September 7, 2019

The next National Rifle Association report card for Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) might not be as sterling as normal, but it seems that's a risk he's willing to take.

Patrick defied the NRA on Friday when he endorsed expanding the state's background checks to include private gun sales less than a week after a mass shooting in the Odessa, Texas, area, in which the alleged gunman reportedly purchased his weapon privately despite failing a previous background check.

Patrick, who has previously received an A-plus grade from the NRA for his stance on Second Amendment rights, said he is "willing to take an arrow" to tighten background checks. Patrick did advocate for allowing sales between family members and friends to remain exempt from triggering a check, but he said Texas must strongly discourage stranger-to-stranger sales without one.

"Look, I'm a solid NRA guy, but not expanding the background check to eliminate the stranger to stranger sale makes no sense to me and ... most folks," Patrick said, adding that he has spoken with several NRA members, who are of the same opinion when it comes to private sales to strangers.

The NRA was quick to respond, calling Patrick's proposals "political gambits" that would "resurrect the same broken, Bloomberg-funded failures that were attempted under the Obama administration." It appears that Patrick is undeterred, however. "Someone in the Republican Party has to take the lead on this," he said. Read more at The New York Times and The Dallas Morning News. Tim O'Donnell

8:24 a.m.

The Pentagon announced Friday that President Trump has agreed to send a "modest deployment" of American troops to Saudi Arabia in response to strikes last week against two major Saudi Arabian oil facilities. The Trump administration and Saudi Arabia believe the attacks were orchestrated by Iran, but Tehran denies the allegations.

In addition to the hundreds of troops, the U.S. will deploy air and missile defense systems. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the decision was "defensive in nature" and was reportedly made in response to requests from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who are seeking protection for their "critical infrastructure." When asked if the White House was considering a military strike against Iran, Esper said "that's not where we are right now." That seems to echo Trump's rhetoric about showing restraint for the time being.

Still, the threat of a conflict, though far from imminent, has been palpable of late, with Tehran warning that a U.S. or Saudi military strike would result in "an all-out war," while the White House ramped up sanctions against Iran on Friday. Read more at The Washington Post and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

September 20, 2019

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan announced Friday that white supremacy would become a top priority under the department's new strategy to fight terrorism and "targeted violence." The ramped up mission comes as mass shootings motivated by white supremacy seem to happen every week in the U.S., and McAleenan cites last month's shooting in El Paso, Texas as a major reasoning behind the change, The Atlantic reports.

After the shooting in a Walmart left 21 people dead, McAleenan told The Atlantic he recalled thinking "this is an attack on all of us." The shooting in a largely Hispanic community was seemingly motivated by racism, and much of DHS' workforce, especially at the southern border, is Hispanic. This and other shootings soon "galvanized" DHS to look "beyond terrorists operating abroad" and start tackling "violent extremists of any ideology," McAleenan said in a Friday speech.

The revised plan calls for analyzing the "nature and extent" of domestic terror threats and working more closely with local law enforcement to prevent them, NBC News reports. DHS will also crack down on technology companies who host hate-filled websites, provide more active shooter training to local law enforcement, and run antiviolence messaging campaigns, per the proposal.

The report came just hours after the House Oversight Joint Subcommittee held a hearing on confronting white supremacy, where conservative provocateur Candace Owens said that "white nationalism" isn't a problem for "minority Americans." As DHS's shifting priorities and general facts of life make clear, it definitely is. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 20, 2019

Antonio Brown is out of a job.

The wide receiver was released from the New England Patriots on Friday following an investigation into allegations of sexual assault. A woman has accused him of rape and sexual assault and sending threatening text messages, which Brown has denied through an attorney.

Earlier Friday, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick told a press conference of reporters that he wouldn't answer any questions about Brown. They asked anyway, and he abruptly ended the conference.

Brown has been at the center of several claims of wrongdoing, allegedly refusing to comply with NFL equipment policies and facing fines after an altercation with the general manager of the Oakland Raiders, in addition to allegedly failing to pay former assistants. He was released from the Raiders before the season began and picked up by the Patriots, playing one game with New England under a $15 million contract as the allegations became public. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 20, 2019

This might just send House Democrats over the impeachment tipping point.

