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FBI director James Comey says no evidence of Trump Tower wiretap

Every Monday to Friday I'll be delivering a personally-curated newsletter. Call it the double espresso of news – the morning news kickstart for busy people who want to know what they need to know before they get going.

1. FBI confirms Russia investigation

It has been an extraordinary few hours in Washington where FBI director James Comey has been giving what has been an, at times, gripping testimony to the congressional House Intelligence Committee. 

Donald Trump spent his Monday morning tweeting extensively about "FAKE NEWS" pushed by the media and Democrats in relation to Russia, in anticipation of Monday's hearing.

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Comey confirms FBI probe into Russia hacking

Links between President Donald Trump's presidential campaign and possible Russian interference are being investigated, confirms FBI Director James Comey.

Comey's confirmation that the FBI is investigating whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the US election was widely expected - but nevertheless still sensational. [Fairfax]

Comey also shot down Donald Trump's claims, made via Twitter, that Obama "wire-tapped" him in the lead up to the vote. [Key moments/Politico]

And he said Russia used a "cut out" with WikiLeaks to dump hacked emails belonging to Hillary Clinton's campaign chair John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee. WikiLeaks suggested on Twitter it was "educating" rather than "interfering" by publishing documents related to Clinton.

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2. Brexit date set

Theresa May, U.K. prime minister.

Theresa May, UK prime minister. Photo: Chris J. Ratcliffe

It was also a big day in London with Downing Street confirming the date for the triggering of Article 50. Prime Minister Theresa May will start the formal break-up next Wednesday, setting up two years of formal negotiations about Britain's exit from the European Union. [My report/Fairfax]

Prominent Remainer, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, was under pressure in the Commons over his decision to take up the editorship at the London newspaper The Evening Standard. [BBC]

Meanwhile in opposition ranks, the charismatic deputy Labour leader Tom Watson was today's casualty of the battle for the party's heart and soul. [Kate Proctor/The Independent]

As Labour's civil war rages, the Tories today led the opposition by 19 points in the polls. 

3. Aus politics

Cabinet has landed on what looks to be a viable option for reforming section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, striking out the offences of "insult" and "offend" but adding "harrass". [Simon Benson and David Crowe/The Australian]

But will they pass the Senate crossbench? [James Massola/Fairfax]

New ACTU boss Sally McManus attracted controversy by opposing the rule of law when it comes to 'unfair' laws on industrial action.

New ACTU boss Sally McManus. Photo: ABC

The new leader of the ACTU, Sally McManus backed the campaign to boycott Israeli goods. [Brad Norington/The Australian]

McManus has backed down on the other inflammatory comment made during her ABC interview that construction company Grocon "killed workers." [Ewin Hannan/The Australian]

McManus is creating serious headaches for the ALP, at a time when the Coalition is finding confidence to go on the front foot on industrial relations. 

The defection of Cory Bernardi and behaviour of Tony Abbott has consolidated Turnbull's position, writes the friend of the former PM, Catherine McGregor. [The Daily Telegraph]

4. Gina stuns rich list

Bill Gates is ranked the world's richest man in Forbes 2017 Billionaires List for the fourth year in a row. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg moved up to fifth spot. [The World's Billionaires]

In the context of the inequality debate, it's worth noting that 2017 rated as the best for the rich with the number of billionaires jumping 13 per cent to 2,043 from 1,810 last year.

Forbes says it is the first time the magazine has pinned down more than 2,000 ten-figure-fortunes.

"Their total net worth rose by 18 per cent to $US7.67 trillion, also a record." [Luisa Kroll and Kerry A. Dolan]

Western Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart is an investor in Lakes Oil.

Western Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart. Photo: Jim Rice

But it was Australian Gina Rinehart who was catapulted up the rankings. She was 127 in 2016 and position 69 in 2017, with her wealth almost doubling. [Jennifer Wang/Forbes]

5. French presidential debate

I really regret not keeping up with my French in high school. The five top presidential candidates face-off in a televised debate at 9pm local time. It's likely to shape up as a showdown between the two frontrunners - the liberal Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen. [Nicholas Vinocur/Politico.eu]

6. Jesus tomb reopened

This Wednesday Oct. 26, 2016 photo, shows the moment workers remove the top marble layer of the tomb said to be of Jesus Christ, in the Church of Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. A restoration team has peeled away a marble layer for the first time in centuries in an effort to reach what it believes is the original rock surface where Jesus' body was laid.

A restoration team has peeled away a marble layer for the first time in centuries in an effort to reach what it believes is the original rock surface where Jesus' body was laid. Photo: Dusan Vranic

After months of restoration work, the tomb where Jesus was buried in Old Jerusalem is being reopened to the public. [Reuters]

And that's it from me today, you can follow me on Facebook for more.

 

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