August 3, 2017
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On Wednesday night, the White House announced that Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the head of the National Security Council's intelligence programs, had been sacked, the latest of what The New York Times calls National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster's "slow-motion purge of hard-line officials" at the NSC, especially those appointed by his predecessor, Michael Flynn, and allied with White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and his antiglobalist views.

Derek Harvey, a top Middle East adviser who focused on Iran policy, was dismissed last week, and McMaster fired Rich Higgins, the NSC director of strategic planning, on July 21, after he was reprimanded for writing a memo on perceived threats to Trump and his agenda from "globalists," bankers, "Islamists," the American "deep state," and other perceived Trump enemies, according to The Atlantic, which published excerpts from the memo on Wednesday. Also pushed out last month was Tera Dahl, the NSC deputy chief of staff and a former Breitbart News writer. Soon after his appointment, McMaster had sidelined K.T. McFarland, Flynn's deputy national security adviser and now ambassador to Singapore.

McMaster had tried to fire Cohen-Watnick earlier this year, but was blocked by Bannon and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner; Kushner, who is also Trump's son-in-law, dropped his objection this week, The New York Times reports. Cohen-Watnick gained some notoriety for briefing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on classified information about incidental surveillance of Trump campaign officials. "General McMaster appreciates the good work accomplished in the NSC's Intelligence directorate under Ezra Cohen's leadership," the White House said in a statement. "He has determined that, at this time, a different set of experiences is best-suited to carrying that work forward." Peter Weber

3:11 a.m. ET

President Trump told Reuters on Monday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump campaign and Russian election interference has "played right into the Russians — if it was Russia — they played right into the Russians' hands," and he blamed the probe for hindering his ability to strengthen ties with Moscow. "I can go in, and I could do whatever — I could run it if I want," he said of the investigation. "I'm totally allowed to be involved if I wanted to be. So far, I haven't chosen to be involved." On CNN Monday night Chris Cuomo asked former Attorney General Michael Mukasey about Trump's assertion.

Up to that point in the interview, Mukasey, who served during George W. Bush's last year in office, had defended Trump's conduct in the Mueller investigation, saying the president's fear of a "perjury trap" was "not entirely unreasonable" and White House Counsel Don McGahn's decision to cooperate extensively with Mueller "was helpful" to Trump and suggested no crimes were committed by the president.

But when Cuomo asked if Trump could really take over the Mueller investigation, Mukasey rolled his eyes. "Of course not, it's ridiculous," he said. Cuomo noted that Trump says he can. "He says a lot of things," Mukasey said. "You're here to defend that proposition, by the way," Cuomo said, laughing. "Come on," Mukasey said, sighing and trying to formulate a legal rationale. "But it would be zany. We would be living in an even more unreal world than we're living in now." Watch below. Peter Weber

1:59 a.m. ET
Austin Sapin/University of Miami, via AP

The University of Miami's football team will make history with their uniforms during the season opener against LSU on Sept. 2.

The Hurricanes will become the first college team to don uniforms, cleats, and gloves made from repurposed ocean waste. Adidas worked with Parley for the Oceans, an organization that brings attention to the amount of plastic garbage in the world's oceans, to design the uniforms.

Each uniform is made with ECONYL yarn, repurposed from fishing nets and other nylon waste, USA Today reports. The uniforms are primarily orange, with wave and palm patterns to "pay homage to South Florida landscapes." Coach Mark Richt said in a statement the team is happy to "help promote sustainability around the world," as "community service has always been an integral part of our football program." Catherine Garcia

1:49 a.m. ET
Alexey Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images

Microsoft said Tuesday it has shut down another six websites created by hackers linked to Russia's military intelligence, with the newest targets the U.S. Senate and two conservative think tanks critical of Russia and President Trump, the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. Microsoft won a court order last year to shut down fake web domains created by the hacking group it calls Strontium, also known as Fancy Bear and APT 28, and including the six just shuttered, the company has used this legal authority to shut down 84 fake Strontium-created sites.

"We are now seeing another uptick in attacks," Microsoft President and chief legal officer Brad Smith told The New York Times on Monday. "These are organizations that are informally tied to Republicans," he added, "so we see them broadening beyond the sites they have targeted in the past." Microsoft discovered an attempted Strontium attack on Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-Mo.) network in July, and the same group hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016, according to an indictment from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. "This activity is most fundamentally focused on disrupting democracy," Smith told The Associated Press, adding, "We have no doubt in our minds" who is responsible for the fake sites.