Reports of Trump promising a foreign leader something concerning to the intelligence community drew condemnation from Democratic congressmembers over the past few days. But with a Friday Wall Street Journal report saying that account involved Trump pushing for a Ukrainian investigation of Hunter Biden, they're calling for impeachment more loudly than ever.

Per the Journal report, Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son eight different times in a single phone call. Trump reportedly wanted Zelensky to work with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani on the matter, and Giuliani told CNN on Thursday he'd talked to Ukraine about the probe.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) was one of the first to respond to the report, as he was on the phone with The Washington Post's Robert Costa when it broke. If Trump "requested that the president of Ukraine interfere in an American election, we are in really dangerous, brand new territory," Murphy said, later vaguely adding in a tweet that "Congress must act."

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) was far more explicit.

He followed this with a retweet asking people to "flood" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with "pro-impeachment phone calls." Pelosi has long been reluctant to impeach Trump, and in a Friday interview shortly before the Journal report dropped, she showed no signs of softening. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 20, 2019

President Trump in July reportedly urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, not once, not twice, but eight different times on a single phone call.

That's according to a report Friday from The Wall Street Journal, which cites sources familiar with the matter saying Trump pressured Zelensky to work with his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on an investigation into the matter.

The president reportedly wanted to probe whether Biden worked to shield from investigation a Ukrainian gas company with ties to his son, Hunter Biden. One of the sources the Journal cited said they did not believe Trump offered the Ukrainian president a quid-pro-quo.

This comes amid an ongoing scandal surrounding a whistleblower who filed a complaint in August regarding Trump's communications with a foreign leader, which The Washington Post reported Thursday is related to Ukraine. The whistleblower was reportedly troubled upon hearing the phone call and alerted Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who marked the complaint as being of "urgent concern."

On Friday, Trump denied having any "dicey" conversation with a foreign leader, writing, "there was nothing said wrong." But he did not deny discussing Biden in conversations with Ukraine; when directly asked if he did, Trump responded, "It doesn't matter what I discussed." The White House did not comment on the story from The Wall Street Journal. Brendan Morrow

September 20, 2019

The largest retailer in the United States is ending the sale of e-cigarettes.

Walmart said Friday it will no longer sell e-cigarettes at its U.S. stores, citing "growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty," CNBC reports. The company plans to sell off its current inventory, after which it will "complete our exit."

This comes a week after President Trump announced his administration plans to ban flavored e-cigarettes. Walmart already announced it would stop selling fruit and dessert-flavored e-cigarettes earlier this year at the same time that it raised the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21, The Associated Press reports.

When Trump made his announcement last week, there had been reports of six deaths of lung disease tied to vaping, and that number has since risen to eight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday there have been 530 confirmed or probable cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use. Brendan Morrow

September 20, 2019

Facebook just significantly bumped up the number of apps it says it has suspended in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The company announced Friday that amid its effort to "root out bad actors among developers" beginning in March 2018, it has suspended "tens of thousands" of apps, which were "associated with about 400 developers."

Facebook launched this probe after it came to light in early 2018 that millions of users' personal data was improperly harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the privacy scandal, which ultimately resulted in a $5 billion Federal Trade Commission fine, and said the company would audit apps with access to large amounts of data.

The number Facebook provided Friday, The New York Times notes, is "far higher than it had previously disclosed," as the company in May 2018 announced it had suspended 200 apps, and then in August 2018, it said it had suspended 400 apps. Some of the apps were banned, Facebook said Friday, with possible reasons including "inappropriately sharing data obtained from us," although the company also says that "many" apps were still in the testing phase, and "this is not necessarily an indication that these apps were posing a threat to people."

But The Washington Post writes that the announcement is "likely to reignite calls for heightened regulation of the social media giant." Facebook says it has hasn't "confirmed other instances of misuse to date other than those we have already notified the public about" as part of this investigation, which is ongoing.

Zuckerberg has been on Capitol Hill this week meeting with skeptical lawmakers in an attempt to salvage the company's reputation. The trip, which included a meeting with President Trump, was described by Axios as a "charm tour." Brendan Morrow

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