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September 6, 2017

Facebook admitted Wednesday that it unknowingly sold $100,000 worth of ads to a Russian "troll farm" during the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reports. The ads began running in the summer of 2015 and link back to a St. Petersburg company called the Internet Research Agency, which has been known to push Kremlin propaganda.

Facebook informed congressional investigators Wednesday that it had discovered the link to Russia. "Even though the ad spending from Russia is tiny relative to overall campaign costs, the report from Facebook that a Russian firm was able to target political messages is likely to fuel pointed questions from investigators about whether the Russians received guidance from people in the United States — a question some Democrats have been asking for months," the Post writes.

Confronted with allegations that Facebook served as a hotbed for fake news and propaganda during the election, founder Mark Zuckerberg claimed in November that 99 percent of the news on Facebook was real and only "a very small amount" was untrue. Facebook discovered the ads' links to Russia in an investigation that began this spring.

The Russian ads were "directed at people on Facebook who had expressed interest in subjects explored on those pages, such as LGBT community, black social issues, the Second Amendment, and immigration," a Facebook official told the Post. While the social media company would not reveal what exactly the ads were, the Post reveals Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were directly named.

During its investigation, Facebook uncovered 470 suspicious or fraudulent accounts and pages it believes are linked to Russia. A total of 3,300 ads led back to the troll farm. Read the full report at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

7:26 p.m.

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner uses WhatsApp to communicate with foreign leaders in his official capacity, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a letter released Thursday.

Cummings, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, sent the letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. Cummings wrote that in December, Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, met with Cummings and then-House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and told them about his client's use of WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging service that uses the internet to make calls and send text, photos, and videos.

Kushner's wife, Ivanka Trump, is also a senior adviser to the president, and Cummings wrote that she is not preserving all of her official emails, as required by law. Lowell, he wrote, shared that she still receives business emails sent to her personal email, but doesn't forward messages to her official account unless she responds to it.

Lowell responded with his own letter to Cummings on Thursday, writing that he "never said [Kushner's] communications through any app was with foreign 'leaders' or 'officials.' I said he has used those communications with 'some people' and I did not specify who they were." He also said he never told Cummings or Gowdy that Ivanka Trump receives business emails to her personal account, but does not forward them. Catherine Garcia

5:41 p.m.

There's more to President Trump's free speech order than meets the ear.

In a Thursday press conference, Trump railed against colleges and universities for becoming "increasingly hostile to free speech." So he said he's unveiling an executive order to punish those "anti-First Amendment institutions" by withholding their federal research funds — while simultaneously tackling the ballooning student loan industry.

Millions of Americans hold a collective $1.5 trillion in student debt, per the most recent Federal Reserve statistics. Trump's order tackles that problem in some fairly expected ways: Crafting a federal website that shows students their loan "risks" and "repayment options," and making sure colleges educate students on those same things. Yet CBS News' Kathryn Watson also highlighted a more unexpected part of Trump's Thursday conference:

The details of that proposed proposal aren't included in the actual text of the order, so it's unclear just how the Department of Education will make it happen. Trump also didn't elaborate much further, instead just going on to share how much he loves loans. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:14 p.m.

The Florida man accused of sending bombs to CNN and opponents of President Trump pleaded guilty on Thursday.

Cesar Sayoc appeared before a federal judge in New York and was expected to plead guilty to mailing the 16 packages in October. In an earlier trial, Sayoc pleaded not guilty, but his original pretrial conference scheduled for today was changed to a plea hearing, hinting at a deal, per The Washington Post.

Sayoc was originally indicted on 30 charges, including making threats against former presidents, and the illegal mailing of explosives. It's unclear which of those charges he pleaded guilty to on Thursday.

The first of 16 devices was sent to Democratic megadonor George Soros last year, and more bombs were directed at Hillary Clinton, Robert De Niro, and others who had criticized Trump. They also went to the CNN newsroom in New York City. None of the devices detonated. Sayoc was found in Florida a few days after the panic, and was living in a van covered in pro-Trump stickers. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:17 p.m.

Fox News isn't letting Jeanine Pirro back on the air just yet.

Pirro's show, Justice with Judge Jeanine, is once again not on the network's schedule for this Saturday, reports Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. Fox had pulled the show last week after Pirro questioned whether Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is loyal to the United States because she wears a hijab, asking, "Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Shariah law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?”

This immediately prompted some advertisers to pull out of the show and drew a rare rebuke from Fox News, which said it "strongly" condemns her statements and that they "do not reflect those of the network." Pirro in response said her "intention was to ask a question and start a debate," per The Associated Press. She is currently suspended, The New York Times reports, although Fox has yet to confirm this or comment on the future of her show. A rerun of Fox's documentary series Scandalous is currently set to air in Pirro's usual Saturday time slot on March 23.

This will come as bad news to President Trump, who tweeted last week in support of Pirro, saying Fox should "fight hard" for her and "stop working soooo hard on being politically correct." Brendan Morrow

3:51 p.m.

Ex-San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick was rumored to be landing $60-80 million from his settlement with the NFL. That may have been wishful thinking.

Last month, the NFL announced it reached a settlement with Kaepernick and Eric Reid, who sued the league after they were apparently blacklisted from playing due to their protests during the national anthem. The confidential settlement seemed like a big win for the players, but with the The Wall Street Journal reporting that they'll only receive less than $10 million, that may not be quite true.

Both the NFL and the players declined to discuss what was in the February settlement, but Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman said NFL team officials guessed the league paid Kaepernick around $60-80 million. This new number, which comes via people briefed on the deal, "is far less than the tens of millions of dollars" Kaepernick probably would've gotten if he'd won the lawsuit. It's unclear if the reported $10 million will be split between the two players, or how much of it would go to cover legal fees.

Kaepernick first opted to sit during the national anthem to protest racial injustice at 2016 game, sparking dozens of other players, including Reid, to take a similar stance. Kaepernick didn't get signed to a team the next year and sued the NFL, while Reid similarly sued but was signed to the Carolina Panthers during the 2018 season.

The NFL declined to comment, while an attorney for Kaepernick and Reid said they would keep the deal confidential. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:49 p.m.

Emilia Clarke has just revealed in a powerful essay that she has survived two life-threatening brain aneurysms since her work on Game of Thrones began.

The Daenerys Targaryen actress in an essay for The New Yorker on Thursday writes that in February 2011, two months before the first season's premiere, she suffered a type of stroke that kills one-third of patients, being rushed to the hospital after experiencing a "shooting, stabbing, constricting pain." Following a three-hour surgery, Clarke says she suffered from aphasia and couldn't even remember her name.

"In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug," she writes. "I asked the medical staff to let me die."

Clarke says she was told she had a smaller aneurysm in her brain that "could 'pop' at any time," so when she went back to filming Game of Thrones, "every minute of every day I thought I was going to die." She eventually received a second surgery for this other aneurysm, but it didn't go according to plan. "I had a massive bleed and the doctors made it plain that my chances of surviving were precarious if they didn't operate again," she says. The recovery from this more intrusive surgery was even more painful, she describes, saying she was "convinced that I wasn't going to live."

Her fear didn't go away after she was out of the hospital, and Clarke goes into detail about the pressure of trying to maintain her public persona while at the same time fearing she wouldn't be able to "cheat death" again. Once, she says she received a "horrific headache" at Comic-Con and thought, "This is it. My time is up."

Now, though, Clarke says she has "healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes" and has started a charity called SameYou to fund treatment for those who suffer from brain injuries and strokes. Read Clarke's emotional account at The New Yorker. Brendan Morrow

2:07 p.m.

President Trump just unleashed an incredibly consequential foreign policy decision in a single tweet — but what else is new.

Just a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump decided that America would recognize Golan Heights as Israeli territory. Syria and Israel have fought over the 460-square mile plateau for more than half a century, yet Trump settled its fate, at least in American eyes, in one surprising Thursday tweet.

Golan was Syrian land until Israel seized it in 1967, sparking a constant fight between the neighbors. Most recently, Israel has accused the Iran-backed group Hezbollah of setting up a terrorist cell in the region, per the Times of Israel. Netanyahu was expected to push Trump to support Israel's control over the region when they met next week, and three GOP lawmakers pleaded with Trump to do the same last week.

The move is largely seen as a strategic boost to Netanyahu's struggling re-election campaign, The New York Times notes. Beyond meeting with Trump, Netanyahu is also scheduled to speak to the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, which has recently been subject to increasing opposition from far-left Democrats. Kathryn Krawczyk

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