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February 11, 2019

American Media Inc., the National Enquirer's parent company, had so many contacts with Saudi Arabia over the last several years that it asked the Justice Department in 2018 if it should register as a foreign agent, a person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, anyone who represents the interests of a foreign power in a "political or quasi-political capacity" must let the government know about this relationship. AMI sought money from Saudi investors to fund acquisitions, wanting to purchase Time, Fortune, Money, and Sports Illustrated, and it produced 200,000 copies of a 97-page glossy magazine titled The New Kingdom, which praised Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Because of these contacts, AMI approached the Justice Department, asking whether it should register as a foreign agent, the Journal reports.

The Justice Department responded that it determined the company was not "an agent of a foreign principal" under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the Journal says. A person familiar with the matter told the newspaper that the New Kingdom issue fawning over Prince Mohammed was "done to kiss his ass when he came to visit in the hopes he'd invest in the company and it didn't work. There was nothing more to it than that."

Last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accused AMI of trying to blackmail him, using intimate photos and texts as leverage to get him to drop an investigation into how the National Enquirer accessed earlier texts he sent during an extramarital affair. Bezos said that the "Saudi angle" of the investigation "seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve." For more on the connections between AMI and Saudi Arabia, visit The Wall Street Journal. Catherine Garcia

5:49 a.m.

President Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border on Friday, and Stephen Colbert asked CNN's Jake Taper what that actually meant on Monday's Late Show. "I think it just means that he couldn't get the money for his border wall so he's trying to figure out another way to get money for his border wall, and he's doing it in a way that has never been attempted before," Tapper said. "Presidents have declared national emergencies before, but not for this reason. Usually they do it, they're taking an act that Congress actually wants them to do," usually sanctions-related.

Out of some 60 declared national emergencies, Tapper added, "I don't think it's ever been done that a president fails to get Congress to pass something and then he just decides, 'Okay, well I'm just going to declare an emergency so I can have the money do what I want it to do." "It seems imperial," Colbert said, and Tapper allowed "it's certainly not what the law was intended to do." This will now go to the courts, but "I don't know that the U.S. Supreme Court would rule against this," he added, and Colbert pointed to Trump's singsong prediction that the Supreme Court will side with him. "You have to appreciate that he auto-tuned his own press conference," Tapper joked.

House Democrats will also force Senate Republicans to vote on Trump's declaration, something Senate Republicans really don't want to do, for political or ideological reasons, Tapper said, though how many Republicans will actually vote against it "is another matter," as always. "It's the groundhog presidency," Colbert suggested. "We come really close to having a check or a balance, and then the next day it's 'I Got You, Babe.'"

Tapper also suggested the White House doesn't have a lot of authority to call former FBI official Andrew McCabe an unreliable liar and parsed Rod Rosenstein's non-denials. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:25 a.m.

Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe explained on 60 Minutes Sunday night why he opened a counterintelligence operation into President Trump and Russia, and on Monday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert suggested an answer to McCabe's question about why Trump was acting so strange about Russia when he fired FBI Director James Comey: "Because he's guilty?"

McCabe said Trump gave him lots of reasons to suspect nefarious ties to Russia, including one exchange where the president reportedly told U.S. intelligence analysts he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin over them. Colbert added on to McCabe's quote from Trump: "I don't care what our intelligence agencies say, I believe Putin ... has the director's cut of the pee-pee tape."

McCable also discussed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's casual suggestion about invoking the 25th Amendment, irking some Republicans, Colbert said, poking fun at Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) vow to investigate whether the Justice Department and FBI plotted to remove Trump from office: "Yes, Graham says we need a federal investigation into the FBI. You know what that means: It's time to call the Federal Bureau of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Investigators. Learn all about it in the new hit CBS midseason replacement series The FBFBII." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:24 a.m.

Roman Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy, but infamously, not all priests keep that vow. And whether it's through a consensual affair or rape, priests sometimes father children. "Now, the Vatican has confirmed, apparently for the first time, that its department overseeing the world's priests has general guidelines for what to do when clerics break celibacy vows and father children," The New York Times reports.

"I can confirm that these guidelines exist," Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told the Times. "It is an internal document," created in 2017 based on a decade's worth of procedures, he added, and its "fundamental principle" is the "protection of the child." Gisotti said the document "requests" that the father leave the priesthood to "assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child." Canon lawyers tell the Times there's nothing in church law requiring a priest who fathers a child to step down. Msgr. Andrea Ripa, under secretary in the Congregation for the Clergy, told the Times that while "it is impossible" to do more than ask such priests to resign, "if you don't ask, you will be dismissed."

