January 18, 2019

The newest tell-all memoir from a former aide to President Trump is by someone you've probably never heard of, Cliff Sims, a former Trump campaign and White House communications staffer. But he has a story to tell, according to an excerpt of his upcoming book, Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, acquired by Axios.

In 2017, after talking to Trump on the phone the night before, Sims snuck into Trump's private study off the Oval Office via the private dining room, he recalls. The point of the secrecy was to hide that Sims was going to participate in a mole hunt of sorts, for "White House officials" who had been leaking stories about Trump. "Give me their names,” Trump told Sims, he writes, describing Trump's eyes as "narrowing" when he spoke. "I want these people out of here. I'm going to take care of this. We're going to get rid of all the snakes, even the bottom-­feeders." The only people above suspicion, it seems, were Ivanka Trump and maybe Jared Kushner. Sims writes:

Only in retrospect did I see how remarkable this was. I was sitting there with the president of the United States basically compiling an enemies list — but these enemies were within his own administration. ... The president proceeded to name White House staffer after White House staffer. Almost no one was deemed beyond reproach — not his chief of staff, not senior aides, almost no one other than those with whom he shared a last name. He wanted me to help him judge their loyalty. How, I wondered, had it come to this? [Cliff Sims, via Axios]

In the end, Trump's internal "enemies list," written in black Sharpie, contained about 10 enemies and five friends, Sims recalls. "Most of the targets survived, at least for a while," Axios says. You can read more at Axios. Peter Weber

9:42 p.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify in open session to Congress at 9 a.m. on July 17, the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees announced Tuesday.

Mueller agreed to appear after he received a subpoena from House Democrats. Last month, Mueller said he did not want to testify about his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, as he believed the report spoke for itself.

In a letter, House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) let Mueller know they would "address legitimate concerns about preserving the integrity of your work." The chairmen also released a joint statement on Tuesday, saying Americans have "demanded to hear directly from the special counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia's attack on our democracy, the Trump campaign's acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates' obstruction of the investigation into that attack." Catherine Garcia

8:45 p.m.

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith lambasted President Trump on Tuesday, after he told reporters migrant children being held at U.S. detention centers are treated "very well."

Last week, lawyers inspecting a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, that housed about 250 migrant children described the conditions there as being "deplorable." The children wore dirty clothes, did not have access to toothbrushes, toothpaste, or soap, and were sleeping on concrete floors. When asked about humanitarian aid for the children, Trump said he hopes lawmakers pass a "humane bill," adding that Mexico is doing "much more for us than the Democrats in Congress" and his government is "treating them and doing a much better job than the Obama administration."

In response, Smith read back Fox News' reporting on how the children are being treated, and made a bold statement. "We reportedly accurately here yesterday that were these prisoners of war rather than children, withholding of those items would be violations of the Geneva Convention," he said. "That's what the president considers treating well the children of migrants who came across the border without documents."

Those kids are separated from their families, Smith continued, and while many were removed from the Clint detention center on Monday, 100 were returned on Tuesday "to that facility, which is incapable of providing toothbrushes and toothpaste and soap, where children were sitting in their own filth. Those are the facts at that facility." Catherine Garcia

7:54 p.m.

The Justice Department is suing Omarosa Manigault Newman, President Trump's friend turned foe, accusing her of not filing a financial disclosure report after she was fired from the White House.

Manigault Newman met Trump while appearing on the first of several seasons of his show The Apprentice, and parlayed that relationship into a job as one his top aides. She was fired in December 2017, after less than a year in the White House. Once a government employee leaves their job, they are required to file the disclosure report, and in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington, D.C., the Department of Justice said Manigault Newman was sent reminder emails, but ignored them. The department is asking Manigault Newman pay a $50,000 penalty.

Manigault Newman's attorney, John Phillips, told USA Today this appears to be a case of the White House using the Justice Department to retaliate against his client. After she was fired, Manigault Newman became a fierce critic of Trump, writing a book about what she witnessed while working for him (in turn, he went on the attack, calling her "wacky"). Phillips said Manigault Newman wrote emails and made phone calls, asking for seven boxes of documents she needed to fill out the report; she was told they would be sent to her on May 10, after the deadline to file, but they never came, Phillips said. Catherine Garcia

6:46 p.m.

Mark Morgan, an immigration hardliner and acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will soon lead Customs and Border Protection, Trump administration officials told The New York Times on Tuesday.

Morgan is replacing Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders, who will step down in July. This is just the latest shakeup in the Department of Homeland Security, with Sanders only moving into the position two months ago. In a message to staffers, Sanders said he will "leave it to you to determine whether I was successful," and can "unequivocally say that helping support the amazing men and women of CBP has been the most fulfilling and satisfying opportunity of my career."

As head of CBP, Morgan will be responsible for processing families as they seek asylum. He has made several appearances on Fox News, praising Trump for his aggressive immigration policies, and thinks there should be more raids on undocumented migrants, the Times reports. Catherine Garcia

5:46 p.m.

If anyone needs to hear this, John F. Kennedy Jr. is dead.

Believers in the far-right circle of QAnon have long held the conspiracy that the son of the former president didn't die in a 1999 plane crash. And now, they've put a fresh spin on it, suggesting on their message boards at QMap that President Trump is set to announce the definitely deceased JFK Jr. as his 2020 running mate, NBC News Ben Collins reports.

A solid bunch of Trump supporters have long believed in "Q," someone with a high level of government clearance who allegedly shares coded messages hinting at Trump's purported efforts to uproot Democrats, Hollywood elites, and the so-called deep state as a whole. They've been seen sporting Q shirts at Trump events, and were out in full force at Trump's campaign launch last week. But Q hasn't been heard from in a month, prompting believers to post extended prayers for their safe return.

Some QAnon believers think there's a reason for Q's absence: They're saving a big announcement for the Fourth of July. As Collins put it in a tweet, "The more delusional Q fans" think Kennedy Jr. himself will reveal July 4 that he's alive and that he's replacing Vice President Mike Pence on the 2020 ticket.

Trump has said he's committed to keeping Pence on the 2020 ticket, but Q would probably find some way to spin the words that came out of the president's mouth. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:52 p.m.

Iván Simonovis has quite the tale to tell.

The former Caracas public safety director, who had been imprisoned for 15 years — beginning when former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was still in power — on what he insists were "bogus" charges of ordering police to open fire on pro-government demonstrators in 2004, recently resurfaced in Washington following his escape from house arrest in Venezuela. He told his story to The Associated Press, which includes rappelling down a 75-foot wall and a failed motorboat engine.

But amid the gripping details of his breakout, Simonovis provided AP with an intriguing revelation. AP reports that, to date, Venezuela has issued no response to the escape, which could signal that the country's president Nicolás Maduro might be embarrassed by his own security forces who were assigned to guard Simonovis, especially since some of them reportedly aided in his flight.

"They are active members of the Maduro government, but quietly they work for the government of Juan Guaidó," Simonovis told AP.

Guaidó has challenged Maduro's leadership, and has received backing from several countries, including the United States, which recognizes him as Venezuela's legitimate interim president. But he was unable to procure enough military support in May to launch a successful coup, despite his belief that a greater portion of the armed forces would come to his side. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

4:47 p.m.

President Trump doesn't think Megan Rapinoe should be protesting ahead of World Cup games. Rapinoe, it seems, could not care less.

In a Monday interview with The Hill, Trump was asked if it's appropriate for the U.S. women's soccer team co-captain to refuse to put her hand over her heart during the national anthem before World Cup games. "No, I don't think so," Trump said — an unsurprising stance given his past criticism of athletes who kneeled during the anthem.

Judging by Rapinoe's very public anti-Trump statements, that won't be a problem for the midfielder. For example, take Rapinoe's comments during what appears to be a pre-World Cup press session. When asked if she was "excited about going to the White House," Rapinoe bluntly countered by saying "I'm not going to the f--king White House." "We're not gonna be invited," she then added — and she probably wasn't suggesting the team would fall short of a championship.

Rapinoe would join a long list of champions who've rejected or been denied a White House visit under Trump — not that they've been particularly hurt by the gesture. Kathryn Krawczyk

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