May 21, 2014

A skilled animator on YouTube imagined what it would look like:

Pretty cool! According to Phil Plait, this is sped up quite a bit; the moon would take about five minutes to cross the sky. It's worth noting that if it were that close, we'd all be killed by earthquakes; tides would be 100,000 times stronger than they are now, and the sheer gravitational stress on the moon would rip it apart into Saturn-style rings. Ryan Cooper

8:34 a.m. ET

On Monday, a panel on Morning Joe raced to react to President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's recently released 11-page statement denying Russian collusion. In his statement to the House and Senate intelligence committees, Kushner maintained that nothing "improper" happened during his four meetings with Russians during the presidential campaign.

NBC News' Kasie Hunt interpreted Kushner's lines as "the chaos and sloppiness defense." "Essentially Jared Kushner is explaining away point by point, all of the concerning things and offering his version of events that essentially make things that may seem to be problematic, simply the result of somebody overlooking something, of the chaos of the campaign," Hunt said, referring to Kushner's claim that he did not fully read the email inviting him to a meeting at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who claimed to have compromising information on Hillary Clinton. He also claimed he asked his assistant to call him about 10 minutes into the meeting as an "excuse to get out."

"This is to a certain extent, I think, the opening that Republicans who want find a reason to defend the president are looking to give them," Hunt said. "They're essentially saying, 'Look, there couldn't be any collusion here because nobody was in any position to collude. Everybody was drinking out of a fire hose.'"

Watch the panel's discussion below. Becca Stanek

8:01 a.m. ET

Gentlemen, if you're itching to voluntarily end your reproductive ability with a relatively painless snip, but also want to share the experience with some of your closest male friends, you're in luck: According to The Wall Street Journal, "'Brosectomies' are a thing now."

Hundreds of thousands of men get vasectomies in the U.S. each year, the American Urological Association says, noting that the procedure is faster and safer than the most analogous procedure for women, tubal ligation. Even so, there's obviously room for improvement — and for a few thousand dollars a head, men can get the $500 vasectomy, snacks or a steak dinner, maybe a stiff drink or two, and a club-like recovery lounge where they can watch sports with their similarly recovering pals.

Urologists who offer group vasectomies say they make the men more relaxed, willing to get snipped, and, anecdotally, quicker to recover. "We thought it was going to be painful," Jeb Lopez told the Journal, after a getting a vasectomy at a clubby clinic with friend Rob Ferretti, who videotaped the experience, but it was more like getting snapped with a rubber band. "After that, we were just laughing, I guess it's from the alcohol, but we had such a great time."

Megan Gerald joined her fiancé, David Dischley, at his appointment at the same clinic Lopez and Ferretti used, Obsidian Men's Health outside Washington, D.C., and she was impressed. "I gave birth to two children, and this is so easy," she told the Journal. "It's not fair!" You can watch Ferretti and Lopez laugh their way through their brosectomy, and read more about the trend at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

7:31 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Monday, House and Senate Democratic leaders will roll out the Democratic Party's newly developed economic agenda, "A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future." The agenda is a response to Democrats' disappointing performance in 2016; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has admitted "the number one thing that we did wrong is we didn't tell people what we stood for."

The middle class-focused agenda prioritizes fighting corporate overreach and proposes an extensive infrastructure plan, paid family leave, more federal funding for job training, and an independent agency to monitor prescription drug prices. "It's about reorienting government to work on behalf of people and families," Schumer wrote in an op-ed published in The New York Times.

Democratic leaders will unveil the agenda in Berryville, Virginia, the county seat of a district Democrats need to win back to gain control of the House. Becca Stanek

6:53 a.m. ET
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Early Monday, Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, released an 11-page statement to the House and Senate intelligence committees detailing what he described as "perhaps four contacts with Russian representatives out of thousands during the campaign and transition," insisting that he "did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government." Kushner is meeting behind closed doors with staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday and speaking privately with members of the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday about his role in Trump's campaign and its ties to Russia.

Kushner dismissed all four meetings, all of them previously reported in the media — two with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; one with the head of a Russian state bank, Sergey Gorkov; and the June 2016 meeting he said Donald Trump Jr. had invited him to with a Kremlin-linked lawyer — saying that none of them "were impactful in any way to the election or particularly memorable." In a new bit of information, Kushner said he found a way to get out of the Don Jr. meeting with the Russian lawyer, writing: "in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote 'Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.'"

Kushner said he had filed an incomplete security-clearance application prematurely by mistake, blaming an assistant. "I had no improper contacts," he concluded. "I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form, above and beyond what is required. Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest." Peter Weber

5:59 a.m. ET

Anthony Scaramucci, a former Wall Street hedge fund manager, made his public debut as President Trump's White House communications director on Sunday's political talk shows. Along with threatening to fire his entire staff over leaks, saying Trump won't need to pardon himself, and contradicting White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders over Trump's stand on Russia sanctions ("My bad," he told The New York Times), Scaramucci apologized to Trump on-air for the less-than-flattering things he said about him as late as August 2015.

Before he had jumped on the Trump train — and started driving people to the dictionary to look up an Italian commedia dell'arte character featured in a famous Queen song — Scaramucci was also a donor to former President Barack Obama, giving his campaign $2,300 in May 2008, shortly before the big financial collapse. Scaramucci obviously changed his mind about Obama at some point, and it may have been around the time of this 2010 CNBC town hall meeting, where he asked Obama — whom he identified as a classmate at Harvard Law — about his administration's actions regarding Wall Street.

Things started out on a jocular note, and then Scaramucci got to the point. "The question I have, sir, and this is really— you know, a lot of my friends are thinking about," he said. "Listen, I represent the Wall Street community, we have felt like a piñata. Maybe you don't feel like you're whacking us with a stick, but we certainly feel like we've been whacked with a stick." Obama began with with some conciliatory talk about the importance of Wall Street, but he started hitting back after a minute or so. "I have been amused over the last couple of years, this sense of somehow me beating up on Wall Street," he said. "I think most people on Main Street feel they got beat up on." And Obama was just getting started. You can watch the entire exchange below. Peter Weber

4:31 a.m. ET

Sean Spicer's short tenure as White House press secretary didn't break any records for its brevity, but it was as memorable as it was fleeting. For all he lacked in verbal precision, before he resigned on Friday in apparent protest of President Trump appointing Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director, Spicer was, for the time when he allowed cameras in the briefing room, must-watch TV for the political set, at times outdrawing scripted soap operas. So The Daily Show's brief in memoriam video for Spicer's briefings, posted online, had a lot of material to work with. And maybe it's the sad piano music, or the fact that Spicer is out of our lives, or the presumption that Sarah Huckabee Sanders just isn't as good for comedy, but there is something almost wistful in this brief look back at Spicer's "alternative facts," catch phrases, mispronunciations, and those haunted eyes. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:36 a.m. ET
Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump's average job approval rating for his second quarter in office, from April 20 to July 19, was 38.8 percent, according to Gallup, a drop from the already historically low 41.3 percent Trump notched in his first quarter and inaugural 45 percent number. The lowest previous second-quarter approval rating for a president was Bill Clinton's 44 percent, and every other president since John F. Kennedy was above 55 percent at this point in his presidency, usually in the 60s, according to Gallup's data; Barack Obama was at 62 percent, and as CNBC's John Harwood notes, Obama never polled lower than 40 percent in any week of his presidency.

More broadly, Trump's second quarter ranks 250th out of the 287 president quarters Gallup has polled back to 1945. Most of the 12 percent of quarters worse than Trump's were for troubled presidents — Richard Nixon, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush — near the end of their administrations. And Trump probably should expect things to get worse, not better, at least over the next year, Politico says, based on its analysis of four decades of Gallup's extensive presidential polling data.

That's partly because of growing political polarization and historical trends — Trump's six immediate predecessors saw their approval rating drop an average of 9 points from the six-month mark to 18 months, according to Gallup data — but also because of the nature of the objections to Trump. Among the majority who disapprove of Trump, most cite his character and personality, not his policies, a departure from previous presidents and a situation that would make it harder for Trump to win over skeptics. Trump is also much more unpopular among independents than his predecessors.

From his first to his second quarter, Trump lost 2 points among Republicans, versus 3 points for independents and 1 point among Democrats, but he is still at 85 percent approval in his party — Republicans and conservatives are the only groups that give him above 50 percent. Still, for Trump to get above 50 percent overall, he would have to get the support of almost 100 percent of conservatives, Politico finds, or double his supports among moderates or quadruple his backing by liberals. You can play with various groups to try to get Trump above 50 percent support at Politico. Peter Weber

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