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February 21, 2018

The normally staid New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman declared "code red" in a recent column, warning that when it comes to Russia, President "Trump's behavior amounts to a refusal to carry out his oath of office — to protect and defend the Constitution" and "must not be tolerated." The "biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office," he said. The column went viral, and Chris Cuomo had Friedman on CNN's New Day on Wednesday to discuss his concerns.

"Our country is at stake," Friedman said. "Our president is a disturbed person. And he's behaving in ways that are simply inexplicable, that tell you that he is either compromised because the Russians have been funding his companies in ways that he would find embarrassing if publicly disclosed — that's why he hasn't shown us his tax returns — or he's compromised because of maybe behavior he engaged in while in Moscow, or he is simply a towering fool who is ignoring the advice of his intelligence chiefs being made in public."

Trump's dismissal of Russian interference in America's democracy is "deeply disturbing behavior," Friedman said. "If America doesn't lead, I promise you, your kids ... will grow up in a world where nobody will lead," he warned. "Our president is a disturbed person," and "what magnifies it is that his party is complicit. ... You know that if Hillary Clinton had done one of the things that Donald Trump has done, let alone the whole totality of them, we would be in impeachment hearings right now." "There is a toxic partisanship at play, there's no doubt about that," Cuomo agreed. Watch below. Peter Weber

February 21, 2018

Stephen Coblert's guest on Tuesday's Late Show was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and after discussing what they gave up for Lent, Colbert turned to last week's school shooting in Parkland, Florida. "You've been in D.C. since 2007, why can't there be any meaningful reform — or even meaningless reform?" he asked. "Congress has done nothing," Gillibrand agreed. "And they don't get anything done because the NRA has a chokehold on Congress. The NRA is concerned only with gun sales — it is literally all about money, it is all about greed, it has nothing to do with the Second Amendment — and we've seen death after death after death. And it has to stop."

Colbert prodded a bit, asking if lawmakers are beholden to the NRA's campaign cash, its firing-up of single-issue gun voters, or its threat to fund primary challengers. Gillibrand said all of the above: "It's the power of money, it's the power of communications, it's the fear they instill in members, and it's wrong." She ducked a question about the NRA and Democrats but offered her solution: "Listen to these kids" in Florida who are "speaking truth to power."

Listening to parents and children who lost loved ones to guns changed her mind, Gillibrand said, accounting for her drop from an NRA A rating to an F. "I think this whole conversation has a chance of changing because of these kids," she said. Colbert noted that it isn't just guns — large majorities of both parties also support protecting DREAMers, and Congress does nothing there, either. Gillibrand blamed "dark money" from corporations.

"You need to take away the voice and the outsized influence that corporations have over members of Congress, and the NRA is one of the worst offenders," she said. They ended by talking about ongoing Russian efforts to sway U.S. elections and what she said, as the "#MeToo senator," to her former colleague Al Franken. Watch below. Peter Weber

February 20, 2018

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has mostly steered clear of the news media, but he sat down for a wide-ranging interview with CBS News foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan, which aired on 60 Minutes Sunday night. Tillerson spoke about the challenges dealing with North Korea, declined again to "dignify the question" of whether he called President Trump a "moron," and insisted that "there's been no dismantling at all of the State Department," despite 41 empty ambassadorships and numerous vacancies at the top of the department. He also talked about his relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin, forged when he was a top executive at ExxonMobil.

"You've said you had a very close relationship with Vladimir Putin," Brennan said. "You've done huge deals with him. Photos of you toasting him with champagne. And all that closeness raised eyebrows. It even inspired a Saturday Night Live skit. Did you ever see that skit?" Tillerson said yes, "my kids pointed me to it," and "I laughed out loud."

The SNL skit, with John Goodman playing Tillerson, made light of "this concern that you have a friendship with Vladimir Putin, and that because of that, you and the president aren't going to hold him to account," Brennan pointed out. "The relationship that I had with President Putin spans 18 years now. It was always about 'What could I do to be successful on behalf of my shareholders, how Russia could succeed,'" he responded. When he walked in to meet Putin as secretary of state, Tillerson said, "the only thing I said to him was 'Mr. President, same man, different hat.'"

"I said to him, 'I now represent the American people,'" Tillerson said of his Putin meeting, when asked to elaborate. "And I think it was important that that be said right up front. And he clearly got, I mean, he clearly understood that as well." You can read and watch the entire interview at 60 Minutes. Peter Weber

February 20, 2018

"The president spent the weekend defending himself, misrepresenting the truth, and attacking others from his phone in Florida," Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said Monday afternoon, kicking off his look at President Trump's weekend of tweeting. Trump fired off angry, frequently inaccurate tweets against the FBI, the Justice Department, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Oprah Winfrey, among other targets, Smith noted, but tellingly, "he did not attack Vladimir Putin or Russia, nor did he express concern that the Russians attacked the United States, nor did he pledge in any way to put measures in place to stop future attacks."

Smith read some tweets and did some fact-checking, noting, for example, that while Trump insisted he "never said Russia did not meddle in the election," in fact "the reality is the president has questioned the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election over and over and over again." Trump conflated Russian election meddling, now conclusively proved, with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's collusion investigation, Smith added. "The collusion investigation, according to our reporting, is ongoing," and "the extent to which Russian meddling did or did not affect the results of the election is an open question."

