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March 10, 2014

Lena Dunham hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend, but in some ways the star of the show was Russian President Vladimir Putin. Obviously, Putin himself — busy as he is consolidating Russian control of Ukraine's Crimea province — didn't make an appearance. And nobody on the show did their best Putin impersonation. But the Russian leader was the focus of the cold open, when Liam Neeson helped Jay Pharoah's President Obama poke fun at the Republican criticism that Obama just isn't tough enough to go mano a mano against the Russian strongman:

"Weekend Update" also started out with the Crimea situation, with Cecily Strong landing a pretty good joke about Obama and the right side of history. Taran Killam's Matthew McConaughey is nonsensically delightful, but if you want just the Ukraine stuff, skip ahead to about the seven minute mark, when Vanessa Bayer and Fred Armisen talk about what it's like to be Vladimir Putin's best friends growing up. --Peter Weber

12:54 p.m. ET
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President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and other GOP supporters of the failed American Health Care Act cast the vote as a strict with-us-or-against us scenario: Either support this plan or you're stuck with ObamaCare while the White House "agenda moves on" to other issues. More than 30 House Republicans had other ideas.

As The New York Times details in a breakdown of which GOP lawmakers in the lower chamber opposed the AHCA and why, the proposal came under a diversity of criticism from left and right alike — and that's just within the Republican Party. It's a scenario which leads Paul Kane at The Washington Post to observe the rise of a new paradigm of power in the GOP:

[The AHCA's de facto defeat] suggested a new dynamic in which both the right and left flanks of the Republican conference are emboldened to challenge leadership. And that could make each future negotiation more difficult as the issue matrix gets more complicated and the pockets of internal GOP resistance continue to grow, not shrink, in the new era of Trump’s Republican-controlled Washington. ...

This new combination, with Ryan’s right and left flanks willing to buck him and the new president, presents deep concern for the long-term effort to take up the more complicated effort to overhaul the corporate and individual tax codes. [The Washington Post]

Read the rest of his analysis here, and for more context, check out this piece from The Week's own Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on why the AHCA defeat can be good for the GOP. Bonnie Kristian

12:05 p.m. ET

President Trump reiterated on Twitter Saturday his argument that the health-care system set up by the Affordable Care Act will "explode" of its own accord — after which, he added, Republican lawmakers will successfully pass the replacement plan they could not swing without the added pressure of political explosion.

Trump's tweet echoes his Friday suggestion that the "best thing politically speaking is to let ObamaCare explode" so Democrats are forced to "come to us." Bonnie Kristian

11:52 a.m. ET
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Leaders of the 27 European Union nations that will remain in the organization following the United Kingdom's forthcoming exit met Saturday in Rome on the occasion of the 60-year anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that established the European Economic Community, an EU forerunner. "Europe as a political entity will either be united, or will not be at all," said EU President Donald Tusk. "Only a united Europe can be a sovereign Europe."

The conference adopted the Rome Declaration, a brief statement affirming mutual "pride in the achievements of the European Union," including "common institutions and strong values, a community of peace, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, a major economic power with unparalleled levels of social protection and welfare."

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who did not attend the meeting in Rome, is expected to begin the formal Brexit process Wednesday by triggering Article 50. For more on how that process will work, see this explainer from The Week. Bonnie Kristian

11:24 a.m. ET
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Two men remain in custody Saturday for questioning in connection to the deadly attack at Westminster Bridge in London on Wednesday. The attacker, a 52-year-old English native born Adrian Russell Ajao but known as Khalid Masood, was fatally shot by police at the scene of the crime.

Police are now investigating whether Masood "acted totally alone inspired by terrorist propaganda, or if others have encouraged, supported or directed him." The two men currently detained were among 11 people arrested so far; of the others, seven have been released without charges and two women have been released on bail.

Londoners meanwhile have deluged the area where the attack occurred with a veritable sea of flowers. "You will always be in our hearts," said a note from London Mayor Sadiq Khan to Masood's victims. "Londoners will never forget the innocent people who lost their lives." Bonnie Kristian

10:35 a.m. ET

An armed robbery left the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas in chaos around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, and police have confirmed three suspects were involved in the break-in attempt at a Rolex jewelry store in the casino complex.

Where the story gets weird is in a photo snapped by an eyewitness and posted on Twitter: The image shows what appears to be one of the robbers wearing a rubber pig mask.

Though initial online rumors suggested shots were fired, law enforcement said the would-be robbers were only armed with sledgehammers. One person has been arrested so far. Bonnie Kristian

9:58 a.m. ET
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The Trump administration is ready to move on to addressing tax policy after the downfall of the health-care plan it supported, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Friday. Trump is "disappointed" by the loss, Spicer conceded, but is now motivated by "a desire to do fundamental tax reform, something we haven't seen since 1986," Spicer told Fox News. "The agenda moves on."

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chair of the House tax committee, affirmed he is prepared "to work with the administration to get this done." The health-care bill failure "made a big challenge more challenging," he said, "but it's not insurmountable."

Spicer also echoed President Trump's suggestion that ObamaCare will now fail of its own accord, leading to a future replacement project. "Democrats will crawl back once the system fails on its own," he said. "The people that stood with Nancy Pelosi today understand the system is going down and the higher costs are on their shoulders, not ours." Bonnie Kristian

8:16 a.m. ET

The Florida Gators bested the Wisconsin Badgers in a nail-biter 84-83 game of the NCAA basketball tournament's Sweet 16 round late Friday night.

After lagging behind Wisconsin for the first half of the game, the Gators pulled ahead for much of the second half. A concerted comeback by the Badgers produced a tied game with just four seconds left on the overtime clock when Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes scored two points. The game seemed finished — until Florida's Chris Chiozza sprinted down the court to make a running 3-pointer just as the buzzer rang out in Madison Square Garden.

Florida will next face South Carolina on Sunday. Bonnie Kristian

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