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September 21, 2012

Lynn Armstrong Coffin and Eric Papalini (not pictured) of PunchingPoliticians.com hold puppets of Mitt Romney and President Obama boxing before a Romney campaign rally at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Fla., on Sept. 20. The company also sells boxing puppets modeled after Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, an elephant, and a donkey. The Week Staff

9:35 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Though they may not admit it, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) told BuzzFeed News that his Republican colleagues are actually pretty fond of Hillary Clinton. "From a Senate perspective, in a secret ballot, Hillary gets a lot of votes out of the Republican caucus," Whitehouse said. "Potentially she even commands a majority of the Republican caucus in a secret ballot because people really do respect her."

Whitehouse said he remembers one instance in particular, when his Republican peers were especially impressed with how Clinton handled a "highly classified matter." "Two of them, her very prominent antagonists in this election, and one looked over at the other and said, 'Boy, she's good.' The other one leaned back and said, 'Yeah, she's really good,'" Whitehouse said. "And that's the Hillary that they know. Not the talking points Hillary or the caricature, but the real person."

All that is to say Whitehouse is pretty darn sure a (second) Clinton White House would have a good relationship with Republicans in Congress — especially in comparison to a White House led by Donald Trump, whose "record is poisonous." Listen to Whitehouse's entire interview at BuzzFeed News. Becca Stanek

9:14 a.m. ET
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Initial estimates of the economy's growth last quarter turned out to be overconfident, new data released Friday shows. The latest gross domestic product figures released by the Commerce Department found the value of goods and services produced last quarter actually increased at a 1.1 percent rate, down from the 1.2 percent rate initially reported.

The report did, however, reveal a higher rate of household consumption and an increase in worker wages, indicating that some of the sluggishness caused by falling government spending was offset by increased personal wealth and consumer spending.

Economists remain optimistic the third quarter will show greater growth. Becca Stanek

8:32 a.m. ET
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images for SiriusXM

When Donald Trump suggested that the 2016 election might be "rigged," he probably wasn't thinking about his new campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, who, The Guardian reports, is registered to vote in the key swing state of Florida using the address of a vacant house he never lived in. Bannon has an active voter registration in Miami-Dade County, with the address for a condemned house that was abandoned a few months ago by one of his ex-wives, Diane Clohesy, according to neighbors who say they have never seen Bannon at the house. (Clohesy herself also appears to be registered illegally in neighboring Broward County.)

Bannon owns a house in Orange County, California, which is reputedly his primary residence, and co-owns a Los Angeles condo, though he also claims to live in the "Breitbart embassy" in Washington, D.C., a $2.4 million townhouse owned by an Egyptian businessman named Mostafa El-Gindy, The Guardian says. Florida requires people to be legal residents of the county and state where they are registered to vote, with the Florida secretary of state's office defining legal residency as the place "where a person mentally intends to make his or her permanent residence." In Florida, willfully submitting false information on your voter registration is a third-degree felony.

"Bannon is executive chairman of the rightwing website Breitbart News, which has for years aggressively claimed that voter fraud is rife among minorities and in Democratic-leaning areas," The Guardian notes. Neither Bannon nor Clohesy responded to The Guardian's request for comment, though Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said "Mr. Bannon moved to another location in Florida," without elaborating. This at least wouldn't appear to be a case of double-voting, though: Bannon gave up his California registration in 2014. You can read more at The Guardian, or about Bannon's alleged physical abuse and threats against another ex-wife at Politico and the New York Post. Peter Weber

8:31 a.m. ET

Donald Trump completely dismissed Hillary Clinton's arguments Thursday that he's part of the "alt-right" on the grounds that he doesn't even know what that term means. "Nobody even knows what it is, and she didn't know what it was. This is a term that was just given," Trump said during an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday night. "Frankly, there's no alt-right or alt-left. All I'm embracing is common sense."

Cooper then gently reminded Trump that Stephen Bannon, the Breitbart News executive he recently brought on as his campaign CEO, has called his publication the "platform for the alt-right." "I don't know what Steve said. All I can tell you — I can only speak for myself," Trump said.

But, Clinton argued Thursday, Trump has been amplifying more than just his own voice. During a damning campaign speech in Reno, Clinton accused Trump of giving a "national megaphone" to the "paranoid fringe in our politics."

Watch Trump's take on the alt-right below, starting at the 4:30 mark. Becca Stanek

8:13 a.m. ET
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Last month, Felix Sater, a businessman with ties to the mafia and "loyalists of Russian President Vladimir Putin," paid Donald Trump a visit at Trump Tower for "confidential" reasons, Politico reported Friday. That same month, Sater gave the Trump campaign $5,400 — the maximum contribution allowed.

