June 28, 2020

It remains unclear if President Trump was briefed on an U.S. intelligence report that found that the GRU, a Russian military intelligence unit, offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan to kill U.S. and coalition troops, but NBC News shed a little more light on the report itself.

Three people briefed on the matter confirmed the U.S. had indeed gathered the intelligence, which was first reported by The New York Times, although there's no telling how persuasive it is — one source said the assessment was based in part on interviews with Afghan detainees, which wouldn't alone prove the findings, and a senior defense official told NBC News there was no evidence bounties were actually ever paid. But agencies seemingly believed it had some merit since it was reportedly shared with both congressional leaders and the British government. Similarly, CNN is reporting that the intelligence inspired efforts to protect U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

With all that in mind, it seems strange that Trump was never made aware of the situation, but the White House and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe both denied the Times' report that he was briefed on the matter in March. Tim O'Donnell

4:50 p.m.

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, fresh off the franchise's first Super Bowl victory in 50 years, just agreed to a massive 10-year, $400-million contract extension, ESPN reports. It's a historic deal, but it's not the first time a quarterback has inked a decade-plus extension.

On its face, that list doesn't look reassuring for Chiefs fans. McNabb had some great years for Philadelphia and helped them win the NFC Championship during the 2004-5 season, but he was ultimately traded well before his contract finished after battling injuries. Bledsoe famously got hurt in the second week of the season after signing his then-record deal, was replaced by a kid named Tom Brady, and was then traded to the Buffalo Bills the next year. Vick's deal also didn't pan out — after some electrifying seasons, he was suspended indefinitely and spent 21 months in prison for his involvement in a dog fighting ring. Favre is an NFL legend and continued to put up big numbers for Green Bay after his extension, though he earned his deal after an already-lengthy career.

So, these deals mostly didn't work, but it's probably nothing to stew over. With the possible exception of Favre, none of the quarterbacks were considered to be at Mahomes' level. Many believe the 24-year-old has the chance to be one of the best signal-callers ever despite playing only two seasons as a starter.

It's also important to remember several other Hall-of-Fame-worthy quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Brady (until recently) stayed with one team for well over a decade and continued to produce while getting paid handsomely. The only difference is they signed multiple shorter contracts, rather than one long one like Mahomes. There's no reason Chiefs fans shouldn't be celebrating. Tim O'Donnell

4:11 p.m.

NASCAR's Bubba Wallace is calling for "love over hate" after being the subject of an angry tweet by President Trump.

Wallace, the series' only Black driver, in a tweet on Monday afternoon reflected on the fact that "you will always have people testing you" and "seeing if they can knock you off your pedestal," but "all the haters are doing is elevating your voice and platform to much greater heights!" He added that people should "always deal with the hate being thrown at you with love," advocating for "love over hate every day" — "even when it's hate from the POTUS."

He was referring to the fact that on Monday morning, Trump in a tweet demanded Wallace apologize after the FBI determined he wasn't the target of a hate crime following NASCAR announcing a noose was found in his garage stall. Trump's demand for an apology for what he claimed was a "hoax" was despite the fact that Wallace himself didn't actually report the noose; in a statement after the FBI's conclusion, he said he was "relieved" that the situation "wasn't what we feared it was." White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a briefing on Monday afternoon didn't explain why Wallace should have to apologize.

NASCAR also issued its own statement on Monday saying it's "proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family," praising his "courage and leadership" and adding, "NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans." Brendan Morrow

4:06 p.m.

American colleges' pandemic learning decisions are going to have big consequences for international students.

Colleges are starting to roll out their plans for how they'll reopen in the fall, with some announcing all their classes will be taught fully remote as the COVID-19 threat lingers. But the thousands of students from outside the U.S. who go to those newly remote schools won't be able to stay in the states, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday.

To attend college, high school, or any other learning program and live in the U.S. without pursuing citizenship, international students need an F or M visa. But "nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States," ICE said in a Monday press release. Students will have to consider "transferring to a school with in-person instruction," or "must depart the country" despite the pandemic preventing safe travel anywhere in the world, ICE said. If they don't leave or change their plans, they may be deported.

