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May 19, 2017

Late Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that back in June 2016, House Republicans were discussing the hack of the Democratic National Committee (WikiLeaks had not yet begun to publish the stolen emails), and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that "the Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp [opposition] research that they had on Trump," and when House Speaker Paul Ryan asked who they "delivered" that information to, McCarthy replied: "There's two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God."

After the House GOP leaders denied that the conversation ever took place, The Washington Post said there was audio of the conversation, and McCarthy called the comments a "bad attempt at a joke," pointing to laughter in the room. But it turns out that Russian spies actually did try to recruit Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), one of Moscow's staunchest defenders and President Trump's loyalist allies in Washington, The New York Times reported Friday.

In a secure room, with Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) present, FBI agents told Rohrabacher in 2012 that Russian agents were trying to recruit him as an "agent of influence," someone Moscow could use to steer policy, wittingly or not, former officials tell the Times, adding that the FBI did not think Rohrabacher was actively working with or accepting money from Russia. Rohrabacher said the FBI agents specifically warned him that a Russian Foreign Ministry official he met with in Moscow "had something to do with some kind of Russian intelligence" and "looked at me as someone who could be influenced." Ruppersberger recalls: "Mike and I reminded Dana that Russia is our adversary."

The meeting shows that "the FBI has taken seriously the possibility that Russian spies would target American politicians," The New York Times says. But while the FBI is trying to figure out any connections between Moscow and Trump's inner circle, House Republican leaders are poring over the Washington Post article to figure out who leaked their private conversation, worried that there are more leaks to come, reports Jonathan Swan at Axios. "The most widespread theory in House leadership is that the secret recorder and the leaker was Evan McMullin, who as a former leadership aide participated in the June 15 conversation and confirmed the private conversation to The Washington Post." There's no evidence that McMullin, who ran as an independent conservative presidential candidate in 2016, is the leaker. Peter Weber

11:53 a.m. ET
FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

A baby deer owes its life to one quick-thinking teen in North Carolina. High schooler Chance Pressley and his friends were riding Jet Skis on a local lake when they spotted the fawn flailing in the water. Knowing the deer had only moments to live, Chance jumped in and pulled it to safety, and his friend towed them to shore. Since baby "Fred," as Chance nicknamed the fawn, was separated from his family, the teen decided to bring him home before calling an animal rehabilitator. "My mom was a little mad," says Chance. Christina Colizza

11:43 a.m. ET

Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) put her foot down Thursday after President Trump launched a sexist attack on Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski. "This has to stop," Collins tweeted, calling for "respect and civility":

Her reminder to the government that they "have a job" comes as Senate Republicans struggle to craft a passable plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Collins has come out against the first draft of the bill, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated would leave an additional 22 million uninsured by 2026, as opposed to under ObamaCare.

Because Republicans can only afford two defections, Collins' support is key for Senate Republican leadership if they want to pass the GOP health-care plan. Trump's sexist Thursday morning tweets about "low I.Q. Crazy Mika" don't seem to be helping the cause. Becca Stanek

11:02 a.m. ET

Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins (Kan.) expressed her personal offense to President Trump's sexist attack on Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski on Thursday:

Other Republican lawmakers have also expressed outrage at Trump's comments, although the president was defended by Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and first lady Melania Trump. Jeva Lange

10:58 a.m. ET

In a statement released through a spokesperson, first lady Melania Trump stood by her husband Thursday morning after he hurled sexist insults at a woman on Twitter. Responding to President Trump's tweets calling Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski "low I.Q." and "crazy" and claiming she was "bleeding badly from a face-lift" when he rejected her company at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Melania reiterated that her husband just can't help but punch back when he's "attacked."

"As the first lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder," the first lady's spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement.

Ironically, Melania has taken up cyberbullying as one of her causes as first lady. Though she's declared "it is never okay when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied, or attacked," it's apparently okay when a woman is attacked by her 71-year-old husband. Becca Stanek

10:49 a.m. ET

President Trump's viciously sexist tweets about Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski might have been provoked by the co-host's joke about his hand size. As the Morning Joe team was discussing a fake Time magazine cover with Trump on the front Thursday morning, Brzezinski suggested Trump was hiding his hands in the photo "because they're teensy!"

Just a few hours later, Trump unleashed sexist insults on Brzezinski. Brzezinski herself may well believe it was her "teensy" hand comment that set Trump off; this was her reply. Jeva Lange

10:34 a.m. ET

People on both sides of the aisle were horrified Thursday by President Trump's viciously sexist tweets about Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski. Even Republican lawmakers took the opportunity to chastise the president, calling his language "beneath the dignity of your office" and "what is wrong with American politics."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted:

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) also expressed his disappointment:

Democrats were also outraged. "If anyone on my staff [tweeted] this, they would be fired instantly," said Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). Jeva Lange

10:33 a.m. ET

NBC's Senior Vice President of Communications Mark Kornblau seemingly struggled to find the words to respond after President Trump viciously attacked one of MSNBC's anchors in a sexist Twitter rant Thursday morning. In fact, Kornblau suggested in a tweet that it might be "beneath [his] dignity" to even address Trump's viciously personal attack on Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski:

In a two-part tweet, Trump called Brzezinski "low I.Q. Crazy Mika" and deemed Brzezinski's fiancé and co-host, Joe Scarborough, "Psycho Joe." After declaring that Morning Joe is "poorly rated," Trump claimed Brzezinski and Scarborough had "insisted" on spending multiple nights with him at his Mar-a-Lago resort around New Year's Eve. "She was bleeding badly from a face-lift," Trump tweeted. "I said no!"

Eventually, Kornblau — or someone on MSNBC's public relations team — did find the words to respond to Trump's tweets. Becca Stanek

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