Sater and Trump's ties go way back; the two once co-developed a Trump project and Trump briefly hired Sater. However, Trump has long maintained that his relationship with Sater is "distant" and stated under oath that he "would not recognize Sater if the two were sitting in the same room," Politico reported.

Whether or not Trump recognizes Sater, the Russian-born businessman's reappearance in Trump's circle comes at an inconvenient time for his campaign, Politico says:

Around 1999, Sater joined Bayrock, a real estate firm that had offices in Trump Tower and pursued business ventures with Trump. Bayrock is now being rocked by allegations made in a lawsuit brought by a former executive of unexplained cash infusions from Russia and Kazakhstan and receiving financing from a firm used by Russians "in favor with" Putin. Around 2010, Sater went to work for Trump directly, carrying a Trump Organization business card that described him as a "senior advisor to Donald Trump."

The revelation of Sater's contribution and recent Trump Tower visit come at a time when Trump's pro-Russian stances, his relationship with former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and his campaign's role in softening the Republican Party's support for Ukrainian resistance to Russian incursions in its territory have all brought the New York billionaire's ties to Russia under intense scrutiny. [Politico]

Sater maintained that — aside from the meeting — he hasn't seen Trump recently.

Head over to Politico for more on the story, including why Sater is confident Trump would make "the greatest president of this century." Becca Stanek

7:35 a.m. ET
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

In 2006, President George W. Bush created a national marine sanctuary off the coast of Hawaii, and on Friday, President Obama is more than quadrupling its size, to 582,578 square miles, from 139,800, making the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument more than 50 times larger than the Hawaiian Islands themselves and the largest protected area on Earth. The expanded designation will put the biologically rich and diverse waters under protection of the Endangered Species Act, prohibiting commercial fishing and drilling, but allowing recreational fishing and traditional Hawaiian activity with a permit.

The area was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2010, and Matt Rand at the Pew Charitable Trusts says the Papahānaumokuākea (pronounced "Papa-ha-now-mow-koo-ah-kay-ah") marine sanctuary will "offer a glimpse of what our planet was like before the impacts of human activity, and it is critical that we preserve places in this way, both as a window to the past and for future generations.” Longline fishing businesses opposed the expansion, though federal officials put the amount of commercial fishing displaced by the new protections at just 5 percent.

Obama will visit the area next week, addressing Pacific Island leaders and conservation conferences in Hawaii then visiting the expanded monument at Midway Atoll, before heading off to China for a Group of 20 summit. Only Congress can create a national park, but presidents can unilaterally declare national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, and and Obama has so far designated more than 548 million acres of federal lands and water, more than double the amount protected by any of his predecessors. Peter Weber

6:38 a.m. ET

Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity disagree over whether Donald Trump is really "softening" his position on immigration — as Trump told Hannity on Wednesday — but on Fox News Thursday night they saved most of their anger for the Republican Party. Trump is getting about 75 percent of the GOP vote, and if he can get 15 percent of the black vote and more of the Latino vote, he'll be president, Hannity said. "But you have all these former candidates for the presidency that made pledges, then you've got Paul Ryan, and then you've got a bunch of wonks over at The Wall Street Journal, National Review that... are doing everything they can to sabotage him."

Coulter said that she thought America was in trouble when Mitt Romney lost in 2012, but "now we are at the tipping point, it's much farther along. I mean, Democrats must be thinking: 'We thought it was gonna take 20 years to completely take over the country. The way Obama is flying in Central Americans and bringing in Muslim refugees, we can get this done in Hillary's first term.'" If Clinton "amnesties" all the illegal immigrants, she said — putting the number at "30 to 50, 60 million" — "it's over, Republicans never win another presidential election, we have nine Ruth Bader Ginsburgs on the Supreme Court." If Clinton wins, she added, "what you do, what I do, what Fox News does will be irrelevant because there won't be a fight anymore."

"I'm not going to be a nut and say I don't believe the polls," Coulter said, "but I do think the polls are going to change, I still think Donald Trump is more likely to win than not, I think people will get serious and realize, this is it. This is it for our country." "I think it's worse than that," Hannity said. "If Hillary wins, I am blaming them directly for their sabotage."

Coulter saved a bit of sorrow for Trump, though: "I think he made a mistake in the things that he said to you. He was using... all the Marco Rubio clichés used to push the Gang of 8 bill. Look, I don't think that's true — I think it's stupid, because all Trump is doing is demoralizing his base. The Never-Trumpers, the people who hate him still hate him, but now they can call him a flip-flopper. Way to go, whoever told Trump to say that." Trump has his flaws, but he has always been a great patriot, Coulter said. "If you are putting Americans first, you are not going to want to keep even the most law-abiding illegal alien.... This is burdening America. We're a generous people, but enough already!" Watch below. Peter Weber

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