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February 2, 2018

The Democratic National Committee had a rough 2017, plagued by leadership troubles, internal squabbling, and unflattering reports. To top it off, the party ended the year "dead broke," says The Intercept's Ryan Grim.

The Democratic Party is carrying more than $6 million in debt, according to year-end filings — and has just $6.5 million in the bank. Do the math, and the party is working with just over $400,000 overall. Meanwhile, the Republicans are swimming in pools of money. The Republican National Committee had raised $132 million by the end of 2017 — about twice as much as the DNC — and entered 2018 with almost $40 million to spare, with not a penny of debt.

The DNC's rebuttal, The Washington Post reports, is that they raised more money in 2017 than they have in previous non-election years and were operating at something of a disadvantage given the "rebuilding job" undertaken by first-year chairman Tom Perez. While the DNC claims it is not borrowing money to pay the bills, Grim notes that the party would be operating at a financial loss if not for its borrowing.

If there is any cause for Democratic optimism, it's that individual Democratic candidates seem to be doing well for themselves even as the national party apparatus struggles. NBC News reported Thursday that nearly 50 non-incumbent Democrats running for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections outraised their Republican opponents in the last quarter of 2017. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:36 a.m. ET
ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images

Acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, just signed his first major regulatory amendment — making it easier for corporations to discard coal ash however they see fit.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday finalized a rule that rolls back standards for disposing of the toxic ash produced by burning coal, The Hill reports. The amendment was in the works for several months, but when Wheeler took over for Scott Pruitt earlier this month, he took the reigns. Pruitt resigned as EPA administrator following a string of ethics scandals.

The amendment backpedals on regulations put in place by the Obama administration, which mandated strict federal standards for coal ash disposal in 2015. In a statement, the EPA said relaxing the standards would save $31.4 million a year in regulatory costs, as states are given authority to loosen or waive requirements for companies.

"These amendments provide states and utilities much-needed flexibility in the management of coal ash, while ensuring human health and the environment are protected," said Wheeler in the statement. Environmental groups disagree, reports The Hill, and immediately condemned the measure as dangerous to groundwater and air pollution.

Companies with lax standards may not be required to monitor whether coal ash leaches into surrounding groundwater and will have extended deadlines to reduce coal ash disposal. The EPA has also loosened pollution standards on acceptable levels of lead, lithium, cobalt, and molybdenum in groundwater. Read more at The Hill. Summer Meza

11:29 a.m. ET

Is Canada ready to move on from America?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday added a single word to the position of "minister of international trade," renaming it the "minister of international trade diversification." Adding "diversification" might seem like a small change — but it could signal a massive blow to the U.S.-Canada relationship, The Toronto Star suggests.

America is easily Canada's biggest trading partner, accounting for $207 billion of the country's $389 billion in imports each year. That relationship has become complicated, however, after President Trump began announcing a series of tariffs on America's northern neighbor in March. Canada, along with the EU, China, and other tariff targets, has retaliated with its own tariffs on the U.S. Trudeau went so far as to blast Trump's "totally unacceptable" charges in a particularly harsh press conference on May 31.

And Wednesday's change wasn't just a hint. Trudeau adviser Gerald Butts tweeted exactly what "diversification" really meant: "We need to get Canadian resources to markets other than the United States."

Talk about stating the obvious. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:02 a.m. ET
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America's original makeup catalog isn't just for moms anymore.

Avon's falling revenue has forced it to shift from its iconic door-to-door sales to a brand based on e-commerce, Bloomberg reports. And it's pushing outside the U.S. to get there.

Suffering from sales losses to Amazon and Walmart, the 132-year-old makeup brand sold its U.S. operations two years ago and moved its headquarters to London, Bloomberg says. Avon's marketing focus followed, and the company has since expanded into Brazil, Mexico, and other countries where door-to-door selling still reigns.

But in the U.K., social media dominates. Avon still relies on independent representatives, but how they sell their products has changed. Many create YouTube channels and Instagram accounts full of beauty tips, pushing customers to order online instead of through a catalog, Bloomberg notes. Brazil's marketing features drag queens and transgender models done up in Avon products, and a Korean beauty line is in the works.

Avon's new CEO and new approach haven't turned around sales quite yet, with the company reporting revenue growth but net losses. But Avon is training representatives to be more social-media savvy, hoping a makeover will make customers answer the door once again.

Read more about Avon's new look at Bloomberg. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:38 a.m. ET
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There's a new national health crisis, and it has nothing to do with a disease or disorder. It's family separation.

