FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
March 23, 2014

Washington lawmakers have vilified former NSA contractor turned secret-spiller Edward Snowden ever since he fled the country for safe harbor in Russia. And with Russia's incursion into Ukraine, those criticisms have taken on a new dimension to reflect the escalating tension between Moscow and the U.S. To wit, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, insisted Sunday on Meet the Press that Snowden aided Russia by leaking classified information about America's spy programs, and that he was now tacitly supporting its expansionist aggression.

"He is under the influence of Russian intelligence officials today," Rogers said. "He is actually supporting in an odd way this very activity of brazen brutality and expansionism of Russia."

Rogers made a similar claim before — also without evidence — so host David Gregory pressed him on whether it was "irresponsible" to make such a loaded charge without hard proof. Yet Rogers again declined to offer specifics to back himself up, saying only that he sees "all the intelligence and all the evidence."

"Every counterintelligence official believes that," he said. "You won't find one that doesn't believe today he's under the influence of Russian intelligence services." --Jon Terbush

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

7:49 a.m. ET
John Moore/Getty Images

President Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is reportedly flaunting the fact that his firm can get clients sit-down meetings with "well-established figures" like Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Politico reports. An Eastern European politician revealed documents from Washington East West Political Strategies, which Lewandowski co-founded, boasting that the partners could "leverage [their] trusted relations with the U.S. administration" on a client's behalf.

"Whether Corey Lewandowski is just engaging in business as usual or actually going further, it definitely has a pervading swampiness to it that has become the new normal in Trump's Washington," said Lisa Gilbert, who serves as the vice president of the watchdog group Public Citizen. Trump, notably, has vowed a crackdown on lobbyists.

Barry Bennett, a Republican strategist and co-founder of the firm, argued "90 percent of our business has nothing to do with access. Ninety percent of our business has to do with being a sherpa — who to call, what to do. We don't take people in to see the president or the vice president." Lewandowski is not actually registered as a lobbyist because "he hasn't lobbied," Bennett added.

Politico notes that nevertheless "White House officials worry that Lewandowski's efforts to market his access — which are brazen even by K Street's unbashful standards — are an influence-peddling scandal waiting to happen for a President who pledged to end the dominance of lobbyists and special interests in Washington." Read the full report at Politico. Jeva Lange

6:43 a.m. ET
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, is one of the most outspoken members of Trump's foreign policy team, and the State Department is trying to make sure she isn't getting too far ahead of the Trump administrations on foreign policy, The New York Times reports, citing an email to Haley's office from State Department diplomats. When she is preparing remarks, Haley should rely on "building blocks" established by the State Department, the email said, and her comments should be "re-cleared with Washington if they are substantively different from the building blocks, or if they are on a high-profile issue such as Syria, Iran, Israel-Palestine," or North Korea.

Unusually, Haley is a much more visible Cabinet member than her boss, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is as reticent and press-shy as Haley is comfortable in the spotlight. The two will appear together for the first time on Friday at a U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea. The State Department and Haley's office both declined comment to The New York Times, but a member of the Trump transition team, James Carafano, said there's no tension. "Any notion that there's some kind of competition between Haley and Tillerson is laughable," he said. "She's filling a role and is comfortable in that role, and I don't think Tillerson feels threatened by that."

Rivalries are nothing novel in the Trump White House, and a White House aide told The Times that some inside the administration believe Haley is too visible. A Security Council member, on the other hand, said her high-profile role chaperoning 14 Security Council members around the White House on Monday — Tillerson was not there — appeared designed to showcase her prominence. Trump illustrated this dynamic with an awkward joke at Monday's luncheon. "Now, does everybody like Nikki?" he asked Haley's Security Council colleagues. "Because if you don't, otherwise, she can easily be replaced." After a bit of uncomfortable laughter, Trump made clear he was joking. "No, we won't do that, I promise," he said. "We won't do that. She's doing a fantastic job." Peter Weber

5:10 a.m. ET

"Obama's back, and so are the haters," Trevor Noah said on Thursday's Daily Show. The former president is taking a lot of heat for giving a speech to Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald for a fat paycheck, but Noah wasn't buying the outrage. "Obama's getting $400,000 to be a keynote speaker," he said. "He's probably going to give a very important policy speech entitled 'The Four Boats I'm Going to Buy.' Now look, I know that people may say that it weakens public trust when politicians cash in immediately after leaving office, but at least Obama waited until he left office, unlike [President Trump], who's using the White House like an ATM machine. And yeah, don't get me wrong — I agree that the system must change, but it doesn't change with Obama. People are like 'Why doesn't he not accept the money?' No, f— that!"

"So the first black president must also be the first one to not take money afterwards?" Noah asked. "No, no, no, no, no, my friend. He can't be the first of everything. F— that, and f— you." Go ahead, he added, "make that money, Obama." Noah did start to make a broader point: "Instead of focusing on how Obama can make so much money from Wall Street for a speech, maybe we should be asking why Wall Street has so much money to give people for a speech: the loose regulations, the intensive lobbying and favorable— you know, the truth is, we can't get into all of this, there's too much, there's too much else that's going on that we have to talk about today."

He spent the next four minutes on quick takes of two events: Ann Coulter vs. Berkeley ("they should just let her speak, because you realize she doesn't actually want to speak, she wants to be stopped from speaking") and the odd all-Senate White House field trip to be briefed on North Korea, which turned out to be a mostly substance-free dog-and-pony show. "Donald Trump just called them there," Noah said, laughing, "and I wouldn't be surprised if just brought them to be, like: 'Did you guys know there are two Koreas? It's a lot more complicated than we thought, folks, a lot more complicated, a lot more.'" There's some slightly NSFW language. If that doesn't bother you, watch below. Peter Weber

4:10 a.m. ET

Thursday night's Late Show kicked off with the presidential heads on Mt. Rushmore discussing the executive order President Trump signed on Wednesday, instructing the Interior Department to review all national monuments designated since 1996. "He's trying to weaken my Antiquities Act!" said the head of Theodore Roosevelt. "Bully! He's a bully." The conversation got stranger from there.

Stephen Colbert returned to the order in his monologue, noting that the review could lead to drilling, mining, and logging on protected lands. "Guys, he's just trying to do the right thing," he said when the audience booed, "because it's important that we finally find out how much oil is in Lincoln's eyeball." The executive order is controversial, but "Trump really believes in it," Colbert said, playing a truncated clip of Trump saying he "sometimes" looks at some of the things he's signing. "Sometimes he looks at the things he's signing?" Colbert said. "Sometimes? Just randomly? Not all the time? Has anyone tried putting a resignation letter in front of him? It's worth a shot."

He played the rest of the clip, which included Trump patting himself on the back for his courage and pointing out that Gov. Paul LePage (R-Maine) has lost a lot of weight, but he liked him when he was fat, too. "He likes him both ways," Colbert repeated, making some... let's say guitar-playing motions. Colbert also quaked over the "unprecedented nuclear crisis" with North Korea, and noted that former President Barack Obama is back on the national stage — and giving a speech to investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald for a cool $400,000. "So, Hillary wasn't able to continue Obama's legacy, but at least Obama was able to continue hers," Colbert said. "$400,000? With that kind of money, you could join Mar-a-Lago." Peter Weber

3:24 a.m. ET

To celebrate President Trump's first 100 days in office, The Simpsons gave the president its Halloween-special treatment, a short clip that shows a sinister White House on a dark and stormy night, Sean Spicer hanging in the press briefing room, to Kellyanne Conway's annoyance. Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner are strangling each other, and Trump is in bed, reprising his first 100 days: "So many accomplishments: lowered my golf handicap, my Twitter following increased by 700, and finally we can shoot hibernating bears — my boys will love that."

The entire clip is filled with detailed, pointed critiques of Trump, from wanting Fox News to summarize a bill for him on cutting only Republican taxes to Ivanka Trump shilling her Supreme Court robe as Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dragged from the bench. There is a lot going in the short cartoon, but maybe the most realistic part is Homer and Marge watching it all play out on TV. With 100 days gone, "we are 6.8 percent of the way home," the voiceover reminds viewers, assuming there's no second term. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:40 a.m. ET

On Thursday, the House Government Oversight Committee released documents showing that the Defense Intelligence Agency told retired Gen. Michael Flynn, right after former President Barack Obama fired him as DIA director in 2014, that he was constitutionally prohibited from taking money from foreign governments without explicit permission. He went on to take money from at least Russia and Turkey, and there is no record that he sought or received permission, the DIA says.

That news is shocking enough in itself, Jake Tapper said on CNN Thursday night, but it was accompanied by "some astounding attempts as well at buck-passing by the Trump White House." Flynn's lawyer said he did give the Pentagon prior warning of a paid speech he gave at a gala for Russian state news agency RT in Moscow. "You'll notice that that statement from Flynn's attorney does not address the issues of permission or the issue of payment," Tapper said. "Now, all of this might seem embarrassing for the White House, which — I think it's clear to say — did not do an adequate job of vetting the national security adviser before giving him the position."

Tapper noted how big a voice Flynn was in the Trump campaign, transition, and early days of the Trump administration, them played a clip of Flynn chanting "Lock her up" at the Republican National Convention. "That didn't age well," he deadpanned. Next, he played White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly blaming Obama on Thursday for Trump's Flynn problems, because the Obama administration gave Flynn security clearance as late as last year.

Tapper wasn't having it. "To be fair to Sean, it is a legitimate question as to whether the Army and the Defense Department under Obama renewed Flynn's security clearance without sufficient diligence, especially given that Russian trip and the Russian money," he said. "But that is not the same thing as appointing and vetting Flynn to one of the top national security positions in the U.S. government — and remember, Obama fired Flynn from a lower position in the national security community." He explains why Obama fired him in the clip below. Peter Weber

2:07 a.m. ET

If you ask President Trump, Canada has decided to stop being polite and start getting real, and is sticking it to America in the form of cheap softwood.

As Seth Meyers explained on Thursday's Late Night, a fight is potentially brewing between the U.S. and Canada over dairy farmers and lumberjacks, "which sounds like a Canadian romance novel." Canada is being accused of undercutting U.S. dairy farmers and lumber suppliers, and the U.S. retaliated by putting a tariff on Canadian softwood lumber exports. Trump claims that Canada has been "rough" with the U.S. for years, but as Meyers sees it, the worst thing the country has ever done isn't artificially lower the price of lumber, but rather attempt "to pass off ham as bacon." It sounds like maybe that bajillion dollar wall should go to the border up north instead. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads