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March 21, 2017

The public testimony of FBI Director James Comey in Monday's House Intelligence Committee hearings was "rather bad news" for President Trump, CNN's Jake Tapper said Monday afternoon, and he asked the two conservative members of his panel — former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Mary Katherine Ham — if there was any good news for Trump. Santorum said yes, kind of. "I think the good news is that Comey went out and announced there is an investigation," he said, so Trump and his Republican allies "can start putting pressure externally to get this thing moving" to its conclusion. Ham agreed and argued that the White House should be focusing on its actual good news, the Senate hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Tapper got some views from former Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon and Bloomberg White House correspondent Margaret Talev, then turned to CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward. Russian President Vladimir Putin is "somebody who likes to meddle in elections and enjoys sowing chaos in the electoral process in liberal democracies throughout the world," he said, so isn't Putin just really "enjoying this, one way or another? The American political system is in disarray."

Ward half-agreed. "I think up to a certain point he was kind of enjoying it, he was enjoying the ambiguity of it, the possibility that he could have thrown the election in the most powerful, important, consequential country in the world — that certainly spoke to his ego," she said. "But what was noticeable today, while every single news channel pretty much in the world — and I'm talking globally, Sky News, BBC, Al Jazeera — one news channel that very noticeably did not take today's hearing was Russia Today, and I do think you are starting to see now the beginning of what we might call a 'conscious uncoupling' of the Kremlin and the Trump administration."

"Russia Today wasn't covering it this afternoon," Tapper said. "Also, when I looked up, Fox News wasn't covering it, they were covering the Gorsuch hearings."

"An interesting observation," Tapper said dryly, if slightly immodestly. Peter Weber

4:08 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert Rickrolled his audience on Wednesday's Late Show, after reminding everyone about House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes' cut-rate James Bond act, with the added twist that he will never give up his source. "I agree with the Democrats," Colbert said, after doing a credible Rick Astley dance. "He really should Rick-cuse himself."

Then he got down to the business of talking about President Trump, starting with the news that Trump turned down an invitation to throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals' opening day. "I don't know why," Colbert said. "Maybe he's worried his hands are too small to palm a baseball — he'll have to chest-pass it." Colbert noted that every president since Taft (except Jimmy Carter) has thrown the first pitch on opening day. "That means FDR did it," he said. "Let that sink in." Colbert showed a clip of Trump singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," off-key but with spirit, and unkindly suggested it might be "the tape Putin is blackmailing him with."

This, of course, isn't Trump's only claim to being a different kind of president, Colbert said. "Trump won't throw out the first pitch. What else? He won't go to the correspondents' dinner, he won't release his tax returns, he won't put his businesses in a blind trust, he doesn't want to live in D.C. What presidential tradition will Trump abandon next? This Thanksgiving, those turkeys better run."

Colbert ended by noting that Trump attended and gave the keynote speech at a women's empowerment forum on Wednesday, with all the obvious jokes — including an audio-video switcheroo on Trump's speech. "Wow, what an unforeseen technical blunder... that our editing department spent an hour making this afternoon," he joked. "I am so, so sorry." Colbert did show part of Trump's real speech, where the president winkingly suggested that women have larger brains than men. Colbert winked back: "Yeah, women are just so much smarter than men — I don't know why we didn't elect one president!" Watch below. Peter Weber

3:19 a.m. ET

On Wednesday's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee introduced viewers to a Georgia Republican legislator who sounds, as she tells it, super creepy and ripe for a primary or general election challenger — because he keeps running unopposed — but she followed it up with an antidote to that tale of political toxicity. "Because Georgia's Democratic and Republican lawmakers also showed us government at its very best," she explained. The protagonists are Georgia state Rep. Scott Holcolmb (D), who convinced his colleagues to unanimously support a bill to address Georgia's rape-kit backlog, and Speaker of the House David Ralston (R), who made stuff happen when the Senate threw up roadblocks. There's also an antagonist, a female one, but what good story doesn't have one? Rape kits are inherent reminders of tragedy, but if you want to put a little good-government glow in your heart, watch the tale Bee spins below. Peter Weber

2:42 a.m. ET

"Last week was supposed to be a triumph for Republicans," Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal. "After seven long years, our national nightmare of somewhat affordable health coverage would finally be over." But of course the American Health Care Act, the GOP bill that sought to topple ObamaCare, created by House Speaker Paul Ryan and pushed hard by President Trump, crashed and burned on Friday amid Republican acrimony. "So I guess Democrats kind of won," Bee shrugged, "the same way the cops won that car chase at the end of Thelma & Louise."

