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March 17, 2016
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President Obama privately told a group of donors at a DNC fundraising event in Austin, Texas, that he thought it was nearing time for Sen. Bernie Sanders to drop out of the presidential race and for the party to come together behind Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reports.

While Obama did not outright call for Sanders to drop out of the race, he reportedly said that a continued battle between the Democrats would only help the Republicans get ahead. Obama also said he knew some were not "excited" by Clinton's candidacy, and acknowledged that she seemed to lack Sanders' "authenticity."

...While [Obama] stressed that he was not endorsing either candidate, and that both would make good presidents, Mr. Obama went on to lavish praise on Mrs. Clinton, describing her as smart, tough and experienced, and said that she would continue the work of his administration. Mr. Sanders has very publicly criticized Mr. Obama on certain policies and has called for a "political revolution."

Mr. Obama said that he understood the appeal to voters of a candidate who is authentic, the official said. But he also reminded the Texas donors in the room that Mr. Bush was considered authentic when he was running for president, suggesting that being authentic did not necessarily translate into being a good president, in his view. [The New York Times]

Sanders' campaign has maintained they are not far enough behind Clinton to give up their bid just yet. Jeva Lange

8:55 a.m. ET

Self-appointed "law and order" candidate Donald Trump reportedly didn't get the permission of Phoenix law enforcement officers before featuring them in one of his campaign ads. On Thursday, city officials in Phoenix, Arizona, sent the Republican candidate a cease-and-desist letter demanding that he pull his ad, entitled "Movement", because he failed to get police officers' consent before featuring them in the video. The ad shows Phoenix officers shaking hands with Trump, while the word "together" appears on the screen:

Phoenix City Attorney Brad Holm wrote in the letter that the uniformed officers shown "were unaware that they were photographed and videotaped, and they did not consent to the use of their on-duty images in any Trump (or other) campaign advertisement." Moreover, Holm said the officers' appearance suggests they support Trump, which "is not the case." Per the federal Hatch Act of 1939, individual law enforcement officers "are not permitted to appear in campaign literature or ads," Talking Points Memo reported.

NBC was unable to immediately reach the Trump campaign for a comment; Trump's Arizona state director declined The Arizona Republic's request for a comment. Becca Stanek

8:39 a.m. ET
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Congressional Republicans have avoided getting behind their Democratic counterparts' calls for an investigation of Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia — but not because they're not concerned about the charges. The Daily Beast reported Friday that Republican congressional staff said "Trump and his aides' connections to Russian officials and business interests haven't gone unnoticed and are concerning" to GOP lawmakers.

The Republican presidential nominee has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong leader and, at the first presidential debate Monday, Trump avoided expressing agreement with the U.S. intelligence community that Russian government hackers were behind the Democratic National Committee break-ins. In August, Trump's top adviser, Paul Manafort, resigned over questions about his ties to pro-Russia Ukrainian politicians. Last week, it was reported that U.S. intelligence officials are probing another Trump adviser for alleged ties to the Kremlin.

Yet, Trump likely won't face the scrutiny his advisers have. The Daily Beast reported that although GOP lawmakers apparently reviewed Democrats' "written requests to the FBI that it investigate Trump before they were made public," they didn't sign on, possibly in the interest of avoiding a probe into their party's nominee.

This lack of bipartisan support leaves Democrats unable to issue subpoenas for witnesses — and generally less able to investigate the Republican nominee.

Head to The Daily Beast for the full report. Becca Stanek

8:22 a.m. ET

Donald Trump's campaign has been trying to come up with an effective way to defuse the flare-up that followed Monday night's presidential debate over Trump's decade-old belittling of a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado. After Hillary Clinton mentioned Machado at the debate, her campaign put out an ad featuring the Venezuelan-Cuban actress, two magazine profiles came out, and Machado went on TV to talk about how Trump had publicly called her fat, alleging he used the terms "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping."

The Trump pushback has included arguing that Machado was overweight and difficult, alleging that she was the getaway driver in an attempted murder, that she was allegedly filmed having sex with a costar on the reality TV show La Granja (like MTV's The Real World), and posed topless in Mexican Playboy — you can see all iterations of that in supporter Scottie Nell Hughes's appearance on CNN. Media outlets that support Trump, like Alex Jones' InfoWars, Rush Limbaugh, and The Daily Caller, went dirtier, saying Machado became a porn star (Snopes says she did not).

Trump adviser Mike Flynn, the former DIA chief, made the tame version of this argument on Thursday night's Kelly File. "You look at some of the things that have come out about this young lady in the last 24 hours," he said, and Kelly — who has already criticized Trump's response — stepped in. "Even though this woman had some troubles, even though this Miss Universe had some troubles," she said, "his comments about her weight are on camera," including from earlier this week.

