President Trump reportedly told Russia's foreign minister and ambassador in a meeting last week that he fired FBI Director James Comey in order to take off the "pressure" of the Russia probe, The New York Times reports.
"I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job," Trump told the Russians. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." The comments were recorded in a White House document that was compiled based on notes taken during the meeting and distributed as an official account of the event; it was read by a U.S. official to the Times.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not contradict the report, saying: "By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia."
The White House's official story had been that Trump lost faith in Comey's ability to do his job due to his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state. Earlier Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended a memo he wrote to Trump outlining his concerns with Comey, in which he detailed a series of missteps he felt Comey had made that led him to believe "it was appropriate to seek a new leader" for the FBI.
A memo written by Comey, reported earlier this week, claimed Trump had tried to convince Comey to end his investigation into Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who is at the heart of the ongoing Russia investigations. Jeva Lange
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a one-time treatment for lymphoma in adults, only the second time a gene therapy for blood cancer has been given the OK in the United States.
This is the first gene therapy approved for adults, and involves removing a patient's T cells, reprogramming them to find and kill cancer cells, then putting the cells back into the patient, The Associated Press reports. The treatment uses the same technology as a gene therapy recently approved in the U.S. for childhood leukemia, and will cost $373,000 per patient, its manufacturer said. Catherine Garcia
Not so fast, Bill O'Reilly.
On Wednesday evening, former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly decided to support his friend Sean Hannity while taking aim at CNN's Jake Tapper, tweeting, "Sean Hannity kicking serious butt in the ratings. Tapper on CNN as low as you can go." Tapper waited just 11 minutes before responding with a brutal correction. "'Low' would be sexually harassing staffers and then getting fired for it — humiliated in front of the world," he tweeted. "Now THAT would be low."
O'Reilly had to praise Hannity's ratings rather than his own because, as Tapper helpfully pointed out, the former O'Reilly Factor host was let go from Fox News earlier this year after The New York Times reported that several women had accused him of sexual harassment, and he paid out millions in settlements. Catherine Garcia
In an interview Tuesday with radio host Charlamagne tha God, rapper RZA confirmed that the actor Russell Crowe once spat on pop singer and rapper Azealia Banks at a party. RZA, a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, admitted Crowe's conduct after initially denying the incident occurred.
In October 2016, Banks recounted the incident in a Facebook post, in which she alleged that Crowe spat on her, choked her, and called her the n-word as he kicked her out of a party he was hosting last year. (Banks later deleted the post.) Banks said she had attended the party as RZA's guest and shortly after the incident, she told E! News, "I felt betrayed, I felt humiliated, I felt low. It almost felt like a set-up."
After Banks expressed her disappointment that RZA did not stick up for her at the time, the Wu-Tang Clan founder made his own Facebook post disputing Banks' account of the night and alleging she spent the night "insulting half the room." He wrote: "There was nothing funny about her behavior. I felt a little embarrassed because she was my guest. Still verbal abuse can be tolerated but when it goes physical ... Azealia threatened to cut a girl in the face with a glass, then actually grabs a glass ... Russell blocked the attack and expelled her from the suite."
In Tuesday's interview, however, Charlamagne tha God asked RZA whether Crowe really had physically touched Banks or spat on her. "Look, he spit at her," RZA conceded. The host followed up and asked, "Did you check him at that point? That's a white dude spitting at a black woman, you have to check him." RZA dodged, saying that while Crowe apologized to him, "the night was crazy, bro, and I don't want to relive it. It was super-duper awkward."
Later that day, Azealia Banks called out RZA in an Instagram post, condemning him in graphic terms for talking about her in the media given that he has not apologized to her for the incident. Kelly O'Meara Morales
This computer program is teaching itself how to destroy humans ... at a millennia-old Chinese board game
A computer program called AlphaGo Zero taught itself how to play a strategic game that is far more difficult than chess, Google found in a recent study, a feat both impressive and a little frightening.
Go is an East Asian strategy game, played on a 19-by-19 grid that has unlimited configurations, NPR explains. Researchers at Google's DeepMind lab developed a program last year using databases of known human configurations for the game, which went on to beat the best Go player on the planet, world champion Lee Sedol.
