April 21, 2017
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President Trump met with former Colombian Presidents Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana at Mar-a-Lago last weekend, an undisclosed meeting that Colombian media says was arranged by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Rubio, Uribe, and Pastrana are all prominent critics of the peace deal Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos negotiated with the FARC guerrilla group. Next month, Santos is meeting with Trump in Washington, and he will urge Trump to support the peace deal, which won Santos the Nobel Peace Prize, by maintaining the $450 million in foreign aid that former President Barack Obama pledged to implement the agreement, McClatchy reports.

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to confirm that the meeting had taken place. On Thursday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told McClatchy that Trump had "briefly said hello when the presidents walked past them," saying the two presidents happened to be visiting Trump's private club with an unidentified member. "There wasn't anything beyond a quick hello," she said.

On Twitter, meanwhile, Pastrana thanked Trump for the "cordial and very frank conversation about problems and perspectives in Colombia and the region," and Uribe ally and former vice president Francisco Santos told McClatchy that the former presidents had raised concerns with Trump about the turmoil in Colombia and Venezuela, and the FARC peace deal, in a short but direct meeting.

Colombian analysts focused on the damage to the peace process if Trump pulled funding or publicly opposed the peace plan, while in the U.S. observers were more concerned about the ease with which well-connected foreign leaders can meet with the president to press their case, without any public record. Mar-a-Lago's membership rolls are not public, the media is kept at arm's length when Trump is down there, and the club has no visitor log. You can read more about the meeting and the Colombian politics at The Miami Herald. Peter Weber

11:29 a.m. ET
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Turkish troops and their Free Syrian Army allies on Sunday declared victory over Kurdish YPG militia fighters in the northern Syrian city of Afrin.

"Most of the terrorists have already fled with tails between their legs," said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, though enclaves of Kurdish fighters remain outside the city center. Activist groups in Afrin say about 280 civilians were killed in the fight to control the city, but Erdogan's government denies their report.

Turkey's war on the Kurds creates tension with Washington, which is allied with both sides. The YPG joined the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State, but Ankara, a NATO ally, considers the Kurds terrorists because of their links to Kurdish rebels in Turkey. Bonnie Kristian

11:20 a.m. ET

North Korean diplomat Choe Kang Il traveled to Finland Sunday for negotiations with American and South Korean representatives, notably including former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens. The talks are seen as a preliminary step toward the direct meeting President Trump has said he will have with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this spring.

The South Korean foreign ministry compared the Finland negotiations to the indirect and secretive "Track 2" dialogue Pyongyang maintains with Washington. Choe declined to comment on his agenda. Bonnie Kristian

11:13 a.m. ET
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Russian President Vladimir Putin faces seven challengers as voters go to the polls Sunday, but he is expected to easily win a fourth term for another six years in office. Advance polling suggests Putin boasts about 70 percent support, though critics say Russian elections are a pseudo-democratic exercise with a predetermined outcome.

"I voted for Putin," said Ust-Djeguta resident Lyubov Kachan, a teacher, in an interview with Reuters. "If anything is not going our way right now, that's thanks to the world which treats us so negatively, while he is trying to stand up to that."

Apathetic voters are under increased pressure to turn out this year, with some employers asking workers to provide proof that they voted. The mayor of the city of Yekaterinburg told The Associated Press officials "received orders 'from higher up' to make sure the presidential vote turnout is over 60 percent." Bonnie Kristian

10:10 a.m. ET

Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader hosted this week's show, and he was joined in the cold open by frequent SNL host John Goodman.

On the set with Anderson Cooper (Alex Moffat), Hader's former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and Goodman's fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commiserated about the chaos in the Trump administration. "It's just crazy how one day you're the CEO of Exxon, a 50-billion dollar company," Tillerson muses, "and the next you get fired by a man who used to sell steaks in the mail."

Kate McKinnon also showed up as Attorney General Jeff Sessions reflecting on the Friday firing of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. "I'm just a simple man who wanted to make things bad for immigrants," Sessions says, "and now here I am taking away the pension of a Christian white. It ain't right!" Watch the full sketch below. Bonnie Kristian

8:46 a.m. ET
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Cambridge Analytica, the data firm suspended by Facebook Friday over violations of the network's privacy policies, was in contact with Lukoil, a Russian oil company, in 2014 and 2015, The New York Times reported Saturday. When questioned last month, the head of the firm's British parent company denied knowledge of any business ties to Russia. A Lukoil executive told the Times the meetings "involved a promotional campaign with local soccer teams," denying any "contracts were signed."

Also Saturday, The Observer of London reported the company harvested 50 million American Facebook profiles for electioneering, a major data breach. "We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles and built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons," said former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie. "That was the basis the entire company was built on." Wylie attended the meeting with Lukoil and said the oil company repeatedly asked about "political targeting in America."

Cambridge Analytica was a Trump campaign contractor in 2016, though Facebook did not mention President Trump in its suspension announcement. Bonnie Kristian

8:17 a.m. ET

Fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe created memos documenting his conversations with President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey, The Associated Press reports. He has given the files to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and has also granted Mueller an interview about the circumstances surrounding Comey's ouster last year.

Comey also made private memos detailing his interactions with Trump and leaked them to the media via a friend. Axios reports the McCabe memos corroborate Comey's account of his own firing. "I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey," McCabe said in his statement on his Friday firing.

Trump, meanwhile, posted a series of tweets on McCabe, Comey, and Mueller Saturday evening and Sunday morning. He accused McCabe of fabricating the memos after the fact:

Trump also reiterated his accusation that McCabe abused his position in exchange for donations to his wife's Democratic congressional campaign; remade his case that the Mueller inquiry is a "WITCH HUNT" and investigators instead should probe the FBI, the State Department, and Hillary Clinton; and cited Fox & Friends for an allegation that Comey lied under oath when testifying to Congress.

This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout. Bonnie Kristian

March 17, 2018
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Republican lawmakers are pushing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a second special counsel besides Robert Mueller, this one to investigate the FBI and the Justice Department for how they handled the 2016 election. Of particular interest is surveillance of a Trump campaign aide and the probe into then-candidate Hillary Clinton's email server.

"The FBI and the Department of Justice were corrupt, in my view, when it came to handling the email investigation of Clinton," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued on Fox News in support of a new counsel. "And the entire FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant application process was abused."

Graham was referring to the allegation in the memo compiled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that the FBI acquired FISA permission to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page based significantly on the Steele dossier, whose creation was partially funded by a Clinton campaign lawyer, without telling the court the source of the information. The counter-memo released by House Democrats from the committee says the FISA court was properly informed of the dossier's political provenance.

Graham sent a letter to Sessions Thursday asking for an additional special counsel, and other House members including Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (Va.) and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (S.C.) have made the same request.

A Justice Department inspector general investigation is already underway, but that has not satisfied President Trump and many of his allies. Bonnie Kristian

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