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February 27, 2018

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has lost his top-secret security clearance, being downgraded along with the rest of the White House aides working on interim highest-level clearances to the "Secret" level, Politico reports.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly moved Friday to revoke high-level access to classified information for White House employees whose background checks have been pending since before June 2017. Kushner had apparently been "resisting giving up his access to highly classified information," The New York Times reports. All aides with the interim highest-level clearances were informed of their statuses being downgraded Friday in a memo that was not signed by Kelly, Politico adds.

Trump could theoretically grant Kushner permanent security clearance himself, but he told reporters Friday: "I will let General Kelly make that decision." Kelly assured last week: "I have full confidence in [Kushner's] ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico."

Scrutiny over security clearances erupted earlier this month during the scandal over former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter. Porter apparently had been denied permanent access to highly classified information after the FBI had learned of domestic violence allegations against him leveled by his two ex-wives.

Kushner is reportedly being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the ongoing Russia investigation. Jeva Lange

January 31, 2017

Throughout Donald Trump's presidential campaign, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was something of a man behind the curtain. After Trump won, Kushner and Ivanka Trump picked up from New York to move to Washington, D.C., where Kushner assumed a role as senior adviser. But "just 10 days in, [Kushner and Ivanka Trump are] starting to see signs that it might not work out well for their own ambitions," Vanity Fair reports.

...According to a source familiar with the situation, Kushner's influence on his boss may be flagging. Last week, Kushner spent 24 hours trying to broker a meeting between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. The source said that Kushner was even considering flying to Mexico in order to convince Peña Nieto, who had butted heads with Trump over various issues, to travel to the White House. Ultimately, Peña Nieto agreed — a feat Kushner presented to his father-in-law on Wednesday night. It was his first real victory in the West Wing in his role as senior adviser, and it would be a major step toward turning one of Trump's main campaign promises into a reality.

Less than 12 hours later, though, it all fell apart. After Peña Nieto reiterated that Mexico does not plan to pay for Trump's proposed wall, Trump tweeted that if Mexico is "unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting." Just like that, the meeting was canceled. "Kushner was f--king furious," the source told me. "I'd never once heard him say he was angry throughout the entire campaign. But he was furious." (A representative for the Trump administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) [Vanity Fair]

It's taking a physical toll on Kushner, too: "He had lost a noticeable amount of weight from his already slight frame in just a week," Vanity Fair adds. Read the entire story here. Jeva Lange

December 6, 2016

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is historically disliked, a Quinnipiac University Poll released Tuesday has found. The Republican governor is disapproved of by New Jersey voters 77 percent to 19 percent, the lowest rating recorded for any governor in Quinnipiac's more than 20 years of polling.

"How the mighty have fallen," assistant poll director Maurice Carroll wrote. "Remember four years ago, when Republican leaders were pleading with … Christie to run for president and he looked like a sure thing for reelection — which he was?" Christie's national stock took a huge hit in late 2013, when his aides were found to have closed off access to the George Washington Bridge in an apparent attempt at retaliating against a political foe.

Voters said 71 to 22 percent that Christie knew his aides were causing "Bridgegate," with 48-43 saying he personally ordered the 2013 fiasco. Christie recorded negative ratings from every party, gender, race, or age group measured. Democrats held the lowest opinion of the governor, with only 9 percent approving of him and 90 percent disapproving.

While Christie once had presidential hopes, and then hoped to join President-elect Donald Trump's administration after losing to Trump in the Republican primary, New Jersey voters agree 69 percent to 24 percent that their governor should not be offered a position in the White House. "The [governor]'s job approval numbers get worse every time anyone looks. The last time we looked, May 18, he had a 64-29 percent disapproval rating," Carroll said. "This could be a long final year for Gov. Christie."

The survey was conducted between Nov. 28 and Dec. 4, reaching 1,218 voters in the Garden State by phone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent. Jeva Lange

November 23, 2016

Bargain hunters just aren't feeling the same sense of urgency around Black Friday this year. Only 23 percent of U.S. adults say they plan to visit stores on the country's biggest shopping day, Bankrate reports. Those that do venture out, though, are expected to spend more than ever, with median spending at $300 this year, up from $200 in 2014, Fortune writes. Holiday sales are expected to increase by 4.7 percent.

