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."


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.


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."

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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.”


Report: SNL Writer Suspended for Barron Trump Joke

Carlos Barria/Reuters

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.


Supreme Court Rejects Texas Appeal on Voter ID Law

Carlos Barria/Reuters

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.


Trump Signs Withdrawal from TPP

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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.”