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August 21, 2017
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In a nationally televised address on Monday night, President Trump will lay out his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, and the strategy is expected to include sending "several thousand" more U.S. troops to aid in the 16-year war, The New York Times reports. Trump announced that he had completed his strategic review on Saturday morning, and on Sunday night, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that Trump has "made a decision," adding, "I am very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous and did not go in with a preset position."

There are currently about 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as part of the 13,000-strong NATO force that's training and advising the Afghan military, plus another 2,000 or so U.S. troops conducting counterterrorism operations against Taliban, al Qaeda, and Islamic State militants. Trump gave Mattis the authority in June to deploy up to 3,900 more troops to Afghanistan, but Mattis has declined to do so without a broader strategy in place.

The president has been working on his Afghanistan strategy for months, as former President Barack Obama did when he took office. Trump was inconsistent during the campaign on what he thought the U.S. should do about Afghanistan, and he has considered pulling out as president, because, as he noted in 2013, the war is very expensive.

But Trump has told advisers he's been shown maps of Afghanistan from 2014 and 2017, and the Taliban's presence in the country (indicated in red) had grown from a little bit to more than half the map today, reports Jonathan Swan at Axios, adding: "Trump has been reluctantly open to the generals' opinion and I'm told he doesn't want to be the president who loses the country to the terrorists." At the same time, GOP strategist Ron Bonjean tells The Washington Post, Trump's "address is designed to turn the page from the Charlottesville chaos and remind voters that Trump is commander in chief and has made an informed and responsible decision." The speech, from Fort Meyers in Virginia, will be at 9 p.m. EST, during a town hall House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will be conducting through CNN. Peter Weber

10:22 a.m. ET
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller is nearly finished with his investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged Trump campaign participation therein, The Washington Post reported Sunday afternoon in an article on the White House climate as Mueller's probe works "through the staff like Pac-Man."

White House lawyer Ty Cobb has assured the president Mueller will wrap things up and declare Trump himself innocent by early 2018 at the latest. (He initially predicted Mueller would be done by Thanksgiving but has adjusted that timeline.) "The president says, 'This is all just an annoyance. I did nothing,'" said an anonymous source the Post describes as "close to the administration." "[Trump] is somewhat arrogant about it. But this investigation is a classic Gambino-style roll-up. You have to anticipate this roll-up will reach everyone in this administration."

Many White House staffers have grimmer — and likely more realistic — expectations. "Of course they are worried," said an unnamed Republican operative in regular communication with the West Wing. "Anybody that ever had the words 'Russia' come out of their lips or in an email, they're going to get talked to. These things are thorough and deep. It's going to be a long winter."
Bonnie Kristian

10:12 a.m. ET

Nearly two weeks after alleging that she was sexually assaulted by Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore when she was just 14, Leigh Corfman gave her first public interview Monday. Speaking with the Today show's Savannah Guthrie, Corfman recounted how Moore brought her to his home, stripped her down to her undergarments, and began touching her before she told him that she was uncomfortable and wanted to go home.

"I was a 14-year-old child trying to play in an adult's world," Corfman said, "and he was 32 years old."

Corfman first told her story to The Washington Post, which included her as one of four women who alleged inappropriate conduct by Moore. Corfman was the only one of the women who alleged that Moore had sexually assaulted her; the others said he courted or kissed them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s. Since the Post's story, five more accusers have come forward to allege that Moore groped, assaulted, or pursued them when they were minors. Moore has mostly denied the allegations.

When asked to address Moore's claim that he did not know Corfman, she replied, "I wonder how many me's he doesn't know." Corfman stressed that the Post sought her out for its story, and that she was reluctant to come forward until reporters were able to find other women who had similar experiences with Moore. She added that she blamed herself for her encounter with Moore for decades and did not speak out earlier in fear that she and her family would be "castigated."

Watch her interview below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

9:55 a.m. ET

Fox News host Sean Hannity has provided perhaps the most sympathetic media space for embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to respond to multiplying, credible allegations of his sexual misconduct toward girls as young as 14. It was on Hannity's show, for example, that Moore felt comfortable revealing he doesn't "remember dating any girl without the permission of her mother," an unusual detail when one dates adults.

Still, Hannity's confidence in Moore seems to have been shaken, especially as his show bleeds advertising revenue because of the Moore scandal. This is perhaps why his staff reached out to one of Moore's accusers asking for an interview. The response from her attorney, Paula Cobia, was swift and brutal.

