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June 1, 2017

While President Trump was still in Europe, the White House floated the idea that all of his tweets would be vetted by lawyers before being sent out into the Twitterverse, and maybe they were encouraged by his lack of tweeting while abroad. When he came back to the White House, however, the id-tweeting started back up immediately, and despite growing pleas from his legal team, the idea of prescreening Trump's tweets has obviously not covfefe yet. Despite orders from his lawyers and begging from his aides, Trump has made clear "that he fully intends to stick to his favorite means of communication," The New York Times reports. Nevertheless, they persist:

Mr. Trump's aides, especially his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, have long implored the president to cut down on his tweeting, especially about the Russia investigations. But Mr. McGahn is not perceived as a peer by Mr. Trump, unlike [outside lawyer Marc E.] Kasowitz, whom the president respects for building a successful business. White House aides hope that Mr. Kasowitz, who has advised Mr. Trump for years, can get through to the president — and that if Mr. Kasowitz leads a vigorous public defense, the president may not feel the need to do it himself. ...

The best way to keep Mr. Trump off Twitter, advisers said, is to keep him busy. During his foreign trip, he was occupied 12 to 15 hours a day, seldom left alone to fulminate over the Russian investigation, and given less unstructured time to watch television — although he did tune in to CNN International and fumed privately that it was even more hostile to him than the domestic network. It helped, aides said, that Melania Trump, a sometimes moderating force who has largely remained in New York since the inauguration, accompanied him on the trip. [The New York Times]

During the presidential campaign, Trump's tweeting was a political liability at times, but now it's a legal problem. You can read more about Trump's 140-character self-imposed legal jeopardy at The New York Times. Peter Weber

7:46 a.m. ET
John Moore/Getty Images

President Trump assured critics that he would officially declare the opioid crisis to be a national emergency next week, which was apparently news to his own officials. "They are not ready for this," one public health advocate told Politico after discussing Trump's promise with Health and Human Services officials. A senior Food and Drug Administration official agreed, calling it "such a mess."

Opioids are the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. STAT estimated earlier this year that opioids could kill nearly 500,000 Americans in the next decade. But "Trump's off-script statement stunned top agency officials, who said there is no consensus on how to implement an emergency declaration for the drug epidemic," Politico writes.

Part of the disagreement boils down to how to declare the emergency: The Stafford Act, which is normally used for natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, could open up federal dollars for the opioid crisis but might not be legally sound. Trump could instead declare a more narrowly focused public health emergency, but that would rely on the mere $57,000 in available money from HHS. Trump could also look to Congress, but that approach still hasn't been finalized.

“The reaction [to Trump's promise] was universal," one senior health official told Politico. "Believe it when [we] see it." Read more about why if the opioid crisis isn't a national emergency, nothing is, at The Week. Jeva Lange

7:28 a.m. ET

At a ceremony Friday, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces declared the "total liberation" of Raqqa, Syria, the former de facto capital of the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate. The Kurdish-led coalition then formally handed over control of the devastated city to a civilian council, though SDF spokesman Talal Silo said the coalition would continue sweeping the city for ISIS holdouts and explosives and guarantee the safety of the city and province. The SDF had declared military operations over on Tuesday, and Silo said 655 local and international fighters died in the 130-day battle to push ISIS out of Raqqa.

The SDF held its ceremony, attended by local officials and regional tribal leaders, in the sports stadium that ISIS had used as a weapons depot, prison, and torture chamber, and where its fighters made their last stand. The point, SDF commanders told CNN, was "to add insult to injury following the extremist group's defeat there." Clearing Raqqa of explosives and making sure ISIS militants are all gone from the tunnel system they built could take months. Silo cheered the "historic victory" over ISIS and its "brutal" defeat, and paid homage to the fallen SDF and allied fighters, but also asked the international community to help rebuild Raqqa. You can see a glimpse of what's left of Raqqa, after three months of battle and many more months of U.S.-led bombing, in the Associated Press drone video from Thursday. Peter Weber

6:40 a.m. ET
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, a federal judge in Phoenix ruled that Joe Arpaio is still legally guilty of criminal contempt of court despite the Aug. 25 pardon from President Trump. Arpaio's lawyers and the Justice Department had asked U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to vacate her July 31 guilty verdict, to wipe his record clean and prevent the conviction from being used against him in other litigation. She refused. Arpaio had been scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 5

"The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping," Bolton wrote in her 4-page ruling, quoting a 1990 appeals court ruling. "To vacate all rulings in this case would run afoul of this important distinction. The court found defendant guilty of criminal contempt. The president issued the pardon. Defendant accepted. The pardon undoubtedly spared defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed. It did not, however, 'revise the historical facts' of this case."

Arpaio's lawyers immediately filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Arpaio, 85, was sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for 24 years before being voted out last year. He is an immigration hardliner and significant Trump supporter. After his pardon, Arpaio suggested that he might get back into politics. Peter Weber

5:43 a.m. ET
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Keeping up with President Trump's stance on the bipartisan health-care bill that Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) unveiled on Thursday, flanked by 11 Republican and 11 Democratic cosponsors, can be exhausting and frustrating. So Republicans have just started ignoring Trump's opinion, Caitlin Owens reports at Axios, and cracking jokes about Trump's policy inconstancy. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said all 48 members of the Democratic caucus, which would give it 60 yes votes if Republicans bring it up for a vote. But if Trump objects, Republicans see a problem. If.

"Which one's he on now?" Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) asked Owens when she brought up Trump's opinion of the bill. "In this town, at this time, change seems to be the norm," Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said when asked about Trump's shifting opinion. "It is what it is. So we just work around it." A GOP lobbyist told Owens: "They just need to pass it during the 5 minutes he is supportive." Alexander and others suggest that the bill faces better odds as part of a year-end package of must-pass legislation rather than as a stand-alone bill.

Alexander-Murray aims to stabilize insurance markets by extending for two years the cost-sharing subsidies that insurers use to lower costs for low-income customers — Trump ended them last week — and makes it easier for states to get waivers on ObamaCare requirements. Peter Weber

4:42 a.m. ET

This week, for some reason, the internet went crazy over a rumor that first lady Melania Trump has a body double. "Do you have any idea how dumb that sounds?" Jordan Klepper scoffed on Thursday's The Opposition. "Of course Melania has a body double. We free thinkers have known that for years." In fact, "body doubles are everywhere in politics," and have been since Queen Elizabeth I invented them, Klepper said, with much more elaboration and a few examples.

But "this Melania body-double thing is trying to throw you off the scent, like a perfume that tells lies," Klepper said. "The big story? The double that is happening in health care." He noted Trump's rapid flip-flopping on whether he supports the bipartisan Alexander-Murray health care bill. "I know what you're thinking — Trump's body double went off-book. Shut up, that's absurd — Trump doesn't have a body double. They're not ready yet; they've been only growing beneath the Arizona desert for nine months, give them time."

"No, Trump is using an even more advanced technique: the opinion double," Klepper explained. "You see, opinion doubles let Trump occupy multiple stances on health care at the same time. They allow you to play to whichever room you happen to be in. If you have every opinion, you are guaranteed to be right — it's brilliant." If body doubles and opinion doubles are real, Klepper said, bipartisanship isn't. "You think politicians are going to work with their enemies just to help Americans? What's the catch?" And he had the conspiracy theory to prove his point. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:48 a.m. ET

The National Weather Service issued its forecast for the winter on Thursday, and most of the U.S. should expect warmer-than-average temperatures, on the assumption that a weak La Niña weather pattern develops in the Pacific. While the lower two-thirds of the U.S., Hawaii, and the northern and western parts of Alaska will be unusually warm, said Mike Halpert of the Climate Prediction Center, there will also be "greater-than-average snowfall around the Great Lakes and in the northern Rockies, with less-than-average snowfall throughout the Mid-Atlantic region" and a dry winter across the south.

If the forecasts of a warmer-than-average winter are true, it would be the third one in a row — last winter was the sixth warmest on record, and the one before that the warmest ever recorded, The Washington Post notes. "We're not anticipating the kind of record warmth we've seen the last two winters," Halpert told reporters, though "the odds of seeing three Top 10 [warmest winters in a row] is reduced, not eliminated." The warming climate from greenhouse gasses "does, undoubtedly, play a role" in the warm winters, he added, but the "driving force" this year is the La Niña.

The forecast is seasonal and doesn't preclude cold fronts or snowstorms anywhere, Halpert cautioned, and there's only a 55 percent 65 percent chance of a La Niña developing. Peter Weber

2:22 a.m. ET

Former President Barack Obama, stumping for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam in Richmond on Thursday evening, alluded to August's violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, 70 miles up I-64. That rally was ostensibly organized to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.

"We've got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry" for political gain, Obama said. "We shouldn't use the most painful parts of our history just to score political points. ... We don't rise up by repeating the past, we rise up by learning form the past." He then mentioned that he is "an eighth or ninth or tenth or something cousin removed from Jefferson Davis," the head of the Confederacy. "Think about that." And lest you think he was bragging about his ancestry, Obama had a parting shot: "I'll bet he's spinning in his grave."

On Tuesday, the PTA president of a predominantly black public school in Jackson, Mississippi, said that the school stakeholders had voted to change the name, Davis Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary, after Jefferson Davis, to Obama Magnet IB Elementary. "Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him," the PTA president, Janelle Jefferson, told the Jackson School Board. The change will take effect next school year. Peter Weber

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