A group of Democratic senators want the FBI to disclose all the people in the White House who don't have a full security clearance
A group of Democratic senators sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday inquiring which White House staffers are operating under temporary security clearances. Citing the recent resignation of former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who was reportedly working without a full security clearance after the FBI learned of accusations of physical and mental abuse against him by his two ex-wives, the senators expressed their concern that the White House was allowing the "mishandling of classified information."
"We write out of concern regarding the White House's troubling reliance on the use of interim security clearances," the senators wrote, asking for the names of all staffers who are working on temporary credentials. The letter cites a recent CNN article that claims there are 30 to 40 people in the White House who the lawmakers say have "full access to highly sensitive classified information" even though they are without full security clearances. This is troubling, the lawmakers write, as Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress on Tuesday that people with partial security clearances should usually only have "limited access" to classified documents.
A particular point of concern for the senators was the status of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who also reportedly has only a temporary security clearance. The letter is signed by six senators, including Cory Booker (N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.). Read it below. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Dem Senators send letter to FBI Dir Wray asking for a full list of WH staffers working without a full security clearance: pic.twitter.com/KSIldvixKW
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) February 14, 2018
It all started with one tree.
In 1979, Padma Shri Jadav "Molai" Payeng came across several snakes on Majuli Island in Assam, India. Flooding brought the snakes to the island, but due to erosion, there wasn't any shade and the snakes died from the heat. Payeng was 16 at the time, and he decided he was going to do something so this never happened again: he planted a sapling, and continued to plant one a day for the next 35 years.
Majuli is the world's largest river island, and 39 years after Payeng planted his first sapling, the trees cover more than 1,360 acres. Named Molai Forest in his honor, it's about 1.6 times larger than Central Park, Travel and Leisure reports, and has several thousand varieties of trees. Elephants, Bengal tigers, rhinos, wild boars, and reptiles call Molai Forest home, and Payeng wants to plant 5,000 more acres. Payeng, who received one of India's highest civilian awards in 2015, arrives in the forest at 5 a.m. every day to care for the trees. He also teaches children how to care for trees, and pushes for more environmental protections. Catherine Garcia
In 2015, when Stephen Colbert was hosting the Kennedy Center tribute to Carole King, Aretha Franklin sang King's "Natural Woman" just a few feet away from him, Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, paying his respects to Franklin, who died Thursday. "And as she started, I said to the man standing next to me, one of the stagehands, I said, 'Man, I wish I could have seen her when she was younger, when she was in full voice.' And boy am I stupid. Because this is what happened."
"There is no queen of soul right now, and she can never be replaced," Colbert said. Aretha Franklin is certainly a hard act to follow, but on The Tonight Show, Ariana Grande paid tribute to Franklin by singing the same song with The Roots.
If that seems unfair to Grande, Trevor Noah sang a few bars of "Natural Woman" during his Daily Show between-the-scenes homage to Franklin, too, explaining how he'd sing the song as a kid in South Africa before he really understood that he was singing about being a woman. Then he talked a bit about Franklin's life and legacy and grit. Watch below. Peter Weber
An emotional Elon Musk says the past year has been 'excruciating,' and he expects it to get even worse
Elon Musk's nonstop work schedule is fracturing his relationships with friends and family, plus taking a toll on his health, the Tesla CEO told The New York Times on Thursday.
Musk spoke with Times reporters for an hour, and he would sometimes laugh before switching to crying. "This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career," he said. "It was excruciating." Musk, 47, said he often works up to 120 hours a week, and he barely made it to his brother's recent wedding, only to leave right when it was over. Spending so much time at work "has really come at the expense of seeing my kids, and seeing friends," he said.
Musk made headlines last week when he tweeted: "Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured." Tesla shares went up, and investigators from the Securities and Exchange Commission have since asked Musk to explain the tweet, people familiar with the matter told the Times, and sent subpoenas to Musk and Tesla's board. Musk said he sent the tweet while driving to the airport, and no one else knew he was going to post it. People with knowledge of the matter said funding is not really secured, and it could be coming from a Saudi Arabian government investment fund, but nothing is set in stone.
They also said the Tesla board is concerned about Musk's workload, his use of Ambien, and his strange tweets (he called a British diver who volunteered to help rescue the children stuck in a cave in Thailand earlier this summer "pedo guy"), and they are searching for someone to come in and work as Musk's No. 2. Musk, meanwhile, is certain that "the worst is yet to come" for him, and he's worried about short-sellers who are "desperately pushing a narrative that will possibly result in Tesla's destruction." Read more of the bleak interview at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia
Omarosa Manigault Newman's Unhinged book tour has really gotten under the president's skin, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, wondering if President Trump regrets having fired her (again). Trump has reportedly told advisers he wants Manigault Newman arrested, though it's unclear what the charge would be. "What law did she break?" Colbert asked, in Trump voice. "Is my heart a law?"
He turned to Omarosa's new secret recording, this one involving Lara Trump offering Manigault Newman "$15,000 a month to hush, to work for the campaign in a job as assistant secretary of keeping your trap shut." Omarosa has made it clear she has a lot more recordings, she's not going away, and her tapes are better than their tapes. "Maybe, but I bet Russia has you both beat," Colbert said. In her maudlin response, Lara Trump tried to shame Omarosa, saying there are some things, like friendship, "you just can't put a price on." Colbert agreed, "but silence is about $15,000 a month."
"You think you can arrest Omarosa?" Seth Meyers asked on Late Night. "This is a person you tried to fire four times, and you still can't get rid of her." Still, Trump's first attempt to silence her was hiring her for a fifth time, with that $15,000-a-month job offer, he noted. "So first they hired Omarosa, then they fired her, then they tried to hire her again to buy her off. This is how Trumpism works: Everyone is conning everyone else, and in the process, they're conning the rest of us, too," Meyers said. Even Fox & Friends, Trump's favorite feel-good TV show, is "telling you that it's all just a giant grift."
At The Daily Show, Trevor Noah and Michael Kosta looked at the booming, sometimes grift-y business of hating on Trump. Watch below. Peter Weber
A state of emergency has been declared in British Columbia, as thousands of firefighters battle at least 566 wildfires burning across the Canadian province.
More than 3,000 residents have been evacuated from their homes, and 18,000 have been told to prepare to leave at a moment's notice. So far this year, there have been more than 1,800 fires in the province, scorching 939,000 acres. Firefighters have come from as far away as Mexico and New Zealand to help battle the blazes.
"We're going to throw everything we've got at these fires, but in a lot of cases, Mother Nature is going to be in the driver's seat," Kevin Skrepnek, British Columbia's chief fire information officer, told reporters Thursday. There isn't any rain in the forecast, and the smoke is causing a layer of haze across British Columbia and into Seattle. British Columbia's public safety minister, Mike Farnworth, told reporters the fire season is starting earlier, and "the bulk of the fires, what we have seen this year, have been lightning-caused." Catherine Garcia
President Trump has a list of current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials he's apparently excited to strip of their security clearances, all of them critics of his actions and all of them, not coincidentally, involved in the investigation of Russian election tampering and possible collusion by the Trump campaign. Not on the list is his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has pleaded guilty to federal charges of lying to investigators and is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia investigation. Yes, Flynn, it appears, still has his security clearance.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is among those who doesn't think that's a great idea. "I've always liked Gen. Flynn but he's now pleaded guilty to a federal offense," he told reporters on Thursday. "I think he should lose his security clearance." At the same time, Graham appeared unconcerned with Trump's actions against Brennan, who led the CIA for four years — "I can't imagine sharing anything with Brennan given his hatred toward President Trump — I don't think he'd have any constructive input" — and said he's concerned about two former FBI agents, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, still having security clearances.
The reaction to Trump's use of security clearance access against critics has fallen largely along party lines, with former intelligence officials agreeing with Democrats that this is an authoritarian-style effort to stifle dissent and Republicans shrugging or cheering. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), for example, called Brennan "a butthead" and said he doesn't "see why he would need a security clearance, I really don't." When Trump was floating the idea in July, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was incredulous the idea was even explored, telling MSNBC that "when you're going to start taking retribution against people who are your political enemies in this manner, that's the kind of thing that happens in Venezuela. ... I mean, it's a banana republic kind of thing." Peter Weber
Just like you can't eat only one potato chip, President Trump can't revoke just one security clearance.
Trump decided several weeks ago to strip former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance, two White House officials told The Washington Post on Thursday, though White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the announcement on Wednesday. The officials said he's told advisers he wants to revoke more security clearances from people linked to the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and he came up with the list that Sanders read on Wednesday.
That list included some people who lost their security clearances when they were fired, like former FBI Director James Comey, but Trump still wanted them named, the Post reports. He thinks by taking on Brennan, it makes him look strong, the officials said, and he could act soon to revoke additional security clearances. This is a new obsession, with Trump becoming focused on the matter this summer. On Wednesday, Sanders said Brennan's "erratic conduct" led Trump to revoke his security clearance, but Trump later told a Wall Street Journal reporter that Brennan and the others "led" the "sham" Russia investigation, "so I think it's something that had to be done." Catherine Garcia