May 19, 2017
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead, via Flickr

Lawmakers briefed Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein say they were told investigators are now also looking into whether White House officials have "engaged in a cover-up" related to the ongoing investigation into possible collusion between President Trump's campaign, his associates, and Russia, McClatchy reported. That aspect of the ongoing investigation into Trump's potential connections to Russia's election meddling was added in "recent weeks."

McClatchy reported that it's not entirely clear who will be targeted in the investigation into a potential cover-up. Reports surfaced this week that Trump apparently urged former FBI Director James Comey to drop the FBI's investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, shortly after Flynn resigned following revelations he'd misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with a Russian ambassador. Trump abruptly fired Comey last week.

Also Friday, The Washington Post reported that federal investigators have identified a so-far unnamed White House official as a "significant person of interest." Becca Stanek

8:15 a.m. ET
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As The Beatles once said, baby you can drive my car — if you have my toothbrush, toothpaste, gum, hand sanitizer, stapler, stapler remover, business cards, napkins, and cough drops at hand at all times. Those are just some of the items chauffeurs of Rep. Todd Rokita's (R-Ind.) are required to never be without, a leaked eight-page instruction manual obtained by Politico shows.

The manual also demands Rokita's drivers avoid "unnecessary conversation" with the lawmaker and "avoid sudden acceleration or braking." Drivers are also expected to serve as a human shield to block photographers from taking embarrassing pictures of Rokita, and to bring him a cup of black coffee and empty his trashcan whenever they pick him up at home, Politico adds.

Drivers are additionaly supposed to collect information from "as many people as possible" at Rokita's events while also taking pictures for social media and taking note of "all interactions." Drivers are also to make sure Rokita has a drink at all times, but never let him be photographed with a drink.

Rokita is hoping to challenge Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) for his Senate seat next year, but he'll first have to beat fellow Republican Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) in the primary. Rokita's staff blames Messer for leaking the high-maintenance memo.

Still, Rokita's campaign spokesman, Tim Edson, argued in defense of the eight-page memo: "There is nothing embarrassing about always being prepared," he said. Read the full memo here, via Politico. Jeva Lange

7:38 a.m. ET
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Four in 10 Americans believe that "both sides" were equally responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, indicating that President Trump's comments at a combative press conference earlier this week resonated with more of the public than expected. Another 46 percent of Americans believe that far-right groups were most responsible for the violence, the SurveyMonkey poll found, whereas just nine percent believe counter-protesters are most to blame.

Trump's choice to lay blame on "both sides" was heavily criticized by the media. "He is right that there are two sides: the vestigial tail of the Confederacy and the United States of America; the white supremacists and their targets; the president and the patriots," wrote Fast Company. Former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted, "There is only one side."

The SurveyMonkey poll found the majority of Republicans believe both sides are "equally" responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, while 66 percent of Democrats believe far-right groups get the biggest cut of the blame. Among independents, 51 percent think far-right groups are most responsible, followed by 38 percent who think both sides share the blame. The poll reached 2,181 respondents on Thursday online.

"These findings reflect the fact that, because of the nation's partisan divide and fractured media, we no longer agree on basic facts," writes Axios. "That makes civil debate impossible."

So where did the "both sides" thinking originate? The Week's Ryan Cooper goes back to the Civil War in his investigation, and explores the origins of the phrase "alt-left" here. Jeva Lange

6:29 a.m. ET

President Trump "has had a lot of problems with history this week, mainly how he'll be remembered by it," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, "but also with defending the Confederacy." Colbert took special issue with Trump's argument, on Twitter and at a press conference, that because George Washington owned slaves, the decision to take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will lead America down a slippery, heritage-erasing slope to removing statues of Washington and fellow slave owner Thomas Jefferson.

"Comparing Robert E. Lee to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson is just willful dumminess," Colbert said, coining a word. "Washington and Jefferson have monuments not because of the slaves but because they fought the British, founded the country, and wrote the Declaration of Independence. We have statues of Robert E. Lee because he chose to secede and fight for slavery." Taking down Confederate statues "isn't about denying that slavery happened, it's about not celebrating the people who fought to keep it going," he said. "That's why we remember the Titanic but don't erect a monument to the iceberg."

On Saturday Night Live's Thursday night "Weekend Update," Michael Che invited George Washington, as played by Jimmy Fallon, on to defend himself. "About this Robert E. Lee thing, I'm nothing like that guy," Fallon's Washington said. "I created this country, he tried to tear it apart. I rebelled against England, he rebelled against America. Him bad, me the founding father, the original dad — Who's your daddy? Me!" He tried to leave, but Che stopped him, reminding him that he (Washington) did own slaves. Fallon said Jefferson was worse, prompting Jefferson (Seth Meyers) to come out and accuse him of throwing him "under the carriage."

After some playful banter, the two founding fathers looked solemnly into the camera, music playing. "In the end, Michael, we don't need statues to commemorate us," said Fallon. Meyers' Jefferson concurred: "Our legacy is the country that we risked our lives to create." "That is why this great nation has given us an honor greater than any statue," Fallon said: "a three-day weekend in February during which all Americans get 50 percent off all mattresses."

