FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
May 17, 2013

A Virginia second-grader was suspended from school for pretending to be a Marine and making "gun noises" while pointing his pencil at another student. The father of 7-year-old Christopher Marshall thinks the school's zero-tolerance policy for weapons goes too far, but a school spokesman disagreed, calling a pencil "a weapon when it is pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made." Samantha Rollins

5:59 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Republican leaders huddled with more moderate members of the GOP caucus for two hours Wednesday night to drum up support for the latest version of the American Health Care Act, after the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus threw its support behind the newly amended health-care bill on Wednesday and influential outside conservative groups dropped their opposition.

After the meeting, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said "we got a few more to yes tonight — yeah, a couple moderates," and did not rule out a House vote as early as Friday. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chairwoman of the House GOP conference, said it is "yet to be determined" if the House votes on Friday, but Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Pa.), one of the few Freedom Caucus members to attend Wednesday night's meeting, said of a Friday vote, "It sounds kind of like they're going to do that."

The new amendment that won over the Freedom Caucus, written with Rep. Tom MacArthur (R., N.J.), a leader of the more centrist Tuesday Group, would allow states to apply for federal waivers to requirements in the Affordable Care Act, including that insurance plans cover a set list of essential health benefits, that prices have to be the same for people with pre-existing conditions, and caps on annual out-of-pocket costs. States could not request waivers for the requirement that insurers offer coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, but health policy experts say the ability to charge higher premiums for those patients, if they let their health care coverage lapse, would effectively drive sick people out of the insurance market. The AHCA still includes deep cuts to Medicaid and other provisions.

House GOP aides tell The Wall Street Journal that a vote could be held on Saturday, giving President Trump an accomplishment to tout on his 100th day in office, but that depends on picking up centrist GOP support, and many of those lawmakers who opposed the bill in March say they haven't changed their minds. And even if the bill does pass the House, it won't survive a Senate vote as is, says Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a Tuesday Group leader who still opposes the AHCA. A successful vote in the House, he added, would be "an exercise in blame shifting" away from the Freedom Caucus. Peter Weber

4:46 a.m. ET

The big news from Washington on Wednesday was President Trump's tax plan. "That plan? Never release Trump's taxes," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "To explain the plan, Trump sent out his team of workin' class, blue collar former Goldman Sachs executives, Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin." The plan itself is just "one page of double-spaced bullet points with some hefty margins," Colbert said. "I'm going to say it's not really confidence-building when your tax reform plan is half as long as the instructions to set up a Vitamix."

One of the main bullet points is reducing the current seven tax brackets to three. "It's really going to simplify your office pool during Tax Madness," Colbert said. "Look at the brackets, it's poor versus middle class, and rich versus nobody, because they win."

He next reminded his viewers that Trump and Russia had a thing going on during the campaign, and laid out the new developments involving former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, fired for lying about this conversation with Russia's ambassador. "It turns out, that was just the tip of the corruption-berg," Colbert said. The House Government Oversight Committee reviewed a first batch of Flynn documents, and committee chairman Jason Chaffetz gave what Colbert termed a coy and "flaccid" condemnation of Flynn's apparently illegal failure to disclose payments from foreign governments. "Jason Chaffetz, please, just grow a pair and tell us what Flynn did, you gutless Charles Schultz rough draft," he said, to loud cheers.

Colbert ended with a look at the red button Trump had installed on his Oval Office desk — to summon his butler. "Thank God, I was worried there," he said. "He's just turning the Oval Office into 8-year-old's drawing of a dream treehouse: 'There'll be a button where I get a Coke wherever I want, a slide into a ball pit, and Bigfoot sleeps over and he teaches me karate.'" Not that there's anything wrong with that. "He should have some fun, a president deserves to be refreshed," Colbert said. "A butler brining him his Coke, really living the dream. I believe we have a photograph of the butler?" On a related note, don't expect Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) to come on The Late Show anytime soon. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:00 a.m. ET

On Tuesday night, Pope Francis gave a surprise TED Talk to the annual TED conference in Vancouver, Skyping it in from Rome. "I think it is impressive for a 80-year-old to set up his own webcam," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "It's not like he can get help from his grandkids." After ribbing the pope a bit more, Colbert teed up the main feature. "A lot of people were surprised that the pope decided to do this, but the truth is, religious figures actually have a long history of giving TED Talks," he said.

What followed was a pitch-perfect TED Talk from "Jesus of Nazareth, Carpenter/Savior." "I come here today as a simple carpenter, who also happens to be the son of God," Jesus began. "But I didn't get here today through nepotism." Unlike Pope Francis, Jesus has visual aids and cool party tricks/miracles. "First up, we've all been there, right?" he said. "All you've got are a few loaves and couple fishes, and you have to feed a crowd of thousands. But what if I told you that you can do it! Now, I know what you're thinking: Geez, me? No, Geez-us." Just wait until he gets to the bottled water. Peter Weber

3:32 a.m. ET

Fox News released a new poll on President Trump on Wednesday, as the president approaches 100 days in office. It's a mixed bag. Trump's overall approval rating is 45 percent, with 48 percent disapproving — a slight uptick from March, but still the lowest for any president this early on — and only 43 percent say he's bringing real change to Washington, versus 50 percent who say he's failing to do so. A 52 percent majority says America is less respected in the world under Trump, while 29 percent say it is more respected, and 51 percent are discouraged about the next four years, versus 45 percent who are encouraged.

