FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
February 17, 2017
Mario Tama/Getty Images

This week, Columbia University made hundreds of hopeful students' dreams come true — only to crush them an hour later. The Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health accidentally sent out emails to 277 students congratulating them on their acceptance to the graduate school. Following up the emailed acceptance letters was a notice that the email had been sent in error, and they hadn't actually been accepted.

In the follow-up email, Columbia attributed the mix-up to "human error" and made it clear it was "working assiduously to strengthen our internal procedures" to make sure a similar mistake didn't happen again. "We deeply apologize for this miscommunication," the email read. "We value the energy and enthusiasm that our applicants bring to the admissions process, and regret the stress and confusion caused by this mistake."

Columbia's Mailman School isn't the first school to make this mistake. Last year, Carnegie Mellon University accidentally sent acceptance letters to some 800 applicants, only to later take them back. Perhaps one of the worst failures of this ilk was in 2009, when the University of California, San Diego erroneously informed 28,000 applicants that they'd been accepted when, in fact, they'd been rejected. Becca Stanek

9:35 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Every morning, before he watches the morning news shows, President Trump talks to a member of his outside legal team on the phone about the latest Russia headlines. The Washington Post reported that the 6:30 a.m. phone calls are "part strategy consultation and part presidential venting session," during which Trump's team goes over the latest developments in the Russia probe and talks through "their plan for battling his avowed enemies," which range from the media to Trump's own Justice Department.

But his team also has another motive behind the early morning calls:

His advisers have encouraged the calls — which the early-to-rise Trump takes from his private quarters in the White House residence — in hopes that he can compartmentalize the widening Russia investigation. By the time the president arrives for work in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, he will no longer be consumed by the Russia probe that he complains hangs over his presidency like a darkening cloud. [The Washington Post]

When the Post asked how that was working out, a top White House adviser "paused for several seconds and then just laughed."

Read more on how Trump's team is adjusting to balancing governing with managing the president's "combative and sometimes self-destructive impulses" at The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

9:07 a.m. ET

On Friday, The Washington Post published an extraordinary, comprehensive report of the Obama administration's actions in the face of mounting evidence that Russia severely affected the U.S. presidential election last year. "It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend," one senior Obama administration official confessed.

Read some of the biggest revelations below and the full report here. Jeva Lange

1. The initial August 2016 intelligence report that linked Putin directly to a cyber campaign to throw off the U.S. election was intensely secretive:

The material was so sensitive that CIA Director John Brennan kept it out of the President's Daily Brief, concerned that even that restricted report's distribution was too broad. The CIA package came with instructions that it be returned immediately after it was read. To guard against leaks, subsequent meetings in the Situation Room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid. [The Washington Post]

2. Obama's most severe response to the hacking hinged on hidden cyber "bombs":

Obama ... approved a previously undisclosed covert measure that authorized planting cyber weapons in Russia's infrastructure, the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the United States found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow. The project ... was still in its planning stages when Obama left office. It would be up to President Trump to decide whether to use the capability. [The Washington Post]

3. When eventually told about the hack, key congressional Democrats and Republicans split on how to react:

"The Dems were, 'Hey, we have to tell the public,'" recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia's aim of sapping confidence in the system. [The Washington Post]

4. The assumption that Hillary Clinton would win the election dulled the administration's response:

"Our primary interest in August, September, and October was to prevent [Russia] from doing the max they could do," said a senior administration official. "We made the judgment that we had ample time after the election, regardless of outcome, for punitive measures."

The assumption that [Hillary] Clinton would win contributed to the lack of urgency. [The Washington Post]

5. Russia is on the verge of getting away with everything:

In political terms, Russia's interference was the crime of the century, an unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American democracy [...] And yet, because of the divergent ways Obama and Trump have handled the matter, Moscow appears unlikely to face proportionate consequences. [The Washington Post]

7:39 a.m. ET

On Friday, Fox & Friends aired the first televised, in-person interview President Trump has given in six weeks. In it, Trump praised progress on health care, claiming that "I've done in five months what other people haven't done in years," and blamed the Obama administration's "unmasking and surveillance" for his threat to former FBI Director James Comey about tapes of their conversations.

"My story didn't change," said Trump, who confessed Thursday he had no tapes. "My story was always a straight story. My story was always the truth."

Trump also blasted Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the investigation of Russia's election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump team, for being "very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome."

Trump added: "We're going to have to see ... but [there has] been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that." Watch some of the interview below. Jeva Lange

2:07 a.m. ET

The way Senate Republicans kept a tight lid on their health-care plan reminded The Daily Show's Trevor Noah of a very famous company that also likes to keep things under wraps — Apple.

It almost felt like the "launching of a new iPhone," Noah said Thursday night. "No one knew, there were leaks, we weren't quite sure. And just like Apple, today the Republicans sent out their own turtlenecked leader to reveal the bill." That would be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who led Republicans in closed door sessions to craft the bill. The way Noah sees it, Republicans decided the right thing to do was "cut Americans' health care so we can give people tax cuts," but that's "not the point. It's like a fireman running into a burning building and saving the fire, not the baby."

The bill largely mirrors the hugely unpopular House bill, although with "dramatically deeper" cuts to Medicare. Because it takes trillions of dollars away from health care to fund tax cuts for the rich, Republicans are "taking a big chance with this bill," Noah said. It will be felt by people in every single state, including millions who voted for President Trump, and it should be easy for the Democrats to fight this, "but unfortunately, they're the Democrats," Noah said, before rolling a clip of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) dorkily trying to convey a message. Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

1:34 a.m. ET
iStock

Brian Kelly is a resourceful 5-year-old — when his father, Dan, was deployed overseas in May, he started going next door and asking his neighbor, Dean Cravens, if he would join him in doing some of the same things he used to do with his dad.

The Kellys moved to their home in Belleville, Illinois, last July, and Brian and Dan loved doing yardwork together. At first, that's what Brian wanted to do with Cravens. "I thought, 'Well, let's do other things, too,' so we play catch, we'll be shooting the ball, working on my golf swing," Cravens told Good Morning America. He is the father of three daughters, and said he's been enjoying having a boy around, adding, "It's different."

Brian's mom, Barbara, told GMA she cannot communicate with her husband while he is overseas, but she's sure he'd be thrilled to know about his son's new friendship. "If that was me, I would be happy that my child is smiling and has someone to look up to and be there for them until I get back," she said. "When Dan gets back, Brian's going to cry and run to him with open arms." Catherine Garcia

12:58 a.m. ET

The health-care bill drafted by Senate Republicans finally emerged from behind closed doors on Thursday, and with its cuts to Medicaid to fund tax cuts for the rich, the plan is "breathtakingly cruel," Seth Meyers said.

On Thursday's Late Night, Meyers took a closer look at the bill, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to have a vote on as early as next week, despite the fact that it was crafted during secretive meetings that were only open to a select group of Republicans. McConnell was "basically writing it by himself behind closed doors and nobody is ever doing anything good behind closed doors," Meyers said. "If your teenage son was locked in his bedroom this long, you wouldn't say, 'Hey buddy, are you doing extra credit homework in there?'"

Even people who were supposed to be writing the bill with McConnell were left in the dark; Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) was a member of the working group that was tasked with putting the plan together, but he said in a video earlier this week that he couldn't answer questions from constituents about it because he hadn't seen the bill yet. "Wait, you're supposed to be writing it and you haven't seen it?" Meyers exclaimed. "That's like your doctor saying, 'I think your liver transplant was successful, but I don't know, I was at the movies.'"

Meyers also noted how interesting it was that back when ObamaCare was coming together, there were more than 100 hearings and months of debates, but McConnell complained every step of the way, saying things were moving too fast and nothing was transparent. He shared a medley of McConnell's greatest hypocritical hits from 2009 and 2010, and it's almost as if McConnell's accusations against the Democrats and ObamaCare were actually predictions of what he would be doing in 2017 — he said, among other things, that "the bill we're being asked to consider was assembled behind closed doors out of sight without input from the public" and "they're doing everything they can to jam this bill through, and they don't even seem to care anymore about how ugly it all looks." Oh, how times have changed. Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

June 22, 2017
Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

Acting as mediator, Kuwait has given Qatar a list of 13 different demands from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that it must comply with in order to restore diplomatic ties, The Associated Press reports.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates severed ties with Qatar, alleging the country funds terrorism. They are giving Qatar 10 days to, among other things, pay an unspecified amount in compensation; stop naturalizing citizens from the four countries and expel those living in Qatar; shut down diplomatic posts in Iran; cut all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah; close down a Turkish military base inside the country; and shutter the broadcaster Al Jazeera, which Saudi Arabia and the other countries claim supports the Muslim Brotherhood and incites unrest in the Middle East.

Qatar's government has not yet responded to the demands. If they meet them all, the country will be audited once a month for a year, then once per quarter for another year, and then annually for 10 years, AP reports. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads