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October 12, 2017

Even the short-lived fervor over the cell phone game Pokémon Go was used as a tool by Russian agents to influence the 2016 presidential election, a new report by CNN has found.

A Russian-linked account masquerading as a Black Lives Matter activist group called Don't Shoot Us apparently had the "dual goal of galvanizing African-Americans to protest and encouraging other Americans to view black activism as a rising threat," CNN reports. In addition to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts (all of which are now suspended), Don't Shoot Us carried out its agenda by way of a Pokémon Go contest in which followers could allegedly win Amazon gift cards by training Pokémon near locations where police brutality took place.

"A post promoting the contest showed a Pokémon named 'Eric Garner,' for the African-American man who died after being put in a chokehold by a New York Police Department officer," CNN writes, adding:

It's unclear what the people behind the contest hoped to accomplish, though it may have been to remind people living near places where these incidents had taken place of what had happened and to upset or anger them.

CNN has not found any evidence that any Pokémon Go users attempted to enter the contest, or whether any of the Amazon Gift Cards that were promised were ever awarded — or, indeed, whether the people who designed the contest ever had any intention of awarding the prizes. [CNN]

Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all reported that their platforms were used by Russian agents to influence the 2016 presidential campaign. "It's clear from the images shared with us by CNN that our game assets were appropriated and misused in promotions by third parties without our permission," added Niantic, the company that made Pokémon Go.

Don't Shoot Us remains active on YouTube and Tumblr, where it now reportedly posts about Palestine. Jeva Lange

2:06 p.m. ET

"President Trump began the weekend believing that something good had just happened to him: An indictment leveled against 13 Russians for interfering with the 2016 election had not accused him or anyone around him of wrongdoing," The New York Times reports. But "the president's mood began to darken as it became clearer to him that some commentators were portraying the indictment as nothing for him to celebrate," and Trump then unleashed what The Washington Post calls "a defiant and error-laden tweetstorm that was remarkable even by his own combative standards."

On CNN's New Day, host Dave Briggs asked Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) about this, noting that Trump sent "12 tweets just about this indictment, but none pushing back on Russia, none suggesting how we might punish them or prevent it from happening again in 2018." Dent, who is retiring after this term, said "the Russians meddling in our election is well-known," and "I think the president has been very soft on Russia. His rhetoric, he's been very accommodating to Vladimir Putin."

It's time for Trump and his team "to step up and start fighting fire with fire," Dent said. "Maybe we should be sharing with the Russian people the corrupt nature of the Russian regime and how they've all profited. ... I can't, for the life of me, understand why the president is so reluctant to push back much harder on the Russians."

Dent also said he thinks after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, people "have had enough of this," and between stricter background checks and no guns for people on the no-fly list, "there are things we can do and should do."

Dent is retiring after this term. Peter Weber

1:24 p.m. ET
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

When Britain's Daily Mail first published the allegations that then-White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter had been physically and verbally abusive to his two ex-wives, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), whom Porter worked for as chief of staff, was quoted as saying "it's incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man." A day later, after Porter resigned — reportedly against Hatch's urging — Hatch said he was "heartbroken" by the allegations and said "domestic violence in any form is abhorrent." Now, Hatch has sent letters of apology to the two wives, Jennie Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, CNN reported Sunday.

"It was a sincere apology for pain he may have caused us," Willoughby told CNN. In his letter, Hatch explained that he "was unaware of the nature of the article and was under the impression political enemies were mounting an attack against Rob, which is why he released the first statement to the White House," she said, and he "reiterated his explanation as to why his statement changed." Holderness said simply, "I appreciate his apology." Peter Weber

12:44 p.m. ET

In the last four Winter Olympics, Team USA was either first or second in terms of medals won, but this year "the U.S. is struggling to keep up in the medal race," John Dickerson noted at CBS This Morning on Monday. The U.S. is currently No. 6 in total medals, with 10 medals, one behind the Russians — who are competing without some of their star athletes and without a country, due to doping-related bans.

Norway is cleaning up, with 28 medals, including 11 golds, followed by Germany and Canada.

