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(Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his trip to Egypt and Israel for a second time in case he is needed to break a tie in the Senate for the tax bill that is expected to pass narrowly this week.

Two White House officials confirmed the changed schedule, which they say is unrelated to to protests in the region over the administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pence had initially been scheduled to leave last Saturday. Late last week, the White House moved the trip back a few days to Tuesday night, in case Pence was needed to break a Senate tie. But Monday, they decided to postpone the trip further, to January, given the possibility of a late Senate vote and the coming holidays.

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A White House official says the Trump judicial nominee whose qualifications were questioned by a Republican senator has withdrawn his nomination. 

Matthew Petersen, who was nominated by President Trump to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, has been the subject of widespread ridicule since he was unable to define basic legal terms during his confirmation hearing Wednesday. 

A White House official says Petersen has withdrawn his nomination and that Trump has accepted the withdrawal. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the development publicly. 

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(Associated Press)

President Trump said Sunday that Sen. John McCain, who is battling an aggressive form of brain cancer, was returning home to Arizona for the holidays but would come back to Washington if needed to cast a vote on the Republicans’ tax overhaul bill.

The Arizona Republican’s office announced last week that McCain was receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington for complications from his cancer treatment. McCain’s daughter Meghan tweeted earlier Sunday that her 81-year-old father would be spending Christmas in Arizona.

The Senate is expected to vote early this week on the tax cut legislation, but the GOP appeared to have secured sufficient support without McCain’s vote.

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Vladimir Putin phoned President Trump to thank him for what the Russian president said was CIA help in foiling a terrorist attack, the Kremlin said on Sunday.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the two leaders’ conversation to reporters. It was the second time that the two leaders had talked in four days; Trump called Putin on Thursday to thank the Russian leader for lauding the U.S. economy.

Putin, in his annual year-end news conference, had praised Trump for a strong performance by the U.S. stock market. Perhaps ironically, given his credit to the CIA’s recent help, Putin at that news event dismissed as “hysteria” the consensus among American intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign.

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Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said on Sunday that a government shutdown this week was unlikely but possible.

A two-week stopgap spending bill passed by Congress earlier this month provided enough funding to keep the government running through Friday. A deadlock on another temporary funding measure would open the door to a possible shutdown.

“I can’t rule it out, but I can’t imagine it occurring,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday,” suggesting everyone had an interest in avoiding the government grinding to a halt and federal workers going unpaid, especially in the holiday season. 

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

President Trump’s transition team is crying foul over how special counsel Robert S. Mueller III obtained emails for his investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s campaign and possible Trump campaign complicity. 

Kory Langhofer, a lawyer for the transition team, sent a letter to Congress on Saturday saying there was an "unauthorized disclosure” of emails. 

While the Trump transition is long over, the transition team remains a nonprofit organization. Its emails were hosted by the General Services Administration, a federal agency. Mueller reportedly obtained the emails directly from the agency. 

  • Russia
(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

A federal judge agreed Friday to end Paul Manafort’s house arrest in Virginia, allowing President Trump’s former campaign manager to return to Florida while awaiting trial.

The decision followed a dispute between Manafort’s legal team and prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who accused Manafort of violating a court order restricting public statements about the case. 

Under the terms of the judge’s order, Manafort will be allowed to live at his home in Florida as long as he stays within Palm Beach and Broward counties and obeys a curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. If he misses a court appearance, he would forfeit four properties valued at $10 million total. 

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  • Congress
  • Taxes

Republican negotiators slightly increased the refundable portion of the expanded child tax credit in their tax plan, raising it to $1,400 in hopes of winning back Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) support ahead of next week’s vote.

Rubio announced Thursday he was withholding support after negotiators ignored his push to make the expanded tax credit, which increases from the current $1,000 to $2,000 in the proposed bill, fully refundable for lower- and moderate-income filers.

The refundable portion in the original bill was $1,100.

  • Congress
  • Taxes
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks to a reporter in Washington. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks to a reporter in Washington. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says he is currently opposed to the GOP tax plan because it fails to include his proposed enhancements to the child tax credit, leaving leaders without crucial support ahead of next week’s expected vote.

Republicans can only lose two GOP senators from their slim 52-48 majority as they push the plan forward under special budget rules to prevent a Democratic filibuster.

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday altered his planned Israel trip so he could be on hand, if needed, to cast a tie-breaking vote.