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First Read's Morning Clips: Yet Another Russia Bombshell

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: Natalia Veselnitskaya
Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaks to a journalist in Moscow, Russia on Nov. 8, 2016.Yury Martyanov / AP, file

TRUMP AGENDA: Another day, another Russia-related blockbuster story

Last night’s New York Times blockbuster: “Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email. The email to the younger Mr. Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting. In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Trump acknowledged that he was interested in receiving damaging information about Mrs. Clinton, but gave no indication that he thought the lawyer might have been a Kremlin proxy."

Our own Keir Simmons spoke to the Russian lawyer. “The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. during the presidential campaign denied in an exclusive interview with NBC News that she had any connection to the Kremlin and insists she met with President Donald Trump’s son to press her client’s interest in the Magnitsky Act — not to hand over information about Hillary Clinton’s campaign.“I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that,” Natalia Veselnitskaya said. When asked how Trump Jr. seemed to have the impression that she had information about the Democratic National Committee, she responded: “It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted.”

Is collusion a crime? Experts say it would be very difficult to prosecute, Ken Dilanian reports.

The Washington Post: “The White House sought to play down the significance of that encounter even as new details emerged indicating that it had been arranged at the behest of a Russian family that has ties to the Kremlin and a history of pursuing business deals with President Trump — including preliminary plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to talk to Donald Trump Jr.

And in POLITICO: “GOP Researcher Who Sought Clinton Emails Had Alt-Right Help.”

The Washington Post scoops: “The federal government is canceling the search for a new FBI headquarters, according to officials familiar with the decision, putting a more than decade-long effort by the bureau to move out of the crumbling J. Edgar Hoover Building back at square one. The decision follows years of failed attempts by federal officials to persuade Congress to fully back a plan for a campus in the Washington suburbs paid for by trading away the Hoover Building to a real estate developer and putting up nearly $2 billion in taxpayer funds to cover the remaining cost.”

The New York Times: “President Trump entered office pledging to cut red tape, and within weeks, he ordered his administration to assemble teams to aggressively scale back government regulations. But the effort — a signature theme in Mr. Trump’s populist campaign for the White House — is being conducted in large part out of public view and often by political appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts. Most government agencies have declined to disclose information about their deregulation teams. But The New York Times and ProPublica identified 71 appointees, including 28 with potential conflicts, through interviews, public records and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.”

POLITICO: “Ted Cruz’s plan to give insurers freedom to sell plans that don’t comply with Obamacare’s insurance regulations may be conservatives’ last best chance to salvage the stalled Senate health care bill. But it might also send Obamacare insurance markets into a death spiral.”

NBC’s Andrew Rafferty notes that Republicans are continuing to skip town halls.

Cyxtera Technologies, a secure infrastructure company, will be announcing the hiring of former Federal Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Brigadier General Gregory J. Touhill as president of the newly formed Cyxtera Federal Group.

OFF TO THE RACES: Bernie’s returning to Iowa

The Human Rights Campaign is launching a $26 million campaign effort for 2018, POLITICO writes.

NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald reports that Bernie Sanders is returning to Iowa for the first time since the caucuses.

AL-SEN: Mo Brooks is out with his first campaign ad — with a promise to “build the wall.”

CA-GOV: Do Republicans have a prayer in California’s gubernatorial race? The Sac Bee reports.

CO-SEN: Ed Perlmutter is set to drop out of the Colorado governor’s race, the Denver Post reports. “The sixth-term lawmaker also won’t seek re-election in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District; a move likely to bring a sigh of relief to the three Democratic state lawmakers who already have declared for his left-leaning seat, which includes the Denver suburbs of Thornton and Lakewood… Perlmutter’s surprise decision comes at a time of major upheaval in the 2018 race to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. It’s also being made public just days before gubernatorial candidates are required to file their fundraising hauls for the past three months — often a significant sign of a campaign’s viability.”

GA-GOV: The governor’s race has already cost almost $7.4 million.

ME-GOV: Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat who has frequently clashed with Paul LePage, is officially in the governor’s race.

MO-SEN: Eli Yokley looks at the latest in Missouri after Rep. Ann Wagner decided to forgo a run.

OH-SEN: Sherrod Brown has raked in $2.6 million for his re-election campaign.

WV-SEN: Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey will run for Senate.