1. Under intensifying pressure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions abruptly agreed Thursday to recuse himself from any investigation into Russian meddling in America's 2016 presidential election.
He acted after revelations he twice spoke with the Russian ambassador during the campaign and failed to say so when pressed by Congress. Sessions rejected any suggestion that he had tried to mislead anyone about his contacts with the Russian, saying, "That is not my intent. That is not correct."
But he did allow that he should have been more careful in his testimony during his confirmation hearing, saying, "I should have slowed down and said, 'But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times.'"
In related Russian controversy news, Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Moscow's top diplomat in the U.S. and a Washington fixture with a sprawling network, has emerged as the central figure in the investigations into Trump advisers' connections with Russia. In a matter of weeks, contact with Kislyak led to the firing of a top adviser to the president and, on Thursday, prompted calls for the attorney general to resign.
Separately, a White House official confirmed Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn met with Kislyak at Trump Tower in December for what the official called a brief courtesy meeting. Flynn was pushed out of the White House last month after officials said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia in a phone call.
2. Trump’s new travel ban has been delayed, and it doesn’t seem quite so urgent anymore.
President Donald Trump was barely in office when he signed an executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. There was not a moment to waste, he said, because any delay would allow the "bad dudes" to rush into the U.S.
Then federal courts struck down his ban. The White House said a new version would be coming. That was a month ago. The urgency seems to have faded.
There has been no further legal appeal. And announcement of a replacement order has been repeatedly postponed, a reflection of legal difficulties, shifting administration priorities and politics. It now won't be unveiled until next week at the earliest, says a White House official.
"The holdup flies in the face of the mythology as to why they needed to rush the bill in the first place," said Doris Meissner, who was head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service for President Bill Clinton. "It was a contrived argument and a reflection of inexperience and a rush to fulfill a campaign promise."
3. A man sneaked into the back of a beer truck behind a liquor store in downtown Minneapolis, intent on stealing some of the inventory, but the driver thwarted the thirsty thief and locked the interloper inside until police arrived.
Mark D. Erickson, 47, was arrested and jailed Wednesday on a misdemeanor charge of tampering with a motor vehicle.
The trouble started brewing for Erickson late Wednesday morning in the alley behind Haskell’s on S. 9th Street just off Nicollet Mall, said store co-owner Beau Farrell. Erickson climbed into the back of the delivery truck, only to find himself locked in by the quick-thinking driver.
Farrel said, “The driver was walking up the ramp” on the back of the truck and was startled to see a much bigger man inside, “and the driver jumped down, locked the door and called the police.”
Farrell said it was maybe 5 minutes, and police were there to make the arrest and have Erickson again locked up — this time in the Hennepin County jail.
4. The legislature passes Sunday liquor store bill, heads to Dayton for signature
The repeal of Minnesota’s long-standing ban on Sunday liquor store hours passed its last legislative hurdle yesterday, with a final vote by the House that sent the measure on to Gov. Mark Dayton. The governor is on record saying he would either sign the bill, or simply allow it to become law without his signature.
The successful repeal is a big victory for lawmakers and activists who worked on it for years and suffered multiple failed attempts.
Representative Jennifer Loon from Eden Prairie said, “Thanks to a strong grass-roots effort by Minnesotans who advocated for this change and contacted their legislators, 2017 is the year we finally change this outdated law and allow liquor stores to serve their customers on Sundays.”
The final vote was 88-39. It’s a stunning reversal considering the House failed to approve the repeal bill just last year.
5. Dayton is now “resting comfortably” after prostate cancer surgery
The surgery to remove his prostate "went as planned," his office reported yesterday. He will stay overnight at Mayo and be joined by his family.
Dayton, 70, opted for surgery to treat his prostate cancer and revealed the cancer diagnosis in late January, a day after a public health scare when he fainted during his State of the State address. The governor is expected to resume a normal schedule as soon as Monday. His spokesman said he would be in contact with his staff and commissioners during his recovery.
The surgery is Dayton's third at Mayo Clinic in recent years. He has had two back surgeries to relieve back and leg pain.