×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
September 13, 2017
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, explored building nuclear power plants across the Middle East in 2015 — yet another detail that was left out during his security clearance screening, The Associated Press reports. Flynn was fired after just weeks on the job when it was revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his meeting with the Russian ambassador. Flynn was also discovered to have accepted money from foreign governments, including Turkey, without following the proper legal process.

Flynn's former business associates disclosed the Mideast trip to lawmakers. Flynn reportedly had contact with Israeli and Egyptian government officials as part of the 2015 trip, and House Democrats are now pushing to learn if he met with representatives from any other nations. His travel was reportedly on the behalf of ACU Strategic Partners, but the proposal to build reactors seemingly never went beyond planning stages.

In his security clearance questionnaire, Flynn would have been specifically required to list any meetings abroad or with foreign government officials over the past seven years, The Associated Press notes. Flynn had his security clearance renewed in 2016, being the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and apparently listened to sensitive intelligence briefings with Trump as late as January 2017.

Regarding Flynn's Middle East trip, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) wrote: "It appears that General Flynn violated federal law by omitting this trip and these foreign contacts from his security clearance renewal application in 2016 and concealing them from security clearance investigators who interviewed him as part of the background check process." Read the full report at Bloomberg, and more about why Trump is so intensely obsessed with protecting Flynn here at The Week. Jeva Lange

12:51 p.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Republicans made last-minute changes to their tax overhaul legislation Friday to win over holdouts like Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), CNBC News reports. Rubio told reporters Thursday he wouldn't support the legislation unless it increases the refundable portion of the child tax credit.

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) confirmed the party will increase the refundable portion to $1,400, up from $1,100. "I believe that we're in a good spot and we should be able to earn his support," Noem said.

A spokesperson for Rubio's office said they hadn't seen the update, "and until we see if the percentage of the refundable credit is significantly higher, then our position remains the same." The GOP can only afford to lose two votes in the Senate. Jeva Lange

12:09 p.m. ET
iStock.

Cursing in public has been banned in the state of Virginia since before the Civil War. Even today, public profanity in Old Dominion is a misdemeanor that can cost you $250.

If you think that's some bullshirt, you're not alone, The Washington Post reports: Virginia House Delegate Michael Webert (R) wants to overturn this unusual law in the name of free speech. But Webert's plan could face some opposition in the state legislature, the Post explains, because "legislators who vote for repeal could stand accused of promoting profanity."

The profanity ban was actually ruled unconstitutional decades ago, but Webert has already failed to overturn it twice. Del. David Albo (R), a Webert ally in the battle over cursing, said the quest is difficult because people won't look at the issue in context. He compared profanity to flag burning — bans on which have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court but still exist in Virginia state law — predicting that some politicians would use the issue to smear their opponents. "They're not going to explain the whole thing. For most people it's not worth it," Albo told the Post.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union's Virginia affiliate, explained to the Post that although public cursing is only a misdemeanor, police "often" use it as an excuse to detain a subject, conduct a search, and then "arrest the person on another charge."

Webert has a more old-school way to punish foul-mouthed Virginians. "When I cursed, my mother told me not to and handed me a bar of soap," he said. "You shouldn't get hit with a Class 4 misdemeanor." Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:22 a.m. ET

President Trump spoke at the FBI National Academy Graduation Ceremony on Friday, just hours after the White House claimed there is an "extreme bias" against the president among FBI officials. Trump himself had said earlier Friday that "when you look at what's going on with the FBI and the Justice Department, people are very, very angry."

On stage, though, the president told the law enforcement graduates, "You rarely get the recognition you deserve. With me as your president, America's police will have a true friend and loyal champion in the White House, more loyal than anyone else can be." Trump additionally disparaged conditions in Chicago — "what the hell is going on in Chicago?" he asked the audience — and said "we believe criminals who kill police officers should get the death penalty."

Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute noted that the graduates Trump was addressing are "high level, strong performing state and local law enforcement officers from around the country," rather than FBI agents — "i.e. Trump's base." Watch a portion of Trump's comments below. Jeva Lange

10:20 a.m. ET

President Trump left open an awful lot of room for speculation Friday when he refused to talk about a potential pardon for his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Earlier this month, Flynn pleaded guilty to making "willfully" false statements to the FBI about his contact with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

"I don't want to talk about pardons with Michael Flynn yet, we'll see what happens, let's see," Trump told reporters. "I can say this, when you look at what's going on with the FBI and the Justice Department, people are very, very angry."

There was one particular word that stuck out to listeners:

Watch Trump's comments below. Jeva Lange

10:14 a.m. ET

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) made the most of his five minutes of questioning Thursday during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for President Trump's judicial nominees — much to the detriment of Matthew Spencer Petersen, a nominee for the U.S. District Court judgeship for the District of Columbia.

Kennedy's first question seemed pretty innocuous: "Have any of you not tried a case to verdict in a courtroom?" Petersen was the only one of the five nominees to raise his hand, thus inviting 10 seconds of brutal, rapid-fire questioning from Kennedy, as the Louisiana senator confirmed that Petersen had not tried a case in any of the following instances: a jury trial, a civil trial, a criminal trial, a bench trial, a state court, or a federal court.

After pleading his ignorance toward several legal terms, Petersen gave a rambling non-answer about his litigation experience in response to a question from Kennedy about his familiarity with "a motion in limine," which is a request made to exclude certain evidence from a trial. The motions are filed without a jury present and are decided by judges. "Just for the record, do you know what a motion in limine is?" Kennedy asked again. Petersen replied, "I would probably not be able to give you a good definition right here at the table."

If confirmed, Petersen would be charged with trying federal and civil cases in the District of Columbia's federal court, as well as evaluating issues of legality in proceedings. Watch him squirm under Kennedy's relentless questioning — if you can do so without cringing — below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

8:23 a.m. ET
iStock

Former FBI Director James Comey evidently walked back what was initially planned to be a much harsher condemnation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, The Associated Press reports, prompting the White House to claim Friday there is an "extreme bias" in the bureau against President Trump.

Comey's draft of his highly-scrutinized remarks on July 5, 2016 — obtained by the Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — used language such as calling Clinton and her aides "grossly negligent." That phrasing was later changed to the now-famous declaration that Clinton was "extremely careless" with her emails, a shift in tone that eliminated "language also contained in the relevant criminal statute," AP writes.

In another case, Comey changed phrasing claiming that it was "reasonably likely" that a hostile entity had gained access to Clinton's server to "possible," and deleted a phrase about the "sheer volume" of classified information shared on the server. The Senate Homeland Security chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), said Comey's draft shows that he appeared to edit "the tone and substance" of his remarks. Johnson additionally requested FBI Director Chris Wray name the official who suggested the changes to Comey.

Separately, the Justice Department turned over to the House Intelligence Committee some 375 text messages on Tuesday between two FBI officials that referred to Trump as an "idiot" between Aug. 16, 2015, and Dec. 1, 2016. One of the officials, senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia over the summer, immediately after such messages were discovered. The other, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, had already returned to the FBI.

On Friday, the White House commented on the Comey draft and the text messages, claiming there is an "extreme bias" against Trump among the FBI. Trump, meanwhile, is due to attend an FBI National Academy graduation service later Friday morning. Jeva Lange

7:50 a.m. ET
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Disney and Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Last Jedi brought in a near-record $45 million in Thursday previews ahead of its official open on Friday, according to early estimates. The latest installment in the Star Wars franchise earlier in the week topped Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which was released in March, to become the year's biggest ticket pre-seller on Fandango. The Last Jedi is the online movie-ticket site's top seller in advance sales since 2015's The Force Awakens, which made $57 million in previews and went on to make a record $248 million on its opening weekend. The Last Jedi, the Star Wars series' eighth installment, is on track to bring in roughly $200 million over its opening weekend. Harold Maass

See More Speed Reads