On Sunday, 10 days after upending the 2016 presidential race by informing Congress that the FBI found new emails potentially "pertinent" to the Hillary Clinton email investigation, FBI Director James Comey said never mind, telling Congress that after reviewing "all the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state," the FBI has "not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July," when Comey had said no reasonable prosecutor would indict Clinton. Donald Trump, who has been saying on the campaign trail that the new emails would certainly lead to criminal charges, took a new tack after Comey's announcement.
Clinton is "being protected by a rigged system," Trump said at a rally in Michigan. "You can't review 650,000 new emails in eight days. You can't do it, folks."
— ABC News (@ABC) November 7, 2016
Trump doesn't use a computer, so maybe he gets a pass. But Trump wasn't the only one touting the idea that computers at America's top domestic law enforcement agency can't check text at a rate of more than 1 email per second. Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner, and retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a top Trump adviser and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had remarkably similar responses:
There R 691,200 seconds in 8 days. DIR Comey has thoroughly reviewed 650,000 emails in 8 days? An email / second? IMPOSSIBLE RT
— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) November 6, 2016
So, how long should it take? Your laptop could analyze those emails in minutes or hours, according to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden:
@jeffjarvis Drop non-responsive To:/CC:/BCC:, hash both sets, then subtract those that match. Old laptops could do it in minutes-to-hours.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 7, 2016
The idea that it's not particularly time-consuming to check 650,000 searchable electronic documents shouldn't have been much of a surprise to anyone who has searched through their own email inbox, or used Google.
We've reached the point where the former head of the DIA just got schooled - rightly - by millennials on how computers work.
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) November 7, 2016
Every time politics intersects with tech details, I am infuriated anew that so many elected officials revel in their technical illiteracy.
— Anil Dash (@anildash) November 7, 2016
As it turns out, a "senior law enforcement official" told NBC News, nearly all of the pertinent emails on the laptop shared by Anthony Weiner and Clinton aide Huma Abedin were duplicates of those already seen by the FBI, and the handful that were new were unrelated to government business. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers puzzle over how Republicans defend their last-ditch health-care bill
President Trump has been tweeting his support for the Republican Party's last-ditch health-care bill, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, especially its sponsor Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a doctor. "And you can trust Trump's opinions when it comes to doctors — remember, his primary care physician is this guy," Colbert said. "Practically every medical organization opposes this bill, so why are Republicans pushing so hard to get it through?" Well, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) offered to list 10 reasons Republicans shouldn't pass the bill, but then said they had in order to keep their promise. Colbert found that inspiring enough to give that formula a try: "Honey, I can give you 10 reasons why I shouldn't give you this pony, but I promised you one, so enjoy your alligator."
Actually, "very few Republicans can defend their bill or explain what it does," Seth Meyer said on Thursday's Late Night. Graham-Cassidy will cut funding for vulnerable people on Medicaid and put people with pre-existing conditions at risk, Meyer said, and if you're wondering how anyone could support "such a monstrous bill, well the answer is they either don't know or don't care." He had a wry laugh over Sen. Pat Roberts' (R-Kansas) Thelma & Louise answer. "I love how he realized halfway through that his analogy made no sense and just hoped the reporter had never seen the movie."
The bill's hundreds of billions in "cuts may seem savage and cruel, but to be fair, Republicans have always preached fiscal responsibility and the importance of saving money," Meyers said, cuing up some clips about HHS Secretary Tom Price's love of using taxpayer-funded private jets, and also Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's. Will Republicans wrangle the 50 votes? Maybe, Meyers said. "They're throwing another Hail Mary, except Republicans aren't exactly Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers. They're more like Jay Cutler." Watch below. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert began Thursday's Late Show with a Rosh Hashana joke. "I'm so glad its 5778," he said. "5777 sucked." Jewish new year out of the way, he jumped into the latest developments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and President Trump's campaign. Colbert summarized some of the 13 events Mueller has asked the White House about as a K-Tel record, Now That's What I Call Collusion 45, "available wherever CDs are still sold — so I'm gonna say Starbucks."
