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August 12, 2017

President Trump came under fire Saturday afternoon for being too vague in his comments about the lethal violence against anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia:

But other politicians — from both sides of the aisle — got a lot more specific in their condemnation of the white nationalists' message, associations, and methods. See a selection of their statements below. Bonnie Kristian

7:05 a.m. ET

Late Sunday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan involved in the Michael Cohen case abruptly canceled a meeting scheduled for Monday with porn actress Stormy Daniels, according to her lawyer, Michael Avenatti. The meeting was to discuss possible grand jury testimony from Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, regarding the $130,000 Cohen paid her to stay quiet about the extramarital affair she said she had with President Trump in 2006. Avenatti said the prosecutors scrapped the meeting because it had been reported in the press. "I was shocked at that response," Avenatti said.

"We believe canceling the meeting because the press has now caught wind of it is ridiculous," Avenatti told Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos in an email. "We do not think it was any secret that at some point you were going to meet with my client." He added on Twitter that if the prosecutors "can't handle a few cameras outside their offices," how would "they ever bring any serious criminal charges against Cohen et al., let alone handle a trial, in such a high profile matter? ... We remain willing to cooperate but something isn't right." The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has been investigating Cohen's hush payments among other business transactions.

Avenatti and Daniels have turned over documents in response to a federal subpoena, The Associated Press reports, and Avenatti said Daniels has been cooperating with federal prosecutors for months. For what it's worth — and it may not be worth much at all — Tom Arnold says Cohen is also cooperating with federal prosecutors. You can watch MSNBC's Steve Kornacki run down Arnold's bizarre interviews, as well as the current status of the Cohen investigation, below. Peter Weber

5:50 a.m. ET

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) leads his Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas), by 5 percentage points, 41 percent to 36 percent, with 17 percent expressing no opinion, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Cruz was leading O'Rourke by 3 points in an April Quinnipiac University poll, though that same poll had Cruz up by 11 points in May.

Cruz is more unpopular than O'Rourke, who represents the West Texas district centered in El Paso, but he also has better name recognition — 41 percent of voters have a favorable view of Cruz and 42 percent view him unfavorably, while 37 percent view O'Rourke favorably and 24 percent have an unfavorable view. This poll "is an early look at the 2018 general election, a survey of registered voters — not of the 'likely voters' whose intentions will become clearer in the weeks immediately preceding the election," The Texas Tribune notes. "If recent history is the guide, most registered voters won't vote in November."

"The numbers also reflect, perhaps, the faint rumble of excitement from Democrats and wariness from Republicans who together are wondering what kind of midterm election President Donald Trump might inspire," the Tribune says. And Trump is only moderately popular in deep-red Texas — 47 percent approve of his job performance while 44 percent disapprove in the new poll. Democrats have never liked Trump, said UT government professor Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll. "And he would have been in a disaster area, except Republicans really ran to him. They like the way that he deals with the Democrats." The UT/TT poll was conducted online among 1,200 registered voters June 8-17, and it has an overall margin of error of ±2.83 percentage points. Peter Weber

4:33 a.m. ET

Last week, President Trump, "the abusive father America will be talking about in therapy for the next 40 years," signed an executive order to end his heavily criticized family-separation border policy, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. This, after weeks of saying he couldn't do anything, his hands were tied. "Yes, Trump claimed he couldn't do a thing, and then he did it — which is a little strange because he usually claims he can do things and then doesn't do them, like draining the swamp or locking up Hillary or attending Tiffany's Sweet 16," Oliver said.

"Unfortunately, that executive order has some significant hitches," like the glaring holes in his administration's plan to reunite more than 2,000 children it separated with their parents, Oliver pointed out. "'How long it will take' and 'how it will get done' are the whole plan. That's like a recipe for cake that just says 'You're going to have some cake.'" He was even less impressed with the lengths to which Trump supporters went to excuse or deflect from putting children in cages, especially Stuart Varney on Fox & Friends.

Oliver went on to gawk at the almost unbelievable ad campaign 7-Eleven ran in Norway, as well as other ads for "sexual health" in the Scandinavian nation. It gets kind of gross, quite funny, and a little NSFW. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:56 a.m. ET

Mexico shares with the U.S. "a 1,900-mile border, and they're our third-largest trading partner — and something massive is about to take place there," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, previewing next Sunday's landmark national elections. Sure, "the biggest election in Mexico's history" may not "mean much to most Americans — it's like saying the biggest mattress sale in Dutch history," he said. But Oliver, being Oliver, made his rundown entertaining, informative, and a little disturbing.