President Trump's policy of splitting migrant children from their parents at the border has drained $40 million from the Health and Human Services Department — even after the policy's June 20 reversal, Politico reports. Now, the department is preparing to spend $200 million more.

Housing the influx of separated children in temporary shelters costs nearly $800 per child per night. It cost the government roughly $1.5 million each day, at the height of the crisis, to house the more than 2,500 children in government custody, totaling at least $30 million over the past two months, two sources tell Politico. Then tack on another $10 million for case workers who will handle family reunification for the next few months, plus an undetermined amount to send emergency response teams and health workers to refugee facilities. And don't forget the cost of transporting children back to their families.

These ever-expanding charges have HHS prepared to draw another $200 million originally allocated to other refugees and fighting HIV, Politico says. Sources suggest the unexpected spending could leave other initiatives, such as unemployment services, underfunded.

"We have a public health emergency like Ebola, Zika, hurricanes — except this one is man-made," Emily Holubowich, the executive director of the nonprofit Coalition for Health Funding, tells Politico. And with many children still split from their families, the emergency isn't over yet. Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:33 a.m. ET

President Trump is waging a war against "fake news," but he's fighting battles without the proper weapons.

Beck Dorey-Stein, who worked as a White House stenographer for five years, told CNN's New Day on Wednesday that Trump's aversion to recorded conversations makes it difficult to parse the truth when questions arise later. Dorey-Stein worked under the Obama administration before spending only a few months with the Trump administration before resigning.

Dorey-Stein recalled how she used to sit in the Oval Office with former President Barack Obama, recording his every interaction with the press. If people later questioned his words or the context for a quote, she explained, Obama would simply refer to the transcript of the conversation. Trump, on the other hand, "does not like microphones near his face," she said. "Even if a stenographer is present," she continued, "he doesn't often say 'check the transcript,' because the transcript will reveal the truth." She said that if Trump was "really interested in fighting 'fake news,'" he would encourage recordings and fall back on the transcripts to prove his claims.

She said that his lack of understanding and respect for official stenographers was partially responsible for the friction between him and British Prime Minister Theresa May, whom he denied criticizing until a recording of his criticism emerged.

"I quit because I couldn't be proud of where I worked any more," Dorey-Stein explained. "I felt like President Trump was lying to the American people, and not even trying to tell the truth." Watch the segment below, via CNN. Summer Meza

9:23 a.m. ET

The San Antonio Spurs have agreed to trade All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors, ESPN reports, ending a season-long saga surrounding Leonard's discontent in Texas. The former Finals MVP played just nine games last season, the result of a confusing and opaque battle with a lingering thigh injury.

Leonard has just one year remaining on his contract and is widely expected to pursue a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency next summer. ESPN's Chris Haynes reported that Leonard has "no desire to play in Toronto," per a league source, while Yahoo Sports' Chris Mannix agreed that Leonard is likely a "one-year rental for the Raps."

The rental comes with a steep price: Toronto has reportedly agreed to send their own All-Star, guard DeMar DeRozan, to San Antonio. DeRozan was the Raptors' leading scorer last season at 23 points per game, and is close with his backcourt-mate and fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Haynes additionally reported that DeRozan was told by team brass earlier this summer that he would not be traded — a rumor the player himself seemed to confirm with a cynical post on his Instagram Story early Wednesday. TNT's David Aldridge confirmed DeRozan is "extremely upset" about the move.

Longtime Spurs guard Danny Green is also heading north in the deal, while the Raptors will lose second-year center Jakob Poeltl. The deal won't be finalized until all players pass the requisite physical — a procedure that Aldridge noted is "not nothing" given Leonard's mysterious quad injury. Still, The Toronto Star's Bruce Arthur said that because the Raptors keep young assets Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, the trade is "worth the risk." Kimberly Alters

8:40 a.m. ET

President Trump on Wednesday morning touted his Monday press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as a success, tweeting that "many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki."

During the conference, Trump seemed to go against U.S. intelligence agencies by questioning whether Russia really meddled in the 2016 election, saying he didn't "know any reason why it would be" Russia. Afterwards, the intelligence community appeared in distress. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats quickly followed up with a statement reaffirming Russia's "ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy." Likewise, CNN notes, every current U.S. intelligence head who has testified on the issue, and the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee, have all confirmed Russia's involvement.

Trump's latest tweets come one day after he walked back his claim that Russia didn't meddle, after widespread criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike. Kathryn Krawczyk

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