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January 7, 2019

President Trump's net approval rating took a hit just about everywhere last month, even in states that propelled him to the White House.

His net approval rating, which is calculated by subtracting his disapproval rating from his approval rating, dipped below zero in four key states last month: North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, and Florida, Morning Consult finds. These are all states he won in the 2016 election, with Ohio and Florida being particularly crucial. Had Hillary Clinton taken those two states in 2016 but the rest of the map stayed the same, Trump would have lost 259 to 279 electoral votes.

The president's net approval rating is below zero in nine states that he won in 2016, Bloomberg's James Greiff observes; in addition to the four previously mentioned, he's in the red in Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Morning Consult's Cameron Easley points out that Trump's net approval fell in 43 states in December, even in conservative states like Alabama and Tennessee; he fell seven points in both. A look back through Morning Consult's interactive map shows that Trump had a net positive approval rating in 38 states when he first took office. But that honeymoon period lasted barely four months, and as of last month, the number of states where his approval rating is higher than his disapproval rating is 21.

The good news for Trump, though, is that his rating has bounced back from below zero in a few states; North Carolina, for instance, was net negative on Trump in September but net positive in October and November.

Morning Consult compiled its data by speaking to more than 1 million U.S. voters since January 2017. The margin of error varies from 1 percentage point to 5 percentage points depending on the state. Brendan Morrow

2:36 p.m.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an escape plan all along.

Sessions had been one of President Trump's top internal enemies after he recused himself from overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation in early 2017. According to that same investigation, released with redactions on Thursday, that move convinced Trump to fire Sessions in July 2017 before eventually backing down. Trump did turn to insulting Sessions on Twitter, though, and those "frequent public attacks" had Sessions worried, the report says. In fact, that July, Sessions wrote a resignation letter of his own and "for the rest of the year carried it with him in his pocket every time he went to the White House," Sessions' then-chief of staff Jody Hunt told Mueller investigators.

Sessions ended up sticking it out, and was eventually forced to resign the day after 2018's midterm elections. Read the whole report here. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:28 p.m.

Far from a total exoneration, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report actually contains an invitation to Congress to impeach President Trump.

Mueller in his report did not draw a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice but specifically said that "if we had confidence" Trump did not do so, "we would so state." The report also says, "The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president's corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law."

This is the sentence that Toobin says is key, calling it "all but an explicit invitation to Congress to impeach the president." Toobin also concluded that there's "no other way" to read this sentence other than Mueller telling Congress he "cannot enforce the obstruction of justice laws against the president" but that lawmakers "can do it" through impeachment.

Toobin clarified that he's not sure whether Congress will — or even should — actually impeach Trump. But he flagged this part of the report as being "highly contradictory" to Trump's repeated claims that it fully exonerates him. Brendan Morrow

2:00 p.m.

Kellyanne Conway called Thursday the best day for President Trump since his election, a summation that certainly isn't shared by his critics, who claim Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report neither absolved Trump of "obstruction" nor "collusion." Conway, though, had an entirely different vision of the report when addressing the press.

Appearing on Fox News, Conway went as far as to paint a rather unwelcome portrait of the Mueller investigation. "This has been a political proctology exam, and [Trump's] emerging with a clean bill of health," Conway said. "There's no other way to look at it."

Well, I sure wish there had been. Watch the interview below. Jeva Lange

1:57 p.m.

President Trump directed campaign affiliates to find Hillary Clinton's personal emails, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report says.

Trump, who in July 2016 publicly called on Russia to find deleted emails from his Democratic opponent, "repeatedly" requested his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, do so. The report says that Flynn "contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails."

These people included Senate staffer Barbara Ledeen and Republican donor Peter Smith. Smith made claims that he was in contact with Russian hackers about the emails "and that his efforts were coordinated with the Trump campaign."

But while Mueller's report says that Smith was in contact with Flynn and Trump adviser Sam Clovis, the investigation didn't find that Trump's campaign initiated or directed his efforts. It also says the investigation didn't establish that Smith actually was in contact with Russia hackers or that he or the Trump campaign obtained the emails. The Week Staff

1:24 p.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's full investigation into Russian election meddling went public on Thursday, although it might be generous to really call it "full." More than a third of the investigation was hidden behind big black blocks of redactions, the Los Angeles Times reports. All sorts of information could be redacted for many reasons, including "secret grand jury information," "classified information," "information related to other continuing investigations," and "information about 'peripheral' people," The New York Times reports.

Still, you can't help but wonder about some of the more intriguing redactions. Here are a few of the best in the Mueller report. Jeva Lange

9. And that...?

8. Yikes.

7. The plot thickens.

6. Whom?

5. Well at least you know what airport they were going to!

4. Then who was on the phone?

3. Wait ... almost ... nope.

2. This entire page.

1. Oh, do tell.

1:10 p.m.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged a claim she once made about former FBI Director James Comey was completely false, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report says.

Mueller's report details President Trump's firing of Comey in 2017, noting that Sanders spoke in a press briefing and insisted that the FBI had lost confidence in Comey. This, she said, was based on hearing as much from "countless members of the FBI."

But the Mueller report says that "the evidence does not support those claims" and that Trump, in fact, specifically told Comey that "the people of the FBI really like [him]." Sanders "acknowledged to investigations that her comments were not founded on anything," although she claimed this was a "slip of the tongue." She also claimed that when she repeated in a separate interview that the FBI had lost confidence in Comey, she did so "in the heat of the moment."

The report notes that Trump praised Sanders' performance in the 2017 press conference and did not correct her false claim. Brendan Morrow

12:54 p.m.

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn has come through with the best stories of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.

Most notably, there's McGahn's wild account of how Trump told him to get Mueller fired. Yet there's also this hidden gem, in which McGahn recounted a conversation with Trump about just why he told Mueller about all that "crazy sh-t."

The report details a time when Trump asked McGahn about his interviews with the special counsel, which McGahn apparently explained away as something "he had to" do. Trump seemed satisfied, and then apparently asked a more pressing question: "Why do you take notes? Lawyers don't take notes." McGahn had a wonderfully snappy comeback, saying that "real lawyers" take notes. Trump responded that he has "had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn," and "he did not take notes."

Trump apparently didn't mention that his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen's preference for tapes over notes soon turned into a problem. Read the whole report here. Kathryn Krawczyk

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