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September 14, 2017

With the Russia investigation continuing to cast shadows over his administration, President Trump is trying to further his domestic agenda and drum up support for issues like tax reform, but with a special counsel reportedly "going for the kill," there's not much he can do to make things at the White House look good, Seth Meyers said on Wednesday's Late Night.

Just glancing at Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be enough to convince you he means business. "He looks like the police chief from every 1950s noir film," Meyers said. "He looks like he should be holding a bullhorn and shouting, 'You're surrounded, McMurphy.' … He doesn't even get haircuts, he just looks at his hair in the mirror and says, 'Get shorter.'" The federal probe has ensnared many key Trump aides, including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who failed to disclose several meetings he had with Russians. The Wall Street Journal reported that members of Trump's legal team thought it would be best for Kushner to resign because of his many ties to Russia, but that's difficult for someone who's been tasked with basically saving the entire world.

"Jared Kushner resign?" Meyers asked. "But then who would be in charge of U.S.-China relations, U.S.-Mexico relations, criminal justice reform, opioid crisis management, veteran care reform, the White House Office of American Innovation, revamping the entire federal government, painting the Easter eggs for the Easter egg hunt, and peace in the Middle East? Jared Kushner has more jobs than Steve Harvey — he's the white Steve Harvey." As if that's not enough to deal with, people like InfoWars' Alex Jones are trying to help Trump in the worst possible ways — in Jones' case, that involves claiming Trump's Diet Cokes are being laced with an addictive sedative that causes him to start slurring his words at 6 p.m. "That's how bad things are right now," Meyers said. "The president's allies are defending him by saying he's not incompetent, he's being secretly drugged." Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

8:05 a.m. ET

President Trump may have the pockets of the Republican National Committee and his re-election campaign to dip into for legal bills stemming from the Russia probe, but not everyone else is so lucky, Bloomberg reports. Michael Caputo, who only briefly served as an adviser to the Trump campaign, reports that being a person of interest in the Russia investigation has led to more than $30,000 in legal fees, money he's had to pull from his children's college funds. "It's very expensive and nobody's called me and offered to help," he recently told the Washington Examiner.

After all, not everyone gets the same treatment as Donald Trump Jr., who had $50,000 in legal fees paid off by the Trump campaign, Bloomberg reports. Dozens of other more peripheral people may yet be roped into the probe, including staffers like Communications Director Hope Hicks, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and even Jared Kushner's spokesman.

The psychological toll is also not insignificant. Caputo told Bloomberg that he has bought a new security system and several guns due to threats. Internally, staffers and aides must also cope with the paranoia that comes from lawyers advising them not to talk to each other about the investigation.

"Everyone is facing this," said Caputo. "I talk to them all. I know they are worried and I think it is awful. We heard about this happening during the Clinton investigations. Those stories loom heavily over us." Read more about the financial and psychological toll of the Russia investigation at Bloomberg. Jeva Lange

7:28 a.m. ET

From Sept. 13 to Sept. 15, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price flew a charter jet on five separate flights to Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania for HHS business, and current and former HHS staffers say he's been flying on private jets for months, Politico reports. Price's travel in those three days cost somebody at least $60,000, charter jet companies said, and HHS spokespeople declined to address who footed the bills. The last two HHS secretaries, Sylvia Matthews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, flew only commercial inside the continental United States, and often coach. "Price, a frequent critic of federal spending who has been developing a plan for department-wide cost savings, declined to comment," Politico notes, a bit archly.

All three organizations Price traveled to address — IT firm athenahealth and Goodwin Community Health Center in New Hampshire and Mirmont Treatment Center outside Philadelphia — said they did not pay for Price's travel. "Secretary Price travels on occasion outside Washington to meet face to face with the American people to hear their thoughts and concerns firsthand," an HHS spokesperson told Politico. "When commercial aircraft cannot reasonably accommodate travel requirements, charter aircraft can be used for official travel."

Politico did some digging, and found commercial flights from D.C. to the places Price traveled at around the time he flew, for much less money. The Wall Street Journal's Tim Hanrahan rounded up some options for the Washington-Philadelphia leg, a 135-mile trip that cost $25,000 on Price's chartered plane.

Price, a millionaire former orthopedic surgeon and congressman from Georgia, didn't always think private-jet travel was in the best interest of taxpayers, as he showed in this CNBC interview of himself he posted in 2009. (Also, he apparently used to think Congress should read bills before voting on them.)

President Trump's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are under investigation by their respective departments' inspector generals for their frequent travel or use of government planes. You can read more about Price's travel at Politico. Peter Weber

6:18 a.m. ET
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

A series of opinion polls in the past week have shown President Trump's approval rating ending its summer slide and edging up a few points, following his handling of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and his nods toward bipartisanship. In Gallup's weekly tracking poll, Trump is up to 38 percent approval, from a low of 35 percent in late August, following his comments on the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. A new Politico/Morning Consult poll has Trump at 43 percent, after hitting 39 percent last month, and a Marist poll from last week clocked Trump at 39 percent approval, from 35 percent in August.

Different polls have Trump recovering among Republicans and/or independents, but staying essentially unchanged among Democrats. His decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program polls poorly, but he got good marks for his handling of recent natural disaster. Trump's RealClearPolitics average is 40 percent, up 2.5 points from last month. All those numbers are historically low for a first-term president. Peter Weber

5:29 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert began his interview with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday's Late Show with the title of the book she is out promoting: "What happened?" Clinton said it was painful trying to figure that out, but she thought it a worthwhile endeavor so that what happened in the 2016 election "doesn't happen again." She said she was as candid as she could be about the mistakes she made, but also dove into misogyny, voter suppression, the "unusual behavior" of former FBI Director James Comey, and the Russians. "I believe so strongly that they think they succeeded in messing with our democracy," Clinton said, and she thinks they did, too.

Russian President Vladimir Putin didn't just want Donald Trump to win, she said, he wanted to destabilize and undermine American democracy, divide the country, and wreck its faith in its intuitions. "I think that they believe they had a good outing in 2016," she said, "and I think they will be back in 2018 and 2020 unless we stop them." Clinton said she's been told Putin also had a personal grudge against her, but she doesn't take it personally, then she gave a brief psychoanalysis of Putin's anger issues, insecurities, and problems with women.

The fact that she was a female secretary of state and potential president did "seem to get him a bit agitated," she said, and he showed his discomfort with "manspreading" every time they met. She did find one topic that warmed him up, however.

Colbert broke out the chardonnay for the second part of the interview. But first, Clinton tried to clear up some comments she made about the legitimacy of the election. "Nobody's talking about contesting the election, including me," she said, suggesting that if the various investigations find evidence of Trump's team colluding with Russia, people who don't appreciate that mobilize and vote, because the ballot box "is where we settle our political differences, and that's where it should be." You can watch what she felt Trump should have said at the U.N. instead of the "very dark, dangerous" speech he gave below. Peter Weber

4:29 a.m. ET

President Trump is "on a trip to a very hostile region: New York City," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. He's in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, and on Tuesday, he gave his first big speech to the U.N. "Of course, the U.N. was founded after World War II in hopes of creating a lasting peace, so naturally the highlight of the president's speech was threatening thermonuclear war," Colbert said. And while threatening to annihilate North Korea, "Trump doubled down on his new nickname for Kim Jong Un," Colbert said, puzzled. "Rocket Man? Mr. President, please don't give our enemies nicknames that make them sound cooler. 'I will destroy Commander Jetpack, and Adm. Ice Cream Sex Machine.'"

Trump also griped that America wasn't getting its money's worth with the U.N., and Colbert agreed. "He's right, we're paying top dollar and we're nowhere near world peace," he said. "I mean, I just saw some guy at the podium say he's going to destroy North Korea."

