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September 22, 2017
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The Russian government denied buying $100,000 worth of Facebook ads during the 2016 presidential election on the grounds that they don't even know how, The Hill reports. "We do not know … how to place an advert on Facebook," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday. "We have never done this, and the Russian side has never been involved in it."

On Thursday, Facebook announced that it will give Congress copies of the more than 3,000 ads purchased through Russian accounts during the election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is already in possession of the ads. In a Friday morning tweet, Trump dismissed the Facebook ads as being a part of "the Russia hoax."

The Russian ads were reportedly "directed at people on Facebook who had expressed interest in subjects ... such as LGBT community, black social issues, the Second Amendment, and immigration," a Facebook official told The Washington Post. The ads specifically "spread inflammatory messages about immigration, guns, and other topics" and "derided [Hillary] Clinton and supported [Donald] Trump," The New York Times writes. Jeva Lange

12:08 a.m. ET

For about an hour on Wednesday afternoon, President Trump sat and listened as students, parents, teachers, and others directly affected by school shootings begged him to act before the next mass shooting. The participants in the White House meeting had ties to the shootings in Parkland, Florida; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; and Columbine High School in Colorado. They offered solutions including limiting assault rifle sales to people 21 and over, arming teachers and other school employees, ramping up mental health screening, and drilling students for active-shooter situations. "It's not going to be talk like it has been in the past," Trump told them. "Too many instances, and we're going to get it done."

Trump did not commit to any of the proposals, though he said "we're going to be very strong on background checks" and "we're going to go strong on age of purchase and the mental aspect." The proposal he seemed most enthusiastic about was arming teachers and coaches, an idea that got a mixed reception. Arming teachers "is an emotional response that we have heard before," Richard Myers, head of the law enforcement group Major Cities Chiefs Association, told Trump. "I don't know of any police chief who believes this is a good idea." The NRA, meanwhile, opposed raising the age limit for purchasing AR-15 and other assault rifles, on the grounds that doing so would deprive people 18 to 20 of "their constitutional right to self-protection."

The listening session was mostly polite and frequently emotional. "It's very difficult, it's very complex, but we're going to find the solution," said Trump, holding notes reminding him to say "I hear you" and ask participants about their experiences. "There are many different ideas. Some, I guess, are good. Some aren't good. Some are very stringent, as you understand, and a lot of people think they work, and some are less so." Peter Weber

February 21, 2018

It seems there are some fans of the world's most beautiful game lurking on Capitol Hill.

On Wednesday, a group of nearly 50 senators sent a letter to President Trump asking him to support an effort for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to jointly host the FIFA 2026 World Cup. In the letter, the bipartisan group wrote that the so-called "United Bid" is "an exceptional opportunity to showcase our nations' shared passions for soccer" and praised soccer's "positive impact on our local communities and on the international stage."

The joint North American bid is expected to include at least 12 cities across the three countries, and the senators wrote that "[dozens] of U.S. cities that we represent have conveyed their interest in being part of the United Bid." The 2026 World Cup will expand from a 32-team bracket to a 48-team bracket, which the website for the United Bid notes "will require world-class facilities and infrastructure to ensure a successful tournament."

Some of the letter's more notable signatories include Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The deadline for bid proposals to be submitted is March 16, and FIFA will vote on the submissions June 13. Read the senators' letter below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

February 21, 2018
iStock.

What does a star look like just before it explodes? Scientists have been asking this question for a long time — and thanks to the efforts of a self-taught astronomer from Argentina, they're one step closer to the answer.

Victor Buso, a locksmith from the Argentine city of Rosario, managed to capture an image of a rare, momentary celestial phenomenon known as a "shock breakout." It's the moment that marks the transition from a star into a supernova — something that scientists have theorized about but never actually witnessed before.

During a shock breakout, energy travels from the core of the star to its outer edge, creating a burst of light that directly precedes the star's explosion. Buso happened to be in his self-constructed observatory on Sept. 20, 2016, taking images of the night sky, when he noticed an extra blip of light in his pictures that didn't match up with any known celestial body. After confirming his suspicion that the bright spot was a shock breakout with another amateur stargazer, the two alerted professionals and sent along what they had seen. The discovery was finally published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

Buso's findings could help to answer "the fundamental question," said Melina Bersten, the lead author of the report: "What is the structure of the star at the moment of explosion?" Bersten added that Buso had only about a 1 in 10 million chance of capturing an image of a shock breakout like he did. Read more about the discovery at The Washington Post. Shivani Ishwar

February 21, 2018
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Life after the White House has been kind to Keith Schiller, President Trump's former bodyguard and close confidante.

