February 13, 2017

Michael Flynn resigned late Monday night as President Trump's national security adviser.

Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, resigned just a few hours after The Washington Post published a story about the Department of Justice having warned the White House that Flynn had communicated with the Russian ambassador to the United States about sanctions and could be subject to blackmail. It was also reported that Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about the topics he discussed with the ambassador.

In his resignation letter, Flynn wrote that he "held numerous phone calls with foreign counterparts, ministers, and ambassadors. These calls were to facilitate a smooth transition and begin to build the necessary relationships between the president, his advisers, and foreign leaders. Such calls are standard practice in any transition of this magnitude. Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the president and the vice president, and they have accepted my apology."

Earlier in the day, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Flynn still had the full confidence of the president, but not long after, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump was "evaluating the situation." NBC News reports that Keith Kellogg, a retired general, has been named acting national security adviser. Catherine Garcia

3:07 a.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was not pulling her punches in Wednesday night's Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, and her most potent haymakers landed on former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, standing to her right. MSNBC's post-debate panel showed the moment she started pummeling Bloomberg, and Chris Matthews described it in elaborate boxing metaphors.

The Daily Show was a little more succinct:

Warren's biggest blow was set up by Bloomberg himself, and Joe Biden jumped in to help her finish him off.

After the debate, Matthews asked Warren why she went after Bloomberg so hard. "I think it's important for people to know exactly what Michael Bloomberg has said and done," she said. "It is important to know who this guy is," and "he is a threat because he's already dropped $400 million in this campaign, and understand this: After his performance tonight, I have no doubt he is about to drop, tonight, another $100 million in this campaign ... to try to erase America's memory of what happened on that debate stage."

Warren repeated her "arrogant billionaire" critique and when Matthews asked, she said Bloomberg's treatment of women should be disqualifying for the Democratic nomination. "Can we please keep in mind" that woman have "finally been acknowledged to be important in electing our candidates?" she said. "You just can't lead with a guy who's got this kind of history."

The Daily Show, again, had a similar idea, but with a different, less likely destination for Bloomberg's millions. Peter Weber

1:43 a.m.

Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Berlin and President Trump's new acting director of national intelligence, is not popular in Germany. After alienating much of the country early on with diplomatic bomb-throwing, Der Spiegel wrote a year ago, "the spotlight on Grenell seems to have grown dimmer, though not necessarily by choice. He still tweets assiduously and he never seems to say no when Fox News calls, but in Berlin, he has largely become isolated. The powerful avoid him. Doors have been shut."

But if Berlin was excited at the prospect of getting a new U.S. ambassador, well, tough luck. Even after he takes over as head of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, as early as Thursday, "Grenell is expected to keep his current ambassadorship as long as he is acting intelligence director," The New York Times reports, citing one administration official, adding: "Grenell did not respond to a request for comment."

Grenell also declined Der Spiegel's multiple requests for comment, reporter Konstantin von Hammerstein noted. So "Der Spiegel focused its reporting on conversations with more than 30 sources who have come into contact with Grenell," including "numerous American and German diplomats, Cabinet members, lawmakers, high-ranking officials, lobbyists, and think tank experts." He added:

A majority of them describe Grenell as a vain, narcissistic person who dishes out aggressively, but can barely handle criticism. His brash demeanor, some claim, hides a deep insecurity, and they say he thirsts for the approval of others. ...They also say Grenell knows little about Germany and Europe, that he ignores most of the dossiers his colleagues at the embassy write for him, and that his knowledge of the subject matter is superficial. [Der Spiegel]

It isn't clear how Grenell would divide his responsibilities for the 210 days he is legally eligible to be acting DNI without Senate confirmation. Peter Weber

1:30 a.m.

No one can explain how a class ring lost in Maine 47 years ago was just found in Finland, but it now means even more to owner Debra McKenna.

The ring originally belonged to McKenna's high school sweetheart, Shawn. They met at Morse High School, and on Valentine's Day 1973, he asked McKenna out on a date. They soon became a couple, and when he went away to college in the fall, he gave her his class ring. Not long after, McKenna lost it while shopping at a department store. She forgot about the ring, but never forgot about Shawn — the pair wed in 1977, and remained married until 2017, when Shawn died of cancer.

