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May 19, 2017
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The ongoing probe into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign has reportedly identified a current White House official as "a significant person of interest," The Washington Post reports. The individual was described by people familiar with the matter as being "someone close to the president," although the sources declined to name names.

So far, President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, have been the public centers of the investigation. Neither is a part of the current administration. "Current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Cabinet members Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson," the Post writes.

Kushner, for one, was a "prominent voice advocating Comey's firing," CBS writes. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Trump told Russian officials he had fired Comey in order to ease the pressure of the ongoing probe.

The White House also has acknowledged that Kushner met with [Sergey] Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., in late November. Kushner also has acknowledged that he met with the head of a Russian development bank, Vnesheconombank, which has been under U.S. sanctions since July 2014. The president's son-in-law initially omitted contacts with foreign leaders from a national security questionnaire, though his lawyer has said publicly he submitted the form prematurely and informed the FBI soon after he would provide an update.

Vnesheconombank handles development for the state, and in early 2015, a man purporting to be one of its New York-based employees was arrested and accused of being an unregistered spy. [The Washington Post]

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the Post that "as the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity."

The Washington Post adds that "people familiar with the matter said investigators on the case are more focused on Russian influence operations and possible financial crimes" and that "the probe has sharpened into something more fraught for the White House, the FBI, and the Justice Department — particularly because of the public steps investigators know they now need to take." Read the full scoop at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

12:34 p.m. ET

Defense Secretary James Mattis warned of grave consequences for failure to resolve the United States' differences with North Korea via diplomacy while speaking on CBS Sunday.

"A conflict with North Korea would probably be the worst kind of fighting in most people's lifetimes," Mattis said in a Face the Nation interview. "This regime is a threat to the region, to Japan, to South Korea. And in the event of war, they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well," he added. "But the bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we're not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means." Pyonyang claimed to test an anti-aircraft missile Sunday morning, its third weapons test in as many weeks.

In the same conversation, Mattis described pursuing a more aggressive approach to the fight against the Islamic State. "The bottom line is we are going to move in an accelerated and reinforced manner, throw them on their back foot. We have already shifted from attrition tactics where we shove them from one position to another in Iraq and Syria, to annihilation tactics where we surround them," he said. Watch an excerpt of his comments below. Bonnie Kristian

12:12 p.m. ET
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A man named Willie Cory Godbolt confessed Sunday to fatally shooting eight people in three homes in the towns of Brookhaven and Bogue Chitto, Mississippi. Among the dead was a sheriff’s deputy called to investigate after a neighbor reported a disturbance. The identities of the victims have not been released.

"I ain't fit to live, not after what I done," Godbolt confessed to a local paper after he was arrested. "Not in y'all eyes, not in nobody else's eyes." Godbolt said he did not intend to hurt the deputy — "My pain wasn't designed for him. He was just there" — but planned to provoke police into killing him: "Suicide by cop was my intention."

A 16-year-old boy Godbolt took hostage escaped unharmed, and law enforcement are expected to bring charges soon. Godbolt is believed to have been disputing custody of his children when he attacked. Bonnie Kristian

11:50 a.m. ET
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"The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday in Munich in comments understood to reference Europe's reliance on the United States. "I've experienced that in the last few days," she continued. "We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands" and "fight for our own destiny."

When President Trump met with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday, he reiterated his critique that allies are too dependent on the United States, calling their failure to make meet a pledged 2 percent of GDP defense spending target unfair to the U.S.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis on Sunday maintained Trump is supportive of the alliance. "I think when President Trump chooses to go to NATO personally and stand there alongside the other more than two dozen nations in NATO, that was his statement, not words, actions," he said in a CBS interview. Bonnie Kristian

11:23 a.m. ET
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British police on Sunday arrested a 25-year-old man in connection to the suicide bombing in Manchester that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert Monday. This is the 14th arrest linked to the attack; 12 people remain in custody.

On Saturday, police released photos of Salman Abedi, the Manchester-born man responsible for the bombing. "We are gathering a detailed picture of Abedi as the investigation develops and now need people to tell us if they have any information about his movement," said an official statement.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has also implemented a temporary exclusion order, requiring special vetting for "suspected Islamic terrorists" seeking to return to the U.K. until it is certain Abedi does not have accomplices still on the loose. "The operation is still at full tilt," Rudd said, with about 1,000 people working the case. Bonnie Kristian

10:40 a.m. ET
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The Department of Homeland Security "might" prohibit laptops as carry-on items for all international flights in and out of the United States, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

The United States being a "free and open society" is "one of our vulnerabilities," Kelly said. "There's a real threat — numerous threats against aviation. That's really the thing that they're obsessed with, the terrorists: the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it's a U.S. carrier, particularly if it's full of mostly U.S. folks." Electronic carry-ons are already limited for flights from 10 Muslim-majority countries in the Mideast and North Africa.

Kelly also said he would "likely" expand nationwide a new TSA policy of requiring passengers to more substantially unpack their carry-on bags at the checkpoint, separating food and paper items into different bins. A 2015 DHS investigation found TSA officers failed to detect 95 percent of explosives and weapons passed through airport security in an internal test. Terrorism experts say the long lines caused by slow TSA checkpoints are themselves a security risk. Bonnie Kristian

10:04 a.m. ET

President Trump revisited familiar territory on Twitter Sunday morning, raging against "fake news" and urging his followers to disbelieve any news reports citing unnamed sources.

These posts come just two days after unnamed sources alleged Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner attempted to arrange backchannel communications between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin, deepening suspicion of election manipulation collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Bonnie Kristian

9:56 a.m. ET
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The bodies of eight men who appeared to be civilians executed for attempting to flee hostilities were found Sunday on the outskirts of Marawi City in the Philippines, where militants claiming ties to the Islamic State terrorist group have staged a six-day occupation. By one body, a sign was placed reading "munafik," which means "traitor" or "hypocrite."

This brings the death toll of the conflict to about 85, including at least 19 civilians. Controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in the area as government forces combat the rebels using ground troops and airstrikes.

Civilian evacuations are also underway. "Some have no food at all. Some fear for their lives," said Zia Alonto Adiong, an official organizing rescue efforts. "This is a conflict that has gone beyond proportion. The magnitude of the degree of the damage and the people that are affected ... it's really massive." Bonnie Kristian

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