On Monday, Russia declared it would treat U.S.-led coalition aircrafts that crossed west of the Euphrates River as targets, a response to Americans shooting down a Syrian government fighter jet on Sunday, The Associated Press reports.
Sunday's incident was the first time a U.S. jet downed a manned hostile aircraft in more than 10 years, The Washington Post reports, and the fourth time in a month that the U.S. military attacked Syrian loyalist forces. Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the fight against the Islamic State.
In a statement, the Syrian military said the jet was carrying out a mission against the Islamic State, and its pilot was killed. A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, Col. John Thomas, scoffed at the claim that the aircraft was bombing ISIS, because the village of Ja'Din is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition mostly comprised of Arab and Kurdish fighters, and ISIS hasn't recently been in the area. Jeva Lange
Scott Pruitt's controversial security chief moonlighted for the National Enquirer's publisher during the 2016 election
EPA chief Scott Pruitt's liberal public spending on first-class airplane tickets, soundproof phone booth, and 24/7 security happened after Pruitt replaced his first chief of security with Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent who reportedly encouraged or proposed many of the expenditures. Perrotta also owns a private security business on the side, and during the 2016 election he moonlighted for American Media Inc. and its chairman and CEO, David Pecker, a longtime friend of President Trump, The New York Times and The Associated Press report, citing records and interviews.
It isn't clear what duties Perrotta, 50, performed for AMI, publisher of the National Enquirer — which promoted and protected Trump and smeared his rivals during the 2016 election — and Radar. But the Times reports that "some of the activities included physical security, cybersecurity, and investigative services involving litigation," and AP said that "Perrotta was engaged to discretely handle investigative work at the direction" of Pecker.
On Tuesday, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sent a letter to the EPA's Office of General Counsel asking for information on Perrotta's outside work. In 2013, he got a five-year waiver from the EPA to operate "a security firm that will provide cybersecurity and denial of service insurance to consumers," and he then founded Sequoia Security Group. Carper and Whitehouse said Perrotta's side job appears to have exceeded the permitted activities.
In an email to the Times, Perrotta noted that he "was a highly respected federal agent" and complained that the news coverage of Pruitt's questionable spending and security measures have "tarnished" his image. He added that he is "retiring as planned" this summer, and argued that he "served two former administrators and now to end my career this way is totally unacceptable." You can read more about his ties to Trump's circle and an apparently useless $3,000 bug sweep of Pruitt's office at The New York Times. Peter Weber
Meghan Markle will, awkwardly, blissfully say 'I do' to another man on TV before marrying Prince Harry
You could generously call it a dress rehearsal, but when Meghan Markle first declares that "you are the husband I've always wanted" during her televised wedding, she won't be saying it to fiancé Prince Harry on May 19 at Windsor Castle. It will be on Wednesday, in the season seven finale of Suits, Markel's show on the USA Network.
— Suits (@Suits_USA) April 22, 2018
This will also be Markle's swan song as Rachel — her wedding to Mike (Patrick J. Adams) will usher them off the show. "We know there's another wedding on the horizon for Ms. Markle," USA said, modestly, "but just seeing her here in all of her bridal resplendence is a fairy tale come true." In most fairy tales, of course, the bride marries a prince. Entertainment Weekly got a sneak peak of how the fictional wedding will look.
Markle will retire from acting to focus on charity work after she marries into the British royal family, which is probably for the best — fake marriages may be an occupational hazard of the acting trade, but if saying "I do" to another man is slightly awkward a month before your actual wedding to a prince, it would be only more so after becoming a princess. Peter Weber
In a break from tradition, President Trump did not invite any congressional Democrats or the media to Tuesday night's state dinner honoring French President Emmanuel Macron. "If he does not like you, you will not be there," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "Better luck next time, vegetables." There were some awkward moments between Trump and first lady Melania Trump in a public appearance with the Macrons earlier on Tuesday, and Colbert narrated the hat-enforced air kiss and the president's unsuccessful attempt at hand-holding. "Trump is like, 'Come on, Melania, I want to hold your hand,'" Colbert said. "It reminds of that Beatles song, 'Get Back.'"
At least Trump appears to have gotten on affectionately with Macron, Colbert said, showing their elaborate handshake/hug/kiss and then re-enacting it with bandleader Jon Batiste. "Compared to holding hands with Melania, he and Macron just performed the Kama Sutra together," Colbert joked. "Which one is he married to again?"
The Daily Show showed that in the end, Trump did manage to hold the first lady's hand — though it looks pretty ominous with the theme from Jaws playing in the background.
