2:09 p.m. ET

At his parole hearing Thursday, O.J. Simpson made the case for why he's a "good guy" who has just had some "problems with fidelity." The 70-year-old former football star has served nearly nine years of a 33-year sentence for kidnapping and armed robbery, stemming from an incident in which Simpson and five other men confronted two sports memorabilia collectors to allegedly reclaim stolen heirlooms. The incident happened in 2007, more than a decade after Simpson was acquitted in 1995 for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Simpson insisted during his hearing before the Nevada Board of Parole that he did not know that the men he was with were armed. He also claimed that "nobody's ever accused me of pulling any weapon on them." "I've always thought I've been pretty good with people. I basically have spent a conflict-free life," Simpson said, describing himself as a guy "that pretty much got along with everybody."

Catch a snippet of Simpson's statement below. Becca Stanek

8:22 a.m. ET
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Republican Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho) told America what he really thinks of President Trump in an interview with Politico published Thursday: "I don't even pay any attention to what is going on with the administration because I don't care. They're a distraction. The family is a distraction, the president is a distraction. At first, it was, 'Well yeah, this is the guy we elected. He'll learn, he'll learn.' And you just don't see that happening."

Simpson's brutal honesty poured out as he and other Republicans lamented the week's health-care crash and burn, the latest flop to stymie Republicans' agenda. While Trump is starting to hassle congressional Republicans for not getting the job done on health care, Politico reported that lawmakers are "starting to blame Trump for his handling of the Russia probe, Twitter feuds, and attacks on the media." Becca Stanek

July 18, 2017

Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday skewered White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for his press briefing performance Monday afternoon. Spicer claimed during the briefing that "there was nothing as far as we know that would lead anyone to believe" that a meeting Donald Trump Jr. attended in June 2016 was not focused on Russian adoption policies. Donald Trump Jr.'s emails, which he released, and a tweet from President Trump himself have both offered unequivocally clear confirmations that Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the presidential election in the hopes of gathering negative information about Hillary Clinton.

Spicer's lines reminded Scarborough of "what we used to hear from the old Soviet Union spokespeople." "They would come out and say things that had already been disproven, that the whole world knew had been disproven. And when Sean Spicer comes out yesterday and say it's just about adoptions, that lie, which the president signed off on on Air Force One, was proven to be a falsehood over a week ago, and everyone in Washington, everyone in America, knows it," Scarborough said. "And yet, like an old Soviet propagandist, you have White House people going out and actually quoting something that was proven to be a falsehood eight, nine, 10 days ago."

Watch Scarborough draw the comparison below. Becca Stanek

July 18, 2017

President Trump and his White House are still insisting that Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in June 2016 to get dirt on Hillary Clinton was a "nothingburger" that may actually have been about adoption policy but was just normal politics in any case.

Among those who believe the Trumps are whistling past the graveyard is the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which offered some candid advice in an editorial published Monday night: Embrace "radical transparency" on Russia, before it's too late.

"Even if the ultimate truth of this tale is merely that Don Jr. is a political dunce who took a meeting that went nowhere — the best case — the Trumps made it appear as if they have something to hide," The Journal said. "They have created the appearance of a conspiracy that on the evidence Don Jr. lacks the wit to concoct. And they handed their opponents another of the swords that by now could arm a Roman legion." The editorial board continued:

Don't you get it, guys? Special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating the Russia story. Everything that is potentially damaging to the Trumps will come out, one way or another. Everything. Denouncing leaks as "fake news" won't wash as a counter-strategy beyond the president's base, as Mr. Trump's latest 36 percent approval rating shows. ...

[New Trump lawyer Ty Cobb] and his team should tell every Trump family member, campaign operative, and White House aide to disclose every detail that might be relevant to the Russian investigations. ... Then release it all to the public. Whatever short-term political damage this might cause couldn't be worse than the death by a thousand cuts of selective leaks, often out of context, from political opponents in Congress or the special counsel's office. If there really is nothing to the Russia collusion allegations, transparency will prove it. [The Wall Street Journal]

Trump "will probably ignore this advice, as he has most of what these columns have suggested," the WSJ editors sighed, but if he doesn't wise up and change strategy on the Russia investigation, it will "destroy Mr. Trump, his family, and their business reputation." You can read the entire editorial at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

July 17, 2017
Alex Wong/Newsmakers

Walter M. Shaub Jr., who recently announced his resignation as director of the Office of Government Ethics, warned in an interview with The New York Times published Monday that the country's "credibility" is crumbling under the Trump administration. "It's hard for the United States to pursue international anticorruption and ethics initiatives when we're not even keeping our own side of the street clean. It affects our credibility," Shaub said. "I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point."

Shaub took a swing at President Trump's frequent trips to his family-owned properties, which he said create "the appearance of profiting from the presidency." "Misuse of position is really the heart of the ethics program, and the internationally accepted definition of corruption is abuse of entrusted power. It undermines the government ethics program by casting doubt on the integrity of government decision-making," Shaub said. He has called for "nearly a dozen legal changes to strengthen the federal ethics system," and The New York Times reported that many of these changes he "had not considered necessary before Mr. Trump's election."

The White House responded to Shaub's concerns in a rather snarky statement. "Mr. Schaub's penchant for raising concerns on matters well outside his scope with the media before ever raising them with the White House — which happens to be his actual day job — is rather telling," White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement to The New York Times, which misspelled Shaub's name. "The truth is, Mr. Schaub is not interested in advising the executive branch on ethics. He's interested in grandstanding and lobbying for more expansive powers in the office he holds."

Shaub's last day as OGE director is Tuesday. Read the story in full at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

July 15, 2017
Pool/Getty Images

Tehran blamed President Trump for rising tensions and instability in the Middle East in a strongly worded statement on Saturday. "[Trump] ought to seek the reason for subversion and rebellion in his own arbitrary and conflicting policies and actions, as well as those of his arrogant, aggressive, and occupying allies in the region," said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi in comments published by Iranian state media.

Qassemi's remarks follow Trump's Thursday press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, in which Trump decried "rogue regimes like North Korea, Iran, and Syria and the governments that finance and support them." Iran, a Shia-majority country, is at odds with the United States' Sunni-majority ally, Saudi Arabia, and on the opposite side of the Syrian civil war, in which Tehran supports the Bashar al-Assad regime and the U.S. backs the rebels seeking his ouster. Bonnie Kristian

July 13, 2017
Pierre Suu/Getty Images

Solving the multi-generational conflict between Israel and Palestine is certainly complicated, but President Trump thinks there's something even more complicated than that. "I'd say the only thing more difficult than peace between Israel and the Palestinians is health care," Trump said while speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday night.

Drawing comparisons is apparently the next step, now that Trump has finally figured out what "nobody knew": that health-care reform "could be so complicated." However, it's hard to gauge exactly how difficult Trump actually thinks health-care reform is, considering in May he claimed that achieving peace between Israel and Palestine is "not as difficult as people have thought over the years."

Trump's remarks about the impossibility of health care arrived one day before his party released a revised draft of its plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. If health-care reform is really more "difficult" than resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that doesn't bode well for Senate Republicans' health-care vote slated for next week. Becca Stanek

July 12, 2017
Handout/Getty Images

During his interview Wednesday with Reuters, President Trump revealed he is a "very suspicious person" who does not go around "trusting lots of people," but is willing to meet and work with Russian President Vladimir Putin because he's the head of the "second most powerful nuclear power on Earth."

Both presidents love their countries, he said, "but I do things the way I do things, and it's just worked out." Their meeting last Friday during the G-20 summit was "very productive," he said. "Including the fact that I think we have a good shot at piece by piece getting Syria to stop fighting. Ultimately Ukraine. And other things, including the destruction of terrorists as we know them." Trump said the cease-fire in Syria is "totally holding" because "Putin told them, as opposed to somebody that nobody ever heard of. Putin and I agreed to it, and we have a four-day cease-fire. That means many lives have already been saved because of four days."

Trump asserted he was "very tough with President Putin," and called their relationship "very important. It's going to be a relationship where lots of lives could be saved, like as an example with the cease-fire, which nobody else could have gotten but me." Trump took credit for oil prices going down and the United States military having more equipment, and said because of that, he can't be sure if Putin likes him. "It's really the one question I wish I would have asked Putin: 'Were you actually supporting me?'" he said. "I would bet that inwardly, Putin would have been against me."

Before the interview was over, Trump declared the mood in the White House is "fantastic," despite reports, featuring interviews with his inner circle, that state otherwise, and said he's done "more in five months than practically any president in history." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads