Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said his decision to not run for re-election, and his sudden announcement that he might not even finish out the rest of his term, isn't because of some yet-to-be-revealed scandal.
"Not in any way, shape, or form," he told Politico Thursday. "I've been given more enemas by more people over the last eight years than you can possibly imagine. From the Secret Service to the Democratic Party. I am who I am. If they had something really scandalous, it would've come out a long, long time ago."
Chaffetz was first elected to represent Utah's 3rd congressional district in 2008, and is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He told Politico he's already in talks about future employment and would be "thrilled to have a television relationship," but he's not ruling out a return to politics down the road. "I want to keep those doors open," he said. "I'm not closing any potential future run." Catherine Garcia
CNN asks evangelical leaders Tony Perkins, Franklin Graham why they give Trump a pass on Stormy Daniels
White evangelical Christians are President Trump's electoral rock, and while there's significant erosion in the group, evangelical political leaders are still firmly aboard the Trump train. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, explained to Politico that evangelicals gave Trump "a mulligan" and "a do-over." On CNN Tuesday night, Erin Burnett asked him why, especially after porn star Stormy Daniels' detailed account of an extramarital affair she says she had with Trump in 2006.
"If this behavior were occurring today, right now, as he is president of the United States, I can assure you that my support and the support of evangelicals would be dissipating very rapidly," Perkins said. Trump won over evangelicals by promising to appoint pro-life judges, making Mike Pence his running mate, and embracing "the most conservative party platform ever, and yes, evangelicals, conservatives, gave him a mulligan, they let him have a do-over," Perkins said. "Evangelicals understand what a second chance means."
Later Tuesday night, CNN's Don Lemon interviewed Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, who also noted that Trump's alleged affair was years ago. "Not that we give anybody a pass, but we have to look at the time line," Graham said. "And I think the president has changed quite a bit in the last 11 years ... and I think there's a maturing of the president." "Have you read his Twitter account?" Lemon asked incredulously. "I believe Donald Trump is a good man," Graham responded.
Graham told Lemon he believes Trump's denials about his affair with Stormy Daniels, "and I believe that he's a changed person, and I've never seen anybody get attacked like he gets attacked." "Have you ever seen any other president attack other people as much as he attacks other people?" Lemon asked, and when Graham laughed, he asked if "turn the other cheek" wasn't a Christian value? "I went to Catholic school, I went to catechism, and then I went to Sunday school at my Baptist church, and the Bible and everyone always taught me to do unto others and to not attack others, and that's all this president does," Lemon said. "He's not the pastor of our country, Don," Graham said. Peter Weber
Gunmen stormed the office of Save the Children in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Wednesday morning, and are still holed up in the building, sporadically exchanging gunfire with police.
At least 11 people have been injured so far, The Guardian reports. A provincial government spokesman said a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb in front of the entrance to Save the Children's compound, and a group of armed men then made their way inside. There are other international aid agencies and government offices in the area, and police are unsure if the attackers specifically targeted Save the Children, which gives local kids access to education and health care.
Speaking from his hospital bed, Mohammad Amin told AFP he was inside the compound when he heard "a big blast." After he ran for cover, he saw "a gunman hitting the main gate with an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) to enter the compound. I jumped out of the window." Over the weekend, Taliban militants attacked a luxury hotel in Kabul, killing 22 people. No one has taken responsibility for the Save the Children attack, but both the Taliban and Islamic State are active in the area. Catherine Garcia
The town of Benton, Kentucky, is mourning the loss of two 15-year-old high school students, Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, shot dead Tuesday at Marshall County High School by an unidentified 15-year-old classmate who also wounded 12 other people and caused a stamped in which five other students were injured. It is America's worst school shooting of 2018 — only 23 days old — but it is also at least the country's 11th school shooting since Jan. 1, The New York Times reports. There were two on Monday, for example, in Italy, Texas, and New Orleans.
There have been about 50 school shootings in the U.S. this academic year (some were suicides, and some resulted in no injuries), and about one shooting a week since 2013, the Times says. "We have absolutely become numb to these kinds of shootings, and I think that will continue," Katherine W. Schweit, a former senior FBI official, tells the Times. She coauthored an FBI study of 160 active-shooter situations between 2000 and 2013, and a quarter of them were in educational settings, the number growing as the study went on. You can read more about how schools and states are responding at The New York Times. Peter Weber
It's not just kids who love meeting the characters at Disney World.
Atlas, a golden retriever service dog, met his favorite fellow canine last Friday during a trip to Epcot Center. Atlas belongs to Julian Gavino, a 22-year-old college student from Sarasota who has a rare tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Gavino has an annual pass for Disney World, and usually goes once a week with Atlas. "I love to see him have fun," Gavino told Inside Edition. "Some days, he works long hours, so it's important for him to get to do this kind of stuff."
Atlas has a stuffed Pluto that he adores and plays with all the time, and when Gavino saw that Pluto was doing a meet-and-greet, he got in line. When it was their turn, Atlas slowly approached Pluto, but his hesitation quickly disappeared and the thrilled dog was all over his idol, sniffing him while wagging his tail. "Atlas was more than excited to meet his best pal look-alike," Gavino wrote on Facebook. Catherine Garcia
Everybody can claim a win from the short government shutdown over the weekend, Trevor Noah said on Tuesday's Daily Show. Democrats got six years of CHIP funding, "campaign ads for the midterms," and Senate Majority Leader's suspect pinky-promise to hold a vote on legislation to protect DREAMers, he said, while Republicans got Democrats to back down with just a flimsy promise and also snuck in $30 billion in additional tax cuts. The only ones who demonstrably didn't win were the DREAMers, the focus of the whole shutdown.
"They came away from the shutdown worse than before," Noah said. Before this "became about winning and losing," Republicans at least said they believe DACA recipients deserve to stay in the U.S., he showed, "but once the shutdown became about scoring political points, suddenly Republican leaders turned these people from 'DREAMer's to 'illegals.'" Democrats, meanwhile, have repeatedly and disingenuously "promised the DREAMers more than they can deliver," he noted, because they don't have any power in Washington.
"And this is what sucks for DREAMers about this whole situation," Noah said. "You're six weeks away from being deported to a country you've never known, and now the only thing that stands between you and an answer is a man with more broken promises than chins." Watch that — plus Noah's impersonation of McConnell the Player and explanation for why Kermit the Frog is clearly a Republican — below. Peter Weber
In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer that most PR professionals would have advised against, Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) admitted he reacted "poorly" when a longtime aide said she had a new boyfriend and was thinking about leaving her job, but said he felt such strong feelings for her because they were "soul mates."
The New York Times reported last week that Meehan, 62, used taxpayer money to settle a case with the former aide, after she accused him of sexual misconduct. Meehan was removed from the House Ethics Committee over the weekend, and while he told the Inquirer that the Times' timeline was correct, he said he never tried to act on his romantic feelings for the aide, who is decades younger than him.
He had developed strong feelings of affection for the aide while working closely with her, Meehan said, and when she got a boyfriend, he'd told her "that I was a happily married man and I was not interested in a relationship, particularly not any sexual relationship, but we were soul mates," defining "soul mate" as "that sort of person that you go through remarkable experiences together." He said he told her all this so he wouldn't be tempted into an inappropriate relationship, and admitted he gave her a hug, which he often did, but it "may have been longer that night than it needed to be."
Meehan also shared with the Inquirer a personal letter he later wrote to the woman, which thanked God for "putting you into my life," and his office said she responded with a text thanking him "for your very kind words and for your friendship." Meehan denied ever harassing the aide, and said any hostility wan't because she rebuffed his advances but due to stress he felt over important votes. He also said he paid her a secret "severance" on the advice of House attorneys. Read Meehan's entire letter, plus a response from the former aide's lawyer, at the Inquirer. Catherine Garcia
Say bye, bye, bye to your dreams of an 'NSYNC reunion at the Super Bowl.
Joey Fatone told TMZ Sports that when Justin Timberlake performs at the Super Bowl LII halftime show on Feb. 4, his former band mates won't be dancing beside him. "I'm here right now," Fatone said, while standing outside a West Hollywood, California, restaurant. "If I was doing something, I'd be at rehearsals right now. There's your proof."
Fatone was singing a different tune last October, after it was announced Timberlake was going to be the halftime entertainment — at the time, he said an 'NSYNC reunion was possible, just a few things needed to be worked out. This could be an elaborate distraction and 'NSYNC is planning a surprise set, but it sounds like fans who were hoping for a "Tearin' Up My Heart" singalong and J.C. Chasez wardrobe malfunction have to keep waiting. Catherine Garcia