August 13, 2019

"Over the weekend, sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his New York jail cell," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. "Now apparently, he — they say, and I guess they would know, though they can't say how — committed suicide. Which is surprising, because three weeks ago, he was found unconscious with marks on his neck — how the marks got there, authorities did not share with the public — and yet Epstein was left alone and not closely monitored. Now, maybe he was just in one of those prisons that really value inmate privacy. Then again, Epstein knew a lot of powerful and important people. ... A who's who of 'Who's Jeffrey Epstein? I've never met Jeffrey Epstein!'"

Given his alleged crimes and powerful friends — including President Trump and former President Bill Clinton — Epstein's death "has set off a wild wave of conspiracy theories online, the sort of stuff that only unstable tinfoil-hat loons could possibly believe — so Donald Trump," Colbert said. He did not subscribe to the conspiracy theory Trump boosted. "Really? Really? That's your theory? I'm not saying that the Clintons don't have any power — they could definitely get a reservation at any restaurant in New York City; party of four, 7 o'clock on a Saturday, maybe not — but masterminding a scheme to assassinate a high-profile prisoner in maximum-security federal custody? They couldn't even mastermind a visit to Wisconsin."

Still, Trump clearly thinks this "dangerous and completely unfounded murder conspiracy theory about his predecessor" is "the only logical answer," Colbert sighed, following Trump down his "rabbit hole" to — well, a different, only slightly more logical answer. He ended with Trump's very Trump-centric visit to El Paso and Dayton last week, his reported fury at not getting accolades for his visit, his trouble finding patients willing to meet with him, and his single, often unfortunate pose for photos, be it a baby orphaned by a mass shooter, a dictator, or a taco bowl. Watch below. Peter Weber

11:08 a.m.

President Trump may have gotten a good response from his audience, but his latest speech offended many others.

President Trump delivered a 45-minute speech to the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday evening. Trump spoke about his administration's decisions to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2017, move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and eliminate funding for the Palestine Authority as he urged those in attendance to vote for him as he runs for a second term in the Oval Office. Trump was reportedly regularly interrupted by the crowd's chants of "four more years" during the speech.

But, the speech was not without controversy, with several observers noting that his words played into anti-Semitic tropes about wealth and loyalty. During the speech, Trump said there are Jewish people in the U.S. who don't love Israel enough, and added that if someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) gets elected to the presidency, instead, the people in the room would "be out of business in 15 minutes."

Read more at Haaretz and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

8:32 a.m.

Welcome to NATO High.

In the latest Saturday Night Live cold open, the NBC show parodied the hot mic situation from last week's NATO conference, in which several world leaders appeared to be gossiping about President Trump. Paul Rudd, Jimmy Fallon, and James Corden joined the sketch as French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Rudd's Macron and Fallon's Trudeau are clearly the cool kids at the NATO conference, and they've decided to let Corden's Johnson tag along with them during lunch (though it seems they mostly want him to help them throw a party at Buckingham Palace.)

Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin returned as Trump, who — along with a tray filled with several cheeseburgers — tries to snag a seat at the table, but his continuously rejected by the trio, who eventually give their fourth seat to a shocked Angela Merkely (portrayed by Kate McKinnon). Baldwin's Trump is especally stung by Corden's Johnson, who he thought was his friend. After Baldwin's Trump gets fed up with his fellow leaders' antics, Cecily Strong's First Lady Melania Trump dropped by with a message about bullying. Watch the full skit below. Tim O'Donnell

8:09 a.m.

North Korea is at it again. But this time no one is exactly sure about what they're up to.

North Korean state media reported Sunday that Pyongyang conducted a "successful test of a great significance" Saturday at its Sohae satellite launch site, a rocket testing ground, but did not reveal what was tested. U.S. officials have said North Korea promised to close the testing ground, but it appears that won't be the case any longer as Pyongyang's year-end deadline to reach a denuclearization agreement with Washington nears after talks stalled earlier this year.

