June 19, 2017

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is reportedly on the hunt for the next Sean Spicer. Politico reported Monday that Spicer is heading up the search for his own replacement.

So far, Spicer and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus have reportedly contacted Daily Mail editor David Martosko and Fox News personality Laura Ingraham about the possibility of taking over the press briefing lectern for Spicer. Politico reported the discussions are still "preliminary" at this point, and another White House adviser noted that President Trump has not yet approved plans for a communications shop shake-up.

Spicer is apparently eyeing a "new senior role to both the communications director and press secretary," Politico reported. Though Trump has previously indicated he hasn't been satisfied with how Spicer has handled the press briefings, a White House official insisted Spicer is "indispensable" and "should be elevated." "The president owes him this much for all he's done for him," the White House official said. The official said they "would not blame" Spicer for leaving if he weren't promoted. Becca Stanek

2:00 p.m.

After years of reports and high-profile allegations, it seems a Lifetime documentary finally did the trick.

Sony Music is dropping its "working relationship with R. Kelly," Variety first reported Friday. The move comes after decades of allegations that Kelly sexually abused women and minors, and was made via an agreement between the company and the R&B singer, Billboard reports.

Kelly has been accused of running a "cult" of "brainwashed" women he draws in by promising affection or mentorship, most notably detailed in a massive BuzzFeed News report published in July 2017. The viral call to #MuteRKelly in the wake of that report prompted some responses, but a real turning point came last month with the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly. After several women and their families shared their emotional stories of abuse by Kelly onscreen, Lady Gaga took down her collaboration with Kelly, and now it seems Sony has taken action.

RCA Records, which represents Kelly, and its parent company Sony haven't officially announced the decision, but RCA Records no longer features Kelly on its website. Reports of Sony's decision came just as Kelly's former manager turned himself in on charges of making terroristic threats against a family who appeared in Surviving R. Kelly, per The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Kelly is also under investigation in Georgia and Chicago.

Variety asked RCA and Sony for comment, and both companies declined. Billboard's requests for comment haven't yet been answered. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:50 p.m.

Chris Christie quite literally has enough problems with Jared Kushner to fill a book.

The former New Jersey governor is set to publish Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics, which presumably spills a lot of dirt about President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law. If the title wasn't evidence enough, Politico printed a section of the book Friday, describing what Christie calls Kushner's plan "to derail my appointment as transition chairman."

In the spring of 2016, Christie stopped by Trump Tower to look over a press release announcing his appointment as Trump transition chair, he says in the Politico excerpt. Trump had just told Christie he was "really happy" about the appointment when they "heard a soft voice coming from just inside the open office door," Christie writes. It was Kushner, who Christie says he "didn't really know" at the time — except for the fact that he'd prosecuted Kushner's father in a massive tax evasion scheme a decade earlier.

As Trump told Kushner that Christie would be running the transition, "Jared's face remained stubbornly blank," Christie wrote. Kushner started to say Trump was "rushing" on this decision, but soon revealed his real gripes: Christie "tried to destroy my father," Kushner said, via Christie's recollection. Kushner spewed "very raw feelings that had been simmering for nearly a dozen years," maintaining his "soft quiver" of a voice the whole time, as Christie describes it.

Trump didn't seem convinced by Kushner's "decade-old rantings," Christie said, and offered they all work out the problem over dinner. Kushner turned him down, and Christie went on to become the transition chair. But that was far from the end of Kushner's "little game," Christie ominously finished. Read the whole excerpt from Let Me Finish at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:11 p.m.

President Trump's team is finally denying that he directed his former attorney to lie to Congress — about 14 hours after the allegation was first reported.

The president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said in a statement Friday, "Any suggestion — from any source — that the president counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false." Giuliani goes on to call Cohen a "criminal and a liar" and suggests he can not be trusted.

Giuliani had previously released a statement questioning Cohen's credibility, but this is the first time he has directly denied the allegations in the BuzzFeed News article and said they're false regardless of who is making them. Two White House officials had discussed the story on Fox Friday morning, first White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley and then White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, but neither of them would actually call the story false.

Although Giuliani has been criticizing Cohen in the aftermath of this bombshell report, Cohen himself wasn't actually a source for the story; BuzzFeed notes that he declined to comment. Instead, the news outlet cites two law enforcement officials, who said that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has spoken to multiple witnesses and has evidence that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress and had it before Cohen even began to cooperate with him. Anthony Cormier, one of the reporters behind the story, said Friday that the suggestion that Cohen fed them the information is "f---ing bulls--t." Brendan Morrow

11:34 a.m.

A White House spokesperson on Friday refused to say whether President Trump directed his attorney to lie to Congress.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News Friday it's "ludicrous" that a news outlet like BuzzFeed News is being taken seriously, with the term "news outlet" placed in air quotes. He argued that BuzzFeed's report, which contained the bombshell allegations, is uncorroborated and that the publication can't be trusted ever since it published the Steele dossier.