If the U.S. wants to live up to its computer-predicted glory, it has a week left. Peter Weber

12:04 p.m. ET
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The presidential motorcade left Mar-a-Lago at a little before 9 a.m. on Presidents Day, on the last day of President Trump's long weekend in southern Florida, and pulled into Trump's nearby golf club 15 minutes later. The presidential press pool, represented Monday by The Hill's Jordan Fabian, did not see Trump enter the motorcade, he wrote in the raw pool report, and in fact pool reporters have "not laid eyes on POTUS since Friday night, when he met with injured victims and first responders from the Parkland shooting," Fabian said.

The press pool was diverted to the Palm Beach International Airport lounge as Trump's motorcade veered into Trump's club, and there's "no word on the president's activities at the golf club," Fabian said, but the "press had an eventful morning before entering Mar-a-Lago":

Driver of one of the press pool vans was detained during security screening for what he said was a personal firearm found in his baggage. Driver said he forgot to leave the firearm inside his personal vehicle before entering van. Screening took place off club grounds in parking lot across the street and roughly an hour before press vans joined up with presidential motorcade. Driver was not allowed onto club property so a White House staffer drove the van instead. White House staff said all drivers were replaced after the incident. When press loaded back into vans, driver was being questioned by an officer. When on club grounds, another van grazed a Secret Service vehicle in the parking lot. Damage to vehicles appeared to be very minor and no one was hurt. [Press pool report]

Perhaps that explains Trump's Presidents Day tweet:

Or, more likely, he paid no attention to the press van. You can read the entire pool report here. Peter Weber

11:18 a.m. ET
Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has faced criticism over travel expenses, has canceled a planned trip to Israel, agency officials said Sunday. "We decided to postpone; the administrator looks forward to going in the future," EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told The Washington Post. Pruitt faced a backlash over his travel costs last week after reports that, on the recommendation of his security detail, Pruitt had been traveling business or first class to avoid public confrontations with critics.

In Israel, Pruitt had been scheduled to spend Sunday through Thursday at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, meeting with Israeli officials and business officials "to gain an understanding of Israel's unique infrastructure and environmental challenges," EPA officials said. Harold Maass

10:54 a.m. ET
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, President Trump offered his support to a bill introduced by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) last November to improve federal background checks on gun purchases. "The president spoke to Sen. Cornyn on Friday about the bipartisan bill he and Sen. Murphy introduced," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. "While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system."

Cornyn and Murphy introduced the legislation after the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Trump did not back it at the time. The bill would require all federal agencies to report criminal and mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and introduce financial incentives to encourage state and local agencies to enter such records into the federal gun background database, too. The National Rifle Association supports the bill, Talking Points Memo points out.

Trump is holding two gun-related events this week, after last week's mass school shooting n Parkland, Florida: a "listening session" with high school students and teachers, and a meeting with state and local officials on "school safety." Peter Weber

10:20 a.m. ET
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

After meeting some victims of the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Friday, President Trump has passed the rest of Presidents Day weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort. "He spent much of the time watching cable news, venting to friends about the Russia investigation, and complaining that it has been driving so much press coverage," The Washington Post reports, citing people who spoke with the president. Trump "also surveyed Mar-a-Lago Club members about whether he ought to champion gun control measures in the wake of last week's school massacre in nearby Parkland, telling them that he was closely monitoring the media appearances by some of the surviving students."

With Trump at Mar-a-Lago were his sons Eric and Don Jr., Geraldo Rivera, and first lady Melania Trump, who "did not join her husband in the dining room" Saturday night, the Post reports. Starting Saturday night, Trump started tweeting angrily about the FBI, his national security adviser, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calf.), and Oprah Winfrey. Trump met Sunday with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

He did not golf on Saturday and Sunday, out of deference to the Parkland shooting — "his predecessor had been criticized for golfing too soon after tragic events," The New York Times notes — but he visited his golf club Sunday night, his motorcade passing a "gentlemen's club" advertising purported onetime paramour Stormy Daniels' Make America Horny Again appearance. Trump and the first lady return to the White House on Monday night. Peter Weber

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