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January 12, 2019

After President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, the FBI opened an investigation into whether Trump was secretly acting in Russian interests against the United States, The New York Times reported Friday evening, citing unnamed sources.

The probe was specifically prompted by Trump's repeated public linkage of the firing to the investigation into Russian election meddling, the Times story says, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller took over the FBI inquiry when he was appointed. The original probe had counterintelligence and criminal components, considering whether Trump threatened national security and whether the Comey firing obstructed justice.

A Friday statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the reported probe "absurd" and said Trump has taken a hard line toward Russia. Trump himself responded Saturday, describing the Times report as a story of his own persecution:

In subsequent tweets, he defended the Comey firing and claimed Comey and Mueller have a close relationship:

Comey has said he "admires" Mueller but they are "not friends in any social sense." Read the full New York Times report here. Bonnie Kristian

12:36 p.m.

Amid a firestorm surrounding her recent comments about U.S. policy toward Israel, which many on both sides of the political aisle called anti-Semitic, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) penned an op-ed in The Washington Post that was published on Sunday evening.

The overarching thesis of Omar's argument is that the U.S. must apply its values universally when dealing with questions of foreign policy. That is, the U.S. government should not condemn human rights abuses in Iran on the one hand, and look past similar infractions committed by Saudi Arabia because of political alliances on the other.

Most notably, though, Omar declared her support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which she notes has been bipartisan U.S. policy for decades. She wrote that Israel is the historical homeland of both Jews and Palestinians.

"A balanced, inclusive approach to the conflict recognizes the shared desire for security and freedom of both peoples," she wrote. "I support a two-state solution, with internationally recognized borders, which allows for both Israelis and Palestinians to have their own sanctuaries and self-determination."

Omar's measured words come as she looks to quell critics who have accused her of harboring anti-Semitic and anti-Israel feelings. The freshman congresswoman even cited President Trump's former Defense Secretary James Mattis in the article, highlighting that he, too, has acknowledged that the current situation in the region is unsustainable.

Omar wrote that her critiques of Israel's government are meant to encourage a swifter move toward peace. Read the full op-ed at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

12:14 p.m.

MySpace's devastating revelation might actually be a blessing in disguise.

On Monday, the once-popular social media platform nonchalantly dropped some big news: "Any photos, videos and audio files" uploaded before 2015 may be gone for good. The loss happened because of a "server migration project," MySpace said in a statement, but reports suggest it may not have been an accident.

After its conception in 2003, MySpace became the web's premiere social media site until Facebook started taking over. It is — or was — home to about 50 million songs and helped launch careers for a slew of now-big-name artists, Kickstarter technologist Andy Baio estimated in a tweet. He also had another guess for just what happened to them all:

MySpace may have been relatively inactive, but fans still noticed when links to previously uploaded music stopped working last year, BBC says. MySpace finally started publicly acknowledging that those links were gone, likely forever, within the last few days. The site also served as a storage spot for years' worth of photos and videos — though judging by its largely high school-aged fanbase, the memory wipe might be for the best. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:06 p.m.

Less than two weeks after the Democratic National Committee said it wouldn't let Fox News host any 2020 debates, its former chair has been hired by the network.

Donna Brazile, who served as interim DNC chair from July 2016 through February 2017, has been hired as a contributor for Fox News, Variety reports. Brazile said in a statement that she's "delighted" to be joining the network, predicting progressives will criticize her for this move but saying that "if we've learned anything from the 2016 election, it is that we can't have a country where we don't talk to those who disagree with our political views."

Brazile also said that there's "an audience on Fox News that doesn't hear enough from Democrats" and that the party has to "engage that audience ... rather than retreat into our 'safe spaces' where we simply agree with each other." This is similar to the argument Fox personalities made after the DNC said earlier this month it wouldn't partner with Fox for any 2020 Democratic debates, citing an article from The New Yorker about the relationship between President Trump and the network.

That article also raised the possibility that someone at Fox News had shared questions with Trump before a 2016 Republican primary debate. Though Fox News denied this report, it drew comparisons to Brazile, a former CNN contributor who the network severed ties with after hacked WikiLeaks emails showed she shared questions with Hillary Clinton before two events, per Politico. Brazile would later say, per The Washington Post, that her "conscience — as an activist, a strategist — is very clear" and that "if I had to do it all over again, I would know a hell of a lot more about cybersecurity." Brendan Morrow

11:15 a.m.