But Paul Manafort, Trump's onetime campaign chairman, is now probably the central figure in Mueller's investigation, and despite his denials, it turns out he reportedly was in contact with Russians during the campaign, offering "private briefings" to an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. Colbert had a joke or two about Manafort's "black caviar" code word, then got to the practical objection: "Come on, you can't use a term for something very expensive as a stand-in for money!"
On Thursday's Daily Show, Trevor Noah also caught up with "Hurricane Mueller," the storm that could leave Trump "without power." Like Mueller, he focused on the Manafort angle. "Surprise visits in the middle of the night, all up in his phone?" he asked. "Ladies, get you a man who wants you as bad as Mueller wants Manafort." He looked at how various members of the Trump circle are answering questions about Russia — Manafort's stutter, Vice President Mike Pence's "smoke screen" of words, and then there's Sean Spicer.
"I'm genuinely worried about how Spicer is going to come out of this whole thing, because he seems like he's ready to sign a confession when you ask him anything," Noah said. "It's like Sean Spicer has all of the tells at the same time." The Spicer news on Thursday was that Mueller is reportedly interested in the former press secretary's notebooks. Noah laughed. "Spicer was taking notes?" he asked. "With anyone else, they'd probably just destroy the evidence. With Sean Spicer, you know he'd start to try and burn the notebooks but then somehow end up setting himself on fire." Watch below. Peter Weber
National Review asks why Jimmy Kimmel won't 'leave policy talk to health-care experts,' gets an earful
Weirdly, late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel is now a big part of America's health-care debate. His critiques of the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill — after one of its sponsors, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), promised to oppose any bill that failed his "Jimmy Kimmel Test," which Graham-Cassidy appears to do — have hit a nerve perhaps because Kimmel is a goof and probably the least political of the late-night TV hosts. So on Wednesday, Theodore Kupfer at National Review published an article critical of Kimmel's audacity to weigh in on health care, as if he had "deep and hidden reservoirs of knowledge on risk-adjustment programs, the Medicaid expansion, or per capita caps." The article is titled, "Jimmy Kimmel, Policy-Wonk Wannabe," but the NRO social media editor posed it as a question:
— National Review (@NRO) September 21, 2017
It so happens that Politico had examined that question, and found that "in the war of words between Jimmy Kimmel and Sen. Bill Cassidy, the late-night host has the better grasp of health policy, health-care analysts say." So a lot of the responses to National Review's tweet were along those lines. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. If Kimmel isn't an expert, some asked, why are these guys being invited on cable news to talk health care?
Uh huh... pic.twitter.com/LZtvBeiIAJ
— Jade (@jade3457) September 21, 2017
— Silver Shamrock Mask (@dogdadbod) September 21, 2017
Several people noted that the occupant of the Oval Office doesn't exactly have a long health-care résumé, either:
Wow good point, National Review. pic.twitter.com/ZCH5IfWFFd
— Cody Johnston (@drmistercody) September 22, 2017
Others, like Nancy Sinatra, asked why National Review thinks Kimmel doesn't have the right to weigh in:
Because he is a patriotic American, that's why. It is a patriot's responsibilty to stand up and speak out. Thanks, @jimmykimmel
— Nancy Sinatra (@NancySinatra) September 21, 2017
Am I allowed discuss about policy publicly? If not, may I apply for a permit at your offices?
— Mike Cukan (@mcukan) September 22, 2017
And then Jason Helgerson, who runs New York State's Medicaid program, stepped in and dropped the mic:
— Jason Helgerson (@policywonk1) September 21, 2017
Twitter: Ask, and ye shall receive. Peter Weber
On Thursday, the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD), a group representing the Medicaid directors from all 50 states, joined other medical and patient advocacy groups in opposing the latest Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, named after sponsors Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). The bill would scrap ObamaCare's subsidies for consumers and Medicaid expansion and redistribute that money as state grants, in what the NAMD board of directors calls "the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk from the federal government to the states in our country's history."
