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July 12, 2018

Democratic Reps. Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) and Lou Correa (Calif.) let their real opinions fly free once they thought they had finished up at Thursday's House Homeland Security Committee hearing. Instead, their not-so-private fiery exchange was caught by Politico reporter Eric Geller.

Describing the "open-mic moment," Geller noted that Rice and Correa were apparently upset by the answers they got from two top DHS officials, who declined to answer when the lawmakers asked whether they agreed with the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia attempted to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

"Truly outrageous. It's outrageous ... F--king outrageous," said Rice, still on mic. "They have no right being in the positions that they're in if they don't take a position like that. No right." Correa, also on mic, gave the DHS officials the benefit of the doubt, pointing out that "they're not gonna put their jobs at risk." Rice wasn't having it, saying they "can get a job somewhere else" if they don't want to answer questions at congressional hearings. "Give me a f--king break," she said, with which Correa concurred.

When a staffer said that other DHS staffers had already agreed with the conclusions of the report, Rice continued to excoriate the officials who had demurred at the hearing. "This is what I'm saying," she said. "Just say yes!" Thursday has been chock-full of tense hearings — stay tuned to see if any other lawmakers say something ferocious. Summer Meza

6:00 a.m.

Stephen Colbert began his interview with former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Tuesday's Late Show with a little lighthearted banter. "Legally, do you have to look and dress like an extra from Dragnet to be in the FBI?" Colbert said. "Yes, of course," McCabe replied drily. Then they jumped into his book, The Threat, and why McCabe launched a dual criminal-counterintelligence investigation into President Trump after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey during the FBI's investigation of Russian election meddling.

The investigation grew out of the question, "Why would the president of the United States be trying to obstruct an investigation into Russia's activity?" McCabe explained. "And what makes you think that the president fired Comey because of the Russia investigation, other than the fact that he said that out loud?" Colbert asked, half-seriously. "There were a number of things that concerned us as we investigated the possibility of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign through the fall," McCabe said, adding, "We don't open investigations because we like someone or don't like them, or because they're a Republican or a Democrat."

McCabe explained that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's "brief" mention of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump came "in the middle of a chaotic and long conversation" and "was not very coup-y," and said his former boss Robert Mueller loves managing investigations, "so I am sure he is just as happy as he can possibly be" as special counsel. "He looks happy," Colbert deadpanned. "Is there anything in the last two years that makes you less suspicious of the president, or is less indicative that he had improper relationship with the Russians, possible collusion or conspiracy?" "No," McCabe answered quickly. "It all seems to get more suspicious every day."

McCabe also said the media's reporting on Trump's Russia ties and possible obstruction of justice has been remarkably accurate, but he still knows mildly shocking things he can't discuss. Peter Weber

4:30 a.m.

On Tuesday, lawyers representing Kentucky high school student Nicholas Sandmann and his parents filed a federal defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post, seeking $250 million in damages. Why $250 million? That's what Amazon founder Jeff Bezos paid for the Post in 2013. The lawsuit accuses the Post of publishing "no less than six false and defamatory articles" on a standoff in Washington, D.C., last month between Sandmann and his Covington Catholic High classmates, a group called the Black Israelites, and Native American advocate Nathan Phillips.

Among the Post's allegedly defamatory actions was quoting a statement from the Covington Catholic dioceses criticizing the students, reporting that Phillips said he felt threatened and heard the students chant "build the wall," describing Sandmann's facial expression as "a relentless smirk," and printing the "gist" that Sandmann "assaulted and/or physically intimidated Phillips" and "instigated a confrontation with Phillips and subsequently engaged in racist conduct."

Over three days in January, "the Post engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism by competing with CNN and NBC, among others, to claim leadership of a mainstream and social media mob of bullies which attacked, vilified, and threatened Nicholas Sandmann, an innocent secondary school child," the complaint alleges. "The Post ignored basic journalist standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the president." The lawsuit was not filed to "further a political agenda," Sandmann's lawyers added.

One of the questions the court will decide is whether Sandmann was a private figure or a limited-purpose public figure who participated in a public march and sought publicity on his own, Jon Fleischaker, general counsel for the Kentucky Press Association, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. And Sandmann's lawyers will have to cite verifiable facts, not opinions. "We are reviewing a copy of the lawsuit, and we plan to mount a vigorous defense," said Post spokeswoman Kristine Coratti Kelly. Peter Weber

3:15 a.m.

Last month, Empire actor Jussie Smollett "said he was attacked by racist Trump supporters who beat him up, tied a rope around his neck, and poured bleach on him," Trevor Noah recapped on Tuesday's Daily Show. "But now police have found two Nigerian brothers who claim Jussie paid them to stage the attack. Now, the police searched their house and they found bleach, they found masks, and they found rope, so this is like the shortest CSI episode ever. ... I'm surprised they didn't also find a book called Faking Hate Crimes for Dummies."

Noah ran through more details with correspondent Jaboukie Young-White, who as a gay black actor like Smollett was both "disappointed" and also eager to try out for the Lifetime movie, or maybe Smollett's spot on Empire. "We're still piecing together leaks from the Chicago Police Department and more reliable sources like TMZ, but you couldn't have written a crazier plot," Young-White said. "I mean, Trump supporters who watch Empire?" He got serious about "gay panic" laws in 47 states that allow men lighter sentences for beating or killing LGBTQ men by claiming they were hitting on them. "Imagine if women could use that defense?" he said. "There would be no men left." (There's NSFW language.)

