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March 22, 2014
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Less than a year ago, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stood side-by-side, laying out a joint plan to rid Syria of its dangerous chemical weapons stores.

That, of course, was before Russian troops invaded the disputed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which voted to secede and join Russia a week ago. Subsequent sanctions from Western nations, the United States included, have eroded Russia-U.S. relations but have not stopped Moscow from continuing its push for Crimean control.

So where does that leave the plan to eliminate chemical weapons from Syria, asks Geoff Brumfiel over at NPR.

It’s a valid question, as disposal of the weapons relied on joint measures by Russia and America. A United States naval ship was supposed to destroy the chemicals while being escorted by cooperating Russian naval vessels. That plan is now on hold, and Syria may read the situation as a prime time to stall its shipments, with the superpowers otherwise occupied, says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

I think what you're likely to see is that the Assad regime will comply just enough, at a slower pace, as it consolidates its hold over the country militarily...The usefulness of the Assad regime drops off significantly after those chemical weapons are destroyed, because we no longer need the Assad regime to secure their safety. [NPR]

Give the whole story a listen over at NPR. Sarah Eberspacher

10:12 a.m. ET

After fueling speculation he might set aside the spray tan forever, Alec Baldwin has confirmed he'll reprise his role as President Trump for Saturday Night Live when the show returns for its 43rd season this fall. "Yeah, we're going to fit that in," he told CNN. "I think people have enjoyed it."

Earlier this year, the actor suggested he might be done with the impression after a single season of SNL. "There's a style the president has to have, and I think the maliciousness of this White House has people very worried," he said in March. "Which is why I'm not going to do it much longer, by the way, the impersonation. I don't know how much more people can take it."

NBC has yet to announce an official SNL premiere date, but in the meantime, here's Baldwin as Trump weighing in on the Russia investigation. Bonnie Kristian

10:08 a.m. ET

The Supreme Court's nine-month term ended Monday, marking a historic period of time for the judicial branch as the justices set a modern record for reaching consensus. Because the court operated with just eight justices for the majority of its term, the breakdown "probably required having a lot more discussion of some things and more compromise and maybe narrower opinions than we would have issued otherwise," said Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The term had the highest share of unanimous cases ever after 2013, but it also had the highest share of votes in the majority opinion in at least 70 years, The New York Times reports. Additionally, the share of cases decided by a margin of 5-3 or 5-4 was well below the court's average.

"It has been a quiet term, and that is a good thing for the country," said University of Chicago law professor William Baude. "Over all, this year the court was the least dramatic, and most functional, branch of government."

That could soon change. Notably, the 2016-2017 term did not have the same high-profile cases of terms past, like recent gay rights, health care, and abortion rulings. "We got used to the idea that every year the court decides several of the biggest national political issues — six or seven consecutive 'terms of the century’'— but this year saw a regression to the mean," said Cato Institute lawyer Ilya Shapiro.

That won't last, though. The court has agreed to hear cases on "a clash between gay rights and claims of religious freedom, constitutional limits on partisan gerrymandering, cellphone privacy, human rights violations by corporations, and the ability of employees to band together to address workplace issues," The New York Times writes.

And that's not to mention the October arguments on President Trump's travel ban. Jeva Lange

9:51 a.m. ET
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Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday slammed Senate Republicans for being willing to jam through the health-care bill just to get to the next legislative battle. "You talk to these jackasses behind closed doors and you go 'what are you doing' and they go 'we've got to get to the tax bill so we've got to do this first,'" Scarborough said, marveling at the fact some lawmakers were willing to change "one-sixth of the economy so we can get to a tax bill."

Scarborough also took a swipe at President Trump. "There is no attempt to hide the fact that Donald Trump is breaking every promise he made and that they will have a disproportionate — in fact hurting — older, middle-income Americans," he said, referring to the bill's massive cuts to Medicaid.

Trump has promised not to cut Medicaid funding, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that the Senate health-care bill would slash funding for Medicaid by $772 billion over the next decade. "Grandma and grandpa are coming home to live on the couch downstairs," said Morning Joe contributor Mike Barnacle. "Thrown out of the nursing home."

Watch the segment over at Mediaite. Becca Stanek

9:25 a.m. ET
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Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has just days left before he gets to return to his own bed in Utah, leaving his Capitol Hill office cot behind for good. But before he goes, Chaffetz has called for a $2,500 monthly housing stipend to help lawmakers afford living in D.C.

