* Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey report that John Kelly is sending out the troops to mislead the public on his behalf:
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Friday morning instructed senior staff to communicate a version of events about the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter that contradicts the Trump administration’s previous accounts, according to two senior officials.
During a staff meeting, Kelly told those in attendance to say he took action to remove Porter within 40 minutes of learning abuse allegations from two ex-wives were credible, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussions in such meetings are supposed to be confidential.
“He told the staff he took immediate and direct action,” one of the officials said, adding that people after the meeting expressed disbelief with one another and felt his latest account was not true.
That version of events contradicts both the public record and accounts from numerous other White House officials in recent days as the Porter drama unfolded. Kelly — who first learned of the domestic violence allegations against Porter months ago — issued a glowing statement of support for Porter’s personal character after the allegations first surfaced publicly Tuesday and privately urged him to remain on the job until the next day when his resignation was announced.
This kind of deception works a lot better if it isn’t immediately leaked to the press, and if it doesn’t totally contradict what we already know.
* Carol Leonnig, Shane Harris, and Greg Jaffe report that President Trump is taking his responsibilities very seriously:
For much of the past year, President Trump has declined to participate in a practice followed by the past seven of his predecessors: He rarely if ever reads the President’s Daily Brief, a document that lays out the most pressing information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from hot spots around the world.
Trump has opted to rely on an oral briefing of select intelligence issues in the Oval Office rather than getting the full written document delivered to review separately each day, according to three people familiar with his briefings.
Reading the traditionally dense intelligence book is not Trump’s preferred “style of learning,” according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Fortunately, aides rejected his request to have bullet points written to him by a swimsuit model.
Rachel L. Brand, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, plans to step down after nine months on the job as the country’s top law enforcement agency has been under attack by President Trump, according to two people briefed on her decision.
Ms. Brand’s profile had risen in part because she is next in the line of succession behind the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian influence in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump, who has called the investigation a witch hunt, has considered firing Mr. Rosenstein.
Such a move could have put her in charge of the special counsel and, by extension, left her in the cross hairs of the president.
The fact that Brand would not want to be in that position is worrisome. As Julian Sanchez points out:
No, not a good sign.
* A new Marist poll finds that 66 percent of Americans said if there’s a disagreement between President Trump and the FBI, they’d believe the FBI, while only 24 percent said they’d believe the president. And Democrats lead Republicans on the generic congressional ballot by 11 points.
* Yeganeh Torbati reports that the Trump administration is considering making it harder for legal immigrants who sign their children up for programs like Head Start, or use other government benefits, to get green cards. Yes, that’s not a parody of how phenomenally cruel Republicans can be, it’s something they’re actually thinking about. (Corrected)
* David Drucker reports that Paul Ryan is going to take his cues from what President Trump says he wants on immigration in determining what gets a vote and what doesn’t. As we’ve argued, that actually hints at a possible way the “dreamers” could be protected without deep cuts to legal immigration.
* Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak report that President Trump is unhappy with the way Hope Hicks handled the Rob Porter scandal. Uh-oh.
Let’s hope lawmakers don’t refrain from criticizing Trump’s military parade idea out of fear of Trump tweeting that they hate the troops. Happy Friday!