May 19, 2017
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While Vice President Mike Pence has been keeping a low profile in recent days, several of his aides are working in overdrive, attempting to paint Pence in a positive light as the hits keep coming for President Trump.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Michael Flynn, a foreign policy adviser during the campaign and Trump's short-tenured national security adviser, notified the Trump transition team on Jan. 4 — specifically the team's lawyer, Don McGahn — that he was under federal investigation for working as a lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign. A person close to the administration told NBC News on Thursday that the vice president was kept in the dark about this, and it appears there might be a "pattern" of Pence not being told about such major issues; Pence has also claimed that he wasn't told about discussions Flynn had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. until 15 days after the White House and Trump heard about it.

This person also told NBC News if the Times report is true (the White House has denied it), then "it's a fact that not only was Pence not made aware of that, no one around Pence was as well. And that's an egregious error — and it has to be intentional. It's either malpractice or intentional, and either are unacceptable." The source pinned the blame on McGahn, now White House counsel, and anyone he told for not passing the word along to Pence and his team, adding that Pence was also not asked about making Flynn national security adviser and "never" had a personal relationship with Flynn.

If it looks like Pence is in need of a good nap and maybe a dinner with his wife (and his wife alone), it's because he does, a senior adviser told CNN. Pence is a "relentlessly positive guy," the adviser said, and will always be a "loyal soldier" to Trump, but he "looks tired." He's been preparing for several speeches behind closed doors, not intentionally avoiding the public, the adviser claimed, and it doesn't makes any sense for him to get involved in the drama surrounding Flynn or the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. When Pence, then the governor of Indiana, was approached by Trump to be his running mate, his team "certainly knew we needed to be prepared for the unconventional," the adviser said, but "not to this extent." Catherine Garcia

8:26 a.m. ET

In a Thursday morning interview on CNN's New Day, newly minted White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci invited White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to "explain" to the press "that he's not a leaker."

The previous evening, Scaramucci tagged Priebus in a tweet declaring he would be contacting the FBI about the "leak" of his financial disclosure information, which is publicly available. But Scaramucci insisted Thursday he wasn't accusing Priebus of being a leaker, but rather suggesting the chief of staff is "responsible for understanding and uncovering" the leakers.

However, Scaramucci stopped short of defending Priebus against journalists' "assumption that it's him," instead inviting Priebus to defend himself. "He's going to need to speak for his own actions," Scaramucci said.

Scaramucci did not make any attempt to hide his potentially irreparable beef with Priebus in the wide-ranging interview, commenting that "some brothers are like Cain and Abel." "We have had odds, we have had differences," Scaramucci said. "I don't know if this is reparable or not. That will be up to the president."

One thing Scaramucci did know for sure is that he and President Trump — who authorized his CNN interview — now have "a very, very good idea of who the leakers are." Becca Stanek

7:35 a.m. ET
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After Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) voted Tuesday against the motion to proceed to debating health care, Alaska got a call from the Trump administration. The Alaska Dispatch News reported that by Wednesday afternoon, President Trump's Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had dialed Murkowski and the state's other GOP senator, Dan Sullivan, to deliver what Sullivan described as a "troubling message."

"I'm not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs, and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop," Sullivan said. The Alaska Dispatch News reported that "issues on the line include nominations of Alaskans to Interior posts, an effort to build a road out of King Cove through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, and future opportunities to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expand drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska."

Sullivan told the Alaska Dispatch News that Zinke "was clear that his message was in response to the no vote Murkowski cast."

Along with the phone calls, Trump on Wednesday singled out Murkowski on Twitter for being one of two Republicans to vote against the motion. Trump tweeted at Murkowski that she'd "really let Republicans, and our country down."

Read more on the story at the Alaska Dispatch News. Becca Stanek

1:58 a.m. ET
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President Trump will nominate Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) as ambassador at large for religious freedom, a position out of the State Department.

If confirmed by the Senate, Brownback, a social conservative, would monitor and respond to global threats to religious freedom. After the news broke on Wednesday, Brownback tweeted, "Religious Freedom is the first freedom. The choice of what you do with your own soul. I am honored to serve such an important cause."

Brownback is deeply unpopular in Kansas. He cut income taxes, but instead of jumpstarting the economy like he promised voters, the state was left with gaps in its budget, and lawmakers had to curb spending and raise taxes. Kansas Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley said in a statement Brownback's policies "have bankrupted our state and led to destroying nearly every agency of state government as well as his own political career. He is moving on not because of anything he accomplished in Kansas, but because of who he knows in Washington, D.C." Catherine Garcia

12:33 a.m. ET

After Politico published a piece Wednesday night about new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci still being able to profit from an ownership stake in his investment firm, Scaramucci tweeted that he will contact the FBI about the "leak" of his publicly available financial disclosure — and he tagged Reince Priebus, President Trump's chief of staff, in his message.

