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August 17, 2017

On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a statement urging the prompt removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol. As the debate over the removal of Confederate monuments rages across the nation, Pelosi declared there is "no room for celebrating the violent bigotry of the men of the Confederacy" in the Capitol, nor in "places of honor across the country."

"The halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy. The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans," Pelosi said. She called on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to join Democrats in removing the "reprehensible" statues "if Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy." Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has already said he plans to introduce legislation proposing the removal of the monuments.

Politico reported there are 10 statues in the Capitol's National Statuary "honoring individuals who served in the Confederate army or government." There are also statues of individuals who were "supporters of slavery or the Confederacy."

Read Pelosi's full statement below. Becca Stanek

August 10, 2017

Speaking Thursday from his New Jersey golf club, President Trump doubled down on his defiant responses to North Korea in light of Pyongyang's escalating nuclear threats. "They can be very, very nervous," Trump said, "and they should be very nervous. Things will happen to them like they never thought possible."

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have been trading increasingly aggressive statements this week, after Trump on Tuesday pledged to rain "fire and fury" down on the Hermit Kingdom if its nuclear threats to the U.S. continued. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the U.S. intelligence community has assessed that North Korea has successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon, to the point where it could fit inside one of its missiles; recent North Korean missile tests have indicated the country may be able to soon strike the American mainland.

Trump was criticized for his "fire and fury" threat because of the implication that he was threatening Pyongyang with nuclear war, but when a reporter asked Thursday whether his rhetoric was too tough, Trump disagreed. "Maybe it wasn't tough enough," he said. The reporter then asked what would be tougher than "fire and fury," to which Trump replied, "We'll see." He also warned North Korea that they "better get their act together, or they are going to be in trouble like few nations have ever been in trouble."

Responding to Trump's threats earlier Thursday, North Korea called the president's comments "a load of nonsense" and said it was finalizing a plan to fire four missiles over Japan into waters around the tiny Pacific island of Guam, a U.S. territory with a military base. Watch a portion of Trump's comments below. Kimberly Alters

August 10, 2017
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Special Counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly subpoenaed President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort's foreign banking records. Bloomberg reported Thursday that Mueller, tasked with leading the ongoing investigation into the Trump team's potential ties to Russian election meddling, has "in recent weeks" requested that global banks send him "account information and records of transactions involving Manafort and some of his companies, as well as those of a long-time business partner, Rick Gates."

Manafort registered as a foreign agent in June after years in foreign consulting work, which included "business with oligarchs and politicians in Ukraine and Russia ... with payments routed through foreign banks and investments in U.S. real estate," Bloomberg reported. Manafort was also one of the Trump team members invited to the meeting that Donald Trump Jr. arranged with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer last year to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

News of the subpoenas emerged just one day after it was revealed that the FBI in late July had conducted a predawn raid on Manafort's Alexandria, Virginia, home to seize documents related to Russia investigation. Though Manafort had voluntarily met with Senate Intelligence Committee staff and turned over documents, The Washington Post reported that Mueller's team apparently "had reason to believe Manafort could not be trusted to turn over all records in response to a grand jury subpoena." Becca Stanek

August 10, 2017
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North Korea revealed Thursday that it's planning to fire precisely four intermediate-range ballistic missiles into the waters of the U.S. territory of Guam. The missiles would apparently fly over Japan and allegedly land 19 to 25 miles away from the island, a U.S. military hub. The Associated Press reported that "by launching a volley of four, the North would be attempting to make it harder for the U.S. to intercept all of the incoming missiles."

The plan could be finalized in as little as a week before it goes to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who would decide whether to move forward with it. Though North Korea isn't concerned about President Trump's threat to rain down "fire and fury" if its threats continue, The Associated Press noted it's "unclear" whether North Korea would actually carry out its plan, as attacking Guam would inevitably further inflame tensions and "provoke countermeasures."

"We will keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the U.S.," the Korean People's Army Strategic Force said. Becca Stanek

August 9, 2017

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis issued a stark warning to North Korea, redrawing the red line at any potential nuclear action, rather than just the threat of it. Mattis advised North Korea to "stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons" and "cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."

"The DPRK regime's actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates," Mattis said, making clear that while "diplomatic means" are preferable, the State Department has "the most precise, rehearsed, and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth" at hand. Mattis also noted that President Trump, who on Tuesday threatened to meet any further North Korean nuclear activity with "fire and fury," has "emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces" since taking office.

Read Mattis' statement in full below. Becca Stanek

August 8, 2017
Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO

Hackers aren't backing down from their threat to leak unreleased HBO shows, including Game of Thrones. Late Monday, the hackers posted numerous files stolen from HBO, including five draft scripts for Game of Thrones episodes, what appears to be a Game of Thrones cast list that contains personal contact information for the show's stars, HBO's administrator passwords, and emails from HBO's vice president for film programming.

In a video letter, the hackers demanded a ransom equivalent to their "six-month salary in bitcoin" — they claimed to make as much as $15 million a year from blackmailing hacked networks — to stop the release of entire series and confidential documents. The group claims it stole 1.5 terabytes of information from HBO.

HBO confirmed the breach last week, though the network said it doesn't believe that its entire email system has been compromised. The company is working with police and cybersecurity experts to investigate the incident. Becca Stanek

July 25, 2017
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On Tuesday, the Senate voted in favor of a motion to proceed to debating the House-passed health-care bill. The motion passed 50-50, with Vice President Mike Pence stepping in to break the tie.

Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) were the only Republicans to vote against the measure. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer, returned to Washington to cast his yes vote amid a round of applause. No Democrats voted in favor.

Lawmakers will now move to voting on the Senate's Better Care bill, along with a straight repeal bill favored by conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). A "skinny repeal" plan, which was introduced just hours before Tuesday's vote and would center around eliminating ObamaCare's individual mandate, the employer mandate, and a few of the health-care law's taxes, would come into play as a third option. Becca Stanek

July 12, 2017
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U.S. intelligence overheard Russian government officials discussing President Trump even before he'd declared he was running for office, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Such conversations were intercepted in spring 2015 and apparently referred to "meetings held outside the U.S. involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisers." Trump has sold properties in Russia and produced the Miss Universe pageant there in 2013. The Journal noted it's unclear whether the conversations were at all tied to Trump's plans to run for president.

The conversations were intercepted during routine intelligence monitoring that was not specifically targeted at Trump. However, intelligence agencies are now returning to the transcripts since Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday released emails confirming he'd set up a meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who claimed she had compromising information about Hillary Clinton. In the emails, Trump Jr. is offered "very high-level and sensitive information" that's "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

Back in 2015, intelligence agencies weren't sure what to make of the conversations. One former official said they were wondering, "What's going on?"

Read more on the story at The Wall Street Journal. Becca Stanek

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