February 13, 2016
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Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev criticized the West for worsening relations with his nation over the conflict in Syria, USA Today reports.

"NATO's attitude toward Russia remains unfriendly and opaque, and one could go so far as to say we have slid back to a new Cold War," he said at a high-level security conference Saturday. "Sometimes I wonder if it is the year 2016 or 1962."

Medvedev disputed a widely held belief that Russian planes have bombed civilians in Syria, The Guardian reports. At the same conference, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of a political solution to Syria's five-year civil war, rather than resorting to violence. Julie Kliegman

9:59 a.m. ET
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President-elect Donald Trump boasted that his election was an even bigger populist movement than that of President Andrew Jackson during a dinner in honor of Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Wednesday night, The New York Times reports.

The comparison might raise some eyebrows: "Today, Andrew Jackson is no longer very popular, and many of his values are no longer ours," The Smithsonian has noted. "Jackson's populism was … a Trojan horse for pro-slavery, pro-states-rights interests. He was a wealthy slaveholder himself, with no qualms about African-American bondage and deep hostility to abolitionism. He ignored the early movement for women's rights, and his infamous policy of Indian removal partly stemmed from demands by his 'base' for plentiful free land."


"There hasn't been anything like this since Andrew Jackson," Mr. Trump quoted his admirers saying. "Andrew Jackson? What year was Andrew Jackson? That was a long time ago."

Mr. Trump then gave the year — 1828 — and went on to suggest that his own nationalist movement had usurped Mr. Jackson's.

He said that even "the haters" who disliked him called his movement "unprecedented." [The New York Times]

Trump then thanked African-American voters for their low turnout on Election Day, which he credited as being "because they liked me, or they liked me enough that they just said, 'No reason.'" Jeva Lange

9:42 a.m. ET

Fox News host Tucker Carlson's interview with the Huffington Post's Alex Mohajer on Wednesday night went totally off the rails, ending with Carlson screeching that Mohajer is a "Democratic political operative." Carlson had some questions for Mohajer about his recent article arguing that Hillary Clinton is actually the legitimate president — particularly about a portion that cited an article by the Executive Intelligence Review, a publication Carlson claimed is by Lyndon LaRouche, who he says is a conspiracy theorist. "Why didn't you just go with a Scientology pamphlet or Heaven's Gate? Do you really think that's a legitimate news source?" Carlson said.

Mohajer responded by bringing up Carlson's tenure as editor-in-chief at The Daily Caller. "I don't say you are a crappy journalist because of The Daily Caller," Mohajer said, pointing out that The Daily Caller repeatedly questioned President Obama's legitimacy.

Carlson declared Mohajer's point "stupid," and went on to express his disappointment in the Huffington Post for publishing Mohajer's "garbage." "The idea that people take a crackpot like you — who would throw something out there with no evidence — is distressing," Carlson said.

Watch the throw-down from start to finish below. Becca Stanek

9:24 a.m. ET

Not everyone gets privately serenaded by Bruce Springsteen when they leave their job, but not everyone worked in the Barack Obama White House, either. The Boss reportedly performed a secret, 15-song acoustic concert for 250 members of Obama's staff last week as a thank you for their work, Rolling Stone reports.

One fan in the audience relayed an account of the concert to Backstreets:

It was a dream of a setlist. Bruce opened with a very brief note of thanks to the president and the staff who were being honored before launching into "Working on the Highway." That opener led into an incredible "Growin' Up" for a lively start, but not much of the set was so upbeat, with haunting readings of songs like "My Hometown," "My Father's House," and "Devils & Dust." The mood in the room the whole night — both reception and concert — was not exactly somber, but it wasn't festive, either. It was elegiac, I'd say. There was a clear sense of something ending, both with the conclusion of an adventure for the staff and the silent presence of the coming political transition. Bruce's demeanor was definitely in line with that overall vibe. [Backstreets]

The president thanked Springsteen after the show: "He's been with us for some time now, performing his craft to show his support," Obama said. Jeva Lange

8:59 a.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of the Army allegedly punched a concessions worker in the face at a horse auction last year, The New York Times reports.

Vincent Viola — a billionaire Wall Street trader, former Army Ranger, and the owner of the Florida Panthers hockey team — was attending the racehorse auction in Saratoga Springs, New York, last August, when the incident is said to have occurred. While the police did not see Viola actually punch the concessions worker, when they arrived on the scene the employee had a "swollen, bloody lip."

