December 1, 2017
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More than half of the lobbyists crawling around Capitol Hill this year had a shared goal: tax reform. Public Citizen, a government watchdog group, found that 6,243 of the nearly 11,000 lobbyists listed in 2016 disclosure forms pushed members of Congress on tax issues, The Hill reported Friday. This would mean that for every member of Congress, there were approximately 11 lobbyists in Washington, D.C., working on taxes. The Public Citizen's report was released on Friday, just ahead of the expected passage of Senate Republicans' tax bill, which would give massive tax cuts to corporations and wealthy Americans.

The report notes that 31 lobbyists who worked to rally support for tax reform were members of the Trump campaign or his presidential transition team. It also found deep ties between lawmakers, donors, and lobbyists. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which had 100 registered lobbyists working on tax reform alone, gave nearly $200,000 to congressional Republicans during the 2016 campaign. Amongst those Republicans was Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who threatened to block the Senate tax bill in committee before announcing his support for the bill on Friday. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:56 a.m. ET

President Trump came under fire Saturday for his announcement late Friday evening that transgender people who "may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery" will not be able to join the military "except under certain limited circumstances."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) condemned Trump's memo as "cowardly" and "disgusting," arguing it is "purpose-built to humiliate our brave transgender members of the military who serve with honor and dignity":

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough suggested on Twitter the memo was timed to distract from the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill Trump signed earlier Friday, a spending package slammed by conservatives as "an embarrassment and a disgrace":

Meanwhile, Republican pundit Ana Navarro, who is firmly #NeverTrump, referenced Trump's draft deferrals during the Vietnam War in a tweeted response:

Congressional Republicans have kept quiet about the memo so far. Bonnie Kristian

10:39 a.m. ET
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An Iowa family of four was found dead Friday inside their vacation condo in Tulum, Mexico, local authorities reported. Police said there are "no signs of traumatic injury," and a relative of the family reported on Facebook there "was no foul play." Autopsies will be conducted to determine the cause of death, which some reports have suggested was a gas leak.

Kevin Sharp, 41, his wife Amy, 38, and their children Sterling, 12, and Adrianna, 7, were from Creston, Iowa. The Sharps owned a beer distribution company, and Kevin raced stock cars.

"We watched the flights leave Cancun and land in St. Louis. We watched the last one leave Cancun. We were hoping that we would hear from them then. When we did not we knew that something was wrong," said Jana Wedlund, Amy's cousin. "The only thing we're thankful for, the only thing they've given us hope for, is that it was very peaceful." Bonnie Kristian

10:33 a.m. ET
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The London offices of Cambridge Analytica were raided overnight Friday by agents of the United Kingdom's Information Commissioner's office. The seven-hour search, which completed early Saturday, was authorized by a warrant to investigate the company's database and servers.

"This is just one part of a larger investigation into the use of personal data and analytics for political purposes," said the Information Commissioner's office of the raid. "As you will expect, we will now need to collect, assess, and consider the evidence before coming to any conclusions."

Cambridge Analytica is the data firm alleged to have illicitly acquired and used information from the Facebook profiles of tens of millions of Americans for targeted campaign ads. The Trump campaign was among its clients, as was a super PAC organized by incoming National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook both deny illegal conduct, and Facebook has suspended the data firm from its service. Bonnie Kristian

10:27 a.m. ET

South Korea announced Saturday it has finalized plans for high-level talks with North Korea this coming Thursday.

Each country will be represented by three delegates who will meet in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in advance of planned negotiations between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which will in turn be followed by discussion between Kim and President Trump. The date of the Trump-Kim summit has yet to be set.

"Through these talks and future talks, we must end the nuclear and peace issue on the Korean Peninsula," Moon said of the arrangement. "It is necessary to make it possible for the two Koreas to live together peacefully without interfering with each other or damaging each other." Bonnie Kristian

8:20 a.m. ET
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Student-led March for Our Lives rallies are scheduled in Washington and cities across the United States on Saturday. About 500,000 people are expected to gather in the capital alone, and some 700 additional protests for stricter gun laws are listed on the march website.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where the mass shooting on Valentine's Day left 17 people dead, are among the 20 speakers scheduled for the primary event in Washington. All the speakers are 18 or younger, and they will be accompanied by performances from celebrities including Ariana Grande, Common, and Miley Cyrus.

March for Our Lives' student organizers say Saturday's protests are just the beginning of their gun control campaign. "We want to continue what we're doing, especially leading up to November," said Jaclyn Corin, 17, from Parkland. "We want every young person to register to vote and head to the polls, no matter who they're voting for or what party they've voting for." Bonnie Kristian

7:58 a.m. ET
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President Trump on Friday issued an order banning transgender people who "may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery" from the military "except under certain limited circumstances."

The question of transgender troops has been in limbo for the better part of a year since Trump's surprise announcement via Twitter last summer of a complete ban on transgender service. That initial rule was blocked in court, and the Justice Department dropped its challenge to the stay in December pending a recommendation from Defense Secretary James Mattis. The Friday memo said Mattis reached a conclusion in favor of this new ban, which will still face court challenge.

"This new policy will enable the military to apply well-established mental and physical health standards — including those regarding the use of medical drugs — equally to all individuals who want to join and fight for the best military force the world has ever seen," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the memo. Mattis likewise argued against exemptions "from well-established mental health, physical health, and sex-based standards, which apply to all Service members" in a February report to Trump.

But critics contend the plan discriminates against the LGBT community and will reduce military readiness. "The Trump-Pence administration's continued insistence on targeting our military families for discrimination is appalling, reckless, and unpatriotic," said Ashley Broadway-Mack of the American Military Partner Association. Bonnie Kristian

March 23, 2018
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George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to President Trump, communicated with top Trump campaign officials like Stephen Bannon and Michael Flynn about his foreign outreach efforts and received encouragement from a senior-level official to make contact with Russians, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts last year, was reportedly urged to accept an interview with a Russian news agency by the campaign’s deputy communications director, Bryan Lanza. "You should do it,” Lanza wrote, per an email that was "described" to the Post. The message further touted the potential gains to be had from a U.S. “partnership with Russia.”

Trump and his staffers have sought to downplay the role that Papadopoulos played in the campaign, calling him a "low-level volunteer" and merely a "coffee boy." But emails revealed to the Post show that Bannon, then the campaign CEO, and Flynn, then a top campaign adviser, were frequently in touch with Papadopoulos to discuss possible meetings between Trump and foreign officials.

Papadopoulos is cooperating in the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign was involved. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

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