FBI EXECUTES SEARCH WARRANT AT HOME OF FORMER TRUMP ADVISOR PAUL MANAFORT: FBI agents looking for financial documents have searched one of the homes of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, whose past foreign political work has been swept into the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. A Manafort spokesman confirmed the search Wednesday. Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said in a statement that FBI agents had obtained a warrant and searched one of Manafort's homes, but he would not say when the search occurred or what it was for. Manafort has been a subject of a longstanding FBI investigation into his dealings in Ukraine and work for the country's former president, Viktor Yanukovych. That investigation has been incorporated into the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is also scrutinizing Manafort's role in the Trump campaign as he looks into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and any possible collusion with Trump associates.
TRUMP VOTER INTEGRITY COMMISSION A PRIME HACKING TARGET: Officials from both major political parties had a consistent answer last year when asked about the security of voting systems: U.S. elections are so decentralized that it would be impossible for hackers to manipulate ballot counts or voter rolls on a wide scale. But the voter fraud commission established by President Donald Trump could take away that one bit of security. The commission has requested information on voters from every state and recently won a federal court challenge to push ahead with the collection, keeping it in one place. By compiling a national list of registered voters, the federal government could provide one-stop shopping for hackers and hostile foreign governments seeking to wreak havoc with elections, critics say.
TRANSGENDER MILITARY PERSONNEL FILE LAWSUIT AGAINST TRUMP OVER BAN: Five transgender service members serving on active duty sued President Donald Trump on Wednesday over his directive to ban them from the U.S. military. The lawsuit, filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, argues that reversing the Pentagon’s current policy is unconstitutional and denies transgender service members equal protection and due process. Transgender troops have been allowed to serve openly since June 2016. “Nothing like this has ever happened before,” Shannon Minter, a transgender legal expert and NCLR’s legal director, told McClatchy. “This is not normal for a president to treat active service members this way. It’s unprecedented in the history of the military for a group to be embraced and included, and then purged.”
TRUMP GOES ON THE ATTACK AGAINST MCCONNELL FOR REPEAL FAILURE: President Donald Trump is escalating a feud with his party’s leader in the Senate. Trump is expressing disbelief that that Sen. Mitch McConnell couldn’t persuade a Republican majority to pass a health care bill. Trump tweeted Thursday: “Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!” The president bristled this week after McConnell told a crowd in Kentucky that Trump had “not been in this line of work before” and had “excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.” Trump retorted on Twitter that “Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so.” GOP senators have talked about moving on to other priorities, but Trump has not relented.
ANALYSTS SAY TRUMP IS FULFILLING THE ROLE NORTH KOREAN PROPAGANDISTS HAVE CREATED: Donald Trump’s threat to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea might have been written by Pyongyang’s propaganda mavens, so perfectly does it fit the North’s cherished claim that it is a victim of American aggression. Not since George W. Bush labeled North Korea part of an “axis of evil” has the nation had such a strong piece of presidential evidence to back up its argument that only nuclear and missile development can counter “hostile” U.S. policies aimed at ending the rule of the latest member of the Kim family of dictators. Trump now runs several risks by matching his rhetoric to that of the North, which has regularly vowed to reduce archrival Seoul to a “sea of fire.” The risk, now as then, is that heated words could cause a miscalculation that might trigger real fighting across the most heavily armed border on earth, a border that’s only a short drive from greater Seoul’s 25 million people.