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October 17, 2017

A Massachusetts pet supply company owner claims he was "duped" by the White House into appearing in the background of a photo of President Trump signing an executive order on health care. "I want to say strongly and clearly: I do not support this executive order," wrote Dave's Soda & Pet City owner Dave Ratner. "I had absolutely no clue he was adding all the onerous changes. I was duped, I am an idiot. I did not vote for Trump and I am not a Trump supporter."

Ratner said he was invited to the White House because of his involvement with the National Retail Federation, but that White House officials had not fully revealed what Trump would be signing:

We have long supported an effort that would give small businesses more flexibility in purchasing health insurance and we were told that a ceremony would announce that Associations could now provide members with group insurance rates (making health insurance more affordable for our employees).

It was obviously an error in judgment to believe the White House that this was the only change they would be announcing. Many of the other changes in the executive order are likely to make it harder for local residents to get affordable health care — the exact opposite of what I was hoping for when I went to Washington. [Dave Ratner, via MassLive]

Read the full letter at MassLive and check out the photo — with Ratner second from the left — below. Jeva Lange

Embed from Getty Images

1:03p.m.

It looks like Mira Ricardel, the former deputy national security adviser whose firing First Lady Melania Trump publicly requested, was not interested in the other job the White House had lined up for her.

After Ricardel was forced out of her White House job, the Trump administration offered Ricardel the position of ambassador to Estonia, Bloomberg reported Friday. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had previously said that Ricardel would have a "new role in the administration, per The New York Times. Bloomberg reports that Ricardel turned down that ambassador job but that President Trump is interested in keeping her to the point that she has been "presented nearly a dozen jobs from which to choose."

The first lady had taken the extraordinary step of calling for Ricardel's firing on Tuesday right after Ricardel appeared at a White House event. This was reportedly after a series of run-ins between Ricardel and the office of the first lady, including one fight over plane seating on Melania Trump's recent trip to Africa. Ricardel said in a statement Friday that "it's been an honor to serve the president as deputy national security adviser," suggesting she hopes to stay on in some capacity by adding, "I look forward to working with them in the months ahead." Read more at Bloomberg. Brendan Morrow

12:47p.m.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is stepping down as Senate Judiciary Committee chair, paving the way for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to lead.

Grassley announced Friday that he'll leave his chairmanship to lead the Senate Finance Committee. The move likely leaves Graham, a recent ally of President Trump's, in charge of the committee, and could be why Graham met with Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker on Thursday.

The Iowa senator became Judiciary Committee chair when Republicans retook the Senate in 2015, and recently led the very public confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Still, it was Graham who took center stage in the questioning, vehemently defending Kavanaugh and slamming Democrats every step of the way.

Graham has also stepped further into the spotlight as he's gone from Trump enemy to pal. But as rumors swirled that Trump installed Whitaker because he's been critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, Graham met with Whitaker and later said he "has every confidence" the acting attorney general will let Mueller "complete his job." Graham has also said Whitaker shouldn't have to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller's probe.

Graham on Friday acknowledged that he'll likely be the next senator to oversee the Justice Department and outlined his goals in a tweet. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:49a.m.

CNN just won a major victory in its lawsuit against President Trump. A judge said on Friday that the White House must restore CNN reporter Jim Acosta's press pass.

Judge Timothy J. Kelly, who was appointed by Trump, said that the White House did not provide Acosta with due process when it suspended his press pass last week, per CNN. Trump had done so after a contentious exchange during a press conference, in which Acosta held on to the microphone to ask a follow-up question as an intern tried to take it away. CNN sued members of the Trump administration, arguing that the suspension violated Acosta's First and Fifth Amendment rights.

Kelly did not actually reach a conclusion in the case itself, but he granted CNN's request for a temporary restraining order that will allow Acosta to return to work at the White House. The judge did, however, say that his ruling was limited and suggested the White House could try to revoke the pass again should it provide Acosta with due process, CNN reports.

CNN celebrated the decision on Friday. "We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days," the network said in a statement. The network is also looking to have the judge rule on whether the decision to revoke Acosta's press pass was unconstitutional, and the case could still head to trial, The Washington Post reports. The White House subsequently said that it would "temporarily reinstate" Acosta's pass and "further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future." Brendan Morrow

11:36a.m.

Amazon's HQ2 means up to 25,000 new workers could end up in New York City. It also means there will be nearly 5,000 fewer homes for city's residents.

Queens-based manufacturer Plaxall had developed an in-depth plan to build 4,995 new homes in Long Island City, "1,250 of which developers would have set aside for low- and middle-income New Yorkers," Politico reports. But Amazon's imminent arrival has zapped much of their plans.

On Tuesday, Amazon confirmed it would split its second headquarters between Long Island City, Queens, and Crystal City, Virginia. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio discussed the plan in a press conference later that day, saying that putting "one of the biggest companies on earth next to the biggest public housing development in the United States — the synergy is going to be extraordinary." The mayor promised to create 300,000 affordable apartments by 2026.

But the massive Amazon deal doesn't exactly match up with De Blasio's words. Plaxall will be left with just two of the 14.7 acres it originally slated for housing, and the company might just turn those leftovers into office space, Politico says. Another developer will lose space it set aside for 1,000 new units, including 250 that would've been designated as affordable.

Queensbridge public housing residents have mixed feelings about their new neighbors, especially since "the deal does not require Amazon give preferential hiring treatment" to public housing tenants, writes the New York Post. The deal will also cost New York $1.525 billion in tax incentives, leading Long Island City's state Sen. Michael Gianaris to tell Politico "the more we learn about this deal, the worse it gets." Kathryn Krawczyk

11:23a.m.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is still receiving constant protection from the taxpayer-funded U.S. Marshals Service, and the security detail is now expected to cost nearly $20 million through September 2019, NBC News reported Friday.

DeVos has received this around-the-clock protection since being confirmed in February 2017, as was previously reported, with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions granting the request. This arrangement is unusual, NBC News writes, because an education secretary’s security would typically be handled by the department's internal enforcement, and DeVos is the only current member of the cabinet who has such a detail arranged.

In terms of the price tag, the report notes that former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's security cost $3.5 million during his first year in office, and the EPA's inspector general found that price tag to be "not justified." DeVos' security, on the other hand, is estimated to cost taxpayers $7.7 million just for the next fiscal year. It will reportedly be reimbursed by the Department of Education.

The request for this detail was made shortly after DeVos was heckled by a group of protesters when she visited a middle school in February 2017. The Justice Department says the order was issued after the Department of Education contacted them about "threats received by the Secretary of Education," although an Education Department spokesperson says DeVos didn't make the request. Since she started receiving her security detail, DeVos has reportedly spent less than four percent of her time visiting public schools. Read more at NBC News. Brendan Morrow

10:07a.m.

William Goldman, the award-winning screenwriter behind The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and All the President's Men, has died at 87, Deadline and The Washington Post reported Friday.

Goldman died Thursday night at his home in Manhattan, Deadline reports, noting that he had been in ill health and his condition had deteriorated over the summer. No cause of death has been released.

Goldman began his career as a novelist, but he soon transitioned into Hollywood and became best known for his movies — screenwriter C. Robert Cargill on Friday described him as the "patron saint of screenwriting." His first screenplay was the 1969 classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, for which he took home an Academy Award. He would go on to win a second Academy Award for writing All the President's Men in 1976, and he also wrote the screenplay for The Princess Bride, which was based on his novel of the same name. Over the course of his career, Goldman produced dozens of screenplays and consistently worked as a script doctor; some of his other movies included The Stepford Wives, Marathon Man, Heat, Misery, and Chaplin.

After winning his second Oscar, Goldman shared his knowledge of the industry in the book Adventures in the Screen Trade, in which he famously declared that in Hollywood, "Nobody knows anything." Brendan Morrow

9:24a.m.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended an inspection of what state media there is describing as an "ultramodern tactical weapon," The Washington Post reports Friday.

This is the first time North Korea has publicly announced a weapons test since November 2017, CBS News reports, while noting that this does not appear to be a nuclear device or a long-range missile; the country previously said it would suspend its nuclear and missile tests. A military expert told CBS News that a "tactical weapon" in North Korea would refer to a "weapon aimed at striking South Korea, including U.S. military bases." An anonymous South Korean government official told CNN that it's likely a "multiple rocket launcher;" a South Korean-based researcher told CNN it's probably not a missile, though, as South Korea would have detected that.

Since President Trump participated in a summit with Kim Jong Un earlier this year, North Korea has demanded sanctions against them be lifted, and a North Korean Foreign Ministry official recently said Kim could start "building up nuclear forces" if the U.S. doesn't do so, CNN reports. Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday said Trump and Kim will meet again in 2019 even without North Korea providing a list of its nuclear weapons and missile sites, though Pence said it's "imperative" for the U.S. to come away from this second summit with a "plan for dismantling nuclear weapons." North Korea's state media said Friday that Kim was could barely contain his "passionate joy" after the successful weapons test, The Washington Post reports. Brendan Morrow

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