The Medicaid directors said they don't want that risk, especially without being consulted first, and they called a Congressional Budget Office score — which Graham-Cassidy won't have before voting — "the bare minimum required for beginning consideration." Setting up entire new health-care programs in 50 states requires an enormous amount of work and resources, NAMD said, and "the vast majority of states will not be able to do so within the two-year timeframe envisioned here, especially considering the apparent lack of federal funding in the bill to support these critical activities."
Andy Slavitt, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2015 until January and an opponent of repealing ObamaCare, said all 50 Medicaid directors coming out against Graham-Cassidy was "very unusual," and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.), was similarly impressed:
Seriously. This is BANANAS.
You couldn't get ALL 50 state Medicaid directors to agree any anything else in health care policy. https://t.co/mKKwbSO1dw
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) September 22, 2017
Earlier this week, somebody leaked outtakes from Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC show, and they were not flattering. "Wow, he went from zero to dad-on-Day-3-of-road-trip like that," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, and that was before the hammering began somewhere at MSNBC. After showing censored excerpts of O'Donnell losing his cool, Colbert expressed some sympathy. "Folks, I gotta say, while the footage is not flattering, as a broadcaster, I sincerely feel for Lawrence O'Donnell on this clip," he said. "Hosting a television show is extremely stressful," especially with distractions. In fact, he added, "I had a meltdown of my own recently, so that's why, in solidarity with Lawrence O'Donnell and just to get ahead of the story before it breaks, I'm releasing my own tape." Watch the soft mockery below. Peter Weber
Tom Price, President Trump's health and human services secretary, has taken at least 24 flights on private charter jets since May, Politico reported Thursday night, including a chartered flight to Oklahoma on Tuesday, after Politico found that Price had taken five chartered flights in just three days last week, including one to Philadelphia from Washington. The cost of the private flights Price is known to have chartered exceeds $300,000, Politico reports, and HHS spokeswoman Charmaine Yoest said Price's work trips are paid for "from the HHS budget," or taxpayer funds.
Yoest said Price has "taken commercial flights" for work since his confirmation, as was the rule under his predecessors, but that he uses "charter aircraft for official business in order to accommodate his demanding schedule," using as an example when Price, the HHS secretary, "was directing the recovery effort for Irma" and Hurricane Harvey. Politico said it "identified at least 17 charter flights that took place before the first storm — Hurricane Harvey — hit in late August," including to pre-arranged conferences and, in one case, a $7,100 chartered Learjet-60 from San Diego to Aspen, arriving 19 hours before his speech in the Colorado resort town.
"No one is quite sure what [Price] is doing," a senior White House official told Politico, noting that Price's frequent travels have little to do with Trump's priorities. As Brian Williams noted on MSNBC Thursday night, Price styles himself as a budget-cutter, both while in Congress and at HHS, and he's not the only Trump Cabinet member under scrutiny for questionable expenditures. You can watch below, and read the entire report at Politico. Peter Weber
— 11th Hour (@11thHour) September 22, 2017
Late Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded to President Trump's threat on Tuesday to "totally destroy North Korea" with a very rare personal statement saying Trump's "unprecedented rude nonsense" has "convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last." The statement, released by the official Korean Central News Agency, is full of colorful phrases — Kim calls Trump "a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire," for example — and ends with Kim's own threat to "surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire."
Hours after the statement was released, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters at the United Nations that Pyongyang is considering testing a hydrogen bomb. "It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific," Ri said, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. "We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un." Earlier on Thursday, Ri had mocked Trump as a "dog barking" and laughed off his "Rocket Man" nickname for Kim, and Trump had signed new financial penalties for North Korea.
If you are wondering what "dotard" means, you're not alone — "searches for 'dotard' are high as a kite," Merriam-Webster tweeted Thursday night, defining the word as someone in "a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness"; according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "dotard" now means "an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile," after earlier referring to an "imbecile." (You can read a longer history of the word at The Washington Post.) Peter Weber