September 17, 2019

President Trump said he has not promised Saudi Arabia the U.S. will offer protection in the event the kingdom goes to war with Iran, but Saudi investments in the U.S. over the years have at least inspired the president to consider sticking by the U.S. ally. And he apparently really appreciates that the country "pays cash" when making those investments.

Trump made the cash comment in response to a question about whether the U.S. was prepared to enter a conflict alongside Saudi Arabia in the wake of drone strikes on two major Saudi oil production facilities that may or not have been orchestrated by Tehran. Trump maintained that he doesn't want to get involved in a conflict, but added that he is willing to "work something out with" Saudi Arabia, whose allegiance with the U.S. has raised many an eyebrow thanks to human rights abuse allegations against the kingdom.

"They've been a great ally," he said to reporters Monday before a White House meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. "They spend $400 billion in our country over the last number of years." And, unlike other countries, Trump said, Saudi Arabia does not want any conditions. "No. No," the president said. "Saudi Arabia pays cash." Tim O'Donnell

6:20 a.m.

Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, and Jimmy Kimmel said he's giving up most human touch. "Today is Ash Wednesday, so, you know, if you see someone with ashes on their forehead today it means either they went to church or, if you're here in Hollywood, put a joint out on their face," he joked on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Pope Francis "is encouraging us to stop insulting each other online," but "I'm giving up the handshake for Lent," he said, noting that experts say countries like Japan have a better shot at containing the virus because they bow instead.

"The president is doing everything he can to calm this nation's nerves," tweeting out an attack on the media while misspelling coronavirus, Kimmel said. "He's right — why is the liberal media only focusing on the negative side of the coronavirus? It's so biased. This is all part of his 'If you can't spell it, you can't catch it' campaign." Trump actually held a press conference, and it was "a rambling presentation" in which "he downplayed the virus, he said the flu kills a lot more people than the coronavirus, so I guess we shouldn't worry. I don't know, alligators have killed more people, too, but it doesn't mean we should go jump in the swamp."

Trump also said he had picked Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. response to the coronavirus. "Didn't it seem like Pence didn't know that was going to happen?" Kimmel asked, laughing. Seriously, "why is Mike Pence in charge? What is his plan to stop the virus? Abstinence? I think Trump might be trying to kill him, I really do." Watch below. Peter Weber

5:38 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden participated in a CNN town hall in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday night, and he talked guns, religion, and President Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump blaming Democrats for fears about the virus' spread is "absolutely bizarre," Biden said. He's urging people not to worry after "he goes and he takes away the office we set up that's designed to deal with pandemic disease," then "tried to defund the CDC, he tried to defund the NIH, he did not have a plan to deal with how you equip hospitals" to contain a coronavirus epidemic. Biden answered the next question, about new gun laws, by expounding on the Second Amendment, recapping his history of pushing through gun restrictions, and disclosing that he has two shotguns and isn't very good at shooting skeet.

Then moderator Chris Cuomo teed up a question from Rev. Anthony Thompson, an Episcopal minister whose wife, Myra, was one of nine people shot dead in 2015 at Charleston's Emmanuel AME church: "My question is: What is your faith, and how would you use your faith in making decisions for our nation?" Biden, who is Catholic, and the Obamas had visited the church after the shooting, just weeks after Biden's son Beau died of brain cancer.

"There's that famous phrase from [Søren] Kierkegaard: 'Faith sees best in the dark,'" Biden said. "I find the one thing it gives me — and I'm not trying to proselytize, I'm not trying to convince to be, to share my religious views — but for me, it's important because it gives me some reason to have hope and purpose. ... When my wife was killed and my daughter was killed, and then my son died, I've only been able to deal with it by realizing they're part of my being. My son Beau is my soul. And what I found was, I had to find purpose." Watch his entire answer below. Peter Weber

4:23 a.m.

At Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) said that, despite popular misconceptions, she actually eats all the time. "I had heard the rumors that Sen. Warren consumes food, so I recently flew down to my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, to meet up with the Democratic candidate and teach her a little about South Carolina cuisine," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. And he wasn't joking. Oysters, boiled peanuts, bourbon, hush puppies, ribs, and ... Michelob Ultra, "the club soda of beers."

This was more of a Food Network show than a policy discussion, though Colbert slipped in some politics between bites. "You've said that you're a fan of fast food," he said. "Are there any ways in which you not like Donald Trump?" She laughed: "Um, yes, I read books, I care about people...." Colbert also grilled Warren on billionaire trivia, kind of. Which billionaire looks like he cuts his own bangs with toenail clippers? Warren's answer was also correct. "Like the underbelly of a hairless cat?" "Oh gosh, that's so many," she said, momentarily stumped.