Many other shoppers are focused on online deals, or have been purchasing gifts throughout the month. "Two years ago, Black Friday was one day. Last year it was a week-long event. This year it's been a month-long event,” said Shelley Kohan, vice president of retail consulting at RetailNext. "A lot of Black Friday deals are already out there. They've been out there since the beginning of the month." Jeva Lange

September 14, 2016

Hillary Clinton's newest book is a certifiable flop by the publishing industry's standards, The New York Times reports. Stronger Together sold only 2,912 copies in its first week of sales according to Nielsen BookScan, which charts about 80 percent of nationwide physical book sales. By comparison, Clinton's 2014 memoir Hard Choices, which also didn't meet expectations, sold over 85,000 copies in its first week, and Clinton's 2003 memoir, Living History, sold six times as many copies as Hard Choices.

Stronger Together is co-authored by Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, and "presents [their] agenda in full, relating stories from the American people and outlining the Clinton/Kaine campaign's plans on everything from apprenticeships to the Zika virus," the Amazon description says. One Amazon reviewer remarked that Stronger Together was "far more interesting than I'd thought this book would be," giving it five stars. Most negative reviews were about the candidate, and not the book itself.

To promote the book, Clinton will "do a series of Stronger Together speeches over the course of the next several weeks," said campaign spokesman Jennifer Palmieri. Jeva Lange

August 11, 2016

Are you watching the Summer Olympics? Because NBC is beginning to worry that you aren't; in a year the network had hoped would blow the London 2012 ratings out of the water, NBC is experiencing quite the letdown with Rio viewership:

NBC's performance stumbled early: Viewership for Friday's opening ceremony fell 35 percent compared with four years ago, followed by a 28 percent tumble in the first day of competition. Although NBC has done better since, the average audience of 28.6 million after five days is down nearly 20 percent from the 35.6 million who were watching the London Games.

And viewership among people ages 18 to 34 has fallen 32 percent. [The New York Times]

For a year that features the return of superstars like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, this news should all be causing some nervousness over at NBC. But the company believes that it knows where its primetime viewers are going — cable channels, Bravo and NBCSN, and online.

"The Olympics are not immune to the tectonic changes in consumer media behavior," Alan Wurtzel, the president of research and media development at NBCUniversal, told The New York Times. Jeva Lange

May 2, 2016

Former Gov. Jim Gilmore ended his presidential aspirations in February after earning only 145 votes while running for the Republican nomination. Now, adding insult to injury, Gilmore was also just shut out from even being elected as a Virginia delegate to the Republican national convention.

Gilmore told The Washington Post that he had been "informally assured" he would be a Virginia delegate, but that Ted Cruz's team had mobilized to seize as many supporters as they could. As a result, the Virginia state convention over the weekend elected 10 Cruz supporters and three Trump supporters to send to Cleveland. Because Trump won the state, all delegates will be required to cast their first vote for him; the delegates would then be free to vote for whoever they want on a second ballot at a contested convention.

Still, Gilmore says he will be heading to Cleveland because "technically I'm still a candidate for president."

Gilmore has not endorsed any candidate, and The Washington Post notes his neutrality might be what made both Cruz and Trump supporters wary of sending him to the convention. Jeva Lange

October 30, 2015

So this is a little bit awkward: Jeb Bush's team sent out a 45-page campaign memo to select members of the media, but U.S. News was able to obtain the full, uncensored 112-page report — which, it just so happens, contains some less-than-sunny details about how the former Florida governor's presidential campaign is actually going.

Here's the lowdown: The Iowa caucus, on February 1, is 93 days away. Bush's campaign has set the goal of receiving 18.45 percent of the vote — more than double the 8 percent he's polling now. About 128,800 Republican voters are expected to turn out, which means Bush needs about 24,000 votes. The catch: His campaign is only confident he has 1,260 voters in the Hawkeye State.

The estimate comes from over 70,000 phone calls made by a 10-person paid staff in Iowa; for all their calls, the team was only able to rope in four volunteers and root up a total of 1,260 Bush supporters statewide. That leaves a gap of 22,740 voters that the campaign needs to identify or persuade to its side by February. Making matters worse, an advertising blitz isn't waiting in the wings to rescue Bush's Iowa ground-game: Of the budget set aside for advertising, Bush's team only plans to spend $1.36 million in the weeks before voting begins, as opposed to $5.6 million set aside for New Hampshire or $2.7 million for South Carolina.

In plainer words, Bush's campaign hopes to somehow gather 22,000 supporters in less than 100 days with a relatively small ad campaign and little luck after over 70,000 phone calls to potential voters. But you know what they say: Hope springs eternal. Jeva Lange

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