“Senate leaders struck a far-reaching bipartisan agreement on Wednesday that would add hundreds of billions of dollars to military and domestic programs over the next two years while raising the federal debt limit, moving to end the cycle of fiscal showdowns that have roiled the Capitol.
“The accord … would raise strict caps on military and domestic spending that were imposed in 2011 as part of a deal with President Barack Obama that was once seen as a key triumph for Republicans in Congress. The deal would raise the spending caps by about $300 billion over two years.”
“The budget agreement, coming a day after President Trump threatened to shut down the government, would effectively negate Mr. Trump’s demands to broadly reorder government with deep cuts to nondefense programs like environmental protection, foreign aid and health research that were to offset large increases in military spending. Mr. Trump is to release his second budget request on Monday, but the deal—championed by the top congressional leaders from his own party—amounts to an unequivocal rebuke of many of the budgetary demands he has put forth.” (New York Times)
WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL OUT. “A senior White House official said Wednesday that he would resign after his two ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse, with one presenting pictures of her blackened eye.
“The official, Rob Porter, served as the staff secretary, a title that belies the role’s importance in any White House— but especially in President Trump’s. Porter functioned as Chief of Staff John F. Kelly’s top enforcer in their shared mission to instill discipline and order in what had become an extraordinarily chaotic West Wing. He was the gatekeeper to the Oval Office, determining which articles and policy proposals reached the president’s hands and screening the briefing materials that his visitors shared with him.
“Aides had been aware generally of accusations against Porter since late last year, White House advisers said, but learned of the specifics late Tuesday. … Porter’s ex-wives said they informed the FBI in January 2017 of their allegations against him while they were being interviewed by agents as part of Porter’s security clearance review. It was unclear when or whether the FBI informed the White House.” (Washington Post)
RNC. A Republican National Committee spokesman said Wednesday its position on keeping donations from former Finance Chairman Steve Wynn has not changed, “even as years of sexual misconduct allegations forced the casino magnate to step down from his company Tuesday night. … Last fall, the RNC vehemently pushed Democrats to return their donations from Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, a major donor to Democratic lawmakers, in response to his sexual abuse allegations.” (HuffPost)
PENCE. “During his first year in President Trump’s administration,” Vice President Mike Pence “primarily took on a behind-the-scenes, supporting role. But now, the vice president is taking a more prominent posture, at home and abroad, and is using this Asia trip to help drive the administration’s hard-line policy on North Korea. … On this trip, Pence plans to further solidify the U.S. alliance with Japan against Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime, as well as urge South Korea—which has been eager to open a diplomatic dialogue with North Korea—to take a tougher stance.” (Washington Post)
“Pence on Thursday took to social media to criticize a USA TODAY Sports report as “#FAKENEWS” that U.S. Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon rebuffed a request that his office set up a conversation between the two men.” (USA Today)
TRUMP PROPERTIES. “During President Trump’s first year in office, he and other Republicans spent nearly $1.1 million of donors’ money with Trump-aligned businesses, an … analysis of recently filed campaign-finance reports shows.
“Trump, who began raising funds for his re-election on the day he was sworn in, led the way. His campaign spent more than $688,000 at Trump properties. The largest amount: more than $476,000 to Trump Tower in New York for rent expenses. The president’s 2020 campaign headquarters are housed at his midtown Manhattan skyscraper.” (USA Today)
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Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is expected to plead guilty to a raft of new tax and fraud charges filed against him by special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday. Gates is expected to cooperate with Mueller's investigation.
Robert Mueller announced new charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort advisor Rick Gates. "The new indictment contains 32 counts, including tax charges." The pair had been indicted on 12 charges in October. Since then, Gates's attorneys have asked to be excused from the case.
The FBI has reported that it failed to respond to a warning from "a person close to" Nikolas Cruz, the teen accused of killing 17 people at Parkland High School on Thursday. "It was the second time the FBI apparently failed to follow up on Cruz." On the first occasion, it failed to properly investigate Cruz after it was reported to them that he left the following comment on a Youtube video: "Im going to be a school shooter."
Florida Governor Rick Scott called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign following revelations that the FBI had failed to adequately investigate multiple warnings about Parkland High School gunman Nikolas Cruz. “The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable,'" said Scott. '...We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act.'" According to an FBI statement, the FBI failed to inform local offices of information regarding "Cruz's desire to kill people, erratic behavior, disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting."