FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
March 8, 2016

Stephen Colbert didn't have a show on Friday, so it was four days before he was able to respond to Donald Trump's hands-size comment at last Thursday's GOP debate. "But I don't care, because this is what I do for a living," he said on Monday's Late Show, "and there's no way in hell I'm going to let an entire election go by without talking about" that amazing moment in presidential debate history. Colbert fumbled a "big tent" joke, but nailed the next one ostensibly giving Trump the benefit of the doubt on the size of his package: "Why would a man with a small penis put his name in giant letters on the top of a skyscraper?" (He poked fun at himself, too.)

Now that Trump has made "the size of [his] executive branch" a campaign issue, Colbert said, it's time for Trump to "release the long form. Or the short form — no judgment." Was he done? No. "All kidding aside, I am not putting any kidding aside," he said. "This is someone who could have finger on the button — and God, I hope it's his finger." And then Colbert made a Lincoln-Douglas debate joke, and took a step back: "I can't believe that these are absolutely legitimate jokes to be making about a presidential debate right now. Now, for those of you who have been following American democracy for the last 240 years, we have officially hit a new low in political discourse." And this probably isn't rock bottom, he sighed. "We still haven't hit 'onstage nut punch following by closing statement delivered via one long burp' — but it's only March." Watch below. Peter Weber

12:44 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

During a meeting last summer in the situation room at the White House, FBI Director James Comey said he was considering writing an op-ed to explain how Russia was trying to influence the U.S. presidential election, people with knowledge of the matter told Newsweek.

Several notable officials were in the room, including former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Newsweek reports, and White House officials thought it would make more sense to release a message supported by several different intelligence agencies instead of a solo op-ed. The piece would not have mentioned the FBI's investigation, started in July, into possible collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russia, Newsweek reports. That investigation was confirmed earlier this month by Comey.

On October 7, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement alleging that the Russian government was tampering with the election to disrupt the U.S., months after it was first reported that hackers had gained access to Democratic National Committee emails. Newsweek says that had Comey written his op-ed, it likely would have been sent to The New York Times, and would have included much of the information that was in the intelligence report released January 6 about Russian President Vladimir Putin influencing the presidential election. Catherine Garcia

12:09 a.m. ET
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

On Wednesday night, North Carolina state Senate leader Phil Berger (R) and state House Speaker Tim Moore (R) announced that they have reached a deal with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial "bathroom" law that prohibits transgender people from using restrooms that match their gender identity. Neither lawmaker disclosed details of the law, but The Charlotte Observer says leaks suggest it would repeal HB2, block local governments from passing anti-discrimination ordinances for three years, and prohibit cities from regulating restrooms and locker rooms.

The Senate, then the House, are expected to vote on the bill Thursday morning, before a reported ultimatum from the NCAA to change the law or lose any chance to host championship games through 2022. The NCAA and ACC pulled championship games from the state after HB2 went into effect, and the NBA moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte.

LGBTQ groups panned the compromise, reached after two days of marathon negotiations, calling it a capitulation by Democrats that would allow anti-LGBTQ discrimination to continue. Cooper issued a statement saying he supports the repeal bill, with reservations. "It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation," he said. The law has cost North Carolina billions of dollars. House Republicans narrowly approved the compromise behind closed doors, The Observer reports, but it will need Democratic support to pass. Peter Weber

March 29, 2017
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson on Wednesday evening extended his previous order that halts President Trump's revised travel ban.

He made his decision after hearing arguments from the government and from Hawaii's state attorney general, Douglas Chin, who maintained that Trump's order was like a "neon sign flashing 'Muslim ban, Muslim ban'" and argued that Watson's earlier temporary order needed to be extended. In early March, Watson ruled in favor of Hawaii after the state contended that Trump's second executive order, which would have suspended new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and paused the country's refugee program, was discriminatory and would hurt tourism. Catherine Garcia

March 29, 2017
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

At the 90th Academy Awards ceremony next year, there will be new safeguards enacted in order to prevent a repeat of the cringe-inducing debacle that became the talk of the 2017 Oscars.

PricewaterhouseCooper accountants took the blame for handing the wrong Best Picture envelope to presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, but despite the error, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is not severing ties with the firm, the board decided Tuesday night. PwC has been working with the Academy since 1935, and its U.S. chairman, Tim Ryan, again apologized to the board on Tuesday for the error.

Next year, balloting leaders Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz will be replaced by partner Rick Rosas, who was in charge of handing out the winners' envelopes from 2002 to 2013 and did a bang-up job, never switching any of them. He will be joined by a yet-to-be-announced partner. A third balloting leader will know the results and sit in the control room to quickly stop any issues that may arise onstage. Accountants will also go to rehearsals, and absolutely no electronic devices will be allowed near the stage. Catherine Garcia

March 29, 2017
Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images

Federal prosecutors say a State Department worker was treated to lavish gifts and even a furnished apartment by a pair of Chinese intelligence agents in exchange for sensitive information.

Candace Claiborne, 60, started working for the State Department in 1999, and had a top security clearance. She was arrested Tuesday, and charged with obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements to the FBI. In a complaint, prosecutors allege that Claiborne accepted cash, an iPhone, a laptop, vacations, and meals worth thousands of dollars, and she was targeted by the agents in an attempt to glean information on political, economic, and security policies that could affect China. In one case, prosecutors say, Claiborne was wired $2,500 by a Chinese intelligence officer, and they asked in return for an "internal evaluation" made by the U.S. government at an economic conference with the Chinese government.

Claiborne has denied the allegations, and pled not guilty on Wednesday. Should she be found guilty of all charges, she could face up to 25 years in prison. Catherine Garcia

March 29, 2017

A van carrying elderly church members and a pickup truck crashed head-on Wednesday afternoon in Concan, Texas, killing 12 people and injuring three.

The accident happened near Garner State Park, west of San Antonio, and the cause is under investigation, the Texas Department of Public Safety said. There were 14 people in the van, and only the driver inside the Dodge truck, NBC News reports. On Facebook, the First Baptist New Braunfels Church said the group in the van was heading back home after attending a three-day retreat. Catherine Garcia

March 29, 2017
Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images

Employees at the Department of Energy's Office of International Climate and Clean Energy might soon start reporting to the Office of [Redacted].

This week, an office supervisor told staffers not to use the phrases "climate change," "emissions reduction," or "Paris Agreement" in memos and other written communication, people with knowledge of the matter told Politico Wednesday. During a meeting on Tuesday, the same day President Trump signed an executive order that reversed much of former President Barack Obama's climate change policies, senior officials told staffers such words gave Energy Secretary Rick Perry and White House advisers a "visceral reaction."

Staffers in the State Department and other Energy Department offices said they have not been told to stop using specific phrases, but "people are doing a lot of reading into tea leaves," one State Department official told Politico. "People are taking their own initiative to not use certain words based on hints from transition people. Everyone is encouraged to find different ways of talking about things." A spokeswoman for the Energy Department told Politico that "no words or phrases have been banned for this office or anyone in the department." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads