June 17, 2019

There were several eyebrow-raising and factually incorrect parts of President Trump's long interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, including his assertions that he has been treated worse than Abraham Lincoln, that he'll have his long-promised health-care plan out in anywhere from "a month" to "fairly soon" or "much before the election," and that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was "conflicted" because of a dispute over golf dues.

But when Trump was trying to convince Stephanopoulos that even though Congress wants his "fantastic financial statement" and he wants them to see it, "it's not up to me, it's up to lawyers, it's up to everything else," acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney started coughing. Trump stopped the interview. "Let's do that over, he's coughing in the middle of my answer," he said. "I don't like that, you know, I don't like that. ... If you're going to cough, please leave the room. You just can't, you just can't cough. Boy, oh boy."

Trump isn't wrong about coughing in the middle of your boss' on-camera interview, but the idea that Trump believes he can do just about anything — including firing the prosecutor investigating him — but not release his own tax returns or financial statements, that's pretty hard to swallow. Peter Weber

November 21, 2019

Over the course of five months in 2017, the Secret Service spent more than $250,000 at Trump properties and businesses, documents obtained by Property of the People, a nonprofit watchdog group, show.

Property of the People received the documents after filing a Freedom of Information Act request. The credit card transactions, which were made between Jan. 27 and June 9, totaled $254,020.94. Most of the charges were listed under the category "Trump National Golf Club."

There were several charges at Trump hotels, including his properties in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, where the agency spent more than $45,000 in March. The documents show there were also multiple charges of $10,000 or less made on the same day, likely at Mar-a-Lago; ProPublica reports that charges under $10,000 would allow the private club to sidestep government contracting rules.

These newly released documents provide more ammunition for people who say Trump, who upon becoming president did not divest from his businesses but instead passed control over to his eldest sons, is illegally profiting from the federal government, in violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause. Catherine Garcia

November 21, 2019

Former President Barack Obama delivered a very blunt message to Democrats on Thursday.

During a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in California's Silicon Valley, Obama said that in a primary, a candidate's "flaws are magnified," and the "field will narrow and there's going to be one person and if that is not your perfect candidate and there are certain aspects of what they say that you don't agree with and you don't find them completely inspiring the way you'd like, I don't care, because the choice is so stark and the stakes are so high that you cannot afford to be ambivalent in this race."

Those who are worried about the candidates need to "chill out," Obama said, and "gin up about the prospect of rallying behind whoever emerges from this process." There will be differences in style and policy, he acknowledged, but those are "relatively minor" relative to the "ultimate goal, which is to defeat a president and a party that has ... taken a sharp turn away from a lot of the core traditions and values and institutional commitments that built this country."

Earlier this month, Obama said the Democratic candidates needed to "pay some attention to where voters actually are" and not be "diluted into thinking that the resistance to certain approaches to things is simply because voters haven't heard a bold enough proposal." Read more about Obama's remarks at CNN. Catherine Garcia

November 21, 2019

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency that administers the country's naturalization and immigration system, and two of its newest leaders once worked at an organization that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

John Zadrozny and Robert Law worked with Ken Cuccinelli while he was still acting director of the agency. Cuccinelli is now the second-highest ranking official at the Department of Homeland Security, and Zadrozny, once his top aide, was promoted to acting USCIS chief of staff. Law, who was Cuccinelli's senior adviser, is now acting chief of policy. Zadrozny has pushed for slashing refugee admissions to zero, Politico reported this summer, while Law has publicly denounced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, saying those who support it favor "immigration anarchy."

Both Zadrozny and Law worked at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), founded in 1979 by anti-immigration activist John Tanton, who once declared that a "Latin onslaught" was coming. The group says its mission is to "reduce overall immigration to a more normal level," but the Southern Poverty Law Center says it is actually a hate group, citing its ties to "white supremacist groups and eugenicists" and people who have made racist remarks.

"These groups, which were basically outside of the mainstream, have been embraced by the Trump administration and their ideas are now policy, which is affecting millions and millions of people of color," the Southern Poverty Law Center's Heidi Beirich told CBS News. FAIR's president, Dan Stein, said the organization has "never had any issue with immigration, per se. All we've ever said is that it should be lawful and that the numbers need to be properly regulated." Catherine Garcia

November 21, 2019

Conservative author and provocateur Ann Coulter was greeted by more than 1,000 demonstrators who came out to protest her speech at the University of California, Berkeley, on Wednesday night.