Kim Jong Un didn't immediately respond to his new nickname and the public threat to wipe him out, but The Late Show imagined him hitting back at Trump with an Elton John parody record that would actually be pretty amusing, if real.

Colbert also caught up on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign. He had a lot of fun with his own nicknames for Trump lawyer Ty Cobb, who blabbed about internal Trump lawyers fighting at a steakhouse, next to a New York Times reporter. Colbert ran down all the news about Paul Manafort, and said that while Mueller's investigation is reportedly moving with unusual speed, "we don't need unusual speed, we need high speed, we need maximum warp ... I'm talking Law & Order speed." And if you're not familiar with the pace of justice on the long-running cop drama, Colbert has you covered. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:46 a.m. ET

Trevor Noah said that if you're excited about the United Nations General Assembly this week, you either don't live in New York City or you really like delayed-gratification "diplomatic shade"-throwing. But Tuesday's big event, he said on Tuesday's Daily Show, was President Trump's inaugural address to the U.N. body, "and expectations were high." The White House promised a "deeply philosophical" speech, but Trump was just Trump. Noah summed up the "Trump Doctrine": "The only way to grow together is to grow apart — It sounds like Donald Trump is trying to break up with the U.N. without getting into a fight."

Noah did find something to like, however, at least on its face. "From a global perspective, it is refreshing to see an American leader who's not going to dictate to the world," he said. But that's only true for Trump "unless he doesn't like how other countries are run." That list includes Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Syria, and "ever the showman, he saved the end of the world for last," Noah said, playing Trump's threat to North Korea. "I don't know what's more insane: the fact that Donald Trump just stood in front of the United Nations and threatened to wipe out a country of 25 million people, or the fact that he followed that up with 'Rocket Man,'" a "little catch-phrase joke."

"Honestly, when you watched this address, it felt less like a presidential address to the U.N. and more like an insult comic roasting the world," he said. And with a little music and change of scenery, it almost worked. (The annihilation threat still bombed.)

On Tuesday's Late Night, Seth Meyers was puzzled by Trump's nickname for Kim Jong Un, too, but not because it insults a leader with nukes. "Why are you calling him 'Rocket Man'?" he asked. "That's not a diss, that's a cool nickname. You're making him sound like a character from Top Gun." The graphics are pretty eye-catching. Meyers also discussed the Russia investigation and GOP health-care bill, and you can watch below. Peter Weber

2:47 a.m. ET

UPDATE: 8:06 a.m.: Mexican civil defense chief Luis Felipe Puente had earlier said that 248 people were confirmed dead from the earthquake, but lowered the number overnight to 217. The toll is expected to continue to climb. Our original story appears below.

Tuesday's magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Mexico has killed at least 248 people, Mexican civil defense chief Luis Felipe Puente said, including at least 86 people in Mexico City, where the mayor said buildings collapsed in 44 locations. The earthquake's epicenter was about 76 miles southeast of the capital, near Raboso in Puebla state, the U.S. Geological Survey says, and Puente put Puebla's death toll at 43, plus 72 in Morelos state, 12 in the area outside central Mexico City, 4 in Guerrero and 1 in Oaxaca. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said at least 22 people, including 20 children, have been found dead in a collapsed school in Mexico City, and 30 children and eight adults are still missing.

Peña Nieto said late Tuesday that rescue efforts are ongoing and the main focus for the government, but that 40 percent of Mexico City and 60 percent of Morelos have no electricity. The 7.1 temblor struck 11 days after a massive magnitude 8.1 quake hit off the coast of Mexico, killing at least 98 people, and exactly 32 years after a terrible earthquake struck Mexico City, killing thousands. You can see footage of some of the damage, swaying buildings, and shattering windows in the CNN report below.

And for an eyewitness account, Richard Justin Permenter spoke with The Associated Press from Puebla on Tuesday. Peter Weber

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