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October 31, 2018

Is former President Barack Obama about to unleash one long subtweet against his successor in the form of a Netflix show?

Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama have acquired the rights to adapt Michael Lewis' book The Fifth Risk as part of their overall deal with Netflix, Deadline reported Wednesday. Lewis' book describes the disorder within the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, and Department of Commerce that took place during the transition between the Obama administration to the Trump administration. Many of the new president's appointees were completely unprepared for their jobs and some roles weren't filled at all, the book describes. Deadline reports that the possible series adaptation would be intended to "help people better understand the inner workings of the government."

Netflix in May announced a multi-year deal in which the Obamas would produce shows for the streaming platform. At the time, The New York Times reported that Obama did not intend to "wage a public campaign against his successor" with these shows, so either The Fifth Risk won't be as much of a takedown of President Trump as one might initially think, or Obama has changed his mind and decided that a public campaign against Trump might not be such a bad idea after all. Brendan Morrow

11:00 p.m.

President Trump directed Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and fixer, to lie to Congress about the Moscow Trump Tower project, two federal law enforcement officials with knowledge of the matter told BuzzFeed News.

The officials said Cohen, who was in charge of the project, also came up with a plan to get Trump to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin so he could get negotiations into high gear, with Trump telling him, "Make it happen." While campaigning, Trump said he had no business dealings with Russia, but in reality, he had at least 10 in-person meetings with Cohen about the deal, BuzzFeed News reports, and Cohen also regularly updated Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump about the development. The project could have netted Trump $300 million.

In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying about the deal in testimony to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office learned that Cohen lied through interviews with witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails and documents, the officials told BuzzFeed News, and Cohen told Mueller that after the election, Trump instructed him to lie about when negotiations ended in order to mask his involvement. Catherine Garcia

10:04 p.m.

Scientists have long being trying to determine just how old the rings of Saturn are — did they form at the same time as the planet 4.5 billion years ago, or are they younger, the result of a moon or comet being pulverized by Saturn's gravitational pull?

Before it dove into Saturn's atmosphere in 2017, ending its exploration of the planet, NASA's Cassini probe sent back its final pieces of data. The satellite flew between the rings multiple times, and found their mass is 20 times smaller than previous estimates, only about two-fifths the mass of Saturn's moon Mimas. With that information, as well as knowing the proportion of dust in the rings and the rate that dust is added, scientists were able to determine that Saturn's rings could be as young as 10 million years old but no more than 100 million years old.

Looking at the big picture that is the Solar System, this is considered "yesterday," Luciano Iess of Sapienza University in Rome told BBC News. Last month, a group of scientists determined that every 30 minutes, enough ring particles are falling onto Saturn to fill an Olympic-sized pool. Dr. Tom Stallard of Leicester University in the United Kingdom told BBC News the rings will likely disappear in "at most 100 million years," and 50 to 100 million years ago, the rings would have been "even bigger and even brighter" than they are today. Catherine Garcia

8:39 p.m.

A federal judge on Thursday struck down early-voting restrictions passed by Wisconsin Republicans during a lame-duck legislative session in December.

The measure limited early voting in Wisconsin to no more than two weeks before an election. It was signed into law by former Gov. Scott Walker (R), just a few weeks before he left office and was replaced by Gov. Tony Evers (D). Judge James Peterson on Thursday afternoon blocked the law, saying it was nearly identical to early-voting restrictions he struck down in 2016. He also blocked other laws passed during the lame-duck session, including one that bans voters from using expired student IDs as identification at the polls.

Over the last several years, major cities, including the overwhelmingly Democratic Milwaukee and Madison, have offered several weeks of early voting, NPR reports. Republicans have said this isn't fair, as smaller, more conservative communities can't afford to offer weeks of early voting. Catherine Garcia

7:49 p.m.

If you work for the White House and have any travel scheduled, you better hope your passport says "Melania Trump."

On Thursday afternoon, President Trump put the kibosh on a secret overseas trip House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) planned on taking to meet with troops in Afghanistan. Just a few hours later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement saying that another trip was off, as Trump canceled the U.S. delegation's jaunt to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

Sanders said the trip was canceled "out of consideration for the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay and to ensure his team can assist as needed." Trump tweeted earlier this month that he was no longer going to take his "very important trip" to Davos, and the delegation would have been led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Chris Liddell, deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, attending.

