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January 23, 2019

White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has asked agency leaders to send him a list, due no later than Friday, of the programs that would suffer most if the government shutdown continues into March or April, people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

This is the first known White House request for information about how the shutdown is affecting agencies, the Post notes, and it suggests the Trump administration doesn't expect it to end anytime soon. Because of the shutdown, now the longest in U.S. history, 800,000 government employees have missed a paycheck, and if things stay the way they are, they'll miss a second one in a few days.

The White House has mostly focused on how the shutdown is affecting wait times at airport security, not federal programs being interrupted, the Post reports. There's a lot to start worrying about: After Feb. 1, major operations within the federal court system will likely come to a standstill, and the Department of Agriculture does not have enough money to distribute food stamp benefits to about 40 million people in March. On Wednesday, the U.S. General Services Administration, which manages leases and contracts, told several departments that if the shutdown goes into February, there is no plan on how to pay utility bills and lease payments next month. Catherine Garcia

1:31 a.m.

There has been a push for stronger gun laws after back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and if anything is going to happen before the 2020 election, "it's September or bust," a source involved in discussion between the White House and Congress tells Axios. "We'll either have everything ready for when Congress returns, drop it on the floor, vote on it, and move on — or we blow it." White House and Capitol Hill officials tell Axios that Trump genuinely wants to expand background checks, but Trump was noncommittal when talking to reporters on Sunday.

"I don't want people to forget that this is a mental health problem," Trump said when asked about expanding background checks to all gun purchases and trades — an idea supported by 89 percent of U.S. adults in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll and 90 percent of voters in a recent Fox News poll. "Congress is working on various things, and I'll be looking at it. We're very much involved." Mental health experts are adamant that mental illness isn't a significant factor in mass shootings.

When a reporter asked, "Would you support banning high-capacity magazines?" Trump also hedged. "Well, we're going to look at a whole list of things, and I'll make a determination then," he said. "A lot of things are happening on the gun level." And then he shifted to the closure of mental institutions decades ago, adding: "Unrelated to that, I believe that the concept also of voter identification has to be looked at."

"Sir, what does that have to do with guns?" a reporter asked Trump.

If you wanted an answer to that, well, sorry. Trump pivoted again, to how golf "is so unimportant to me." Peter Weber

12:06 a.m.

The U.S. has opened up secret communications with Venezuelan socialist boss Diosdado Cabello, an alleged drug kingpin and the second most powerful person in Venezuela, after President Nicolás Maduro, The Associated Press reported late Sunday, citing a senior U.S. administration official. Cabello, 56, met with a U.S.-backed envoy in Caracas last month, the official said, though it isn't clear if Cabello is acting on Maduro's behalf or, as the official suggested, negotiating safety guarantees if he helps topple Maduro.

AP isn't reporting who Cabello is meeting with, but Axios said Sunday that National Security Council official Mauricio Claver-Carone has been communicating with Cabello through emissaries, and U.S. officials tell both Axios and AP that Cabello is among a handful of top Maduro officials who have secretly reached out to the U.S. An unidentified Cabello aide disputes that, telling AP that the U.S. has been chasing Cabello, and Cabello would only meet with U.S. officials with Maduro's permission. Cabello did not take part in April's failed uprising.

Trump, meanwhile, is getting frustrated that Maduro is still in power, and he has suggested publicly and pushed "more vividly" in private for the U.S. to set up a naval blockade along Venezuela's coast, five current and former officials tell Axios. "They added that to their knowledge the Pentagon hasn't taken this extreme idea seriously, in part because senior officials believe it's impractical, has no legal basis, and would suck resources from a Navy that is already stretched to counter China and Iran."

Trump "literally just said we should get the ships out there and do a naval embargo," one source who's heard Trump's comments told Axios. "I'm assuming he's thinking of the Cuban missile crisis. ... But Cuba is an island and Venezuela is a massive coastline. ... It would need massive, massive amounts of resources; probably more than the U.S. Navy can provide." Former Defense Secretary James Mattis long stonewalled Trump's demands for a military option for Venezuela, Axios reports. Peter Weber

August 18, 2019

Buckingham Palace released a statement on Sunday saying Prince Andrew is "appalled" by the accusations made against his late former friend, financier and alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who died by suicide earlier this month.

Video was recently released that shows him inside Epstein's New York City mansion, The Guardian reports, with the footage believed to have been shot on Dec. 6, 2010. In 2015, a woman who said she was one of Epstein's sex slaves attested in court documents that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew multiple times in the early 2000s, when she was 17 years old. At the time, Buckingham Palace denied the allegations, calling them "false and without any foundation."

On Sunday, Buckingham Palace said the prince "deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in, or encourage any such behavior is abhorrent." Catherine Garcia

August 18, 2019

President Trump on Sunday said the economy is "doing very well," and rejected the notion that a recession could be on the horizon.

Last week was a turbulent one on Wall Street, with stocks and bonds going up and down and investors spooked by the first inverted yield curve in more than a decade, but Trump said the United States is doing "tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut and they're loaded up with money."

Trump's comments echoed those made earlier in the day by Larry Kudlow, his top economic adviser. "No, I don't see a recession," he said. "We're doing pretty darn well in my judgment. Let's not be afraid of optimism." Kudlow also said that while the energy sector may be slowing down, unemployment is low and retail is doing well. Catherine Garcia

August 18, 2019

Three potential mass shootings in different states were foiled over the last several days, authorities announced Sunday, thanks to tips from the public.

In Connecticut, Brandon Wagshol, 22, was arrested after police received a tip he wanted to buy large capacity rifle magazines from out of state. He wrote on Facebook that he was interested in committing a mass shooting, the Norwalk Police Department and FBI said, and he faces four charges of illegal possession of large-capacity magazines.

Tristan Scott Wix, 25, of Daytona Beach, Florida, was arrested Friday after he allegedly sent his ex-girlfriend text messages threatening to commit a mass shooting. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said Wix allegedly told the ex-girlfriend "a good 100 kills would be nice," and he wanted to die and "have fun while doing it." Wix will be charged with making threats to kill or do bodily injury, and is being held without bond.

James Patrick Reardon, 20, was arrested Saturday after allegedly threatening to carry out a shooting at a Jewish community center in Youngstown, Ohio. New Middletown Police Chief Vincent D'Egidio told CNN that Reardon's Instagram account featured a video showing a man firing a gun, with the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown tagged. This message was shown to a police officer, authorities said, which led to Reardon's arrest on one count of telecommunications harassment and one count of aggravated menacing. His Instagram account also included white nationalist and anti-Semitic comments, police said. Catherine Garcia

August 18, 2019

Some people said that President Trump had to be kidding about wanting to buy Greenland, while others believed an aide invented the whole story in order to make him look foolish, but on Sunday, Trump confirmed that he's "interested" in buying Greenland.

"It's something we talked about," Trump told reporters. "Denmark essentially owns it, we're very good allies with Denmark." He did acknowledge that the United States would "have to find out whether or not they have any interest" in selling, but said they are "losing a tremendous amount of money, so we'll see what happens." His top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, is supporting Trump's endeavor, saying on Fox News Sunday he doesn't want to "predict an outcome. I just know the president, who knows a thing or two about buying real estate, wants to take a look at a potential Greenland purchase."

Denmark has already given its answer: No. "Greenland is not for sale," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told the newspaper Sermitsiag on Sunday. "Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously." Frederiksen will be able to reiterate this to Trump's face in September, when he is scheduled to visit the country. About 56,000 people live on Greenland, and one resident, Anna Kuitse Kúko, told NBC News that she's pretty sure every single one of them thinks this is "a sick joke by a crazy president." Catherine Garcia

August 18, 2019

Cedric Benson, a former standout running back at the University of Texas and 8-year NFL veteran, died in a motorcycle crash on Saturday night in Austin. He was 36.

Benson played in the NFL from 2005 to 2012, mainly for the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals, though he also played briefly for the Green Bay Packers in his final season. He rushed for over 1,000 yards for three consecutive years for Cincinnati.

While he was a solid contributor at the professional level, Benson was a true star in college. He was a prolific rusher for the Longhorns and remains the school's second all-time leading rusher after Ricky Williams. He rushed for over 1,000 yards all four years and picked up 2,013 total yards his senior year. That season he was an All-American and won the Doak Walker Award, which is given out annually to the top collegiate running back in the nation. The Longhorns earned a Rose Bowl victory over the University of Michigan before Benson was drafted by Chicago with the fourth overall pick. Tim O'Donnell

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