President Trump earlier this morning blamed former President Obama for leaks of classified information from the White House and for protests in the wake of a controversial executive order halting immigration from seven predominantly-Muslim countries to the U.S. Trump made the comments in an interview with Fox and Friends, during which he gave no evidence for his claims. “I think he is behind it,” Trump said. “I also think it’s just politics. That’s just the way it is.” He continued, “You never know what’s exactly happening behind the scenes … I think that President Obama’s behind it because his people are certainly behind it.” He added, “Some of the leaks possibly come from that group. You know, some of the leaks—which are really very serious leaks because they’re very bad in terms of national security—but I also understand that’s politics and it will probably continue.”
President Trump lashed out at the FBI in a Twitter rant calling on the agency to find and punish leakers in the wake of a CNN report casting his administration in a negative light. According to the cable-news outlet’s Thursday evening report, the FBI rejected a request from the White House to knock down reports alleging communications between Trump allies and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. According to CNN, White House officials specifically sought out FBI and other agency officials to claim the reports were untrue. “The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time,” Trump wrote in response. “They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW.”
Iraqi ground troops, American drones, and American jets stormed Mosul's airport today, seizing control of the important base in a move to recapture the city from ISIS control. The advance will allow troops to launch operations into a key part of the city's western suburbs. Several thousand of the Islamic State's veteran fighters had installed defenses in the area. The runway was secured by noon, though militants had laid landmines through much of the abandoned complex. “Our forces started a major operation this morning to storm the Ghazlani airport base and I can confirm that it is only a matter of time before we control the whole area,” said Sabah al-Numan, a spokesman for the Iraqi counter-terrorism forces.
After taking flak for inviting incendiary alt-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos onto his show Real Time, Bill Maher is now claiming credit for the pundit’s downfall. “What I think people saw was an emotionally needy Ann Coulter wannabe, trying to make a buck off of the left’s propensity for outrage,” Maher said. “And by the end of the weekend, by dinnertime Monday, he’s dropped as a speaker at CPAC. Then he’s dropped by Breitbart, and his book deal falls through. As I say, sunlight is the best disinfectant. You’re welcome.” Maher still distanced himself from the idea that Yiannopoulos’s ideas could do any real harm. “Can he do damage? I suppose he can. To a degree. Not a great degree, I don’t think,” Maher said. “It just rubs me the wrong way when somebody says, ‘I don’t like what this person is saying—he should go away.’” Most of the criticism faced by Maher in the wake of the program centered on the fact that he didn’t correct Yiannopoulos when he misspoke or said something offensive. He responded, “It’s not my job to hold him accountable to everything he’s ever said or done.”
The Department of Homeland Security has issued a series of memos detailing how the Trump administration plans to crack down on undocumented immigrants and implement President Trump’s executive actions with regard to immigration. The memos, which were sent to U.S. agency heads and released publicly, do not include information about implementation of the travel ban that Trump issued last month, which is still on hold in court. The guidelines show plans for a significant increase in the number of individuals who will be deported under the Trump administration’s “expedited removal” regulations. Undocumented immigrants who are unable to prove that they have been living in the U.S. for two years could be subject to “expedited removal.”
Two top House Republicans requested an investigation yesterday into leaks of information that contributed to the ouster of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Jason Chaffetz and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte demanded that the Department of Justice investigate the leaks over fears that intelligence agencies must more appropriately protect classified information. Chaffetz wrote to the inspector general: “We have serious concerns about the potential inadequate protection of classified information here,” he said. “In light of this, we request that your office begin an immediate investigation into whether classified information was mishandled here.” Trump himself this week called the leaks the “real scandal” of Flynn’s resignation—not his communication with a Russian ambassador and misleading of the vice president.
In a 53-47 vote, the Senate confirmed Steven Mnuchin as Treasury secretary last night. A former Goldman Sachs banker, Mnuchin has been criticized for his coziness with Wall Street. During his confirmation hearing, he came under fire for failing to disclose some $100 million in assets. He also failed to disclose his leadership role at a Cayman Islands-based investment bank. His confirmation vote fell along party lines, with all Senate Republicans voting for him, and all Senate Democrats voting against him, with the exception of Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who voted to confirm Mnuchin.
National Security Adviser Mike Flynn may be in danger of losing his job, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The administration is reportedly weighing whether to dismiss Flynn over his controversial contacts with Russian officials and the publicity surrounding it. Flynn has allegedly apologized to President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who are said to have disagreed over the appropriate response to the situation. “He’s apologized to everyone,” an official told the Journal. On Dec. 29, Flynn spoke by phone with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and initially denied that he discussed new sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. Flynn later admitted that the conversation included mention of the sanctions. Transcripts of his phone calls corroborate that Flynn and Kislyak indeed discussed the matter. It reportedly also became clear that Flynn has had more than one phone call on the issue, despite the White House initially denying those claims. Trump has told close advisers that although the controversy is “unwelcome,” he is going to “look into” the matter further before making a decision. Trump has also said he wants to “keep moving forward” with Flynn.
Donald Trump attempted to whitewash critical remarks made about him by his pick to replace Antonin Scalia this morning. Even though a representative for Neil Gorsuch confirmed that he had expressed dismay at the president’s attack on a federal judge, Trump claimed his words had been twisted. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, told the media that the conservative judge said it was “disheartening” and “demoralizing” to see Trump attack a federal judge for ruling against his travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries. Gorsuch’s camp confirmed that this account was true, but Trump still went on the attack. “Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” the president tweeted. Republican Senator Ben Sasse confirmed to MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Gorsuch had made the remarks, adding that the judge got “pretty passionate about it.”
A raid on an al Qaeda compound in Yemen on January 29 failed its primary objective of capturing or killing Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, military officials told NBC News. The raid killed one U.S. Navy SEAL, 14 al Qaeda fighters, and a number of civilians, including an 8-year-old girl. But al-Rimi is reportedly still alive and releasing audio messages mocking Trump. “The fool of the White House got slapped at the beginning of his road in your lands,” al-Rimi said in a message that military officials said was authentic. The officials said it was unclear whether al-Rimi had been at the compound when it was raided. The Trump administration has declared the raid “a successful operation by all standards,” despite reports from military officials who told Reuters that the raid was ordered without sufficient intelligence, preparation, or group support.
During an early-morning tweetstorm, President Trump appeared to claim that any opinion polls casting him or his administration in a bad light must have been faked. He wrote, “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.” A CNN/ORC poll on Friday suggested that 53 percent of Americans opposed the ban. Trump is the least popular president—when measured after two weeks in office—since polling records began.
Former President Barack Obama’s office released a statement this week that essentially condemned the new administration for President Donald Trump’s recent executive order banning foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries. Spokesman Kevin Lewis also praised those protesting the ban. “Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake,” Lewis said. “With regard to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.” Over the weekend, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also spoke out against the executive order.