"Mr. Hannity has belittled, defamed, and engaged in an on-air intimidation campaign against the victims of Mr. Moore," Cobia wrote. "He is totally uninterested in discovering the truth. He gave Mr. Moore a lazy, softball interview which his own panel did not find credible. In fact, the panel mocked Mr. Moore over his inconsistencies and lies." Read the full response below, knowing that somewhere, right now, Hannity may be taking out his anger on a coffee machine. Bonnie Kristian

9:21 a.m. ET
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

A second woman has come forward to complain about the conduct of Democratic Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), CNN reports. Lindsay Menz, now 33, claims Franken "put his hand full-fledged on my rear" when she posed with him for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.

"It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek," Menz told CNN. "It wasn't around my waist. It wasn't around my hip or side. It was definitely on my butt. I was like, oh my God, what's happening."

Menz's husband, who was taking the photo, said that while he could not see the contact his wife described because he was standing in front of the pair, he could confirm that Franken had "reached around [Lindsay Menz] and kind of pulled her into him." Menz posted the photo to Facebook and replied to a comment from her sister by writing: "Dude — Al Franken TOTALLY molested me! Creeper!"

Menz reached out to CNN after reporter Leeann Tweeden accused Franken last week of groping her in her sleep and kissing her without her consent while on a USO tour in 2006. Menz said of her own experience: "I felt gross. It'd be like being walking through the mall and some random person grabbing your butt. You just feel gross. Like ew, I want to wash that off of me."

Franken said in a statement that he did not remember the events Menz described. "I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don't remember taking this picture," he said. "I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected." Read the full report at CNN. Jeva Lange

8:52 a.m. ET

The American public historically disapproves of President Trump, although you wouldn't know it from talking to pest control company owner Mark Lee. Appearing on a CNN panel of Trump voters Monday morning, Lee claimed that the president is standing up for the "little guy" and that no amount of negative press will change his mind.

"If Jesus Christ gets down off the cross and told me Trump is with Russia, I would tell him, 'Hold on a second. I need to check with the president if it's true,'" Lee said as his fellow panelists reacted with shock.

The moderator probed further: "Why do you believe Donald Trump over everybody else? Why?"

"I believe in him," said Lee. "He's a good man. He's taken so [many] shots for us." Watch below. Jeva Lange

8:15 a.m. ET

Mel Tillis, an eminent country singer-songwriter famous for his song catalog and stuttering when he spoke but not when he sang, died on Sunday in Ocala, Florida, likely of respiratory failure though his publicist said Tillis had "battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered." He was 85. Tillis' long career began in Nashville in 1957, after a stint in the Air Force and trucking and railroad jobs, plus some college.

When he was playing rhythm guitar for Minnie Pearl in the late 1950s, Pearl urged him to use his stutter for comedic effect, and he found that audiences responded to his humor. But he is remembered more for serious songs like "Detroit City" and "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," the latter about a paralyzed Vietnam War vet whose wife is cheating on him. It was a 1969 hit for Kenny Rogers, but here is Tillis singing it on The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967:

Tillis himself scored six No. 1 singles on the country charts, including "Coca-Cola Cowboy," and 35 singles in the Top 10, mostly in the mid-1970s through early 1980s. He was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1967, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007, and awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in 2012. He had mixed feelings about his stutter, saying he always hoped to beat it even as it propelled him to fame — as in the 1972 bit for the The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

Tillis is survived by six children, six grandchildren, one great grandson, his longtime partner, Kathy DeMonaco, and his first wife, Doris Tiliis. Peter Weber

8:09 a.m. ET
RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

Jana Novotna, the Czech tennis player who earned 17 Grand Slam titles over the course of her career, died Sunday at the age of 49, The New York Times reports. In a statement, the Women's Tennis Association said Novotna's passing followed "a long battle with cancer" and that she "died peacefully, surrounded by her family in her native Czech Republic."

Sixteen of Novotna's Grand Slam titles came in doubles and mixed doubles, and she also earned three Olympic medals in the category. Novotna was famously consoled by the Duchess of Kent after losing to Germany's Steffi Graf at Wimbledon in 1993. Novotna eventually won her solo Wimbledon singles trophy five years later after overcoming Venus Williams, Martina Hingis of Switzerland, and Nathalie Tauziat of France.

"Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her," said WTA CEO Steve Simon in a statement. "Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA." Jeva Lange

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