That decision will likely apply to a big portion of the more than 1 million foreign students who attend colleges in the U.S; More than 5,000 international students attend Harvard University alone, which announced Monday its undergraduate classes were going fully online this fall, for example. Harvard and other schools have offered to let students without good home learning environments return to campus, but considering classes would still be remote no matter where students live, ICE's directive will likely keep international students from even staying in a dorm. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:02 p.m.

The White House is now claiming that when President Trump lashed out at NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag, he was actually taking no position on the issue.

Trump in a tweet on Monday wrongly claimed that NASCAR's "flag decision," in addition to the recent incident involving Bubba Wallace, resulted in the "lowest ratings EVER." The "flag decision" he was referring to was NASCAR announcing it would ban display of the Confederate flag at events.

When asked in a briefing on Monday afternoon why Trump is supporting the Confederate flag, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said he "never said that" and that the tweet is being taken "completely out of context." Yet when directly asked whether Trump believes NASCAR should ban the Confederate flag or not, McEnany didn't say.

When McEnany was once again asked what Trump's position on NASCAR's Confederate flag ban is, she simply said the president "was not making a judgment one way or the other" in the tweet but again avoided saying what he thinks about it. She repeated that talking point a second time when a reporter followed up with the same question, this time faulting the press for "focusing on one word at the very bottom" of his tweet.

Trump in his tweet also suggested Bubba Wallace, the series' only Black driver, should apologize after the FBI concluded he wasn't the target of a hate crime following a noose being found in his garage stall, even though Wallace didn't report the noose. McEnany during the briefing said Trump was making a point about not rushing to judgment but offered no explanation as to why Wallace should need to apologize. Brendan Morrow

2:54 p.m.

Not long after he lashed out at NASCAR and driver Bubba Wallace over the sport's investigation of a possible hate crime and decision to ban the Confederate battle flag from events, President Trump kept his focus on the professional sports world Monday.

The president's next targets were the NFL's Washington Redskins and MLB's Cleveland Indians, both of which are considering changing their nicknames in response to long-running protests that the Native American mascots are racist. Trump tweeted that the mascots were symbols of "strength," and said that the franchises, which announced they were exploring the possibility last week, are simply trying to be "politically correct."

It's the latest example of the president taking a strong stance amid a larger debate about systemic racism in the United States that has gained steam since the killing of George Floyd, although calls for both organizations to change their names have existed for quite some time.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Trump also found a way to mock Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — who was criticized in the past for claiming tribal heritage — in the process. Tim O'Donnell

2:39 p.m.

Country singer, songwriter, and musician Charlie Daniels died Monday after suffering a stroke. He was 83.

Daniels had long been a powerhouse in country music, getting his start by co-writing the Elvis Presley song "It Hurts Me" in 1964. His guitar, fiddle, and banjo skills also landed him on other major artists' records around that time. Daniels launched his own singing career in 1971 with a self-titled debut album, and found his trademark in 1979 with the fast-fiddling No. 1 hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."

Daniels and his eponymous band remained active for decades and toured the U.S. multiple times. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

Daniels spent his last days as he did every other: Tweeting "Benghazi ain't going away!" for the umpteenth time in a row. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:32 p.m.

Hong Kong's new national security bill alone has many residents and much of the international community concerned that China is severely limiting the city's freedoms, but some experts think the law's new implementation rules are what's really alarming.

Under new regulations settled Monday during the first meeting of Hong Kong's Committee for Safeguarding National Security, police will, in "exceptional circumstances," be able to enter premises without a warrant, order internet firms to remove content — although several tech giants like Facebook and Twitter said they've suspended processing requests for user data from Hong Kong law enforcement — and demand information from political groups operating outside the city, The South China Morning Post reports.

"The new rules are scary, as they grant power to the police force that are normally guided by the judiciary," said Anson Wong Yu-yat, a practicing barrister. "For example, in emergency and special circumstances police do not need a warrant under one rule, but it never explains what it means by special circumstances."

Alan Wong Hok-ming, a solicitor, also noted that even if these rules do provide for some limits on police power, there's nothing stopping the government from expanding the policies to bypass "scrutiny, checks, and balances by other institutions like the Legislative Council." Read more at The South China Morning Post. Tim O'Donnell

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