The police report alleges:

Vincent … was notified by his wife, Theresa, that a man who worked for the food service at the horse sales had pushed her after she tried to get some water from the kitchen area for a woman who had just fainted in the building. Vincent states about 45 minutes after the incident occurred, Theresa located the subject who had pushed her and then pointed him out to Vincent. Vincent then reportedly confronted the subject, [redacted], [and the] two subjects then engaged in a verbal dispute. [Redacted] states the argument escalated with Viola punching him just prior to my arrival on scene. [Redacted] sustained a swollen, bloody lip as a result of the alleged punch. [via Deadspin]

Neither Viola or the concessions worker is pressing charges. Viola's stable ended up buying a colt from the auction worth $200,000, a son of a sire named Paynter and a mare named More Oats Please.

A spokesperson for Viola did not dispute to the Times that Viola had punched the concessions worker. "Mr. Viola loves his wife and regrets the incident," the spokesman said. Jeva Lange

8:38 a.m. ET
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President-elect Donald Trump's energy secretary nominee Rick Perry and treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin will testify at their Senate confirmation hearings Thursday morning.

A former Texas governor, Perry has previously argued to eliminate the Department of Energy and reportedly was not entirely sure about what the department does when he was offered the position. If confirmed, Perry will largely work to oversee the U.S. nuclear arsenal and is expected to face tough questions today from combative Democrats, the Texas Tribune reports. Yet Perry might slip by mostly unscathed: "There are bigger fish to fry," a Senate Democratic aide told the Tribune.

One such fish could be former Goldman Sachs partner Mnuchin, who will likely face questions interrogating his time at OneWest Bank, which is accused of merciless foreclosure tactics during the housing crisis. Mnuchin has also faced trouble with his financial paperwork, admitting in a revised questionnaire that he is the director of an investment fund based in the Cayman Islands and that he forgot to disclose over $900,000 worth of artwork held by his children, The New York Times reports.

All of the Senate hearings can be watched live on C-SPAN, with Perry's kicking the day off at 9:30 a.m. ET. Jeva Lange

7:58 a.m. ET
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In what is being called "one of the biggest upsets" in Australian Open history, Novak Djokovic, 29, was defeated in the second round by Denis Istomin, 30, a wild card player from Uzbekistan who is ranked 117th in the world. Last June, Djokovic held all four Grand Slam singles titles at the same time; he has won the Australian Open six times, and had not suffered such an early defeat in a Grand Slam tournament in almost nine years.

Istomin won 7-6 (10-8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, with the five sets taking four hours and 48 minutes to complete. "First of all, I feel sorry for Novak; I was playing so good today," Istomin said. "I surprised myself as well."

With Djokovic out of the tournament, world No. 1 Andy Murray is the clear favorite to win the Australian Open title. "Many things came together for [Istomin] today and he's a well-deserved winner," Djokovic said after the match. "There's not much I could do." Jeva Lange

7:33 a.m. ET
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Friday will be a day full of monumental rites of passage: The president's swearing-in ceremony, the parade, the inaugural luncheon, the balls. But one tradition looms large, especially for critics concerned about President-elect Donald Trump's restraint: The briefing where the new president learns how to quickly launch a nuclear attack.

"The briefer is very, very military. It's a military briefing," George W. Bush's former chief of staff Andy Card told Politico. "It's not a briefing of the conscience. It's by-the-book, it's rote … It's kind of like how to use your remote control for the TV."

Trump's access to the nuclear arsenal and his ability to quickly attack another nation using a nuclear bomb without having to go through Congress, his Cabinet, or, theoretically, anyone else, has been a subject of aggressive criticism from his detractors. In October, 10 former nuclear launch officers said in a letter that the pressures of possessing the nuclear launch codes are "staggering and require enormous composure, judgment, restraint, and diplomatic skill" and that "Donald Trump does not have these leadership qualities. On the contrary, he has shown himself time and again to be easily baited and quick to lash out, dismissive of expert consultation and ill-informed of even basic military and international affairs — including, most especially, nuclear weapons."

There is some comfort for critics, at least. In the past, aides have noted a visible difference when the president has emerged from his nuclear briefing. George H.W. Bush reportedly "slipped out of Blair House and into the street with tears reddening the rims of his eyes."

Officials in both the government and the Trump campaign would not confirm to Politico where or when Trump will get the codes, which will be carried by a military aide in a briefcase near the president from the moment he is inaugurated. If history is any indication, Trump will likely be pulled aside shortly after taking his oath. Jeva Lange

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