Early Friday morning, Trump apparently decided that his supporters weren't doing a good enough job pressing the case that the Machado "cookie is going to crumble really quickly" for Clinton, as Hughes said, or "blow up in her face," as Newt Gingrich said on Sean Hannity's show, so he took to Twitter to press the case himself.

Because obviously the story is not that Trump publicly humiliated a 19-year-old woman over her weight, as captured on video, but that the woman went on to star in a reality TV show and pose for Playboy. Peter Weber

8:18 a.m. ET

After more than a decade of observing comets in the cosmos, the historic Rosetta spacecraft executed a planned crash on Comet 67P around 7:20 a.m. Eastern time. While the touchdown was a gentle two miles per hour, the probe was never designed to land and its intentional crash cut off transmissions to Earth.

While researchers had determined Rosetta's mission had come to an end as it followed Comet 67P to the outer leg of its orbit, taking the probe away from the sun, its power source, Rosetta leaves behind overwhelming amounts of data that still need to be analyzed. The probe was the first to orbit a comet and it opened up a new era of understanding how the rock and ice bodies are tied to the universe's origins.

"There is no mission in the future that will do anything like Rosetta," Christopher Carr, the head of one of Rosetta's instrument teams, said. Watch the 2014 short film about Rosetta's mission below, and the epilogue released Wednesday by the European Space Agency, here. Jeva Lange

7:35 a.m. ET
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Nearly a million immigrants applied to be legal citizens last year in time for this November's election, a surge that is now looking insurmountable for the federal agency in charge of the process. "With the agency now reporting that it takes up to seven months to complete the process, Obama administration officials are reluctantly admitting that many — perhaps most — of the immigrants in the backlog will not become citizens in time to vote," The New York Times writes.

In places like Florida, which saw a 40 percent increase in immigrants seeking to naturalize over a year earlier, the backlog could theoretically cost Hillary Clinton the state. Translated to a potential block of about 66,000 voters, polls have shown Latinos in the battleground state prefer Clinton to Trump in overwhelming margins.

"I've been checking my mail every day, but I haven't heard anything," Francisca Fiero, a Mexican immigrant in the battleground state of Nevada, told the Times. "I'm starting to get very worried." She applied in January; voter registration is due in Nevada on Oct. 18.

With the 23 percent surge in legal immigrant applications over the previous year, officials say they had "anticipated that there would be a spike in applications this year, but the increase has exceeded expectations," according to Jeffrey T. Carter, a spokesman for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. As of June 30, 520,000 applications had not yet been looked at. Jeva Lange

6:58 a.m. ET

First lady Michelle Obama has been hitting the campaign trail for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and at a rally this week, she made an affirmative case for why Clinton should be the next commander in chief. She also made the opposite case, why Republican Donald Trump should not be president — but watch how Obama rhetorically kneecaps Trump without once mentioning his name. For a man who loves to put his name in gold letters on buildings and steaks and real estate courses, that's gotta sting. Peter Weber

6:34 a.m. ET

Donald Trump's presidential campaign is struggling to deal with Trump's comments about a 1996 Miss Universe winner's weight, but that's a pointless endeavor, Trevor Noah said on Wednesday's Daily Show. "The thing we're learning about Donald Trump every day is that he doesn't just treat beauty pageants like beauty pageants," he said, he also treats his rival candidates that way, and employees. "Experience doesn't matter," Noah said after showing a clip of Trump explaining how he hired a novice waitress because of her beauty. "If Trump thinks you're hot, then you're hired."

Noah made his case with a couple of other clips, including one where Trump and second wife Marla Maples tell Robin Leach which one of them 1-year-old daughter Tiffany takes after. "I don't care how many times you watch that, it never stops being creepy," Noah said. "There is no context in which Trump will not zero in on a woman's looks." He then turned to Trump's comments on the radio in 2004 after a 23-year-old female teacher was arrested for having sex with a 14-year-old male student. "I mean, wow, is there anything Trump doesn't judge by how hot the woman is? God forbid America, under President Trump, is ever invaded by Sweden!"

Trump isn't alone in being a looks-obsessed creep, Noah said. "A lot of men probably have the same reaction to this hot-teacher story, but a lot of men also probably shouldn't be president. Especially a man who thinks life itself is nothing more than a beauty contest, where every woman alive is a contestant, whether they want to be or not. Because let's be honest here, folks, there's only one pig in this whole story, and it's the one that got slaughtered at the debate on Monday." Watch below. Peter Weber

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