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Exclusive: Top Pence aides quietly depart in new year

(CNN)Vice President Mike Pence’s chief lawyer and domestic policy director are leaving his office at the beginning of the new year, according to four sources familiar with the staff turnover. “These moves have been in the works for weeks,” the vice president’s communications director confirmed to CNN.

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Trump Says Bannon Lost His Mind After Leaving White House

President Donald Trump denounced his former top strategist, Steve Bannon, on Wednesday in a dramatic break from the man considered an architect of Trump’s populist campaign. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said in a statement issued after the publication of excerpts of a new book in which Bannon criticizes the president and his family. “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look.” Bannon has lost the access to…

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Some of that explosive book on Trump will be proved wrong. Here’s what won’t.

Donald and Melania Trump return to Washington DC on January 1.Image: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/REX/Shutterstock It’s safe to say that Fire and Fury, which lived up to its title in the way it hit bookstores Friday, is not the most rigorously fact-checked book in history.  The author of the tome that has set Washington ablaze, Michael Wolff, has a reputation from his New York media columnist days for “reconstructing” conversations with his subjects inaccurately. And it doesn’t seem the old dog has learned any new tricks this time around.  SEE ALSO:…

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Ryan backed Nunes in spat with Justice Dept. over Russia documents, sources say

(CNN)House Speaker Paul Ryan backed his fellow congressional Republican, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, during a meeting over the Russia investigation Wednesday, capping off a months-long dispute between the committee and the Justice Department, multiple sources with the knowledge of the situation told CNN. Over the summer Nunes served subpoenas seeking a broad range of documents connected to the dossier of compromising allegations about President Donald Trump’s connections to the Kremlin, including those related to payments the FBI made to fund it (if any), efforts to corroborate any information contained…

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Odds and Ends 

Pulling Their Heartstrings: Tearful Republicans Unanimously Voted For The New Tax Bill After Hearing A Billionaires Heart-Wrenching Story Of How He Would Like To Have More Money

People like to paint conservatives as unfeeling plutocrats, but here’s a story that proves that Republicans in Congress are actually governing with their hearts: Today tearful Republicans unanimously voted for the new tax bill after hearing a billionaire’s heart-wrenching story of how he would like to have more money. Wow. If you thought conservatives were utterly void of empathy, think again. Members of Congress took a break from political jockeying this morning to hear a tear-jerking testimony from billionaire banker Andrew Beal about how he has a lot of money…

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2018 Feels Ripe for Big Unexpected Crisis, Eurasia Group Says

This year could see a geopolitical crisis on the scale of the financial crash a decade ago, Eurasia Group warned in its annual outlook. Describing global political challenges as “daunting,” the New York-based political risk consultancy said that “if we had to pick one year for a big unexpected crisis — the geopolitical equivalent of the 2008 financial meltdown — it feels like 2018." The biggest uncertainty surrounds China’s move to fill a vacuum as U.S. influence continues to decline, stoking tensions between the two powers, it said. That’s likely to…

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Donald Trump insults the size of Kim Jong Un’s nuclear button

Image: REX/Shutterstock The president of the United States of America bragged on Twitter about the size of his nuclear weapons. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed in his annual address on Monday that the country’s nuclear capabilities could hit the United States, and that a nuclear button was always on his desk. SEE ALSO: Everyone is sharing this clip to point out the hypocrisy of Flynn’s guilty plea “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is…

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North Korea Signals Olympics Truce, Seeks Talks With Seoul

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for urgent talks with South Korea to make the Winter Olympics next month a success even while repeating claims that he could strike the U.S. with a nuclear bomb if necessary. In an annual New Year’s day speech, Kim said that “we sincerely hope the games will be successful.” He said that both Koreas should seek to resolve problems among themselves rather than seek help from outside of the region. “It’s about time that the North and the South sit down and seriously…

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May Plans Cabinet Shake-Up With Five Ministers Going, Times Says

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is planning to make major changes to her cabinet in the new year, possibly sacking as many as five ministers, according to the Sunday Times. May has decided to bring younger members of Parliament into her government as part of a series of steps aimed at convincing voters she can do more than Brexit, the newspaper reported, without saying how it obtained the information. The ministers who could lose their jobs are: Patrick McLoughlin, Conservative party chairman Justine Greening, education secretary Greg Clark, business secretary…

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Kim Jong Un Says Nuclear Button to Hit U.S. Always on My Desk

Kim Jong Un repeated claims that he could hit the U.S. with a nuclear weapon, saying that its deterrent is “irreversible” and would prevent President Donald Trump from starting a war. Kim also said he planned to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, Yonhap News reported, even as he called for mass production of nuclear warheads. South Korean television stations stopped broadcasting the speech before it ended. “It’s reality, not a threat, that the nuclear button is always on my desk,” Kim said in…

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Theresa May’s Infrastructure Czar Quits, Lashing Out at Brexit

Andrew Adonis quit as Theresa May’s infrastructure czar, but not before delivering a blistering verdict on the Brexit policy being pursued by the U.K. prime minister and her Conservative Party. The Labour peer and former transport secretary described Brexit as a “populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump” in a unexpectedly quit, depriving her of a key figure in dealing with EU negotiators. And now, days from the end of the year, Adonis is departing with an excoriating verdict on the country’s direction. “Brexit is causing a nervous breakdown across…

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Israel plans a Trump rail station as Trump-naming frenzy sweeps country

Jerusalem (CNN)A planned high-speed rail station in the Old City of Jerusalem will be named after President Donald Trump, Israeli Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz told CNN. Trump made history in early May when he became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall, though he did so without any Israeli government officials, in apparent recognition of the sensitivity of his visit. In an exclusive interview with CNN a day after the General Assembly vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I think what it does is finally…

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Flake: Someone in GOP Will Challenge Trump in Primary, If Not Me

President Donald Trump is likely to face a challenge from an independent candidate, and possibly a fellow Republican, if he runs for a second term, as voters thirst for a more centrist alternative, said Senator Jeff Flake. “If the president is running for re-election, if he continues on the path that he’s on, that’s gonna leave a huge swath of voters looking for something else,” said the Arizona Republican, who plans to leave the Senate at the end of 2018. Flake, who’s emerged as one of the president’s most vocal…

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Trump Signs $1.5 Trillion Tax Cut in First Major Legislative Win

President Donald Trump signed the Republican tax-overhaul bill to little fanfare on Friday, delivering a major tax cut to U.S. corporations along with a package of temporary cuts for other businesses and most individuals. “I consider this very much a bill for the middle class and a bill for jobs,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office before signing the legislation. “Corporations are literally going wild over this. I think even beyond my expectations.” Trump’s signature caps a seven-week sprint that

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