Bill O'Reilly has some questions about President Obama's interview with comedian Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns: Was appearing on the awkward-is-funny, absurdist talk show a worse idea because of Vladimir Putin, or because of Abraham Lincoln?
O'Reilly noted that Obama filmed the Funny or Die video two weeks ago, before Putin invaded Ukraine, but said that the president needs to be aware "of how his enemies perceive him." (Presumably he means Russia here, not Fox News.) "It looks like Putin believes the president is a lightweight, will a comedy video counter that?" O'Reilly asked.
On top of that, he added, sending the president himself to tape web-only comedy series to promote the "dubious" Affordable Care Act smacks of desperation. "All I can tell you is, Abe Lincoln would not have done it," he added — which, I think we can all agree, is true. Whether that's because we're a deeply divided nation and "serious times call for serious measures," as O'Reilly argued, or because Lincoln wasn't very funny, didn't know what a video was (much less the internet), and didn't have ObamaCare to defend... well, that's another question.
The White House is pleased that Obama's Between Two Ferns appearance sent a horde of young people to HealthCare.gov. But Obama-joking-while-Putin-pillages is also the focus of Kathleen Parker's column in Wednesday's Washington Post, so whether you think Obama's PR stunt was brilliant or disastrous, you'll probably hear about it until the 2014 midterms. --Peter Weber
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
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
The Daily Show's tongue-in-cheek remembrance of Sean Spicer's White House career is surprisingly wistful
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
Trump's last three months set another polling record, and historically, things should get even worse
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 of quadruple his backing by liberals. You can play with various groups to try to get Trump above 50 percent support at Politico. Peter Weber
President Trump continues to push for a big infrastructure bill, on Twitter and in interviews, but his administration is divided over how Trump's $1 trillion proposal should be structured, Republicans have put the plan on the back burner after a series of other difficult and high-stakes legislative priorities, and Democrats, who also support infrastructure projects, are increasingly unwilling to work with the Trump administration after months of mutual animus, Glenn Thrush reports at The New York Times, citing "two dozen administration officials, legislators, and labor leaders involved in coming up with a concrete proposal."
In April, Trump said his administration had the $1 trillion infrastructure plan "largely completed and we'll be filing over the next two or three weeks — maybe sooner." By late July, Trump hasn't named anybody to the infrastructure board he said would have the authority to approve big projects — and the panel will be advisory and not actually have green-light powers, an administration official tells Thrush — or set out a general outline for what he wants.
Some White House officials, like Trump and his National Economic Council chief Gary Cohn, are open to putting more than $200 billion into the proposed public-private partnerships and combining the plan with another must-pass bill; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin opposes combining the infrastructure and tax-cut legislation; White House budget director Mick Mulvaney reportedly opposes adding new federal money to the plan. Congressional Republicans, still struggling over health-care legislation, are waiting for a White House plan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is skeptical "of any deal that would require him to compromise with Democrats," Thrush reports, and "has suggested a more modest Republicans-only package."
"Right now, it doesn't appear that they have a plan," said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. "The president doesn't know what his own party wants, and he's not sure what he wants." White House spokeswoman Natalie Strom said the White House will release its proposal in late summer or early fall, arguing that was always the timetable. You can read more about Trump's stalled effort at The New York Times. Peter Weber
A retired nurse teaching a first aid class was saved by a retired nurse taking his course as a refresher.
David Knowles, 77, was just starting the first CPR class he was instructing at his church in Essex, England, when he started to feel horrible. He fell to the floor, and not knowing how much time he had before he might pass out, started instructing the class on what to do to help him. "The whole group was up on its feet, looking like they weren't doing very well, either," Knowles told InsideEdition.com Thursday.
Once the students knew this wasn't part of the lesson, they rallied to help him. Karol Chew, a retired nurse taking the class as a refresher course, gave Knowles CPR after he stopped breathing, and called Knowles' wife. Knowles was placed in a medically induced coma because the damage to his heart was so great, and when he woke up more than two weeks later, he couldn't remember much — except that Chew's CPR is likely what saved his life. Catherine Garcia
At least 24 people were killed and dozens more injured after a car bomb exploded in Kabul Monday morning, the Afghan Interior Ministry said.
A Toyota Corolla was used in the attack, Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish told CNN, and authorities do not yet know who was being targeted. No group initially claimed responsibility for the bombing, the latest in a string of attacks in the capital.
Update 3:55 a.m. ET: The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming it was aimed at the Afghan intelligence service and its employees. Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahed said the bomb-laden car rammed into a minibus carrying government employees at the mines and petroleum ministry during rush hour, destroying the bus and three other cars, plus nearby shops. Catherine Garcia