Mexicans are sick of the status quo and their current president, Enrique Peña Nieto — Oliver repeated the NSFW chant Mexicans have for him, in English and Spanish — and they are expected to go in a radically different direction, electing populist firebrand Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, commonly known by his initials, AMLO.

Oliver explained why Peña Nieto and his PRI party are so unpopular — endemic corruption, murder, crime — and walked through some candidates who won't win, most entertainingly the Santa Claus–hating independent Jaime "El Bronco" Rodriguez. "Center-right policy wonk" Ricardo Anaya is No. 2 in the polls, but AMLO is expected to win. "And you can kind of see the appeal," Oliver said. "AMLO is kind of like Bernie Sanders, but with a better haircut and significantly better Spanish." The details of AMLO's policies are "pretty sketchy," though, he said, and in some ways "he's actually more reminiscent of a Mexican Donald Trump — which I know is a weird image to conjure up, like Orthodox Hitler or jacked Gandhi."

"The point here is, while the hope in AMLO is real, the content is a question mark," Oliver said. "And it says something about how entrenched the problems in Mexico are and the level of dissatisfaction that they seem so willing to take a gamble on him." Bobby Moynihan's autoerotic Santa Claus is one of the many NSFW parts of this episode, but if you're game, watch below. Peter Weber

2:46 a.m. ET
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

If you've ever wondered why President Trump's Oval Office desk is always so clean, he keeps most of his paperwork, plus stacks of newspapers, on the table in the president's private dining room right off the Oval Office, a former Trump administration official tells Jonathan Swan at Axios. This is where Trump spends a good chunk of his workdays, including his morning "Executive Time" of watching cable news and tweeting.

In the dining room, the former official said, Trump is "constantly referencing articles and columns in the Times, WSJ, or Post, watching TV and responding in real time — like, a good interview with an elected official might get them a phone call. Unexpected criticism might get them one too." Aides will come in with something to sign or a phone call or a proposed tweet, and Trump apparently rewatches confidante Sean Hannity's Fox News show from the night before, the official said. "I remember one specific time when he was watching a Hannity replay and he interrupted the conversation and turned up the volume, 'Wait, wait for it ...' (Hannity says whatever it was defending DJT.) 'So good,' Trump said. 'He's so good.'" You can read more at Axios. Peter Weber

1:47 a.m. ET
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On Saturday night, the Trump administration released a plan to reunite the more than 2,000 children separated from their parents under President Trump's "zero tolerance" border policy, but immigrant advocates and shelter operators say that will be no easy feat. The children, some barely old enough to speak, are spread around the U.S. in groups as small as 10, "in Michigan and Maryland, in foster homes in California and shelters in Virginia, in cold, institutional settings with adults who are not permitted to touch them or with foster parents who do not speak Spanish but who hug them when they cry," The Washington Post reports. Already, "the children have been through hell," the Post says:

And now they live and wait in unfamiliar places: big American suburban houses where no one speaks their language; a locked shelter on a dusty road where they spend little time outside; a converted Walmart where each morning they are required to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, in English, to the country that holds them apart from their parents. Why must they say those words, some of the children ask at the shelter in Brownsville, on the Mexican border in Texas? "We tell them, 'It's out of respect,'" said one employee. [The Washington Post]

The toll-free Office of Refugee Resettlement hotline migrant parents are being told to call to locate their children is jammed and uninformative, and "U.S. authorities are compiling mug shots of the children in detention" to help connect parents with kids, the Post says. "Immigration lawyers who have seen the pictures say some of them show children in tears."

The children are fed and offered activities, including arts-and-crafts classes and rudimentary "Know Your Rights" presentations delivered by outsider lawyers, the Post says. "Some kids engage. Some remain silent. Some have not spoken for weeks." You can read more about how these children are living at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

1:39 a.m. ET
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While traveling from Boston to Portland, Oregon, last week, Clara Daly, 15, used her knowledge of American Sign Language to make the flight easier for a fellow passenger.

Tim Cook, 64, is blind and deaf, and was unable to communicate with the flight attendants. They asked if anyone on board knew ASL, and Daly, who took classes for a year, volunteered to help. She signed letters into his hand, first asking, "Are you okay?" They communicated that way throughout the flight, with Cook telling Daly about the sister he had been visiting in Boston and Daly telling him about her life in California.

Fellow passenger Lynette Scribner was impressed by Daly, and said her assistance helped reduce Cook's frustration. "You could see him light up," she told The New York Times. Scribner took a photo of the pair and shared what she saw on Facebook, and the post has been liked and shared hundreds of thousands of times. Cook, who lost his hearing and sight as an adult, told KGW he is used to feeling isolated, and was "very moved" by Daly's act of kindness. Catherine Garcia

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