November 20, 2019

Tuesday was Day 3 of the House's public impeachment hearings, and the star witness was Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert on the National Security Counsel and decorated war veteran whose family fled the Soviet Union when he was a child. "Vindman used his opening statement to send a message to his father, who is still alive," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, playing the clip. "That's moving, and true, but you know it's really going to enrage Trump, because it features his two least-favorite things: immigrants and fathers who love their sons."

Vindman lauded America's virtues, which Colbert endorsed: "Yes, in America, right matters — you know, unless you're one of the congressmen on the right, then not so much these days." He played several clips highlighting the GOP's attacks on Vindman, Vindman's well-prepared pushback, and a moment of twin-talk between Vindman and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).

"It is safe to say that, politically speaking, these hearings have been very bad for President Trump," Seth Meyers said at Late Night. "And Trump's reaction to the impeachment hearings has only made things worse." After Trump's previous contemporaneous attacks of witnesses raised witness-tampering concerns, "in advance of today's hearings, anchors on Trump's favorite TV channel, Fox News, begged him not to tweet or even watch the hearings at all."

"In fact, the public hearings are going so badly for Trump that Republicans who spent weeks complaining the initial depositions were being held in private are now going back to saying this should all be handled behind closed doors," Meyers said. "And after this morning's hearings, you could see why." Trump and his allies "have tried to impugn the integrity and character of Lt. Col. Vindman," before and during Tuesday's hearings, he said, proving "once again" that "Republicans have no defense, all they can do is attack the witnesses because that's what Trump wants."

Does it matter? "We went out in the street today, we found people who said they were fans of Donald Trump, we asked them how they felt about some stuff that Trump has done — except none of it was stuff Trump has done," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "All of the events we described were about Richard Nixon." Watch his head-pounding "Watergate edition of Lie-Witness News" below. Peter Weber

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

December 7, 2019

President Trump received some good news and some bad news from the Supreme Court on Friday.

First, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg temporarily blocked a congressional subpoena for President Trump's financial records from Deutsche Bank. The decision comes after Trump's emergency request to block a lower court ruling that required him to hand over the records as part of the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees' investigation into Trump's relationship with the bank.

The stay on the ruling doesn't let Trump off the hook in the long run, however. It will remain in place until Dec. 13 while the Supreme Court deliberates on whether to grant a longer stay and give Trump's legal team time to prepare a formal appeal. But ultimately, it doesn't say much about how the Court will rule.

Meanwhile, in news that left the Trump administration — particularly the Justice Department — more disappointed, the Court rejected the White House's request to go ahead with a plan to carry out the first executions of federal death row inmates since 2003. The justices left a federal judge's hold on four executions scheduled by U.S. Attorney General William Barr in place, though the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District is now considering the case and should make a ruling within two months. Read more at Politico and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

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