There's some good news for Trump, too: Majorities of voters approve of his missile strike on Syria's government airfield, see the job situation improving, want him to succeed, and approve of his handing of the Islamic State and terrorism in general. But in general, only 36 percent of voters say they would vote to re-elect Trump, versus 55 percent who say they wouldn't, including 47 percent who say that "definitely." Only 49 percent of Trump voters said the would definitely vote for him again, versus 32 percent who say they probably would and 7 percent who would go with someone else. Eight years ago, 52 percent of voters and 64 percent of Obama voters said they would re-elect Obama.

In other results, Vice President Mike Pence's approval rating is at 50 percent. If the 2018 midterm elections were held today, 47 percent of voters say they would pick the Democratic candidate versus 42 percent who would pick the Republican, and 5 percent of Trump voters say they would switch to the Democratic Party in the midterms, versus 87 percent who would stick with the GOP. The poll was conducted April 23-25 among 1,009 registered voters nationwide, and has a sampling error of ±3 percentage points. Peter Weber

2:23 a.m. ET

Sometimes a last-minute vacation is just a vacation. And sometimes, it's a little more permanent, as Fox News star Bill O'Reilly illustrated earlier this month. O'Reilly, facing an exodus of advertisers after it was revealed he and Fox News had settled five claims of sexual and verbal harassment for $13 million, unexpectedly announced a family vacation, and he was fired while still in Italy. Jesse Watters, O'Reilly's former on-the-street guy and now a host on The Five, announced at the end of Wednesday night's show that he is going on vacation until Monday. His The Five co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle will cover his weekend show, Watters' World.

Watters raised some eyebrows on Tuesday night when he made a comment about Ivanka Trump and how he "really liked how she was speaking into that microphone." Some observers took the comment as suggestive, especially when combined with his facial expression and a hand gesture he made while saying it. On Twitter, Watters protested that interpretation, insisting he was just "referring to Ivanka's voice and how it resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ," and it "was in no way a joke about anything else."

"So, to recap, Watters is going to miss the final two broadcasts of The Five's first week in primetime, as well as his weekend show," says a skeptical Justin Baragona at Mediaite, which has Wednesday night's clip. "All to take a short family vacation that hadn't been announced until this evening. And this just coincidentally occurs following this latest flap — a flap that happened just a week after the network parted ways with its biggest star over a sexual harassment scandal. Got it." Though, to be fair, Tuesday night's comments are hardly the most offensive thing Watters has said on air. Peter Weber

2:09 a.m. ET
Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images

Following the furor over a passenger being dragged off of an overbooked flight earlier this month, United Airlines announced Thursday it is implementing 10 changes the company says will "better serve our customers and empower our employees."

The airline will now offer passengers on overbooked planes as much as $10,000 to voluntarily give up their seat; previously, gate agents could dole out no more than $500 to passengers, and site managers could offer as much as $1,350. The company will also hold off on calling law enforcement unless security and safety are at risk, and launch a new automated system to determine which passengers are willing to be bumped from an overbook flight.

"Every customer deserves to be treated with the highest levels of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect," Untied CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement. "Two weeks ago, we failed to meet that standard and we profoundly apologize." David Dao, 69, refused to give his seat up on an overbooked Chicago to Louisville flight, and was forcibly removed by Chicago Department of Aviation officials. Dao's attorney said he suffered a concussion and broken nose and lost two teeth during the violent incident, which was filmed by concerned passengers and caused a public relations nightmare for United. Catherine Garcia

1:27 a.m. ET

CNN's Jake Tapper said Wednesday night that he's disheartened by a new poll. He traced the objectionable results back to President Trump's tweets in February accusing former President Barack Obama of tapping his phones in Trump Tower, then played clips of House Speaker Paul Ryan and FBI Director James Comey unequivocally shooting down those claims. "So that would have seemingly been that — except that the president and his team kept pushing ways to make this evidence-free claim somewhere, sort of, possibly in the neighborhood of almost not entirely false," Tapper said. "Now, they failed, but they muddied the waters quite a bit, and now, here are the shocking numbers."

In a new ABC/Washington Post poll, he said, "32 percent of the public thinks President Obama intentionally spied on Donald Trump and members of his campaign, and 52 percent of Republicans believe this charge — a charge that there is literally no evidence to support; it is the definition of fake news." Americans can believe what they want — "18 percent of the public says they've seen or been in the presence of a ghost — I mean, whatever," Tapper said — "but in a thriving democracy, truth matters and facts matter. We learned in the campaign that Donald Trump can be cavalier about facts and truth. We learned in his first 100 days that that's not going to change, indeed that some in the government and some of his friends in conservative media will even work to try to make his falsehoods seem true."

But then Tapper pulled back, pointing out that "fake news" cuts both ways, and there's "a lot of incendiary nonsense against Trump on the left that is just as fake." Otherwise sensible journalists retweet some of that news on Twitter. The news media has to be very careful to present only facts and cogent analysis, he said, "and this is a time for you, the public, to demand evidence from your leaders and from your media, even if you already agree with the politics of the person on your TV." Watch below. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads