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December 13, 2016

Reince Priebus refused to get specific Tuesday about President-elect Donald Trump's approach to Russian sanctions. Priebus, who is the incoming White House chief of staff, explained to the Morning Joe team that Trump's secretary of state nominee, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, "is not against sanctions" but "what he is against is setting up sanctions that aren't enforced."

The current sanctions are a consequence of Russia's aggressive annexation of eastern Ukraine and for Russia's role in shooting down the passenger plane Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014. The sanctions were imposed with the goal of pressuring Russian President Vladimir Putin to change his policies toward the neighboring nation.

The New York Times' Nicholas Confessore sought to clarify with Priebus: "Is the president-elect's view that we should keep sanctions in place or not?"

"Here's what I would tell you," Priebus replied. "If you're going to have sanctions in place, they need to be enforced. That I can tell you for sure is something he believes in. As far as where that product goes next, you'll have to just wait and see." Jeva Lange

5:17 a.m. ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in Sochi, Russia, on Monday, the Kremlin announced Tuesday. Assad thanked Putin "and all Russian people" for "the efforts that Russia made to save our country," and Putin said Russia's "joint operation to fight terrorists in Syria, this military operation is indeed coming to an end." Putin and Assad use the word "terrorists" to describe both Islamic State militants and Syrians who oppose Assad in the civil war that has roiled Syria since March 2011.

More than 400,000 people have been killed in the war and millions of Syrians fled to Europe and elsewhere, and Russia's use of military force on Assad's behalf starting in 2015 tipped the war decisively in Assad's favor. This was only Assad's second trip out of Syria since his harsh crackdown on protesters led to war, following an October 2015 visit to Russia. On Wednesday, Putin is hosting the leaders of Iran, which also backed Assad, and Turkey, which supported the opposition.

Video and photos released by Russia show Putin and Assad embracing and meeting with Russian generals and other military leaders. "I would like to introduce you to people who played a key role in saving Syria," Putin told Assad.

If you are interested in what else Putin and Assad said and don't speak Russian, the Kremlin has an English-Language transcript. Peter Weber

4:41 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert kicked of Monday's Late Show with the news that Monday is hard, as demonstrated in the foiled plans of a Weather Channel cameraman to document the implosion of the Georgia Dome. "Can a bus drive in front of 2017 for a while?" he asked. "Or maybe just park in front of Charlie Rose?" But "Monday also means that it's time to dig through Trump's weekend tweets," he said, and so he did.

Colbert started with President Trump's demand for thanks from the three UCLA basketball players on whose behalf he interceded after they were arrested for shoplifting in China. When one of their fathers shrugged of Trump's role, he hit back, suggesting he should have left the UCLA players in Chinese jail. Colbert raised an eyebrow: "Mr. Trump, I know you're upset, but maybe now's not the time to be implying that someone's kids should go to jail for what their dad did."

Trump also hit back at Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), after Flake was caught on mic saying if the GOP is the party of Trump and Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore, "we are toast." Colbert protested. "Sen. Flake, that is a little too hard on toast," he said, poking at Moore. "May I remind you, sir, toast doesn't cruise the mall looking for dough that hasn't risen yet." He found Trump's counterpunch tweet equally iffy. "Either he misspelled the abbreviation for microphone," he said, "or he's implying that Sen. Flake was caught 'on Mike,' which does not sound like something Vice President Pence would be into, but if so, good for you — live your best life, sir."

Colbert was pleased that Trump will keep a ban on elephant trophies, but also a little confused. "Are we supposed to thank Trump for not doing a terrible thing that nobody was talking about doing until his administration was gonna do it?" he asked. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m. ET

Meet Lawrence of Abdoun, the British Embassy in Amman's new diplocat.

Named after T.E. Lawrence and adopted last month from a Jordan animal shelter, he resides at the embassy in Amman's Abdoun neighborhood. "Apart from his mousing duties, he reaches out to followers on Twitter," Deputy Ambassador Laura Dauban told Reuters. "What's quite interesting is the British public are seeing the U.K. embassy in Jordan in a different light. Through Lawrence's Twitter account, we're trying to show a different side to Jordan, what it is really like, a peaceful, prosperous country that British tourists should come and visit."

