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March 26, 2018

A majority of Americans voters favor stricter guns laws, from 91 percent who back universal background checks to the 60 percent who want a ban on assault rifles and semiautomatic weapons, according to a Fox News poll released Sunday. By a 53 percent to 40 percent margin, voters said protecting people against gun violence is more important than protecting gun rights, though people in gun-owning households disagreed with that statement by a margin of 57 percent to 37 percent. Voters in gun households were split on banning assault rifles, with 50 percent opposed and 47 percent in favor.

A 57 percent majority of all voters oppose letting teachers and school officials carry guns on school grounds, an increase from 2013, though 69 percent of respondents favored putting armed guards in schools. Overall, 38 percent of voters said it is extremely important for Congress to pass gun legislation, versus 20 percent who said it isn't important at all; 7 percent said it is extremely likely Congress will pass gun legislation, while 43 percent said that's not at all likely.

A 54 majority of voters disapprove of President Trump's position on guns — though 34 percent say he's too close to the gun lobby and 13 percent say he's too supportive of gun control — and the NRA's favorability is slipping among gun-owning households (67 percent, from 71 percent in 2013) and all voters, 49 percent of whom have a positive opinion of the NRA and 45 of whom disapprove, down from 56 percent favorability in January 2013. The poll was conducted March 18-21, before Saturday's March for our Lives, by Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) among a random national sample of 1,014 registered voters. It has a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. Peter Weber

2:48 a.m.

On Monday night, Senate Republicans released a 1,300-page version of the plan President Trump outlined Saturday to reopen the federal government. It includes $5.7 billion for Trump's border wall, a three-year extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for DREAMers, and bills to fund the parts of the government closed for 31 days and counting, plus $12.7 billion in assorted disaster and agricultural relief. Immigration experts also found several big, unheralded changes to the U.S. immigration system.

Democrats have already rejected the bill, and the details probably won't help win any over when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) brings it up for a vote this week.

The first big change deals with asylum. Notably, "it makes it so Central American minors are ineligible for asylum if they don't apply at a processing center (to be established) in Central America," says The Federalist's Gabriel Malor. "Asylum is a form of relief for people who are being persecuted in their home countries and the authorities there are unable or unwilling to protect them (or are the source of the persecution). You can't condition asylum on people remaining in the place where they are persecuted."

Also, immigration lawyer Aaron Reichlin-Melnick notes, the bill would allow "only 50k Central American Minors allowed to apply for asylum each year, and only 15k asylum applications can be granted," by Homeland Security Department officials (not judges) through "a kangaroo process." The bill also would not extend Temporary Protected Status for all 300,000 immigrants from war-torn or disaster-struck countries, just some from Central America and Haiti.

The ban on Central American minors "is pretty bad and reason alone to oppose this bill," Malor argues. "But the changes to whether an application can be found to be frivolous applies to ALL applicants, and it's completely unreasonable." The bill "will (and should) get zero votes from Democrats," he adds, "and to be honest, Republicans should be shooting question marks at McConnell, too." Peter Weber

1:57 a.m.

These were definitely the best kind of wedding crashers.

When choral students at Hingham Middle School in Hingham, Massachusetts, found out their favorite teacher, choir director Christopher Landis, was getting married, they came up with a fitting way to celebrate: They would surprise him with an impromptu performance of The Beatles classic "All You Need is Love" at his wedding rehearsal brunch. Two choir parents got in touch with his now-husband, Joe Michienzie, who immediately agreed to help pull it off.

More than 50 kids signed up for the surprise serenade and attended four weekend practices. Well-rehearsed, they left school early on Dec. 21 and traveled 30 miles to the brunch in Plymouth. Landis was shocked when the students started filing into the room, and he began to cry when he realized they were there to sing. "These are my kids," he told his guests. "It was so wonderful for the kids to see him with his family and his close friends, and they saw him as a person, not just their teacher," parent Joy Foraste told The Patriot Ledger. "They saw how much it meant to him." Catherine Garcia

1:23 a.m.

Attempting to clarify conflicting statements he gave about a Trump Tower project in Moscow, Rudy Giuliani managed to make an already confusing situation even more baffling.

President Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was in charge of the Moscow project. On Sunday, Giuliani — Trump's current lawyer — said project discussions were held as late as October or November 2016, almost to Election Day. On Monday, Giuliani released a statement saying his remarks were "hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the president."

Late Monday, The New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner called Giuliani to discuss his shifting story. First, they discussed the BuzzFeed News report last week that Trump directed Cohen to lie about when the Moscow negotiations ended, as Cohen did. Giuliani said he knew the story was false because "I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the emails, and I knew none existed."

Wait, what tapes? Chotiner asked. "I shouldn't have said tapes," Giuliani said, backtracking. "They alleged there were texts and emails that corroborated that Cohen was saying the president told him to lie. There were no texts, there were no emails, and the president never told him to lie." Moving on, Giuliani said Trump "had no conversations" about the Moscow project, before reversing course and declaring, "I shouldn't say he had no conversations. He had a few conversations about this early-stage proposal that he ended somewhere in early 2016, and doesn't have a recollection of anything else, and there is nothing to support anything else."

Giuliani denied telling The New York Times that Trump said "discussions were going on from the day I announced to the day I won," but when asked if the Times made the quote up, Giuliani said he didn't know. None of this matters anyway, Giuliani said, because "even if it's true, it's not criminal." Read the entire bewildering interview at The New Yorker. Catherine Garcia

1:02 a.m.

"Happy Martin Luther King Day, in which we honor Dr. King's dream, 50 percent off at Nordstrom's," Stephen Colbert joked on Monday's Late Show. He caught everyone up on the Rams-Saints game and a blatant foul that cost New Orleans the game, and "speaking of things that make you scream at your TV: Donald Trump," he said, pivoting.

On Day 31 of the government shutdown, President Trump hasn't forgotten about the 800,000 workers going without paychecks, but Colbert found his supportive tweet wanting. "They're not volunteering to work for free," he pointed out. "You might as well have tweeted: 'THANK YOU, GREAT PATRIOTS! Please accept this Tweet in lieu of a paycheck. Quick tip: tell your landlord Mexico's going to pay your rent.'"

But Trump did go on TV Saturday and "made an offer that he was sure everyone would love," Colbert said. "In exchange for his border wall, Trump offered to restore DACA and TPS protections for three years — which is weird, since they're protections that he himself took away." Democrats "somehow did not fall for" Trump's temporary hostage deal, he said, and in fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "said no before Trump even asked — a move known in Washington as 'The Melania.'"

On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel's Abe Lincoln was joined by George Washington (Fred Armisen), Thomas Jefferson (Bobby Moynihan), and Teddy Roosevelt (Jeff Ross) on Mount Rushmore as a new face was added: Trump (Anthony Atamanuik). The former presidents wanted to know what Trump did to get on the monument. "I also ended slavery," Kimmel's Lincoln said. "That's not true — I've been making a bunch of federal employees work for free for 31 days," Trump said. And he also made some ... changes to the treasured national park. Watch below. Peter Weber

January 21, 2019

"Martin Luther King Jr. Day: A day when Americans celebrate a Civil Rights icon — and Americans who don't, get off work," Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. "And over the weekend, everyone was getting into the MLK spirit — even America's whitest man," Vice President Mike Pence. Noah suggested Pence's lashing of President Trump to MLK and improving democracy was a little much: "'Through the legislative process?' I think Mike Pence just skipped over the whole protesting and getting beaten up part," he said. "Like, I never watched the trailer for Selma and thought, 'Oh man, that looks like some intensive legislative process!'"

Dulcé Sloan came out to celebrate "the real Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, not the whitewashed Hallmark version," and she found his imperfections a little sexy.

"We have to admit as people, the toughest thing to combat is our bias," Noah told his audience between takes, outlining Friday's encounter between a group of teens from a Kentucky Catholic all-boys high school and a Native American activist, Nathan Phillips. "It's like a weird story where I feel like depending on who was holding the camera, their story made them look like the victim — every single person," he said. The media should have searched for more video before jumping on the story, but the MAGA-fan Covington high schoolers also weren't the scared naifs trying to defuse the situation they now claim to be, he added, "they were being a--holes, they were being kids."

"I think everyone played the victim card a little too hard," Noah said. "If anything, I know it's crazy statement to make, but I feel like that's what the National Mall is supposed to be about. People go there and protest, say whatever they want to say, and then go home. I think that was a great display of all First Amendment, no Second Amendment. It's a good time." Watch below. Peter Weber

January 21, 2019

Anthony Scaramucci spent just 11 days as White House communications director, but it was long enough for President Trump to determine that he is "completely out of his mind," a former aide writes in the latest book about the dysfunction taking place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Cliff Sims is the former White House director of message strategy, and his new book, Team of Vipers, goes on sale next week. The Washington Post received an advance copy, and Philip Rucker describes Sims as being "a true believer in Trump and his agenda" who wrote "whimsically of the president, but still is critical of him, especially his morality." Scaramucci's brief tenure merited an entire chapter in Team of Vipers, "The Mooch is Loose," painting a picture of a man rabidly searching for the people leaking to the media details about the inner workings of the White House.

Sims writes that Scaramucci threatened to fire all 40 media aides, and told them if anyone asked them to leak, they had to respond by saying no way, Jose. "I cannot do that," he reportedly ordered them to say. "I only report to Anthony Scaramucci and he reports directly to the president of the United States." Trump was tickled by Scaramucci, and asked Sims: "Can you believe this guy? He's completely out of his mind — like, on drugs or something — totally out of his mind. We'll figure it out, but the guy is crazy." Read more anecdotes from Team of Vipers — including several awkward encounters between Trump and former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

January 21, 2019

The sanctions agreement reached by the Trump administration and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska actually appears to benefit Deripaska, The New York Times reports.

Last April, the Treasury Department announced sanctions against Deripaska — a onetime business associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort — and three of his companies, as well as six other Russian oligarchs and their companies, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying they were in response to "a range of malign activity around the globe." In December, Mnuchin said the Treasury Department reached an agreement to lift the sanctions on three companies controlled by Deripaska: the aluminum company Rusal; EN+, the holding company that owns Rusal; and EuroSibEnergo. As part of the deal, Mnuchin said, the companies had to "significantly diminish Deripaska's ownership and sever his control."

The Times reviewed a confidential document, signed by a Treasury official and representatives of Deripaska's companies, that shows under the deal, he will have the opportunity to wipe out hundreds of millions of dollars in debt by transferring some of his shares to the Russian government-owned bank VTB, which has lent him a substantial amount of money. At the same time, his allies — who are also close to the Kremlin — will still have major stakes in his companies.

In a statement, the Treasury Department said Deripaska's companies have "committed to provide Treasury with an unprecedented level of transparency into their dealings to ensure that Deripaska does not reassert control." The Times reports that privately, Deripaska associates are happy with the agreement, and after the deal was announced, share prices of Rusal and EN+ went up, boosting Deripaska's portfolios. For more of the details in the agreement, visit The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

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