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March 13, 2018

President Trump's high staff turnover rate was already record-breaking months ago, as the White House hemorrhaged high-ranking officials one after another after another. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson became the latest official to fall, fired by Trump essentially over Twitter.

A full 37 Trump-appointed staffers have resigned, been fired, or been reassigned, since Trump took office — a higher rate than the five most recent presidents. Analysis from the Brookings Institute found that, as of last week, Trump's White House has endured a 43 percent turnover rate. The list of departed staffers is long, and even longer with the inclusion of pre-Trump staffers, like former FBI Director James Comey and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Starting with Michael Flynn, through the end of the Stephen Bannon era, all the way through Gary Cohn's departure just last week, the list of the dozens of now-former staffers is staggering:

Among top "decision-making" staffers, Trump's turnover rate is double former President Ronald Reagan's, the Brookings Institute found, and more than triple that of former President Barack Obama.

The White House has sought to downplay the constant churn of staffers. "This is an intense place," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last week. "It's not abnormal that you would have people come and go." Summer Meza

10:23 p.m.

While he believes President Trump is "morally unfit" to be the country's leader, former FBI Director James Comey isn't crossing his fingers that Special Counsel Robert Mueller reveals in his final report that Trump is "a criminal."

In an op-ed published Thursday night in The New York Times, Comey declares that he's just happy Trump hasn't shut down Mueller's investigation, and if it stays that way, "justice will have prevailed and core American values will have been protected at a time when so much of our national leadership has abandoned its commitment to truth and the rule of law."

Comey, who was fired by Trump in 2017, asserts that he doesn't care at all whether Mueller concludes that Trump "knowingly conspired with the Russians in connection with the 2016 election or that he obstructed justice with the required corrupt intent." He does have one wish, though: that Trump is not impeached and removed from office before his term is over.

"I don't mean that Congress shouldn't move ahead with the process impeachment governed by our Constitution, if Congress thinks the provable facts are there," he said. His concern is that if Trump is removed from office, "a significant portion of this country would see this as a coup, and it would drive those people farther from the common center of American life, more deeply fracturing our country." Read the entire op-ed at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

9:03 p.m.

Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller wrote in two internal memos that President Trump's "unplanned/unbudgeted" deployment of troops to the southern border has posed "unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency," the Los Angeles Times reports.

The memos obtained by the Times are dated Feb. 19 and March 18, and sent to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. Neller wrote that because funds have been shifted to border security and recovery costs from Hurricanes Michael and Florence are high, he has had to postpone much-needed base repairs, and cancel or scale back military training in Indonesia, Scotland, Mongolia, Australia, and South Korea.

Neller added that Marines "rely on the hard, realistic training" of the exercises to "develop the individual and collective skills necessary to prepare for high-end combat." These memos, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said, show that the Pentagon should not be diverting funding due to the whims of Trump. "If the president won't listen to the American people or Congress, then listen to the commandant of the Marine Corps," he said in a statement. Catherine Garcia

8:09 p.m.

European Union leaders on Thursday offered the United Kingdom additional time to leave the bloc, delaying Brexit until May 22 if British lawmakers agree to Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal deal.

If not, the EU will accept a delay until April 12. The UK was set to leave the bloc on March 29.

Britain's Parliament has twice shot down May's EU deal, with lawmakers split on how to leave the EU, and if they should do so at all. "I will make every effort to make sure we can leave with a deal and move our country forward," May said. Catherine Garcia

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

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