"Washington, D.C., is one of the most expensive places in the world, and I flat-out cannot afford a mortgage in Utah, kids in college, and a second place here in Washington, D.C.," Chaffetz told The Hill. "I think a $2,500 housing allowance would be appropriate and a real help to have at least a decent quality of life in Washington if you're going to expect people to spend hundreds of nights a year here."

Chaffetz agreed that $174,000 is a "handsome" salary for a congressman but added that the extra $30,000 a year would "allow the non-millionaires to participate and you would be able to have your spouse join you here. If I wasn't buying as many airline tickets, it would ultimately be less expensive."

A stipend of $2,500 a month would run taxpayers around $16 million a year if all 535 members of Congress received it. As of May 2017, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in D.C. was $2,091 a month.

"I really do believe Congress would be much better served if there was a housing allowance for members of Congress," Chaffetz said, adding: "There are dozens upon dozens of members living in their offices, and I don't know how healthy that is long term." Jeva Lange

8:39 a.m. ET
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A majority of Canadians now dislike the United States, a first since records began being kept 35 years ago. Likely, though, it has been much longer since Canadians felt so negatively about their southerly neighbors: "Maybe it was pretty bad in 1812," Environics Institute executive director Keith Neuman quipped to the Toronto Star, "but there's no data for that."

Under President Trump, only 43 percent of Canadians view the U.S. favorably, with 51 percent holding a negative view. The revelation comes from a Pew study that also found just two countries trust America more under President Trump than under former President Barack Obama. Canadians are especially stung, though: Under Obama, 83 percent of Canadians trusted the American president to do the right thing, while just 22 percent feel the same confidence in Trump.

Historian Jack Granatstein, an expert on Canadian anti-Americanism, offered the Star an explanation. "Most Canadians think, I believe, that the Americans go into periodic episodes of utter craziness, and they're in one now," said Granatstein. "So it's not surprising that Canadians would reach back to their tribal beliefs and assume that. It's a long history." Jeva Lange

8:15 a.m. ET
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is apparently unaware of the widely cited internet adage that the person who first brings up Nazi leader Adolf Hitler automatically loses the argument — or maybe he just doesn't care about Godwin's Law. On Tuesday, North Korea's state-controlled Korean Central News Agency argued that President Trump's America First policy "is the American version of Nazism far surpassing the fascism in the last century in its ferocious, brutal, and chauvinistic nature," and "Nazism in the 21st century," comparing Trump to Hitler.

The KCNA specifically cited U.S. sanctions against North Korea tied to its nuclear weapons program, calling them "an unethical and inhumane act, far exceeding the degree of Hitler's blockade of Leningrad," and compared Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement to a violation of international norms worse than Hitler's concentration camps. "Satellite imagery shows that North Korea operates a network of prison camps, which a United Nations report in 2014 compared with 'the camps of totalitarian states of the 20th century,'" The Wall Street Journal notes dryly. "North Korea denies their existence."

Pyongyang frequently deploys belligerent language about the U.S., but this kind of verbal attack on Trump is new. "The coarsening language toward the administration, and toward the president himself, seems to reflect a slowly sharpening discussion within the regime," Robert Carlin, a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, writes at the site 38 North. The Nazi references also come a few days before South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, travels to Washington to meet with Trump, and follows the death of American student Otto Warmbier, who died shortly after North Korea released him from 18 months of captivity. Peter Weber

8:15 a.m. ET

Fox News is facing mounting accusations that it is acting as a kind of "state media" for President Trump, claims that are not going to be assuaged by the president's early morning retweets. On Tuesday, President Trump shared four different Fox & Friends tweets without comment:

Trump also promoted a book by Fox News host Eric Bolling…

…And — why not — took a shot at CNN, too.

On Sunday, CNN's Brian Stelter argued that Fox & Friends acts as an "infomercial" for the president. "The show is pro-Trump, anti-media, and remarkably repetitive," Stelter said. "Watching for an entire week, we saw lots of the president's friends, but almost no dissenting voices. It's all about showering Trump with positive attention and burying his perceived opponents with negative attention."

New York Times reporter Mike Forsythe was blunter. "Anyone who has reported in authoritarian countries recognizes this style of 'interview,'" he said of a recent Trump appearance on Fox & Friends. "This is state media. This is Xinhua America." Jeva Lange

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