January 29, 2016

Almost all of the Iowa Republicans impaneled by pollster Frank Luntz to judge Thursday night's Fox News Republican debate said Donald Trump should have attended the face-off, but they split about evenly on whether it was a smart move. "He should have been on that stage tonight," said a voter named Aaron, "but he inflicted some serious damage on [Sen. Ted] Cruz. Cruz had to take the arrows tonight, and I think it now is a Trump-Rubio contest." Others said Trump showed disrespect to Iowans by not showing up. In fact, most of the people in the focus group agreed that Trump doesn't "respect the people of Iowa," but many still said he's going to win the caucuses. "I don't know that I believe in him and want him," said Katie, "but it's just going to happen — he's the reality star." Watch Luntz's Fox News focus group grapple with Trump's absence in the video below. Peter Weber

4:34 a.m. ET

On Thursday morning, Britain's Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said that seven people have been arrested in overnight raids in London and Birmingham in connection with Wednesday's deadly attack outside Parliament and on Westminster Bridge.

"It is still our belief — which continues to be borne out by our investigation — that this attacker acted alone and was inspired by international terrorism," he said. "At this stage we have no specific information about further threats to the public." At least four people, including the attacker, were killed when the unidentified man ran down civilians on the bridge in an SUV, scaled the fence around Parliament, and fatally stabbed a police officer, before being shot. Rowley said 29 people were hospitalized and seven remain in critical condition. Peter Weber

4:07 a.m. ET

"For weeks now, Republicans have been pushing their ObamaCare replacement plan, but the bill has a pre-existing condition," Stephen Colbert said Wednesday on The Late Show: "Everybody hates it." Having trouble selling TrumpCare to Republican lawmakers, much less Democrats or the public, GOP leaders are "rebranding, they're introducing the 'three-bucket strategy,'" Colbert said. "So no health care, but with all those buckets, think of how much you'll save on urns."

"Maybe it's not literal buckets," Colbert said. "You know, since so many people are losing health care they're just saying, 'Quick, do the first three things on your bucket list.'" The "failing" health-care bill isn't Trump's only problem, he added, noting that to soothe Trump's anger after a federal judge halted his second travel ban order, aides played him a news report suggesting it won't survive Supreme Court review. They treat the president like a 5-year-old, Colbert said, "but if positive coverage helps calm down the big angry man with the launch codes, I say do it." He played a clip form his delightful "Real News Tonight" team.

"But you know, I talk too much about Donald Trump," Colbert said. "I talk about him every night, it makes me miss out on some other aspects of my life. There's so many other things to talk about." He spent the rest of the monologue joking about the "Fat Leonard military sex scandal" — which suggest that, once again, Colbert taped this show last week. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:26 a.m. ET

With Megyn Kelly no longer on the air occasionally pushing back against President Trump's treatment of women, Fox News viewers are channeling their ire toward Shepard Smith, who anchors the news and opinion network's afternoon and breaking news coverage. "Smith's persistent fact-mongering has made him persona non grata among some parts of the Fox News faithful," says Paul Farhi at The Washington Post.

Smith's past comments affirming human-influenced climate change, supporting same-sex marriage, urging reasoned calm on terrorism and disease, and defending rival network CNN from "fake news" attacks from Trump have raised hackles among some network viewers, but it was this throwing cold water on Andrew Napolitano's theory about Britain wiretapping Trump that really "made him an apostate to the conservative Fox News orthodoxy," Farhi says.

Neither Fox News nor Smith, who has been with the network since 1996, responded to The Washington Post's request for comment, but as Smith-haters are pushing for his firing on social media, two theories are gaining traction: Smith is on his way out and feeling free to speak his mind, or Fox News actually wants Smith to put a bit of space between the network and Trump.

"If I'm Fox News, I would view [Smith's commentary] as a good thing right now," said Dan Cassino, a Fairleigh Dickinson University political scientist who wrote a book on Fox News, espousing the second theory. "It builds the credibility of a news organization," as the Murdoch clan wants for their network. Besides, he adds, since Trump fans have no other cable-news options, "Fox isn't worried about its ratings."

Subscribing to the first theory is Tim Graham at the conservative Media Research Center, who argues that Smith is set to bolt to CNN or MSNBC. "His aggressive defense of the liberal media suggests he's looking at Greta Van Susteren and saying, 'Yeah, I could do that,'" Graham told The Post. "To me, it sounds like he's advertising to other networks. It just seems bizarre for him to be sticking up for CNN and MSNBC. It's like Jif peanut butter taking an ad sticking up for Skippy." You can read more about the war on Shep at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

2:51 a.m. ET

When he was campaigning, President Trump reassured some skeptical voters that he had "the smartest, the sharpest, the greatest minds," and "the best people" on his team. Samantha Bee asked, rhetorically, where all those people are now that he's in the White House. And on Wednesday's Full Frontal, she focused on one of those "best people," senior counterterrorism adviser, Fox News regular, and "Trump whisperer" Sebastian L. v. Gorka. "Gorka's got a cruise ship magician's facial hair and the president's ear," she said.

"So who is Sebastian v. Gorka, and how the heck did he get promoted from Breitbart panic blogger to presidential national security adviser?" Bee asked. The answer to the second part of the question is almost certainly his frequent, jihad-panic-stoking appearances on Fox News, but as for the first part, he's a British-born self-proclaimed counterterrorism expert who got a doctorate from a Hungarian university a few years ago. "I am not a counterterrorism expert, but people who are think Gorka is full of shit," Bee said. "It turns out Dr. Gorka has published as many papers in peer-reviewed academic journals as Dr. McStuffins: Zero."

