1:14 p.m. ET
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Former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn dismissed Cynthia Nixon as being an "unqualified lesbian" after the actress announced she is going to challenge New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary. Quinn, who made her comments to the New York Post, also expressed irritation that Nixon endorsed her Democratic primary opponent for New York City mayor in 2013, Bill de Blasio.

"Cynthia Nixon was opposed to having a qualified lesbian become mayor of New York City," Quinn said. "Now she wants to be an unqualified lesbian to be the governor of New York. You have to be qualified and have experience. She isn't qualified to be the governor."

Quinn additionally praised Cuomo, saying the incumbent has "accomplished [a lot] including a $15 minimum wage" and "opposing fracking."

Nixon responded to Quinn in a statement, saying "her being a lesbian and my being a lesbian" is not the issue, and that the race is about "the corruption in Albany."

Cuomo has also taken shots at Nixon, a former Sex and the City star, telling reporters: "If it's just about name recognition, I'm hoping that Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Billy Joel don't get into the race."

Jeva Lange

12:28 p.m. ET
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Trump administration appointees directed the cancellation of a successful teen pregnancy prevention program, despite opposition from Department of Health and Human Services experts, an NBC News report found.

The federal Teen Pregnancy Program was abruptly ended in August 2017, after seven years spent training more than 7,000 health care workers and 3,000 organizations, NBC News reports. The $213 million program helped lead to an all-time low in teen pregnancies and had bipartisan and medical expert support.

But HHS employees newly appointed by the Trump administration worked to end it in favor of pro-abstinence programs, NBC News reports. Internal notes and emails obtained by NBC News found that appointees overrode career HHS experts' objections and violated federal laws, making decisions that obstructed the authority of Congress. In one note from July 2017, the director of the Office of Adolescent Health — which oversaw the Teen Pregnancy Program — wrote that she was told that her "responsibility" was to "implement the administration's agenda, whether we like it or not," and that she should "get in line."

HHS officials said that the shuttered teen pregnancy program was ineffective and did not fit within President Trump's proposed budget. Experts counter that a substantial amount of the program's funding had already been invested, and terminating the program meant wasting millions in taxpayer money that had been put towards partially-completed research.

Trump administration appointees included Teresa Manning, an anti-abortion activist, and Victoria Huber, who ran abstinence-only and religion-based sex education programs in Ohio. Read the full report at NBC News. Summer Meza

12:27 p.m. ET

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been taken into custody by the police over allegations that he received suitcases containing millions of euros in illegal campaign financing from the government of then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, The Associated Press reports. Sarkozy has denied the allegations, which first arose in 2013 and were later fueled by French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine telling an investigative website that he was involved in the transportation of the cash.

Sarkozy served from 2007 to 2012 and initially extended a welcome to Gadhafi. Sarkozy was later involved in advancing NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi's troops; the Libyan leader was eventually captured and killed by rebels in 2011.

Overall, Sarkozy is accused of accepting some 50 million euros from Gadhafi's regime during his presidential campaign in 2006 and 2007. "Such a sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit at the time of 21 million euros," writes AP. "In addition, the alleged payments would violate French rules against foreign financing and declaring the source of campaign funds."

Separately, Takieddine is accused of providing illegal campaign funds to conservative politician Edouard Balladur in 1995. Jeva Lange

11:53 a.m. ET

President Trump spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone Tuesday morning, congratulating Putin on his electoral victory over the weekend. In a statement, the Kremlin said Trump called to "congratulate" Putin on his win, calling the conversation "constructive" and "businesslike."

Putin won re-election Sunday, apparently with more than 75 percent of the vote, though "videos of ballot-stuffing at polling stations across Russia surfaced throughout the day," The Washington Post reports. Critics have dismissed the election as a "charade," the Post adds.

The White House on Monday had denied there was a call between Trump and Putin scheduled for Tuesday, CNN's Kaitlan Collins noted. It has yet to release its own readout of the call. In 2012, when Putin began his second stint in office, former President Barack Obama called to congratulate him on his victory. Kimberly Alters

Update 1:09 p.m. ET: The White House released its readout of the call, which you can read here.

10:50 a.m. ET
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President Trump will loosen rules governing the export of lethal drones to U.S. allies, Reuters reports, and may announce these changes as soon as this month.

The president has been lobbied by American drone manufacturers, who say foreign rivals are beating them on the international market thanks to fewer restrictions in their home countries, like China and Israel. Trump is expected to cast the change as a feature of his "Buy American" campaign, which also includes his steel and aluminum tariffs plan. Though rules may not be changed for the Predator drone, the white craft that has become the face of the U.S. drone war, sources told Reuters that both surveillance craft and smaller drones that carry fewer missiles over shorter distances will be affected.

In recent years Washington has only approved armed drone sales to the United Kingdom and Italy, but potential buyers under the new rules include South Korea, Japan, Australia, and India, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, plus NATO allies and "many of the 35 signatories to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)."

Read The Week's Peter Weber on whether U.S. drone strikes amount to war crimes. Bonnie Kristian

10:41 a.m. ET

Severe storms hit Alabama on Monday night, causing major damage and leaving debris that trapped several people as winds shredded buildings and cut off power lines.

Tornadoes swirled and hail pelted the region, slamming northern Alabama and bringing strong winds and stormy weather to parts of Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina.

"There has been significant damage tonight in parts of Alabama," Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said in a statement. That damage caused at least one person to be injured in Jacksonville, a city northeast of Montgomery, CNN reports, where winds tore apart homes and roofs. Fire department crews were deployed to search for people trapped by debris, and several areas implemented curfews to keep people sheltered until the worst of the storms had passed.

Baseball-sized hail came down in some parts of Alabama, causing significant damage to cars and buildings:

Severe weather is expected to continue through Tuesday, but without the threat of tornadoes, reports CNN. Summer Meza

10:17 a.m. ET

Tuesday, March 20, marks 15 years since the United States invaded Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein and find those elusive weapons of mass destruction.

At the time of the invasion, nearly 3 in 4 Americans said using military force was the right choice, but since 2006, public opinion has almost always shifted toward opposition. As of this year, Pew Research reports, 48 percent say the war was the wrong choice, and 43 percent still believe it was a good idea.

(Pew Research Center)

Among those who support the invasion, 61 percent are Republicans or independents who lean Republican. Republicans are also more likely to say the United States "succeeded in achieving its goals in Iraq." Overall, 53 percent of Americans say the U.S. failed to achieve those goals, a proportion that has held steady since 2014.

The Defense and State Departments said in February that the president has the authority to keep U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely. Bonnie Kristian

8:58 a.m. ET
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Tuesday is the first day of spring, but you wouldn't know it in the Washington, D.C. region, where residents are awaiting what could be "one of the biggest snowfalls in almost two years," WTOP-FM writes. The winter weather will do more than just dampen moods, though — it could potentially bog down lawmakers' efforts to pass a spending bill and result in the government shutting down, Politico Playbook writes.

Congress is once again facing a looming Friday night deadline to complete its $1.2 trillion spending bill, which would keep the government open through the end of September. There continues to be heated debate over funding President Trump's border wall and as of Tuesday morning, the legislation has still not been released. When it is, it will need to clear both the House and Senate.

That's where the snowstorm comes into play. "So many aides come in from the suburbs that if the region gets between 3 and 6 inches, a snow day is completely plausible," writes Politico Playbook. "Of course, Congress could pass a short-term spending bill to push the funding deadline to sometime next week, but at this point, they don’t seem interested in doing that."

At the time of publication, the National Weather Service has a winter storm warning in effect through Wednesday evening. Snow is expected to begin Tuesday afternoon, and continue overnight. Jeva Lange

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