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June 29, 2017

Last week, through a series of decrees, Saudi King Salman promoted his favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman, to crown prince, demoting his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, who had been interior minister and counterterrorism czar as well as crown prince, and removing him from the royal line of succession. Now, Nayef has been confined to his palace in Jidda, as a precautionary measure to protect Mohammed bin Salman, 31, from internal challenge, The New York Times reports, citing four current and former U.S. officials and Saudis close to the royal family.

A senior official at the Foreign Ministry told the Times that the accounts of Nayef being confined to his palace are "baseless and false," but the Times' sources say the restrictions are not only real, but also extend to other family members:

The restrictions have also been imposed on Mohammed bin Nayef's daughters, according to a former American official who maintains ties to Saudi royals. A married daughter was told that her husband and their child could leave their home while she had to stay, the former official said. One Saudi close to the royal family said the new restrictions had been imposed almost immediately after Mohammed bin Salman's promotion. After the announcement, Mohammed bin Nayef returned to his palace in Jidda to find that his trusted guards had been replaced by guards loyal to Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Saudi and a former American official. Since then, he has been prevented from leaving the palace. [The New York Times]

To demonstrate that the changing of the line of succession is going smoothly, Saudi state media has been replaying this video of Mohammed bin Salman kissing the ring of Nayef, who wishes him well:

The palace arrest suggests that not everyone in the royal family agrees with King Salman's changes, and that the new crown prince believes public appearances might foment unrest. "It's an indication that [Mohammed bin Salman] does not want any opposition," a senior U.S. official tells the Times. "He doesn't want any rear-guard action within the family. He wants a straight elevation without any dissent — not that [Mohammed bin Nayaf] was plotting anything anyway." Peter Weber

4:14 p.m. ET

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) says she is "appalled" by President Trump's Friday tweet attacking Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, by name, Politico reports. Speaking to reporters in her native Maine, Collins says she "thought that the president's tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong."

Trump's tweets early Friday morning questioned the seriousness of the alleged assault because Ford didn't file charges at the time of the incident. Ford has said she didn't tell anyone about the alleged assault when it happened, but that she did discuss it with a therapist in 2012. Kavanaugh has denied Ford's claims.

Collins is considered to be one of two Republican swing votes, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who may break party lines to vote against confirming Kavanaugh, CNBC reports.

Collins has previously spoken out against the president, penning an op-ed before the November 2016 election detailing why she wouldn't vote for Trump. She also notably voted against his effort to repeal ObamaCare. But since Trump took office, Collins has voted in-line with his preferences 79.2 percent of the time — including casting a yes vote to send Justice Neil Gorsuch to the bench. Marianne Dodson

4:07 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The New York Times may not be so fake anymore.

Shortly after the Times reported Friday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in 2017 floated the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office, many conservatives are now calling for Rosenstein to be fired. The Times also reported that Rosenstein suggested he wear a wire to surreptitiously record the president, though a Justice Department spokeswoman said Rosenstein proposed the idea "sarcastically."

But that hasn't stopped Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who tweeted Friday afternoon that "Rod Rosenstein must be fired today." Ingraham is one of the 47 people Trump follows on Twitter, and Politico reporter Alex Guillén ‏notes that former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned earlier this year not long after Ingraham called for his removal.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), a Fox News staple, agreed with Ingraham, tweeting that Rosenstein must be fired if the Times' reporting is accurate, because "Rosenstein doesn't seem to have the integrity to resign." Gregg Jarrett, who also appears as a frequent analyst for the network, tweeted that not only must Rosenstein be fired, but that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference must also end. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigations into Russian interference and the Trump campaign in March 2017, leaving Rosenstein to oversee the matter. Rosenstein appointed Mueller that May.

Yet another Fox News analyst weighing in is Jeanine Pirro, who tweeted that Rosenstein should have been fired long ago but that now is the time to act. As The Daily Beast's Asawin Suebsaeng points out, Pirro was once considered for Rosenstein's job. Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman reports that Bill Shine, the ousted Fox News executive who now helps lead Trump's communications team, is "rolling out [a] media plan to build public support for Trump to fire Rosenstein." Brendan Morrow

3:33 p.m. ET
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As support for elements of the Affordable Care Act has increased, political attacks against the bill have quietly retreated. The Daily Beast reported Friday that Republican lawmakers have slowly scrubbed ACA criticism from their websites in recent years, opting instead to promise constituents extended protections on health care.

Republicans, especially ones who are in danger of losing their seats, have further altered their messaging to support some aspects of the ACA, often called ObamaCare. The Daily Beast found 20 instances of GOP House members eliminating ObamaCare criticism from their websites between 2014 and 2018.

