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February 17, 2017

President Trump's tendency to repeat falsehoods and brag about his own election weeks after the inauguration has left both friends and enemies expressing concern about his wellbeing.

Worries came to a head on Thursday when Trump delivered a wild press conference, bashing news about the White House as being "fake" even though he conceded the "leaks are real" and bragging he had the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan, despite such an assertion being demonstrably false. "Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump's mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic, and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored, and unglued," David Brooks wrote at The New York Times.

Democrats have not been shy about expressing their concerns. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) fretted in a floor speech that the 25th Amendment of the Constitution does not adequately cover mental or emotional fitness when discussing methods for removing the president, while Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) is working on legislation that would require a psychiatrist or psychologist in the White House, The Hill reports.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) even confirmed to CNN that "a few" Republicans have confided in him concerns about Trump's "mental health."

For Brian Stelter's Reliable Sources, CNN's Brian Lowry revisited Howard Stern's prediction that the presidency would deteriorate Trump. "I actually think this is something that is gonna be detrimental to his mental health too, because, he wants to be liked, he wants to be loved. He wants people to cheer for him," Stern once said.

Mental health professionals warned The Hill against the "politicization" of claims that an opponent is suffering from mental illnesses: "We certainly wouldn't want individuals to use mental illness as a weapon to harm others," said University of Georgia psychologist Joshua Miller. But even mental health professionals are paying attention to Trump's behavior, with 35 psychologists and psychiatrists recently authoring a letter to The New York Times warning of "the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump's speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president." Jeva Lange

9:00p.m.

If Jennifer Senior could go back to the summer of 2017, she would have written a very different review of the book Conscience of a Conservative.

Senior, now a New York Times opinion columnist, was a book critic when Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) released his tome. In the Times on Tuesday, Senior writes that she gave the book a "mostly kind review," but now, she's "seriously reconsidering" it. Flake has "always been a class act," Senior said, and she applauded him for being the first Republican senator to "call President Trump the domestic and international menace that he is." But while Flake loudly asserted that he was standing up to Trump, he still went along and voted with the president 84 percent of the time. "Jeff Flake's book couldn't even convince Jeff Flake," Senior said.

Flake may have said he really, truly believed Trump posed a threat to democracy, but his voting record paints a different picture. Flake had ample opportunities to "align himself with the opposition," like the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act. Instead, he said he had misgivings about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, yet still voted to confirm him. Trump is now the face of the Republican Party, Senior said, which is "heavy with nativists, populists, protectionists, assorted supremacists." Flake has urgently called for a return to the party's roots, but that has had "zero effect," and instead of his book being a critique of Trump, it "was a tragedy." Catherine Garcia

7:42p.m.

President Trump spent much of his Monday meeting with his legal team, going over questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and writing out responses, people close to Trump told ABC News Tuesday.

Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and his questions for Trump center around Russian meddling, ABC News reports. Trump and his lawyers were expected to work on his responses during a Tuesday meeting as well.

So far, 32 people have been indicted by Mueller, with six pleading guilty — including Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — and three sentenced to prison. Catherine Garcia

6:51p.m.

On Tuesday, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's campaign filed a federal lawsuit to extend the statewide recount of last week's Senate race.

Nelson ran against Florida's current governor, Republican Rick Scott. Scott has a slight lead over Nelson, ahead by just .14 percent. By Florida law, when the top two candidates are within half a percentage point, counties must conduct a machine recount. That's been the case this month in the governor, U.S. Senate, and agriculture commissioner races.

The deadline for the recount is 3 p.m ET Thursday, which the Palm Beach County elections supervisor has said will be "impossible to meet," USA Today reports. Nelson's campaign said the lawsuit "seeks to allow all local elections officials in the 67 Florida counties the time they say is needed to finish a legally mandated and accurate recount because the race was so close." Catherine Garcia

5:06p.m.

When the House's newest members are sworn in this January, they'll join what will become the most diverse Congress in U.S. history. But most of that diversity, it seems, is coming from one side of the aisle.

With a wave of women and people of color winning their races last week, Democrats will have a majority in the 116th Congress, which is more than 60 percent "women, minorities and LGBTQ representatives," reports The Associated Press. Republicans' new House coalition, meanwhile, is nearly entirely white. A set of headshots shared by The Washington Post's Erica Werner makes that contrast very obvious.

