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Why is this Democratic senator threatening the party’s best chance of retaking the Senate?

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The most conservative Senate Democrat endorsed one of the most liberal Senate Republicans on Thursday.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) threw his weight behind Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) as she heads for re-election in 2020.

“If she wanted me to, I would campaign for Susan Collins,” Manchin said. “For America to lose somebody like Susan Collins would an absolute shame. I feel that strongly about her.”

Democrats are in a fierce battle for the Senate in 2020. Already three seats behind, they’ll need to flip at least four seats to win decisive control of the chamber — or at least flip three seats and win the White House, which would put a Democratic vice president in place to break any tie votes in the chamber.

Collins’ seat in Maine is one of the best prospects Democrats have of making gains.

And if Democrats win the White House in 2020 without taking control of the Senate, the president’s agenda will be essentially dead in its tracks. It would be a struggle to even get ordinary cabinet nominees approved, let alone any Supreme Court justices or crucial federal judges names, given how partisan routine appointments have become. And Democrats could forget about passing any major progressive legislation. If Collins were the 51st Republican senator in 2020, she would ensure that Mitch McConnell remains Senate majority leader, and McConnell would ensure that all Democratic priorities are thwarted.

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So why is the West Virginia senator threatening his parties chances of reclaiming the chamber?

Manchin is by far the least liberal senator, which has allowed him to hold on to his seat in the deeply conservative West Virginia, where Trump won by 42 points in 2016. But it’s hard to see why his endorsement of Collins is necessary, especially when he was just reelected. He may just have genuine affection for the Collins, who is similar to him ideologically, and little loyalty to his party, which is in many ways a liability in his campaigns.

For those bemoaning Manchin’s endorsement, though, it may be comforting to consider that it may not be particularly helpful to Collins’ reelection chances. It’s not clear how much Maine voters will care about an out-of-state Democratic senator’s point of view. If Collins’ eventual Democratic opponent can make the case that she doesn’t serve the state’s interest, she may yet be defeated.

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Hope Hicks told Congress that Trump has cut her out of his life — he virtually never calls her anymore

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Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks was broadly considered to be one of President Donald Trump's favorite staffers.

But when she left the administration in 2018, the president virtually cut off ties to her, and has only spoken with her five times since then, according to the transcript of the closed-door hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday:

In her interview, Hope Hicks says she has only spoken to Trump between five and ten times since she left the White House in February 2018. (He used to call that much in a day.) They last spoke in April, when they had dinner. Our story from yesterday:https://t.co/3gzVY21c3z pic.twitter.com/VMZqhnbgib

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Elections regulator warns foreign intrusion into US campaigns is already happening

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In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Federal Elections Commission is warning that there is already foreign intrusion in the U.S. campaigns.

FEC chair Ellen L. Weintraub was forced to issue a statement after President Donald Trump said that he wasn't sure what he would do if a foreign government approached him with "dirt" on his political opponent. He said that he "might" tell the FBI but would likely hear what they had to say. He said that it wasn't illegal, but Weintraub issued a statement reiterating that it is illegal.

"I am particularly concerned about the risk of illicit funds and foreign support influencing our political system. Foreign dark money represents a significant vulnerability for American democracy. We do not know the extent to which our political campaigns receive foreign dark money, but we do know that the political money can be weaponized by well-funded hostile powers," the letter warned.

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Trump’s anti-abortion rule attacking Planned Parenthood can go into effect in 49 states: appeals court

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According to the Associated Press, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump's domestic "gag rule" can take effect while litigation proceeds, potentially making it far harder for low-income women to access abortion care.

District judges in California, Oregon, and Washington previously blocked the rule from taking effect. But a three-judge panel in San Francisco today said that the rule was "reasonable" as an interpretation of federal law, and lifted the injunction preventing it from being enforced. The rule can now take effect in every state except Maryland, where another federal judge's order has still enjoined the policy.

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