He isn't the only cat working for the U.K. government — in fact, he reports directly to Palmerston, the chief mouser at London's Foreign Office. Catherine Garcia

1:31 a.m. ET

Republicans may be stuck with Roy Moore as their nominee for a Senate seat in Alabama, but many of them are making the best of it. President Trump has decided not to join other GOP leaders in calling for Moore to quit the race amid credible allegations that he fondled or sexually assaulted teenage girls as young as 14 and pursued sexual relationships with others, and his advisers are coming up with reasons Alabamians might want to vote for Moore over Democrat Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor. For Kellyanne Conway, that reason was tax cuts; for Trump supporter and former economic adviser Stephen Moore, it was abortion rights.

On CNN Monday night, Moore echoed the White House line that Alabama voters should decide if they want to be represented in the Senate by Roy Moore, who Stephen Moore called "kind of a creep," or Jones, who he said is "no saint, either." Jones, he told CNN's John Berman, "is for partial birth abortion in a state that's highly Christian and Catholic, so there's no moral high ground here between the two candidates." Berman protested, "Except one is an alleged child molester." Moore responded, "Yeah, and the other one is for partial birth abortion, which a lot of people in Alabama think is tantamount to murder."

Alabama is 49 percent evangelical Protestant and 7 percent Catholic, according to Pew, but with Roy Moore's moral stock falling, Republicans are bringing up abortion a lot as a reason not to vote for Jones. Jones told Al.com earlier this month: "I fully support a woman's freedom to choose to what happens to her own body. ... Having said that, the law for decades has been that late-term procedures are generally restricted except in the case of medical necessity. That's what I support." Peter Weber

1:27 a.m. ET

They say "don't mess with Texas," but "don't mess with a mom of 12 who drives a truck with a giant sticker that states 'F—k Trump and f—k you for voting for him'" might be more accurate.

While driving her truck around Fort Bend County, Texas, Karen Fonseca's anti-Trump message caught the eye of Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls. In a Facebook post, Nehls, a Republican, put her on blast, saying he had received complaints about the sticker from "offended" residents, and he wanted to find out who drove the truck so he could discuss "a possible modification of the sticker." He threatened to charge the then-unknown driver with disorderly conduct, but when officers determined the truck belonged to Fonseca and discovered she had an outstanding fraud warrant from 2014, she was arrested.

Fonseca is back on the road, and she's added a second sticker to her window: "F—k Troy Nehls and f—k you for voting for him." In a news conference Monday, she said she is considering filing a civil rights lawsuit against Nehls. "If I can do this, it will encourage others to stand up for their rights as well," she told reporters. "No matter what race, religion, or belief you may have, we are all equal. Not any one of us is any better than anyone else. Everyone's voice should be heard." Fonseca isn't wasting her newfound fame — she's started selling "F—k Trump" stickers and is planning to expand her line to include a "F—k Troy Nehls" collection. Catherine Garcia

November 20, 2017

On Monday, Atlanta's Georgia Dome went down (mostly) in a cloud of dust and debris from 4,800 pounds of explosives. Lots of people were there to witness the razing of the stadium, including Weather Channel cameraman James Crugnale. It was not his lucky day. "TFW you stream the #GAdome being demolished for 40 minutes and a bus stops in front of the camera at the exact moment it implodes," he wrote on Twitter, with video evidence.

Atlanta's Metropolitan Area Rapid Transit Authority put the missed opportunity in perspective. "Given the potential dangers of bringing down the largest structure of its kind," MARTA's chief marketing and communications director, Goldie Taylor, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "if this is the biggest story, we're really glad about that." On Twitter, Taylor "sincerely apologized" to Crugnale for ruining his shot, but was she really sorry?

If, like Crugnale, you want to see the Georgia Dome implode, you can watch the razing unimpeded at the Journal-Constitution. Peter Weber

November 20, 2017
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In 2015, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) settled a wrongful dismissal complaint filed by a former employee who said she was fired after refusing to "succumb" to Conyers' "sexual advances," BuzzFeed News reports.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous because she was afraid of retaliation, said she complained in 2014 to Congress' Office of Compliance, and she ultimately signed a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of $27,111.75, which came from Conyers' office budget. Conyers admitted no fault as part of the settlement, BuzzFeed News reports. His office did not respond to BuzzFeed News' requests for comment, and the Office of Compliance could not confirm or deny dealing with the woman's case.

BuzzFeed News was given documents related to the case by right-wing Twitter provocateur Mike Cernovich, who claimed he passed them along because if he published them, Democrats would "try to discredit the story by attacking the messenger." BuzzFeed News says it independently confirmed the authenticity of the documents, which included four signed affidavits. The affidavits were from women who used to work for Conyers, who said he asked them for sexual favors and would rub their backs and legs. For more on the allegations and the process of filing sexual harassment complaints in Congress, visit BuzzFeed News. Catherine Garcia

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