Smith seemed most perplexed by Trump's unwillingness to criticize Russia or Putin. "The president's spokespersons have been on television denouncing the meddling, the president has not," he said. "Not once, not on camera, not on Twitter, not anywhere." Watch below. Peter Weber

February 19, 2018

"President Trump began the weekend believing that something good had just happened to him: An indictment leveled against 13 Russians for interfering with the 2016 election had not accused him or anyone around him of wrongdoing," The New York Times reports. But "the president's mood began to darken as it became clearer to him that some commentators were portraying the indictment as nothing for him to celebrate," and Trump then unleashed what The Washington Post calls "a defiant and error-laden tweetstorm that was remarkable even by his own combative standards."

On CNN's New Day, host Dave Briggs asked Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) about this, noting that Trump sent "12 tweets just about this indictment, but none pushing back on Russia, none suggesting how we might punish them or prevent it from happening again in 2018." Dent said "the Russians meddling in our election is well-known," and "I think the president has been very soft on Russia. His rhetoric, he's been very accommodating to Vladimir Putin."

It's time for Trump and his team "to step up and start fighting fire with fire," Dent said. "Maybe we should be sharing with the Russian people the corrupt nature of the Russian regime and how they've all profited. ... I can't, for the life of me, understand why the president is so reluctant to push back much harder on the Russians."

Dent also said he thinks after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, people "have had enough of this," and between stricter background checks and no guns for people on the no-fly list, "there are things we can do and should do."

Dent is retiring after this term. Peter Weber

February 16, 2018

Fox News host Laura Ingraham wants LeBron James to stick to sports.

On Thursday, Ingraham called James out after the Cleveland Cavaliers star made some disparaging remarks about President Trump. In a recent interview with ESPN's Cari Champion for Uninterrupted, James and his Golden State Warriors rival Kevin Durant were asked about Trump. James said Trump not only "doesn't understand the people," but that he also "[doesn't] give a f--k about the people." He and Durant additionally both expressed dismay over what they perceive as Trump's racism, with James saying Trump's comments are no longer a surprise, which is "laughable — and it's scary."

In a segment Thursday night, Ingraham began by playing clips from the players' interview with Champion. She prefaced their criticism by saying it was "barely intelligible, not to mention ungrammatical," and after the clip finished, she began: "Must they run their mouths like that?"

Ingraham suggested James' criticism of the president was the result of poor education. "This is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA," she said, lamenting that people "take these ignorant comments seriously." She concluded: "LeBron and Kevin, you're great players, but no one voted for you. ... So keep the political commentary to yourself — or as someone once said, 'Shut up and dribble.'"

Watch the segment below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

February 14, 2018

On Tuesday night, President Trump's White House was embroiled in an escalating week-long scandal over former staff secretary Rob Porter, and Trump's longtime personal lawyer just admitted to making a secret pre-election $130,000 payment to a porn star who said she'd had an extramarital affair with Trump. So naturally, Fox News host Tucker Carlson decided to talk about Omarosa Manigault Newman.

Maybe the White House is worried about Omarosa using her Celebrity Big Brother platform to dish about the White House, but Carlson's guest, Piers Morgan, judged it "absolutely ridiculous that we're even having to discuss Omarosa." He warmed up to the subject. Trump made a grave error putting Omarosa in the West Wing, he said, and now "she's squealing like a canary and taking them all down, as of course she was going to."

"I mean, for all the time we spend on the Russia story, this is a bigger scandal," Carlson agreed, laughing. Morgan compared Omarosa to Rob Porter, which was a bridge too far for Carlson. Omarosa "is probably in her own category," he said. Trump's White House is "not chock full of Omarosas." He turned to Morgan's Celebrity Apprentice stint with Omarosa.

"She's absolutely appalling, literally one of the worst human beings I've ever encountered in my life," Morgan said. He called Omarosa "vicious, conniving, scheming, plotting, treacherous," and claimed the first thing she did when they met on set was proposition him. "She said, 'On The Apprentice, everyone has sex together, so you and I could do that and then we could sell it and make loads of money.' I said, 'Are you completely deluded? What!? Please go away.' She said, 'What? What's the matter with you? Are you gay?'" Carlson found this hilarious. "So this is your #MeToo moment," he said, laughing.

In the White House, "you can just bet your life she was there listening, plotting, scheming, probably tape-recording," Morgan promised. If so, you know where to tune in. Peter Weber

February 12, 2018

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed the controversy surrounding Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary accused of domestic violence. Porter resigned last Wednesday after the allegations against him were detailed by his two ex-wives to the Daily Mail and The Intercept. The White House initially defended him against the reports, only to backtrack once The Intercept published graphic photos of one of the women with a black eye — images Porter admitted taking.

In the aftermath of the allegations and Porter's departure, President Trump himself reminded reporters Friday that Porter "says he's innocent." He also tweeted Saturday that "lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation."

Reading from prepared remarks Monday, Sanders insisted that Trump "supports victims of domestic violence and believes everyone deserves to be treated fairly and with due process." The press corps was not placated that easily, as ABC News' Cecilia Vega asked why Trump hadn't made any statement supporting the victims. "Why doesn't the president say exactly what you just said right there?" Vega asked. Sanders maintained that she was "relaying" Trump's words as dictated to her.

Vega pressed Sanders, asking, "Does [Trump] believe Rob Porter's accusers, or are they lying?" Sanders repeated that "the president … [takes] domestic violence very seriously" and is also a firm believer in "due process." When Vega pointed out that Sanders hadn't answered her question, Sanders replied, "I'm not going to go beyond that."

Watch the exchange below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

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