January 2, 2019

President Trump just can't decide why former Secretary of State James Mattis left his job.

Trump first said Mattis was leaving the Pentagon in February "with distinction." Then he read Mattis' scathing resignation letter and seemingly decided to move his departure date up 2 months. Now, as of a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump is saying he flat-out "fired" Mattis.

Wednesday's Cabinet meeting was the first since Mattis' end-of-year departure. He resigned in late December over Trump's plan to withdraw troops from Syria, issuing a resignation letter thanking the troops — not Trump — for the chance to serve as defense secretary. Trump then took back his once-glowing review of Mattis in a Dec. 22 tweet, saying former President Barack Obama "ingloriously fired him" as U.S. Central Command chief in 2013, and reflected that sentiment again Wednesday.

Perhaps more notable than what Mattis did for Trump are the things he stopped the president from doing. Read about them here at The Week. Kathryn Krawczyk

7:18 p.m.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (D) are both calling on the state attorney general's office to make evidence from the Breonna Taylor case public.

Taylor, 26, was shot and killed in March when police entered her Louisville apartment on a no-knock warrant. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he believed the officers were intruders and fired at them; as gunfire was exchanged between Walker and all three officers, Taylor was shot by officers multiple times. The officers were there as part of a narcotics investigation involving Taylor's ex-boyfriend; no drugs were found in the apartment.

On Wednesday afternoon, a Kentucky grand jury announced the indictment of one of the officers, former detective Brett Hankison, on felony charges of wanton endangerment, after shooting into the apartment next door to Taylor's. Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the other two officers involved in the shooting, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, were justified in their use of force.

Cameron said he will not release the full grand jury report or provide details about the gender and racial makeup of the grand jury, saying it was to protect them. During a press conference, Beshear said Cameron "talked about information, facts, evidence that neither I nor the general public have seen. I believe that the public deserves this information." Beshear suggested posting evidence, like ballistics reports, online, and said it would not impact the charges in the indictment.

"Everyone can and should be informed," Beshear said. "And those that are currently feeling frustration, feeling hurt — they deserve to know more." He also thinks Cameron should should answer the "legitimate question" about the racial and demographic makeup of the grand jury. "I don't think it will give out anybody's identity or compromise who they are," Beshear said. "And provided that it is sufficiently diverse, it may give people just another piece of information that they can process."

Fischer told reporters he knows "there are people in our community who feel that these charges fall short of achieving justice," and said if evidence is made public, it will help people see the reasoning behind the grand jury's decision. The Department of Justice is still investigating the shooting, and Fischer said the case is "far from over." Catherine Garcia

5:42 p.m.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, The Kansas City Star reports.

Earlier in the day, Parson's office announced his wife, Teresa Parson, tested positive after developing mild symptoms, including a runny nose and cough, prompting the governor to seek testing as well. So far, Parsons said he feels well and has "no symptoms of any kind," but will quarantine. The Star notes the 65-year-old had heart surgery four years ago, so he is in a demographic that's at greater risk.

Parson is now the second governor to test positive after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who contracted the coronavirus in July. (Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) received a false positive result in August.)

The test result comes in the middle of a campaign for Parson, who is seeking his first full gubernatorial term after his predecessor resigned in 2018. He was scheduled to debate his Democratic opponent, Nicole Galloway, on Friday, but it's been called off.

Per the Star, Missouri has reported nearly 117,000 coronavirus cases and about 1,950 deaths. The state had the fifth highest rate of cases per capita in the U.S. last week. Read more at The Kansas City Star. Tim O'Donnell

5:11 p.m.

CIA Director Gina Haspel is reportedly keeping a tight lock on Russian intelligence.

Nine current and former officials tell Politico that Haspel "has become extremely cautious about which, if any, Russia-related intelligence products make their way to President Donald Trump's desk." She has also reportedly been cracking down on the agency's "Russia House," which produces intelligence on the country — but exactly why she's doing so is up for debate.

Last year, Haspel started having the CIA's general counsel review "virtually every product that comes out of Russia House" before it heads to Trump — an "unprecedented" workflow, Politico reports. Haspel's "scrutiny" has led to some "recent dust-ups" with Russia House analysts, including the firing of the house's head this year, four current and former officials tell Politico. Another Russia House analyst reportedly quit after Haspel said he had lied about intelligence. "She calls analysts liars all the time,” said one former CIA official.

But another official said it's not a matter of Haspel trying to censor the agency from Trump, who is "extraordinarily sensitive around the subject of Russian meddling," Politico reports. It's more about "quality over quantity," the official said. "Scrutinizing intelligence product and process is exactly what is expected of Director Haspel," CIA Press Secretary Timothy Barrett told Politico, adding she "ensures intelligence is corroborated, double-checked, and then run through the wringer once more." Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:47 p.m.

Leaked audio from internal Facebook meetings revealed by The Verge on Wednesday touches upon serious subjects like civil rights, the 2020 election, and whether the social media giant should present itself as politically neutral, but reporter Casey Newton said he sought to present a holistic view of the company through the recordings. And, subsequently, there were some more light-hearted elements, as well.

In one question and answer session, Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg seemed flummoxed by a question about how free office snacks were no longer available to employees now that most folks are working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Whoever submitted the question noted that the free food was "a major sell" to job applicants, and now "we've lost a huge financial part of our package." Zuckerberg, Newton writes, responded with "polite disbelief" by noting he hadn't see any data suggesting the snacks are "anywhere near the list of primary reasons that people come to work at this company."

Zuckerberg also has a self-deprecating side, Newton reports. At one point, he addressed a viral photo of him surfing wearing an inordinate amount of sunscreen. Zuckerberg joked that he's never "under the illusion that I look particularly cool at any point with what I'm doing" and that he was wearing "quite a bit more sunscreen" than he realized. But, ultimately, safety comes first. "I'm not going to apologize for wearing too much sunscreen," he said. "I think that sunscreen is good, and I stand behind that."

Dermatologists will be happy to hear that. Read more at The Verge. Tim O'Donnell

4:36 p.m.

Eric Trump's excuses weren't enough to keep him from addressing a fraud investigation into his family's real estate business.

Trump's lawyers said he was willing to meet with investigators regarding a probe into the Trump Organization, but that he was too busy to do so until after the election. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron shot that request down on Wednesday, giving Trump a deadline of Oct. 7 to testify, The New York Times reports.

New York Attorney General Letitia James had subpoenaed Trump, a top executive at the Trump Organization, in an investigation into whether President Trump inflated his assets' values to get loans and tax benefits, CNBC notes. Eric Trump was set to meet with James' team in July, but he canceled, leading James to seek a court order to enforce her subpoena for his testimony and documents "withheld by the Trump administration."

Engoron's Wednesday order will give James access to those documents as well as force Trump to testify. James' team had argued that Trump "can't delay compliance for another two months," and Engoron agreed, saying Wednesday he found Trump's excuse "unpersuasive."

James' investigation stems from Michael Cohen's testimony before Congress last year. Cohen, President Trump's former fixer, testified that the president had "inflated" his assets to get loans and insurance coverage. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:45 p.m.

A grand jury decided not to charge the police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor with any counts directly related to her death, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced Wednesday.

The decision to only charge one officer with endangering people in a neighboring apartment to Taylor's immediately sparked protests in Louisville. MSNBC host Joy Reid, meanwhile, appeared on the network to condemn the indictment. "There's nothing in this charge that accounts for [Taylor's] life or the value of it," Reid said, following up in a tweet to say the lack of charges implies "no one killed Breonna Taylor."

Activist April Reign had a similar take on the situation, tweeting that "the grand jury didn't just decide that Breonna didn't matter; they decided that she didn't exist."

CNN's Omar Jimenez meanwhile noted Cameron's comments make it seem likely the officers will never be charged over Taylor's death.

Taylor, a Black woman, was shot and killed when officers served a narcotics investigation warrant unrelated to her. Taylor's boyfriend Kenneth Walker fired at the officers, as he claimed he thought someone was breaking in. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:43 p.m.

California Gov. Newsom (D) on Wednesday signed an executive order that requires all cars sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035.

Newsom described the move as the biggest step yet in California's fight against climate change, which he has emphasized as the driving force behind the state's destructive wildfires. The transportation sector, Newsom said, is responsible for more than half of carbon pollution in the Golden State. "Our cars shouldn't make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air," he said. "Cars shouldn't melt glaciers or raise sea levels, threatening our cherished beaches and coastline."

The order is focused on new car sales, so people who own or want to sell their gas-powered cars will still be able to do so after 2035.

It's a lofty goal, but it's unclear how it will play out in reality, seeing as electric vehicles made up less than 8 percent of new car sales in 2019. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

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