Most of the protesters were students and young activists, and they linked arms in an attempt to block people from getting inside the building where Coulter was set to speak. A few hundred people were able to get inside the venue, The Guardian reports, and while the protesters were mostly peaceful, there were some skirmishes. One protester, a graduate student, said an attendee tried to choke him, and later a police officer grabbed him by the neck and called him a loser.

University officials said there were six or seven arrests, and all but one person was set to be cited and released. Coulter, who has called immigrant children separated from their parents "child actors," was there to espouse her anti-immigrant views, The Guardian reports. She was invited to speak by the Berkeley College Republicans, who paid for her appearance. The organization charged $45 to $75 for tickets; the group's president, Matt Ronnau, told The Guardian, "Hopefully, we get a lot of money."

In 2017, Coulter was set to speak at Berkeley, but canceled at the last minute, citing safety concerns. Earlier that year, there were fights in the streets after right-wing activist Milo Yiannopoulos was set to appear on campus. The university spent $800,000 on security for the Coulter event that was called off, The Guardian reports. Catherine Garcia

November 21, 2019

On Thursday, six Republican senators and multiple White House officials met to privately discuss strategy for a potential impeachment trial of President Trump, several officials with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.

The meeting was attended by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.), John Kennedy (La.), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Tom Cotton (Ark.); White House Counsel Pat Cipollone; acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney; senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner; counselor Kellyanne Conway; advisers Tony Sayegh and Pam Bondi; and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland, the Post reports.

During the meeting, the senators and White House officials came up with several different ways to deal with a Senate hearing, including not having a defense for Trump, in an attempt to show the trial is so flawed it doesn't need to be legitimized. There was some agreement that the best bet would be a two-week trial, a speedy affair that wouldn't damage Trump as much as a longer trial. Former President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, which ended in an acquittal, lasted five weeks.

In public hearings this week, several witnesses testified before the House Intelligence Committee, painting a picture of Trump pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for the release of $400 million in military aid and a meeting at the White House. If the House, which is controlled by Democrats, votes to impeach Trump in December, the Senate trial could start as early as January, the officials said. The impeachment inquiry is making Trump "miserable," people familiar with his feelings told the Post, and he wants a trial dismissed immediately. Catherine Garcia

November 21, 2019

Republicans are getting ready to pull the impeachment ball back into their court.

Within minutes of Thursday's impeachment hearings closing out two weeks of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who runs the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a letter. In it, Graham requested a bevvy of documents from the Obama administration, including any that involved Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Hunter Biden's work on the board of the Ukrainian company Burisma indirectly led to this whole impeachment inquiry, as the company was at one time under investigation by Ukraine's prosecutor general Viktor Shokin and Joe Biden later pushed Poroshenko for Shokin's firing. Graham spells this out in his letter, saying that he'd like to "answer questions regarding allegations" that Biden got Shokin fired to "end the investigation" into Burisma. So he's seeking "documents and communications" between Joe Biden and Poroshenko from the days they presumably talked about Shokin — widely viewed as corrupt and ineffective — as well as any documents from a meeting between a business partner of Hunter Biden's and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Graham's move directly contradicts what he told CNN's Manu Raju a few weeks ago: that investigating Hunter Biden wasn't within his committee's jurisdiction. So what's changed this time around? Well, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) just wrapped up impeachment hearings with what sounded like an endorsement of proceeding to the final step in the impeachment process: a trial in the Senate. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 21, 2019

The disappointing final season of Game of Thrones has led many fans to wish for a do-over (even if that petition for HBO to film a whole new final season seems a little pie-in-the-sky).

But a new glimmer of hope has come from actor Kristofer Hivju, who played Tormund Giantsbane in the HBO drama. "We shot an alternative ending," Hivju told Metro, adding that it was "mostly for fun" and that he wasn't sure if he was allowed to talk about it. (Our guess: Probably not!)

Unfortunately, Hivju didn't spill any other details, so for now let's just go ahead and assume it ended with, you know, literally anyone else on the Iron Throne. Read more at Metro. Scott Meslow

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