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December 7, 2017

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Thursday announced his intention to resign "in the coming weeks" after two more women came forward Wednesday to allege he had inappropriately touched them. The senator's phrasing, though, immediately stood out to some:

One theory that emerged was that Franken is potentially waiting for the results of the Alabama Senate race, in which the Republican candidate, Roy Moore, is accused of pursuing and assaulting teenage girls. The Alabama special election will be held next week, on Dec. 12.

Franken made a point to allude to Moore in his speech, too. "I am aware of the irony that I am leaving while ... a man who has preyed on underage girls is running for the Senate with the full support of his party," he said. Watch Franken's remarks here at The Week. Jeva Lange

11:00 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been a powerhouse in the Senate for the last 26 years. She's also 85 years old, and even her own party thinks it's time for a fresh face.

Feinstein doesn't think so.

In an interview with Politico, the centrist Democrat said she doesn't "really feel that pressure" to give up her six-term Senate seat to welcome in a new Democrat. The most likely replacement would be California state Sen. Kevin de León (D), who is running against Feinstein this fall — and who received support from 54 percent of the state's Democratic Party delegates at their annual convention. Just 37 percent opted for Feinstein. Neither candidate achieved 60 percent of the vote, so a runoff gave de León the endorsement.

The 51-year-old de León declared the landslide victory an "astounding rejection of politics as usual" in a statement, Politico says. But Feinstein, who's known for her cautious yet progressive politics, doesn't think her time is up. "I'm sure some people think that way," she told Politico. "But I look at my vote, and there aren't a lot of people that can win every county in the state," referring to the results of California's June primary, which Feinstein definitively won.

Now, the Senate's oldest member — who even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has referred to as "your majesty" — is planning to take on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. And she told Politico that "there's no question" other Democrats will have their day — once she's done having hers.

Read more about Feinstein's refusal to let go at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:49 a.m. ET
JAVED TANVEER/AFP/Getty Images

The Afghan government is planning its second-ever ceasefire with the Taliban since the U.S. invasion in 2001, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday night.

The ceasefire is scheduled to coincide with a Muslim holiday in August. Its announcement comes close on the heels of a United Nations report that civilian deaths for the first six months of 2018 are at a record high since the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began tracking casualties in 2009.

Taliban leaders agreed to an initial ceasefire timed for another holiday in June. The agreement did not include foreign troops, like U.S. forces, and other militant groups, like the Islamic State, were not involved.

The new ceasefire is intended to pave the way for peace talks between the Taliban, the United States, and the Afghan government. Defense Secretary James Mattis has said he does not think a "military victory" is plausible in Afghanistan; rather, "the victory will be a political reconciliation" between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Bonnie Kristian

10:26 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's tariffs and the trade war they launched have not been kind to American farmers, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has conceded.

"Farmers love their lifestyle, but they're businesspeople," he said at an event hosted by Axios. "They have to make a profit. They're some of the best patriots in America, but they can't pay the bills with patriotism." Perdue said he hopes to have a relief plan in place by the end of the summer.

The secretary made similar comments in a late June interview with the Chicago Tribune. "There's legitimate anxiety if it's your livelihood," he admitted, but argued farmers are "patriots" who understand trade war is necessary retaliation against "a country that has been unfair at trade practices for a number of years." Still, Perdue added, "it's kind of like a drought: 'When will it end?'"

China has levied a 25 percent tax on 545 U.S. imports, including agricultural products like soybeans, rice, beef, pork, and more. Soybean farmers expect a particularly hard hit, as China previously bought fully one-third of their product. Maine lobster harvesters are already suffering, as Chinese buyers turn to Canada — subject to a 7 percent lobster tariff — to avoid 35 to 40 percent tariffs on American lobsters.

Farmers may be willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, said the National Farm Union's Matt Purdue, but "there's a lot of anxiety and I think that anxiety is growing over time." Bonnie Kristian

10:07 a.m. ET

President Trump may have lost quite a few supporters since his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But one of the loudest conservative voices is still on his side.

Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro appeared on Fox & Friends on Tuesday, vehemently defending the president's refusal to condemn Russian meddling in American elections. During his Monday press conference with Putin, Trump implied that he believed Putin's denials of interference over the conclusion of American intelligence agencies — a statement an array of conservatives, and even the Fox & Friends hosts themselves, had slammed earlier that morning.

But Trump had to be cautious because Russia is one of the world's biggest nuclear powers, Pirro said Tuesday. Plus, he has already placed sanctions on the country. "Come on everybody, snap out of it," Pirro said. "What was he supposed to do? Take a gun out and shoot Putin?" Pirro sarcastically questioned. "Putin said, 'I didn't meddle in your election,' so the president should say, 'Hang on, let me execute this guy'?"

It's enough that Trump has recognized that meddling happened, Pirro said. And there are probably better ways to prevent it from happening again than a round of Russian roulette. Watch the whole clip below. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:57 a.m. ET

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is not known for his restraint, but even he thinks President Trump went too far in his effort to improve U.S.-Russia relations.

"He has to reverse course immediately," said the Mooch in a Tuesday interview with CNN. "He's got to get out there as soon as possible before the concrete starts to set on this."

Scaramucci said that those who are loyal to Trump must now demonstrate their loyalty by setting him straight. "Loyalty right now requires you to tell the truth and sit with him and explain to him the optics of the situation," he told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on New Day. The former White House staffer said that he understood Trump's comments at the joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as an effort to "suppress the anxiety and the antagonism" between the U.S. and Russia, but said Trump's strategy is "not working."

"You've got to back up the U.S. intelligence agencies here," said Scaramucci. Watch the Mooch offer Trump his words of wisdom below, via CNN. Summer Meza

9:08 a.m. ET

Update 9:25 a.m. ET: After this article was published, several journalists confirmed that Butina is indeed not pictured in a widely circulated photo of President Trump meeting with Russians in the Oval Office. The woman in question is an NSC staffer. Our headline has been updated, and our original article appears below.

Just one day after U.S. prosecutors unsealed criminal charges against Mariia Butina, an alleged Russian agent, eagle-eyed readers noticed a 2017 Oval Office visitor who looks mysteriously like the Russian national.

In a photo published last year by The New York Times, Russian officials and Russian media are gathered in the Oval Office with President Trump. Skulking in the background of the photo is a woman who some people say is Butina, who was accused Monday of conspiracy against the United States. Back when Trump was a presidential nominee, the Justice Department said, Butina tried to broker secret meetings between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin, allegedly at the behest of Russian officials.

Not everyone is convinced that the photo constitutes smoking-gun evidence that Butina managed to infiltrate high-level meetings with Trump; some skeptics, like Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall, say the image isn't definitive. Others, like pollster Matt McDermott, noted that the only reason this photo is available to the public in the first place is because it was released by Russian state media.

Until the photo is confirmed one way or the other, take a look for yourself below. Summer Meza

8:47 a.m. ET

If President Trump was watching his favorite show Tuesday morning, he probably didn't like what he saw.

Even the normally Trump-friendly hosts of Fox & Friends had some harsh words for the president the day after his disastrous Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle have derided after Trump publicly sided with Putin, and against U.S. intelligence agencies, on the topic of Russia's 2016 election meddling.

Co-host Steve Doocy questioned why Trump refused to denounce Putin when "there have been a number of times where the president has said 'I think it was Russia,' ... 'I think there was meddling.'" Abby Huntsman elevated the critique, saying Putin's "ultimate goal in life is to undermine our democracy" and Trump blew the "one moment that you had to stand up for your own country, stand up for your intelligence community."

Brian Kilmeade brought up fellow conservatives who've spoken out against Trump, saying that "when Newt Gingrich, when General Jack Keane, when Matt Schlapp say the president fell short and made our intelligence apparatus look bad, I think it's time to pay attention." But Kilmeade also made some excuses for Trump's performance. "Nobody's perfect, especially [after] 10 intensive days of summits, private meetings, and everything on his plate," he said. "But that moment is the one that's going to stand out unless he comes out and corrects it.”

Watch the whole clip below. Kathryn Krawczyk

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