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April 13, 2017

Stephen Bannon, President Trump's chief strategist, apparently had a rough day at the office on Wednesday. The night before, Trump had told the New York Post, "I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late," and before that, "I didn't know Steve." (They met in 2011.) "I'm my own strategist," he added, a phrase he repeated to The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, when he also called Bannon "a guy who works for me." Some of Bannon's associates characterized Trump's public dressing-down as a paternal "love tap," The Washington Post reports, while others fear it was "an indirect firing."

Bannon "is a marked man — diminished by weeks of battles with the bloc of centrists led by Trump's daughter and son-in-law and cut down by the president himself," The Washington Post said, basing its assessment on "interviews Wednesday with 21 of Trump's aides, confidants, and allies." One Bannon friend likened him to "a terminally ill family member who had been moved into hospice care," the Post said, while others suggested Bannon might survive for a little longer.

"Bannon is a brilliant pirate who has had a huge impact," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "But White Houses, in the end, are like the U.S. Navy — corporate structures and very hard on pirates." A "person with firsthand knowledge of internal White House dynamics" told The New York Times that while no change is imminent, Trump's comments and Bannon's recent demotions have made it very hard for the chief strategist to keep his job and his stature.

Not every Trump insider is numbering Bannon's days. Thomas Barrack Jr., a close Trump friend and business associate, spent Tuesday and Wednesday meeting with Trump and his senior team in Washington. He told CNN's Erin Burnett Wednesday night that things have never been better at the Trump White House and Bannon isn't going anywhere.

Still, Bannon's supporters are watching the situation warily, including his main political patron, Rebekah Mercer, who views Bannon as her main conduit to Trump. Mercer is reportedly already looking for opportunities for Bannon should he leave the White House early, but her family's ties to Bannon are one of the things that might keep him employed at the White House. "While the president has grown weary of directives from donors like the Mercers," The New York Times reports, "he is mindful that they are among his major financial backers, and he is said to be conscious of the need to keep it that way." Peter Weber

5:05 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Image

In their quest to cut taxes while not running up huge deficits, Senate Republicans have had to find creative ways to save money in their forthcoming tax reform bill. Although some estimates say that the Republican tax bill would add $1.8 trillion to the federal debt over 10 years, you can rest assured that the Republican Party is committed to cutting irresponsible spending: In an effort to save money, the new plan will prevent your employer from being able to write off lunches purchased for workers or workplace entertainment, HuffPost reported Wednesday.

The move would save $23 billion over 10 years, HuffPost reported — or just 1.3 percent of the total expected deficit increase. Under the current tax code, employers who give the majority of their workers free lunches can deduct 50 percent of the cost. The House version of the bill does not touch free workplace lunch, but it would eliminate tax breaks for employer-paid day care assistance programs, as well as employee-sponsored moving expenses and achievement awards, all for the sake of saving $12 billion.

But the Senate tax bill isn't all bad news! The exemption for the estate tax will be doubled, so if you happen to inherit less than $10 million from a dead relative, you won't have to pay any taxes on the money — which should definitely help you pay for lunch if your employer won't give it to you. Kelly O'Meara Morales

3:37 p.m. ET
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The Roy Moore campaign lashed out at The Washington Post on Wednesday, dubbing the paper "a worthless piece of crap" after it pressed the campaign to provide documentation it claimed to have that discredited one of the several women who have come forth to accuse the Alabama Senate candidate of sexual misconduct.

A spokesperson for the Moore campaign told supporters Tuesday that it was in possession of documents which supposedly showed that Leigh Corfman — who accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 14 years old — lied about her address in the Post's story about Moore's sexual misconduct. The Post followed up with the campaign Tuesday, asking for proof of the documents, but while the campaign initially said it would comply, strategist Brett Doster struck a very different tune in an email Wednesday: "There is no need for anyone at The Washington Post to ever reach out to the Roy Moore campaign again because we will not respond to anyone from the Post now or in the future," Doster wrote. "Happy Thanksgiving."

For good measure, Doster added: "The Washington Post is a worthless piece of crap that has gone out of its way to railroad Roy Moore." Post reporter Michael Scherer said that a longtime Moore aide presented the paper with evidence that "did not contradict what Corman has told the Post."

The campaign has vehemently denied allegations of the candidate's sexual misconduct and has tried to call into question proof given by his accusers. On Tuesday, President Trump told White House reporters that Moore had "totally denied" the allegations of sexual misconduct, which he added took place over 40 years ago, "so, you know." Kelly O'Meara Morales

3:09 p.m. ET

When the Federal Communications Commission announced its plan to dismantle net neutrality laws back in January, comments started pouring in to the FCC website — a record-breaking 22 million of them.

In 2015, a public commenting period led to Obama-era guidelines protecting net neutrality. But bots intent on dismantling net neutrality took over this round, Vanity Fair reported, borrowing real Americans' addresses to leave hundreds of thousands of comments under fake identities advocating against the rules. And with FCC chairman Ajit Pai's Monday confirmation that net neutrality rules are coming down, it looks like they're getting their wish.

In an open letter to Pai, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman revealed that he's been investigating these questionable comments for months. But the FCC hasn't cooperated:

Schneiderman said the situation likely violated state laws, as it used New Yorkers' identities to leave fake comments. Yet despite multiple requests, the FCC has refused to aid Schneiderman's investigation — meaning "the door is open for (this) to happen again and again," he wrote. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:09 p.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Trump Organization is walking away from its struggling hotel in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, The New York Times reports. It is the second hotel the organization has removed its name from this year, after a similar situation developed in Toronto.

The SoHo building, which also has condominiums, closed its main restaurant earlier this year due to a decline in business "since the election," in the words of one of its lawyers. The owner of the building, the CIM Group, reportedly reached a deal to buy out the Trump Organization from the property; the Trump company manages daily operations at the building. "The Board and CIM have been first class in every regard," said the CEO of Trump Hotels, Eric Danziger, in a statement. "We have truly enjoyed our relationship and look forward to exploring new opportunities in the future."

On Monday, The Telegraph reported that the average price for a weekend at a Trump hotel dropped by 36 percent in the last year. Jeva Lange

2:28 p.m. ET

Ahh, Thanksgiving. That special time of year when you set out your most over-the-top centerpiece, strap on your eating pants, and gather around the table to talk tax policy with relatives you only see once a year.

That's what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) imagines happens, anyway. On Monday, Schumer tweeted a chart made by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, instructing his followers to bring it to "Thanksgiving dinner" to whip out when "that family member who always talks politics tells you the Republican tax bill helps the middle class," the Washington Examiner reports.

But Schumer wasn't done delivering graphics for you to surprise your unsuspecting relative with at some point between the turkey carving and the pumpkin pie:

Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Chuck! Jeva Lange

1:41 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. John Conyers' legacy was upended Monday when a BuzzFeed News report detailed sexual harassment allegations made against the Michigan Democrat. Now, the editorial board of the Detroit Free Press, his slightly left-leaning hometown paper, is calling for him to step down.

The longtime congressman is known as a civil rights icon and a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, facts the Free Press acknowledged in its scathing editorial published Tuesday. But he's also been accused of making sexual advances toward an employee — and having her fired when she refused.

That's enough to spark an inquiry into Conyers, the Free Press said. But his misconduct runs deeper: If the victim dropped her formal complaint against Conyers, his office said it would "re-hire" her and pay her as a temporary employee. The woman eventually agreed to those terms, receiving more than $27,000 over the course of three months. It's similar to a time Conyers kept paying his former chief of staff even after she was fired — payments the Free Press said look like "hush money."

While the editorial board did suggest reforming the Congressional Office of Compliance so these payoffs don't keep happening, that is "not the point with Conyers." "It's a betrayal that breaches the most fundamental trust that exists between a public servant and the people that person represents," the Free Press wrote.

And that's why, even after a "stellar" 53 years in office, the paper is calling on Conyers to step down. You can read the Detroit Free Press' full editorial here. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:03 p.m. ET
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Russian ads reportedly reached an estimated 126 million Facebook users during the presidential campaign, likely leaving some people wondering if they are among those who might have fallen for Kremlin propaganda. On Wednesday, the social media giant announced that it will be creating a page to help users identify which accounts they liked or followed that were discovered to be linked back to a Russian "troll farm," Axios reports. Facebook says to expect the tool to be available in its Help Center by the end of the year, The Hill reports.

The Senate Judiciary Committee's Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) had demanded that Facebook "individually notify any and all users who received or interacted with [Russian] advertisements and associated content," issuing similar orders to Twitter and Google. Facebook, though, will not tell users "whether they were exposed to content from the [Russian troll farm's] pages in their Newsfeed, even if they didn't follow them," Axios notes.

Facebook admitted in September that it unknowingly sold $100,000 worth of ads to a Russian troll farm during the election. Check out one particularly humorous example of a Russian ad here. Jeva Lange

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