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January 26, 2016

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was on The Late Show Monday night, and Stephen Colbert was very careful with his questions. Rumsfeld was on to promote his new solitaire app, but all anyone ever wants to talk to Rumsfeld about is the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and Colbert was no exception. He started out by asking if the current situation in Iraq and Syria, including the rise of the Islamic State, was "a worst-case scenario, or a beyond-worse-case scenario" when the George W. Bush administration was planning the Iraq War. "I think the disorder in the entire region, and the conflict between the Sunnis and the Shia, is something that, generally, people had not anticipated," Rumsfeld said.

Then Colbert got a little more direct. "The top two Republicans and the top two Democrats, none of them thinks going into Iraq was the right choice to make," he said. "Do you still think it was the right thing to do, 12 years later?" Rumsfeld said that when Bush made the decision, Iraq had disregarded several U.N. resolutions, had used chemical weapons on his citizens and Iran, and "it seems to me the president, given the facts he had from the intelligence community, made the right decision. In retrospect, they didn't find large caches of chemical or biological weapons."

Colbert turned to Rumsfeld's "known unknowns" formulation and introduced a fourth option, "unknown knowns," gently suggesting that the Bush administration misled the American people by asserting that Iraq was a threat to the U.S. when the intelligence was too murky to back that up. "The president had available to him intelligence from all elements of the government," Rumsfeld said. "And the National Security Council members had that information; it was all shared, it was all supplied. And it's never certain. If it were a fact, it wouldn't be called intelligence." Colbert looked taken aback. "Wow. I think you answered my question." You can watch the strange, nearly 10-minute conversation below. Peter Weber

10:23 p.m. ET
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

The White House is preparing to send the Pentagon a memo with instructions on how to implement President Trump's proposal to ban transgender people from serving in the armed forces, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The new policy will let Defense Secretary James Mattis consider a service member's ability to deploy when deciding whether to remove them from the military, the Journal reports, and gives him six months to reestablish the ban on transgender soldiers. The memo also directs the Pentagon to stop paying for gender dysphoria treatments for transgender military members currently serving. Trump announced on Twitter last month he would reinstate the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, a year after it was abolished by former President Barack Obama. Catherine Garcia

9:29 p.m. ET
Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

Most of its infrastructure has been destroyed and there are shortages of everything from food to medicine, and as fighting rages on, it's unlikely things will improve in Yemen anytime soon.

The United Nations says the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn Middle Eastern country is the worst in the world, and 10 million people need immediate assistance. The fighting began in 2014, when Houthi rebels faced off against the government; in 2015, a Saudi-led coalition began fighting the rebels in order to restore the government, and today, the Houthis control the west and the government and its backers control the south and east. Over the past two-and-a-half years, constant airstrikes have killed civilians and destroyed bridges and hospitals, and because the coalition has shut down the capital's international airport to civilian planes, supplies cannot fly in and sick and injured Yemenis cannot leave for treatment in other countries.

The New York Times has an in-depth look at one of the biggest problems facing Yemen: Cholera, the bacterial infection that is spread by feces-contaminated water. It is not life-threatening in developed countries, and can be treated with antibiotics, but in Yemen, it's hitting children and the elderly hard. As garbage piles up in the streets and sewage systems fail, Yemenis have to get their water from wells that can easily be contaminated. In just three months, cholera has killed nearly 2,000 Yemenis, the Times reports, and more than 500,000 are infected.

Half of all Yemenis do not have quick access to an operating medical center, and many have to borrow money to get treatment; a Yemeni soldier who told the Times he has not been paid in eight months brought his six-year-old daughter to the capital Sana'a for cholera treatment. She is malnourished, after surviving off of yogurt and milk from neighbors, and her father said they are "just waiting for doom or for a breakthrough from heaven." As humanitarian workers watch the situation escalate, they are cognizant of the fact that if they had additional funds, they could make more of a difference — the United Nations estimates Yemen needs $2.3 billion in humanitarian aid this year, but only 41 percent has been received. Read the entire report at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

7:49 p.m. ET
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump is annoyed with several Republican senators doing things he believes might damage him, like working on bipartisan bills sanctioning Russia, and he called two of them to privately vent his frustrations, several people familiar with his conversations told Politico.

In late July, Trump called Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and tried to convince him that the bill sanctioning Russia was bad policy and unconstitutional, three people with knowledge of the call told Politico, but Corker made it known the bill would pass and there wasn't anything Trump could do about it. On August 7, Trump rang Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who is working with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on a bill that aims to protect special counsel Robert Mueller should Trump attempt to fire him, one person familiar with the call told Politico. Trump let Tillis know he wasn't happy about the legislation, and didn't want it to pass.

One senior GOP aide told Politico it seems Trump is "just always focused on Russia," but it's now going to be a lot harder for him to make surprise phone calls to Republican senators — senior administration officials said John Kelly, Trump's new chief of staff, has been trying to get a handle on the president's impromptu calls with legislators by requesting that senior White House aides be notified and present for all conversations. Catherine Garcia

6:54 p.m. ET

When 1,500 self-described Republican and Republican-leaning voters were asked who they would vote for in a hypothetical GOP presidential primary held today, with three established senators and a governor facing off against President Trump, 50 percent said they would cast their ballot for Trump.

GOP pollster and strategist Tony Fabrizio of Fabrizio, Lee & Associates posted the survey results on Twitter Wednesday, commenting that Trump was "crushing a hypothetical GOP primary field. So much for the 'buyer's remorse' the D.C. insiders are convinced the GOP has." In this match up, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas came in second place with 14 percent, followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 10 percent and Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas each with one percent. The poll found that 42 percent of respondents said they would "definitely" vote for Trump, while 24 percent were undecided.

Several Twitter users questioned why Fabrizio would say Trump was "crushing it," since he's only at 50 percent just seven months into his presidency, and he defended his word choice, arguing that it was a five-way field with "several well-known opponents, two of which ran against him previously. He is crushing Kasich or Cruz nearly 4 to 1." Others wondered why Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida wasn't part of the equation, along with the always popular "literally anyone else." Catherine Garcia

5:26 p.m. ET

A New York City councilman is urging police to investigate the property manager of a condo building in Queens that's adorned with images of guns, a swastika, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, and Robert E. Lee.

The building's entryway features two 10-foot-tall statues of Uncle Sam and a crucifix. Once inside, residents are confronted with National Rifle Association stickers, a tribute to President Trump, and an array of images that includes Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington, and Jim Crow. The directory lists everyone from Nazis Rudolf Hess and Josef Mengel to rappers LL Cool J and Biggie Smalls.

In a rally Wednesday outside the building, Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer declared the lobby "a hate crime." "I see and have had them tell me personally how afraid they are, and they're literally unable to speak out for fear of retaliation from this man, so we as a community have to speak out for them," Van Bramer told Gothamist. "If you put it all together — the images in the lobby with the fear I've been told firsthand by people who live there — you realize there's something much larger going on."

Residents say they believe the decor is the work of the building's property manager and board president, Neal Milano, who apparently has a track record of harassing tenants and condo owners. A lawsuit has been filed against Milano and the condo board, and the New York City Police Department's Hate Crime Unit has been alerted.

CBS New York reported that Milano is "currently out of the country, but his attorney said the murals were approved by the board" and that the posters are "patriotic and historical." Becca Stanek

4:11 p.m. ET
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

For $1,000, you can buy a five-night cruise to the Bahamas, a new laptop, or a king-size mattress. Or, you know, you could buy Samsung's Galaxy Note 8. Shortly after debuting the new phone Wednesday, Samsung revealed that people are going to have to shell out a hefty $930 to get it.

Crazy as that price may sound, it's not wildly out of the range of what phones are costing nowadays. The upcoming iPhone 8 is estimated to cost more than $1,000. The Samsung Note 7, infamous for sometimes spontaneously combusting, cost more than $800 before it was discontinued.

The Verge noted that Samsung hasn't been selling its new Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus for full price "all that often," thanks to frequent deals. The phone also boasts some pretty high-tech features, like a massive infinity screen, dual mega-pixel cameras, and an S Pen Stylus that can translate complete sentences.

Still, watching $930 hit the ground when you inevitably drop your phone couldn't feel good. Becca Stanek

3:43 p.m. ET

Reuters had a bit of trouble writing a tweet on Wednesday about ESPN pulling announcer Robert Lee from covering a Virginia college football game because his name sounds too similar to the Confederate general's.

In their multiple attempts, Reuters both claimed that Lee — who is Asian-American — is a look-alike or supernatural twin of General Robert E. Lee, or had been directly named after him (he wasn't):

Writing, of course, is not easy, especially as ESPN's decision to pull Lee from the broadcast has been mocked as an overreaction to a non-controversy. "We're watching Reuters headline writers in real-time trying to figure out what was wrong with Lee broadcasting the game," joked one Twitter user.

In the end, Reuters offered a helpful clarification for anyone they might have confused. Jeva Lange

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