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September 14, 2017

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was Jimmy Kimmel's main guest Wednesday night, and the crowd welcomed him warmly. "If I'd known I would get that kind of applause, I would have left earlier," Spicer joked, referring either to his adversarial job with the media or the unpopularity of his former boss. Kimmel said that White House press secretary is a hard job, but in this case it was also "kind of funny in a lot of ways," and Spicer jumped in: "For you! I'm not so sure I see it that way." He explained how President Trump tapped him for the job, and laughed uncomfortably as Kimmel reminded him of his first outing, lying about Trump's inaugural crowd size.

Spicer said in order to understand Trump's crowd-size fixation, you have to understand that people in the Trump camp felt they were battling constant attempts, "in the media in particular," to "undermine the validity" of Trump's win. "But the validity of the election compared to looking a photos of the crowd at an inauguration?" Kimmel said, asking Spicer if he tried to talk Trump "out of that line of defense." Spicer said it's the press secretary's job to "represent the president's voice" and articulate "what he believes" on policy and "other areas that he wants to articulate," and "whether or not you agree or not isn't your job." So "then you have to march out there and go, 'Yeah, he had a bigger crowd, everybody,'" Kimmel said. "Look," Spicer said, "as I said, he's the president, he decides, and that's what you sign up to do."

Kimmel turned to Spicer's relationship with the press, serendipitously playing a clip of Spicer promising Jonathan Karl, a longtime acquaintance, that he would never knowingly say something that wasn't true from the White House podium. Spicer gave a brief discourse on reaching different conclusions with the same facts, and said it hurt when reporters questioned his integrity on Day 1. "Yeah, well, I'm sure, though when you brought that crowd size thing out, you opened this terrible Pandora's Box," Kimmel said. Spicer said it was his job to be Trump's voice, never really explaining how that's different than Twitter. Watch below. Peter Weber

7:28 a.m. ET

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have spent the week volleying insults and threats ever since Trump suggested he might "totally destroy" Kim's country if it continues to menace the U.S. and its allies. Kim responded Thursday by claiming Trump is "a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire" and vowing to "surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire."

Trump didn't walk back from his threats. On Friday he tweeted that Kim "will be tested like never before":

On Thursday, Trump also announced he was signing a new executive order imposing sanctions to further squeeze North Korea. Jeva Lange

7:25 a.m. ET

President Trump's badgering and other pressure tactics arguably backfired in July, when three Senate Republicans sank the previous last effort to repeal much of ObamaCare, but when you have a very large megaphone, you apparently use it.

Senate Republicans are holding a vote next week on the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — who voted for the last GOP health-care bill, says he is a solid no on this one. The other Republicans up in the air are believed to be Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), John McCain (Ariz.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — though if Republicans let Alaska keep ObamaCare, who knows? Peter Weber

6:28 a.m. ET

On Friday, Transport for London, the British capital's transportation regulator, said it had declined to renew ride-hailing service Uber's license to operate in London, effective Sept. 30. Uber "is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license," the regulator said in a statement, saying its "approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications," including its use of Greyball software to avoid regulation and its "approach to reporting serious criminal offenses."

Uber has 21 days to appeal the decision. Peter Weber

5:55 a.m. ET

President Trump has been tweeting his support for the Republican Party's last-ditch health-care bill, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, especially its sponsor Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a doctor. "And you can trust Trump's opinions when it comes to doctors — remember, his primary care physician is this guy," Colbert said. "Practically every medical organization opposes this bill, so why are Republicans pushing so hard to get it through?" Well, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) offered to list 10 reasons Republicans shouldn't pass the bill, but then said they had in order to keep their promise. Colbert found that inspiring enough to give that formula a try: "Honey, I can give you 10 reasons why I shouldn't give you this pony, but I promised you one, so enjoy your alligator."

Actually, "very few Republicans can defend their bill or explain what it does," Seth Meyer said on Thursday's Late Night. Graham-Cassidy will cut funding for vulnerable people on Medicaid and put people with pre-existing conditions at risk, Meyer said, and if you're wondering how anyone could support "such a monstrous bill, well the answer is they either don't know or don't care." He had a wry laugh over Sen. Pat Roberts' (R-Kansas) Thelma & Louise answer. "I love how he realized halfway through that his analogy made no sense and just hoped the reporter had never seen the movie."