This time around, researchers at DeepMind tried something new. Instead of teaching the program, then called AlphaGo, known human configurations for the game, they let the machine discover them itself, NPR says. Scientists found that the use of human knowledge could actually impose limits on their program, and that starting with a blank slate was much more effective.
The resulting updated program — dubbed AlphaGo Zero — spent three days playing 4.9 million games of Go against itself. Then, AlphaGo Zero beat the original human knowledge-based version 100 games to 0. AlphaGo Zero also discovered configurations that humans have not yet figured out.
While AlphaGo Zero has some far-reaching implications for the future, it remains to be studied whether this "blank slate" concept may be applied to solving complex problems. Read the full published study at Nature, or a more about the story of AlphaGo Zero at NPR. Elianna Spitzer
Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), in an interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd about rising health-care costs, proposed last week that emergency rooms should be able to turn patients away.
In the interview, Black cited her experience working in health care to explain why mandating that emergency room workers see every patient who comes in is ineffective. "I'm an emergency room nurse," she told Todd on Friday. "There are people that came into my emergency room that I, the nurse, was the first one to see them. I could have sent them to a walk-in clinic or their doctor the next day, but because of a law that Congress put into place ... you took away our ability to say, 'No, an emergency room is not the proper place.'"
Black is seemingly referring to the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which banned hospitals from transferring uninsured patients from private to public hospitals. "That crowds the emergency room," Black said of the directive. "It drives the cost of emergencies up." When Todd asked Black if she was advocating a repeal of the law, she replied, "I would get rid of a law that says that you are not allowed, as a health-care professional, to make that decision about whether someone can be appropriately treated the next day, or at a walk-in clinic, or at their doctor."
Defense Secretary James Mattis wants to review Department of Defense properties after an Oct. 6 report found that 19 percent of military bases are unneeded, he wrote in a letter earlier this month. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, released Mattis' letter and the accompanying report Tuesday.
Mattis is urging closures that would take place under the Base Realignment and Closure program (BRAC). The last round of BRAC evaluations was approved over 14 years ago, in 2005, and the DoD is hoping Congress will allow a new review in 2021.
The push to re-evaluate military bases has been met with frustration from lawmakers who worry about economic and electoral consequences if base closures were to occur in their districts. The Pentagon, meanwhile, estimates that closures would result in billions of dollars in savings.
Mattis explained in his letter to Congress: "The BRAC process provides opportunities for military forces to be more effective, for capabilities to be enhanced, and for savings to be applied to higher priorities." Elianna Spitzer
President Trump promised the father of an army corporal slain in Afghanistan a $25,000 check and a fundraiser to support his family, but failed to deliver on either pledge, The Washington Post reports. Chris Baldridge said he spoke to Trump on the phone after his son, Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, 22, was killed in June. When Baldridge explained to Trump that he would see none of his son's $100,000 death gratuity, which was designated to go to his ex-wife, "[Trump] said, 'I'm going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,' and I was just floored," Baldridge recalled.
Later, when Baldridge received a letter from the White House, he realized Trump hadn't followed through on the promise: "I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest," he said. "I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, 'Damn, no check.' Just a letter saying 'I'm sorry.'"
Other Gold Star families contacted by the Post described mixed interactions with Trump. Euvince Brooks, whose son, Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks, 30, was killed in Iraq, said he was upset when he saw Trump claim that he had called all families of slain troops since taking office. "I said to my daughter, 'Can you teach me to tweet, so I can tweet at the president and tell him he's a liar?'" Brooks said. His family has not heard from the White House at all.
William Lee, whose brother Army 1st Lt. Weston Lee was killed in Iraq in April, said Trump did call his family and that the conversation was "very cordial and very nice." "It meant something, the leader of our nation calling us and showing the honor and respect to my brother that I feel my brother earned," Lee said.
The White House initially declined to comment to the Post for the story, but later issued a statement about Baldridge: "It is disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the president, and using it to advance the media's biased agenda," a spokesperson said. The White House said Baldridge's check is now in the mail. Read the full report at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange