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February 9, 2018
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At least two top White House officials, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Counsel Don McGahn, knew for months that former staff secretary Rob Porter had been credibly accused of abuse by his two ex-wives, The Washington Post and CNN report, and they not only didn't follow up on the allegations but elevated Porter's responsibilities and access to President Trump. Kelly, especially, is facing withering criticism over the mishandling of the Porter scandal.

Kelly reportedly learned about the spousal abuse accusations last fall when McGahn told him they were holding up Porter's security clearance. Kelly "agreed that Porter should remain and said he was surprised to learn that the 40-year-old had ex-wives," the Post reports. He urged Porter not to resign even after The Intercept published photos Wednesday of a black eye Porter's first wife says he gave her, according to White House officials. Trump is not inclined to fire Kelly, yet, CNN reports.

McGahn also has some explaining to do, the Post reports:

In January 2017, when McGahn learned of the allegations, he wanted Porter to stay put because he saw the Harvard Law-trained Capitol Hill veteran as a steadying, professional voice in the White House, according to people familiar with the matter. His view didn't change in June when the FBI flagged some of its findings to the White House. Nor did he act in September when he learned that the domestic violence claims were delaying Porter's security clearance, or in November when Porter's former girlfriend contacted him about the allegations, according to these people. A White House spokesman said that McGahn — who had access to the FBI's background investigation file conducted for Porter’s security clearance — and Kelly feel misled by Porter. [The Washington Post]

The White House had rallied support for Porter Tuesday by arguing that the allegations were part of a "smear campaign" led by, among other people, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, two sources tell The Daily Beast. Lewandoski flatly denied any role in Porter's downfall. Peter Weber

2:05 a.m. ET

The Apprentice premiered on Jan. 8, 2004. On July 19, 2018, President Trump realized what the title of his show meant.

The realization hit Trump while at a White House jobs event Thursday, with Ivanka Trump in attendance. Trump told the audience that "23 companies and associations are pledging to expand apprenticeships," then paused for a beat. "That's an interesting word for me to be saying, right, The Apprentice?"

Okay, that's fine, Trump made a reference to a reality program he once hosted, not a big deal. But now that everything about the show and the board room and Omarosa and telling people "You're fired!" suddenly made sense, he kept going. "I never actually put that together until just now," Trump said. "That was a good experience, I will tell you that." Turning to his former co-star/daughter/senior adviser, he continued, "Isn't that strange, Ivanka? I never associated, but here we are, can't get away from that word. It's a great word." Watch the president connect the dots in the video below. Catherine Garcia

1:44 a.m. ET

President Trump started his Thursday off by tweeting his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday "was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media," a statement that CNN's Chris Cuomo called "ugly" and "unoriginal," but "most importantly...an admission that you hate your country."

The phrase "real enemy of the people" was used as an "operative threat to murder the opposition during the French Revolution," Cuomo said. Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong both used it, too, he said, adding, "America, the country you lead, was formed in defiance of strongmen, bullies, and the idea that might makes right. A free press is a metaphor for what makes America great, so you have now admitted that you are against what we are all about."

Cuomo isn't concerned over Trump's tweet, because he knows the media is not the enemy, and is "perhaps the best check against the abuse of power that can lead to a Stalin or a Mao." The person who should be worried is Trump, Cuomo said, because "do you really think the people will keep a president who hates what their country is all about?" Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

1:21 a.m. ET
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In an op-ed for The New York Times published Thursday night, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), a former CIA officer, said he has seen Russian intelligence agents "manipulate many people. I never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them."

When President Trump stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday in Helsinki as he "spouted lies," it "confused many but should concern all Americans. By playing into Vladimir Putin's hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad."

It's up to lawmakers to "fulfill our oversight duty as well as keep the American people informed of the current danger," Hurd said, and he's been asked by constituents what Congress can do to protect Americans from Russian interference. Hurd said "if necessary," the U.S. should "send lethal weaponry to assist Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists," continue to enact sanctions, and fund intelligence agencies so they can have "the tools they need to confront Moscow and prevent this from happening in the future." Read Hurd's entire op-ed at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

12:39 a.m. ET
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At least 11 people were killed Thursday near Branson, Missouri, when the duck boat they were on capsized, fire officials said.

There were 31 people on the tourist boat, which investigators said ended up sinking in the lake. "We did have a severe thunderstorm, not sure if that is the contributing factor," Southern Stone County Fire Protection spokesman Eric Nielsen said. "There is a lot of storm debris." Divers are in Table Rock Lake now searching for other possible victims. The boat was operated by Ride the Ducks Branson, and had recently been acquired by the company, CNN reports. Catherine Garcia

12:29 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, the Trump administration said it has reunited 364 of more than 2,500 migrant children ages five and older with their families, after they were separated from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The government has a court-ordered deadline of July 26 to reunite the children with their parents, and in a court filing, the Trump administration said of the 1,607 parents eligible for reunification, 719 have final orders of deportation. "That's a pretty horrifying statistic," Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center, told NBC News. "We have had such limited communication with parents it was difficult to know where they were in their case."

The parents will need to decide if they will take their children back with them to their native countries, or leave them in the care of the government or relatives in the United States so they can seek asylum. Catherine Garcia

July 19, 2018
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When Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats laughed during an interview at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, staffers back at the White House groaned.

Coats was onstage with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, when she broke the news to him that the White House had announced the Trump administration invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington this fall. He chuckled, and revealed he knew nothing about this, adding, "That's going to be special." He also told Mitchell he would have advised President Trump not to meet with Putin in Helsinki on Monday, especially with only two interpreters in the room with them.

Trump advisers were "in an uproar," staffers told The Washington Post, with one senior official saying, "Coats has gone rogue." They are concerned that Trump will view the incident as Coats laughing at him in a public arena, and he'll feel betrayed, since he flattered Coats during an interview Wednesday with CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor.

One White House staffer told the Post Coats' comments could bother Trump more than the scandals that swirled around former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, but a senior intelligence official said Coats gets along fine with Trump, and they are in regular communication. "For someone in the White House to criticize Dan Coats for speaking truth to power is unfair," the official said. Catherine Garcia

July 19, 2018
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Starbucks announced on Thursday it is opening its first cafe in the U.S. with employees who are partially or fully deaf and can communicate using American Sign Language.

The company is converting an existing Starbucks in Washington, D.C., into a Signing Store, set to open in October. Employees will wear aprons embroidered by deaf suppliers, and pins that say "I sign," USA Today reports. "The store will create a distinctive retail experience for all customers, while offering a unique store format that promotes accessibility and offers employment and career advancement opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people," Starbucks said in a statement.

Starbucks will hire 20 to 25 people who know ASL to staff the Signing Store. The company's first Signing Store opened in Malaysia in 2016. Catherine Garcia

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