CNBC reported Wednesday that the Republican National Committee is paying Schiller's private security firm, KS Global Group, a handsome $15,000 a month. CNBC noted that Schiller's pay is apparently coming from the RNC's convention fund, rather than its campaign coffers, though former special counsel for the Federal Election Commission Stephen Spaulding warned that such accounts "are notorious for being operated as slush funds."

The RNC's most recent financial disclosure reveals that Schiller's firm has received $75,000 from the party since October, CNBC reported, which is apparently for "consulting on the site selection process" for the 2020 Republican convention. Spaulding said the sum was more akin to "a fat payout from the RNC and its deep-pocketed donors."

KS Global Group got its gig with the RNC only a few weeks after Schiller left the White House in September, CNBC said. The firm is apparently providing the RNC with "security services" in addition to its purported assistance with the 2020 convention. Read more about Schiller's cushy gig at CNBC. Kelly O'Meara Morales

February 21, 2018
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President Trump's in-laws may have benefited from one of his least favorite immigration policies.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Melania Trump's parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, are green card-holders with legal permanent resident status, which they very possibly received through their daughter's sponsorship. The sponsorship policy is known as family reunification — but the president prefers to call it "chain migration."

Under current U.S. immigration law, U.S. citizens can sponsor close relatives like their parents or siblings for green cards. President Trump, however, wants to restrict green card sponsorship to only the spouses and non-adult children of U.S. citizens. "Chain migration," the president recently tweeted, is an "outdated [program] that [hurts] our economic and national security."

Although the Knavses could have been sponsored for permanent residence by an employer, this is "unlikely," the Post reported, given that the first lady's father, 73, and mother, 71, are thought to be retired. Immigration lawyer David Leopold told the Post that sponsorship through Melania Trump, who became a U.S. citizen in 2006, would have been "possibly the only way" to get the Knavses their green cards.

Neither the White House nor a spokesperson for the first lady commented to the Post. An attorney for the first lady and her family confirmed to the Post that the Knavses had obtained permanent legal status, but declined to elaborate on how that status was obtained, citing privacy concerns. Kelly O'Meara Morales

February 21, 2018
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President Trump's administration apparently sees political opportunity in the deaths of Russian mercenaries.

Bloomberg Politics reported Wednesday that the White House is thinking about touting the deaths of "scores" of Russian fighters, who were recently killed by U.S.-backed forces in Syria, as proof that the president is, in fact, hard on Russia. The U.S.-backed forces reportedly killed the Russian troops in self-defense in an encounter on Feb. 7, after they were attacked by a "battalion-sized formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars."

However, the attack by the Russians "may have been a rogue operation," Bloomberg reports, and the U.S. apparently believes that this attack was not done with the permission or prior knowledge of the Russian military. It is also "unclear when the White House learned of the attack," Bloomberg notes — all of which could make it difficult to claim the counterattack as proof of the president's tough stance towards Russia. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referenced a vague "incident" in her Tuesday press briefing that was "another way that this president was tough on Russia," but she did not offer details.

The strategy reportedly stems from the fact that the Trump administration is feeling the squeeze to stand up to Russia after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians last week for meddling in the 2016 election. The president has long called the idea of Russian meddling "a hoax" and has been reluctant to criticize Russia. Kelly O'Meara Morales

February 21, 2018

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has seemingly embraced our robot overlords.

Apparently skewering the people who acknowledge that Russian bots have spread disinformation on Twitter, Nunes implored the mighty Russian technology to make one of his own tweets take off. While retweeting an article by The Federalist about the ongoing investigations into Russian election meddling, Nunes quipped: "PS-if you are a Russian Bot please make this go viral."

For good measure, there was a post-postscript: "PSS-if you're not a Russian Bot you will become one if you retweet."

The Federalist article that Nunes retweeted asserts that the "mainstream press" is overhyping the prominence of Russian bots on Twitter in order to belittle conservative arguments. In sharing the post, Nunes promised his followers they could "[catch] up on mainstream media Russian conspiracy theories."

Unfortunately, Russian bots have not taken Nunes' request to heart: At time of writing, his tweet had only been retweeted 1,900 times. Kelly O'Meara Morales

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