But strangely, when Fox News repeatedly asked Gidley to say whether the allegations in the story are true, he wouldn't directly answer. "So you're saying the president did not tell Michael Cohen to do that?" Bill Hemmer asked. Gidley dodged, just saying, "I'm telling you right now this is exactly why the president refuses to give any credence or credibility to news outlets because they have no ability to corroborate anything they put out there."

Hemmer quickly pointed out that "that was not a denial." Shortly after, Gidley was asked directly about the allegation, "Is that true or false?" Once again, Gidley wouldn't answer this very basic yes or no question. "I'm not going to give any credence or credibility to Michael Cohen, who's a convicted felon and an admitted liar," he said.

BuzzFeed's story cited two law enforcement officials as saying Special Counsel Robert Mueller had evidence that Trump instructed Cohen to lie to Congress. Trump on Twitter similarly criticized Cohen, though he was not a BuzzFeed source, writing that he is "lying to reduce his jail time!" Watch the bizarre Gidley interview below. Brendan Morrow

10:58 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is offended that you're offended.

Earlier this week, Pence's wife Karen Pence took a job at a Christian elementary school that explicitly bans "homosexual activity." And when detractors starting calling her out, Pence sat down with a Christian TV network Thursday to say their criticism was "deeply offensive."

News broke Tuesday that the second lady had taken a job at Immanuel Christian Elementary School in northern Virginia. She'll be teaching art twice a week to students whose parents have signed an "essentials of the faith" pledge that outlines just how they'll be educated. The 3-page document describes a swath of Christian values, mandating parents "regularly pray for the needs of my school, my child's teachers, the school administration, and school board." It also says the school can refuse admission to a student or expel them if they or someone in their home are found "participating in" or "supporting ... homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity."

Naturally, news organizations took note and LGBT activists craftily retaliated. But Pence said this reporting from "major news organizations" was proof they were "attacking Christian education," he said on the religious Eternal World Television Network. That's "deeply offensive to us," Pence added, but said he and Karen would "let the other critics roll off our back" and called for the end of "this criticism of Christian education in America."

Read more about the controversy at The Washington Post, or watch Pence's comments on EWTN below. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:41 a.m.

The bombshell BuzzFeed News story suggesting President Trump directed his attorney to lie to Congress barely got any coverage on Fox News Friday morning — other than when a Trump ally came on to dismiss the source.

Former congressman Newt Gingrich laughed through a Fox & Friends interview, dismissing BuzzFeed as the "equivalent of those tabloids you buy at the grocery store on the way out that introduce you to Martians and tell you the story of three stars who had anguished lives that you never knew about."

Gingrich also said that the allegations in the story could not possibly be true because Trump would not be "dumb enough" to lie to Congress.

The Fox & Friends hosts themselves didn't really talk about the story much. As Media Matters' Bobby Lewis points out, the story didn't even get mentioned until more than 40 minutes into the show. It came up as part of a brief news report, which was framed entirely around Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani's response. Giuliani had questioned the report's accuracy by suggesting Michael Cohen shouldn't be believed, even though Cohen wasn't actually the story's source.

During their interview with Gingrich, though, the hosts certainly didn't sound like they were giving the story much credence, with Steve Doocy asking "who are these law enforcement officials" quoted in the story. Doocy also emphasized that the reporter "never actually saw with his own two eyes ... that material." Watch a portion of the Gingrich interview below. Brendan Morrow

10:18 a.m.

Another election, another DNC hack?

The Democratic National Committee is piling onto its ongoing lawsuit against President Trump's 2016 campaign, Russia, and others, saying it was the intended victim of yet another cyberattack. Hackers — likely Russian ones — unsuccessfully tried to infiltrate DNC email addresses just days after the 2018 midterms, ABC News reports via court documents filed late Thursday night.

The DNC first faced a major hack in the summer of 2016 when thousands of its emails were posted on WikiLeaks by an alleged Russian agent. As the 2018 midterms approached, the threat of Russian interference and any hacking at all actually appeared pretty minimal, but this new court filing suggests those previous assumptions may not quite be true.

In Thursday's filing, the DNC alleged that "on Nov. 14, 2018, dozens of DNC email addresses were targeted in a spear-phishing campaign." The campaign didn't appear successful, the filing said. But the timing of the attack and the methods used resemble the work of a Russian hacking group alleged to have conducted the 2016 hack, the DNC claims, leading it to say "it is probable that Russian intelligence again attempted to unlawfully infiltrate DNC computers in November 2018."

These allegations add to the heap the DNC has already levied against the Trump campaign, its former chair Paul Manafort, Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, and the entire Russian federation, among many others. Read more about the new accusations at ABC News. Kathryn Krawczyk

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