President Trump's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner reportedly held discussions with Russia's ambassador about setting up a secret communication channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin shortly after the election, intelligence officials confirmed to The Washington Post.
The Post first learned of Kushner's inquiry in an anonymous letter sent in December; Kushner's meeting with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reportedly happened at Trump Tower on Dec. 1 or 2. Kushner apparently suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for the secret communications, alarming Kislyak, as that would have been a security risk for Russia, too.
... Kushner conveyed to the Russians that he was aware that it would be politically sensitive to meet publicly, but it was necessary for the Trump team to be able to continue their communication with Russian government officials.
In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, [Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael] Flynn, and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a "Russian contact" in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter. [The Washington Post]
Senior U.S. officials expressed shock at Kushner's bold proposition, especially as Russian communications are closely monitored by the U.S., with one calling his idea "extremely naive or absolutely crazy.” Read the full scoop at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange
Singer Ariana Grande said Friday that she will be returning to Manchester for a benefit concert to help the victims of the Monday attack at her show that left 22 dead and dozens more injured.
"Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder, and to live more kindly and generously than we did before," said Grande, 23, in a statement. "I'll be returning to the incredibly brave city of Manchester to spend time with my fans and to have a benefit concert in honor of and to raise money for the victims and their families."
Grande added that while "there is nothing I or anyone can do to take away the pain you are feeling or to make this better … I extend my hand and heart and everything I possibly can give to you and yours, should you want or need my help in any way." Read her full statement below. Jeva Lange
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) May 26, 2017
When former FBI Director James Comey abruptly closed the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server last summer, it was in response to a piece of Russian intelligence purporting that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had assured the Clinton campaign the investigation would not be vigorously pursued. Comey reportedly knew that the Russian intelligence was actually false, officials with knowledge of the situation told CNN.
Officials told The Washington Post Comey felt he had "little choice" but to close the investigation "because he feared that if ... the secret document leaked, the legitimacy of the entire case would be questioned."
CNN writes that "Comey's actions based on what he knew was Russian disinformation offer a stark example of the way Russian interference impacted the decisions of the highest-level U.S. officials during the 2016 campaign." Read more about how Comey treated the false information at CNN. Jeva Lange
A group of eight to 10 gunmen dressed in military uniforms attacked a bus and pickup truck carrying Coptic Christians to St. Samuel Monastery in Egypt's Minya province, about 140 miles south of Cairo, witnesses and Egyptian officials say. At least 20 people were killed in the attack, including children, The New York Times reports, citing Egyptian state media reports; The Associated Press puts the toll at 24 dead, 25 wounded. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but groups linked to the Islamic State said they had carried out other recent attacks on Egypt's Coptic minority, and ISIS' Egyptian branch pledged to step up attacks against Christians after Pope Francis visited Egypt last month.
"We are having a very hard time reaching the monastery because it is in the desert," Ibram Samir, a Christian official in Minya province, tells The New York Times. "It's very confusing. But we know that children were killed." Egypt's Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East, and they have long complained of harassment and discrimination, but attacks against the community have increased since Pope Tawadros II and other Coptic leaders backed President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi after he took control of the government from a democratically elected president from the Muslim Brotherhood. Peter Weber
Republican Greg Gianforte is projected to win the Montana House seat left vacant by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
With 78 percent of precincts reporting, Gianforte has 167,871 votes, compared to Democrat Rob Quist with 143,410 votes and Libertarian Mark Wicks with 19,251 votes. On Wednesday night, Gianforte was charged with assault, following an altercation with The Guardian's Ben Jacobs, who accused Gianforte of "body slamming" him and breaking his glasses. Gianforte's campaign claimed Jacobs, who recorded audio of the incident, "grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground," but eyewitnesses backed Jacobs' account. Going into Thursday's election, 37 percent of Montana's registered voters had already voted absentee. Catherine Garcia
President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is under scrutiny by the FBI in its Russia investigation, several U.S. officials told NBC News and other media outlets.
Officials said investigators believe Kushner has information that could be helpful in the inquiry, but he isn't necessarily suspected of any crimes and is in a different category than Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, and Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, who are considered subjects of the investigation.
In 2016, Kushner met at least once with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and a Russian banker named Sergey Gorkov who has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014. It's unclear if Kushner has received any requests from federal investigators for documents, and his lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, told NBC News he "previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry." The investigation into whether Trump associates colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election is now being led by a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Catherine Garcia
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its score of the American Health Care Act on Wednesday, updating its projections to accommodate the version of the bill that passed the House earlier this month. The CBO offered an initial score of the GOP health-care bill in March, after it was first drafted but before it was amended to amass enough Republican votes to pass the lower chamber.
The two major amendments made to the bill during negotiations sought to make the bill more amenable to the far-right Freedom Caucus members, who felt the first draft did not go far enough to repeal ObamaCare, while retaining the support of more moderate Republicans, who worried about constituents reliant on ObamaCare policies.
As a result, the second iteration of the bill included two key changes, delegating certain coverage mandates to states: They would have the option to waive the ObamaCare mandate that insurers cover certain essential health benefits, including maternity care and mental health treatment; and they would have the option to waive the requirement that insurers charge people of the same age the same premiums regardless of health status, also known as "community rating."
In its updated score Wednesday, the CBO predicted these two waivers would destabilize the insurance market, due to "market responses to decisions by some states to waive [the aforementioned] two provisions of federal law":
Quite a paragraph in the CBO report - expects law would greatly destabilize insurance markets. pic.twitter.com/FQnMsfagz5
— Sarah Kliff (@sarahkliff) May 24, 2017
The CBO predicted that in states that exercise their waiver right in both cases, young, healthier individuals would opt for insurance plans with lower premiums rather than purchasing plans from insurers that have retained the community-rating provision. When healthier individuals are not required to purchase insurance, or when they can purchase cheaper plans from alternate providers, those insurers providing more comprehensive coverage to sicker or older individuals are forced to charge higher premiums to those individuals to balance their costs.
Overall, the updated CBO score predicted the American Health Care Act would leave 23 million more Americans uninsured by 2026 than ObamaCare, while reducing the federal deficit by $119 billion. Senate Republicans have already set to work overhauling the bill. Read the CBO's full report here. Kimberly Alters
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday released its complete updated cost estimate of the GOP-backed American Health Care Act, three weeks after the House narrowly passed the health-care bill. The new CBO score revealed that by 2026, an additional 23 million Americans would be uninsured under the American Health Care Act, as opposed to if ObamaCare were to remain law. In March, the CBO estimated 24 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026; Wednesday's score takes into account amendments made to the bill by Republicans to pass it through the House.
The CBO also estimated the American Health Care Act would reduce the federal deficit over the next decade by $119 billion. When the CBO scored the GOP's first iteration of the bill in March, it estimated that the federal deficit would be reduced by $150 billion.
Premiums are projected to go up by about 20 percent in 2018 and then increase by another 5 percent in 2019, before beginning to drop, Time reported. The CBO warned that "less healthy people would face extremely high premiums, despite the additional funding" that the bill has added to reduce premiums. A last-minute amendment to the bill before the House vote allotted $8 billion in federal funding, vaguely intended to offset premium increases caused by the bill's waiver options that allow states to make certain coverage decisions.
The AHCA is currently up for debate in the Senate. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted he doesn't know how to get the simple-majority vote needed to pass the bill. Becca Stanek