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March 20, 2017

Two years ago, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) — the same man asking tough questions about leaks during the House Intelligence Committee's hearing Monday on Russian election meddling — inadvertently leaked some classified information himself. Back in 2015, when Gowdy was the chairman of the House committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Gowdy accidentally revealed the name of a CIA source during a discussion with Democrats, Politico reported.

Gowdy's reveal was inadvertent, and occurred due to the State Department's failure to omit the CIA source's name from the email being discussed. But on Monday, while talking about the leaked phone transcripts that led to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's resignation, Gowdy suggested anyone who leaks classified information ought to be prosecuted. "Some of that may rise to a crime, some of it may not," Gowdy said. "The felonious release of classified material is definitely a crime." Becca Stanek

6:40 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, a federal judge in Phoenix ruled that Joe Arpaio is still legally guilty of criminal contempt of court despite the Aug. 25 pardon from President Trump. Arpaio's lawyers and the Justice Department had asked U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to vacate her July 31 guilty verdict, to wipe his record clean and prevent the conviction from being used against him in other litigation. She refused. Arpaio had been scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 5

"The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping," Bolton wrote in her 4-page ruling, quoting a 1990 appeals court ruling. "To vacate all rulings in this case would run afoul of this important distinction. The court found defendant guilty of criminal contempt. The president issued the pardon. Defendant accepted. The pardon undoubtedly spared defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed. It did not, however, 'revise the historical facts' of this case."

Arpaio's lawyers immediately filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Arpaio, 85, was sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for 24 years before being voted out last year. He is an immigration hardliner and significant Trump supporter. After his pardon, Arpaio suggested that he might get back into politics. Peter Weber

5:43 a.m. ET
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Keeping up with President Trump's stance on the bipartisan health-care bill that Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) unveiled on Thursday, flanked by 11 Republican and 11 Democratic cosponsors, can be exhausting and frustrating. So Republicans have just started ignoring Trump's opinion, Caitlin Owens reports at Axios, and cracking jokes about Trump's policy inconstancy. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said all 48 members of the Democratic caucus, which would give it 60 yes votes if Republicans bring it up for a vote. But if Trump objects, Republicans see a problem. If.

"Which one's he on now?" Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) asked Owens when she brought up Trump's opinion of the bill. "In this town, at this time, change seems to be the norm," Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said when asked about Trump's shifting opinion. "It is what it is. So we just work around it." A GOP lobbyist told Owens: "They just need to pass it during the 5 minutes he is supportive." Alexander and others suggest that the bill faces better odds as part of a year-end package of must-pass legislation rather than as a stand-alone bill.

Alexander-Murray aims to stabilize insurance markets by extending for two years the cost-sharing subsidies that insurers use to lower costs for low-income customers — Trump ended them last week — and makes it easier for states to get waivers on ObamaCare requirements. Peter Weber

4:42 a.m. ET

This week, for some reason, the internet went crazy over a rumor that first lady Melania Trump has a body double. "Do you have any idea how dumb that sounds?" Jordan Klepper scoffed on Thursday's The Opposition. "Of course Melania has a body double. We free thinkers have known that for years." In fact, "body doubles are everywhere in politics," and have been since Queen Elizabeth I invented them, Klepper said, with much more elaboration and a few examples.

But "this Melania body-double thing is trying to throw you off the scent, like a perfume that tells lies," Klepper said. "The big story? The double that is happening in health care." He noted Trump's rapid flip-flopping on whether he supports the bipartisan Alexander-Murray health care bill. "I know what you're thinking — Trump's body double went off-book. Shut up, that's absurd — Trump doesn't have a body double. They're not ready yet; they've been only growing beneath the Arizona desert for nine months, give them time."

"No, Trump is using an even more advanced technique: the opinion double," Klepper explained. "You see, opinion doubles let Trump occupy multiple stances on health care at the same time. They allow you to play to whichever room you happen to be in. If you have every opinion, you are guaranteed to be right — it's brilliant." If body doubles and opinion doubles are real, Klepper said, bipartisanship isn't. "You think politicians are going to work with their enemies just to help Americans? What's the catch?" And he had the conspiracy theory to prove his point. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:48 a.m. ET

The National Weather Service issued its forecast for the winter on Thursday, and most of the U.S. should expect warmer-than-average temperatures, on the assumption that a weak La Niña weather pattern develops in the Pacific. While the lower two-thirds of the U.S., Hawaii, and the northern and western parts of Alaska will be unusually warm, said Mike Halpert of the Climate Prediction Center, there will also be "greater-than-average snowfall around the Great Lakes and in the northern Rockies, with less-than-average snowfall throughout the Mid-Atlantic region" and a dry winter across the south.

