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March 20, 2017

President Trump's official @POTUS Twitter account was active Monday while FBI Director James Comey was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. Though the account did not highlight Comey's announcement of an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia or note Comey's admission that neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice had "information to support" Trump's wiretapping claims, it did seek to note Comey's refusal to comment when asked whether he'd briefed former President Barack Obama on any calls involving ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn:

In his introductory statement, Comey made clear that he may not be able to discuss certain topics because of ongoing investigations and other restrictions. "Please don't draw any conclusions from the fact that I may not be able to comment on certain topics," Comey said.

Less than 10 minutes later, @POTUS tweeted again:

Though neither Comey nor NSA chief Adm. Mike Rogers had evidence to back up that "any votes were changed" in particular states, the intelligence community has concluded Russia launched an "influence campaign" to interfere in last year's election. "They'll be back," Comey warned of Russia. "They'll be back in 2020 and they may be back in 2018."

So what was the point of these tweets highlighting very specific moments from the wide-ranging hearing? Senior New Republic editor Brian Beutler has a theory. Becca Stanek

10:30 a.m. ET

If you would prefer a President Pence to a President Trump — an alluring prospect to many anti-Trump social conservatives, as well as a majority of Democrats per recent polling — the 25th Amendment might sound like just the ticket. It provides that if the president is deemed "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office," Congress can pull some strings to produce our new President Pence.

Such a removal sans impeachment process has been repeatedly proposed in recent weeks, but, as Politico explains, this hope is not grounded in reality:

In the 50 years since the 25th Amendment was ratified, it's been used twice to fill a vice presidential vacancy: when Gerald Ford replaced the disgraced Spiro Agnew in October 1973, and when Nelson Rockefeller replaced Ford in 1974. And on six occasions, the president has invoked the 25th Amendment to (very temporarily) designate his veep as acting president, always during routine medical procedures like a colonoscopy. But it's never been invoked when the president himself was non compos ...

The notion that Pence and a Cabinet majority will look at Trump’s next tweets or telephonic fulminations and decide he’s not fit for the job is beyond absurdity. ... In the midst of a shooting war in Vietnam, and a Cold War on constant simmer, Nixon was often abusing alcohol and prescription drugs, leading to stretches of incoherence and irrationality. No one around him even raised the specter of invoking the 25th Amendment. [Politico]

Read the rest of Politico's rationale here. Bonnie Kristian

10:17 a.m. ET

57-year-old NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson broke the record for the most spacewalks ever performed by a woman when she ventured out of the International Space Station on Thursday. Whitson, who The Associated Press noted is "the world's oldest and most experienced spacewoman," has now completed eight spacewalks, surpassing former space station resident Sunita Williams' record of 50 hours and 40 minutes of spacewalking time.

Whitson also holds the record for the most time a woman has ever spent in space, as she's now up to more than 500 days away from Earth. Whitson departed for her third space station trip in November to set up a docking port for commercial crew ships being developed by Boeing and SpaceX. She is slated to return in June.

Catch a glimpse of Whitson's Thursday morning spacewalk below. Becca Stanek

10:10 a.m. ET
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Depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability around the world, the World Health Organization announced Thursday. "A better understanding of depression and how it can be treated, while essential, is just the beginning," explained Dr. Shekhar Saxena, who serves as the director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. "What needs to follow is sustained scale-up of mental health services accessible to everyone, even the most remote populations in the world."

More than 300 million people live with depression, an uptick of more than 18 percent between 2005 and 2015. But worldwide, there is still very little support for mental disorders. On average, governments only spend 3 percent of health budgets on mental health, despite the fact that "every $1 [U.S. dollar] invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of $4 in better health and ability to work," WHO writes. But even in high-income countries, only about half of people suffering from depression get treatment.

Depression is strongly linked to the increased risk of substance abuse as well as diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Hundreds of thousands of people every year additionally commit suicide.

"These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves," said WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan. Jeva Lange

10:07 a.m. ET
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Senate Democrats are weighing whether to filibuster or otherwise make trouble for the confirmation vote of President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. But new NBC News/Survey Monkey poll results released Thursday indicate a majority of Americans would prefer that they didn't.

Only 37 percent of respondents said they would like to see Senate Democrats block the Gorsuch vote, while 54 percent were ready to move ahead to an up-or-down ballot on the SCOTUS candidate. The poll had a 1.7 percent margin of error.

Gorsuch needs 60 votes to take a seat at the court: 52 Senate Republicans plus eight centrist Democrats or independents. While his qualifications for the position are generally not disputed, Democrats are still smarting over Republicans' refusal to allow a vote on President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland. Bonnie Kristian

9:33 a.m. ET
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After "very sensitive" negotiations, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Thursday that Malaysia has agreed to release the body of Kim Jong Nam, the assassinated half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to North Korea. Kim died in February after a woman sprayed him in the face with the banned, lethal VX nerve agent at Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur airport. In exchange for Kim's body, North Korea has agreed to release the nine Malaysian citizens who had been blocked from leaving the country.

Kim's assassination last month, which The Associated Press noted is "widely suspected" to be the work of North Korea, has ratcheted up tensions between North Korea and Malaysia. After the incident at the airport, Malaysia demanded North Korea hand over suspects who were believed to be "hiding in North Korea's embassy in Malaysia," BBC reported. North Korea denied its involvement in the assassination, and called for Malaysia to release Kim's body.

The standoff prompted both countries to remove their ambassadors. After North Korea prevented nine Malaysians from leaving the country, Malaysia responded by barring North Korean citizens from leaving Malaysian soil.

Razak did not say if Kim's body has already left Malaysia. Becca Stanek

9:30 a.m. ET
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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is expected to announce a 25-year, $6.5 billion contract with AT&T to build a nationwide wireless network for first responders, The Wall Street Journal reports. The project, called FirstNet, was first proposed following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but the Trump administration's deal marks the first major step toward it becoming a reality.

First responders use the same wireless networks that regular people do, meaning police channels can get clogged by heavy usage from civilians. This was a problem during 9/11, and many experts believe it was a major reason why so many first responders died. The proposed wireless broadband network would instead allow police, firefighters, and other officials to have their own space for communications during emergencies.

"Public safety has no priority right now," said Nebraska's Buffalo County sheriff, Neil Miller. "We are just another user. We look the same in the network as everybody else."

But others are critical of FirstNet, including the Fraternal Order of Police, which worries that AT&T will neglect rural areas where there is a more limited use of the network. "AT&T is a reputable company. But they're a reputable company doing what reputable companies do: They're trying to make a profit," said Fraternal Order of Police senior adviser Jim Pasco.

"Do you want to be line item 1? Or line item 4,363?" asked Declan Ganley, the chief of Rivada, an upstart that lost the federal contract to build the network to AT&T. "That's where public safety is for the budgets of these carriers." Jeva Lange

8:26 a.m. ET
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President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday aimed at unraveling former President Barack Obama's climate change policies: "My action today is the latest in steps to grow American jobs," Trump said. But some of America's biggest companies are saying thanks but no thanks — and vowing to stick to environmental pledges made to Obama, Bloomberg Politics reports.

Walmart, for example, has already vowed to get half of its power from renewable energy sources by 2025. "This work is embedded in our business," said Walmart spokesman Kevin Gardner. "[It's] good for the business, our shareholders, and customers; if ultimately we are able to positively impact the environment in the process, that's a win too."

The world's biggest beer company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, pledged Tuesday to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and Mars Inc. wants to eliminate its emissions altogether by 2040, with vice president of corporate affairs Andy Pharoah saying the company is "disappointed the [Trump] administration has decided to roll back climate regulations."

Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Ikea, Levi Strauss & Co., and Best Buy also said they would stick to climate change promises made to the Obama administration. And in a joint statement responding to Trump's executive order, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google's parent company, Alphabet, wrote: "We believe that strong clean energy and climate policies, like the Clean Power Plan, can make renewable energy supplies more robust and address the serious threat of climate change while also supporting American competitiveness, innovation, and job growth."

"Most big companies in the U.S. recognize that climate change is real," Columbia Business School professor Geoffrey M. Heal explained to Bloomberg Politics. "They need to move ahead on the climate change front no matter what Trump's government does." Jeva Lange

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