It likely wasn't a missile launch, since Japan and South Korea can usually detect those. Instead, missile experts said its possible North Korea tested a solid fuel rocket engine, which could allow the country to field intercontinental ballistic missiles that are easier to hide and faster to deploy. "If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn't already" said Vipin Narang, a nuclear expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year."

North Korea has promised to adopt a "new path" if the U.S. does not offer sanctions relief, which analysts believe could include launching a satellite that would allow Pyongyang to continue testing missiles more covertly. Read more at BBC and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

December 7, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) did not want to answer that one.

Warren on Saturday steered away from directly responding to a question about whether she would release her tax returns from before 2008 if her fellow Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg made his fundraisers open to the press.

The senator didn't say yes or no, but she made the argument she was focusing on the present. To her point, she has already released 10 years worth of her tax returns, which is more than President Trump or former President Barack Obama ever released. But Warren has also recently called for Buttigieg to release the names of his clients when he worked for the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. He began that job in 2007.

Buttigieg's camp responded to Warren already, and called for her to release the returns in a show of transparency. Tim O'Donnell

December 7, 2019

The FBI is keeping its investigation into the shooting that killed three people Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida, tightly wrapped, but some information has made its way through.

The New York Times, for instance, reports that the suspected Saudi Arabian gunman — identified as Second Lt. Mohammad Saeed Alshamrani, an aviation student at the base who served in the Saudi air force — appears to have been self-radicalized. There is no evidence he had any ties to international terrorist groups, an initial assessment from American intelligence and counterterrorism officials revealed.

A motive reportedly remains unclear right now, though the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activity, found a Twitter account that could not be independently verified, but had a name matching the suspect's. It contained posts criticizing U.S. foreign policy and quoting former al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, per the Times.

The FBI is still investigating whether the suspected gunman acted alone, as well. The Associated Press reports he had a dinner party with three other students earlier this week. They reportedly watched videos of mass shootings while there, a U.S. official told AP, and one of those students reportedly videotaped the building where the shooting was taking place, while the other two watched from a car. The official said 10 other Saudi students were being held on the base, while several others were unaccounted for.

As of now, though, there hasn't been any indication about whether the shooting was part of a larger operation, but that hasn't prevented some lawmakers from reaching their own conclusions. Tim O'Donnell

December 7, 2019

The House Judiciary Committee released a report Saturday geared toward defining what the Constitution's framers considered an impeachable defense.

The report comes after four legal experts testified about the subject Wednesday in the committee's initial hearing in President Trump's impeachment inquiry. The report, which traces impeachment's origins to monarchical England, doesn't conclude that Trump should be impeached, although Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) didn't mince words when announcing its release.

Ultimately, though, the committee is leaving that decision up to the House as a whole. Still, there's seemingly some hints at what future articles of impeachment — which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked committee chairs to draft — might look like.

Trump appears to have heard about the report and was quick as always to argue over Twitter that he was putting the U.S., not himself, first in his dealings with Ukraine. Tim O'Donnell

December 7, 2019

Congress is on the verge of implementing paid parental leave for all federal workers.

A tentative bipartisan agreement was struck during Congress' negotiations over its annual defense bill. Draft language includes a provision that would allow 2.1 million civilians who work for the U.S. government to take paid leave for 12 weeks to care for a new baby after birth, adoption, or the initiation of foster care, multiple people familiar with the agreement told The Wall Street Journal.

Currently, military members can take 12 weeks of paid parental leave, but civilian federal employees only receive unpaid parental leave and instead have to use accrued annual or sick leave to get paid during that time, per the Journal.

The White House is backing the deal, and Ivanka Trump reportedly played a role in the negotiations.

That has Democratic lawmakers optimistic the provision will pass.

Many lawmakers view this as a first step toward guaranteeing paid parental leave for all Americans, including those who work in the private sector, which Congress hopes will eventually match the same standard. "This will be a crucial win for federal employees and their families and a significant development in our ongoing fight for comprehensive paid family and medical leave for all Americans," Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

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