For a more serious discussion, CBS News political director John Dickerson gave Colbert his historical opinion in the last minute of his Late Show interview. Watch below. Peter Weber

5:28 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, the Cleveland Clinic, the American Cancer Society, and the American Friends of Magen David Adom — a charity that raises money for Israel's equivalent of the Red Cross — all canceled major charity events at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. The American Cancer Society, which has held galas at the club since at least 2009, cited its "values and commitment to diversity," The Washington Post reports, while the Cleveland Clinic told the Post "there were a variety of factors" behind its decision, adding, "We're not elaborating." Similarly, AFMDA said it canceled its 2018 charity ball — one of the biggest events at Mar-a-Lago last season — "after careful deliberation."

These cancelations, after Trump appeared to defend white supremacists, will certainly affect Mar-a-Lago's bottom line, the Post reports, noting that similar events brought in fees ranging from $100,000 to $275,000 apiece. The executive director of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, Laurel Baker, said she "can't help but think there will be more fallout" for Trump's "morally reprehensible" club, which is a member of her organization. "The glitter, the shine has gone from the club," she said, adding: "The club is a member of the chamber. But right is right." There are still 13 big-ticket galas scheduled for Mar-a-Lago, notes the Post's David Fahrenthold, but at least seven major charities that typically hold events at Mar-a-Lago decided in recent months to look elsewhere, avoiding the need to cancel their galas. Peter Weber

4:51 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert started Thursday's Late Show on a serious note, recounting how at least 13 people were killed when a terrorist drove a van into a crowd of people in Barcelona. "This is a heartbreaking reminder that evil is real and that the United States is not alone in fighting it," he said. And Thursday afternoon, "President Trump said the right thing" — at least at first.

"I was sincerely happy to see that kind of moral leadership from our president — for about 45 minutes," Colbert said, using his Trump-tweet voice to read the president's follow-up tweet about Gen. John Pershing's fictitious pig's-blood executions. He played Trump's recounting of the fake but gruesome tale, suggested his bed-time stories must have been terrifying to the Trump kids, imagined some other made-up history lessons Trump might tell, then read a real Pershing quote that, for some reason, Trump doesn't bring up.

Historical accuracy isn't Trump's only problem, Colbert said. So is discipline. He's doubling down on his defense of white supremacists because, according to one adviser, Trump would rather have people call him racist that say he backed down. "Oh, then let me help: you're a racist," Colbert said, courteously. "Naturally, people are asking what happened to that new chief of staff that was going to keep him in line," he said, but "some people think it's already over for John Kelly."

Colbert was incredulous, noting that the current issue of TIME, dated Aug. 21, calls Kelly Trump's last hope. "Kelly's time ended before it began," he said with mock solemnity. "He's some sort of time traveler. Now he just needs to get back into his DeLorean and go back to a happier time for him, like when he was fighting in Iraq." To memorialize Kelly's brief (but ongoing in real life) tenure, The Late Show showed a pretty remarkable, tongue-in-cheek recap of "General Kelly: 17 Days of Discipline." Watch below. Peter Weber

1:58 a.m. ET
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Early Friday morning, crews began to work on removing a statue of Roger B. Taney, the former Supreme Court justice who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and ruled that any person with African descent could not be a citizen, from the grounds of the Maryland State House.

Any change to the building or grounds must be approved by the State House Trust, and the four-member panel voted to remove the statue on Wednesday, with three in favor and one, state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D), not voting. He wrote in an email that Taney used "inflammatory and derogatory language" in the Dred Scott case, but said Taney "served with distinction" when he was a Maryland state attorney general and U.S. attorney general and did remain loyal to the Union, The Baltimore Sun reports. Miller also said there is "balance" because on the opposite side of the state house grounds stands a statue of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice.

The plan is to remove the statue from the base, cover the base in plywood, then store the statue for the Maryland State Archives, The Baltimore Sun reports. The statue was installed in 1872, and while there was increased pressure to remove it following the events in Charlottesville over the weekend, the statue has been controversial for several years. Catherine Garcia

1:17 a.m. ET

Former Saturday Night Live head writer, "Weekend Update" anchor, and University of Virginia alumna Tina Fey has some thoughts about last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, President Trump's response to it, and what to do next. After Trump blamed "many sides" for the violence and death of a counterprotester at a white supremacist march, "I'm feeling sick, because, you know, I've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I wasn't confused by it," Fey told current "Weekend Update" anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che on Thursday night. "No, Colin, Nazis are always bad, I don't care what you say."

But this isn't over, she said, as Jost protested, because there are nine more alt-right rallies planned for Saturday, including one in New York City's Washington Square Park. "And part of me hopes these neo-Nazis do try it in New York City — like, I hope they try it and get the ham salad kicked out of them by a bunch of drag queens," Fey said. "But at the same time, I don't want any more good people to get hurt." So instead of going to protest the neo-Nazis and fight and shout this out, she said, non-Nazi sympathizers should support a local business — specifically a bakery that sells American flag cakes. "Sheetcaking is a grassroots movement, Colin," Fey said. "Most of the women I know have been doing it once a week since the election."

"Sheetcaking" isn't staying silent, exactly — you just yell what you want to say to the white supremacists (and Ann Coulter) into the cake while you are shoving forkfuls of cake into your mouth. Fey demonstrated how that's done, including the speaking-your- mind part. "In conclusion, I really want to say, to encourage all good, sane Americans to treat these rallies this weekend like the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads: don't show up," she said. "Let these morons scream into the empty air." You may not feel much better about the state of the country after watching this, but you might feel a little peckish. Peter Weber

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