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March 20, 2017

President Trump still isn't ready to walk back his baseless claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones at Trump Tower during the election, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday. Spicer's insistence that Trump would not apologize to Obama for making the charge without evidence came on the heels of FBI Director James Comey announcing at Monday's House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department has "information to support" Trump's wiretapping claims.

But Spicer insisted "it's clear nothing has changed," arguing that "investigating it and having proof of it are different things." He also suggested further investigation is necessary. "We started a hearing," Spicer said. "It's still ongoing."

Though the hearing — as well as an FBI investigation — is still ongoing about ties between Trump's campaign and Russia, Spicer definitively announced Monday there is "no evidence of a Trump-Russia collusion." "The Obama CIA director said so, Obama's director of national intelligence said so, and we take them at their word," Spicer said.

Watch it below. Becca Stanek

12:03 p.m. ET
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Israeli police arrested a 19-year-old Israeli-American duel citizen on Thursday on the belief that he is responsible for a wave of threats made to Jewish community centers and institutions in the U.S. over the past several months, The Washington Post reports. Earlier, the FBI arrested journalist Juan Thompson for at least eight threats against Jewish centers, but the threats continued even after Thompson was discovered.

Israeli cyberattack police worked with the FBI to track down the suspect. The 19-year-old is allegedly responsible for a bulk of the threats, including possibly the evacuations of dozens of Jewish daycares, schools, and workplaces. The suspect is also believed to be responsible for threatening a Delta Airlines flight, resulting in the plane executing an emergency landing.

"The investigation began in several countries simultaneously after dozens of threatening calls were received at public places, events, synagogues, and community buildings that caused panic and disrupted events and activities in various organizations," Israeli police said. Jeva Lange

11:37 a.m. ET
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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) apologized to the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), on Thursday after sharing with the White House claims that members of President Trump's transition team were monitored legally and apparently incidentally before the inauguration. On Wednesday, Schiff called it "deeply troubling" that Nunes shared his information with Trump, a subject of the investigation, rather than the committee doing the investigation.

A committee aide told Politico that Nunes apologized "for not sharing information about the documents he saw with the minority before going public." Nunes additionally "pledged to work with them on this issue."

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey said publicly for the first time that the FBI is investigating possible Trump campaign participation in Russian attempts to sway the election away from Hillary Clinton and toward Trump. Jeva Lange

11:08 a.m. ET

The Trump administration has gone to the dogs in the best possible way. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Thursday that his department will be the first to allow employees to bring their pups to the office. The policy, called "Doggy Days at Interior," will "launch with test runs at the agency's Washington headquarters on two Fridays in May and September," The Washington Post writes.

In a letter to the Interior Department's staff, Zinke wrote about how much his own 18-month-old Havanese, Ragnar, means to him. "Opening the door each evening and seeing him running at me is one of the highlights of my day," Zinke said. "I can't even count how many miles I've driven across Montana with [him] riding shotgun, or how many hikes and river floats [my wife] Lola and I went on with the little guy. But I can tell you it was always better to have him."

The Interior Department has 70,000 employees across the country, resulting in an unknown number of eligible dogs. Employees who might be uncomfortable with a dog-filled office, though, will have "other flexibilities" on the days when dogs are allowed, including the possibility of telework, Zinke said.

Zinke notably rode a horse to work on his first day as interior secretary, although there are no plans for "Horsey Days at Interior" just yet. Jeva Lange

10:43 a.m. ET
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Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) officially confirmed Thursday that he will vote no on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, The Hill reports. Schumer indicated his intentions Tuesday, calling it "the height of irony" that Republicans held the seat open during President Obama's last term but "are now rushing to fill the seat for a president whose campaign is under investigation by the FBI."

Schumer confirmed Thursday that the Democrats will filibuster Gorsuch. "He will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation. My vote will be 'no' and I urge my colleagues to do the same," Schumer said, adding that Gorsuch is "not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology."

Gorsuch's final day of Senate hearings is Thursday. Jeva Lange

10:38 a.m. ET

Reddit is the the fifth-most-popular website in the United States, and it is organized into subreddits, single-topic communities where like-minded users can gather by the thousands or even millions to discuss their shared interests, from news to DIY projects to grilled cheese. Among these groups is a subreddit called r/The_Donald, a 380,000-member community devoted to adoring all things Trump.

As FiveThirtyEight chronicles in a new profile of the group, r/The_Donald calls President Trump its "God Emperor," "daddy," and, naturally, "Big Daddy God Emperor." This is arguably the epicenter of the president's most enthusiastic online supporters:

Its membership has grown steadily since the 2016 presidential election, though its members were especially active during the campaign. They mobilized to comb through the hacked Democratic National Committee emails published on WikiLeaks and played a large role in spreading information and theories about those emails. More broadly, they waged the "Great Meme War": an effort to get Trump elected by bombarding the internet with social-media-ready content promoting Trump or bashing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Some of those memes played on Clinton's campaign gaffes, such as her use of the phrase "basket of deplorables," while others involved an emerging pro-Trump iconography centered around images of Pepe the Frog — a cartoon character with a convoluted history that gained especial prominence after it was co-opted by white nationalists as a sort of unofficial mascot. [FiveThirtyEight]

The Trump campaign was aware of r/The_Donald, with staffers using it as a sort of digital focus group to keep an eye on messages that resonated among Trump fans. In July of 2016, the campaign organized within the subreddit an "Ask Me Anything" event — a Reddit tradition where famous or otherwise interesting people take questions from users for a set period of time — with then-candidate Trump. The subreddit was delighted, and more than 21,000 comments poured into that single discussion thread.

Of course, this group inevitably represents just a tiny fraction of the president's supporters, but FiveThirtyEight's analysis, which focuses on where r/The_Donald fits in Reddit's larger web of communities of widely varying quality and ethics, is intriguing context for our present political moment nonetheless. Read the full profile here. Bonnie Kristian

10:10 a.m. ET
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A study completed by the Women's Media Center (WMC) finds the Fox News website boasts the "best gender ratio" among its writers out of 20 major news outlets analyzed in the annual report. The WMC is led by feminist activists Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, and its goal is to ensure women's representation in the press is on par with their representation in the population at large.

The Fox site achieved near-perfect parity between male and female writers, the study found, with 50.1 percent of its bylines naming men and 49.9 percent going to women. On average in the online outlets the report considered, men receive 53.9 percent of bylines to women's 46.1 percent.

Other media sectors were much further from gender parity, with broadcast media exhibiting the greatest imbalance. "Overall, men report 74.8 percent of the broadcast news; women report 25.2 percent," the WMC reports. "The study also found that men produce most stories on sports, weather, and crime and justice. Women's bylines are largely on lifestyle, health, and education news." Bonnie Kristian

10:07 a.m. ET
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One Apple engineer is using his own ingenuity to help Santa Cruz's homeless population. Ron Powers spends his evenings and weekends driving around in his mobile laundromat, a van that he outfitted with two washers and two dryers, offering to do strangers' laundry for free. For many people on the streets, Powers' "Loads of Love" initiative is a blessing. Homeless individuals, he says, often throw away socks and other clothes when they get dirty because they can't afford to pay for laundry and buy food. "I want to restore dignity to people," says Powers. "I want to improve health." Christina Colizza

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