* Here’s the story Fox News is running with today:

A December meeting between Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and one of the senior advisers in the Trump administration, and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at Trump Tower focused on Syria, a source familiar with the matter told Fox News Monday.

During the meeting the Russians broached the idea of using a secure line between the Trump administration and Russia, not Kushner, a source familiar with the matter told Fox News…

The idea of a permanent back channel was never discussed, according to the source. Instead, only a one-off for a call about Syria was raised in the conversation.

* A lot of the press is zeroing in on the fact that Trump re-tweeted a link to that story, which comes from a one of those law-breaking leakers he’s always complaining about. Sean Spicer was even asked about that during the press conference today. But the Fox story obviously comes from someone in the Kushner camp and is a lie. We know that because the December meeting wasn’t the only time someone from Trump’s team discussed a back channel connection with the Russians. In addition to Kushner, Michael Flynn started talking to Kislyak about it immediately after the election and Erik Prince was dispatched to a clandestine meeting with Russians to talk about it again in January.

* The other day I noted that Adam Gopnick had written about the fact that in France, the right-wing candidate chose to support Macron in order to defeat the threat that Marine Le Pen posed to their democracy. In taking on the bullying of Donald Trump last week, Angela Merkel’s opponent in the upcoming German election did the same thing.

Why do you suppose that opposition parties in France and Germany care more about protecting democracy than Republicans in this country?

* Jonathan Chait and Josh Marshall have each written that the worst case scenario for collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign is looking more plausible than less severe alternatives. I simply suggest that you go read them both.

* Here is every Trumpbot nationalist’s nightmare:

He was 22 when he entered Irish politics. At 27, he was elected to parliament. At 36, he publicly came out as gay. And now, at 38, Leo Varadkar, the son of an Indian immigrant father and an Irish mother, appears on course to become Ireland’s next prime minister.

* Trump is following through on Bannon’s goal of deconstructing the administrative state, especially when it comes to civil rights. Here is just one of the examples identified by the Washington Post:

Under President Trump’s proposed budget, the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights — which has investigated thousands of complaints of discrimination in school districts across the country and set new standards for how colleges should respond to allegations of sexual assault and harassment — would also see significant staffing cuts. Administration officials acknowledge in budget documents that the civil rights office will have to scale back the number of investigations it conducts and limit travel to school districts to carry out its work.

* Finally, the Late Show with Stephen Colbert identified something different about the scandals that arose during the Obama years and the ones we’re seeing now with the Trump administration. Hmmmmm…wonder what that could be.

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