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Inside Trump (Jan 11th, 2018)

The Trump administration plans to allow states to tie Medicaid benefits to employment, based on a letter sent to state officials on Thursday. The letter, from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), lays out guidelines for mandating that able-bodied, working-age Medicaid enrollees maintain employment in order to receive benefits. Kentucky, which submitted its proposal to the federal government over a year ago, will likely be the first state to be approved. A number of states with majority Republican legislatures have indicated they will also try to institute similar programs, which will likely be challenged by Democrats and advocacy groups in court. According to Politico, the majority of those impacted will be working-age adults who first gained health coverage under Obamacare. A number of studies indicate that the majority of those receiving Medicaid benefits are already employed. – POLITICO

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The House of Representatives rejected a proposal on Thursday that would have placed new limitations on the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless surveillance program, following contradictory tweets by the President. The new bipartisan legislation would have amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), requiring officials to obtain court warrants before reading the private emails of American citizens, among other changes. The bill would have extended the law for only four more years. Instead, the House approved a full six-year FISA extension, without the new privacy rules. In his first tweet about the FISA vote on Thursday morning, President Trump implied that the law may have been used "to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others." But in a follow-up message sent one hour later, Trump appeared to reverse course and support FISA renewal, instructing lawmakers "We need it! Get smart!" Following the tweets, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had suggested that Republicans pull the FISA renewal bill entirely. – NYT

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President Trump plans to attend the World Economic Forum, to be held later this month in Davos, Switzerland. The annual economic summit, held in the Swiss Alps, has been called the "world's most high-powered networking event," and is attended by some of the world's wealthiest people. In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the President will "advance his America First agenda with world leaders" at the conference. Former President Bill Clinton attended the 2000 event, and President George W. Bush went to a World Economic Forum event in Egypt in 2008, but this will be a relatively rare Davos appearance by a sitting US president. Last year, Xi Jinping became the first Chinese president to make an appearance at the forum. – NYT

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Telepresence robots are out. The Meeting Owl is in.

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During a joint press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, President Trump touted the sale of non-existent F-52 fighter jets. Speaking about a recent deal struck with Norway, Trump said "in November, we started delivering the first F-52s and F-35 fighter jets. We have a total of 52 and they’ve delivered a number of them already a little ahead of schedule." The mistake likely resulted from a misread of his notes. In fact, Norway has purchased 40 F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin, including the F-35 Lightning II, of which 10 have thus far been delivered. Though Lockheed Martin has no public plans for any "F-52" aircraft, the model does appear in the popular video game franchise "Call of Duty." – WAPO

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Democratic lawmakers are planning protests for President Trump's first State of the Union address, scheduled for January 30. The Democratic Women’s Working Group, whose members wore all white when attending Trump's first joint address to Congress in 2017, will wear all black to the State of the Union address, in a nod to the "Me Too" movement against sexual harassment and abuse. The group's chairwoman, Florida Rep. Lois Frankel, also plans to bring an activist representative of "Me Too" as her guest to the address. (The inspiration came from this weekend's Golden Globe awards.) Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon has stated he'll skip the address entirely, and Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Al Green (D-Texas) - who declined to attend Trump's joint address to Congress - will announce in the coming days how they plan to handle the State of the Union. A number of other Democrats have indicated that they will try not to sit along the aisle, to avoid having to shake the President's hand as he walks by. – THEHILL

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IN-DEPTH: FEINSTEIN RELEASES FUSION GPS TESTIMONY

On Tuesday, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein released a transcript of Senate testimony given by Glenn Simpson, the founder of research firm Fusion GPS. (Simpson spoke with the Senate Judiciary Committee back in August.) The nearly 300 page transcript gives insight into the creation of the infamous dossier by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, which was initially published in early 2017 by BuzzFeed and made numerous ties between Trump's campaign and prominent Russian figures. It also reveals the different approaches employed by the committee's Republican and Democratic senators.

On the GOP side, the effort was largely focused on discrediting the dossier, and indicating that Fusion - which had initially been hired by conservative donors, and later by the Clinton campaign - was purposefully digging up dirt on Trump and passing it along to government investigators.

Democrats on the committee, on the other hand, focused their questioning on the connections Steele and Fusion found between Russia and the Trump campaign. They also noted that Simpson, Fusion and Steele felt obligated to turn over what they had discovered to the FBI, rather than being compelled or assigned to do so, as they believed Trump was a potential target for blackmail

Simpson's testimony indicates that the FBI already had some of the information contained in the dossier before meeting with Steele and Fusion in September of 2016, thanks to a "walk-in whistleblower" from within Trump's orbit. Simpson also claimed that Steele stopped collaborating with the FBI in late October of that year, believing that they were actively working in favor of the Trump campaign, and he made the widely-shared allegation that an unnamed person has "already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier."

President Trump criticized Sen. Feinstein and her decision to release the transcript in a series of tweets on Wednesday, nicknaming her "Sneaky Dianne Feinstein." He called her release of the document "possibly illegal" and "a disgrace." Feinstein told an NBC News producer that she regretted not telling Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican, about her plans in advance, blaming the failure to do so on "a bad cold." 

When asked on Wednesday about whether or not he'd be personally interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller, President Trump declined to give a concrete answer. The questioning came during Trump's appearance alongside Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway. The President said he would consult his attorneys about the possibility of doing the interview - first raised in the media earlier this week - adding "we'll see what happens." Trump once more referred to the special counsel's investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government as a "witch hunt" and a "Democrat hoax."

A new Politico poll, published on Wednesday, indicates that about 48% of voters believe President Trump will be exonerated of collusion charges in 2018.

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