1. TAMPING DOWN

Report: WH Squeezed FBI on Russia Ties

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

According to a report in CNN, the FBI rejected a recent request from the White House to publicly discredit recent reports about alleged communications between Donald Trump associates and Russians during the 2016 presidential election. White House officials had reportedly sought out the FBI and additional agencies to say that the reports were untrue. Certain procedures limit communication between the White House and the FBI while investigations are pending. A law enforcement official told CNN that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had discussions about the matter. A White House official contended that it was McCabe who initially reached out to Priebus to say that the reports had been overstated. 

2. STRONG WORDS

Caitlyn Jenner: Trump Trans Policy a ‘Disaster’

Gus Ruelas/Reuters

Caitlyn Jenner issued a video statement on Twitter on Thursday night in response to a recent decision by the Trump administration to withdraw federal protections for transgender students. "I have a message for the trans kids of America," Jenner said. "You're winning." She went on to criticize Trump, calling the decision a "disaster." "I have a message for President Trump from one Republican to another," Jenner said. "This is a disaster and you can still fix it. You made a promise to protect the LGBTQ community. Call me," she concludes. 

3. YIKES

Google Sues Uber for IP Theft

© Brendan McDermid / Reuters

In a post published on Medium, the team behind Waymo, Google's self-driving car project, announced that it was taking legal action against Otto and its parent company Uber for "misappropriating Waymo trade secrets and infringing our patents." The Waymo team contends that they "uncovered evidence that Otto and Uber have taken and are using key parts of Waymo’s self-driving technology." It centers on the action of one former employee named Anthony Levandowski, who according to the Waymo team, "downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems." The Waymo team found that the design Uber ended up using highly resembled those initial designs. 

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4. DAMN, HIPPIES

White House Hints at Marijuana Crackdown

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

President Donald Trump’s White House may use federal laws to crack down on recreational marijuana use, a move likely to create conflict with several states that have legalized use of the drug. White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday said there would likely be “greater enforcement” of federal laws, with authorities looking more closely at whether the drug is being used for medical or recreational purposes. “Because again there's a big difference between the medical use... that's very different than the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into,” Spicer said, according to Reuters. Dozens of states have legalized marijuana, and a recent nationwide poll showed 71 percent of registered voters support letting each state decide for itself on the matter. But the legal marijuana industry is already spooked about a potential crackdown. Shortly after Spicer made the remarks on Thursday, seventy-five percent of cannabis stocks reportedly fell, according to an analyst at Arcview Market Research cited by Reuters.

5. WHOA

Kim Jong Nam Killed By Chemical Agent

Joongang Ilbo/News1 via Reuters

Malaysian police contend that Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was killed with a chemical substance called "VX nerve agent." Their initial finding is based on an analysis of facial and eye swabs of Jong Nam. The substance is deemed a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations. Jong Nam died from a seizure on his way to the hospital nearly two weeks ago after complaining that a woman sprayed him with chemicals in the Kuala Lumpur airport. Malaysian police say the airport will now be decontaminated. 

6. CONTENTIOUS

Pence: ‘Obamacare Nightmare’ Almost Over

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday defended the Trump administration’s plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, telling conservatives in Washington that “America’s Obamacare nightmare is about to end.” “Despite the best efforts of liberal activists around the country, the American people know better. Obamacare has failed, and Obamacare must go,” he told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Despite protests against the repeal at town halls across the country—and concerns about the lack of a replacement even within the GOP—Pence promised “an orderly transition to a better health-care system that finally puts the American people first.” He did not provide any specifics on what the replacement plan would entail. An estimated 20 million people are currently insured under former President Obama’s health-care law, and many fear a repeal would leave most of them without coverage.

7. PROBE

Prosecutors To Question NYC Mayor

© Brendan McDermid / Reuters

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is scheduled to be questioned on Friday by federal prosecutors in connection with a corruption investigation into fundraising. The investigation encompasses fundraising by the mayor's campaign and a related nonprofit he set up. De Blasio agreed to do the interview earlier this year and it will be conducted by prosecutors from the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. De Blasio has maintained that he and his aides have done nothing wrong. The investigation seeks to determine whether donors to his 2013 mayoral campaign received special favors for their contributions. 

8. BACKSLIDING

Sessions Rescinds Obama Guidance on Reducing Private Prisons

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday rescinded an Obama-era memorandum instructing the Bureau of Prisons to decline or not renew private prison contracts after their terms expire. In nixing such a guideline, Sessions wrote that the Obama rule “changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system. For-profit prison operators largely supported President Trump’s campaign and stand to benefit from increased incarceration of undocumented immigrants expected under this administration.

9. TAKE THAT

Sweden Counters Trump’s Immigration Criticism

Reuters/Jessica Gow/TT News Agency

Sweden has countered President Donald Trump’s claims that lenient immigration policies are bringing turmoil to the country, urging him to be “better informed” about the situation. Swedish Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson took issue with Trump’s claims that the country’s lax immigration policies were causing instability. “The next time I hope the president, if he's going to speak about Sweden, is better informed about what the conditions really are here,” Johansson told Reuters in an interview published Thursday. Trump last week referenced a nonexistent terror attack in Sweden to bolster his calls for tighter immigration policies. He later walked back his claim and said he was simply referring to a rise in crime caused by the country’s troublesome immigration policies. Johansson said there is no evidence to support Trump’s claims. “We have very, very few cases of any of them (asylum seekers) committing crimes,” he said. “If you think that we have given protection to 143,000 Syrian refugees since 2011 you hardly ever see any of them in the crime statistics,” he said. Johansson went on to note that “playing different religious or ethnic groups against each other” will “never end well.”

10. QUEEN NEEDS REST

Beyoncé Backs Out of Coachella 2017

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Beyoncé will no longer perform at the 2017 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, organizers announced on Thursday. The iconic singer was set to headline the annual festival, but her recently announced pregnancy with twins has made it a medically unsustainable gig. “Following the advice of her doctors to keep a less rigorous schedule in the coming months,” Coachella said in a statement, “Beyoncé has made the decision to forgo performing at [Coachella].” She will, however, be a headliner at the 2018 festival.