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Here’s a rundown of what’s coming up today.
What’s it like outside? A bit of rain, maybe mixed with a little snow later this evening. Low 40s. Sunday’s a beach day.
While you were sleeping: Another Trump administration bombshell dropped: The New York Times and CNN, citing several current and former US intelligence, law enforcement, and administration officials, reported late last night that high-level advisers in President Trump’s presidential campaign — including former campaign manager Paul Manafort and recently fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — were in frequent and constant communication with senior Russian intelligence officials for a year before the election. (Manafort denies it.)
The US intelligence officials came across the communications during routine intelligence gathering and also while they were investigating Russian attempts to influence the election by hacking into the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. When they discovered the extent of the contacts, and the high level of the campaign advisers involved, they then tried to figure out if the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians to disrupt the election. No evidence of that yet, sources tell the Times, but their investigation continues. More on the Michael Flynn situation below.
Hey, sport: The Celtics are back in action tonight against the 76ers, a team they have beaten twice this season (7:30 p.m., CSNHD and 98.5 FM).
At spring training, Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez, 3-7 with a 4.71 ERA in 20 games last year, will throw off a mound for the first time today after hurting his right knee while pitching in Venezuela in December.
Today we may find out the contours of an expanded Senate Intelligence Committee probe into Russian hacking of the presidential election, which majority leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday was “highly likely” to widen to encompass former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s five phone calls with the Russian ambassador to the US during the transition.
One issue is whether Flynn told the envoy that Trump would get rid of then-President Obama’s sanctions — imposed because of Russia’s election interference — and whether Trump told him to say that. It would explain why Russian President Vladimir Putin broke with decades of practice and didn’t retaliate tit-for-tat for Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats. (It was that baffling development that caused the intelligence community to try to figure out why, leading to the surfacing of the Flynn phone calls.)
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Rotunda, House Speaker Paul Ryan is leading the stampede of House Republicans running away from an investigation into Flynn, and House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz has decided to probe Sid the Science Kid instead of investigating the national security concerns raised by the Flynn-Russia contacts or possible Trump financial conflicts of interest. I know I can sleep better knowing he’s protecting the country from a cartoon character.
I wonder how long VP Mike Pence will put up with being so far out of the loop that he now has been trotted out to publicly deny — falsely, it turns out — two major issues on TV news shows: That Flynn discussed the sanctions with Russia, and that campaign aides were in touch with Russia before the election.
With all the Russian dressing dripping on the White House, the fate of Trump’s Cabinet nominations has gotten lost in the shuffle. Here’s an update: David Shulkin was unanimously confirmed as Veterans Affairs secretary and wrestling maven Linda McMahon was overwhelmingly approved to head the Small Business Administration.
Two others won’t have such an easy time of it: Restaurant exec Andrew Puzder, scheduled for a hearing Thursday on his nomination as Labor secretary, has at least temporarily lost the support of four GOP senators and is under fire from Democrats for allegations that he abused his former wife (accusations she has withdrawn), his admission that he employed an undocumented housekeeper, his dislike of the minimum wage, and union claims that he nickel-and-dimed his workers out of overtime and benefits.
And Democrats want to delay a vote on Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt, up for EPA administrator, until they receive and review e-mails between Pruitt and fossil fuel companies — companies he often helped as AG. Pruitt has released some e-mails, but there’s a court hearing Thursday on a lawsuit by the Center for Media and Democracy to pry more loose. The GOP might hold a vote anyway.
The other thing that’s getting overlooked amidst the sturm und drang of the Trump White House is the day-to-day business of Congress. For example, GOP Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who heads up the Foreign Relations Committee, is on a campaign to stop worldwide slavery, estimated to involve anywhere from 27 million to 45 million people in 165 countries — including the US — trapped in forced labor, sexual exploitation, or involuntary servitude. He has secured millions of dollars in funding to fight the scourge, and is holding a hearing today to explore next steps. Actor Ashton Kushner, who also has taken up the cause, is one of those who will testify.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Trump in D.C. today, and a White House official has told reporters that the president is reversing decades of US policy by declaring that a two-state solution — i.e., a Palestinian state — is not necessarily a condition for peace in the region. The seismic shift would be leading all news reports if it weren’t for … oh, never mind. Palestinians aren’t happy.
Honoring JFK: Here in Massachusetts, there will be a rare meeting of both branches of the Legislature as lawmakers hold a joint session in the House of Representatives at 11 a.m. to commemorate the centennial year of the birth of President John F. Kennedy (he was born May 29, 1917). They’ll be joined by Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.
Auditor Suzanne Bump is the featured speaker at the monthly breakfast of the Smaller Business Association of New England, which makes me wonder if there is a Smallest Business Association, and if there is a competition: “My company’s smaller than yours!”
I have mixed feelings about state-sponsored lotteries. On one hand, columnist George Will’s contention that society shouldn’t promote the notion of wealth without work makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, playing the lottery — or pulling the levers on one-arm bandits — can be fun, provided you don’t lose the milk money. So in the spirit of public service, I’ll inform you that the multistate Powerball drawing that will be held at 10:59 ET tonight is worth $310 million ($189.3 million if you take a lump sum). Jackpot could be higher by tonight. Just remember who reminded you.
Finally, if you couldn’t stay up for the end of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, a gorgeously regal German shepherd named Rumor won best in show. She’s named after the Adele hit, “Rumor Has It,” and will likely retire at home in British Columbia. And like the British singer, who is trying to get pregnant for the second time, puppies are in Rumor’s future. Wait … I’m not saying that Adele will have puppies. That didn’t come out right.
Thanks for reading. I wouldn’t describe my little Yorkie as gorgeously regal, but he does like Adele. Send questions, comments, or news tips to email@example.com , or follow me on Twitter @BostonTeresa. See you tomorrow.
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