Report: Trump Falsely Says 5 Million Illegal Ballots Cost Him Popular Vote

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

With no evidence to support the claim, President Donald Trump told congressional leaders that he lost the popular vote due to up to five million fraudulent votes, the Washington Post reports. Trump reportedly made the claim during a Monday night reception with congressional leaders, three sources told the Post. Despite the Trump campaign's frequent insistence that voter fraud cost it the popular vote, no evidence has supported any of the claim. Post-election analysis found little to no fraud during the election, which saw Hillary Clinton win the popular vote by 2.8 million. Prior to the election, the Trump campaign suggested that Democrats, particularly in inner cities would commit voter fraud, and encouraged supporters to "monitor" those polls, a suggestion some interpretted as implying voter intimidation.

Upon exiting the Monday night reception, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appeared to allude to Trump's comments. "We talked about different electoral college, popular vote going through the different ones," McCarthy said. "Well, we talked about going back through past elections. Everyone in there goes through elections and stuff so everybody's giving their different histories of different parts."


Conway Says She Has Secret Service Protection After Threats

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President Donald Trump’s top adviser Kellyanne Conway says she’s received mail with suspicious white powder and has been forced to get Secret Service protection. “Because of what the press is doing now to me, I have Secret Service protection,” she told Sean Hannity on Monday night. “We have packages delivered to my house with white substances. That is a shame,” she said. Conway went on to blame the threats on the media’s coverage of Trump in recent days, bringing up an erroneous report about a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. that has already been corrected. After a reporter falsely tweeted that the new White House had removed the bust, he quickly corrected his report and apologized for the mistake, though Trump’s team continues to bring the incident up. Conway on Monday demanded that the reporter apologize to Trump over the incident.


Report: EPA Quietly Froze Grant Programs

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The Environmental Protection Agency asked staff to freeze all their grants without telling anyone, the Huffington Post reports. The reported freeze, which has not been confirmed as either temporary or long-term, would cut into funding for research, education, environmental monitoring, and other programs. The EPA has yet to confirm the grant freezes. The Huffington Post also obtained a copy of what appeared to be an internal EPA memo detailing new media policies, which outlined strict new social media policies and heavier screening for media inquiries. Trump's still-unconfirmed pick for EPA head is Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruit, a climate change denier who has prided himself on combatting the EPA's "activist agenda" on the environment.

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Obama Sent $221M in Aid to Palestine in Final Hours

J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters

The Obama administration reportedly left one parting gift for President Donald Trump just hours before he took office on Friday – $221 million in aid sent to the Palestinian Authority. Congress was notified of the move on Friday morning, according to a State Department official and several congressional aides cited by the Associated Press. Written notification on the move was dated Jan. 20, just hours before Trump’s inauguration. The Obama administration had been fighting with two GOP lawmakers to have the funds, from the U.S. Agency for International Development, released to Palestine for humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza. Obama’s aid for Palestine comes as Trump’s administration signals plans to move away from the two-state solution and give more support to Israel, with discussions underway to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in a move likely to exacerbate tensions. In addition to the funds sent to Palestine, the Obama administration also notified Congress that it was releasing $4 million for climate change programs and $1.25 million for United Nations organizations, one aide told the Associated Press.


Dippin’ Dots Woos WH Press Secretary Sean Spicer

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

While White House press secretary Sean Spicer faces an angry backlash from many journalists over his recent comments, ice cream maker Dippin’ Dots just wants to be friends with him. Dippin’ Dots – which has marketed itself as the “ice cream of the future” – uncovered some unflattering tweets written by Spicer in 2010 and 2011 that appear to reveal a years-long obsession. “Dippin’ Dots is NOT the ice cream of the future,” Spicer tweeted back in April 2010, with no further explanation. In September 2011, Spicer’s dissatisfaction with the ice cream resurfaced, for unknown reasons. “I think I have said this before but Dippin’ Dots are not the ice cream of the future,” he wrote. When the ice cream maker declared bankruptcy that November, Spicer was quick to tweet out a link to an article about the company’s downfall. But in September 2015, after the company rebounded, he made sure to remind the world yet again that he was not impressed with the ice cream. “If Dippin’ Dots was truly the ice cream of the future they would not have run out of vanilla.” Scott Fischer, the CEO of the company, wrote an open letter to Spicer on Monday to settle things, saying, “We’ve seen your tweets and would like to be friends rather than foes.” “We can even afford to treat the White House and press corps to an ice cream social. What do you say? We’ll make sure there’s plenty of all your favorite flavors,” Fischer wrote. Spicer has yet to comment on the offer. 


Report: U.S. Investigating Flynn's Russia Calls

Yuri Gripas/Reuters

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."


Rex Tillerson Approved by Senate Committee

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

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.

—Tim Mak


Justice Dept. to Defend Trump in Ethics Lawsuit

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Donald Trump's defense in a forthcoming lawsuit on his alleged business conflicts will be taxpayer-funded, the New York Times reports. The Justice Department will defend Trump in a forthcoming lawsuit by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group of "constitutional scholars, Supreme Court litigators and former White House ethics lawyers," who claim Trump's business holdings violate the Constitution. The group alleges that Trump's possible business conflicts include his hotels, where they say he accepts money from foreign governments in violation of Constitution’s emoluments clause. The Trump administration has dismissed the suit as "without merit," while the Justice Department is still reviewing the case, the Times reports.


Publisher: Milo Book Won't Contain Hate Speech

The publishers who offered Breitbart writer and alt-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos a $250,000 book contract say the book will not contain "hate speech" or “incite hatred, discrimination or bullying." In a letter obtained by BuzzFeed, Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy informed the printing house's authors that the publisher did not condone hate speech, despite the decision by a subsidiary to publish Yiannopoulos's book. Reidy said Simon & Schuster would work with Yiannopoulos to keep his book within editorial guidelines. Yiannopoulos has been banned from Twitter for encouraging a harassment campaign against the actress Leslie Jones. 


Trump Declares His Inauguration Date as ‘Day of Patriotic Devotion’

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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.”