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April 16, 2018
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President Trump is slowly moving away from his uncharacteristic docility toward Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, but in private and on Twitter, he continues to hold out hope for a better relationship — a tension that has occasionally escalated into anger, The Washington Post reports. When Trump's aides briefed him in March on the plan to expel 60 Russian diplomats to protest a Russian nerve attack in Britain, he reportedly told them the U.S. will "match" the number of diplomats expelled by America's European allies. "We're not taking the lead. We're matching."

When Trump learned that France and Germany were only expelling four Russian officials each, "Trump erupted," the Post reports:

The president, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia. His briefers tried to reassure him that the sum total of European expulsions was roughly the same as the U.S. number. "I don't care about the total!" the administration official recalled Trump screaming. ... Growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him about the magnitude of the expulsions. "There were curse words," the official said, "a lot of curse words." [The Washington Post]

Trump was initially reluctant to believe the intelligence that Russia was responsible for the attack, "a fact that some aides attributed to his contrarian personality and tendency to look for deeper conspiracies," the Post said. "To persuade him, his advisers warned that he would get hammered in the press if he was out of step with U.S. allies," and one senior White House official told the Post that Trump asked British Prime Minister on the phone, "Why are you asking me to do this?"

"The United States essentially has three Russia policies," Angela Stent, a professor at Georgetown University, told the Post: "The president's, the executive branch's, and Congress'." Peter Weber

11:35 a.m. ET

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo for secretary of state, he announced Monday morning. Manchin, a moderate senator from a red state, had been pegged as a likely cross-aisle vote for Pompeo.

President Trump tapped Pompeo last month to replace the ousted Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on Pompeo's nomination later Monday, where it is possible he will fail to receive a positive recommendation; Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) has already announced his opposition to Pompeo given Pompeo's hawkishness, and no committee Democrats support Pompeo.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will likely proceed to a full Senate vote on Pompeo's nomination later this week. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) already announced her intention to support Pompeo, and her vote alongside Manchin's should be enough to overcome any Republican defections and propel Pompeo to the State Department. Kimberly Alters

11:27 a.m. ET
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Linus Phillip was killed by police in Largo, Florida, in March after he attempted to drive away from officers who wanted to search his car at a gas station because they said they smelled marijuana. The officers involved in the fatal shooting will not be prosecuted, but the Largo police are continuing a controversial post-mortem investigation on Phillip.

Two officers went unannounced to the funeral home where Phillip's body was located and used his finger in an attempt to unlock his cell phone. They did not notify his family in advance, nor did they obtain a warrant.

The Supreme Court has held that police cannot search a cell phone without a warrant, but the situation is legally complicated when the phone's owner is dead. "While the deceased person doesn't have a vested interest in the remains of their body, the family sure does, so it really doesn't pass the smell test," Charles Rose, a Stetson University law professor, told the Tampa Bay Times. "This is one of those set of factors that walks on the edge of every issue."

Phillip's fiancée, Victoria Armstrong, happened to be at the funeral home when the detectives arrived. "I just felt so disrespected and violated," she said of their surprise appearance. Armstrong has called for further investigation of Phillip's death, particularly because the police have reported differing quantities of drugs they say were in his vehicle. "There's so many parts of the case that still aren't adding up," she said to the Tampa Bay Times. "I just want the truth." Bonnie Kristian

10:56 a.m. ET
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The demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea is less than 3 miles wide, and for decades, both sides have used that short distance to blast propaganda across the border. But to set the stage for a historic meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in later this week, South Korea on Monday turned off its speakers.

"The Ministry of National Defense halted the loudspeaker broadcasts against North Korea in the vicinity of the military demarcation line," Seoul said in a statement, with a goal of "reducing military tensions between the South and North and creating a mood for peaceful talks." In response, North Korea's weaker loudspeakers also began shutting down.

While Pyongyang tends to favor propaganda of a more traditional nature, South Korea in recent years has played peppy K-pop music, weather reports, and news that won't be reported under the Kim regime, like the survival of a North Korean soldier who was shot while he defected to the South. Bonnie Kristian

10:24 a.m. ET
YURY MARTYANOV/AFP/Getty Images

Neither Special Counsel Robert Mueller nor anyone on his team has been in touch with Natalia Veselnitskaya, she told The Associated Press for a report published Monday. Veselnitskaya is the Russian lawyer who in June 2016 met with Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign officials who believed she had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Veselnitskaya has spoken with investigators for the Senate Intelligence Committee's separate probe into Russian election meddling efforts. They interviewed her in a hotel in Berlin, Germany, for three hours in March. "That was essentially a monologue. They were not interrupting me," she said. "They listened very carefully. ... Their questions were very sharp, pin-pointed."

But the Mueller investigation, she says, has not contacted her despite her willingness to talk. "I'm ready to explain things that may seem odd to you or maybe you have suspicions," Veselnitskaya told Mueller via AP, suggesting that if he does not interview her, he "is not working to discover the truth." Bonnie Kristian

10:18 a.m. ET
David Burnett/Newsmakers

Former military officials are "deeply troubled" by President Trump's pick for CIA director, Gina Haspel.

More than 100 retired generals and officers wrote a letter Monday that urged senators to investigate Haspel more closely before voting on her nomination. Under the Bush administration, Haspel was involved in an "enhanced interrogation" program that included waterboarding, and she has been criticized by lawmakers for pushing to destroy tapes that held evidence of the torture.

"We do not accept efforts to excuse her actions relating to torture and other unlawful abuse of detainees by offering that she was 'just following orders,' or that shock from the 9/11 terrorist attacks should excuse illegal and unethical conduct," reads the letter, posted on Human Rights First. "We did not accept the 'just following orders' justification after World War II, and we should not accept it now."

Haspel, who is currently the deputy director of the CIA, will face a confirmation hearing next month. Trump tapped her to replace Mike Pompeo, who is facing his own confirmation fight to become the next secretary of state.

Lawmakers like Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) have vocally opposed Haspel's nomination, but CIA officials have backed her up: The Hill reports that the CIA released a memo Friday that said Haspel had "acted appropriately" in authorizing the destruction of the tapes. Summer Meza

10:06 a.m. ET
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President Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton, for years chaired the Gatestone Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group that published sensational and false anti-immigrant stories and fretted over a "great white death" in Europe, NBC News reports. Certain Islamophobic or anti-immigrant Gatestone stories were also picked up and circulated by Russian trolls, with Brookings Institution fellow Alina Polyakova explaining, "We see this kind of pattern emerge where a website puts up something, it looks like a news story, then bots and trolls amplify it."

Many articles published by Gatestone were intended to stoke fear, with one story claiming the German government was "confiscating homes to use for migrants" while in truth the city of Hamburg ordered the owner of six unused rental properties to renovate and list them. Tania Roettger, a journalist for Germany's Correctiv, emphasized the story as an example of how "Gatestone was known for disseminating false information."

While Bolton did not appear to personally write any of the concerning articles, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the adviser's ties to Gatestone are "very disturbing" seeing as he is "in one of the most powerful positions on the planet." Read the entire investigation at NBC News. Jeva Lange

9:20 a.m. ET
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Republicans are hopeful about the chances of CIA Director Mike Pompeo getting confirmed as secretary of state later this week, although he does not appear likely to get a favorable recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when it votes Monday, NPR reports. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been a vocal "no," and no Democrats on the panel support Pompeo's nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can still push Pompeo's nomination to a full Senate vote, though it would be unprecedented.

In the full Senate vote, there is still a chance Pompeo might not get confirmed due to the narrow 51-49 Republican majority. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) remains on the fence, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is absent. As Axios notes: "If Paul and Flake vote no, [Republicans will] need two red state Democrats to vote yes." Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) is already on board and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) are expected to also potentially swing.

President Trump expressed his frustration Monday morning on Twitter, writing: "Hard to believe Obstructionists May vote against Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State. The Dems will not approve hundreds of good people, including the Ambassador to Germany. They are maxing out the time on approval process for all, never happened before. Need more Republicans!"

Pompeo was confirmed as CIA director last year by the Senate in a 66-32 vote. Jeva Lange

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