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July 19, 2018

If you follow White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Twitter and saw her Thursday afternoon post announcing the Trump administration has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to D.C. this fall, then you were briefly more informed about the matter than Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Coats found out about the invite during an interview with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell at the Aspen Security Forum. "Say that again?" he asked, laughing uncomfortably. Mitchell repeated herself and Coats chuckled again, exhaled, and said, "That's gonna be special." Coats later stated that "based on my reaction, I wasn't aware of that."

Coats also said he doesn't know what happened during President Trump's one-on-one meeting with Putin Monday in Helsinki, and had Trump asked him "how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that's not my role. That's not my job. So it is what it is." Catherine Garcia

July 1, 2018

Contrary to his promises to pursue complete denuclearization, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime is working to conceal portions of its nuclear program from outside inspectors, The Washington Post reported Saturday evening, citing U.S. intelligence agents. There is reportedly evidence Pyongyang is hiding how many nuclear warheads it has developed as well as some fissile material production sites.

This fits with a Friday night report from NBC News, also relying on intelligence community sources, that North Korea has secretly increased nuclear fuel production, perhaps to use as leverage in future negotiations. "There are lots of things that we know that North Korea has tried to hide from us for a long time," an unnamed intelligence official told NBC.

After his June 12 summit with Kim in Singapore, President Trump declared "there is no longer a nuclear threat" from North Korea, but many experts believe Kim will never voluntarily denuclearize because he considers nuclear armament insurance against forcible regime change. Bonnie Kristian

May 24, 2018

President Trump's Thursday announcement that he would not travel to Singapore next month for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed to catch the South Korean government off guard.

"We are attempting to make sense of what, precisely, President Trump means," said South Korean government spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom. South Korean President Moon Jae-In called a late-night emergency meeting to discuss Trump's announcement with top aides and Cabinet members, The Washington Post reports.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to comment on whether or not the U.S. gave South Korea and Japan a warning that Trump would cancel the summit. Pompeo said that North Korea was not responsive over recent weeks while the U.S. tried to prepare for the meeting. The Post reported on Tuesday that a North Korean delegation didn't show up at a recent planning meeting with U.S. leaders. Hours before Trump pulled out of the summit, however, North Korea did make a show of destroying its nuclear test site. Summer Meza

May 18, 2018

President Trump announced Friday that he is naming acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie as his nominee to lead the department.

The surprise nomination caught even Wilkie off guard, as it came in the middle of Trump's speech on prison reform. "He doesn't know this yet," said Trump as he made the announcement, "I'm sorry that I ruined the surprise."

Wilkie has been heading the Veterans Affairs Department since April, when Trump dismissed former VA Secretary David Shulkin. Dr. Ronny Jackson, Trump's previous pick to replace Shulkin, withdrew his nomination one month after Trump selected him amid allegations of rampant workplace misconduct, which he denied. Summer Meza

March 26, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un apparently made an unannounced visit to China on Monday, marking his first international trip since taking power in 2011. Bloomberg confirmed Kim's arrival in Beijing based on information from "three people with knowledge of the visit," though Kim has not yet been sighted in the city. The reason for his potential trip is unknown.

Kim reportedly arrived via high-security train and was accompanied by a police motorcade in Beijing, per Business Insider. Local news reported that the mysterious train disrupted traffic as it traveled through northeastern China, sparking speculation that Kim was on his way to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Bloomberg notes that China and North Korea shared strong ties in the past, but the relationship became strained when China joined the United Nations in levying sanctions on Pyongyang. Kim is already slated to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and President Trump in the coming months to discuss giving up his nuclear weapons program in exchange for lessened sanctions against the troubled country.

"If this meeting is confirmed, it may actually be more productive than a photo op between Trump and Kim in a few weeks," Melissa Hanham, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Bloomberg. "Recent tensions and increased nuclear and missile capabilities mean China's taking this seriously and doesn't want to be left out of the process." Read more at Bloomberg. Summer Meza

April 2, 2017

As she prepared to celebrate her 93rd birthday on Monday, Doris Day made a major discovery: She's two years older than she thought.

After spending most of her life thinking she was born on April 3, 1924, a copy of Doris Mary Kappelhoff's birth certificate from Ohio's Office of Vital Statistics shows otherwise — the actress and animal rights activist was actually born on April 3, 1922. "I've always said that age is just a number," the Pillow Talk and Pajama Game star said in a statement on Sunday. "I have never paid much attention to birthdays, but it's great to finally know how old I really am."

It's not unusual for actors and actresses to shave a few years off of their real age, but in Day's case, it apparently was a mistake for her to go through life two years younger than she really is; her spokesman, Charley Cullen Walters, said it's possible that when she was very young and on an audition, her age was written wrong on a form, and it "could've simply stuck for all these years." With this new information, Day might have to stop teasing her good friend, Betty White — Walters said Day used to enjoy ribbing White, who turned 95 in January, about being years older than her. Catherine Garcia

December 23, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump has not released his tax returns. He has not given a formal press conference since his election. He wants his private security team to supplement the Secret Service. He is skipping many intelligence briefings because he is, "like, a smart person." And none of those things — along with many of the incoming president's other unconventional choices — are against the law.

As Politico explains in a new analysis Friday, Trump's decision to flout tradition at every turn "is shining a light on how much of the American political system is encoded in custom," not law. Much of what we expect the president to do and say is not grounded in any requirement more formal than longstanding practice — and that suits Trump just fine. "If it's not written down, you can get away with it," says Trump biographer Gwenda Blair. "That's the new premise."

The question once Trump takes office is how much he will push boundaries with real legal heft. As a candidate, Trump "said things that were clearly unconstitutional, but there's no legal prohibition about saying you're going to do something unconstitutional," explains Richard Painter, formerly chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush. But there is a legal prohibition "against doing something unconstitutional," and Trump will have to learn the difference if he wants to avoid offering grounds for impeachment to critics ready to pounce. Bonnie Kristian

November 29, 2016

Kyle, Texas, is a town about 20 miles south of Austin with a population of 34,000 — and a government housing agency that its mayor and city council were shocked to discover existed, receives federal funding, and has apparently had no real city oversight since maybe its launch in 1977. Mayor Todd Webster learned about the Kyle Housing Authority in a Nov. 2 letter from the San Antonio office of the federal Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD), listing several problems at the agency that suggested gross mismanagement, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

The local HUD office had audited the agency in March, and its report found poor maintenance of the federally subsidized units, undocumented expenses and paid absences, and a serious lack of oversight, including a doubling of the Kyle Housing Authority's executive director's HUD salary from 2012 to 2015 without any outside approval. Under Texas state law, the mayor is supposed to appoint the board of commissioners that oversees the agency, but the last board appointments were approved in 2007 by longtime Executive Director Vickie Simpson. Webster also told the American-Statesman that the housing authority apparently hasn't submitted any annual reports, as required by law.

Webster, immediately upon receiving the letter, selected five people to form a new board of commissioners, and Simpson notified the mayor of her "retirement/resignation" two days later, saying "it is time for me to move on and spend more time with my husband, who has been ill for the past six years." She maintains that she had planned on retiring before the letter, and said she won't comment on the allegations in the HUD letter until she speaks with HUD. You can read more about Kyle's November surprise at the Austin American-Statesman. Peter Weber

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