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November 8, 2018

New Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who in the past has said that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling had gone too far, has no plans to recuse himself from it.

Associates close to Whitaker, who took over after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced out Wednesday, expressed this to The Washington Post, adding that Whitaker would also likely not approve a request from Mueller to subpoena President Trump.

Democrats called on Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation after it came out that he had been critical of Mueller's probe. Whitaker wrote a CNN editorial in 2017 opining that Mueller would be crossing a red line if he looked into Trump's finances.

"Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general, clearly wants to limit the Mueller investigation," wrote Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) Wednesday, adding that he "must recuse himself."

But considering that Sessions recusing himself from the Russia probe was precisely the reason Trump turned on him and ultimately pushed him out of the administration, this seems unlikely. In addition to his public comments, the Post reports that while working as Sessions' chief of staff at the Justice Department, Whitaker bemoaned the fact that the Mueller investigation has gone on too long and expressed "doubts about the scope" of it. Evidently, though, Whitaker disagrees with Trump in that he thinks Sessions had "no choice" but to recuse himself. Read more at The Washington Post. Brendan Morrow

4:06p.m.

First lady Melania Trump on Tuesday called for a member of the Trump administration to be fired, and it looks like she may soon get her wish.

On Tuesday, the first lady's spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement that Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel "no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House." NBC News reported earlier in the day that President Trump was likely to fire Ricardel following a "series of run-ins" with the office of the first lady. For instance, reports Bloomberg, Ricardel threatened to withhold National Security Council resources unless she or someone else from the NSC could travel with the first lady on her recent trip to Africa.

That's not all, though. Melania Trump's staff has told the president they believe Ricardel is responsible for leaking negative stories about her to the press, The Wall Street Journal reports, adding that Ricardel has feuded with Defense Secretary James Mattis as well. President Trump had reportedly already told his wife he would have Ricardel removed from office, the Journal reports. Her firing appeared to be imminent, especially because The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey writes that Ricardel is "among the most despised aides in the West Wing, if not the most." Ricardel was hired in May, and CNN reports she's one of National Security Adviser John Bolton's "key allies in the administration."

The statement from the first lady was particularly surprising considering, as CNN's Kate Bennett points out, Ricardel had joined the president at his Diwali ceremony right before its release. Not long after, the Journal reported that Ricardel had been fired and was escorted from the building, although a White House official denied this report, telling CNBC she is "still at her desk." When asked if she would still be there tomorrow, the official said, "We'll see." Brendan Morrow

3:31p.m.

Amazon wants to evenly divide its second headquarters between New York City and the Washington D.C. area. But the two cities aren't exactly splitting the very large bill.

In the company's Tuesday announcement revealing that its HQ2 will land in New York's Long Island City and northern Virginia's Crystal City, Amazon disclosed that New York would deliver $1.525 billion in "performance-based tax incentives" for its job-creating investment. Virginia, meanwhile, would deliver just $573 million — a third of New York's deal, Axios' Felix Salmon pointed out.

Earlier reports of Amazon's imminent expansion stoked fears of what could happen to one of New York's more affordable neighborhoods. But New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wasn't worried, saying at a Tuesday press conference that the "synergy" created by putting HQ2 next to one of America's "biggest public housing developments" would be "extraordinary." De Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) both deflected questions about whether Amazon's investment would fix the city's broken subway system at the conference, instead suggesting ferries would make it plenty easy to get to the riverside Long Island City.

Meanwhile, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson released a statement pondering "why a company as rich as Amazon would need nearly $2 billion in public money," especially since New York is struggling to fund public needs.

Perhaps New York delivered an additional $1 billion in breaks to preserve the naming rights to Long Island City, unlike what's happening in Virginia. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:54p.m.

If you've previously found Star Wars' lack of Pedro Pascal disturbing, Disney is about to remedy that.

The Game of Thrones and Narcos actor is in negotiations to lead the upcoming live-action Star Wars show The Mandalorian, Variety reports. He'll apparently be playing the titular Mandalorian, a lone gunfighter whose adventures in the far reaches of the galaxy are central to the series. An image of that main character was already released last month, but he had a helmet on and his face wasn't visible. At the time, Pascal was rumored to be involved. No other members of the cast have been announced yet, though, and Lucasfilm has not yet officially confirmed Pascal's casting.

The Mandalorian is one of two live-action Star Wars shows currently in development, both for Disney's upcoming Netflix competitor, streaming service Disney+. The other is an untitled series about Cassian Andor from Rogue One, which will star Pascal's Narcos co-star Diego Luna reprising his role from that 2016 movie. While the Cassian show is set prior to the events of the original Star Wars, The Mandalorian takes place a few years after the events of 1983's Return of the Jedi but long before 2015's The Force Awakens. It's currently in production and looks likely to debut in late 2019, when Disney+ officially launches. Brendan Morrow

2:21p.m.

Former President Bill Clinton doesn't think he owes Monica Lewinsky an apology, but Lewinsky says he would be a better man if he offered one.

