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January 18, 2019

The newest tell-all memoir from a former aide to President Trump is by someone you've probably never heard of, Cliff Sims, a former Trump campaign and White House communications staffer. But he has a story to tell, according to an excerpt of his upcoming book, Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, acquired by Axios.

In 2017, after talking to Trump on the phone the night before, Sims snuck into Trump's private study off the Oval Office via the private dining room, he recalls. The point of the secrecy was to hide that Sims was going to participate in a mole hunt of sorts, for "White House officials" who had been leaking stories about Trump. "Give me their names,” Trump told Sims, he writes, describing Trump's eyes as "narrowing" when he spoke. "I want these people out of here. I'm going to take care of this. We're going to get rid of all the snakes, even the bottom-­feeders." The only people above suspicion, it seems, were Ivanka Trump and maybe Jared Kushner. Sims writes:

Only in retrospect did I see how remarkable this was. I was sitting there with the president of the United States basically compiling an enemies list — but these enemies were within his own administration. ... The president proceeded to name White House staffer after White House staffer. Almost no one was deemed beyond reproach — not his chief of staff, not senior aides, almost no one other than those with whom he shared a last name. He wanted me to help him judge their loyalty. How, I wondered, had it come to this? [Cliff Sims, via Axios]

In the end, Trump's internal "enemies list," written in black Sharpie, contained about 10 enemies and five friends, Sims recalls. "Most of the targets survived, at least for a while," Axios says. You can read more at Axios. Peter Weber

7:07 p.m.

As part of an audit, the Office of the Inspector General will investigate why the Treasury Department delayed the release of a redesigned $20 bill featuring abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked the Treasury's watchdog to look into the matter and if there was "any involvement by the White House." In a statement released Monday, Schumer said there are "no women, there are no people of color on our paper currency today, even though they make up a significant majority of our population ... the $20 note was a long overdue way to recognize that disparity, and rectify it."

During the Obama administration, former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced the redesign, scheduled for release in 2020. In May, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Tubman $20 was being pushed aside, as the $10 and $50 bills needed to be redesigned first due to counterfeit concerns. The audit, which should take about 10 months to complete, will also look at security measures in place for currency. Catherine Garcia

5:37 p.m.

It's fair to assume that, when playing word association games, "Burning Man" and "lobbyist" don't pair together all too often.

But that's exactly what's happening in real life, Politico reports. Burning Man, an annual festival — actually, Burning Man's official website is loud and clear about the fact that the event is not a festival, but a "community," "temporary city," or "global cultural movement" — that takes place in the Nevada desert.

Burning Man organizers are reportedly afraid that new federal regulations could end its reign, or at least kill its vibe. The Bureau of Land Management wrote a 372-page draft creating a whole set of new standards that would seemingly knock some of the wind out of the event's carefree, unrestrained spirit, including calls for reduced light pollution, additional dumpsters, a wall outside of the venue, and maintenance on Nevada's County Road 34.

So, because those proposals are "in direct conflict with" Burning Man's "core principles," the event now has some "top-shelf" lobbyists from the firm Holland & Knight on retainer, Politico reports. Several lobbyists from both sides of the aisle, including a former Trump campaign staffer, will reportedly talk with the Bureau of Land Management on getting a permit for the event. Tim O'Donnell

5:30 p.m.

Prisoners of some of the world's worst terrorist groups had a privilege that many migrant children don't.

Reports had already indicated that migrant children were being held in disgusting conditions in U.S. detention centers, and last week, that story came to a head as a video showed a Trump administration lawyer arguing that toothpaste and soap aren't necessary to constitute "safe and sanitary" conditions. That viral footage prompted a response from Michael Scott Moore, who tweeted Saturday that "Somali pirates gave me toothpaste and soap."

Moore would know. He was kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2012 and was held for two and a half years before he was released. His response then got some backup from David Rohde, who tweeted that "the Taliban gave me toothpaste and soap." The journalist was kidnapped by Taliban members in 2008 and held for eight months before escaping.

An Associated Press report last week first described conditions at a Clint, Texas detention facility, where there was "inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens" being held there. A doctor who visited the facility later filed a report saying it "could be compared to torture facilities." All but 30 of those children have since been taken out of the facility and to a tent detention center, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) told AP on Monday. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:19 p.m.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio needs a presidential primary boost. This probably won't do it.

