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January 15, 2016
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On Tuesday, two U.S. naval vessels were detained by Iran for trespassing in Iranian territorial waters. The original story from the U.S. government suggested that there had been a mechanical failure on one of the boats and, in the words of Joe Biden, it had then "drifted into Iranian waters," where it was detained.

The Intercept is raising a question as to the truthfulness of such a statement, especially now that the United States has changed its story. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Friday morning that the sailors had actually made a "navigational error" that took them into Iran's waters. The Intercept writes:

It is, of course, theoretically possible that this newest rendition of events is what happened. But there are multiple reasons to suspect otherwise. To begin with, U.S. sailors frequently travel between Bahrain and Kuwait, two key U.S. allies, the former of which hosts the Fifth Fleet headquarters; this was familiar waters.

Moreover, at no point did either of the ships notify anyone that they had inadvertently "misnavigated" into Iranian territorial waters, a significant enough event that would warrant some sort of radio or other notification. [The Intercept]

"What we know for certain is that the storyline of 'mechanical failure' and 'poor U.S. boat in distress' that was originally propagated [...] was complete fiction," The Intercept concludes. Read their full analysis of the event here. Jeva Lange

12:46 p.m. ET

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney addressed the Trump administration's tax reform agenda in a pair of interviews Sunday, depicting a White House willing to do whatever is necessary to change the tax code.

"We're using reconciliation so that we only need 50 votes in the Senate instead of 60," Mulvaney explained on NBC's Meet the Press. "In order to do that, the certain proposals can only have certain economic impact, and one of the ways to game the system is to make things expire," he continued, clarifying that "this is done more to force, to shoehorn the bill into the rules than because we think it's good policy."

Likewise, on CNN's State of the Union, Mulvaney said the White House would endorse removing the ObamaCare individual mandate repeal rider from the tax bill if that is what it takes to pass the legislation. "If we can repeal part of ObamaCare as part of a tax bill and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill that can pass, that's great," he told host Jake Tapper. But if "it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can," the repeal amendment will go.

Read the NBC transcript here, and watch Mulvaney's full CNN appearance below. Bonnie Kristian

12:27 p.m. ET

White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short on Sunday sidestepped no less than 13 questions from ABC News host George Stephanopoulos as to whether President Trump wants embattled Alabama candidate Roy Moore to win a seat in the Senate given credible allegations of his sexual misconduct toward teenage girls as young as 14. Here's a small sample of the merry-go-round interview:

Stephanopoulos: So, you're not willing to make a yes or no judgment on whether the president believes the women?

Short: I think I have answered your question three times now.

Stephanopoulos: No. I think what you have said is you have questions and concerns about the allegations.

Short: We do. We do have serious questions about the allegations. And the president has raised those and it's one of the reasons why he has not gone down to campaign for Roy Moore.

Stephanopoulos: So, he promised after the primary to back Roy Moore. Is he still backing Roy Moore?

Short: I don't think you have seen him go down there and campaign for him. I don't think you have seen him issue an endorsement. You have not seen him issue robocalls. I think he thinks at this point it is best for the people of Alabama to make the decision for their state.

Stephanopoulos: So he no longer backs Roy Moore?

Short: I think he thinks it is best for the people of Alabama to make the decision. [ABC]

After persistently pressing Short to give a yes or no answer, Stephanopoulos finally moved on to a simpler subject, tax reform. Watch the exchange below, or count all 13 questions in the full transcript here. Bonnie Kristian

11:13 a.m. ET

Saturday Night Live took a thinly veiled swipe at overly aggressive policing tactics with a sketch in which host Chance the Rapper and fellow minority citizens of Gotham ask Beck Bennett's Bruce Wayne to let Batman know he needs to "cool it down on our neighborhoods" because it "seems like he's in our neighborhood, all the time."

"You know how Batman is tough on crime?" Chance asks. "Somebody's gotta do something about him. I mean, he broke my best friend's jaw in two places and all he did was steal a TV. That's excessive!" Then, Chance adds, Batman left his friend "hanging for like 30 minutes 30 stories up by a gargoyle by his underwear." (The underwear thing, it turns out, is among Batman's favorite crime-fighting techniques.)

Watch the full skit below, and read The Week's Emily L. Hauser on the horrifying pervasiveness of police brutality. Bonnie Kristian

10:37 a.m. ET
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The State Department said Friday it will demand the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) outpost in Washington unless the group agrees to peace talks with Israel. The agency said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas triggered a provision in U.S. law that allows the secretary of state to shut down the PLO office if Palestine acts against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Abbas called for an ICC investigation of Israeli settlements in a September speech at the United Nations.

The PLO said Saturday it would not be blackmailed and expressed surprise at the strong-arm tactic after amicable meetings between Abbas and President Trump. An Abbas representative, Nabil Abu Rdainah, said the talks were "characterized by full understanding of the steps needed to create a climate for resumption of the peace process." Bonnie Kristian

10:28 a.m. ET
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With less than a month to go before the special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Alabamians are split over how to respond to the sexual misconduct allegations against Senate candidate Roy Moore (R).

Dozens of religious leaders gathered to register their dissent at a Baptist church in Birmingham Saturday, saying Moore is "infected with" a "false religious virus." In addition to addressing the accusations against Moore from a growing list of women, speakers at the gathering of pastors critiqued the candidate's apparent verbal swipe at the 1965 Voting Rights Act on Tuesday.

However, many prominent Alabama Republicans remain loyal partisans. "I believe in the Republican Party, what we stand for, and most important, we need to have a Republican in the United States Senate to vote on things like the Supreme Court justices," said Gov. Kay Ivey (R), conceding she finds the accusations troubling.

Read The Week's Paul Waldman on why Ivey and her fellow GOPers may be stuck with Moore whether they like it or not. Bonnie Kristian

10:14 a.m. ET
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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leveled a fresh round of criticism at her erstwhile campaign rival, President Trump, in two sets of comments this weekend.

In an interview published Friday, Clinton said she stands by her past comment that Trump is Russian President Vladimir Putin's "puppet," calling the president "naive" for believing Putin's denials of election meddling. "I think that he hopes or expects the rest of us to be naive, or at least the people who support him to be naive," she continued, "but this is a serious cyberattack on America.”

Then, at an appearance in Arkansas on Saturday, Clinton said Trump is, like, totally obsessed with her. "Apparently, you know, my former opponent is obsessed with my speaking out," she said. "Apparently there was another, somebody told me, tweet today. Honestly, between tweeting and golfing, how does he get anything done?"

The tweet in question was a Saturday post in which Trump achieved a similar middle-school vibe by labeling Clinton "the worst (and biggest) loser of all time." Bonnie Kristian

8:09 a.m. ET

Saturday Night Live censured SNL alum Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) over a reporter's allegation that in 2006 he kissed her without her consent and took a picture groping her while she slept. "I know this photo looks bad, but remember: It also is bad," said Colin Jost in a Weekend Update segment on the subject. "And, sure, this was taken before he ran for public office, but it was also taken after he was a sophomore in high school. It's pretty hard to be like, 'Oh, come on. He didn't know any better. He was only 55.'"

Michael Che chimed in to note President Trump's selective condemnation of Franken, a Democrat, while refraining from comparable comment about Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Watch the full clip below, and read The Week's Peter Weber on what would happen in a Senate ethics investigation of Franken's conduct, which the senator invited in his second apology statement. Bonnie Kristian

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