December 3, 2017

On Saturday morning, President Trump tweeted a response to Friday's news that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI:

The Washington Post later reported, citing unnamed sources, that the tweet was written by Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd. While Dowd told NBC News the post "simply paraphrases what [White House lawyer] Ty Cobb said" about Flynn's guilty plea, critics argue it says much more.

The timeline here is crucial: When Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13, he only mentioned lies to Vice President Pence, ostensibly learning of the lies to the FBI three days later, on Feb. 16. If Trump knew about the FBI lies when Flynn was fired, his alleged Feb. 14 request that then-FBI Director James Comey let the Flynn investigation go could be obstruction of justice. Bonnie Kristian

11:32 a.m.

There's apparently some agreement in Washington, D.C.

The Democrat-led House and the GOP-run Senate and White House are getting close to finalizing a deal that would lift the debt ceiling for another two years, multiple sources reported Monday morning. The near deal likely won't include major spending cuts, people familiar with negotiations have said, spelling a likely defeat for deficit hawk and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Deficit ceiling talks roll around every few years, with Congress and the White House constantly having to hammer out a budget deal that usually includes lifting the federal government's debt limits. This year's deal is set to include $1.3 trillion in spending across government agencies and a two-year extension on the government's ability to borrow, The Associated Press reports. If all works out as reported, the government will likely avoid a government shutdown that could've happened this coming fall.

This deal means government spending will increase "by tens of billions of dollars in the next two years," The Washington Post reports — the exact opposite of spending cuts a White House budget request spelled out earlier this year. That's quite possibly because Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is heading the talks for the White House instead of debt-reducing hardliner Mulvaney. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is meanwhile negotiating for Democrats, and both sides want to see a deal reached before Congress breaks for recess this week until late August. If a deal isn't orchestrated by September, $126 billion in automatic spending cuts will start in January, likely hitting Mnuchin's own agency. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:29 a.m.

This Thanksgiving, Tom Hanks will be your neighbor.

The actor channels Fred Rogers in an adorable first trailer for the upcoming film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood released on Monday. It opens in a way that will surely make fans of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood emotional: a faithful recreation of the original show's theme song, which subway passengers later in the trailer sweetly sing to Rogers.

The trailer goes on to divulge the film's central plot, which involves a journalist played by Matthew Rhys writing a profile of Rogers, being asked as he takes on the task, "please don't ruin my childhood."

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood will hit theaters in November, a prime slot for awards-season contenders, and comes from Marielle Heller, the director of last year's Oscar-nominated Can You Ever Forgive Me? Hanks securing an Oscar nomination for the role seems quite possible; this would be Hanks' first Oscar nomination since 2001, when he was nominated for Cast Away. If he were to win, it would be his first Oscar since 1995, when he won for Forrest Gump.

Watch the trailer for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood below. Brendan Morrow

11:26 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang paused from pushing his central campaign message — universal basic income — on Monday and turned his attention toward military veterans.

Yang on Monday unveiled a policy proposal focused on improving veteran services. He's only the second candidate to release a plan focused specifically on veterans so far, after Marine Corps veteran Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), and he's the first among those who have qualified for the debate stage, per Politico.

The plan would allow veterans to forego required civilian training for certain jobs, like emergency medical technicians. For example, under Yang's proposal the training a former military medic received during their service time would qualify them to become a EMT without having to undergo any further training or licensing. Yang thinks that the current re-training requirements are disrespectful toward veterans, as well as expensive and "wasteful."

Yang's proposal would revamp the longstanding G.I. Bill by allowing veterans to receive in-state tuition from any public institution, regardless of how long they've held residency in a state, because "military service provides protection to all 50 states." He would also introduce a "reverse bootcamp", which would help veterans transition to civilian life, and he would provide federal waivers for veterans so they can receive controlled substance treatments, such as medical marijuana, for pain management and post traumatic stress disorder.