The president himself tried to sweet-talk and threaten the bill across the finish line. "Trump couldn't sell ObamaCare repeal to a House that voted for it 60 times already?" Bee said. "Closing deals is the one thing President Big Boy Truck was supposed to know how to do!" And she laughed at Trump's claim that Democrats were to blame for not helping, reminding Trump, "It was killed by friendly fire!"

Though maybe "friendly" is the wrong word for the Freedom Caucus, Bee conceded, with some advice: "You can't negotiate with the Freedom Caucus, Mr. President. John Boehner could have told you that, but he's busy these days, sipping Merlot on the beach and counting his zero f—ks. The Tea Party sent the Freedom Caucus to Washington with one mission: To scream 'No' in the president's face, like the demented offspring of a hyena and a banshee. They didn't have a backup program for if you became president. None of us did, including you!"

She poked some fun at Ryan, too, joking that if you listen hard, "you can still hear Paul Ryan sobbing into his Ayn Rand doll. Oh, Raggity Aynd despises your weakness, Paul." And she tried to celebrate that "the stupid repeal-and-replace charade is over" — except Trump, Ryan, and other top Republicans keep insisting it isn't. Bee responded with a second doctored photo of Trump and Ryan as Thelma and Louise: "Sure, go for it guys. Maybe the movie will end differently this time." Watch the occasionally NSFW recap below. Peter Weber

1:58 a.m. ET
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A book that is 25 years overdue has finally been returned to the Great Falls Public Library in Montana — along with a $200 peace offering.

A man who checked out Richard Matheson's 1975 book Bid Time Return in 1982 and kept it wrote a letter to the library, saying it had been "bugging" him that he had kept it for so long. He revealed that he had read the "absolutely fascinating" book 25 times, and because it was in bad shape, he had it restored. Bid Time Return is now a collectible, he added, and before Matheson died in 2013, he had him sign the book.

The man, whose name was not shared by the library, admitted that the book had been "wrongfully taken," but wanted the staff to "kindly take into consideration it has been loved and cared for all these years, and know that I am sorry for taking it." The library's director, Kathy Mora, told library trustees she wasn't happy Bid Time Return had been pilfered, the Great Falls Tribune reports, but it was "remarkable" the "effort and funds he put into caring for the book." Catherine Garcia

1:27 a.m. ET

Jack Prince, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, says the secret to his longevity is his love of the piano and desire to constantly improve his playing.

"I think it's very useful for somebody my age to have something that you have to work at, and I do work," he told Good Morning America. Every two weeks, Prince takes private lessons at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, and he practices five or six days a week, an hour every time. He's not just practicing for fun — he's also getting ready for a milestone. "I love to perform, and so with a birthday coming up, I'm preparing for my 94th birthday recital," he said. Catherine Garcia

12:44 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

During a meeting last summer in the situation room at the White House, FBI Director James Comey said he was considering writing an op-ed to explain how Russia was trying to influence the U.S. presidential election, people with knowledge of the matter told Newsweek.

Several notable officials were in the room, including former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Newsweek reports, and White House officials thought it would make more sense to release a message supported by several different intelligence agencies instead of a solo op-ed. The piece would not have mentioned the FBI's investigation, started in July, into possible collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russia, Newsweek reports. That investigation was confirmed earlier this month by Comey.

On October 7, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement alleging that the Russian government was tampering with the election to disrupt the U.S., months after it was first reported that hackers had gained access to Democratic National Committee emails. Newsweek says that had Comey written his op-ed, it likely would have been sent to The New York Times, and would have included much of the information that was in the intelligence report released January 6 about Russian President Vladimir Putin influencing the presidential election. Catherine Garcia

12:09 a.m. ET
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

On Wednesday night, North Carolina state Senate leader Phil Berger (R) and state House Speaker Tim Moore (R) announced that they have reached a deal with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial "bathroom" law that prohibits transgender people from using restrooms that match their gender identity. Neither lawmaker disclosed details of the law, but The Charlotte Observer says leaks suggest it would repeal HB2, block local governments from passing anti-discrimination ordinances for three years, and prohibit cities from regulating restrooms and locker rooms.

The Senate, then the House, are expected to vote on the bill Thursday morning, before a reported ultimatum from the NCAA to change the law or lose any chance to host championship games through 2022. The NCAA and ACC pulled championship games from the state after HB2 went into effect, and the NBA moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte.

LGBTQ groups panned the compromise, reached after two days of marathon negotiations, calling it a capitulation by Democrats that would allow anti-LGBTQ discrimination to continue. Cooper issued a statement saying he supports the repeal bill, with reservations. "It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation," he said. The law has cost North Carolina billions of dollars. House Republicans narrowly approved the compromise behind closed doors, The Observer reports, but it will need Democratic support to pass. Peter Weber

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