Lewinsky penned an essay in Vanity Fair this week ahead of the premiere of The Clinton Affair, a new A&E documentary premiering Nov. 18 for which she gave 20 hours worth of detailed interviews. In the essay, Lewinsky references the fact that Bill Clinton has never apologized to her privately; he said earlier this year he doesn't owe her an apology. Lewinsky writes that she is "disappointed for him" because "he would be a better man" if he apologized to her. "What feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize," she says.

Lewinsky also says that if she were to run into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in person, she would tell her "how very sorry I am." Clinton last month argued that her husband's affair with Lewinsky was not an abuse of power because Lewinsky was "an adult." Lewinsky was a 22-year-old White House intern at the time of the affair, and she has since said that Clinton abused his power over her.

The former president's actions have come under increased scrutiny in light of the #MeToo movement, and Lewinsky in her essay criticizes the fact that he was able to avoid tough questions about his behavior for so long. "If you want to know what power looks like, watch a man safely, even smugly, do interviews for decades, without ever worrying whether he will be asked the questions he doesn't want to answer," she writes. Read more at Vanity Fair.

Brendan Morrow

2:06p.m.

The number of hate crimes reported to the FBI jumped by 17 percent in 2017 — their biggest spike since 9/11.

Reported hate crimes have generally fallen since the FBI recorded an all-time high of 9,730 incidents in 2001, CBS News notes. But FBI data released Tuesday shows a recorded 7,175 crimes in 2017, up from 6,121 in 2016 and marking a third straight year of growth.

The majority of reported hate crimes — 59.6 percent — targeted a victim's race, ethnicity, or ancestry, the FBI notes. About 2,000 of the reported crimes targeted black Americans. Another 20.6 percent were categorized as religiously motivated, and 15.8 percent targeted a victim's sexual orientation.

In a Tuesday statement, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said he was "particularly troubled by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes." Crimes against Jewish people went up 37 percent last year, making them the most common religiously motivated hate crimes last year, per The Washington Post. There were 938 reported anti-Semitic crimes in 2017.

These numbers increased in part due to an increase in the number of local police departments that report hate crimes to the FBI, the Post notes. Still, many local police departments still don't share statistics with the bureau.

To combat this continued uptick, the FBI also launched a hate crimes website with resources for reporting a crime. It lists news and descriptions of hate crimes, and features a "safe exit" button that redirects away from the site. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:12p.m.

Incoming congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made her first visit to Capitol Hill this week for congressional orientation. And after meeting some fellow new recruits, she visited a Democratic veteran for an impromptu protest.

On Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez joined protesters who gathered at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) office to push for congressional action on climate change. The newly-elected New York Democrat had spent Monday evening rallying for "green jobs for all," and it soon became clear she was behind the protest as well.

Ocasio-Cortez defeated longtime Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a June primary and became the youngest woman elected to the House last week. But unlike some other congressional newcomers, she hasn't explicitly said whether she'll support Pelosi's bid for House Speaker. And given how the Sunrise Movement, the organization behind Tuesday's protest, had some less-than-kind tweets for Pelosi during its sit-in, it seems that Ocasio-Cortez is not on the minority leader's side.

But in what seemed like an attempt to distance herself from anti-Pelosi rhetoric, Ocasio-Cortez later tweeted that activists at the office "asked [her] to join them" in protesting Pelosi. Ocasio-Cortez then tweeted that she'd reached an agreement with Pelosi and seemed pleased with the result — though the Sunrise Movement said Pelosi's statement didn't go far enough. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:32a.m.

Amazon has officially announced its second global headquarters will be split between New York City and ... some part of Virginia it's calling "National Landing."

As reports projected, the company revealed Tuesday that it'll route 25,000 new jobs to its "HQ2" in New York's Long Island City neighborhood, and another 25,000 to Arlington, Virginia. Except Amazon's official announcement says its Washington-area headquarters will be in National Landing — a place Amazon seems to have pulled out of thin air.

Save for Amazon's announcement, a quick search of The Washington Post reveals no previous references to this mystery area. So, reasonably, Twitter lit up with locals questioning just what a National Landing entails. Luckily, Amazon included a handy map to explain where this so-called National Landing office will, well, land.

Yes, "Amazon in Arlington" will be just west of Reagan National Airport, in the D.C. metro area currently known as Crystal City. Plenty of people think the area's glimmering name is a bit of misnomer anyway, which could be why Virginia is officially okay with Amazon co-opting three whole neighborhoods. In a Tuesday statement, Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia called National Landing "a newly branded neighborhood encompassing Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard." In a similar vein, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) released a Tuesday video rehashing the state's only noteworthy slogan as "Virginia is for Amazon Lovers."

Amazon also unveiled its plans for a 5,000-employee Operations Center of Excellence on Tuesday. This office is slated for Nashville's neighborhood of The Gulch, which is surprisingly not the made-up name in this situation. Kathryn Krawczyk

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