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February 22, 2019

Rachel Maddow added a little something special to the historical record on MSNBC Thursday night, and she says it's pretty relevant to today's geopolitical situation. She began with a note Vice President George H.W. Bush wrote to disgraced former Vice President Spiro Agnew in October 1988, thanking him for his advice right before a game-changing presidential debate against Michael Dukakis. Agnew, Maddow reminded viewers, had resigned in 1973, right before Watergate broke, and narrowly avoided jail for tax fraud.

But her main event was a secret deal between Agnew and the Saudi crown prince in 1980. It starts with a telex in which Agnew begs the crown prince for an audience to address "a personal emergency that is of critical importance to me." An August 1980 letter spells out what that personal emergency was. Maddow summarized it like this: "Spiro Agnew was writing to the Saudi royal family to solicit their help, their financial support, for him to lead a scorched-earth propaganda campaign in the United States to expose the Jews. To wage a political war on Jews in America."

Specifically, Agnew painted a conspiracy to destroy him by "Zionists" and the media "they" control, and asked for $600,000 that he could live off while he continued "my fight against the Zionist enemies who are destroying my once great nation." And in Maddow's "favorite part," Agnew signed off: "My congratulations to Your Highness on the clear and courageous call to Jihad."

"The jihad-congratulations reference there appears to be a reference to the fact that the Saudi crown prince, just days earlier, had publicly called for a holy war against Israel," Maddow explained. And the Saudis appear to have given him at least $100,000. "Less than 10 years out of office, a former American vice president orchestrated a secret financial deal with Saudi Arabia to fight Jews in this country," she reiterated. "That seems like something that should matter even today," when the same Saudi royal family is in control. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:00 p.m.

It's well-documented that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) does not get along with President Trump.

The two have feuded for years, and Romney even singled out the president when he said he was 'sickened' by the findings in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation into 2016 Russian election interference (though he does not support impeachment.) Romney told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday's edition of State of the Union that Trump "has distanced himself from some of the best qualities of the human character." Not very flattering.

But Romney set aside his personal grievances in the very same interview, telling Tapper that the path Trump has chosen to take in regards to trade with China is the right one. Romney said China "has gotten away with murder for years" by skirting around foreign commerce rules and regulations, allowing Beijing to steal technology and intellectual property, all while harming U.S. businesses. So, while the senator understands Americans will bear the brunt of the sanctions, he believes it's a crucial sacrifice.

At the same time, Romney made clear that China is the only case where he supports tariffs. He said he thought Trump's recently-lifted tariffs on metal imports from Mexico and Canada were a bad idea, and he doesn't support potential taxes on Japanese and European automobile imports. Tim O'Donnell

12:34 p.m.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told CBS' Margaret Brennan on Sunday's edition of Face the Nation that, yes, his organization is relocating migrants to sanctuary cities. But it's not part of President Trump's self-described "sick idea" to anger those cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Instead, McAleenan said the transport efforts are based on "necessity and capacity" to safely process the migrants. For example, due to overcrowding at facilities in Texas, the agency has begun flying hundreds of migrants to San Diego to increase efficiency. While several of the cities and states that will take in the relocated migrants are, in fact, "sanctuaries," McAleenan said that their selection was not intentional or politically motivated.

But not everyone's buying it. While not responding directly to McAleenan's comments, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) later told Brennan that he thinks the Trump administration is sticking to the sanctuary city idea with the intention of sending migrants to states they "don't care about," implying that it is, indeed, politically motivated. He said that the only reason White House backed out of a decision to send migrants to Florida cities is because the state's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, called the idea "unacceptable." Tim O'Donnell

11:33 a.m.

Iran and the United States have both fervently expressed that they do not seek war with one another, despite heightened tensions between the two sides. Now, Saudi Arabia, a longtime U.S. ally and rival of Iran, has proclaimed a similar aversion to warfare with Iran. But, as was the case with Iran and the U.S., the kingdom left open the possibility for conflict should they have no other choice.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia does not want or seek war with Iran, but if Iran strikes first, "the kingdom will respond with all force and determination" to defend itself. Riyadh has accused Tehran of ordering drone strikes on two Saudi Arabian oil pumping stations on Tuesday, though Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed responsibility and Iran has denied involvement.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman reportedly recently discussed strengthening security and stability in the Gulf region with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he also called for a meeting later in May with other Gulf State leaders to discuss implications of Iran's possible proxy attacks. "The ball is in their court," Jubeir said, referring to Iran. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

11:16 a.m.

The Trump administration has reportedly identified at least 1,712 migrant children who were separated from their parents at the southern border, court transcripts from a Friday hearing revealed. Those children are in addition to the 2,800 children who were separated as a result of the White House's "zero tolerance policy."

In March, a federal judge, Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to identify within six months children who were separated from their families before the zero tolerance policy went into effect. Thousands of more children may still be identified, NBC News reports. So far, the government has reviewed the files of 4,108 children out of 50,000 cases.

Customs and Border Protection Commander Jonathan White, the official who spearheaded the reunification process, said the agency has been focusing on the children most likely to have been separated, but the findings are not conclusive. "I do anticipate that because we were very inclusive we will discover that many of those are false positives after CBP looks at them," White said. Read more at NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

8:19 a.m.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) on Saturday became the first Republican to openly call for the impeachment of President Trump.

The congressman created a long tweet thread explaining that he came to the conclusion following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation into 2016 Russian election interference. While Mueller's team found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow, Amash believes Trump has still "engaged in impeachable conduct" and because impeachment does not, legally speaking, "require probable cause that a crime has been committed," Congress would be justified in pursuing that route.

He also said he believes Attorney General William Barr "deliberately misrepresented" Mueller's report. Amash's fellow Michigan representative, Rashida Tlaib (D), has reportedly asked Amash to cosponsor an impeachment investigation resolution.

While it may be fundamentally surprising for a Republican congressman to support impeachment openly, Amash has long been a harsh Trump critic, so it is unlikely his stance will spark similar responses. Tim O'Donnell

7:49 a.m.

Alec Baldwin returned to NBC's Saturday Night Live to portray President Trump once again on Saturday evening for the show's season finale, but he also channeled his inner-Freddie Mercury during the episode's cold open.

While boasting about how much he has accomplished as commander-in-chief in the last year, Baldwin's Trump breaks into a rendition of Queen's hit song, "Don't Stop Me Now." He's shortly joined by a cast of characters including Cecily Strong's first lady Melania Trump, Beck Bennett's Vice President Mike Pence, and Aidy Bryant's White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for what turns into a raucous sing-along. Turns out, not even Robert De Niro's Robert Mueller can ruin their fun. Watch the full skit below. Tim O'Donnell

7:30 a.m.

President Trump on Saturday night tweeted that he is "strongly pro-life," but like former President Ronald Reagan supports three exceptions for abortions — rape, incest, and when it is necessary to protect the life of the mother.

The tweet comes just days after Alabama's state legislature passed a near-total ban on abortion, which does not allow any exceptions for rape or incest. The governors of Missouri and Georgia signed their own restrictive abortion bills last week, as well, as part of a movement to overturn Roe V. Wade. This is the first time Trump has publicly commented on the recent wave of abortion laws, USA Today reports.

Trump followed his initial tweet with two more calling for unity among the pro-life movement. It's possible he was offering a veiled critique of the Alabama law, which even the likes of Pat Robertson have argued goes "too far." Tim O'Donnell

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