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June 25, 2014
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Tuesday night's primaries were a series of near-miss defeats for Tea Party insurgent candidates and victories for the Republican establishment — a sharp turnaround from where things were just two weeks ago, when the political world was reeling after the surprise defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia GOP primary.

The most obvious example is the Republican primary runoff in Mississippi, where incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran won with just under 51 percent of the vote — and challenger Chris McDaniel bitterly denounced Cochran and the Republican establishment for having courted Democratic voters to cross over into the GOP primary.

Another example: Oklahoma's open Senate race, where national figures such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin had endorsed T.W. Shannon, the state House Speaker, who if elected would have been the first African-American U.S. senator from the state. However, many local GOP activists gravitated to Rep. James Lankford, the No. 5 Republican in the House, who has a longstanding base among religious conservatives. Lankford won the nomination outright with 57 percent of the vote, above the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff, with Shannon far behind at 34 percent.

There were also some near-misses in House races. In New York's 22nd District, two-term Rep. Richard Hanna was opposed by state Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, who had the backing of conservative groups. Hanna won his race with 53 percent, against Tenney's 47 percent.

And in Colorado's 5th District, four-term Rep. Doug Lamborn was challenged by Bentley Rayburn, a retired Air Force general who previously ran against Lamborn in the open-seat 2006 primary, and challenged him again in 2008. Lamborn won for a third time tonight, also with 53 percent against 47 percent.

Colorado also delivered another big win for the GOP establishment, in the four-way primary for governor. Former congressman and 2006 nominee Bob Beauprez won with 30 percent — narrowly defeating former Rep. Tom Tancredo, famous for his strong opposition to even legal immigration, who came in at 27 percent. Eric Kleefeld

11:30 a.m. ET

President Trump tweeted Sunday that the GOP should change Senate rules to pass a funding bill to end the government shutdown without Democrats' help. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, has never shown enthusiasm for this "nuclear option," and he indicated through a representative Sunday he does not support Trump's idea.

"The Republican Conference opposes changing the rules on legislation," McConnell's statement said. That means it is unlikely a spending deal will be passed with a simple majority of 51 votes (rather than the present 60), as Trump hopes.

That intra-party opposition did not prevent the White House from continuing to advocate the change. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney argued on CNN's State of the Union Sunday that Trump's proposal "responds to this constant criticism we hear" that Republicans should be able to fund the government because they control both the executive and legislative branches.

"The answer is, as you've just laid out, it takes 60 votes in the Senate," Mulvaney said. "We cannot open the government without Senate Democrat support. We don't have that support, which is why we are where we are." Watch his comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian

10:31 a.m. ET

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, implausibly but effectively played by a giggly Kate McKinnon in shoulder pads and facial prosthetics, visited Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update in a jovial mood to discuss his Russia investigation with host Colin Jost.

McKinnon's Mueller coyly insisted he could not discuss his ongoing probe into Russian election meddling and alleged Trump campaign collusion, but he was more than willing to offer a few hints of how well it's going. "Colin, you gotta understand, the guy didn't leave me a trail of breadcrumbs," Mueller said of President Trump. "He left me full loaves — fresh, seven-grain loaves straight from Panera Bread. I'm having a blast, man."

Watch the full skit below. Bonnie Kristian

10:16 a.m. ET
Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) removed Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) from the House Ethics Committee on Saturday in response to a New York Times report that Meehan used tax dollars to settle a case with a former female aide who accused him of sexual misconduct. Ryan also directed Meehan to repay the unknown amount out of his own pocket, and to submit to an ethics investigation.

The Times reported that Meehan, who is married, expressed romantic interest in the aide with a handwritten letter and "grew hostile" when she rebuffed him. After she left her position because of the harassment, the report says, the aide "reached a confidential agreement" with Meehan, including a settlement paid out of his congressional account.

Meehan has denied any inappropriate behavior. His office said in a statement he "has always treated his colleagues, male and female, with the utmost respect and professionalism." Bonnie Kristian

10:08 a.m. ET
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Turkish troops on Saturday attacked an enclave of U.S.-supported Kurdish YPG militia fighters in the northern Syrian city of Afrin. After airstrikes, Turkish state media reported, ground troops entered the area Sunday. The YPG allied with the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, but Ankara considers the Kurdish fighters terrorists because of their ties to Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the United States will have an open-ended military presence in Syria, including ongoing support for the Kurds. Tillerson's statement angered Turkey, which is a U.S. ally via NATO. Washington asked Turkey not to attack the Kurdish forces last week. Bonnie Kristian

8:29 a.m. ET

Saturday Night Live opened with a joint press conference by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Aidy Bryant) and Dr. Ronny Jackson (Beck Bennett), the doctor who reported the results of President Trump's physical this past week. Jackson is on hand, Sanders explains, "to come out here and tell you how not fat the president is."

"This is the president's unbiased, 100 percent accurate health assessment," Bennett's Jackson begins. "At the time of examination, the president was 71 years and seven months young. His resting heart rate was a cool 68 bpm, his weight a very svelte 239 pounds. He has a gorgeous 44-inch coke-bottle waist, and his height, 75 inches, with legs that — well, they seem to go on forever. Size 12 shoes, so you can fill in the blanks there," he continues. "It's my expert medical opinion that the president has a rockin' bod with an excellent cushion for the pushin'. And if given the chance, I would."

The real Jackson was not quite so vivid in his report on Trump's health, though he did say Trump has "incredible genes" and declared him to be "in excellent health." Read about Jackson's actual report here, and watch the full SNL sketch below. Bonnie Kristian

8:17 a.m. ET
Khaled Desouki/The Associated Press

Vice President Mike Pence departed for the Middle East this week, proceeding with visits to Egypt, Jordan, and Israel despite the government shutdown. The trip was labeled a national security measure, the White House told Politico, to avoid shutdown-related cancellation.

In Cairo on Saturday, Pence met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who expressed displeasure with President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last year. Pence described the conversation as "disagreement between friends," saying he "heard el-Sisi out."

On Sunday, Pence spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who said after the Jerusalem announcement, the U.S. must "rebuild trust and confidence" in the possibility of a two-state solution. The vice president assured him the United States is "committed to continue to respect Jordan's role as the custodian of holy sites, [and] that we take no position on boundaries and final status" in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Bonnie Kristian

8:00 a.m. ET

President Trump's involvement in spending negotiations to end the government shutdown is slowing the process, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Saturday.

"I told the president we Democrats were willing to fund the military at the highest levels in history, far above even his budget request," said Schumer of his Friday negotiations with Trump, after which, he said, the president changed his terms. "Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with Jell-O," Schumer continued. "It's next to impossible."

Meanwhile, the president's campaign released an ad linking Democrats to murders committed by illegal immigrants. And Sunday morning, Trump tweeted that the GOP should change Senate rules to pass a funding bill without Democratic cooperation:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) on Sunday suggested Schumer and Trump both believe they are winning the public relations battle in blaming each other's parties for the shutdown — and in the unlikely event that he is referencing how both Congress (including congressional Democrats) and the president are very unpopular, he's right. Bonnie Kristian

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