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December 14, 2018

President Trump has just lost yet another potential chief of staff candidate.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Friday released a statement taking himself out of consideration to replace White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

"I've told the President that now is not the right time for me or my family to undertake this serious assignment," said Christie. "As a result, I have asked not to be considered for this post." He called it "an honor" to be considered.

Christie reportedly met with Trump about the role on Thursday evening, and Axios reported that he was a top contender. Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs reported later in the day that Christie was a "leading candidate," and The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey reports Trump considered him "a front-runner." CNN says, however, that Trump did not formally offer Christie the job.

When Trump announced that Kelly would be leaving the administration, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, was reportedly the only person he had in mind to replace him, but Ayers turned down the job. Trump said Thursday he has five candidates in mind — apparently, according to one report, including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. It remains to be seen when a decision will be made, but White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway recently suggested Kelly could end up staying in the job longer than expected. Brendan Morrow

3:56 a.m.

In a court filing Monday, the Justice Department shifted its legal position on the Affordable Care Act, asking the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down the entire 2010 law, commonly known as ObamaCare. In December, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Texas ruled that ObamaCare became effectively unconstitutional when Republicans zeroed-out the individual mandate in their 2017 tax overhaul. In Monday's filing, the DOJ said it had "determined that the district court's judgment should be affirmed."

"The Department of Justice has determined that the district court's comprehensive opinion came to the correct conclusion and will support it on appeal," spokeswoman Kerri Kupec underscored in a statement. Previously, President Trump's Justice Department had argued for scrapping ObamaCare's protections for pre-existing conditions but not the rest of the law. When the Trump DOJ declined to defend ObamaCare in court, a group of 21 Democratic state attorneys general stepped in, and House Democrats also threw legal support behind the law after winning the House.

Many legal scholars, including conservatives, doubt O'Connor's ruling with stand. If it's upheld, it "would potentially eliminate health care for millions of people and create widespread disruption across the U.S. health-care system — from removing no-charge preventive services for older Americans on Medicare to voiding the expansion of Medicaid in most states," The Washington Post notes. The Trump administration advocating that chaos "could prove to be a gift for Democrats," Bloomberg News suggests.

The Justice Department asking the courts to strike down ObamaCare is "crazy" and "legally untenable," Washington and Lee University law professor emeritus Timothy Jost tells the Post. "It would be like invalidating the Interstate Highway System, causing chaos on an unimaginable scale. It's conceivable that the entire Medicare payment system would collapse." The DOJ's new position looks like "a strictly political decision, not a legal decision," he added. "Trump has wanted to get rid of the ACA and I guess he sees an opportunity here." Peter Weber

2:06 a.m.

Peter Tabichi already knows what he's going to do with the $1 million he received upon being awarded the 2019 Global Teacher Prize.

The 36-year-old science teacher from rural Kenya will donate some of it to his school, Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, Nakuru, with the rest going to feed the poor. Tabichi, a Franciscan friar, already gives away 80 percent of his salary to students who otherwise couldn't afford uniforms or books. "Africa's young people will no longer be held back by low expectations," he told BBC News. "Africa will produce scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs whose names will be one day famous in every corner of the world. And girls will be a huge part of this story."

His school doesn't have a library, is overcrowded, and lacks resources, but that hasn't stopped Tabichi from providing his students with an excellent education; several have gone on to compete in international science competitions, and the Global Teacher Prize judges said because of his hard work, Tabichi has "dramatically improved his pupils' achievement."

Tabichi received the prize Sunday in Dubai, beating out more than 10,000 nominees from 179 countries. He told BBC News he wants to keep showing his students that "science is the way to go," and will never stop encouraging them to go to college. "It's morning in Africa," he said. "The skies are clear. The day is young and there is a blank page waiting to be written. This is Africa's time." Catherine Garcia

1:48 a.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report is in, and "all I know is I haven't been this confused about an ending since the series finale of Lost," Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Kimmel Live. "It's kind of funny, though: Half of America is upset that our president didn't collude with Russia. Seems like we should probably be happy about that, shouldn't we? And deep down, didn't we know Trump probably didn't collude with Russia, because he could never pull that off, and even if he did collude, it probably would have been by accident? [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wanted him in there and did what he had to do. Basically, Trump got in the White House the same way Lori Loughlin got her kid into USC."

"So far, as a result of this investigation, 37 people and entities have been charged with a total of 199 criminal counts and five people have been sentenced to prison, but for the president, who cares?" Kimmel said. "He was off to the golf course to play golf with his favorite kid, that being Kid Rock." And "make no mistake, this was a bigly victory for the president and there was much celebration in the Trump camp last night," he added. "And as if Trump didn't have enough to celebrate today, Michael Avenatti, the former lawyer for Stormy Daniels, was arrested and charged with multiple crimes today. ... Here's my hope on this whole thing: I hope he hires Rudy Giuliani to represent him. Wouldn't that be fun?" Peter Weber

1:30 a.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller apparently found insufficient evidence that President Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia, and "I'm not going to lie, it's a little disappointing," Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. "A lot of us were expecting something different. It's a little bit like coming down the stairs on Christmas morning, you were hoping for a brand new BMX, but instead you find Santa's dead body — burned, because your parents forgot to turn off the fire."

