TRUMP'S NEW PRESS SECRETARY SCARAMUCCI HINTS AT PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN: President Donald Trump's new communications adviser says it's time to hit the "reset button." Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci pledged to begin "an era of a new good feeling" and said he hopes to "create a more positive mojo." He also promised to crack down on information leaks and pledged to better focus the message coming from the White House. To that end, Scaramucci suggested changes to come, noting: "I have in my pocket a radio studio, a television studio, and a movie studio. The entire world has changed; we need to rethink the way we're delivering our information."
KUSHNER TRIES TO ABSOLVE HIMSELF OF ANY WRONGDOINGS PRIOR TO CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY: He said he did speak with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in December at Trump Tower. But he says that conversation was about policy in Syria. Kushner says that when Kislyak asked if there was a secure line for him to provide information on Syria from what Kislyak called his "generals," Kushner asked if there was an existing communications channel at the embassy that could be used. Kushner says he never proposed an ongoing secret form of communication. He also says he met with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, at the request of Kislyak. But he says no specific policies were discussed. Kushner also explained that his application form for a security clearance form was submitted prematurely due to a miscommunication with his assistant, who had erroneously believed the document was complete. He said he mistakenly omitted all of his foreign contacts, not just his meetings with Russians, and has worked in the last six months with the FBI to correct the record.
MCCONNELL LEAVES SENATE PLAYING A GUESSING GAME ON WHICH HEALTH CARE BILL HE WILL PUSH THIS WEEK: Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will make a decision soon on which bill to bring up for a vote, depending on ongoing discussions with GOP senators. Thune sought to cast this week's initial vote as important but mostly procedural, allowing senators to begin debate and propose amendments. But he acknowledged that senators should be able to know beforehand what bill they will be considering. "That's a judgment that Senator McConnell will make at some point this week before the vote," Thune said, expressing his own hope it will be a repeal-and-replace measure. "But no matter which camp you're in, you can't have a debate about either unless we get on the bill. So we need a 'yes' vote."
SPINDALE CHURCH ENSLAVED BRAZILIAN "VISITORS" AND FORCED THEM TO WORK FOR NOTHING: When Andre Oliveira answered the call to leave his Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Brazil to move to the mother church in North Carolina at the age of 18, his passport and money were confiscated by church leaders — for safekeeping, he said he was told. Trapped in a foreign land, he said he was forced to work 15 hours a day, usually for no pay, first cleaning warehouses for the evangelical church and later working at businesses owned by the sect’s senior ministers. Any violation of the rules risked the wrath of church leaders, he said, ranging from beatings to shaming from the pulpit. An Associated Press investigation has found that Word of Faith Fellowship used its two church branches in Brazil to siphon a steady flow of young laborers who came on tourist and student visas to its 35-acre compound in rural Spindale. The Brazilians often spoke little English when they arrived and many had their passports seized. “They kept us as slaves,” Oliveira told the AP. “How can you do that to people — claim you love them and then beat them in the name of God?”
GOP CUTS LEGAL AID FOR THE POOR IN NC BUDGET, REFUSES TO ANSWER WHY: Legislators took a bite this past session out of taxpayer funding for poor people caught up in the courts system, and it's unclear why. The heads of the three agencies that used this money – and a much larger pot of threatened federal funding – to handle thousands of child custody cases, landlord/tenant disputes and other civil matters said they received no notice for the cut and that they've gotten no explanation in the ensuing month. "We were totally blindsided," said Kenneth Schorr, executive director at Legal Services of Southern Piedmont. "There was no communication this was on the table." The cut materialized in the House. Legislative staff there referred WRAL News to Speaker Tim Moore's office for an explanation, but his spokesman said Moore would not comment on the matter.