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Jared/Ivanka spokesman, Joshua Raffel, leaving the White House

Joshua Raffel (r) leaves White House

Senior communications official Josh Raffel is leaving the White House, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Raffel, a former Hollywood PR executive, was originally brought in early last year to run communications for the Office of American Innovation, but quickly became the point man internally for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Even though Raffel was a Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, White House staff (including some Trump originals) told me they were surprised how quickly they grew to like and trust him.

One White House official told me that when there’s a crisis “we call Josh.” The official said he didn’t envy Raffel because “he is always handling the worst stories.”




Kushner loses access to top-secret intelligence

Jared Kushner loses accesss to top clearance

Presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has had his security clearance downgraded — a move that will prevent him from viewing many of the sensitive documents to which he once had unfettered access.

Kushner is not alone. All White House aides working on the highest-level interim clearances — at the Top Secret/SCI-level — were informed in a memo sent Friday that their clearances would be downgraded to the Secret level, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.


Key Trump aide Hope Hicks doesn't answer questions on time at White House

Hope Hicks refused to answer questions of her time in the WHWhite House communications director Hope Hicks is not answering questions about her time in the White House or the presidential transition during her closed-door House Intelligence Committee testimony Tuesday, according to lawmakers on the committee.

A source familiar with her testimony says the attorney for Hicks told the committee that she will not discuss matters after the campaign in accordance with the White House request. When asked about certain matters, her attorney says she will "take it under advisement" but not answer those questions, the source said.

Senate intelligence panel may miss target for election security recommendations

Burr and Warner: Senators hold hearings at intel committee session

The Senate Intelligence Committee may miss its target for making election security recommendations to states facing potential Russian disruption during the midterms — but its GOP chairman is eyeing a contingency plan.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and the panel's Democratic vice chairman, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, have long eyed next week's first congressional primaries as their ideal date to release election-protection recommendations. The intelligence committee's counsel to states would amount to the first formal fruits of their yearlong bipartisan investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.


Slovak Journalist Found Shot to Death at Home

Slovak journalist and fiance shot to deathA 27-year-old Slovak journalist who had been investigating corruption has been found shot to death at his home along with his fiancée, the authorities said Monday.

The killing — which appeared to be the first targeted slaying of a journalist in Slovakia’s modern history — was immediately condemned by officials, who vowed to investigate.

The journalist, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, both 27, appear to have been killed on Thursday in the village of Velka Maca, in western Slovakia, according to the office of the general prosecutor. Their bodies were found on Sunday after Ms. Kusnirova’s mother was unable to reach her.


Major EPA reorganization will end science research program

NCER funds rescindedA federal environmental program that distributes grants to test the effects of chemical exposure on adults and children is being shuttered amidst a major organization consolidation at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) will no longer exist following plans to combine three EPA offices, the agency confirmed to The Hill on Monday.

The program provides millions of dollars in grants each year.


Lawsuit: HUD Official ‘Demoted’ for Restricting Ben Carson’s Expensive Office Makeover

Ben CarsonA senior career official in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has alleged that she was demoted and replaced with a Donald Trump appointee after refusing to break the law by funding an expensive redecoration of Ben Carson’s office.

Helen Foster said she was told “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair” after informing her bosses this was the legal price limit for improvements to the HUD secretary’s suite at the department’s Washington headquarters.

Foster, 47, claimed that she also faced retaliation for exposing a $10m budget shortfall, and for protesting when she was barred from handling a pair of sensitive freedom of information act (FOIA) requests relating to Trump apparently because she was perceived to be a Democrat.


Rhode Island the first state since Parkland school shooting to take action on guns

R.I. Gov. signs bill to "red flag" people in danger of committing gun violence

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order Monday establishing a statewide "red flag" policy to help keep guns away from people "who pose a danger to themselves and others."

Rhode Island becomes the sixth state to take the action and the first since the Feb. 14 shooting rampage at a Florida high school that claimed the lives of 17 students and staff.

"The heartbreaking shooting in Parkland has once again proven that if the federal government won't act, states need to do more to prevent the gun violence that has become far too common," Raimondo said at a signing ceremony Monday in Warwick.


Hope Hicks appears before House panel in Russia probe

Hope Hicks appears before House Intel CommitteePresident Donald Trump's longtime aide Hope Hicks was meeting with the House intelligence committee Tuesday for a closed-door interview as part of the panel's Russia investigation.

Hicks arrived shortly after 10 a.m. through a rear entrance to the committee's interview space and did not answer shouted questions from reporters.

The panel is investigating contacts between Trump's campaign and Russia, as is special counsel Robert Mueller. Hicks has also been interviewed by Mueller.


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