So far, there is just one person in the White House who hasn't had her travel plans canceled, and that's first lady Melania Trump. She boarded Air Force One on Thursday afternoon and flew down to Palm Beach, Florida, home to Trump's beloved club Mar-a-Lago. Maybe if everyone back in Washington is lucky, she'll send them a postcard. Catherine Garcia

6:37 p.m.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) apologized on Thursday for anti-LGBTQ comments she made while working for her father Mike Gabbard's organization, The Alliance for Traditional Marriage.

The Alliance for Traditional Marriage pushed for an amendment to Hawaii's state constitution banning same-sex marriage and advocated against pro-gay rights lawmakers, Politico reports. In the 1990s, Mike Gabbard said homosexuality is "not normal, not healthy, morally and scripturally wrong," and while running for Hawaii state legislature in 2002, Gabbard defended her father and her work for his group. Gabbard apologized for her comments in 2012, but since announcing last week that she will run for president in 2020, her past remarks are once again under scrutiny.

On Twitter, Gabbard said that she grew up in a socially conservative home and in her past, she "said and believed things that were wrong, and worse, hurtful to people in the LGBTQ+ community and their loved ones. I'm deeply sorry for having said and believed them." Now, she is a member of the House LGBT Equality Congress, and knows that "LGBTQ+ people still struggle, are still facing discrimination, are still facing abuse and still fear that their hard-won rights are going to be taken away by people who hold values like I used to. I regret the role I played in causing such pain, and I remain committed to fighting for LGBTQ+ equality." Catherine Garcia

6:02 p.m.

President Trump may want House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to fly commercial, but first lady Melania Trump certainly doesn't have to.

After the speaker suggested she might rescind her invitation for Trump to deliver the State of the Union address, the president promptly shelved what he called her "public relations" trip to "Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan" scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Members of Congress usually use Air Force One for these trips.

Air Force One still took off that afternoon, but it didn't head overseas, Politico's Jake Sherman and aircraft-watching CivMilAir tweeted. It was using code that typically means the first lady is onboard, and it was headed for Mar-a-Lago's city of Palm Beach, Florida.

Pelosi hadn't announced her Congressional Delegation, or codel, trip before Trump issued the letter, in which he encouraged her to either "negotiat[e] with him" about the ongoing government shutdown or take a commercial flight to Afghanistan. Pelosi responded by saying her codel was stopping in Brussels to meet with "top NATO commanders, U.S. military leaders and key allies." She was also headed to Afghanistan to meet with troops and "obtain critical national security and intelligence briefings," adding that a stop in Egypt was never part of the plan.

As NPR's Kelsey Snell pointed out, codels are usually not publicly announced for security reasons, making Trump's "flying commercial" suggestion useless. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:51 p.m.

Everything experts warned would happen after California's wildfires subsided? It's happening.

Massive snow, rain, and wind storms have rocked the state from top to bottom this week, leaving at least six dead, The Associated Press reports. And with thousands of acres of trees gone after October's massive wildfires, mudslides and flash floods were quick to follow.

Heavy rain and snow started falling Tuesday in "a significant part of California" thanks to a "storm rolling in from the Pacific Ocean," an Accuweather meteorologist told USA Today earlier this week. Conditions have remained harsh ever since, bringing a winter storm warning to southern California and blizzards to the tops of the Sierra Nevadas through Thursday. Four people died in storm-related car accidents, one died when a tree fell on a homeless encampment in Oakland, and another died while fleeing a falling tree, per AP.

While rain helped douse the Camp Fire in northern California in November, it also increased the risk of deadly floods and mudslides because no vegetation remained to absorb the runoff, experts said. Those risks became a reality this week as up to 7 inches of rain were expected through Friday in the ravaged town of Paradise, with the National Weather Service issuing a flash flood watch in the town's Butte County.

The storms came a week after President Trump said he would cut off federal disaster funding to the state because "with proper forest management," the wildfires "would never happen." Thousands of families are still rebuilding after last year's fires, and the government shutdown could delay recovery efforts even further. Kathryn Krawczyk

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