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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is leaving the Trump administration; Trump’s attorney general nominee has some thoughts on Russia.


Mattis out


Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

  • Defense Secretary James Mattis will leave the Trump administration at the end of February, President Trump announced Thursday evening, in a tweet, the way these things are done now. [Twitter / Donald Trump]
  • The decision comes one day after Trump announced that American troops would be leaving Syria, to the consternation of all kinds of people — including his defense secretary. [NPR / Philip Ewing]
  • Mattis’s resignation letter was a (very thinly) veiled shot at Trump, expressing his belief in resisting authoritarian regimes’ influence and maintaining strong alliances. “You have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects,” he wrote. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • The concern now is whether anyone will be left to constrain Trump’s impulses. Mattis was seen as one of the original “adults in the room” in the Trump administration, and he was the last one left. [Washington Post / Missy Ryan and Paul Sonne]
  • The Atlantic’s David Graham has a good summary of Mattis’s tenure: He talked Trump out of a strike on North Korea, fought to preserve relationships with allies, slow-walked Trump’s infamous proposed military parade, tried (unsuccessfully) to keep the Iran deal, and got Trump to send more troops to Afghanistan. [Atlantic / David Graham]
  • Key allies from NATO to South Korea depended on the support of Mattis and John Kelly, Trump’s now-former chief of staff, and worried about a world without their influence. [Bloomberg / Marc Champion]

(More) drama at the Justice Department

  • It turns out that Bill Barr, President Trump’s pick for attorney general, gave himself some homework over the summer, which just happened to be a nearly 20-page memo about how special counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation was “fatally misconceived.” [WSJ / Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha]
  • Barr delivered his unsolicited advice to top Justice Department officials on June 8, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In it, Barr argued that Mueller’s interpretation of obstruction would do lasting damage to the presidency and the executive branch. [NYT / Charlie Savage]
  • But Barr did, at least, admit that he “may be in the dark about many facts.” [Bill Barr via NYT]
  • Rosenstein apparently agreed. “Our decisions are informed by our knowledge of the actual facts of the case, which Mr. Barr didn’t have,” he told reporters Thursday. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • The memo is sure to complicate Barr’s nomination, as senators will probably have a question or two about this document. Barr, if confirmed, would assume control of the Mueller probe. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • And while we’re on the subject of attorneys general who’ve expressed skepticism about Mueller’s investigation — acting AG Matthew Whitaker will not recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel. [CNN / Laura Jarrett]
  • There are still a lot of questions about how this all went down, and what exactly Justice Department ethics officials advised. But the decision is ultimately Whitaker’s to make. [CBS News / Paula Reid]
  • Whitaker is expected to notify lawmakers about his decision on Thursday. Anticipate some pushback from Democratic lawmakers, probably to no avail. [Washington Post / Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky]

Miscellaneous

  • Most Planned Parenthood clinics don’t provide maternity leave, and the organization had been accused of discriminating against pregnant employees and job seekers. [NYT / Natalie Kitroeff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg]
  • London’s Gatwick Airport shut down for an entire day because someone kept flying drones over the runway. Good thing it’s not a particularly busy travel time or anything. [BBC]
  • There are going to be 12 Democratic presidential debates in 2019 and 2020. But if there are too many candidates for one debate (there are), the first two debates will be spread across two nights. So, really, get ready for 14 debates. [BuzzFeed / Ruby Cramer]
  • A woman trademarked and sold a crocheted bikini for $285, and started suing companies who imitated it. But was the idea even hers to begin with? [NYT / Katherine Rosman]
  • A Der Spiegel journalist was busted for fabrication on Wednesday, but the fact-checkers of one of the small towns he wrote about had already been cataloging his fabrications. [Medium]

Verbatim

“The moment I found out Trump could tweet himself was comparable to the moment in ‘Jurassic Park’ when Dr. Grant realized that velociraptors could open doors.” [Justin McConney, who taught Trump to tweet, tells Politico’s Ben Schreckinger what it was like]


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