February 8, 2018

On Thursday, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah began the daily press briefing by addressing the departure of former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter. In the last two days, The Daily Mail and The Intercept published stories alleging that Porter physically abused his two ex-wives.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly learned about the allegations months ago when Porter applied for a security clearance. But on Wednesday, Kelly and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders both issued statements defending Porter's character, even after he submitted his resignation.

CNN's Jim Acosta asked Shah whether Kelly had any "regrets" about the way Porter's departure was handled. Shah called the allegations that surfaced against Porter "deeply troubling" and "shocking" and said "we all could have done better over … the last few days in dealing with the situation." However, Shah insisted that "the initial reports were not reflective of the [Porter] we had come to know."

In the course of his remarks, Shah also appeared to contradict the White House's official explanation of Porter's departure. ABC News' Cecilia Vega noted that the White House initially said his exit was a "personal" decision, but Shah on Thursday first said that Porter had been "terminated" Wednesday, before then saying that Porter "offered his resignation" Wednesday, and "it was accepted."

Later in the briefing, Shah claimed that Kelly's statement defending Porter was released before he saw the pictures one of Porter's ex-wives provided documenting his alleged abuse, though The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey noted that Kelly's statement came after the images went public. Kelly O'Meara Morales

3:21 p.m.

Florida prosecutors are reportedly already prepared to cut a deal with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Kraft was among 25 people charged last month with soliciting a prostitute at a Florida "spa" where women worked in "sexual servitude," police said at the time. Now, prosecutors are saying they'll drop the charges against Kraft and the other people charged if they "admit they would have been proven guilty at trial," The Wall Street Journal reports.

Under the reported deal, all the people charged in the prostitution sting would have to take an education course on prostitution, complete 100 hours of community service, be tested for STDs, and pay some court fees to get their charges dropped, per the Journal. But in what the Journal calls an "unusual provision," those charged would also have to look at the evidence against them and admit that, if they faced a trial, they'd be proven guilty.

A spokesperson for the Florida state attorney's office said this is "the standard resolution for first-time offenders," per the Journal. Kraft's lawyers denied any illegal activity after his arrest, so there's a chance he may still try to fight the charges in court.

Police in Jupiter, Florida, unveiled their bust of a massive prostitution ring centered in a Palm Beach County massage parlor last month. The founder and former owner of the spa, Cindy Yang, was later found to have visited President Trump's club at Mar-a-Lago several times, was invited to the White House, and reportedly said she could sell access to Trump. Kraft and Trump have been close friends for years. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:36 p.m.

Amy O'Rourke's life doesn't look anything like what her husband Beto promised her 14 years ago.

When the couple first moved in together, Beto wrote a letter to Amy promising her a life of "listening to music, making dinner for friends" and "drinking wine on the front porch." Now Beto's running for president — and it's "completely contrary" to what Amy had envisioned for them, she tells The Washington Post in a profile published Tuesday.

Beto proposed to Amy on April Fool's Day, just four months after they met. The Post calls the date "appropriate," considering the antics Beto pulled once they were married:

And then there were the pranks: the remote-controlled cockroach in the kitchen, the "Psycho"-style scares in the shower. One time, according to a friend, Beto collected an especially verdant turd from one of their kids' diapers and put it in a bowl, telling Amy it was avocado. (Neither would confirm this, though Beto did allow it sounded like something he'd do.)

Though less disgusting, Amy did recount a few more issues she had with Beto in the following years to the Post. Beto was on El Paso, Texas' city council when they met, but when he said he wanted to run for Congress, she cried. He won, and it then took Beto's loss in 2018's Texas Senate race to bring him home to his three kids for his "longest stretch of time ... in seven years," the Post writes. Beto asked Amy if she'd like him to quit politics at that point, but Amy — though she'd seen "the pain in her kids' eyes when their calls kept going to voice mail" — said no.

Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:34 p.m.

Google has just unveiled its potentially revolutionary new video game streaming service, Stadia.

The company's new platform, which was announced on Tuesday at the 2019 Game Developers Conference, will allow users to stream video games across their desktops, laptops, TVs, tablets, and phones without the need for expensive hardware, per CNBC. The company said, per The Verge, that the service will allow for "instant access to play" since no downloads are required, and it says users will be able to jump into a game in less than five seconds, writes The Hollywood Reporter. An announcement video for Stadia declares, "The future of gaming is not a box. It's a place."

Stadia will work on devices with a Chrome browser, with Google having previously tested a program that allowed users to stream Assassin's Creed Odyssey in a browser, TechCrunch reports. Although you'll be able to use USB controllers or your keyboard and mouse with Stadia, Google will also launch a controller with it, which connects directly to WiFi. No price point for Stadia has been announced, nor has a full line-up of launch titles, although one of them will be Doom Eternal, reports The Verge.

Google is the latest company to jump into the cloud gaming pool — Microsoft previously announced its own video game streaming service called Project xCloud. Amazon and Apple both reportedly plan to launch a similar services as the race to become the definitive "Netflix for games" heats up. Brendan Morrow

2:31 p.m.

"Democracy in the United Kingdom is all but dead." That's according to Donald Trump Jr., at least.

The Telegraph published a scathing op-ed on the Brexit chaos in the U.K. written by President Trump's eldest son on Tuesday.

In the piece, Trump Jr. criticizes Prime Minister Theresa May for ignoring advice from his father, who expressed a similar, though less dramatic, sentiment about the withdrawal process last week. "I gave the Prime Minister my ideas on how to negotiate it," the president said last Thursday. "She didn't listen to that and that's fine."

Trump Jr. wrote that Brexit was akin to his father's 2016 presidential election victory, which he argues was followed not by a peaceful transition of power, but instead by attempts by Democrats and "deep state" operatives to subvert the will of the American people.

Both Brexit and the 2016 election, Trump Jr. writes, were votes "to uproot the establishment for the sake of individual freedom and independence, only to see the establishment try to silence their voices and overturn their mandates." He added that what is happening in Washington and between London and the EU is "the desperate, last-gasp attempt by those previously in power to cling on to what was once theirs."

He ended the piece by declaring "the battle for independence" has only just begun. Read the op-ed at The Telegraph. Tim O'Donnell

1:37 p.m.

Two more 2020 Democrats say eliminating the Electoral College may be the way to go.

Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke on Tuesday said that there's "a lot of wisdom to" the idea of abolishing the Electoral College, pointing to the fact that in 2016, "the loser got three million more votes than the victor," per NBC's Kailani Koenig. The system puts "some states out of play altogether" and makes it so they "don't feel like their votes really count," he argued. O'Rourke also said that "if we really want every person to vote ... we've got to make sure their votes count."

O'Rourke didn't formally back the proposal, though, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) did during an event on Monday. The Massachusets senator said that making sure that "every vote matters" means it's necessary to "get rid of the Electoral College," per The New York Times. Republicans have criticized this idea, with Sen. Marco Rubio (D-Fla.) saying on Tuesday that "ironically [the] same people always preaching about our 'constitutional norms' want to change the ones they find inconvenient."

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, another 2020 Democrat, also called for eliminating the Electoral College, telling The Washington Post on Tuesday, "It's gotta go." Brendan Morrow

1:03 p.m.

President Trump on Tuesday attacked late Senator John McCain for the fourth time in as many days, this time during a meeting with the president of Brazil.

While speaking to reporters in the Oval Office alongside Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, Trump yet again criticized the Republican senator who died in 2018 following a battle with cancer. When asked why he has been going after McCain, Trump said that he is "very unhappy" that McCain didn't vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017. "I think that's disgraceful," said Trump. "Plus, there are other things."

"I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be," Trump added. Per CNN's Manu Raju, the president did not take a follow-up question about whether his attacks on the late senator are "beneath the dignity of the office."

Trump repeatedly went after McCain on Twitter over the weekend, attacking him for his ObamaCare vote and falsely accusing him of leaking the Russia dossier written by Christopher Steele to the media before the 2016 election and of being last in his class. Trump also retweeted a supporter who wrote that "we hated McCain."

McCain's daughter, Meghan McCain, responded to Trump's attacks on Monday by saying that the president will "never be a great man" and that he leads a "pathetic life." Brendan Morrow

12:25 p.m.

On Monday, a judge in the Southern District of New York ordered the public release of a search warrant that allowed the FBI to raid the office and hotel of President Trump's then-lawyer Michael Cohen in April 2018. The 269-page warrant reveals that investigators were looking into Cohen as early as July 2017, and provides new insight on what led him to cooperate with prosecutors. Here are five more stunning takeaways from the release.

1. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office suspected Cohen was a foreign agent. Beyond the crimes Cohen was eventually charged with, the warrant also said Mueller probed Cohen on suspicion that he committed money laundering and acted as an unregistered foreign agent.

2. Cohen got money from Russia. From January to August 2017, Cohen received a total of $583,332 from a company headed by Russian national Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg is close with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is currently under U.S. sanctions, and has reportedly been interviewed by Mueller.

3. FBI agents didn't want to knock on the wrong door. FBI agents used a cell phone tracker called a "triggerfish" to figure out exactly which room Cohen was using in a Manhattan hotel, NBC News details. They also wanted a device that would track Cohen's incoming and outgoing calls, but didn't want to listen in on them.

4. Trump exposed Cohen's Gmail. Despite the warrant's orders, Google wouldn't hand over data stored on "servers located outside of the United States." But Trump soon signed a law giving U.S. law enforcement enhanced access to overseas servers, prompting U.S. prosecutors to return to court and eventually win access to Cohen's Gmail.

5. There's a lot still left sealed. At least 19 consecutive pages covering an "illegal campaign contribution scheme" allegedly involving Trump were redacted in Tuesday's release. That implies a SDNY investigation — which already turned out a plea deal with Cohen — is still ongoing, CNN's Manu Raju says.

Find the whole warrant here. Kathryn Krawczyk

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