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December 22, 2017

Corporations will get the bulk of the direct benefits from the Republican tax overhaul — $1.3 trillion over 10 years — and Wall Street seems to have done particularly well. Next year alone, America's top eight banks will get an extra $15.3 billion, according to an internal Goldman Sachs report obtained by ThinkProgress, including $3.5 billion for Bank of America, $3.3 billion for J.P. Morgan, and $1.4 billion for Citigroup.

But if Wall Street banks got a big bonus, hedge fund managers at Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, and KKR & Co. arguably scored an even bigger win. Despite explicit pledges from President Trump, the bill he'll sign did not get rid of the carried interest loophole that allows hedge fund and private equity managers to claim their hefty earnings as capital gains, taxed at a significantly lower rate than ordinary income. And it isn't just liberals who are angry the loophole survived.

On Fox Business, Trish Regan slammed Trump and his team for allowing "fat cat private equity investors" to keep lower tax rates "than a New York City cop." America's "founding fathers never, ever anticipated a swamp like the one we have today," she said.

On Wednesday, Trump's top economic adviser Gary Cohn said "we probably tried 25 times" to get congressional Republicans to ax the loophole, and "the president asked just this past Monday if we could still get rid of it." Cohn, formerly the No. 2 at Goldman Sachs, blamed Congress for Trump's failure, and Fox Business reported that Blackstone, Carlyle, and KKR did funnel "massive amounts of campaign cash into the coffers of Republican leaders in the House and the Senate as these same lawmakers voted for a tax bill that preserves the so-called carried interest loophole." But they also cited people "close to the tax bill process" who said "the White House didn't make ending the loophole a priority," citing "Trump's close relationship with Blackstone chief Steve Schwarzman, a key outside economic adviser." Peter Weber

8:51 p.m. ET
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Walmart announced Wednesday is is now offering a product that safely destroys all forms of unused opioid drugs, but experts say it's an item that's not necessary.

Opioids, including powders, tablets, pills, capsules, liquids, and patches, mixed with DisposeRx and warm water, are turned into biodegradable gel that cannot be converted back into a usable drug. Walmart said this is the first product of its kind, and with 42,000 Americans dying in 2016 from opioid overdoses, the company's executive vice president of consumables and health and wellness said they wanted to take "an active role in fighting our nation's opioid issue, an issue that has affected so many families and communities across America."

About one-third of medications sold go unused, and it's easy for excess pills to end up in the wrong hands, spreading addiction, but DisposeRx isn't necessary, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, told NPR. Opioids can just as easily be flushed down the toilet, "the problem is the general public just doesn't know that," he said. "Think about it. Every time someone taking an opioid medication urinates or defecates, it gets into the water supply. So that's not the real problem." Catherine Garcia

7:47 p.m. ET
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While meeting with Democrats on Wednesday, White House chief of staff John Kelly called some of President Trump's campaign stances on the border wall "uninformed," several people told CNN.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) confirmed the comment during an interview with Wolf Blitzer, and a person familiar with Kelly's meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Kelly told them he was working on educating Trump on campaign vows and policy. "You make campaign promises but then you learn the reality of governing, which is difficult," Kelly said, per a lawmaker at the meeting.

The hour-long meeting ended without any sort of a deal regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigrants, but Kelly "indicated the president is motivated to have a fix," Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) said, and he will look into a bipartisan immigration bill Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) and Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) put together. "He didn't say he'd sign the bill, but he definitely indicated there would be a positive review," Grisham said. Catherine Garcia

6:59 p.m. ET
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday 2,000 U.S. troops will remain in Syria, as there are "strategic threats" to the United States beyond the Islamic State.

"Iran has dramatically strengthened its presence in Syria...through its position in Syria, Iran is in a stronger position to extend its track record of attacking U.S. interests, allies, and personnel in the region," he said during remarks at Stanford University. U.S. troops were sent to northeastern Syria to assist Kurdish fighters battling ISIS militants, and although ISIS now has just a small presence in the country, Tillerson said there's concern of a revival. "We cannot repeat the mistake of 2011, where a premature departure from Iraq allowed al Qaeda in Iraq to survive and eventually become ISIS," he said.

Tillerson also said the U.S. continues to push for a peace deal in the country that would exclude Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Catherine Garcia

5:34 p.m. ET
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It apparently only took an hour and a half for Stephen Bannon to crack himself like an egg during his hearing with the House Intelligence Committee.

Axios reported Wednesday that Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, accidentally told congressional investigators about his time working for the Trump administration, despite the fact that he'd been instructed not to by the White House. Bannon was less than 90 minutes into his hearing, Axios claimed, when he mentioned discussions he had with White House officials about the infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower where Donald Trump Jr. tried to get opposition research on Hillary Clinton from a Russian lawyer.

The Trump Tower meeting "has become one of the most important focal points of the Russia investigation," Axios explained, given reports that President Trump himself helped draft a misleading statement responding to the news after the meeting was first revealed by The New York Times last July. The White House's involvement in the creation of that statement could illuminate whether the Trump campaign tried to collude with Russia and whether the White House lied about those attempts, Axios explained.

Bannon declined to elaborate on his accidental disclosure, repeatedly invoking executive privilege. He additionally faced tough questioning from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) about comments he'd made in Michael Wolff's book, Fire and Fury, where he'd claimed the Trump Jr. meeting was "treasonous." Read more about Bannon's rocky testimony at Axios. Kelly O'Meara Morales

4:18 p.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 26,000 points Wednesday, CNN Money reported, marking a historic first for the market index. The Dow had first passed the 26,000-point threshold Tuesday, but Wednesday was the first day that it sustained those gains at market close.

Overall, the index spiked 323 points over the course of Wednesday's trading, ending the day at 26,115.65 points. The 1.3 percent bump was spurred by "stronger-than-expected quarterly results from some of the biggest U.S. companies," CNBC explained. Kimberly Alters

3:41 p.m. ET

During Wednesday's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders summarily dismissed the ongoing Russia investigation as a "hoax."

Asked by The Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender whether President Trump was "prepared" for the reported escalation in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, Sanders did not mince words. "We've been dealing with this hoax for the better part of a year," she said. "If we have to endure the ridiculousness for another month we can certainly handle it."

Sanders did stress to reporters that the White House intends to be "fully cooperative" with Mueller's team, but she claimed the ongoing intrigue was unfair to the public. "Do the American people deserve [this investigation]? No, I don't think they do," she said.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that Stephen Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, had been subpoenaed by Mueller to appear before a grand jury. Bannon agreed Wednesday to interview with Mueller, where he is expected to answer questions about his time working in the White House last year. Kelly O'Meara Morales

2:09 p.m. ET

The search for extraterrestrial life has hit a new roadblock: congressional decorum.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) vented to reporters Wednesday that politicians on Capitol Hill act like middle schoolers. The immaturity is hindering our other-worldly ambitions, he joked: "That's why the aliens won't talk to us."

HuffPost's Igor Bobic noted that Kennedy also compared the state of American politics to The Jerry Springer Show — which The Guardian once wrote "has delivered more on-air fights, ranting white supremacists, adulterous strippers, and transphobia than anything else on television." Kelly O'Meara Morales

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