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June 15, 2017

Less than a month after President Trump hired a private attorney to deal with the ongoing Russia probes, Vice President Mike Pence has followed suit. The vice president's office confirmed Thursday to The Washington Post that Pence has hired outside legal counsel to handle the recently opened independent investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the ongoing congressional probes into Russian election meddling and any possible collusion by the Trump team.

Pence has chosen Richmond, Virginia-based attorney Richard Cullen, who is a chairman at McGuire Woods and who previously served as a U.S. attorney. The vice president's office said his decision to hire a personal attorney reflects his intention to "fully cooperate with any inquiries related to the Russia probe."

Pence's decision comes despite Trump's personal attorney Marc Kasowitz's reported assurance to White House personnel that it's not necessary to hire their own lawyers. The Post noted Pence's move "could set off a scramble among other West Wing aides — many of whom are already bracing for subpoenas — to do the same, even if only as a protective measure."

Read more on the story at The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

10:05 a.m.

Rudy Giuliani's Wednesday night bombshell left the world with a lot to take in.

On CNN's Cuomo Prime Time, the former New York City mayor and current member of Trump's legal team falsely declared he "never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign." He only "said the president" himself never colluded, Giuliani claimed to host Chris Cuomo.

The next morning on CNN's New Day, Joe Lockhart, who was former President Bill Clinton's press secretary, declared this just another example of Giuliani's "number one job:" "to confuse people." This could mean he is "condition[ing] the ground" because "something bad is coming," Lockhart said.

But on MSNBC, Morning Joe's Joe Scarborough took it a step further. Wednesday night's revelation all adds up to one thing: "Rudy Giuliani just told America and the world that Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia, full stop," Scarborough said.

Meanwhile on Fox & Friends First, the ordeal just got a few seconds of attention, during which Giuliani's retort was characterized as him "firing back at CNN over claims he said the Trump campaign never colluded with Russians." What Fox & Friends First calls "claims" are easily viewable in a slew of video clips and tweets. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:56 a.m.

Facebook has taken down hundreds of accounts and pages after tracing them back to Russia's news agency.

The social media website said Thursday that it had removed 364 pages that were being run by a network originating in Russia and whose creators were engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior." Facebook says the pages, some of which were meant to look like independent news sources, were linked to employees of Sputnik, the news agency owned by the Russian government, who used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves.

"Some of the Pages frequently posted about topics like anti-NATO sentiment, protest movements, and anti-corruption," Facebook says. Nearly 800,000 people followed these removed pages, which also spent more than $100,000 in advertising.

Additionally, Facebook says it uncovered a separate network of Ukrainian pages and accounts that also originated in Russia, with 26 pages being removed that were bolstered by fake accounts. "We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don't want our services to be used to manipulate people," Facebook said. Brendan Morrow

9:18 a.m.

As the longest government shutdown in history nears its one-month anniversary, a new poll shows President Trump taking a significant hit among his base.

A survey from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist published Thursday found that Trump's approval rating is down among suburban men, white evangelicals, Republicans, and white men without a college degree. The most drastic change was among suburban men, 42 percent of whom approve of Trump while 48 percent disapprove, compared to 51 percent approval and 39 percent disapproval last month.

Additionally, among white evangelicals, Trump is down to 66-to-23 approval from 73-to-17 approval last month. Among Republicans, he's down to 83-to-10 percent approval from 90-to-7 percent last month. Finally, among white men without a college degree, he's down to 50-to-35 percent approval from 56-to-34 last month.

These are all demographics that brought Trump to victory in 2016. A CNN exit poll at the time, for example, suggested 71 percent of white men without a college degree voted for Trump. "For the first time, we saw a fairly consistent pattern of having his base showing evidence of a cracking," Lee Miringoff, the director of Marist Institute for Public Opinion, told NPR about this new poll.

A previous poll by Morning Consult found that Trump's net approval rating is below zero in key states that he carried in 2016, including Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist's poll was conducted by speaking to 1,023 adults from Jan. 10-13. The margin of error is 3.8 percentage points. See more results at NPR. Brendan Morrow

8:45 a.m.

With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) floating the idea of disinviting President Trump from delivering the State of the Union, the president is apparently looking for another way in.

Officials in the White House are "discussing" whether it's possible for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to invite Trump to deliver the address, CBS reports. Pelosi on Wednesday wrote a letter to Trump suggesting they delay the State of the Union, which had previously been scheduled for Jan. 29. She said there are "security concerns" because of the ongoing partial government shutdown, although Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen subsequently said the department is actually "fully prepared" for the event.

It's the House speaker's role to invite the president to the State of the Union, and Pelosi did not actually say Wednesday the event was off or that she wouldn't bring a Jan. 29 resolution up for approval. But either way, White House officials reportedly see Pelosi's move as "a sign of weakness" in the shutdown fight, believing she's afraid Trump will use the address to rally the nation to his side.

Trump himself has not yet officially responded to Pelosi's State of the Union suggestion. Brendan Morrow

7:36 a.m.

When Michael Cohen infamously questioned the legitimacy of presidential polls in 2016, it seems he knew a thing or two about trying to rig them.

President Trump's former attorney hired an IT firm to manipulate online polls for Trump before he entered the 2016 race, The Wall Street Journal reports. John Gauger, owner of RedFinch Solutions LLC, says Cohen promised him $50,000 for work that included trying to manipulate a Drudge Report poll of possible Republican presidential candidates in 2015. Cohen also reportedly asked Gauger to tinker with a CNBC poll of America's top business leaders in 2014.

Gauger says Cohen paid him around $12,500 in a Walmart bag full of cash (and "a boxing glove that Mr. Cohen said had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter") but never gave him the rest of the money, even though Trump reimbursed Cohen for $50,000 in "tech services." Cohen denied paying with a bag of cash, telling the Journal he used a check.

Gauger says Cohen did end up paying him more money later for additional services, though. This apparently included having Gauger make a Cohen fan account during the 2016 election called @WomenForCohen, which labeled Cohen a "sex symbol."

Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to violating campaign finance laws, saying he paid off women who alleged they had affairs with Trump before he ran for president, which Trump denies. Cohen will testify before Congress next month and reportedly plans to detail his personal experience working for the president, with one source saying he's "going to say things that will give you chills."

As for the poll-rigging efforts, Journal notes Gauger was unsuccessful. In the Drudge poll, Trump ended up in fifth place with five percent of the vote, and in the CNBC poll, he didn't even make it into the top 100. Brendan Morrow

5:32 a.m.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has a new book out that "chronicles his time in [President] Trump's inner circle, and it's called Let Me Finish," Stephen Colbert noted on Wednesday's Late Show. "And how dare you suggest that the original title was Are You Gonna Finish That?" In the book, he adds, Christie calls Trump's team "a 'revolving door of deeply flawed individuals — amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconnected felons' — yeah, and that's just Don Jr."

Christie recalls that when he first met Trump, at a 2002 dinner, Trump ordered his food, picking items he was allergic to or detested, leading Christie to wonder if "Trump took him to be 'one of his chicks.' Well, check your bank account," Colbert said. "Is there $130,000 in there?" Trump also reportedly told Christie to lose weight and exhorted him to wear a longer tie, saying it would make him look thinner. "Aha! My God, he does it on purpose!" Colbert said, elaborating in his Trump voice and ending with Christie's thoughts on Jared Kushner.

The Late Show also briefly touched on the Brexit mess, imagining how Britain's most famous nanny might react to the potential zombie-filled anarchy in the U.K. in a trailer for Mary Poppins Post-Brexit.

On The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon tackled a different Hollywood film, the new Spider-Man, and a different government in chaos, crafting a TSA-themed trailer for Spider-Man: Staying Home. Fallon also touched on other aspects of the shutdown, including Trump's apparent boredom from being cooped up in the White House. He even turned that into a Dr. Seussian story. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:31 a.m.

"This wasn't the argument that I set out to make," that Congress must impeach President Trump, Yoni Appelbaum says at The Atlantic. But after researching the previous three impeachments in U.S. history, it became clear pundits and Democratic leaders "have overlearned the lessons of Bill Clinton's impeachment, which backfired on his accusers" in 1998, "and entirely forgotten the real significance of Andrew Johnson's" in 1868.

By Appelbaum's estimation, Trump's multi-pronged "attack on the very foundations of America's constitutional democracy" already more than qualifies him for impeachment and removal from office, but even if the Senate disagrees and fails to convict, the process is its own remedy "in five distinct forms," he explains in The Atlantic's March cover story, posted online late Wednesday:

In these five ways — shifting the public's attention to the president's debilities, tipping the balance of power away from him, skimming off the froth of conspiratorial thinking, moving the fight to a rule-bound forum, and dealing lasting damage to his political prospects — the impeachment process has succeeded in the past. In fact, it's the very efficacy of these past efforts that should give Congress pause; it's a process that should be triggered only when a president's betrayal of his basic duties requires it. But Trump's conduct clearly meets that threshold. The only question is whether Congress will act. [Yoni Appelbaum, The Atlantic]

"It is absurd to suggest that the Constitution would delineate a mechanism too potent to ever actually be employed," Appelbaum writes. "With a newly seated Democratic majority, the House of Representatives can no longer dodge its constitutional duty. It must immediately open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and bring the debate out of the court of public opinion and into Congress, where it belongs." Read the entire history lesson and argument for impeachment, including where Bill Clinton's accusers went wrong and Hillary Clinton's earlier cameo in impeachment law, at The Atlantic.

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