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November 17, 2017

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) got pretty worked up Thursday night, right before the Senate Finance Committee approved a massive tax package on a party-line vote, when Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said the bill benefits the wealthy at the expense of the middle class — a view widely embraced by Americans. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders similarly insisted on Thursday that both the Senate and House version, which passed Thursday afternoon, will provide tax cuts to middle-class families, as President Trump has repeatedly promised.

Also on Thursday, the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress' official nonpartisan tax scorekeeper, estimated that by 2027, everyone making $75,000 or less a year would pay higher taxes under the Senate plan than current law. The tax increases would begin in 2021 for households making between $10,000 and $30,000, and creep up until 2026, when the individual tax cuts — but not the deep cuts to corporate taxes — would expire.

The Senate bill is a big gamble that deep and sustained tax cuts for corporations will spur sharp economic growth, and that businesses will use their windfall on hiring, wages, and investment. But the bill also picks winners — states Trump won, beer brewers, private aircraft businesses, citrus growers, the heirs of the super wealthy — and losers.

Republicans argue that Congress won't actually let the individual tax cuts expire — a provision they added to conform to Senate rules that let them pass the bill with 50 votes if the bill doesn't increase the federal deficit by more than $1.5 trillion. But "middle-class families planning ahead can imagine two possible consequences from that decision," The New York Times notes: "Either an immediate increase in their taxes eight years from now, or an explosion in federal budget deficits, which could necessitate spending cuts to safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare." Peter Weber

12:06 a.m. ET
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For the first time since she left the Today show after just a year as co-anchor, Ann Curry is talking about the pain she felt upon her departure, and why she's proud of how she handled her very public exit.

"Experience has taught me, as a journalist, the No. 1 thing you have to be is humble," she told People. "It's not about you." Curry left Today on June 28, 2012, and it was hinted she was fired because she didn't have "chemistry" with her co-host, Matt Lauer, who was fired from the show last November over allegations of sexual misconduct. "It hurt like hell," Curry said. "It hurt so much, but I learned a lot about myself. I can say I've done nothing wrong. I've been honest and true. I've tried to stay pure. I've tried to not respond in a knee-jerk manner, and I've stayed very close to who I am. So it hurt, but I'm also proud of myself."

The Emmy winner said she had to "let it go," and is "stronger now. I'm smarter. I'm happier, as happy as I've ever been. And my compassion has only grown. When you go through the pain and learn the lessons, you will be changed for the better." Read more of Curry's interview at People, and watch her first live interview since leaving Today Wednesday on CBS This Morning. Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2018
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Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is ready to spill his guts to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a person familiar with his thinking told The Daily Beast's Betsy Woodruff on Tuesday.

During a lengthy closed-door session with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Bannon invoked executive privilege, telling lawmakers he couldn't answer their questions about anything he was involved with after the election because he'd been advised not to by the White House. This was essentially a "gag order from the White House," the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), said after the hearing. Bannon was subpoenaed on the spot, but he continued to refuse to answer questions about conversations he had and events he attended. "This witness is not an executive," Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) told reporters. "There were questions that we asked that were not answered and we are going to resolve the issues to get the answers."

The New York Times reported Tuesday morning that last week, Bannon received a grand jury subpoena from Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Bannon's ready to share what he knows with the special counsel, Woodruff writes, with his associate telling her, "Mueller will hear everything Bannon has to say." Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2018
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The U.S. Navy announced Tuesday it is filing negligent homicide charges against several officers involved in two deadly ship collisions last year.

In June, the USS Fitzgerald hit a commercial ship in the waters off Japan, leaving seven sailors dead, and in August, the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in the waters off of Singapore, killing 10 sailors. Both collisions were deemed avoidable. Navy spokesman Capt. Greg Hicks said a hearing will determine if the officers, charged with dereliction of duty and endangering a ship as well as negligent homicide, will be taken to trial in a court-martial.

The Navy is filing at least three charges against four officers on the USS Fitzgerald, including the commanding officer at the time, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, and charges against the commander at the time of the USS John S. McCain, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, and the chief petty officer. Hicks said the announcement of charges is "not intended to and does not reflect a determination of guilt or innocence related to any offenses. All individuals alleged to have committed misconduct are entitled to a presumption of innocence." In the wake of the collisions, several top leaders, including the commander of the 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucion, were fired. Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2018
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After going a year without meeting, nine of the 12 members of the National Park System Advisory Board resigned on Monday night, exasperated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's inability to make the time to convene with the committee.

"We were frozen out," Tony Knowles, former governor of Alaska and departing chairman of the board, told The Washington Post. After Zinke was appointed last year, he suspended all outside committees, saying he needed to review their work, and while some have become operational again, those without updated charters can't meet. "We understand the complexity of transition but our requests to engage have been ignored and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new department team are clearly not part of its agenda," Knowles wrote in a letter from the resigning members to Zinke.

The committee was established in 1935, and in recent years it has advised the Interior Department on how to deal with global warming and bring younger people to the parks. The bipartisan board was not consulted by Zinke when he decided to increase visitor fees and overturn a ban on plastic water bottles in the parks, and now that there are just three members left, the government does not have a body to designate historic or natural landmarks, the Post reports. Zinke has already disbanded two commissions — the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science and the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council; the latter has been replaced with the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council. Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2018
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The Justice Department announced Tuesday that a former CIA officer suspected of working with China to identify informants in the country has been arrested and charged with unlawful retention of national defense information.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, left the CIA in 2007, and in 2012, the FBI began to investigate him as more and more informants in China started to die or go to prison. Lee lived in Hong Kong, but during a 2012 trip to the U.S., FBI investigators searched his luggage and found journals containing classified information; prosecutors say the handwritten notes included details about meetings with informants and the names and phone numbers of undercover agents.

Some intelligence officials believe Lee worked with the Chinese government, The New York Times reports, while others think it's possible China was able to hack the secret communications channels the CIA uses to talk to informants. Since 2010, more than a dozen CIA informants have been killed or imprisoned by the Chinese government. Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2018
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One month before the 2016 presidential election, Fox News had a story ready to go about an alleged extramarital affair between adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and President Trump, but it never published it, four people familiar with the matter told CNN.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that in October 2016, Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, arranged a $130,000 payment to Clifford to keep her quiet about the alleged 2006 sexual relationship. Fox News reporter Diana Falzone had a completed story about Clifford and Trump, which included a statement from Clifford's manager confirming the relationship, but "Fox killed it," one person familiar with the matter told CNN. Fox News wasn't the only outlet writing about this story; The Daily Beast and Slate both said they were speaking to Clifford before the election, but she backed out of an interview with The Daily Beast and stopped returning phone calls from Slate.

Noah Kotch, who became editor-in-chief and vice president of Fox News digital in 2017, said "in doing our due diligence, we were unable to verify all of the facts and publish a story." Cohen and Clifford have both denied WSJ's report, and in a statement distributed by Cohen, Clifford said her involvement with Trump "was limited to a few public appearances and nothing more," and "rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false." Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2018
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Tuesday was apparently "Subpoena Stephen Bannon Day" in Washington, D.C. A few hours after the former White House chief strategist was subpoenaed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Bannon was reportedly subpoenaed again — this time by the House Intelligence Committee.

Bannon was being grilled by the committee when he was hit with a subpoena "on the spot," Politico reports, for not answering questions. Apparently, congressional investigators wanted to know about Bannon's brief stint in the White House but were stonewalled, which, Politico notes, angered Democrats and Republicans alike.

At the time of publication, Bannon and his attorney had not commented on either subpoena or his congressional testimony. Kelly O'Meara Morales

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