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November 14, 2017

CNN's Chris Cuomo gave President Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, no time to ease into their bout Tuesday morning as he demanded to know right off the bat: "Do you accept the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia tried to interfere, and did so, during the election?"

The argument quickly spiraled from there as Lewandowski admitted to believing Russia interfered in the election, but that the Kremlin did so through Hillary Clinton's campaign. "That is a notion that doesn't meet any standard or any piece of proof that we've gotten from the investigators to date," a disbelieving Cuomo shot back. He added: "You said before, 'We had no contacts, nobody from our campaign' … We now know that's not true, Corey."

"I have never, to the best of my knowledge, ever communicated with anybody who was a Russian, a Russian agent, a Russian supporter, or someone who was from the Russian government in any way, shape, or form," Lewandowski clarified.

"How can you know that?" Cuomo fired back.

"Well that's what I said, to the best of my knowledge I've never communicated with a Russian agent," Lewandowski said. "Now maybe you're a Russian agent."

And that's just the start. Watch the battle below. Jeva Lange

4:18 p.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 26,000 points Wednesday, CNN Money reported, marking a historic first for the market index. The Dow had first passed the 26,000-point threshold Tuesday, but Wednesday was the first day that it sustained those gains at market close.

Overall, the index spiked 323 points over the course of Wednesday's trading, ending the day at 26,115.65 points. The 1.3 percent bump was spurred by "stronger-than-expected quarterly results from some of the biggest U.S. companies," CNBC explained. Kimberly Alters

3:41 p.m. ET

During Wednesday's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders summarily dismissed the ongoing Russia investigation as a "hoax."

Asked by The Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender whether President Trump was "prepared" for the reported escalation in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, Sanders did not mince words. "We've been dealing with this hoax for the better part of a year," she said. "If we have to endure the ridiculousness for another month we can certainly handle it."

Sanders did stress to reporters that the White House intends to be "fully cooperative" with Mueller's team, but she claimed the ongoing intrigue was unfair to the public. "Do the American people deserve [this investigation]? No, I don't think they do," she said.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that Stephen Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, had been subpoenaed by Mueller to appear before a grand jury. Bannon agreed Wednesday to interview with Mueller, where he is expected to answer questions about his time working in the White House last year. Kelly O'Meara Morales

2:09 p.m. ET

The search for extraterrestrial life has hit a new roadblock: congressional decorum.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) vented to reporters Wednesday that politicians on Capitol Hill act like middle schoolers. The immaturity is hindering our other-worldly ambitions, he joked: "That's why the aliens won't talk to us."

HuffPost's Igor Bobic noted that Kennedy also compared the state of American politics to The Jerry Springer Show — which The Guardian once wrote "has delivered more on-air fights, ranting white supremacists, adulterous strippers, and transphobia than anything else on television." Kelly O'Meara Morales

1:32 p.m. ET
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Michael Wolff, the author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is not exactly well liked by President Trump these days. Wolff's book, which made public scandalous stories about the White House, has been blasted as "phony" and "fake" by Trump, who doesn't reserve kind words for Wolff either ("mentally deranged," "totally discredited").

One can't help but wonder, though, if Trump would have had the same reaction to the book if Wolff had used its original working title, The Great Transition: The First 100 Days of the Trump Administration. Whether or not Wolff really ever thought he would use that title, it nevertheless helped him slip into the White House without causing alarm. "In part due to that title, Wolff was able to exploit an inexperienced White House staff who mistakenly believed they could shape the book to the president's liking," Bloomberg Politics writes.

Wolff told Trump during [a phone call] that he wanted to write a book on the president's first 100 days in office. Many people want to write books about me, Trump replied — talk to my staff. Aides Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks listened to Wolff's pitch in a West Wing meeting the next day, but were noncommittal.

Several aides said Hicks later informally endorsed talking with Wolff as long as they made "positive" comments for the book, which they said Wolff told them would counter the media's unfair narrative. [Bloomberg Politics]

Well, here's how that has gone over. Regardless, the White House is reportedly cooperating with authors on at least two other books about its inner workings, including Ron Kessler and a joint project between Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Jeva Lange

12:54 p.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Stephen Bannon wrapped up more than 11 hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, where his refusal to answer questions repeatedly frustrated lawmakers. Bannon reportedly invoked executive privilege, telling the committee that he couldn't answer their questions about anything he was involved with after the election because he'd been advised not to by the White House.

As it turns out, Bannon and the White House were practically on a direct line. Bannon's lawyer, Bill Burck, advised his client on what questions he could or could not answer by speaking on the phone "in real time" with the White House counsel's office, The Associated Press reports, based on a conversation with someone who was not authorized to talk about the arrangement publicly. "We said to Bannon, 'Don't answer those questions because we haven't agreed to that scope under the process,'" a White House official told CNBC.

In a different version of events, a person close to Bannon told CBS News that "Bannon's lawyer related topics about the transition and administration to the White House, and they told him that he was not authorized to answer questions on those topics unless the committee reached an accommodation with the White House on the proper scope of questioning."

In addition to being slapped with a subpoena at the House Intelligence Committee hearing — which did not prevent Bannon from continuing to refuse to answer questions — The New York Times reports that Bannon was subpoenaed last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a grand jury. Bannon has since struck a deal with Mueller and "is expected to cooperate with the special counsel," people familiar with the arrangement told CNN. In doing so, Bannon is expected to avoid the grand jury in favor of an interview with prosecutors, although it isn't clear yet if the subpoena will be withdrawn. Jeva Lange

12:34 p.m. ET

Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) took to the Senate floor Wednesday to decry President Trump's authoritarian tendencies.

Flake specifically referenced a February tweet from Trump, in which the president declared that the "FAKE NEWS media" is "the enemy of the American people." "It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies," Flake said.

The Washington Post points out that Stalin used a phrase similar to Trump's tweet to justify the execution of his enemies. The words were denounced three years after Stalin's death by then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Flake, a frequent Trump critic, was especially bothered by the way Trump "inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language," noting how Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro have all invoked the phrase "fake news" to justify or lie about their actions.

Although Flake's speech aired on various news networks, The Washington Post's Erica Werner pointed out that the only audience on the Senate floor was Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and a smattering of reporters. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:38 a.m. ET
OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Border Patrol agents actively impair humanitarian efforts along the southern border, a report published Wednesday revealed. The report — commissioned by two humanitarian groups, No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos — claims that U.S. immigration enforcement officials intentionally destroy water containers left for immigrants crossing the scorching deserts, "condemning people to die of thirst in baking temperatures," The Guardian reports.

The study analyzed an 800-square-mile swath of desert near Tucson, Arizona, where people often leave water for border-crossers, The Guardian explains. Between March 2012 and December 2015, Border Patrol agents reportedly damaged 415 containers of water, sabotaging more than 3,500 gallons.

While the report notes that wild animals do occasionally account for the destruction, U.S. Border Patrol agents are the water saboteurs "in the majority of cases," the groups claim. One Border Patrol agent is quoted in the report describing the strategy, saying: "I remember people smashing and stepping on water bottles. I remember that being imparted onto us in one way or another."

The report asserts that destroying aid supplies is a "systemic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands." Read more at The Guardian. Kelly O'Meara Morales

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