The 2020 candidate was reportedly inspired to draw up the proposal after meeting with members of Common Defense, a veterans group that opposes President Trump. Read the full plan here. Tim O'Donnell

10:54 a.m.

Fox News' Chris Wallace came out swinging on Sunday with some tough questions about President Trump's recent attacks on four Democratic congresswomen.

Wallace on Fox News Sunday interviewed White House senior adviser Stephen Miller following a week of controversy about Trump telling minority congresswomen to "go back" to where they came from, per Mediaite, starting off by showing a video package of the president's "long record" of inflammatory rhetoric and asking Miller flat out, "Why shouldn't someone see all of that as racist?"

The Fox host challenged Miller on Trump's false claims that he quickly shut down a "send her back" chant at his rally last week, pointing out that Trump actually "let it go on for 13 seconds" and he "said nothing" immediately after the rally "that indicated any concern about the chant."

Wallace also objected to the idea of Trump telling the congresswomen they should leave the United States if they're going to criticize it so much, proceeding to play a montage of Trump himself repeatedly criticizing the United States before he was president.

"Why is what those congresswomen have said in general any worse than what you just heard Donald Trump say?" Wallace asked. Miller claimed there's a big difference between comments Trump has made and what the congresswomen have said, which Wallace didn't seem to buy. In fact, the Fox News host came with receipts to show that Trump's claims that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) once called the United States "garbage" is based on a completely out-of-context quote.

"There's no question that he is stoking racial divisions," Wallace ultimately concluded of Trump.

At another point in the show, as Mediaite reports, Wallace pressed Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe about whether Trump's "go back" tweets were "wrong," suggesting that those who say the tweets were politically wise — presumably including those on his own network — are missing the point. Brendan Morrow

10:20 a.m.

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller grew tired of the divisive nature of Congress during his 88 trips to Capitol Hill since 1990, The New York Times reports. That makes his fondness for a certain divisive drink all the more surprising.

Mueller, who is set to testify once again before Congress on Wednesday about his office's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference, is considered by many to be a man of principle, putting the law above party and politics. But he has seemingly chosen a side in the pumpkin wars.

As Vox explains, there's long been a "backlash" against Starbucks' autumnal hot beverage, which has — in some circles, at least — even become "something of a strawman for discussions about capitalism." Vox has described it as "an unctuous, pungent, saccharine brown liquid."

It's tough to judge Mueller too harshly, however. Whatever got him through all those hours of testimony deserves some appreciation. Alas, the pumpkin spice latte won't be able to save him on Wednesday, as the seasonal beverage won't be on sale until at least next month. Tim O'Donnell

10:18 a.m.

The next president will not be decided by a push-up contest.

It seems like an obvious statement, but apparently the men of the 2020 race needed to be reminded of that fact. After all, former Vice President Joe Biden challenged President Trump to a push-up contest last week, and when Trump didn't acknowledge Biden's request, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke accepted.

Over the weekend, O'Rourke's campaign staffers got stuck in the Sioux City, Iowa airport when their flight was delayed. So to "make use of this time," as O'Rourke put it to NBC News' Ben Pu, he challenged them to a push-up contest.

None of these presidential campaigners have acknowledged the fact that if 85-year-old Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was in the push-up primary, they'd be toast. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:44 a.m.

A claim by President Trump has never been so demonstrably false.

Trump started his Monday morning with a stream of tweets, including one in which he attacked a Washington Post article from Sunday that reported "advisers wrote new talking points and handed [Trump] reams of opposition research" on the four Democratic congresswomen he attacked last week. Trump's tweet claimed "there were no talking points, except for those stated by me," and that "'reams of paper' were never given to me."

Yet as the Post's Aaron Blake pointed out in a tweet, Post photographer Jabin Botsford captured several photos of Trump holding what can only be described as talking points during a press conference on July 15.

Those bulleted points are easily readable, and detail the disparaging, often untrue, and occasionally misspelled attacks he made on Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) during the conference. Kathryn Krawczyk

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