Despite the increasingly diverse ranks, the majority of incoming House Democrats — 131 of the 228 decided seats, or 57 percent — are white, per USA Today. And of the 198 incoming Republicans, 191 are white, 96 percent.

Top House aides are actually less racially diverse than the legislators they work for, The New York Times reported. Just 13.7 percent of House staffers are people of color, a fact that likely prompted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to launch a House diversity office on Thursday. It'll "help recruit and retain diverse employees to work in Congress," a Pelosi aide tells AP, and could be voted on as soon as the next Congress takes its seats. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:20p.m.

Juul announced on Tuesday that it will temporarily halt the sale of its flavored nicotine pods in all retail stores and will discontinue its social media promotions.

The e-cigarette company has conceded to mounting pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, as it completes the process of regulating the sales of e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations, reports The New York Times. The hope is to curb the rise of teen vaping.

As of Tuesday morning, Juul has stopped accepting retail orders for its mango, fruit, creme, and cucumber flavored pods to over 90,000 retail stores. CNBC reports that customers are still able to buy all Juul flavors on its website, while the four tobacco and menthol-flavored pods remain in stores.

In a statement posted on the San Francisco-based company's website, CEO Kevin Burns addressed the purpose of this change. "By deterring social media promotion of the Juul system by exiting our accounts, we can better prevent teens and non-smokers from ever becoming interested in the device," he said.

The FDA is still set to release its proposal later this week, outlining strict requirements for age verification of online sales and restricting sales of cartridge-based flavored e-cigarettes to shops. “Our intent was never to have youth use Juul," said Burns. "But intent is not enough. The numbers are what matter and the numbers tell us underage use of e-cigarettes is a problem.” Amari Pollard

4:06p.m.

First lady Melania Trump on Tuesday called for a member of the Trump administration to be fired, and it looks like she may soon get her wish.

On Tuesday, the first lady's spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement that Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel "no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House." NBC News reported earlier in the day that President Trump was likely to fire Ricardel following a "series of run-ins" with the office of the first lady. For instance, reports Bloomberg, Ricardel threatened to withhold National Security Council resources unless she or someone else from the NSC could travel with the first lady on her recent trip to Africa.

That's not all, though. Melania Trump's staff has told the president they believe Ricardel is responsible for leaking negative stories about her to the press, The Wall Street Journal reports, adding that Ricardel has feuded with Defense Secretary James Mattis as well. President Trump had reportedly already told his wife he would have Ricardel removed from office, the Journal reports. Her firing appeared to be imminent, especially because The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey writes that Ricardel is "among the most despised aides in the West Wing, if not the most." Ricardel was hired in May, and CNN reports she's one of National Security Adviser John Bolton's "key allies in the administration."

The statement from the first lady was particularly surprising considering, as CNN's Kate Bennett points out, Ricardel had joined the president at his Diwali ceremony right before its release. Not long after, the Journal reported that Ricardel had been fired and was escorted from the building, although a White House official denied this report, telling CNBC she is "still at her desk." When asked if she would still be there tomorrow, the official said, "We'll see." Brendan Morrow

3:31p.m.

Amazon wants to evenly divide its second headquarters between New York City and the Washington D.C. area. But the two cities aren't exactly splitting the very large bill.

In the company's Tuesday announcement revealing that its HQ2 will land in New York's Long Island City and northern Virginia's Crystal City, Amazon disclosed that New York would deliver $1.525 billion in "performance-based tax incentives" for its job-creating investment. Virginia, meanwhile, would deliver just $573 million — a third of New York's deal, Axios' Felix Salmon pointed out.

Earlier reports of Amazon's imminent expansion stoked fears of what could happen to one of New York's more affordable neighborhoods. But New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wasn't worried, saying at a Tuesday press conference that the "synergy" created by putting HQ2 next to one of America's "biggest public housing developments" would be "extraordinary." De Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) both deflected questions about whether Amazon's investment would fix the city's broken subway system at the conference, instead suggesting ferries would make it plenty easy to get to the riverside Long Island City.

Meanwhile, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson released a statement pondering "why a company as rich as Amazon would need nearly $2 billion in public money," especially since New York is struggling to fund public needs.

Perhaps New York delivered an additional $1 billion in breaks to preserve the naming rights to Long Island City, unlike what's happening in Virginia. Kathryn Krawczyk

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