The U.S. is investigating calls between new national security advisor Michael Flynn and Russia's ambassador to the U.S., intelligence officials told CNN on Monday. Flynn conducted the calls in late December, including one on December 29, the same day the U.S. announced new sanctions against Russia and ordered 35 Russian diplomats out of the country. The investigation is reportedly part of a larger search into Russian activity, and used audio collected from "routine US eavesdropping targeting the Russian diplomats," CNN reported. The Trump administration has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the calls, denying any knowledge of or "even a basis for such an investigation."
Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s nomination for Secretary of State was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 11 to 10—a straight party line vote that saw all Democrats oppose his nomination.
The issue now moves to the full Senate, which will soon take up the nomination—and the makeup of the Republican-controlled chamber means that his confirmation is now all but assured.
Tillerson had faced a potential roadblock from Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a defense hawk who had expressed displeasure over Tillerson's confirmation hearing answers on Russia, Ukraine, Syria and the Philippines.
But on Monday morning, Rubio said that he would ultimately support the nominee, saying that despite these issues, he “must balance these concerns with his extensive experience and success in international commerce, and my belief that the president is entitled to significant deference when it comes to his choices for the cabinet.”
Tillerson's nomination also received a boost when Senate hawks John McCain and Lindsey Graham announced Sunday that they would support him.
Donald Trump on Friday issued a proclamation declaring January 20, 2017, the day of his inauguration, a “National Day of Patriotic Devotion.” The decree was uploaded to the Federal Register on Monday and spotted by journalist Ken Klippenstein. The document is scheduled for official publication on Tuesday. “I, Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2017, as National Day of Patriotic Devotion, in order to strengthen our bonds to each other and to our country—and to renew the duties of Government to the people,” the decree reads.
The document further asserts that “there is no freedom where the people do not believe in it; no law where the people do not follow it; and no peace where the people do not pray for it. There are no greater people than the American citizenry, and as long as we believe in ourselves, and our country, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”
Saturday Night Live writer Katie Rich has reportedly been suspended for her Friday evening tweet targeting President Donald Trump’s 10-year-old son Barron with a joke that he “will be this country’s first homeschool shooter.” Sources close to both Deadline and TheWrap reported on Monday afternoon that the long-running comedy sketch show has indefinitely suspended Rich, and her name was not in the credits for Saturday evening’s episode hosted by Aziz Ansari. As outcry over her tweet grew, Rich made her account private before returning Monday afternoon, scrubbed all past tweets, and issued an apology: “I sincerely apologize for the insensitive tweet. I deeply regret my actions & offensive words. It was inexcusable & I'm so sorry.” Rich has reportedly worked for SNL since 2013 when she was hired to write for the “Weekend Update” segment.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an appeal that could reinstate a Texas voter ID law that a lower court found to have disproportionately restricted the black and Hispanic votes. In doing so, the SCOTUS upheld a July 2016 ruling that the legislation was discriminatory against minorities in Texas. The law, passed in 2011, required voters to present one of seven forms of identification, which could include a driver's license, a passport, or a concealed-carry license, but not a welfare benefit ID card. A 2016 ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the restrictions disproportionately prevented minorities from casting their votes.
The United States officially withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Monday after President Donald Trump signed an executive order. The 12-nation pact was assumed to be dead on arrival after Trump was elected president in November. The president made protectionist trade policies and rhetoric a hallmark of his campaign. “Great thing for the American worker what we just did,” Trump said in the Oval Office as he signed the order. Trump immediately won praised from Sen. Bernie Sanders, but was condemned by GOP Sen. John McCain, who said in a statement that the decision is a “serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for America’s economy and our strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Florida State University's College Republicans chapter will hold emergency elections after the club charged its treasurer with embezzlement, and its chairman with sexual harassment, FSUNews reported on Monday. Treasurer Ben Hoades has been accused of embezzling more than $16,000 in chapter funds. A notice of impeachment quotes Hoades as allegedly saying "we don't keep most of our money in the bank, I tend to hold onto most of in cash and spend it when we need to." The club's president, James Fletcher Dilmore was charged with a litany of offenses, “including but not limited to: sexual harassment of executive board members, vulgar language and sexually charged speech during General Body Meetings, verified threats of physical violence against members of both the FSU-CR and FFCR, and the overt solicitation sexual favors of in exchange favorable board positions by James Fletcher Dilmore.”
U.S. officials confirmed to CBS News that Donald Trump’s team brought supporters to his speech at the CIA headquarters on Saturday to sit in the first few rows. These 40-or-so individuals were reportedly cheering while Trump spoke, which the initial perception was that CIA employees listening to the speech were doing so. Additionally, CBS reported that agency employees at large were “uncomfortable” with Trump’s visit, which “made relations with the intelligence community worse.” Despite claims from the administration that some were waiting to get inside the room, the network reported that just 400 employees RSVP’d. “Thousands” were reportedly invited.
Alec Baldwin is set to host Saturday Night Live on February 11, the show announced on Monday. Ed Sheeran will be the musical guest for that evening. The star actor has portrayed Donald Trump since October 2016, regularly skewering the president’s Twitter habits, dour TV appearances, and egomaniacal campaign speeches.
The next episode in the Star Wars saga will be titled The Last Jedi, the series’ official blog revealed Monday. “In appreciation of the fans, we wanted them to be the first to know the title of the next chapter in the Skywalker saga: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI,” the site wrote. Episode VIII will presumably pick up where The Force Awakens left off: with Rey (Daisy Ridley) following a map revealed by R2-D2 to an oceanic planet, where she finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and presents him with his long-lost lightsaber. The movie is due to hit theaters Dec. 15.