"Trump's ISIS expert has never lived in a Muslim-majority country," Bee noted, and "he doesn't read or speak Arabic." In fact, "for his thesis, Gorka read the Quran in English, and some secondary sources, and watched Charlie Wilson's War, which makes you an authority on Islam in much the way that watching a Chinese bootleg of Rogue One makes you an astronaut."

He was born and raised in London, but "members of the Hungarian far-right nationalist movement were super psyched when Gorka celebrated inauguration night going on Fox News wearing the regalia of the Hungarian Order of Vitézi, which the State Department lists as a Nazi-linked group," Bee said. "Gorka claims he never swore allegiance to the Vitézi group, whose members adopt a lower-case v as a middle initial," she said, but "Gorka's right-wing bling" isn't the real issue here. "This is not playtime now. Shit is real, and the White House needs real counterterrorism experts, not a poor man's Stewie Griffin whose extremist nonsense could get people killed." Watch the NSFW, not-fair-and-balanced Gorka primer below. Peter Weber

1:57 a.m. ET

During the day, Marvin Hatchett is a security guard at Wilson Middle School in Pasadena, California, but once the bell rings, he becomes a music teacher, mentor, and champion of the arts.

The school does not have enough money for a music program, and since 1983, Hatchett has served as a one-man performing arts department, teaching students at Wilson everything from the drums to the violin. Many of the students can't afford to purchase their own instruments, and when he's able to secure funds, Hatchett uses the money to buy them for the kids. "Everything that involves drums, Marvin has taught me," student Dillon Akers told NBC Los Angeles. "If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be doing this right now."

Some of his former students have gone on to become professional musicians, and Hatchett gets excited when he sees natural talent. "That's what gets you to keep going, and that's what makes you say, 'I got to do it again,'" he said. Hatchett's role as a music teacher is strictly voluntary, and he receives nothing in return except the knowledge that he's making a difference in the lives of many students. "He has integrity and he has a humbleness that is just a rare quality," Principal Sarah Rudchenko said. Catherine Garcia

1:21 a.m. ET
AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz

On Wednesday, the number of Republicans in Hawaii's 51-seat House of Representatives dropped from six to five, when former Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto quit the party and applied to become a Democrat. Her Republican colleagues removed her as House GOP leader in early February after Fukumoto, 33, spoke out against President Trump at the Women's March in Hawaii.

Fukumoto, a self-described political moderate of Japanese and Irish descent, said she was bothered during the election when she "saw members of my party marginalizing and condemning minorities, ethnic or otherwise, and making demeaning comments toward women," but the final straw was Trump's talk of a Muslim ban and starting a Muslim-American registry, which she called "one step away" from internment camps. "I wanted very badly to see the Republican Party denounce his comments, and that didn't happen," she told Reuters.

Fukumoto said that before leaving the GOP, she had polled her constituents in a middle-class section of central Oahu, and 76 percent of the people who responded to the questionnaire said they would support her regardless of party, with most of the rest opposing her switch. All 25 seats in the Hawaii Senate are held by Democrats, and the state's governor and entire U.S. congressional delegation are Democrats, too. So Fukumoto's defection, notes poll-cruncher Will Jordan, cost Hawaii's Republican Party 17 percent of their elected officials. Peter Weber

12:45 a.m. ET

President Trump, bogged down in investigations about his campaign's possible ties to Russian intelligence, "is apparently desperate for literally any good news these days," Seth Meyers said on Wednesday's Late Night. So on Tuesday night, Trump brought up old Abraham Lincoln at a National Republican Congressional Committee fundraiser, sharing what he believed might be useful trivia. "Trump wants a super PAC to take out an ad to let people know Lincoln was a Republican," Meyers sighed, breaking out his Trump voice. "'In fact, make sure he's wearing one of our hats.' Also, this can only mean one thing: Trump just found out Lincoln was a Republican. Dude, the Republicans literally call it the 'Party of Lincoln.' Did you think they were talking about the car?"

But Trump could be focusing on actual good news, the confirmation hearings for his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, Meyers said. Instead, he's trying to swat down the Russia allegations and defend his unfounded claim about former President Barack Obama tapping his phones. With FBI Director James Comey publicly shooting down the Obama wiretapping claim, Republicans are urging Trump to apologize to his predecessor and move on. Meyers was skeptical: "It also doesn't hurt normal people to say 'I'm sorry,' but it might kill Trump. I don't even thinks his mouth can make those words."

He ran down the news about the investigation, including the new reports on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, news from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) — "You're supposed to be conducting the investigation, you don't go tell the guy you're investigating," Meyers reminded Nunes — and texting between a Russian election hacker and Trump confidante Roger Stone.

But Meyers returned to Trump's should-be happy place to close out. The Gorsuch hearing is the "one thing that kept Republicans from abandoning Trump," he said. Meyers played some of the hard-hitting small-talk from GOP senators at the hearing, then put it in context: "Republicans were probably so giddy during the hearings because they knew they were getting away with one of the greatest thefts in modern politics, the stealing of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court from President Obama. And on top of that they got a conservative nominee who's shared very little about his actual views." He ended with a Lincoln joke. Watch below. Peter Weber

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