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It’s all coming up Russia. Just when the White House thought it had turned a corner after Tuesday’s address, new revelations about Trump aides’ contacts with Russian officials have overtaken the news cycle and forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from investigations into the 2016 election. There’s still been no proof of any impropriety in those conversations, but the fact that they were not disclosed—and the cracking of the Trump administration’s denials of contacts—will encourage reporters to keep digging. (A new meeting was uncovered yesterday by the New York Times between the Russian ambassador and Trump aides, including Jared Kushner, at Trump Tower last December.) The unforced errors surrounding Russia are mounting for the White House, which risks having all of the controversy distract or even sink the president’s legislative agenda.

President Donald Trump is in Orlando visiting a Catholic school to highlight his school choice agenda Friday, before continuing to Palm Beach to address top donors to the Republican National Committee. It marks Trump’s fourth weekend of his presidency at “The Winter White House.”

The White House is nixing Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ job picks. What Jeff Sessions thought of Bill Clinton. And George W. Bush opens up about Michelle Obama and SNL.

Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Trump Campaign Investigations

Defends himself from charges of misleading Congress [TIME]

Jeff Sessions Used Political Funds for Republican Convention Expenses
Records show attorney general used campaign account for travel expenses to Cleveland, where he met Russian envoy [Wall Street Journal]

Sergey Kislyak, Russian Envoy, Cultivated Powerful Network in U.S.

Meet the man at the center of DC’s controversies [New York Times]

Paul Ryan’s feeling confident about repeal-and-replace.

McConnell not so much. [Washington Post]

Pence used personal email for state business

And he was hacked [Indy Star]

Trump courts donors with eye on 2020

After criticizing big-money influence in 2016, the president is rushing to consolidate donor support. [Politico]

Sound Off

“Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional. This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win. The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election, and now they have lost their grip on reality. The real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total ‘witch hunt!'” —President Donald Trump is a statement late Thursday.

“I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in” —Attorney General Jeff Sessions Thursday.

Bits and Bites

Bill Clinton Gave Misleading Answers Under Oath. Here’s What Jeff Sessions Thought About That [TIME]

George W. Bush Breaks Down His Affection for Michelle Obama: ‘We Just Took to Each Other’ [People]

Trump’s facts on Navy’s size don’t float [Associated Press]

George W. Bush argued with Lorne Michaels about who invented ‘strategery’ [USA Today]

Donald Trump Jr. Was Likely Paid at Least $50,000 for Event Held by Hosts Allied With Russia on Syria [Wall Street Journal]

White House pushing back against Mattis appointment [Politico]

Meet the Tea Partiers Behind the Rallies for President Trump Around the U.S. [TIME]

This Billionaire Advising President Trump Could Make Millions Off a New Ethanol Policy [TIME]

Carter Page, Adviser Once Linked to Trump Campaign, Met With Russian Ambassador [NBC]


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