The spoofed websites of the Senate, Hudson Institute, and IRI contained malware that would make anyone who clicked on the sites vulnerable to hacking, surveillance, and data theft, but Smith said there's no indication anyone actually clicked on the sites while they were live. Thomas Rid at Johns Hopkins University says "Microsoft is playing whack-a-mole here," because the sites are "easy to register and bring back up" when shut down. "These attacks keep happening because they work," he said. "They are successful again and again." You can read more about how Russia is working to disrupt America's 2018 elections at The Week. Peter Weber

1:21 a.m. ET
AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Protesters tore down a statue of a Confederate soldier Monday night on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Silent Sam was erected in 1913, a gift from the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In a statement, the university said there was a crowd of about 250 protesters, and a small group brought Silent Sam down, adding: "Tonight's actions were dangerous, and we are very fortunate that no one was injured. We are investigating the vandalism and assessing the full extent of the damage." Gov. Roy Cooper's (D) official Twitter account posted a message saying he "understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change and he shares their frustration, but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities."

For years, students, alumni, and faculty members have been calling for the removal of the controversial statue. CBS News reports that recently, UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith said "neither UNC-Chapel Hill nor the UNC system have the legal authority to unilaterally relocate the Silent Sam statue," and there was a meeting scheduled for Wednesday in the state Capitol to discuss the monument. Catherine Garcia

12:37 a.m. ET

What's old is new again, with MTV announcing that a reboot of The Hills is in the works.

The Hills, a spinoff of the classic teen reality show Laguna Beach, aired on MTV from 2006 to 2010. A promo for The Hills: New Beginnings aired during Monday night's VMAs, and several of the show's stars — Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt, Audrina Patridge, Jason Wahler, Justin Bobby Brescia, Stephanie Pratt, and Frankie Delgado — were at the ceremony, posing together on the red carpet.

The Hills: New Beginnings will focus on their lives in Los Angeles now, featuring their children, spouses, and friends. Two Hills stars were notably absent on Monday night: Lauren Conrad and Kristin Cavallari, who now has her own reality show, E's Very Cavallari.

A person close to Conrad told People she's content with her life as a new mom, wife, and fashion designer, and although she was the star of both Laguna Beach and The Hills, she won't appear on the reboot. "She's in a different place in her life," the friend said. "But she wants everyone to enjoy themselves. She wishes everyone the best." The Hills: New Beginnings will premiere in 2019. Watch the way-too-short promo below. Catherine Garcia

12:30 a.m. ET
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There are a couple of theories on why President Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan.

Two White House officials told The Washington Post that Trump viscerally hates Brennan and believes targeting him made the president look strong and decisive, adding that Trump has the paperwork ready to hit other officials tied to the Trump-Russia investigation. Four sources close to Trump told Axios that Trump discovered, thanks to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), that he could revoke security clearances unilaterally, like issuing pardons and signing executives orders, and he's enjoying the thrill and instant gratification of another absolute power.

Another common theory is that Trump is trying to silence dissent within the intelligence community. But Trump's Twitter feed bolsters a theory by Eli Lake, who argued in Bloomberg that "far from trying to silence Brennan, Trump is elevating him. He wants to make Brennan the face of the so-called resistance. This is the Trump playbook. Why do you think he keeps tweeting about Maxine Waters?" Trump views Brennan as "a perfect adversary," Lake says, because he distracts from Trump's other scandals, represents the so-called "deep state" Trump rails against, and makes "an easy political target."

Trump has been tweeting about Brennan all weekend and throughout Monday, but since he moved against him last week, basically the entire intelligence and foreign policy community not currently working for Trump has publicly criticized the president and his politicization of national security. The first dissent was from retired Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and then more than a dozen CIA chiefs and deputy chiefs from every administration dating back to Ronald Reagan's signed their own statement, followed by 60 prominent former CIA analysts and officials, and 177 other former U.S. national security and foreign policy officials released their own letter on Monday. You can read all their names and titles at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

August 20, 2018

Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart got Monday night's 2018 MTV VMAs started with a good old fashioned roast, targeting everyone from DJ Khaled to Camila Cabello to President Trump.

"We are live coast to coast right now," Hart said. "I'm looking at this like it's game day people, but don't worry, at this game you guys are allowed to kneel. You can do whatever the hell you want, there's no old white guy here to stop you."

After a herpes joke aimed at the cast of Jersey Shore, Hart picked on rappers Lil Pump and Lil Xan, also known as the "reasons your 12-year-old cousin wants a face tattoo. Stop writing on your goddamn face. Stop writing on your face. It's stupid. You're not going to get a job if this s—t don't work out. Stop it." Then, it was back to Trump. "You never know what's going to happen at the VMAs," Hart said. There's "bad language" and people who "run to the bathroom and send out crazy tweets. It's basically like your typical day at the White House. In your face, Trump! Suck it." Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

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