July 28, 2017

President Trump announced Friday on Twitter that he was replacing his embattled Chief of Staff Reince Priebus with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a former general.

Priebus, the former head of the Republican National Committee, had only been chief of staff for six months but has been embroiled in a White House power struggle with incoming communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Priebus apparently lost that struggle. Nico Lauricella

2:12 p.m. ET

Microsoft was hit with criticism Monday after court filings revealed that 238 women at the company filed gender discrimination or sexual harassment complaints between 2010 and 2016.

Now, the company is firing back. Microsoft says that last year alone, more than 20 people were fired after sexual harassment investigations, according to The Seattle Times.

The defense came in an email sent to all Microsoft employees Thursday, spelling out the company's policies and procedures regarding gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

In the email, Microsoft's chief people officer Kathleen Hogan addressed the story of the 238 complaints and wrote that "some of what has been reported contains inaccurate and misleading data." Hogan specifically linked to a Reuters article, which stated that the court filings contained 118 gender discrimination complaints but Microsoft only declared one of them "founded." Attorneys for the case also called Microsoft's sexual harassment investigation team "lackluster," Reuters reported. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:54 p.m. ET

Republican Danny Tarkanian is dropping his bid for a highly-coveted U.S. Senate seat in Nevada, switching to a congressional run at the behest of President Trump, The Nevada Independent reported Friday.

Tarkanian, who was poised to enter a fiery primary against incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), heard from the president's office earlier this week that Trump would prefer him to run for the House rather than the Senate, reports the Independent. Trump made that preference loud and clear Friday, when he tweeted how "great" it would be if Tarkanian would step aside for Heller.

When Tarkanian first heard from Trump's team, he was steadfast in his commitment to the Senate, telling the Independent on Tuesday that there was "zero chance" he'd flip to the congressional race. He conceded, however, that he would switch races if Trump asked him publicly, which the president did in his Friday tweet. Tarkanian, whose staff advised him not to fight the president, said that he plans to file for the congressional race at noon. Summer Meza

1:28 p.m. ET
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The CIA has apparently been dispatching small teams of highly-trained fighters to kill specific suspected terrorist targets, breaking with former President Barack Obama's tendency to rely on drone strikes rather than human assassins, BuzzFeed News reports. "It's a small number where it has been kinetic, but it is happening," said one person familiar with the new squads, using "kinetic" to suggest lethal military action.

The CIA's Special Activities Center apparently oversees the program; it also houses the Ground Branch, which is "made up of elite fighters, often taken from the ranks of SEALs, Delta Force, and Marine Special Operations Command," called Paramilitary Operations Officers, BuzzFeed writes. There are about 100 such fighters, although that number is seemingly growing under President Trump. A spokesperson for the CIA denied any elite hit team program exists.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, whom Trump intends to make his next secretary of state, had pushed for the department to be more "vicious," although he has not confirmed the creation of the assassination teams. He is apparently the driving force behind the new ground operations, though, people familiar with the decision said. Obama, on the other hand, heavily relied on unmanned drones to do similar work, although he oversaw a notable CIA hit team in 2011, which took out Osama bin Laden.

"They are getting people on targeting lists," one insider explained of the new development. "Small teams are locating and killing bad guys." Read the full investigation at BuzzFeed News. Jeva Lange

12:51 p.m. ET
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British police have launched a murder investigation into the death of Russian political exile Nikolai Glushkov, who was found dead in his London home earlier this week, The Guardian reports. Glushkov was a friend of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, a noted critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was found dead in the U.K. in 2013. Police said the cause of Glushkov's death was "compression to the neck," Reuters reports.

Glushkov's death follows the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter with a nerve agent earlier this month. The U.S. and U.K. governments have blamed Russia for the attack. Police said that there is no known link between Glushkov's death and the attempted murder of the father and daughter at this point.

Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism unit continues to lead the investigation into Glushkov's death, citing "associations Mr. Glushkov is believed to have had."

Glushkov was arrested in Russia in 2000 for embezzling funds from the national airline Aeroflot, where he served as deputy director, CNN reports. He was sentenced to three years in prison in Moscow in 2004, and received political asylum in the U.K. in 2010. He was later questioned over the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was killed after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium in London in 2006. Jeva Lange

12:33 p.m. ET
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South Carolina's Tim Scott is the only black Republican in the Senate. But in an in-depth interview with Politico, he revealed that he was this close to being a Democrat instead.

Despite his conservative views on fiscal policies and social issues, he told Politico that he wasn't originally sure that his politics aligned with the Republican Party's:

He was volunteering [in 1994] on the congressional campaign of a young man named Mark Sanford, attracted to his platform of fiscal discipline. But Scott wasn't sure he himself was a Republican. He visited the local Democratic Party headquarters to tell them he was interested in running for [an open Charleston City Council seat]. "They told me to get in line," Scott laughs. He went straight to the GOP headquarters. "They said, 'You probably won't win, but heck we'd love to see you run.'" And just like that, Scott was a Republican. "Access to opportunity is my No. 1 issue," he says by way of explanation. "It doesn't really matter what your title is; your mission is the same." [Politico]

Overall, Scott is also one of just three African-American members in the entire upper chamber, joining Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.). But he rejects any attempts to pigeonhole his tenure through a racial lens. He believes that President Trump's time in office has been beneficial for Americans, pushing communities to have "painful, ugly, embarrassing" conversations about thorny issues like race.

"God made me black on purpose," Scott told Politico. "It has helped me to help others who have been locked out of opportunity in many ways." Read the whole interview at Politico. Summer Meza

10:49 a.m. ET
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New York Rep. Louise Slaughter (D) has died after being hospitalized with a concussion earlier this week following a fall at her home in Washington, D.C., her office confirmed Friday. The Rochester-based Democrat & Chronicle first reported the news.

Slaughter was the oldest member of the House of Representatives, at 88, and one of the longest-serving members as well as the ranking member of the House Rules Committee. She had planned to run for re-election this fall, for what would have been her 17th term.

"This is stunning news," tweeted Politico reporter Jake Sherman. "Louise Slaughter was one of the sharpest, funniest, and nicest women in Congress." Jeva Lange

10:26 a.m. ET

If there's one thing Fox News knows for sure, it's that a U.S. president should absolutely never agree to meet with foreign dictators — unless that president is Donald Trump.

Case in point: Ever since President Trump accepted an invitation from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to meet without any preconditions, Fox News has been touting the diplomatic brilliance of the move. It's a drastic pivot from the network's analysis when former President Barack Obama considered doing so, a NowThis video showed.

Clips from years past show both hosts and guests on the network slamming Obama for being open to meeting with Kim. "He would meet with some of these madmen without any preconditions," said an aghast Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and Republican vice presidential candidate, of Obama.

But now, Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity appear ready to embrace the idea of negotiating with the isolated nation. Hannity lauded Trump's "major foreign policy breakthrough," while others applauded the "stunning diplomatic triumph" and even floated the idea of the move earning Trump a Nobel Peace Prize.

When Obama was in office, Fox News pundits called the idea of talking North Korea out of its nuclear weapons program "fanciful," and said it was a "bad idea" to meet with "crazy men" like Kim. Trump's decision, on the other hand, is bound to be "magnificent for the people of Korea" and "magnificent for the world." Watch the rest of the flip-flopping, compiled by NowThis, below. Summer Meza

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