And in The Late Show's imagining of Melania Trump's elaborate preparations for the state dinner, she slipped a special message to Macron. Watch below. Peter Weber
Seth Meyers warily looks past Ronny Jackson at the Fox News pundit Trump might tap next to lead the VA
President Trump loves to use the word "choice" when discussing the Department of Veterans Affairs, but what he really seems to mean is fully privatizing veterans' care, Seth Meyers said on Tuesday's Late Night. "There's a debate to be had, but I'll just say that the Hoover Dam has been there for almost 90 years, while the Jamba Juice on your block that used to be a Curves is now a Chipotle." Veterans have had some "choice" since 2014 — "you know, back when your Chipotle was a Radio Shack," Meyers joked — and given the choice, "studies have shown that veterans overwhelmingly prefer to go to the VA for their care."
Former VA Secretary David Shulkin says Trump fired him because he wouldn't go along with privatization plans, and Trump's pick to replace him, White House doctor Ronny Jackson, appears to be going nowhere fast, amid mounting questions about his work and personal history. And "unfortunately, when it comes to decisions involving veterans, Trump reportedly seeks the advice of Fox News personality and Iraq War veteran Pete Hegseth, who favors an overhaul of the VA and who is on Trump's short list to be the next secretary of Veterans Affairs," Meyers said. "Now, you might be unfamiliar with Hegseth because you don't watch Fox News — or you're very familiar him, which means you're just hate-watching my show, and frankly, I don't appreciate that."
Right now, the question is whether Jackson's nomination will survive — the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee has postponed confirmation hearings, and Trump is sending mixed messages, privately urging Jackson to fight while publicly questioning why he would want to go through an "ugly" confirmation process, adding, "if I were him, I wouldn't do it." That was a bridge too far for Meyers. "What do you mean, if you were him you wouldn't do it? You're even less qualified, and you did do it." Watch below. Peter Weber
Trump slammed Obama for inviting top donors to a state dinner. Guess who attended Trump's 1st state soirée?
Once again, it seems that with President Trump, there is a tweet for everything.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2012
Trump hosted his first state dinner, for French President Emmanuel Macron, on Tuesday night, and while no Democratic members of Congress were invited, several top Trump donors made the list, as MSNBC's David Gura noted:
Tonight's guests include Henry Kravis who gave $1 million to President Trump's inauguration (https://t.co/8bg3bLgoSg); Stephen Schwarzman, who gave $250,000 (https://t.co/Bss3hVXGu1); and Amb. Jamie McCourt, who gave "more than $400,000" to the campaign (https://t.co/2zLGzDF2Il). https://t.co/tb7j4KrqPq
— David Gura (@davidgura) April 25, 2018
Also in attendance were Estée Lauder heir Ronald Lauder, who has donated heavily to Republicans in Congress and gave $1.1 million to a group that ran anti-Muslim ads right before the 2016 election, according to OpenSecrets, and Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News channel employs several high-profile Trump boosters. Overall, however, the guest list "was fairly standard for events like these, filled mostly with White House officials, Cabinet members, the diplomatic corps, and a smattering of surprise faces," The Washington Post notes, and the dinner itself went off "without any major glitches." You can catch a glimpse of the decor and guests in the video of Trump's toast below. Peter Weber
Instead of bringing presents, Logan Wilson is asking people to celebrate her 12th birthday by participating in a family fun run to raise money for a new friend battling a rare cancer.
Wilson told CBS Denver she was inspired to help Piper Waneka, 4, after reading the book Choose to Matter by Olympic gold medalist Julie Foudy. Waneka was diagnosed last June with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a cancerous brain tumor that is only found in children. There is no cure or treatment, but Waneka remains "so positive and uplifting," Wilson said.
Other kids Wilson's age heard about the fundraiser and have canceled their own birthday parties and joined the cause. Wilson, Waneka, and their families recently met at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and Wilson gathered ideas that will make the run "as awesome" as possible for Waneka. She's looking forward to the run, which will bring much-needed awareness to DIPG. "I hope they just find a cure and work harder and harder and make it better for families who are experiencing it," Wilson said. Catherine Garcia
While her friends picked out dresses and worried about dates, Fatima Faruq chose not to attend her senior prom, putting her energy instead into saving money so the new mom and her infant son could have their own apartment.
That son, Nassir Al-Faruq, is now 18, and wanting to give his mom the experience she missed out on, asked if she wanted to go to prom with him this year. At first, Faruq told The Washington Post, she thought he was just kidding, but with prom fast approaching, he let her know he was "dead serious. I was absolutely honored to go to his prom with him," she said.
Her son told the Post he wanted his mom, now 36, to "enjoy herself and I wanted her to feel young again." Faruq's cousin designs clothes, and she made them matching green prom outfits, while friends did her makeup and took their pictures. Earlier this month, they turned heads when they arrived at the Crystal Tea Room in downtown Philadelphia for Cardinal O'Hara High School's prom. Nassir said his friends came up to him and said they looked "dope" and were "celebrities," and they enjoyed dancing and hanging out with Nassir's friends. "My mom is a cool person," he said. "She can make you laugh." Catherine Garcia