On Monday, de Blasio tweeted an apparent text exchange between himself and his 21-year-old son Dante, in which the 2020 Democrat asks his son for advice ahead of Wednesday's primary debates. "Hey Dad, I'm glad you've asked," Dante responds in what one can only assume is the tone of an infomercial host, before going on to share some advice.

For starters, Dante tells de Blasio to relate the story of meeting his wife Chirlane McCray to "how hard it is to find, like, 'the one' on tinder." De Blasio is skeptical, so Dante suggests bringing up the universally beloved subject of dogs, and then proposes de Blasio "tell people that NYC was just Staten Island when you started your first term." For an extra hip approach, Dante also recommends the tallest candidate on the stage try "a Zion leap over the moderator to the rim."

It was in de Blasio's best interest to ask Dante for some help, given that his stellar ad for his father's 2013 mayoral race is said to have steered de Blasio to victory. Dante is also a state debate champion, as de Blasio alludes to in his carefully crafted text exchange. And while this exchange may not do the mayor any favors, Dante should at least be credited with convincing de Blasio to apparently ditch his beloved flip phone. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:04 p.m.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry would like to thank actors Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mark Hamill for their artistry — but he's not talking about their portrayals of Elaine Benes, Selina Meyer, or Luke Skywalker.

Instead, Kerry is talking about a their participation in a play based on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation into 2016 Russian election interference. Hamill and Louis-Dreyfus will join a wide-ranging cast, including John Lithgow, Alyssa Milano, Annette Bening, Sigourney Weaver and Zachary Quinto, to perform a one-night-only show titled The Investigation: A Search For the Truth in Ten Acts. The play, which is written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Schenkkan, is set to air in New York at 9 p.m. It will be live streamed.

Kerry, it seems, will be tuning in, and he's quite excited about it, going so far as to call the 10-act play "an act of public service."

If, for some reason, you feel the urge to see not one, but two staged performances about the Mueller report, Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., is presenting an 11-hour marathon reading of Volume 2 of the Mueller report in July, The Washington Post reports. Tim O'Donnell

4:04 p.m.

Bacteria might just be the key to making us all healthier.

A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine on Monday offers new evidence that there are certain types of microbes present in the digestive tracts of athletes that help their bodies' endurance during exercise. Scientists took a look at a bacteria that is especially common in runners' bodies after a marathon, called Veillonella, NPR explained.

They then introduced that bacteria into mice, and found that those mice performed 13 percent better on an exercise wheel than mice who didn't get the boost. That's a huge effect — strong evidence that Veillonella is actually the cause of better athletic performance, not just its byproduct. This type of microbe actually feeds on lactate, a chemical that builds up in sore muscles and fatigued bodies.

While 13 percent might be a big change in mice, though, it's not confirmed that this bacteria would have the same effect on humans. It's highly unlikely that you could just take a Veillonella supplement to get a boost in your athletic performance, because "it's harder to replicate an effect" in the human body than in mice, said Morgan Langille, a microbiome researcher not involved in the research. But it's still "a really impressive study" that helps us understand more about the tiny ecosystems inside our bodies.

Further research will be necessary before a supplement could be tested on humans, but at least there's hope that someday, exercise won't need to be so much of a slog. Read more at NPR. Shivani Ishwar

4:03 p.m.

A government watchdog will criticize White House counselor Kellyanne Conway's "unacceptable" and "unlawful" behavior while testifying before Congress this week.

The Office of Special Counsel recommended earlier this month that Conway be fired for "repeatedly" violating the Hatch Act, which limits the political activities federal employees can engage in, and Special Counsel Henry Kerner will discuss this while testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Wednesday, The Daily Beast reports.

In an opening statement released on Monday, Kerner criticizes Conway for her "egregious and repeated Hatch Act violations," as well as her "unrepentant attitude," which he says are "unacceptable from any federal employee, let alone one in such a prominent position."

"Her conduct hurts both federal employees, who may believe that senior officials can act with complete disregard for the Hatch Act, and the American people, who may question the nonpartisan operation of their government," he writes.

Kerner goes on to again lay out why it was "inappropriate" and "unlawful" for Conway to "argue in support of President Trump's reelection and in opposition to the election of the Democratic Party's candidates for president" in her official capacity as a White House official. He also notes that the Office of Special Counsel has had to issue multiple reports about Conway's violations. "Ms. Conway's conduct reflects not a misunderstanding of the law, but rather a disregard for it," he therefore concludes.

Conway has denied that she violated the Hatch Act, saying in a Monday interview on Fox News, "they want to silence me." Trump has said he has no plans to fire Conway. Brendan Morrow

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