If the forecasts of a warmer-than-average winter are true, it would be the third one in a row — last winter was the sixth warmest on record, and the one before that the warmest ever recorded, The Washington Post notes. "We're not anticipating the kind of record warmth we've seen the last two winters," Halpert told reporters, though "the odds of seeing three Top 10 [warmest winters in a row] is reduced, not eliminated." The warming climate from greenhouse gasses "does, undoubtedly, play a role" in the warm winters, he added, but the "driving force" this year is the La Niña.

The forecast is seasonal and doesn't preclude cold fronts or snowstorms anywhere, Halpert cautioned, and there's only a 55 percent 65 percent chance of a La Niña developing. Peter Weber

2:22 a.m. ET

Former President Barack Obama, stumping for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam in Richmond on Thursday evening, alluded to August's violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, 70 miles up I-64. That rally was ostensibly organized to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.

"We've got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry" for political gain, Obama said. "We shouldn't use the most painful parts of our history just to score political points. ... We don't rise up by repeating the past, we rise up by learning form the past." He then mentioned that he is "an eighth or ninth or tenth or something cousin removed from Jefferson Davis," the head of the Confederacy. "Think about that." And lest you think he was bragging about his ancestry, Obama had a parting shot: "I'll bet he's spinning in his grave."

On Tuesday, the PTA president of a predominantly black public school in Jackson, Mississippi, said that the school stakeholders had voted to change the name, Davis Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary, after Jefferson Davis, to Obama Magnet IB Elementary. "Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him," the PTA president, Janelle Jefferson, told the Jackson School Board. The change will take effect next school year. Peter Weber

2:19 a.m. ET
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Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) is defending herself against remarks made Thursday by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, saying she never stood up during the dedication of an FBI building and claimed to have secured funding for the project.

"He shouldn't be able to just say that, that is terrible," she told the Miami Herald. "This has become totally personal." On Tuesday, Wilson said Trump made "insensitive" comments to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four soldier killed in Niger earlier this month. She knew Johnson through her mentoring program, and was with the Johnson family when Trump called. Johnson's family has backed up Wilson's version of events, but Kelly, in a press conference Thursday to try to clarify Trump's statements, also went after Wilson, calling her an "empty barrel."

Kelly claimed that during an April 2015 ceremony dedicating an FBI building in Florida, Wilson stood up and "talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building" and said she "just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down." Wilson told the Miami Herald this is patently false, seeing as how the funding was secured before she joined Congress. She did sponsor legislation, signed three days before the ceremony, to name the building after Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, two FBI agents killed in 1986. During the ceremony, Wilson was praised by then-FBI Director James Comey, who in his remarks said "Rep. Wilson truly did the impossible, and we are eternally grateful." Catherine Garcia

1:27 a.m. ET
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In order to serve his fellow veterans, Josue Guerrero-Urbine would travel up to 200 miles a day by bus, boarding before the sun was up and coming home long after it set. Now that he's been surprised with a new car, he'll be able to reach even more people, a whole lot faster.

Guerrero-Uribe was in the Marine Corps for eight years, and when he came home from a tour in Iraq, he was depressed and didn't want to talk to anyone. He became involved with a nonprofit called The Mission Continues, which assists veterans who are having a hard time as they transition out of the service, and it made such a difference in his life that he became part of their outreach. "The Mission Continues gave me an option and opportunity to get out of my negative self and put my energy onto more positive things that help my community," he told NBC Los Angeles.

On Wednesday, Guerrero-Uribe was standing in a Costa Mesa, California, parking lot when a car drove up, and to his shock, he was handed the keys. Having reliable transportation changes everything for Guerrero-Uribe, and his colleague Allison Bailey said it's the perfect gift for someone always willing to help others. "You know that if you ever pick up the phone and ask for anything, you know he's going to do it and he's going to do it with passion and heart," she told NBC Los Angeles. Catherine Garcia

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