But just because lawmakers like Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) have softened their anti-ObamaCare rhetoric, HuffPost notes, it doesn't mean that they're suddenly fans of former President Barack Obama's signature health-care bill. Just three of the 20 lawmakers who changed their websites voted against a 2017 GOP replacement bill that would have unraveled ObamaCare; the repeal bill passed in the House but faltered in the Senate. But their continued opposition to ObamaCare is now obscured as they face close midterm races, their websites show.

Democratic analyst Jesse Ferguson suggested that Republicans were more willing to openly attack the ACA when there was a lower chance of Obama's health-care bill actually being rolled back. Now, GOP lawmakers are going on the defense to assure constituents that they don't want to repeal protections for pre-existing conditions — a provision of the ACA that Americans have increasingly come to value. "If you ask a Republican why they voted for health-care repeal, they'll change the topic faster than you can blink your eyes," Ferguson told The Daily Beast.

Unfortunately for those Republicans, the internet never forgets. Read more at The Daily Beast. Summer Meza

2:52 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

A new bombshell report from The New York Times further fuels the narrative that even senior Trump administration officials feel the president is unfit for office.

The Times reported Friday that in 2017, not long into his tenure in the Trump administration, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed in meetings the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to declare President Trump unfit to serve and remove him from office. Further, he reportedly told Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe that he might be able to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on his side in this effort. Earlier this month, a senior administration official said in an anonymous Times op-ed that there had been discussions within the White House of invoking the 25th Amendment.

Additionally, the Times reports that Rosenstein proposed he wear a wire to secretly record Trump, as documentation of a White House in disarray. Officials say this plan did not end up moving forward, and an unnamed Justice Department spokeswoman told the Times that Rosenstein made the suggestion "sarcastically." Rosenstein has already denied the report, telling the Times that their story is "inaccurate and factually incorrect" and that "there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment."

This report will no doubt raise Trump's ire, sparking speculation that the story was leaked with the express purpose of ousting Rosenstein, as Bloomberg's Jennifer Epstein observed. Already, the president's son — who has said that the "failing New York Times" lives in an "alternate universe" — has weighed in on the story, suggesting that he is not at all surprised that "these guys would do anything in their power to undermine" his father. Read the full report at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow

2:44 p.m. ET
TINA SMOLE/AFP/Getty Images

At least 131 people have died after a Tanzanian ferry capsized on Lake Victoria on Thursday, The New York Times reported Friday. Initial reports put the death toll at just 44.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Friday ordered the arrest of "all those involved in the management of the ferry," South Africa's The Sunday Times says. The ferry was reportedly holding up to 300 people at the time, despite its maximum capacity being around 100, per The New York Times. Isack Kamwelwe, Tanzania's minister for communication, transport, and infrastructure, said the government is no longer searching for survivors and that the death toll could continue to rise.

The ferry — which is managed by Tanzania's Electrical, Mechanical, and Electronics Services Agency — was traveling on an hour-long journey between two islands when it capsized, The New York Times reports. Marianne Dodson

2:06 p.m. ET
iStock/Wolterk

The world's largest retailer is being accused of discriminating against its pregnant employees, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Reuters reports.

The lawsuit alleges Walmart Inc.'s Wisconsin distribution center has discriminated against its pregnant employees since 2014 by forcing them to take unpaid leave and denying their requests for easier tasks, per Reuters. The lawsuit stems from a complaint filed by formerly pregnant Walmart employee Alyssa Gilliam, who says Walmart would not give her additional breaks or a chair to sit on while working and alleges Walmart denied requests for restrictions on heavy lifting, Reuters says.

The EEOC said Walmart granted these requests for workers with disabilities or injuries but failed to grant them to pregnant workers. Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers are required to treat pregnant employees the same as temporarily disabled employees by providing modified tasks.

Walmart currently employs nearly 1.5 million people in the U.S. — more than half of them women. Read more about the lawsuit at Reuters. Marianne Dodson

1:38 p.m. ET

Despite President Trump's focus on the matter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) doesn't think the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are ultimately consequential.

McConnell on Friday spoke at the Values Voter Summit, sounding very confident that allegations from Christine Blasey Ford are a mere hiccup in Kavanaugh's confirmation process, as his GOP colleague said. He reassured the audience that "in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court," receiving a standing ovation.

"Don't get rattled by all of this," he said. "We're going to plow right through it, and do our job." Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh forcibly groped her when they were in high school, an accusation Kavanaugh strongly denies. McConnell called the allegations, and subsequent call for a delay in Kavanaugh's confirmation, obstructive "tactics" that Republicans would overcome. And if "plowing through" angered his Democratic colleagues, all the better.

Bloomberg reports that McConnell also riled up the crowd by reveling in the discontent. "Look how angry the left is," he said. "The angrier they get, the better we're doing." Watch the moment below, via C-SPAN. Summer Meza

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