrous, experts warn. Some caution the cuts could curb U.S. influence abroad, put Americans "at risk in the event of a major epidemic," and even "pose concrete risks to U.S. security interests," Foreign Policy reported. "I've seen firsthand how U.S. development money saves millions of lives," said Tom Kenyon, CEO of the global health nonprofit Project Hope. "There's just no question people would die from this."

Read more on the specifics of Trump's plans at Foreign Policy. Becca Stanek

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