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February 13, 2018
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

You know that phrase you start to hear all the time on TV in the fall, something like "I'm Angus and I approve this message" or "This ad was paid for by Canines for a Better America?" The Federal Election Commission clarified in an opinion in December that such a disclaimer needs to be visible on ads on websites like Facebook too — only it doesn't seem like anyone is actually obeying. A ProPublica investigation found that of 300 political ads that have run on Facebook, fewer than 40 actually met the FEC's disclaimer laws.

Ads lacking the proper FEC language include ones paid for by the Democratic National Committee and President Trump's 2020 campaign. Fines for "knowing and willful" violations of the law can be over $1,000.

The regulations are under particular scrutiny now, as it has become increasingly clear that Russian agents used Facebook to promote their agenda during the 2016 election. "Foreign contributions to campaigns for U.S. federal office are illegal," ProPublica notes. "Online, advertisers can target ads to relatively small groups of people. Once the marketing campaign is over, the ads disappear. This makes it difficult for the public to scrutinize them."

The FEC's rules have changed as the nature of online advertising has, too. In 2011, when ads on Facebook were limited to small thumbnails and short text, the FEC agreed that the disclaimer could appear after clicking through the ad. "The functionality and capabilities of today's Facebook Video and Image ads can accommodate the information without the same constrictions imposed by the character-limited ads that Facebook presented to the Commission in 2011," the commission wrote in December.

Read more about the law, and who is and is not complying with it, at ProPublica. Jeva Lange

8:53 a.m. ET

China could potentially end its restrictions on the number of children that parents are allowed to have as soon as this year, Bloomberg reports. For approximately four decades, China enforced a one-child policy that received widespread criticism and resulted in 30 million more men than women due to selective abortions, although the country has touted the policy for its economic successes. In 2015, the country opened up limits to two children in what was apparently an attempt to revitalize the workforce as it aged.

The new law, which would end restrictions on the number of children that parents could have, would be a further effort to sustain the economy. While just 13 percent of China's population was over the age of 60 in 2010, that number is expected to be as high as 25 percent in 2030.

"China's population issues will be a major hurdle for President Xi Jinping's vision of building a modernized country by 2035," said the vice president of the China Society of Economic Reform, Chen Jian. Jeva Lange

7:24 a.m. ET
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in heads to Washington on Monday as President Trump is reportedly asking advisers if he should pull out of a June 12 summit in Sinagpore with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, given the political risks of failure. Moon has been a driving force in the de-escalation of hostility between Trump, Kim, and South Korea, but some Trump aides and outside analysts question whether Moon oversold Kim's willingness to give up his nuclear weapons. Kim's government surprised the White House last week when it broke off peace talks with South Korea and said it would never denuclearize under the conditions suggested by Washington. Trump asked Kim in a call on Saturday night why Pyongyang's public statement seems different than private assurances Moon had conveyed after he met with Kim in April, The New York Times reports.

"It increasingly looks like the Moon administration overstated North Korea's willingness to deal," tweeted Robert Kelly, a professor of political science at South Korea's Pusan National University. "Moon will probably get an earful over that" from Trump. Seoul says the main agenda when Moon meets with Trump Tuesday will be preparing for the summit. Kim appears very conversant about the details of his nuclear program, but White House aides are "concerned about what kind of grasp Mr. Trump has on the details of the North Korea program," the Times reports. "Aides who have recently left the administration say Mr. Trump has resisted the kind of detailed briefings about enrichment capabilities, plutonium reprocessing, nuclear weapons production, and missile programs that [former President Barack] Obama and President George W. Bush regularly sat through." Peter Weber

6:10 a.m. ET
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Federal investigators in New York City have started poring through the files seized from Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal lawyer, more than a month after FBI agents exercised a search warrant on Cohen's office, residences, and bank deposit box on April 9. At the request of Cohen's legal team, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood allowed Cohen and a neutral arbiter called a special master to go through the documents first to flag files covered by attorney-client privilege with Cohen's three law clients: Trump, Sean Hannity, and GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy. If the documents are deemed privilege, prosecutors won't be able to see them.

The first batch of documents processed by the special master, Barbara Jones, and Cohen's team included Cohen's paper documents, and Jones said last week that she will give Wood a timeline for processing the much larger collection of electronic files once she gets enough of that material; the government is expected to hand over all electronic files except from one computer by Friday. The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York it investigating Cohen for possible business fraud, and prosecutors have suggested that little of Cohen's relevant documents will be covered by attorney-client privilege. Peter Weber

5:14 a.m. ET

The proposed summit between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un "hit a major snag" last week, John Oliver said on Last Week Tonight. "Negotiating with North Korea is clearly the tightest of tightropes to walk, and unfortunately, instead of a professional tightrope walker, Trump has brought is a big ol' walrus," National Security Adviser John Bolton, who suggested the "Libya model" for North Korea. "That may not sound like much to you, but Bolton bringing up Libya is literally the worst thing he could have said in this situation," Oliver said, comparing it to a NSFW conversation between a husband and wife.

The "Libya model" starts with Moammar Gadhafi agreeing to give up his nuclear weapons program and ends with him being brutally murdered in the street after the U.S. facilitated his overthrow. "It's not just Kim Jong Un who is touchy about what happened in Libya," Oliver said. "Gadhafi's death is a common obsession among autocrats. In fact, even [Russia's Vladimir] Putin apparently thinks about it a lot. ... You know what, I'm not actually surprised by that, because if you told me that there is a video that Putin watches over and over again, I would guess it's of someone being murdered. You know, that's his Big Lewbowski."

"For a sense of just how badly Bolton screwed up here, Trump actually walked his comments back" on TV, at least briefly, Oliver said. "That is the president of the United States directly contradicting one of his top advisers — a man who, incidentally, was standing in the room the whole time. And look, John Bolton, how can I put this to you, what you did, in terms that you might understand? Your decision to say the words the 'Libya model' may have put your time in the White House on the path of the 'Scaramucci model,'" which he explains below, complete with some NSFW language. Peter Weber

4:32 a.m. ET

"Rehab is a place where people can address an addiction to drugs or alcohol, something that until relatively recently was seen as a moral failing that could be overcome with sheer willpower," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, using Belinda Carlisle and "an amazing PSA from the '80s" as a cautionary tale. "Thankfully there is now a broader understanding that addiction is complex and that nothing about getting off alcohol or drugs is easy." Experts commonly view it as a medical problem, and for many addicts, the solution is sought in America's $35 billion rehab industry. Oliver's big message: Buyers beware.

Insurance is increasingly covering rehab, thanks to a law signed by George W. Bush and expanded under Barack Obama, Oliver said, but not all rehab is equal — there are no federal standards for what rehab or addiction counseling should entail, and the vast majority of people don't get evidence-based care. "So tonight let's look at what rehab is and why the industry's so troubled," he said.

Oliver pointed to Florida as "a window into how the flood of insurance money into treatment centers has caused massive problems," running through some of the ways "rehab" centers game the system, like excessive testing. "Urine is so valuable that in the recovery industry is is known as liquid gold," he said. "The final big problem" is that "everything about this industry is incredibly difficult to navigate, which is dangerous," literally a matter of life or death, Oliver said. The best starting place right now is probably trying to get advice from a doctor who is board-certified in addiction medicine, he said, but it shouldn't be this difficult. "So much about battling addiction is really hard. Getting clean is hard. Staying clean is hard. But getting good, evidence-based, trustworthy help should be the f---ing easy part." (There is NSFW language throughout.) Watch below. Peter Weber

3:14 a.m. ET

John Oliver is a noted skeptic of royal weddings and the British monarchy — he suggested in February that Meghan Markle might want to consider calling off her wedding to Prince Harry, for her own sanity. But of course the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex did indeed get married on Saturday — "as you probably knew if you were anywhere within earshot of CBS's Gayle King," Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. He had video in case you weren't within earshot.

"Perhaps the most notable part of the service was Bishop Michael Curry, who delivered an impassioned ode to love — which led to some pretty awkward reaction shots," Oliver said, focusing on the monarch herself. "Oh, that is the wrong room there, buddy. Because believe me, those are some of the most repressed people on earth. Talking to the queen about love is like talking to her about the transformative power of the Taco Bell $5 Chalupa Cravings Box." (And there goes his knighthood.)

Last Week Tonight also had some unexpressed thoughts on all the American news anchors affecting British accents for the wedding, and you can watch (and likely cringe) below. Peter Weber

2:44 a.m. ET
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On Sunday, Rudy Giuliani spoke to several news organizations to make the case that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had told him and other members of President Trump's legal team that he hopes to finish his report on whether Trump obstructed justice by Sept. 1. But that date is contingent upon a few things, most notably Trump agreeing to sit down for an interview with Mueller and his investigators. Mueller's office declined to comment.

"We said to them, 'If we're going to be interviewed in July, how much time until the report gets issued?'" Giuliani told The Associated Press on Sunday, "They said September, which is good for everyone, because no one wants this to drag into the midterms." He pointed to former FBI Director James Comey upending the 2016 election at Hillary Clinton's expense as a cautionary tale. Giuliani told AP the September report "would be the culmination of the investigation into the president." But he told The Wall Street Journal that the Sept. 1 end point had been conveyed "as a possibility" and said "we hope" the investigation ends at that point. In an interview with The Washington Post, Giuliani described Sept. 1 as "an incentive" to "do the interview."

In any case, The New York Times notes, "wrapping up the obstruction case would not signal the end of Mr. Mueller's work. That is one piece of his broader inquiry, a counterintelligence investigation into Russia's campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump associates coordinated with it. Counterintelligence investigations are used to gather information quietly about the activities of foreign powers and their agents — sometimes for years — and can result in criminal charges." Peter Weber

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