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February 23, 2017

What will you tell your grandchildren when they ask you whose side you were on in the great spiritual war of 2017? It might be time to start picking sides: On Friday, witches worldwide reportedly plan to "cast a spell that would bind Trump to all who abet him," and the folks at ChristianNationalism.com plan to fight back with "a Day of Prayer" to protect the president.

The witches are instructed by "writer, speaker, and magical thinker" Michael M. Hughes to cast their binding spell on every night of the waning crescent moon, such as the one tomorrow, using "an unflattering photo of Trump," the Tower card of a tarot deck, a pin or nail, a white candle, a feather, bowls of water and salt, matches, and a dish of sand. For anyone worried about their karma, Hughes writes that binding "seeks to restrain someone from doing harm" and is "differentiated from cursing or hexing, which is meant to inflict harm on the target(s)." The more you know!

In the other corner, ChristianNationalism.com commands "Christian soldiers" to counter the witchcraft by reading from Psalm 23. "We ask you to join us in praying for the strength of our nation, our elected representatives, and for the souls of the lost who would take up Satanic arms against us," the author writes.

And if that wasn't enough, there could possibly be "chaos magicians for Trump" in the mix:

Will the witches and Christian soldiers/chaos magicians simply cancel out the other's prayers/spells? Will one overcome the other to become America's spiritual victor? Trump's mortal fate hangs in the balance, and only time will tell. Jeva Lange

7:48 p.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the House voted 419 to 3 to pass a bill that strengthens sanctions against Russia in response to its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The sanctions primarily target Russian oil and gas projects with companies based in the United States and a handful of other countries, and will be difficult for President Trump to lift because he will need approval from Congress. It now heads to the Senate for a vote, and could be sent to Trump to sign into law before August, when Congress begins its recess.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the sanctions would be "harmful" to U.S.-Russian relations. The package also includes sanctions against Iran and North Korea, due to their weapons programs. Catherine Garcia

6:43 p.m. ET
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The Senate Judiciary Committee has dropped its subpoena for Paul Manafort, President Trump's onetime campaign chairman, to publicly testify Wednesday during a hearing on Russian meddling in the election because he has agreed to meet with committee investigators, a person with knowledge of the situation told Politico Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, the committee's chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), confirmed that a subpoena had been issued for Manafort after they had been "unable to reach an agreement for a voluntary, transcribed interview with the Judiciary Committee."

Both Manafort and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, met with the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday in a closed-door session that lasted several hours, detailing the meeting they attended in June 2016 with a Kremlin-linked attorney. Catherine Garcia

5:04 p.m. ET

Senate Republicans narrowly approved a motion to proceed to debate on health-care legislation Tuesday. The motion passed 51-50, with Vice President Mike Pence stepping in to break the tie after Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) joined all 48 members of the Democratic caucus in voting no.

While the vote was taking place, President Trump was at the White House meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. By the time Trump emerged for his joint press conference with Hariri at the Rose Garden, Pence had already cast the tie-breaking vote. When asked about the razor-thin margin, Trump said Collins and Murkowski's votes were "very sad — for them":

The Senate will now move on to 20 hours of debate on several Republican proposals, including the Senate's Better Care bill and a plan favored by conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would constitute a straight repeal of ObamaCare. A "skinny repeal" plan, which was introduced just hours before Tuesday's vote and would center around eliminating ObamaCare's individual mandate, employer mandate, and select taxes, could also come into play.

No single proposal is thought to have the 50 votes necessary to pass. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) returned to Washington on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since being diagnosed with cancer to cast a crucial vote in favor of the motion to proceed, but he may leave the capital by the end of the week. Perhaps not coincidentally, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) told reporters that party leadership informed him the goal is to pass a health-care plan by Friday — especially wise, given Trump's baiting of Collins and Murkowski may not be effective in spurring them to support the president's agenda. Kimberly Alters

3:42 p.m. ET

On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) returned to the Senate floor for the first time since he was diagnosed with brain cancer, and he was greeted by a bipartisan standing ovation. McCain came back to Washington just in time to to cast his yes vote on Senate Republicans' motion to proceed on debating the House-passed health-care bill.

Though Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on the health-care issue — no Democrats voted in favor of the motion to proceed, while all but two Republicans supported it — Politico's Dan Diamond reported that a "parade" of Democrats went over to hug McCain.

After the voting wrapped up and the motion to proceed passed, however, McCain took the floor for a general speech that betrayed his simple "aye" vote on the bill. Though McCain voted in favor of the motion to proceed, he made clear that he would "not vote for the bill as it is today." "It's a shell of a bill right now, we all know that," McCain said, adding that it "seems likely" that "this process ends in failure." He scolded his party for "getting nothing done" because "we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle."

McCain's critical speech also extended to President Trump. "Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president's subordinates," McCain said. "We are his equal." Catch a snippet of McCain's speech below, and read it in full here. Becca Stanek

3:09 p.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Senate voted in favor of a motion to proceed to debating the House-passed health-care bill. The motion passed 50-50, with Vice President Mike Pence stepping in to break the tie.

Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) were the only Republicans to vote against the measure. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer, returned to Washington to cast his yes vote amid a round of applause. No Democrats voted in favor.

Lawmakers will now move to voting on the Senate's Better Care bill, along with a straight repeal bill favored by conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). A "skinny repeal" plan, which was introduced just hours before Tuesday's vote and would center around eliminating ObamaCare's individual mandate, the employer mandate, and a few of the health-care law's taxes, would come into play as a third option. Becca Stanek

2:48 p.m. ET

Protesters' shouts cut through the quiet of the Senate floor Tuesday as lawmakers convened to vote on a motion to proceed to debating the House-passed health-care bill. "Kill the bill! Don't kill us!" protesters chanted as senators began to cast their votes.

The gavel was pounded in an attempt to restore order. "Shame! Shame!" the protesters carried on.

If the motion to proceed passes, the Senate will move on to voting on Senate Republicans' Better Care bill, along with a straight repeal bill. A third option would be the "skinny repeal" plan, a pared-down ObamaCare repeal focused specifically on eliminating the individual mandate. Becca Stanek

2:37 p.m. ET

As the Senate convened Tuesday to vote on a motion to proceed to debating the House-passed health-care bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) fired off a caustic criticism of Senate Republicans' hasty and secretive process. As Sanders underscored in a retweet of Vox's Dylan Scott, the vote Tuesday happened in spite of the fact there was "no final text," " no final CBO score," and "no public hearings."

Sanders deemed the process not just "insulting" — but "undemocratic":

Just as the vote began Tuesday, several uncertain Republican senators came out in support of the motion to proceed. Becca Stanek

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