While her husband was on Twitter suggesting that President Trump might have a personality disorder, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on Fox & Friends on Monday to defend her boss.

Conway was specifically challenging the notion that Trump should be considered an influence on Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian white supremacist, who killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday. Before he carried out the attack, Tarrant wrote a sprawling 70-page manifesto in which he identified Trump as a champion of white nationalism, though he did criticize his policy decisions. Conway said on the show, however, that any comparisons between Trump and Tarrant are "predictable and outrageous." She added that reading the entire manifesto would dispel the notion that Trump served as motivation and that all blame should be reserved for the shooter alone.

Conway argued that when a shooter, who was revealed to be a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), opened fire on a Republican congressional softball team practice in Arlington, Virginia in 2017, she and her colleagues did not blame MSNBC or Sanders.

Mediaite, though, reports that Conway did, in fact, appear on Fox & Friends following that shooting and suggested that if the media was not so openly opposed to Trump, such attacks would not have occurred. Tim O'Donnell

10:20 a.m.

A gunman who reportedly killed at least three people and injured several more on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht on Monday is still at large. The city's mayor confirmed the three fatalities. Utrecht police are still currently hunting for a 37-year-old, Turkey-born man named Gokman Tanis, whom they have identified as the suspect in the shooting.

Counter-terror police have said that the shooting "appears to be a terrorist attack" and the security threat level has been temporarily raised to its highest point in the province of Utrecht, BBC reports.

Several places, including Utrecht University, the Utrecht Central station, and mosques throughout the city have taken precautionary measures and shuttered their doors. No trains are allowed to enter the city and local trams have stopped running. Police have also increased security at airports throughout the Netherlands, though the Dutch counter-terrorism agency has not raised the threat level elsewhere in the country. German police said they are surveilling the Netherlands-Germany border and are on the lookout for the suspected shooter.

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a press conference that the country is in a state of "disbelief and disgust." Tim O'Donnell

10:15 a.m.

Apple has a mini warm-up for before its big announcement next week.

On Monday, the company debuted updated versions of two somewhat forgotten iPad models. The iPad Mini got its first update since 2015, and the iPad Air has its first new iteration since the iPad Pro came out around the same time, Bloomberg explains.

The new 7.9-inch iPad Mini doesn't look too different from its past version, and lacks the edge-to-edge screen that's taken over recent iPhone models. It does support the Apple Pencil now, but can only use the version of the stylus that charges via a Lightning port, The Verge points out. It has an upgraded 7-megapixel front-facing camera, a brighter advanced Retina display, and is available Monday starting at $399.

The new 10.5-inch iPad Air is replacing the old 10.5-inch iPad Pro — the older model was taken off Apple's web store after Monday's announcement, per AppleInsider. It also supports the Apple Pencil, contains a new A12 bionic chip that boosts graphics capabilities, and starts at $499.

The announcement comes ahead of an Apple special event scheduled for March 25, which was announced with an invitation reading "it's show time." That makes it pretty clear the event will be about Apple's forthcoming streaming service, which has already secured Oscar-winning stars and recognizable brands for exclusive series and movies. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:39 a.m.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway's husband is doubling down on his belief that President Trump's mental state is cause for concern.

On Monday, George Conway tweeted — without comment — pages from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defining narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder, clearly suggesting both apply to Trump's recent behavior.

Conway's tweets seemed to be in response to the president's unusually active weekend on Twitter, during which he attacked late Senator John McCain several times and suggested Saturday Night Live be investigated because it's too hard on him. Conway on Monday responded to a tweet about Trump's recent Twitter behavior by saying that "all Americans should be thinking seriously now about Trump's mental condition and psychological state, including ... the Vice President and Cabinet."

Last week, Conway had said that "a serious inquiry needs to be made about this man's condition of mind," and on Sunday, he concluded that the president's "condition is getting worse." Kellyanne Conway told reporters on Monday, per CNN's Manu Raju, that she does not "share" these concerns about her boss. Brendan Morrow

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