Colbert had Warren illustrate her wealth tax on the ribs, and she ended up playfully jabbing him with the fork — "That's universal child care, you jerk!" And when Colbert dropped an F-bomb while telling a joke, Warren showed that she had been paying attention. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:31 a.m.

Two days before California joins 13 other states to parcel out a huge number of delegates in the Democratic presidential race, Sen. Bernie Sanders will appear in Los Angeles with Public Enemy Radio, plus comedian Sarah Silverman and TV legend Dick Van Dyke, the Sanders campaign announced Wednesday night. They even made a poster for the March 1 rally.

Sanders already hosted The Strokes at a rally in New Hampshire, and adding Public Enemy, Silverman, and Van Dyke plants cultural flags in every decade back to the 1960s. Sanders doesn't have a corner on the market: TLC performed at a Tom Steyer rally, John Mellencamp cut an ad for Mike Bloomberg, and John Legend stumped for Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday night in Charleston, South Carolina.

Democratic primary voters should pick their candidate based on the issues and all that, but Chuck D is a good get and that's a great poster for Sanders. Peter Weber

2:43 a.m.

President Trump on Wednesday appointed Vice President Mike Pence his point person on the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak that is spreading disease and panic through much of the world. Pence's appointment was reportedly a surprise to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who had been in charge of the Trump administration's response up until Trump's announcement.

Pence has zero experience in the medical area and no real expertise in infections disease control, which would seem to make his appointment "A TOTAL JOKE," according to Trump, circa 2014.

To be fair, Azar is also not a doctor and doesn't have a robust public health background. His medical experience mostly involves a stint as the top lawyer at HHS and years as a lobbyist and executive for the pharmaceutical industry. But at least the large government agency he leads has "health" in its name. Speaking of Trump's old tweets....

Since Trump did not resign or step into a cannon aimed at the sun on Tuesday, it's a safe bet he has changed his mind on this critique. Peter Weber

1:59 a.m.

The Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to the sandwich chain Jimmy John's earlier this month, warning the company that it must take measures to fix food safety violations that are linked to several outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella.

The FDA told Jimmy John's it has "engaged in a pattern of receiving and offering for sale adulterated fresh produce, specifically clover sprouts and cucumbers," and its system for receiving these items is deficient. The letter was dated Feb. 15, and gave the company 15 days to come up with changes to address the issue.

In an email to CBS News, Jimmy John's President Jim North said food safety is the company's "top priority." Sprouts present "particular challenges," and Jimmy John's has decided to "permanently remove" them from all restaurants.

There are 2,800 Jimmy John's in 43 states, and since 2012, the FDA has traced one salmonella and four E. coli outbreaks back to the chain, CBS News reports. Those incidents left 90 people sick in 17 states. Late last year, there was an E. coli outbreak in Iowa that left 22 people sick; almost every person affected reported to state health officials that they ate at a Jimmy John's. Catherine Garcia

1:29 a.m.

Concerns about the global spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus "are growing, but fear not!" Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "The president knows he has a solemn duty to protect ... himself, because the Trump campaign is afraid coronavirus will hurt his re-election bid." On Tuesday, he noted, "Trump tried to reassure us all" with the "very comforting" reminder that "there's a very good chance you're not gonna die" from the virus.

Trump accused the media for "doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible," and Colbert roasted him for the unfortunate typo, plus the attempts at reassurance from his economic adviser Larry Kudrow and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. Concerns over the coronavirus have helped tank stock prices but they have also "led many to wear masks in the United States, and the CDC has released this actual graphic detailing which styles of facial hair are best for wearing respirator masks and which ones do not work," he said. "Oh God, all of Brooklyn is dead."

"Villain" facial hair could go either way, The Late Show illustrated.

The Daily Show also found Trump's "Caronavirus" typo less than reassuring.

The coronavirus is "the worst global pandemic since 'Baby Shark,'" Trevor Noah said. "And so today, the president of the United States held an emergency press conference to address people's concerns," during which he put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of America's response to the virus. "And I think this is great, because Mike Pence has a lot of experience in this area — he's been quarantining himself from women his whole life," he joked. Sure, "when Mike Pence was governor of Indiana, he enabled an HIV outbreak when he didn't follow the advice of public health officials," but "I'll be honest, I still feel safer with him than with Trump."

The epidemic "hurting the economy" is "Trump's real nightmare," Noah said, imagining Trump's response: "No, not my poor stock market! Not Wall Street! I'll nurse you back to health with my special chicken soup: it's a KFC bucket poured with Diet Coke." But he also found Trump's actual response a little unnerving: "Okay, we're definitely all going to die. You know, Trump is great for jokes, but in times of crisis, Trump is the worst person to reassure the nation." Watch below. Peter Weber

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