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Things were getting too boring, apparently –> President Donald Trump fired James Comey, the FBI director, yesterday evening, supposedly over his handling of the Clinton email investigation. His letter of dismissal was hand-delivered to FBI headquarters by Keith Schiller, Trump’s personal bodyguard and now a White House aide. “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” the letter said.
But Comey was out of town at the time, giving a talk to FBI employees in Los Angeles. When he saw the news on a TV in the back of the room, he laughed. He thought someone was playing an elaborate prank. That story underscores that, although Trump was supposedly concerned about the Clinton email investigation, which concluded months ago, last night’s firing occurred without any warning.
Comey was fired hours after the FBI escalated its investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election, subpoening former business associates of Michael Flynn, CNN reports. Reports in The Wall Street Journal and Politico suggest that Trump was motivated to fire Comey not just by the Russia investigation, but by the media attention around it — and, in particular, the media attention on Comey. “The more James Comey showed up on television discussing the FBI’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, the more the White House bristled,” Rebecca Ballhaus, Michael C. Bender and Del Quentin Wilber write for The Wall Street Journal. NBC reports that hours before Comey was fired Trump hired a law firm in order to fight suggestions of business ties to Russia.
Many Democrats described the move using terms like “Nixonian.” The Nixon Library gently corrected them with a tweet: “FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian.”
Voter suppression pays off for GOP –> A new study by Priorities USA, a Democratic Super PAC that since the election has thrown its resources into investigating Democrats’ electoral loss, shows that voter-ID laws — which disproportionately affect Democratic constituencies, including students and African-Americans — may have played a decisive role in Wisconsin. “Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes, according to the new analysis,” Ari Berman writes for The Nation. “Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes.”
The Senate could pass Trumpcare –> Matt Fuller reports for HuffPost that it may not be too hard for Republicans in the House and in the Senate to come to an agreement that both sides will vote to pass. “Democrats may overestimate the level of disagreement between the two chambers,” he writes. “And if the last two months have proved anything, it’s that we’re underestimating the ability of Republicans to accept a flawed bill in the name of winning.”
Brief interruption –> The information on climate change that has been scrapped from the EPA’s website — “to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt,” according to the EPA — has been reposted by the city of Chicago, Kate Yoder reports for Grist. You can find it here.
Melting permafrost is belching greenhouse gases into the atmosphere –> InsideClimate News reports that as the Arctic melts, greenhouse gases trapped inside are entering the atmosphere, fueling more melting. This phenomenon, which we first reported on in 2014, creates a feedback loop, with the effects of climate change causing more and faster climate change. Bob Berwyn writes that very warm temperatures in the Arctic have triggered a “huge seasonal surge in carbon dioxide emissions from thawing permafrost and may be tipping the region toward becoming a net source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.”
The US’ news deserts –> Many American communities now only have one local newspaper — others don’t have any. Using research from Ohio University, the Columbia Journalism Review mapped the huge swaths of America that may no longer have a voice holding local officials accountable.
Local hero –> Dan Heyman, a journalist for the nonprofit Public News Service, was arrested at the West Viriginia state capitol after asking Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price multiple times whether domestic violence would be considered a pre-existing condition under the bill that just passed the House. Heyman was charged with willful disruption of governmental processes, which is a misdemeanor, local news channel WSAZ reports. “This is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do,” Heyman later told The Washington Post. “I think it’s a question that deserves to be answered. I think it’s my job to ask questions and I think it’s my job to try to get answers.”
We produce this news digest every weekday. You canto receive these updates as an email.