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John Kelly and H.R. McMaster are making their mark on the White House national security team, banishing allies of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and chief strategist Steve Bannon from key foreign policy roles. The ongoing shakeup follows months of turmoil and internal bickering on the National Security Council, and comes amid President Trump’s frustrations with his key foreign policy aides over the situation in Afghanistan.

Trump lashed out at Congress a day after signing a new sanctions bill, blaming lawmakers for the deteriorating relationship with Russia. “Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!” he tweeted. Left unsaid was that Russian relations are at a low over Russian’s election related hacking, its annexation of Crimea and proxy-war in Eastern Ukraine and its other destabilizing efforts around the globe. All the while, Trump and the White House have remained silent on Vladimir Putin forcing reductions to staff counts at U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia.

Short-lived White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci may be gone, but he doesn’t want to be forgotten. A memo he prepared for the president on his plans for the office leaked Wednesday, and he’s readying to address the public on Friday.

The White House comes under fire for its plans to cut legal immigration. Trump’s border force plan faces criticism. And the McMaster-Bannon war.

Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

Trump Says U.S.‘Losing’ Afghan War in Tense Meeting With Generals
Trump has yet to approve Afghanistan strategy [NBC]

White House Purging Michael Flynn Allies From National Security Council
Shake-up comes as McMaster’s tenure is in doubt and Kelly asserts his power [New York Times]

Read the ‘Communications Plan’ Scaramucci Wrote to WH Staffers
Ousted Communications Director had big plans [CNN]

Inside the McMaster-Bannon War
Under the new chief of staff, H.R. McMaster and Steve Bannon have gone to the mattresses [The Weekly Standard]

Trump Urged Mexican President to End his Public Defiance on Border Wall, Transcript Reveals
“I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country,” he told the Australian Prime Minister [Washington Post]

Sound Off

“I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty and lighting the world. It’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to, that was added later, is not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty.” — White House Senior Advisor for Policy Stephen Miller on the president’s immigration plan and the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty

“The conversations took place. They just simply didn’t take place over a phone call; that he had them in person.” — White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders revising President Trump’s comments about supposed phone calls with the President of Mexico and the leader of the Boy Scouts

Bits and Bites

Trump plan to hire 15,000 border and immigration personnel isn’t justified, federal watchdog says [Washington Post]

Trump’s new top aide assures Sessions his job is safe [Associated Press]

‘The Conversations Took Place.’ White House Denies President Trump Lied About Boy Scouts Call [TIME]

Here’s How the White House Would Cut Legal Immigration in Half [TIME]

White House: Statue of Liberty Doesn’t Represent U.S. Immigration Policy [TIME]

An NSC Staffer Is Forced Out Over a Controversial Memo [The Atlantic]

Russia Says New U.S. Sanctions Amount to Declaring ‘Trade War’ [Associated Press]

The story behind our Trump golf story (and a certain explosive quote) []

Trump nominee Sam Clovis blasted progressives as ‘race traders’ and ‘race traitors’ in old blog posts [CNN]

8 things the Trump team denied, and then later confirmed [Washington Post]

Zuckerberg hires former Clinton pollster Joel Benenson [Politico]

Scaramucci to hold online event Friday [CNN]

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