This didn't come as a surprise to The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, who tweeted a bombshell:

Politico's report was the first one to reveal details from the disclosure form Scaramucci filed with the Office of Government Ethics, which showed that from Jan. 1, 2016, to the end of June, when he joined the Export-Import Bank, Scaramucci earned $4.9 million from his ownership stake in SkyBridge Capital, plus more than $5 million in salary. Scaramucci founded SkyBridge in 2005, and is still listed on its website as the managing director of the investment firm, Politico reports, even though he's been a government employee for more than a month.

RON Transatlantic and HNA Group, a Chinese conglomerate, are in the process of buying the firm, and the sale is being closely watched by federal regulators. A White House adviser told Politico that Scaramucci, a major fundraiser for Trump during his campaign, joined the Export-Import Bank in June as a way to get access to Trump while waiting for SkyBridge's very complicated sale to go through. Politico notes that he had security credentials that allowed him to gain access to Trump whenever he wanted, and could go around senior White House staffers, like Priebus.

Just a few hours after the report came out, Scaramucci tweeted his intentions of contacting the FBI and Justice Department, cryptically tagging Priebus, too:

@Reince45 hasn't responded, and perhaps most shocking of all, neither has @realDonaldTrump.

Update: Scaramucci has deleted his tweet mentioning Priebus, and posted a new message, with a screenshot of an Axios report with the headline, "Scaramucci appears to want Priebus investigated by FBI." "Wrong!" Scaramucci wrote. "Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks. @Reince45." Catherine Garcia

July 26, 2017

At least one person was killed and seven injured Wednesday night when a ride at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus malfunctioned, police said.

Three of the people hurt in the accident are in critical condition. A video posted to YouTube showed "seats of the ride breaking off and bodies flying through the air," NBC News reports. Gov. John Kasich (R) told reporters a full investigation will take place, and he has ordered all rides shut down until additional safety inspections are conducted. "I am terribly saddened by this accident, by the loss of life, and that people were injured enjoying Ohio's fair," he said.

Michael Vartorella, chief inspector for amusement ride safety for Ohio's Department of Agriculture said the ride was looked at "about three or four times over the course of two days" by his team and a third party. Every summer, hundreds of thousands of people attend the fair, which opened on Wednesday. Catherine Garcia

July 26, 2017
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President Trump, still upset with Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Department of Justice's Russia investigation, has been talking with his close advisers about possibly replacing Sessions through a recess appointment next month if Sessions resigns, four people briefed on the discussions told The Washington Post Wednesday.

Trump has been raging at Sessions in interviews, on Twitter, and at White House events, and some advisers say he wants Sessions to resign rather than be fired, setting up a clear need for a replacement. Trump has been watching several news programs that have discussed a recess appointment, the Post reports, and that's how the seed was planted. Because Trump often changes his mind on things throughout the day, and also floats ideas and hypothetical situations, some advisers told the Post they think he's not really contemplating making a recess appointment, and is only venting about his frustration with Sessions.

Replacing Sessions could be the first step in getting Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Justice Department's Russia investigation, fired, but several of Trump's closest advisers, including chief strategist Stephen Bannon and chief of staff Reince Priebus, have warned Trump that if he ordered Mueller to be let go, it would be a "catastrophe," the Post reports. For his part, Sessions has made no moves to hint that he will be stepping down. Catherine Garcia

July 26, 2017
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The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the Senate Republicans' "skinny repeal" bill passes, getting rid of ObamaCare's individual and employer mandates, it could result in 16 million Americans losing their health insurance.

It's not entirely clear yet what is in the "skinny bill," as it won't be released until after a voting session that is expected to start Thursday, but a senior Democratic aide told The Hill the CBO said if the bill includes defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing the Community Health Center Fund and Prevention and Public Health Fund, premiums would be about 20 percent higher every year than under the current law.

Senate Democrats released the CBO's estimate on Wednesday evening, after the Senate rejected in a vote of 45-55 a proposal to repeal ObamaCare without immediately replacing it. On Tuesday, the Senate also voted against a modified version of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to replace and replace ObamaCare. It is unclear if McConnell has enough votes for the skinny repeal bill to pass. Catherine Garcia

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