Last month, thousands of miles away from McKenna's home, a man named Marko Saarinen was using his metal detector in Kaarina, Finland. While in a park, his detector started making noise, and under about eight inches of dirt, he found a ring with a blue stone. It belonged to someone who attended Morse High School, and was inscribed with "1973" and "S.M." He notified the school's alumni association, and they soon determined that Shawn McKenna was the only person in the Class of 1973 with the initials "S.M."

When his widow learned that the long-lost ring had been found, "there was a lot of weeping," she told the Bangor Daily News. She doesn't have the slightest idea how the ring got from Maine to Finland, but did find it remarkable that on the side of the ring, it says "Shipbuilders," which is the mascot of Morse High School — it's also Saarinen's profession. "Shawn used to say there's no such thing as coincidences," McKenna said. Catherine Garcia

12:46 a.m.

President Trump held a rally in Phoenix on Wednesday night at the same time Democrats were debating in Las Vegas, and he was sure to get in several digs against the candidates.

He called Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) a "phony," referred to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as "crazy," and called former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg "Mini Mike." Trump proclaimed that it doesn't matter who the Democratic nominee is, because "we're going to win," but seemed to hint that he thinks it will be a close race in Arizona in November. While he won the state in 2016, he only beat Hillary Clinton by 3.5 percentage points. "We'll be back a lot," he said.

Trump also told an oft-repeated story about a man who allegedly told Trump "my wife used to look at me like I'm a total loser," but because of how high his 401(k) is, "she loves me again. She thinks I'm a genius." The man's profession and his 401(k)'s rate of growth always changes when he tells the story, and Trump kept Wednesday's version of the man shrouded in mystery, simply referring to him as "Henry," USA Today reports. Catherine Garcia

12:39 a.m.

President Trump confirmed Wednesday night that he is appointing Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, as acting director of national intelligence. Current acting DNI Joseph Maguire, who would have had to step down by March 12 because he lacked Senate confirmation, "was blindsided by the news," The Washington Post reports, as were many people in the intelligence community and on Capitol Hill. Grenell will take responsibility for America's 17 intelligence agencies on Thursday, The New York Times reports.

Trump isn't expected to nominate Grenell for the job, so he can hold the office for only 210 days under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

Grenell has no real intelligence experience and has never run a large bureaucracy. His most relevant experience to head the U.S. intelligence community are his two-year ambassadorship and long stint as spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations under President George W. Bush. Before Trump sent him to Berlin, "Grenell was known mainly as an online media critic and conservative Fox News foreign policy analyst," The Associated Press reports. One administration official told AP that "Grenell was named in an acting capacity because Trump wanted him in quickly and there were doubts about whether he could be confirmed in the job."

Director of national intelligence is "a job considered to be among the most nonpartisan in Washington," the Times notes. By picking Grenell, Trump is signaling "he wants a trusted, aggressive leader atop an intelligence community that he has long viewed with suspicion and at times gone to war against," and "the list of people with the requisite experience who have not been critical of the president is slim." Also, Grenell will be the first openly gay member of Trump's Cabinet, its third Fox News contributor, and, along with U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft, the second Cabinet member who is a "Gold" level member of the Trump Organization's Trump Card loyalty program. Peter Weber

February 19, 2020

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had the most speaking time during Wednesday's Democratic debate — a good three-and-a-half minutes more than former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who spoke the least.

The New York Times calculated that Warren talked for 16 minutes, 35 seconds, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) close behind at 15 minutes, 55 seconds. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke for 15 minutes, 24 seconds, while former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg clocked in at 13 minutes, 25 seconds.

Rounding out the pack was former Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke for 13 minutes, 25 seconds, and Bloomberg, who in his debate debut spoke for 13 minutes, two seconds. Catherine Garcia

February 19, 2020

Some of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's rivals don't think he should exist.

Or rather, they don't think the billions of dollars he has in the bank should've ever been his. So during Wednesday night's Democratic, Meet The Press host Chuck Todd posed the very meta question to Bloomberg himself.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) answered the "should billionaires exist" question first, affirming his previously declaration that no, they should not. Todd then asked Bloomberg "should you exist," to which Bloomberg said "I can't speak for all billionaires." But he's "been very lucky" and "worked hard" for his money, Bloomberg said and he deserves it because he's "giving it all away to make this country better. Kathryn Krawczyk

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