Whether Smollett is lying or telling the truth, "right now the story just doesn't make sense," Noah told the audience between scenes. "Like, why are two Nigerian guys walking around in Chicago's freezing weather and then shouting 'This is MAGA country'? That's a weird thing to shout as a Nigerian person." Either way, "this is a home run" for President Trump, "because so many people jumped on board before they even waited to see what it was about," he said. "We live in a world where people are too enthusiastic at jumping at stories that confirm their biases, instead of just pausing and going: What do I make of the story?" Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

"Hello, I'm Bernie Sanders and I'm yelling for president of the United States," Jimmy Fallon said on Tuesday's Tonight Show, recreating Tuesday morning's presidential campaign announcement by the Vermont senator. "Dozens of my fellow Democrats have already announced that they are running, but ... I have the most experience — literally. I am older than all 20 of them combined." Fallon's Sanders explained he was "speaking in all-caps" because "we need change, and that's why I'm asking you to elect me, the guy who did this three years ago and lost."

"Bernie made his campaign announcement this morning in the most Bernie way possible, on Vermont Public Radio," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. "After that he made it official by posting a flier on his local co-op bulletin board." Sanders finished second in 2016, but the 2020 field is much bigger, and much more diverse. "Here's the point: Bernie's not young," Colbert said. "But he's right: The political landscape has changed; the majority of Democratic candidates this time around have joined his revolution. He's not just Bernie Sanders — he's Grey Guevara!"

Sanders "would become the oldest American president ever — yes, and I mean that literally: He was born a few months before George Washington," Trevor Noah joked at The Daily Show. "But don't let Bernie's age fool you; this guy is as feisty as ever." He cheered Sanders' verbal middle finger to Howard Schultz, laughing: "Yo, I've missed Bernie so much."

Noah quickly switched to a fond rundown of the "scandals" plaguing the rest of the Democratic field: Kirsten Gillibrand eating chicken "wrong," Kamala Harris listening to rap in the wrong decade, and most scandalous of all, Cory Booker being "a healthy eater." President Trump's "scandals are so massive and exhausting — it's like, sex with a porn star, conflicts of interest, corruption, his Cabinet — it's been refreshing to have old-school silly scandals again," he said. Still, he laughed "I feel so bad for people who take Fox News seriously — it's got to be so much work." Watch below. Peter Weber

1:30 a.m.

Scientists were thrilled to discover 10 rare burrowing owls earlier this month in an unexpected location: the edge of Los Angeles International Airport.

Several decades ago, the airport bought a development called Surfridge and demolished all of the houses. The empty land became the 302-acre LAX Dunes Preserve, which is now home to 900 plant and animal species, many of them endangered. Scientists say that the owls — the most seen there in 40 years — are a sign that a restoration project that began in the 1990s is a success. "This is very exciting — a real stunner," biologist Pete Bloom told the Los Angeles Times.

Planes roar over the fenced-in preserve, which is not open to the public. Volunteers coordinate with the airport to come in and clean up invasive weeds, helping make the preserve a place where different species can settle. In addition to the burrowing owls, researchers have recently spotted El Segundo blue butterflies, as well as California gnatcatchers, Blainville's horned lizards, and six legless lizards. They were overjoyed by that discovery, as legless lizards are hard to find and haven't been studied much. Catherine Garcia

12:37 a.m.

CNN has hired Sarah Isgur, a longtime Republican political operative and recent Justice Department spokeswoman, as a political editor helping to steer the network's 2020 campaign coverage. The hire, first reported by Politico, caught CNN's editorial staff by surprise, not just because her résumé is full of partisan advocacy but also because it contains no experience in journalism or managing a TV news operation. She has also publicly disparaged the news media, including CNN. "It's extremely demoralizing for everyone here," one CNN editorial staffer told The Daily Beast.

CNN officials said Isgur will be one of several editors directing coverage of the Democratic primary and President Trump's re-election campaign at the network, reporting to political director David Chalian, and she'll also occasionally offer analysis on air. She will apparently not be involved in coverage of the Justice Department. TV networks often hire political operatives and politicians as analysts and program hosts, but it is very rare to bring them on to direct political news coverage.

Before joining the Trump administration as the top spokeswoman for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Isgur served as a political adviser to Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney, was deputy communications director at the Republican National Committee, and served as deputy campaign manager for Carly Fiorina's presidential campaign. Thanks to comments she made about Trump while working for Fiorina, she had to personally pledge loyalty to Trump before he would allow Sessions to hire her, The Washington Post reported in April 2018. Peter Weber

12:33 a.m.

After denying it for years, the federal government admitted that it shares the Terrorist Screening Database — better known as the terrorist watch list — with private entities, The Associated Press reports.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit on behalf of several Muslims who say that because their names are wrongfully on the list, they have had to deal with harassment at airports and scrutiny from law enforcement. In September, a government lawyer said during a pre-trial hearing that the Terrorist Screening Center "does not work with private partners" and the list is "considered law enforcement sensitive information and is not shared with the public."

Earlier this month, Terrorist Screening Center Deputy Director of Operations Timothy Groh admitted in a written statement that 1,441 private groups have been granted access to the watchlist. Groh said that in order to receive permission, an organization must be somehow connected to the criminal justice system, AP reports. The government will not reveal how many people are on the list, but has said there are hundreds of thousands of names added every year, and names are regularly removed.

While the list is supposed to only include the names of known or suspected terrorists, critics say people are routinely added that have no ties to terrorism, and this hurts them. A lawyer for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Gadeir Abbas, has asked that the government explain in court which groups have access to the list, and what they are doing with it. "We've always suspected that there was private-sector dissemination of the terror watchlist, but we had no idea the breadth of the dissemination would be so large," he told AP. Catherine Garcia

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