May 10, 2018

On Tuesday night, Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti released documents, later confirmed, showing that President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen had gotten millions from companies. A Russian oligarch's U.S. subsidiary paid Cohen $500,000, and AT&T ponied up, Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "You paid for insights into this administration? He's a horny old racist who likes cheeseburgers more than his children — $200,000, please."

Drugmaker Novartis chipped in seven figures. "Side effects of taking money from Novartis may include headache, nausea, and extended jail time," Colbert said. "So they paid $1.2 million for access to the same administration that let Michael Wolff just sit around writing down everything he saw? No wonder drugs cost so much." The payments were all made in what Colbert jokingly called "crime-sized" chunks, "because the whole thing was supposed to be under the radar," he said, repeating a pertinent question from a source close to the deals: "How the f--k did Avenatti find out?"

"It's pretty crazy that the Stormy Daniels money could be traced all the way back to Vladimir Putin," Jimmy Fallon said on The Tonight Show. "In response, Putin said, 'Donald can spend allowance however he wants.'" This is "why Trump calls Putin his Sugar Vladdy," he added.

"Meanwhile, great news from North Korea — is not a sentence I was expecting to say, but it's actually true," Colbert said, pointing to the release of three Americans held by North Korea. "So credit where credit is due: The return of these prisoners is a good thing that Donald Trump helped happen. We can put it right up there with humiliating Ted Cruz and ... that's it." And CIA director nominee Gina Haspel "attempted to put her past behind her" at Wednesday's Senate confirmation hearing, "and like me, some of the senators there were not convinced that Haspel's torturing days were behind her," he said, helpfully reminding her that Trump favors waterboarding and worse. Watch below. Peter Weber

11:17 a.m.

At least 55 people are dead after a ferry sank in Iraq's Tigris river, officials tell Al Jazeera.

The ferry was carrying more than 80 people celebrating the Kurdish new year when it sank due to a technical problem near Mosul on Thursday, a civil defense official tells The Associated Press. Those dead include 33 women, 12 children, and 10 men, an Iraqi health ministry spokesman added. At least 30 people had been rescued but search operations are ongoing.

The river had seen high, fast-moving waters recently after the nearby Mosul dam was opened, BBC notes. Water authorities told boat operators to stay off the river, meaning there weren't many boats around to aid the sinking vessel. Many of those onboard were women and children who could not swim, the civil defense official told AP.

Some sources have said there could've been up to 200 people onboard the ferry as it traveled to a tourist island, per Al Jazeera. Photos and videos showing people floating in the water appeared on social media following the incident. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:55 a.m.

Republicans estimate President Trump needs $1 billion to win in 2020 — and that he needs some unlikely donors to make that happen.

With several Democrats' fundraising totals already leaping into the tens of millions, the GOP knows it needs its wealthy party members who fought Trump in 2016 to change allegiances this time around. And to make that happen, Vice President Mike Pence — the less abrasive of America's executive duo — is taking to the golf course, Politico reports.

On Monday, Pence spoke to several big-dollar GOP donors, including billionaire investor Paul Singer, at a surf and turf dinner at California's Pebble Beach golf course. Singer donated millions to an anti-Trump PAC in 2016, but that wasn't apparent from the way Pence "thanked him for his years of financial support to the party and conservative causes" on Monday, Politico says. Pence also brought Singer to the White House to share "detailed briefings on the administration's legislative agenda," Politico continues, perhaps because Singer did reportedly end up giving $1 million to Trump's inauguration committee.

The Pebble Beach dinner was just one example of how Pence can "translate Trump" into a language conservatives want to hear, says David McIntosh, who heads a former anti-Trump group that's more anti-Beto O'Rourke this time around. Still, Pence's dinner party didn't completely convince 2016 anti-Trumper Art Pope to donate to Trump in 2020. He may "remain on the sidelines" this time instead of publicly opposing Trump, though, and he expects more former anti-Trumpers to do the same, Politico notes.

Read more about Pence's mission at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:33 a.m.

President Trump's relentless attacks on the late Sen. John McCain aren't earning him much approval over on Fox News.

Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade on Thursday expressed bewilderment at Trump "inexplicably" spending several minutes going after McCain during a recent speech, saying he "swamped his own message" by doing so and that this "makes absolutely no sense" because "number one, John McCain passed away six months ago," per Mediaite. Kilmeade went on to say that although Trump had a rivalry with McCain, other presidents had disagreements with the late senator, too.

Kilmeade wasn't alone, with Fox's Shepard Smith on Wednesday looking downright baffled while covering Trump's latest comments, saying that the president could talk about the great economy but instead is "fighting with a dead guy again today, a dead war hero," also calling the situation "crazy," per The Hill. Analyst Andrew Napolitano couldn't explain it any better than Smith, saying, "there’s no logical reason to make these arguments after he's dead." Previously, host Neil Cavuto suggested per Mediaite that Trump is "risking losing a second term if he keeps doing this."

Watch Kilmeade's comments on Fox & Friends below. Brendan Morrow

9:17 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper was asked on Wednesday whether he would pick a woman as his running mate should he win his party's nomination, a question that has been posed to many candidates in the race. But his answer was certainly unique.

The former Colorado participated in a CNN town hall on Wednesday, during which Dana Bash asked this question about potentially picking a woman for vice president. Numerous candidates in the race have pledged to do so in recent weeks in order to ensure there is gender diversity on the ticket and pave the way for the first female vice president, with former congressman Beto O'Rourke and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) suggesting they'll do so.

At first, Hickenlooper just answered, "Of course." But then, he decided to add, "How come we're not asking more often the women, 'Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?'" Hickenlooper's zinger didn't seem to get the response he was hoping for, drawing a single laugh followed by an awkward silence and then a scattering of applause as Bash transitioned into a commercial break.

After the event, Hickenlooper tried to clarify by saying he was only making a point about how "too often media discounts the chance of a woman winning," per CNN's Dan Merica. He added, "That is what I am talking about. People can take it out of context." Bash on Thursday said that she understood what Hickenlooper meant but that the comment "obviously didn't come out the way he intended" even though he was trying to "sound woke." Watch the moment below. Brendan Morrow

8:45 a.m.

The death toll from Cyclone Idai continued to rise in southern Africa on Wednesday, with more than 200 people confirmed dead in Mozambique and at least 100 more victims in neighboring Zimbabwe, The Associated Press reports. Floodwaters were forecast to continue to rise on Thursday, with more torrential rains expected.

"Floodwaters are predicted to rise significantly in the coming days and 350,000 people are at risk," the United Nations humanitarian office said. Aid groups have been struggling to rescue survivors, some awaiting help on rooftops. Entire villages have been destroyed. "There is death all over," said a survivor, Amos Makunduwa, who carried his remaining possessions in a bag. Harold Maass

8:35 a.m.

The NCAA men's basketball tournament got started Wednesday night, with the "First Four" games to set the full field of 64 teams when March Madness kicks off in earnest on Thursday. Arizona State beat St. John's, 74-64, bouncing back from a late-season slide. The Sun Devils, a No. 11 seed, move on to face Buffalo, seeded 6 in their bracket, in the round of 64. The North Dakota State Bison beat the North Carolina Central Eagles, 78-74. The Bisons' junior guard Tyson Ward led all scorers with 23 points. North Dakota moves on to face the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils next, on Friday. Harold Maass

8:30 a.m.

"Two years ago, some of America's largest corporations were tearing up their business plans to accommodate President Trump, fearful that he could send their shareholders and customers fleeing with a tweet," The New York Times notes. "Now they have a new strategy: Ignore him."

Right before he took office, for example, Trump hectored Carrier into (at least temporarily) keeping 1,000 jobs in Indiana it had planned to outsource. Companies hired public relations firms to monitor Trump's Twitter feed and come up with strategies should he shoot a poison tweet their way. This week he told General Motors to reopen a plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and GM shrugged and issued a statement that talked about negotiating with the United Auto Workers and didn't mention Trump.

"In the beginning, his tweets would actually hurt stock prices and companies were going into tailspins," Eric Dezenhall, an expert in corporate damage control, told the Times. "There is a clinical difference between what was happening in the beginning and what is happening now." That difference? "Tantrum congestion," he said. In fact, PR firms are urging restraint for the clients because any response could agitate Trump.

Essentially, the Times reports, "the president's scattershot attention span has diminished his power to persuade the business world to bend to his will, corporate communications experts say, as once fearsome tweet storms have devolved into ephemeral annoyances." Trump can still move markets with a tweet about trade with China or the Federal Reserve, for now, the Times adds, but despite "Trump's vast media presence and his popularity among Republicans, he has not demonstrated the ability to do lasting damage to a corporate brand that crosses him." You can read more about Trump's diminishing Twitter returns at The New York Times. Peter Weber

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