×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
March 20, 2017

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday while testifying publicly at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's election meddling that the FBI is investigating the Russian government's "efforts to interfere" in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. "That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts," Comey said, as well as "an assessment of whether any crimes were committed."

Comey said he had received permission from the Department of Justice to publicly disclose the existence of the investigation. "As you know, our practice is not to confirm existence of ongoing investigations, especially those investigations that involve classified matters," Comey said. "But in unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so, as Justice Department policy has recognized. This is one of those circumstances." Comey was unable to give a concrete timetable for when the investigation will be completed because of the investigation's complexity.

Watch Comey's announcement below. Becca Stanek

8:19 a.m. ET

The Morning Joe team was cutting nobody slack on Tuesday morning, with host Joe Scarborough reserving his toughest love for Democrats. The blunt conversation came as Republican lawmakers have concluded they do not have the votes to pass a long-term federal government funding deal by Friday's deadline, leaving them focused on passing another stopgap spending measure and raising the odds of a government shutdown. Democrats, meanwhile, are using the budget to insist Republicans protect DREAMers — immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children — although there is division in the ranks over to what extent the party is willing to compromise to reach a deal.

Scarborough, though, didn't see any conflict. "You should not give [Republicans] a single vote in keeping the government running," he told the Democrats. "That's their job. This is their government. This is their Congress. This is their presidency … Don't give them a single vote unless they give you a clean bill on DREAMers."

Scarborough insisted that "if you do, you are too weak and too spineless and too stupid when it comes to politics and too cowardly to be given control of Congress in 2018."

Co-host Mika Brzezinski also offered some advice for Republicans — chiefly that "sucking up" to the president "is not going to help you." Watch below. Jeva Lange

7:44 a.m. ET

Republican lawmakers concluded Monday that they could not muster enough votes to pass a long-term deal to fund the federal government before a Friday deadline, leaving them focused on passing another stopgap spending measure and raising the odds of a government shutdown, The Washington Post reported. Hope for a deal diminished due to mistrust stoked in a White House meeting on immigration last week, when President Trump, according to Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin (Ill.), described Haiti and African nations as "shithole countries." Trump tweeted Monday that "Dicky Durbin" had "totally misrepresented" what he said, saying the Democrat had torpedoed chances of a deal to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. Two Republican senators who disputed Durbin's account reportedly told the White House they heard Trump say "shithouse" rather than "shithole." Harold Maass

7:41 a.m. ET
Josh Brasted/Getty Images for OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network

The 2020 election is still over one thousand days away, but President Trump is already floating, and ruling out, possible challengers, Politico reports. "He's always asking people, 'Who do you think is going to run against me?'" said one aide who has personally heard such musings.

Two of the Democratic Party's most high-profile potential candidates, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, don't cause Trump to break a sweat, Politico notes. Despite Sanders being rated as the most popular politician in the country by several polls last year, and Public Policy Polling predicting in July that he could beat Trump by 13 points in a head-to-head general election, Trump dismissed Sanders, 76, as being too old to run again. Warren would also be "easy to beat," Trump has reportedly said, and his team is similarly unconcerned about Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

"If the Democrats think a socialist or a liberal professor from Massachusetts are a path to victory, we're happy to help them highlight that, because we don't think that is in-tune with the vast majority of Americans," a Republican National Committee spokeswoman said. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), another potential 2020 candidate, was not on Trump's "radar yet," Politico notes.

Trump hasn't ruled out every potential challenger, though. His team is reportedly concerned about former Vice President Joe Biden, fellow billionaire Mark Cuban — and Oprah Winfrey. "Oprah would be a problem," a Republican strategist told Politico. "She'd be their best. She's ubiquitous, she's black, she has crossover appeal, and she probably clears a lot of the field out." Jeva Lange

7:14 a.m. ET
Al Drago/Getty Images

Roy Moore may have lost his bid for U.S. Senate and his effort to disqualify the victory of Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), but Moore backers are still fighting, Politico reports. And their new target is Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), whose public distancing from Moore right before the December special election, some conservatives say, cost Moore — and Republicans — a Senate seat. A pro-Moore group, Courageous Conservatives PAC, ran a robocall attacking Shelby last month, and Moore supporters want the Alabama Republican Party to censure the senior senator later this month.

If fewer that four of the seven resolutions committee members agree to the censure resolution, it will fail and Moore's supporters will have to raise it again at the Alabama Republican Party executive committee meeting in February, where it would need the support of two-thirds of commissioners. The effort to damage Shelby, 83, is being funded by GOP donor Christopher Ekstrom in Dallas, who told Politico that Shelby has "destroyed what was a very strong GOP in Alabama." It's unclear if Moore himself supports the revenge campaign against Shelby, Politico says.

