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January 31, 2017

On Monday evening, acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed Justice Department lawyers that as long as she headed the DOJ, its lawyers "will not present arguments in defense of the executive order" President Trump issued on immigration from seven Muslim nations because she's not "convinced that the executive order is lawful." President Trump promptly fired her, saying Yates "has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order."

Yates had been planning to leave the department a few days after the Senate confirmed Trump's nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and she reportedly knew her letter could lead to her early termination. But sometimes "the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that's improper." That last quote is from Jeff Sessions — whose protégés reportedly wrote Trump's executive order — talking to Yates at her deputy attorney general Senate confirmation hearing in March 2015. "If the views a president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or deputy attorney general say no?" Sessions asked. "Senator, I believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution," Yates replied.

Sessions went on to compare the president to a business executive. "Sometimes, the lawyers have to tell the CEOs, Mr. CEO, don't do that, we'll get us sued," he said. "It's going to be in violation of the law. You'll regret it. Please. No matter how headstrong they might be, do you feel like that's the duty of the attorney general's office?" Yates said yes.

Before wrapping up, Sessions strolled down memory lane: "I remember John Ashcroft, attorney general for Bush, he's been celebrated, when he was in the hospital, they tried to get him to sign a document that dealt with terrorism that he thought went too far, he refused to do so. So, I hope that you feel free to say no, in the character of John Ashcroft and others who said no to President Nixon on certain issues." Ashcroft was consulted in the hospital, Sessions did not mention, because Bush was first turned down by the acting attorney general, James Comey, who is now head of the FBI. You can watch the entire Sessions-Yates exchange at C-SPAN. Peter Weber

9:07 p.m.

To boost security in the region, the Pentagon on Thursday will show the White House plans to send up to 10,000 more U.S. troops to the Middle East, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The officials said this is not in response to any new threats from Iran. President Trump has said he wants U.S. troops out of the Middle East, and it's not clear if the White House will approve sending any or all of the requested troops.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday the U.S. does not want to provoke Iran, and "our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation." Earlier this month, the U.S. hastened the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region. U.S. officials have remained tight-lipped about any potential Iranian threats, merely saying there are maritime threats. Catherine Garcia

7:59 p.m.

Feeling particularly feisty on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) let the world know exactly how he feels about Attorney General William Barr and Rudy Giuliani.

"I think Bill Barr has all the duplicity of Rudy Giuliani without all the good looks and general likability of Rudy Giuliani," Schiff said during the Center for American Progress 2019 Ideas Conference. "The most dangerous thing, I think, that Bill Barr has done is basically say that a president under investigation can make the investigation go away if he thinks its unfair which, by the way, means the other 14 investigations firmed up through other offices he can also make go away."

Barr, Schiff added, acts more like "a personal attorney" for Trump, and needs to resign. Barr refused to turn over documents related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and skipped a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee last week, and earlier Wednesday, the panel postponed a vote on holding him in contempt of Congress. "Department of Justice has accepted our offer of a first step towards compliance with our subpoena, and this week will begin turning over to the committee 12 categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production," Schiff said in a statement. Catherine Garcia

7:06 p.m.

A new study warns that if nothing is done to curb carbon emissions, sea levels could rise by more than six feet by the end of the century, flooding major cities — including Shanghai, Miami, and Mumbai – and displacing about 200 million people.

As the Earth gets warmer, ice sheets are melting faster than previously predicted, the study's scientists said. Co-author Robert Kopp, director of the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Studies at Rutgers University, told NBC News there are many uncertainties when it comes to the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. For the study, 22 climate experts were asked to estimate the ice sheets' effect on sea level rise if temperatures rose by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and 9 degrees Fahrenheit, which is "consistent with unchecked emissions growth."

This was the worst-case scenario, with scientists predicting sea levels rising by more than six feet by 2100, permanently flooding 700,000 square miles of land. If the temperature only rose by 3.6 degrees, melting ice sheets would add about two-and-a-half feet to sea level rise. Kopp said not all hope is lost, and "changing the course of emissions really can significantly affect this issue over the next 80 years." The study was published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Catherine Garcia

5:12 p.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton are generally aligned when it comes to U.S. foreign policy, but that doesn't mean they get along.

Four sources familiar with their relationship told CNN that their stark personality differences and professional styles have caused a rift between the two, which has also been exacerbated by President Trump's "erratic behavior and lack of foreign policy experience." Pompeo, the State Department, and the National Security Council have all dismissed the claims.

But CNN's sources said that Pompeo is not a fan of Bolton's "calculating methods." Bolton often circumvents Pompeo to interact directly with the president, the CIA, and Congress. For example, during a debate over North Korea, Bolton reportedly left Pompeo off messages he sent to the CIA, which included a list of questions he wanted answered, a source within the intelligence community said. Pompeo, who has led negotiations with North Korea, was reportedly not pleased with being left in the dark. Bolton also reportedly has his deputy, Allison Hooker, call up the CIA ahead of meetings with Trump, allowing him to gather intel and keep that information to himself.

Pompeo is not alone when it comes to disapproving of Bolton's workplace behavior. One of CNN's sources, who describes themselves as Bolton's friend, said the national security adviser is "overreaching" and not running the NSC properly. "There is a real feeling outside of the national security council, across the board, that John has his own agenda and is undercutting the president's policies," another source close to the White House said.

Trump, too, reportedly has some issues with Bolton, though that has less to do with the way Bolton operates and more with how he's perceived. The president apparently gets annoyed by Bolton's public profile, especially when he's giving a speech or tweeting because it takes attention away from him. Read more at CNN. Tim O'Donnell

5:11 p.m.

Much like the Democratic presidential primaries, NASA is collecting a long list of names for 2020.

"Travelers" can have their names sent to Mars during NASA's 2020 space launch. The names will be stenciled in tiny letters on chips attached to a rover that will track any signs of life on Mars, the agency said. Researchers are calling the rover a "robotic scientist" that will collect samples and analyze climate on the red planet.

"As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "It's an exciting time for NASA, as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighboring planet, and even the origins of life itself."

Although no humans will be onboard, space-lovers can earn "frequent flyer" miles for the trip and any other mission they choose to submit a name for. Participants will also receive a souvenir boarding pass for participating in NASA's launch.

The rover is slated to reach Mars in February 2021. Participants can still add their names to NASA's list here. Tatyana Bellamy-Walker

5:07 p.m.

Democrats just scored their second subpoena victory of the week.

On Monday, a U.S. District Court judge denied President Trump's request to block the House Oversight Committee's subpoena of his financial records from his accounting firm. And on Wednesday, another judge did basically the same thing, ruling against Trump's suit to block a House subpoena of his financial record from Deutsche Bank and Capitol One.

Last month, the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees subpoenaed the banks for several years of Trump's financial records. Trump, his businesses, and his family immediately sued the banks to stop them from complying. But on Wedenesday, Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York said the subpoenas were broad, but decided they were "clearly pertinent" to Congress' goals, CNN reports. Ramos added that he expects the banks to comply with the subpoenas shortly.

Deutsche Bank has spent years loaning to Trump and his businesses, and said it "would comply with whatever the court ultimately decided," The New York Times notes. Like they did after Tuesday's ruling, though, Trump's lawyers will likely appeal the Wednesday decision. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:08 p.m.

Washington has become the first state to legalize human composting as an alternative to burial or cremation after Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law on Tuesday.

The law also legalizes alkaline hydrolysis, "a process that breaks down bodies using lye and heat," HuffPost explained. Alkaline hydrolysis is legal in some other states, including California, Idaho, and Maine. Both processes will be legal in Washington starting on May 1, 2020.

These alternative methods have been touted by advocates as being more eco-friendly than traditional burial or cremation. As much as "a metric ton of CO2" could be saved by choosing the process of human composting instead of traditional methods, says Seattle company Recompose.

After the human composting process is complete — which would take about a month — the deceased's loved ones can take the remains home "to grow a tree or a garden," Recompose's website states.

It's possible that Recompose will be the first of many Washington companies to offer this service, though it's unclear exactly how many Washingtonians will decide to avail themselves of this new opportunity.

Read more at HuffPost. Shivani Ishwar

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