Amid his celebrating, "Trump said Mueller's report 'totally exonerated' him, but that's not totally true," Noah said. In fact, Mueller punted on half his mandate. "Robert Mueller spends two years investigating obstruction of justice, and his conclusion is, 'I don't know, what do you guys think?'" he groused. "That's not an answer, Robert Mueller! That is the question we gave you."

"But right now the nuances of the report don't matter to Trump supporters — in fact, they don't care about reading the rest, they've already started their victory parade," Noah said. Honestly, though, "I think this was really a win for everyone. I mean, this is great for Democrats, because they can move on from collusion now and campaign on the issues that more people care about. It's a win for America, because you know that your president isn't a traitor. I mean, how many countries can say that? I mean, all of them, but you know what I mean. ... And for all those taxpayers out there complaining, 'This investigation was a waste of money' — good news, you're also winning. Because Robert Mueller may have spent $25 million on this, but because of him, [Paul] Manafort had to pay the United States over $40 million. Which I guess is another reason the Mueller investigation was such a big win for Trump — this is the first time he's been involved in something that actually turned a profit." Watch below. Peter Weber

12:52 a.m.

Capt. Wendy Rexon and her daughter, First Officer Kelly Rexon, are having a great time flying the friendly skies together.

Upon boarding a recent Delta flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Dr. John R. Watret, the chancellor of Embry-Riddle Worldwide Aeronautical University, learned that the plane's pilot and first officer were a mother and daughter team. Watret was thrilled, as he feels there "has to be more diversification in the industry," he said in a news release. "It's crucial and one of the key factors we focus on. When there are more opportunities, everyone wins." Watret and a few other passengers chatted with the Rexons before the plane took off, and he found out that flying runs in the family — Kelly's sister is a pilot, too.

As of 2017, just 7 percent of Federal Aviation Administration certified pilots were women, and Watret said the industry will grow stronger as more women join the workforce. "The first officer had a great role model for becoming a pilot — her mother," he said. "It's good for aviation and inspiring for us all." Catherine Garcia

12:41 a.m.

Monday's Late Show started off with a wistful farewell to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

"This weekend, we received some troubling news: Our president is not a Russian asset," Stephen Colbert said. "Now I say troubling news because if Trump is not working with the Russians, then what the hell is wrong with him? If they don't have anything on him then why does he keep saying nice things about Vladimir Putin?"

After two years, Mueller turned in his final report, and according to Attorney General Robert Barr's summary, there's insufficient evidence to charge Trump with Russian collusion. "This is, shall we say, anticlimactic," Colbert said. "It's worse than the finale of Lost. I mean, what about the smoke monster — was it real or not? And if not, why have so many members of Trump's campaign pleaded guilty to lying about meeting with the smoke monster? I don't understand. Why couldn't this have been like the ending of Seinfeld? Still disappointing, but at least they're all in jail."

"So there it is: Mueller is an honorable man," Colbert said, and even if he left open the possibility of obstruction of justice, "he has said that Donald Trump is not a foreign asset — which is good news. But even if Trump was falsely accused, he only has himself to blame. Because he lies so much, you just don't know what to believe. ... The rest of Trump's presidency is going to be like a big bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough: He's going to promise you it's the finest chocolate chips in the world. But I promise you, if you swallow that, you're going to be eating some rat poop — which technically may not be a crime, but it's going to leave a bad taste in your mouth." Still, he said, "fair is fair," so he crossed "collusion" off his "list of reasons Trump is unfit to be president," and Mueller off the list of active Trump investigations, and, well, you can see what's left on those lists below. Peter Weber

March 25, 2019

President Trump has asked top advisers for ways he can limit federal spending from going to Puerto Rico, saying it is "ridiculous" how much money is going to food stamp recipients on the island, senior administration officials told The Washington Post.

Trump first asked how to keep money from going to Puerto Rico during a Feb. 22 meeting in the Oval Office, the officials said. He argued the money should stay on the mainland, and doesn't think any amount will fix the issues facing Puerto Rico. "He doesn't want another single dollar going to the island," a senior administration official told the Post.

After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, the federal government gave extra food stamp aid to the island. Because Puerto Rico is not a state, it funds programs like food stamps and Medicaid through block grants that have to be renewed by the government often. Congress missed its deadline this month to reauthorize food stamp aid, and about 1.3 million already-struggling people in Puerto Rico saw a reduction in their benefits.

House Democrats in January approved giving an additional $600 million in food stamp funding to Puerto Rico, but that stalled in the Senate, and the Trump administration released a letter calling this aid "excessive and unnecessary," the Post reports. It's not excessive to people like Myrna Izquierdo, who runs the nonprofit Casa Ismael clinic in Toa Baja. The clinic, which serves HIV-positive men and is still damaged from Hurricane Maria, relies on food stamp money from patients, and because of the cuts, Izquierdo says they have to find ways to save money — including not being able to change diapers that have been soiled. "We just don't have the money right now," she told the Post. "It's very hard. It's so unfair. That cut is going to kill us." To read more about how the cuts are affecting Puerto Rico, visit The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

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