March 19, 2017
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On Sunday, Israel launched a strike into Syria targeting a vehicle traveling from Damascus to a town in the Golan Heights, leaving one dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says. The Lebanese news service Al Mayadeen said the person killed in the strike was Yasser Hussein Asayeed, a militia member aligned with the Syrian government. A spokesman for the Israeli army would not comment on the report.

Two days earlier, Israeli jets struck what Tel Aviv said was a weapons shipment from Syria to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant group. Syrian forces shot multiple surface-to-air missiles at the jets, and for the first time, Israel fired its Arrow interceptor missile at a rocket headed for its territory, the Los Angeles Times reports. "The next time that the Syrian air defenses fire at us, we will destroy them completely without thinking twice," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio.

The confrontation didn't sit well with Russia, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's allies; after the incident, the country's foreign ministry called the Israeli ambassador to Moscow to show Russia's displeasure with the attack. Israel is concerned that as the Syrian government makes gains against the rebels in the country's civil war, its allies like Iran and Hezbollah could gain a permanent presence along the Golan Heights border. Catherine Garcia

7:37 p.m. ET
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When Attorney General Jeff Sessions applied for his security clearance, he neglected to share meetings he had in 2016 with Russian officials, the Justice Department told CNN Wednesday.

The SF-86 form requires a person list "any contact" they or their family had with a "foreign government" or its "representatives" over the last seven years, officials told CNN, and Sessions, who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times in 2016, did not mention these gatherings. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told CNN that Sessions and his staff were told by the FBI they did not need to list meetings he had with foreign ambassadors that took place while he was still a senator.

"My interpretation is that a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business," Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney specializing in national security law, told CNN. During his Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year, Sessions, an early Trump supporter, also did not disclose his interactions with Kislyak. Catherine Garcia

6:41 p.m. ET
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Last summer, U.S. spies gathered information on senior Russian officials discussing how to influence Donald Trump through his advisers, three current and former American officials told The New York Times.

They specifically focused on two men with indirect ties to Russian officials: Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, his foreign policy adviser. The information was deemed credible enough by intelligence agencies to pass along to the FBI, but it remains unclear if the Russians actually did try to influence Manafort and Flynn, who have both denied any collusion with the Russian government before the 2016 presidential election.

The U.S. spies heard some Russians bragging about how well they knew Flynn, the Times reports; in 2015, Flynn earned more than $65,000 from several companies linked to Russia, including the government-funded RT news network. For his part, Manafort spent more than 10 years working for political organizations in Ukraine, forging a close relationship with Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine who was a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Tuesday, former CIA Director John Brennan testified that last summer, he was convinced "the Russians were trying to interfere in the election. And they were very aggressive." By the end of former President Barack Obama's term, he still had "unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons, involved in the campaign or not, to work on their behalf against either in a witting or unwitting fashion." Catherine Garcia

5:35 p.m. ET
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Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would require the president to alert Congress if anyone in the executive branch happened to, say, reveal some classified information to certain hostile nations. Murphy rolled out her bill just over a week after reports surfaced that President Trump had revealed highly classified information passed to the U.S. from Israel in an Oval Office meeting with Russian officials.

Murphy's bill, the Prevention and Oversight of Intelligence Sharing with Enemies (POISE) Act, would require the president "to promptly notify the House and Senate congressional intelligence committees when any U.S. executive branch official, including the president himself, intentionally or inadvertently discloses Top Secret information to government officials of nations that sponsor terrorism or, like Russia, are subject to U.S. economic sanctions."

As a former national security specialist at the Pentagon, Murphy said she's witnessed how damaging it can be to spill classified information. "When U.S. intelligence falls into the wrong hands, it puts our service members, intelligence operatives, and diplomats at risk and undermines our national security interests around the world," she said in a statement. "Additionally, our allies are unlikely to share highly-sensitive intelligence if they lose confidence in our ability to protect such information." Becca Stanek

5:25 p.m. ET

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's cost estimate of the American Health Care Act released Wednesday predicted some steep costs for the elderly. Vox's Sarah Kliff reported that low-income Americans over the age of 64 would see premiums increase by a whopping 800 percent under the GOP-backed plan:

Under ObamaCare, Americans over the age of 64 with an annual income of $26,500 pay a net premium of $1,700. If the AHCA were to become law, that same population would pay a net premium of $13,600.

The score the CBO released Wednesday updates its previous evaluation of the bill, released in March, to reflect changes that Republicans made to the bill before passing it in the House earlier this month. Overall, the updated score predicted an additional 23 million Americans would be uninsured by 2026 if the AHCA were to replace ObamaCare. The bill would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion. Becca Stanek

5:08 p.m. ET

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its score of the American Health Care Act on Wednesday, updating its projections to accommodate the version of the bill that passed the House earlier this month. The CBO offered an initial score of the GOP health-care bill in March, after it was first drafted but before it was amended to amass enough Republican votes to pass the lower chamber.