There are more than 400,000 Catholic priests worldwide but no reliable estimate for the number of children of priests, though the website for one support group, Coping International, has 50,000 registered users in 175 countries, according to the group's founder, Vincent Doyle. Doyle, an Irish psychotherapist who was 28 when he learned the priest he believed to be his godfather was actually his biological father, will meet with senior prelates in Rome this week when the world's bishops gather to discuss the Catholic child sex abuse scandal. He doesn't think all priests who father children should be laicized or fired.

Still, the "children of the ordained," as the church apparently calls them, are "the next scandal," Doyle told the Times. "There are kids everywhere." Read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

1:56 a.m.

It's been a soggy February in California.

Since the first of the month, storms have dumped 18 trillion gallons of water in the state, the National Weather Service said. That's the equivalent of 27 million Olympic-sized pools, or 45 percent the total volume of Lake Tahoe. "If you weighed all the water, it would come out to 150 trillion pounds of water," KGO-TV meteorologist Mike Nicco said. "That's a lot of weight."

The snowpack in the Sierras is at 141 percent of its seasonal average and above its April 1 benchmark, the Los Angeles Times reports, and that will provide water for farmers once it begins to melt. All of this rain hasn't been enough to get California out of its drought, though; the United States Drought Monitor reports that a large portion of Southern California is still considered abnormally dry, and there are some small areas in the extreme north and south of the state experiencing moderate to severe drought. Catherine Garcia

1:52 a.m.

President Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border on Friday, and after "a strange and incoherent appearance" in the Rose Garden, it was clear "the true emergency was taking place in his skull," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. He ran through some of the random topics Trump discussed, adding: "I only made a couple of those up, and you don't know which ones." Still, all Trump had to do was say he had no choice but to build his wall by executive fiat, and he even failed at that.

There are already several lawsuits challenging the declaration, but Trump "has a plan, and it goes a little something like this," Colbert said. "A little singsong, don't you think?" he asked after playing the clip. "I can't tell if he was answering a question or reading his Torah portion." "He's nailing that B-flat," Jon Batiste threw in from the piano, and Colbert spun a fantasy about Trump's presidency ending, in B-flat.

At The Daily Show, Trevor Noah was also surprised "Trump admitted he didn't need to declare an emergency, he's just doing it to save time," and he also found it amusing that Trump "wrote a song about" the legal challenges. "It sounds like he's being autotuned," or perhaps "trying to play his own speech on 'Guitar Hero,'" Noah said, inspired by "Cardi D's jam": "What if, the whole time, the key to making Trump a smarter president is just to teach him in song form?" He tried that out with sectarian violence in Yemen.

Late Night's Seth Meyers thought Trump's "singsong ramble" was more "like a 5-year-old telling you what he saw at the zoo," but he agreed that Trump saying he "didn't need to do this" declaration shows it's "the exact opposite of an emergency." That wasn't the only clue, as Trump flew straight from the Rose Garden to Mar-a-Lago for a weekend of golf and ... brunch? "There's no clearer sign that this is not a real emergency than the fact that he is at an omelette bar," Meyers said. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:27 a.m.

Kazi Mannan remembers what it was like when he arrived in the United States 23 years ago, with $5 to his name.

An immigrant from Pakistan, Mannan told WJLA that in those early days, he never had enough money to eat inside a restaurant. Years later, when he opened his own restaurant, Sakina Halal Grill, in Washington, D.C., he decided that everyone would be able to eat his delicious Pakistani and Indian food, whether or not they could pay.

Since opening in 2013, Mannan has made it his mission to feed people who are hungry and homeless. Some come in and eat twice a day at the restaurant, and the staff has their orders memorized. Mannan estimates that in 2018, the restaurant served at least 16,000 free meals. "I don't want any donation, but if you're coming in to eat, that's your support of helping a community restaurant that is offering kindness and love others," he told WJLA. "I'm trying to worship our Creator through food." Catherine Garcia

12:18 a.m.

Maybe they meant to type "(Crickets)"?

The White House has posted online the remarks made by Vice President Mike Pence last Friday at the Munich Security Conference, but there's a glaring error. In the beginning of his address, Pence said it was his "great honor" to speak "on behalf of a champion of freedom and a champion of a strong national defense, the 45th president of the United States, President Donald Trump." In the transcript, it says this was followed by "(Applause)." In reality, it was followed by (Silence).

As video from the event shows, Pence expected to be met with some sort of a reaction, as he paused, awkwardly, before moving on. The White House hasn't said why it inserted this fabrication, or why they didn't go with something more exciting, like (Audience starts chanting, "USA! USA! USA!" while twirling star-spangled rally towels) or (German Chancellor Angela Merkel dons a MAGA cap, initiates The Wave). Catherine Garcia

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