February 28, 2018

Stephen Bannon likened China, Turkey, and "Persia" to the Axis powers of World War II in a new GQ interview, claiming that the so-called "new axis" must be defeated by America and its allies. In order to make his point, Bannon reportedly "sketched a triangle" for reporter Ben Schreckinger, with the three countries labeling each of its vertices.

"What we're seeing today is China, Persia, and Turkey — three ancient civilizations — coming together to form a new axis," Bannon said, using the name for Iran that faded from popular use in 1935. "It's confronting the Christian West and also a big part of Islam that is tied to the West. You're starting to see this form every day like in the 1930s. You're starting to see it crystallize more and more."

Bannon is famously obsessed with the patterns of recent and ancient history, but offered no thoughts on the Ottoman Empire, Weimar Republic, or Papal States. Read his full interview here. Jeva Lange


As if evacuating northern California's Camp Fire wasn't enough, more than 140 survivors staying at nearby shelters are now facing norovirus symptoms.

The massive fire has destroyed nearly 10,000 homes north of Sacramento, leaving thousands relegated to shelters in Butte County. Across four of those shelters, 140 people have experienced norovirus symptoms, and "the number of sick people is increasing every day," Butte County's Public Health Department announced Thursday.

Norovirus is "very contagious" and "causes vomiting and diarrhea," per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So shelter workers are separating the sick from the healthy with separate bathrooms, a health department spokeswoman told The Sacramento Bee. Some people staying at the shelters have opted to stay in their cars. Still, 25 people have had to go to the hospital for "medical support," and some shelter workers have gotten sick, per the health department.

The Camp Fire is slowly being extinguished, and is 45 percent contained as of Friday morning, says the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fire is California's deadliest in history with 63 confirmed fatalities and more than 600 people still missing. Kathryn Krawczyk


Could President Trump be looking to boot Vice President Mike Pence off his re-election ticket?

Trump in recent weeks has been asking his aides and advisers if they think Pence is loyal, raising this question so often that they are getting "alarmed," The New York Times reported Friday. While Trump has not explicitly told his advisers he wants to drop Pence in 2020, they reportedly see these conversations as evidence that he may be growing "irritated" with the vice president. According to the report, Trump still hasn't gotten over the fact that Pence in 2016 distanced himself from Trump's Access Hollywood comments about groping women.

For the most part, it seems Trump's advisers tend to tell him that Pence is, in fact, loyal. But some of them suggest he should still replace Pence as his running mate in 2020, instead choosing a woman in an attempt to appeal to female voters. One name that several outside advisers have mentioned is Nikki Haley, the outgoing ambassador to the United Nations.

Still, The New York Times reports that Trump's loyalty question doesn't necessarily mean he's definitely going to drop Pence; some have suggested it's more related to the fact that he's reportedly considering replacing Chief of Staff John Kelly with Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers. White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley pushed back on this report by saying Trump "absolutely supports the vice president." Read more at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow


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


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


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


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


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

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