The bill's hundreds of billions in "cuts may seem savage and cruel, but to be fair, Republicans have always preached fiscal responsibility and the importance of saving money," Meyers said, cuing up some clips about HHS Secretary Tom Price's love of using taxpayer-funded private jets, and also Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's. Will Republicans wrangle the 50 votes? Maybe, Meyers said. "They're throwing another Hail Mary, except Republicans aren't exactly Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers. They're more like Jay Cutler." Watch below. Peter Weber

5:03 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert began Thursday's Late Show with a Rosh Hashana joke. "I'm so glad its 5778," he said. "5777 sucked." Jewish new year out of the way, he jumped into the latest developments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and President Trump's campaign. Colbert summarized some of the 13 events Mueller has asked the White House about as a K-Tel record, Now That's What I Call Collusion 45, "available wherever CDs are still sold — so I'm gonna say Starbucks."

But Paul Manafort, Trump's onetime campaign chairman, is now probably the central figure in Mueller's investigation, and despite his denials, it turns out he reportedly was in contact with Russians during the campaign, offering "private briefings" to an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. Colbert had a joke or two about Manafort's "black caviar" code word, then got to the practical objection: "Come on, you can't use a term for something very expensive as a stand-in for money!"

On Thursday's Daily Show, Trevor Noah also caught up with "Hurricane Mueller," the storm that could leave Trump "without power." Like Mueller, he focused on the Manafort angle. "Surprise visits in the middle of the night, all up in his phone?" he asked. "Ladies, get you a man who wants you as bad as Mueller wants Manafort." He looked at how various members of the Trump circle are answering questions about Russia — Manafort's stutter, Vice President Mike Pence's "smoke screen" of words, and then there's Sean Spicer.

"I'm genuinely worried about how Spicer is going to come out of this whole thing, because he seems like he's ready to sign a confession when you ask him anything," Noah said. "It's like Sean Spicer has all of the tells at the same time." The Spicer news on Thursday was that Mueller is reportedly interested in the former press secretary's notebooks. Noah laughed. "Spicer was taking notes?" he asked. "With anyone else, they'd probably just destroy the evidence. With Sean Spicer, you know he'd start to try and burn the notebooks but then somehow end up setting himself on fire." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:54 a.m. ET

Weirdly, late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel is now a big part of America's health-care debate. His critiques of the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill — after one of its sponsors, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), promised to oppose any bill that failed his "Jimmy Kimmel Test," which Graham-Cassidy appears to do — have hit a nerve perhaps because Kimmel is a goof and probably the least political of the late-night TV hosts. So on Wednesday, Theodore Kupfer at National Review published an article critical of Kimmel's audacity to weigh in on health care, as if he had "deep and hidden reservoirs of knowledge on risk-adjustment programs, the Medicaid expansion, or per capita caps." The article is titled, "Jimmy Kimmel, Policy-Wonk Wannabe," but the NRO social media editor posed it as a question:

It so happens that Politico had examined that question, and found that "in the war of words between Jimmy Kimmel and Sen. Bill Cassidy, the late-night host has the better grasp of health policy, health-care analysts say." So a lot of the responses to National Review's tweet were along those lines. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. If Kimmel isn't an expert, some asked, why are these guys being invited on cable news to talk health care?

Several people noted that the occupant of the Oval Office doesn't exactly have a long health-care résumé, either:

Others, like Nancy Sinatra, asked why National Review thinks Kimmel doesn't have the right to weigh in:

And then Jason Helgerson, who runs New York State's Medicaid program, stepped in and dropped the mic:

Twitter: Ask, and ye shall receive. Peter Weber

3:17 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Thursday, the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD), a group representing the Medicaid directors from all 50 states, joined other medical and patient advocacy groups in opposing the latest Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, named after sponsors Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). The bill would scrap ObamaCare's subsidies for consumers and Medicaid expansion and redistribute that money as state grants, in what the NAMD board of directors calls "the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk from the federal government to the states in our country's history."

The Medicaid directors said they don't want that risk, especially without being consulted first, and they called a Congressional Budget Office score — which Graham-Cassidy won't have before voting — "the bare minimum required for beginning consideration." Setting up entire new health-care programs in 50 states requires an enormous amount of work and resources, NAMD said, and "the vast majority of states will not be able to do so within the two-year timeframe envisioned here, especially considering the apparent lack of federal funding in the bill to support these critical activities."

Andy Slavitt, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2015 until January and an opponent of repealing ObamaCare, said all 50 Medicaid directors coming out against Graham-Cassidy was "very unusual," and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.), was similarly impressed:

The Senate plans to vote on the bill next week. You can read the NAMD's full statement here. Peter Weber

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