"It's stunningly dumb," said former Sen. Luther Strange, who lost to Moore in the GOP primary. "The party needs to unite." The censure resolution is expected to fail, and it will have no real consequences for Shelby if it passes, though it could backfire on Alabama hard-right conservatives, Politico notes. "In 2014, Arizona Sen. John McCain was censured by state Republicans for what they called an insufficiently conservative record. McCain later hit back, launching an ambitious campaign to reshape the Arizona GOP, ridding it of conservative foes and replacing them with close allies." Peter Weber

5:11 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert greeted Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) with a question on Monday's Late Show: "How's your friend Donald Trump?" "Getting worse every day," Schumer said. He said Trump tried flattery and calling him names, but Democrats "stick by our values," laying out an election year theme: "We're standing strong, and we're the check on Donald Trump." Schumer said he has no doubt that President Trump said he does not want immigrants from "shithole countries."

"Do you think that Donald Trump is a racist?" Colbert asked. "Look, his comments over and over and over again can be described as nothing but racist and obnoxious. He says he's not a racist," Schumer said. "So I have a challenge for Donald Trump, okay? Actions speak louder than words. You want to begin, just begin, that long road back to proving you're not a racist, you're not bigoted? Support the bipartisan compromise that three Republicans and three Democrats have put on the floor — everyone gave! — and get the DREAMers safety here in America." He said if that bill was put on the floor, it would pass in both the House and Senate, but Trump is in the way. "If you're going to listen to farthest right, we will never have an immigration policy," Schumer said.

Schumer was bullish on 2018. "I think the odds are greater than half that we will take back the Senate," he told Colbert. "I think the House odds are very good too." He conceded that being a check on Trump wasn't enough: "We have to show average folks that we're on their side while Trump is on the side of the wealthy and powerful interests. If we do both, we'll take back the House and the Senate." Schumer endorsed a cartoon version of his negotiations with Trump, and finished by dodging a question about how Democrats handled the case of Al Franken. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:21 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert kicked off Monday's Late Show by wishing his viewers a happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, then noting that in Alabama and Mississippi, it's also Robert E. Lee Day. "Look, even if you like Robert E. Lee, there's a lot of other Mondays out there," he said. But it's also "Day 4 of S--thole Gate," Colbert said. "I'm confident to my core that that's going to be bleeped, because CBS has higher standards than the president." Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is standing by his assertion that Trump said "shithole," he said, adding: "Really, I'm allowed to say 'Dick Durbin?' That's surprising."

Before Trump denied saying that exact vulgarity on Friday, he was reportedly calling friends to brag about it. "He's like a toddler calling his mom to the potty: 'Come look at the load I dropped in the national discourse,'" Colbert said. He also compared Trump to a "racist Rumpelstiltskin." Like his fellow late-night hosts, Colbert wasn't overly impressed with the reported GOP assertion that Trump said "shithouse," not "shithole": "Either way, Trump is being a complete asshouse, who maybe, maybe, doesn't belong in the White Hole."

Colbert noted Trump's growing bromance with House Majority Leader Kevin "My Kevin" McCarthy, who gave Trump a jar of just strawberry and cherry Starbursts after noticing red and pink are the only colors he eats. He didn't dawdle on the punch line: "Oh, so Trump likes some colors more than others, just like his immigration policy."

Colbert noted the Wall Street Journal report that Trump paid an adult film star $130,000 to stay quiet about a 2006 affair during the final days of the 2016 election. "That is truly shocking — that Donald Trump paid one of his contractors," he quipped. You can watch his other musings about L'Affaire Stormy Daniels below. Peter Weber

3:17 a.m. ET

"It says a lot about where we're at as a country," Seth Meyers said on Monday's Late Night, "that in the last few days it was reported that a porn star was paid to stay quiet about an alleged affair with Trump, and for 38 minutes people in Hawaii thought they were about to be hit with an incoming missile — and neither of those is the biggest story in the news right now." President Trump, by almost all accounts, used a vulgar word to dismiss immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa, but after initial shock at his calling those nations "shithole countries," we're now having "a pointless debate" over whether Trump really used the word "shithouse," Meyers said.

Whichever word Trump used, Meyers said, "what Trump's private comments reveal is that he doesn't actually want a merit-based system at all, he wants a system that takes in more white people and keeps out people of color."

On Monday's Daily Show, Trevor Noah was equally unimpressed that this argument somehow got "more stupid."

Heimagined everyone in Africa rejoicing: "We live in a shithouse not a shithole! Ah, Donald Trump. At least now we have a shitroof over our head!" Look, Noah said, Trump "having a poo-poo mouth is not the story for me. The president of the United States condemning whole groups of people as worthless and undesirable based on what country they happen to be born in, that's the story." The situation "reminds me of 'grab them by the pussy,' because the words are shocking at first, but then that's all some people end up focusing on," Noah said. Even if Trump had chosen a different word, "it's still him bragging about sexual assault, the same way writing off a whole continent as a shithouse or shithole is still the president being racist while negotiating immigration policy." Watch below for some addition thoughts on Trump's defenders and his own "least racist person" excuse. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads