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May 4, 2014

President Obama took his annual turn as comic-in-chief Saturday night at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, mocking his Republican foes in Congress, bemoaning Washington gridlock — which he blamed on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) — and even taking a few shots at himself.

"I usually start these dinners with a few self-deprecating jokes," he said. "After my stellar 2013, what could I possibly talk about?"

He then quipped that the past year was so embarrassing for the White House that, "the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to apologize." And referencing the flawed ObamaCare launch, he said his slogan went from "Yes we can," to "control, alt, delete," the keyboard shortcut for a hard reboot.

The whole bit is worth a watch. Stick around for the bonus cameo from Kathleen Sebelius — the former Health and Human Services secretary whom some blamed for the early ObamaCare woes — who tried to help Obama sort out a technical snafu during his speech. --Jon Terbush

10:42 a.m. ET
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

There is controversy brewing in the last frontier. One of the top 20 finishers in the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race possibly gave their team the banned opioid pain reliever Tramadol, Alaska Dispatch News reports. It is the first time dogs have tested positive for an illegal substance in the history of the nearly 1,000-mile race.

While the president of the Iditarod Officials Finishers Club, Wade Marrs, did not name the musher in question (he or she is referred to only as "Musher X"), the positive test for Tramadol was reportedly isolated to a single top-finishing dog team.

"Race officials have refused to provide the musher's name, citing 'legal concerns,' the Dispatch News writes. "They have said they cannot prove the musher's intent, so they cannot penalize the musher under the 2017 race rules, which they have since revised." Musher X denied administering the drug and "repeatedly offered to submit to a polygraph and complied fully with all requests," Marrs' statement said.

"It's not a good situation," Iditarod Board member Aaron Burmeister told The Associated Press. "I'm hoping that we can turn a positive light on it and the musher steps forward." Jeva Lange

10:24 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Trump administration is still considering plastering the border wall with solar panels, despite the fact that experts say the idea makes no sense practically or economically. "We're certainly looking for different methods and ways to make this better," Mario Villarreal, the division chief for San Diego's Customs and Border Patrol field office, told the Washington Examiner in a Wednesday interview. "Solar panels or technology bundles on top of the fence certainly isn't off the table."

In June, Axios reported that Trump described his vision for the wall to Republican leaders as being "40 to 50 feet high" and covered in solar panels so it "creates energy and pays for itself." The plan is not so scientifically sound, energy experts say, because "sitting solar panels atop a giant wall, or lining the sides of it, aren't necessarily the best way to maximize solar output," as BuzzFeed News writes. If it was, businesses would already be doing it.

Six companies have been chosen to design mock border walls for inspection, a process that will be complete by the end of the month. "We're excited to see the industry come up with new, innovative, and creative ideas in the form of border wall prototypes," said Villarreal. Read his full interview at the Washington Examiner. Jeva Lange

9:25 a.m. ET
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Debating how presidents honor fallen service members is "asinine," Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CBS News on Wednesday, when Major Garrett asked him about the days-long controversy surrounding President Trump. "The presidents of the United States each have a love for this country," Perry said. "They have a love for the young men and women who serve and the families who have lost them. I think anyone who questions that — now do they handle it differently? Yes, and that's okay."

President Trump has had about two dozen service members die while he was in office, but when George W. Bush was president, Perry noted, he was signing a condolence letter a day during the height of the Iraq War. When Perry was governor of Texas, he added, "about 10 of those years, I wrote a letter a week to a Texan's family — their spouses, their loved ones, their next of kin — who was lost in the war on terror. I went to funerals. I visited with parents."

Perry said he wasn't sure why Trump cast false aspersions on former President Barack Obama's handling of fallen troops, but "what I will say in defense of what he said — I think he was making reference to — everybody does this differently." From his perspective, Perry added, "I know we live in a 24/7 news cycle and to be splitting hairs on how do we mourn, how do you give comfort, I think is a waste of time, frankly." You can watch the entire exchange at CBS News. Peter Weber

9:16 a.m. ET
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President Trump might become just the second president since Ronald Reagan to not visit the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea during his trip to Asia next month. In addition to concerns about how Trump's presence on the border might provoke Pyongyang, others in the administration "have expressed concern over Trump's personal safety," The Washington Post reports.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have been engaged in a war of words over the past several months, with Trump dubbing the dictator "little rocket man" and "madman" while Kim slammed the U.S. commander in chief as being a "mentally deranged … dotard." While Trump's appearance at the border would signal U.S. resolve, others, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in's advisers, "fear that a Trump visit to the DMZ could increase the chances of a miscalculation that could provoke a military confrontation or have other unintended consequences," the Post writes.

Then there is the threat to Trump himself. When former President Bill Clinton toured the DMZ, his Secret Service staff carried rifles to protect him — in violation of the cease-fire laws.

The White House will not yet confirm Trump's plans. The president will travel to South Korea as one stop during a five-nation trip through Asia between Nov. 3 and Nov. 14. Jeva Lange

8:24 a.m. ET
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By the end of Donald Trump's presidential campaign last year, "drain the swamp" had become a regular chant at his rallies. A year on, though, President Trump has done little to follow through with his promises, Politico reports. "I don't think that anything's really changed," said Republican lobbyist Brian Wild. "If anything, the lobbying business is booming right now."

Before taking office, Trump proposed five major changes to lobbying rules, only one of which has been fully delivered nine months after his inauguration — "signing an executive order … that banned executive branch officials from lobbying for foreign governments and overseas political parties after they leave the administration." Other promises, including "to broaden the definition of lobbying, to ban lobbyists for foreign interests from making campaign contributions, and to lengthen the amount of time former lawmakers are banned from lobbying," have not been followed through, Politico writes.

Others say they have noticed pressure on lobbyists since Trump took office. The administration has "encouraged not only our office but other offices to proceed with 'drain the swamp' legislation," said George Cecala, the deputy chief of staff to Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.).

But even with things perhaps moving behind the scenes, it's still a good time to be a lobbyist in Washington: Spending on lobbying in 2017 was the highest since 2012, the Center for Responsive Politics found, totaling nearly $1.7 billion just in the first half of the year. Read more about why draining the swamp is an impossible task at The Week, and more about Trump's unfulfilled promises at Politico. Jeva Lange

8:05 a.m. ET
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Only 34 percent of Americans support the tax plan being promoted by President Trump and congressional Republicans while 52 percent oppose them, according to a new SSRS poll for CNN. Support depends on partisan identification — 81 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of independents oppose the plan, while 70 percent of Republicans support it. Interestingly, 24 percent of respondents said they thought they and their families would be better off under the GOP tax plan, while 31 percent said they expect to be worse off and 37 percent said they would likely be the same. A recent CBS News poll found that 58 percent of Americans said the tax proposals primarily favor the wealthy.

A plurality of respondents, 38 percent, said the plan would increase the federal deficit, while only 22 percent said it would shrink it. Half of Americans disapprove of Trump's handling of taxes, a new high. SRSS conducted the poll for CNN Oct. 12-15, speaking with 1,010 adults via telephone. It has a margin of sampling error of ±3.5 percentage points. Peter Weber

7:10 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) will officially roll out the health-care bill he negotiated with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), flanked by a "significant" number of Republican and Democratic cosponsors, Alexander said Wednesday. The bipartisan bill, dubbed Alexander-Murray, is expected to go nowhere for now, as President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) came out against it on Wednesday. But "by the end of the year, chances are very good this agreement or something like it is law," Alexander said. Analysts agree.

Congress already has a packed December, including "funding the government and raising the debt ceiling — must-pass items that can only pass with a lot of Democratic votes, just like Alexander-Murray," says Sam Baker at Axios. "If Alexander-Murray doesn't pass before then, it's pretty easy to see Democratic leaders insisting on some form of Affordable Care Act stabilization as part of the end-of-year package. And this bill, or something close to it, is likely the best Republicans are going to get."

Wrapping up something like Alexander-Murray — which guarantees two years of cost-sharing subsidies that insurance companies use to lower out-of-pocket costs for poorer customers, plus easing some coverage requirements on states — in an end-of-the-year omnibus package "would be less painful than voting on a stand-alone bill that conservatives view as a 'bailout' for insurance companies — and a vote to 'prop up' a law they've tried to dismantle for years," Politico notes. And with premiums already rising because Trump cut off the cost-sharing subsidies, or CSRs, "at some point [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and Ryan will need this," a senior GOP aide told Axios' Caitlin Owens. Peter Weber

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