The two major amendments made to the bill during negotiations sought to make the bill more amenable to the far-right Freedom Caucus members, who felt the first draft did not go far enough to repeal ObamaCare, while retaining the support of more moderate Republicans, who worried about constituents reliant on ObamaCare policies.

As a result, the second iteration of the bill included two key changes, delegating certain coverage mandates to states: They would have the option to waive the ObamaCare mandate that insurers cover certain essential health benefits, including maternity care and mental health treatment; and they would have the option to waive the requirement that insurers charge people of the same age the same premiums regardless of health status, also known as "community rating."

In its updated score Wednesday, the CBO predicted these two waivers would destabilize the insurance market, due to "market responses to decisions by some states to waive [the aforementioned] two provisions of federal law":

The CBO predicted that in states that exercise their waiver right in both cases, young, healthier individuals would opt for insurance plans with lower premiums rather than purchasing plans from insurers that have retained the community-rating provision. When healthier individuals are not required to purchase insurance, or when they can purchase cheaper plans from alternate providers, those insurers providing more comprehensive coverage to sicker or older individuals are forced to charge higher premiums to those individuals to balance their costs.

Overall, the updated CBO score predicted the American Health Care Act would leave 23 million more Americans uninsured by 2026 than ObamaCare, while reducing the federal deficit by $119 billion. Senate Republicans have already set to work overhauling the bill. Read the CBO's full report here. Kimberly Alters

5:02 p.m. ET

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday released its complete updated cost estimate of the GOP-backed American Health Care Act, three weeks after the House narrowly passed the health-care bill. The new CBO score revealed that by 2026, an additional 23 million Americans would be uninsured under the American Health Care Act, as opposed to if ObamaCare were to remain law. In March, the CBO estimated 24 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026; Wednesday's score takes into account amendments made to the bill by Republicans to pass it through the House.

The CBO also estimated the American Health Care Act would reduce the federal deficit over the next decade by $119 billion. When the CBO scored the GOP's first iteration of the bill in March, it estimated that the federal deficit would be reduced by $150 billion.

Premiums are projected to go up by about 20 percent in 2018 and then increase by another 5 percent in 2019, before beginning to drop, Time reported. The CBO warned that "less healthy people would face extremely high premiums, despite the additional funding" that the bill has added to reduce premiums. A last-minute amendment to the bill before the House vote allotted $8 billion in federal funding, vaguely intended to offset premium increases caused by the bill's waiver options that allow states to make certain coverage decisions.

The AHCA is currently up for debate in the Senate. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted he doesn't know how to get the simple-majority vote needed to pass the bill. Becca Stanek

4:23 p.m. ET
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If you aren't reading The New York Times' Maggie Haberman, you should be. "Many of the juiciest Trump pieces have been broken by her," explains Elle. "That story about him spending his evenings alone in a bathrobe, watching cable news? Haberman reported and wrote it with her frequent collaborator, Glenn Thrush. The time Trump called the Times to blame the collapse of the ObamaCare repeal on the Democrats? It was Haberman he dialed. When he accused former National Security Adviser Susan Rice of committing crimes, and defended Fox News' Bill O'Reilly against the sexual harassment claims that would soon end his career at the network?"

Well, you get the picture. But not just anyone can do the job: "What you're seeing with Maggie Haberman is, you're watching one of the greatest people to ever do this job, giving a maximum effort," Thrush said.

Elle offers a glimpse of what exactly that looks like:

The first time I met Haberman, we were in the airy, modern cafeteria of the New York Times building in Manhattan. She was on her phone. She was also on her laptop. She was texting, taking calls, emailing, and Gchatting with colleagues and sources. Her daughter was home sick from school with a fever. She had a story that was about to go live on […] One colleague says she didn't realize there was a limit to how many Gchats you could have going at one time until she saw Haberman hit the maximum.

[… Haberman] says she does most of her work from her car, shuttling her kids around, dashing between the office in Times Square and her apartment. She's called me as she was driving — swearing and running late — between an errand at the American Girl doll store and a dinner party. She's emailed me from the NYPD tow pound — a place she said she'd already visited twice that month. She almost never turns her phone off. "She's got it with her at all times," says her husband, Dareh Gregorian. She'll wake up in the middle of the night and, instead of rolling over and going back to sleep, pick up her phone and start working. [Elle]

Read more about how Haberman does it at Elle, and about Trump's soft spot for The New York Times here at The Week. Jeva Lange

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