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December 7, 2018

President Trump announced Friday that he will nominate William Barr as his next attorney general, and State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to replace Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations.

Barr served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993. His nomination will require Senate confirmation before he can officially replace Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who stepped in when Trump ousted former Attorney General last month. Trump told reporters that Barr "was my first choice since day one." Barr has reportedly voiced some criticism of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, which he would oversee if confirmed. For example, he told The New York Times in 2017 there's more basis to investigate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the uranium deal she approved in 2010 than there is to investigate Trump over potential Russia collusion.

Nauert is a former Fox News host who came to the State Department in April 2017 with no government or foreign policy experience. Before he settled on Nauert, Trump considered nominating former White House aide Dina Powell, former U.S. Senate candidate John James of Michigan, ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, and ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft. Nauert will also need to be confirmed by the Senate. Summer Meza

June 19, 2017

The focus might be turned to Georgia's high-stakes, high-spending special election, but that's not the only special House election Tuesday. South Carolina's 5th congressional district will also go to the polls Tuesday to decide who will fill the seat left vacant by Mick Mulvaney, who left to become Trump's budget director.

Democrat Archie Parnell, a former Justice Department attorney and a business manager with Goldman Sachs, is hoping for an upset amid President Trump's plummeting poll numbers. However, Republican Ralph Norman, a real estate developer and a longtime member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, seems confident he'll prevail in the historically conservative district. Norman has even made a point to bring up Trump in recent weeks, which McClatchy described as further evidence "the conservative base remains strongly and defensively in the president's corner."

The ongoing national health-care debate looms large in the South Carolina contest. Norman has expressed his support for the wildly unpopular version of the American Health Care Act that passed the House, and if he's elected he'll join the Republican majority in backing Trump's agenda. Parnell has proposed keeping and fixing the Affordable Care Act, though the Charleston-based Post and Courier reported "only one provider remains on the insurance exchange" in the state. If elected, Parnell has pledged to push back on the AHCA and Trump's budget plan. Becca Stanek

May 26, 2017

For the first time ever, the Pentagon next week will test a missile defense aimed at intercepting an intercontinental ballistic missile. The test, slated for Tuesday, is intended to "more closely simulate a North Korean ICBM aimed at the U.S. homeland," Reuters reported. North Korea has engaged in numerous tests recently, warning it will soon have a nuclear missile capable of reaching the U.S.

While the U.S. interceptor has before never tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, it's completed various other tests — though to varying degrees of success. The most recent test in 2014 was successful, but Reuters reported that, overall, the interceptor only succeeded in 9 of the 17 attempts it's made since 1999. Becca Stanek

February 22, 2017

The Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., kicks off Wednesday with talks from conservative activists, a taping of Fox News host Sean Hannity's show, and an "activism boot camp." Over the next four days at the largest annual gathering of conservatives, thousands of people from across the U.S. will hear from movement leaders including Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and President Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon, as well as authors, activists, and media figures.

Trump is slated to speak Friday morning, becoming the first sitting president to give a speech at CPAC since former President Ronald Reagan. In the past, Trump has gotten a mixed reception from CPAC attendees. NPR noted that while some "have always loved the way he sticks it to Democrats and the establishment," others have "harbored doubts about just how much of a conservative Trump actually is." When Trump has addressed CPAC in previous years, he's given speeches somewhat similar to those he gave on the campaign trail. In 2011, he railed against "other countries that are screwing us" and championed the creation of "vast numbers of productive jobs."

Since its inaugural convention in 1974, CPAC has provided conservatives an opportunity to promote their values and discuss their party's future. Becca Stanek

January 4, 2017

NASA is planning two missions to asteroids in the early 2020s to explore the solar system's origins, the space agency announced Wednesday.

The first mission, Lucy, is slated to head for the Trojan asteroids in Jupiter's orbit in 2021. The asteroids are thought to be from the solar system's earliest days, which is why scientists named the mission after humans' famous 3.2-million-year-old relative, Lucy.

Then, in 2023, the Psyche mission will launch destined for what NASA describes as a "giant metal asteroid" called Psyche 16, which is nearly "three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth." Psyche 16 is composed of iron and nickel, just like Earth's core, and scientists think it could be the core of an early planet.

"Lucy will observe primitive remnants from farther out in the solar system, while Psyche will directly observe the interior of a planetary body," said NASA planetary science director Jim Green. "These additional pieces of the puzzle will help us understand how the sun and its family of planets formed, changed over time, and became places where life could develop and be sustained — and what the future may hold."

The missions, selected from five possible endeavors, are part of NASA's Discovery Program. Becca Stanek

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