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February 17, 2017

Against the advice of his advisers, President Trump held a hastily organized 77-minute solo news conference on Thursday afternoon, and it was a doozy. On Thursday's Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon put on his Donald Trump outfit and condensed the freewheeling beat-the-press-fest into a short 2.5-minute re-enactment. He did a pretty good job capturing the essence of the performance. "Buckle up, 'cause I'm coming in hot — this is going to be a crazy one," he said. "First of all, you're all fake news, I hate you all very much, and thank you for being here." There's one sight gag involving hand size, plus a Magic Trump Ball, but Fallon mostly plays it goofy. Watch below. Peter Weber

7:37 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Secret Service does not have "the time or money" to keep a record of who attends the president's Mar-a-Lago club, Politico reports being told by former officials. Additionally, when first lady Melania Trump and Trump's son, Barron, are staying at Mar-a-Lago, there are no weapons or background checks, allowing unscreened visitors to get within view of the presidential family for the price of a $300 ticket.

This is not the first time concerns about Mar-a-Lago's security have been raised; the president was also criticized for discussing a response to a North Korean missile test with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in full view of gawking guests. Now Democrats are taking aim at what they call a "national security concern" with the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act, or "Mar-a-Lago Act," which would require the president to collect information for public release on who comes and goes from his private properties. (For the record: The page for the public White House visitor logs is also currently blank.)

A recent GOP gathering at Mar-a-Lago highlights some of the concerns:

[Attendees] didn't have to submit to the kinds of rigorous background checks required if they'd been entering the White House in Washington. And there were no weapon screenings or bomb-sniffing dogs checking vehicles of the sort that have long been routine at public restaurants or other places where the president or first lady is present.

Mar-a-Lago also doesn't keep tabs on the identity of guests who come and go on a routine basis, even while the president is in residence. Club members call the front desk to give the names of their guests, including for parties held in the ballroom. But they don’t have to submit details, like a middle initial or birthdate or Social Security number, that are standard for visitor logs or background checks — which neither the club nor the Secret Service do at the resort. [Politico]

Trump's legislative affairs director Marc Short insists: "Proper security protocols are adhered to at all times at Mar-a-Lago." Read more about the ongoing security concerns at Politico. Jeva Lange

6:54 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, human rights group Amnesty International said a recent sharp uptick in civilian deaths in Mosul, Iraq, suggests that the U.S.-led coalition isn't taking adequate care to avoid civilian casualties, a potential "flagrant violation of international humanitarian law." The U.S. military says it is investigating a March 17 airstrike in Mosul's Old City, called in by Iraqi forces trying to take the Western part of the city from the Islamic State; Iraqi officials say the death toll from that strike could hit 200 or more, making it one of the deadliest civilian attacks by the U.S. in Iraq.

The U.S. has confirmed the strike but not the casualties. "It is very possible that Daesh [ISIS] blew up that building to blame it on the collation," U.S. Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters in Baghdad on Monday. "And it is possible the collation airstrike did it." Amnesty International said another U.S.-led airstrike on Saturday killed "up to 150 people." British monitoring group Airwars says that for the first time, alleged U.S.-led strikes in Syria are affecting more civilians than Russian strikes, with the reported increase in U.S.-linked civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria starting under former President Barack Obama and picking up sharply when President Trump took office in January.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Monday that unlike America's adversaries, "we go out of our way to always do everything humanly possible to reduce the loss of life or injury among innocent people." That hasn't changed since Trump signed an order on Jan. 28 telling the military to explore relaxing Obama's restrictions aimed at protecting civilians, says Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command. "Our processes are good and we want to make sure we live by those processes."

On the ground in Mosul, New York Times reporters say the civilians whose homes and families were flattened clearly blame the U.S. airstrikes, noting that U.S. and Iraqi forces dropped leaflets on numerous occasions urging them to stay in the homes and not to flee. They say Iraqi forces called in strikes on entire residential units because of one ISIS sniper on a roof. Iraqi commanders told the Times they appreciate the new responsiveness from the Americans. "There used to be a delay, or no response sometimes, on the excuse of checking the location or looking for civilians," said Gen. Ali Jamil, an Iraqi intelligence officer. You can watch the BBC News dispatch from Mosul below. Peter Weber

5:02 a.m. ET

"Washington is a mess right now, but that's going to end soon," Stephen Colbert joked on Monday's Late Show. "Because the White House just announced that Trump's son-in-law and leader of the preppie camp across the lake, Jared Kushner, will oversee a broad effort to overhaul the federal government. And the government desperately needs overhaul; I mean, somebody keeps putting totally unqualified people in charge of really important stuff." He didn't name any names, exactly. "Kushner will become the head of something called the Office of American Innovation," Colbert said. "Vague, but still better than the original title, the Bureau of Obvious Nepotism."

Kushner's new office will aim to remake the government drawing from business ideas. "And you know he's got great business ideas, like being born into a wealthy real estate family, or marrying into a wealthy real estate family — why hasn't the government tried that?" Colbert asked. He was especially put off by Kushner's "bold vision for the office," that the government should be run as a "great American business," with the citizenry its customers: "Hold it a second. We're not customers, we're citizens, which means we own the store. You work for us, buddy."

Kushner already had a pretty full docket of responsibilities, "like managing the dispute with Mexico over Trump's border wall and brokering Middle East peace," Colbert said, but "Jared will still have time for his hobbies, like testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Well, not if he overhauls the government first — Business idea No. 1: No Senate." That brought Colbert to the other big story from last week: the FBI confirming that it's investigating the Trump campaign for possibly colluding with Russia during the election. "And you know it was a busy news week when I'm only getting to the treason at 11:58," he said.

Colbert played the footage of FBI Director James Comey publicly announcing that the Trump campaign is under active investigation, one that has been ongoing since at least last July, and he unloaded. "Wow, the FBI is investigating the president of the United States for colluding with a foreign power — that is historic," he said. "The only way it could possibly be more historic is if you told us before the f—ing election!" Watch below. Peter Weber

4:17 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert was somewhere drinking rum last week, despite his cleverly pretaped shows, he admitted on Monday's Late Show. "What a great time to have been away from the show — nothing happened while I was gone, right?" he deadpanned. He showed some cartoonishly disturbing "footage" of the GOP effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, then got down to the business of political comedy. "So, on Friday, lacking the votes they needed, they folded the ObamaCare repeal and placed it in the cabinet of broken Republican dreams," Colbert said, "next to trickle-down economics and a Jesus-shaped fighter jet that drops gay people on ISIS."

This was an embarrassing failure for President Trump, so who did he blame? The Democrats — "not enough votes to get a majority," Colbert mused, "well, that didn't stop you from becoming president" — plus conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans... basically, everyone but one person: Donald Trump. "After all his campaign promises, nothing," Colbert said. "It's almost like you can't trust a fast-talking city slicker who rolls into town promising a magic solution for all our medical needs. I'm starting to doubt the effectiveness of Dr. Bannon's Anti-Muslim Toad Oil."

Oh, Trump also seemed to blame Paul Ryan, indirectly, farming out the dirty work to Jeanine Pirro on Fox News. Colbert noted Trump's tweeted-out alert to watch Pirro's show Saturday night, showed some highlights of the show, and seemed to suggest that perhaps Pirro had been tippling before her passionate defense of Trump and call for Ryan to step down. Then he made it specific. "Well, I've got to say, if he likes Judge Jeanine, Trump is going to love tonight's episode of The Late Show's pro-Trump news team, Real News Tonight," Colbert said. And this very special edition of the fake-news broadcast features a vaguely familiar anti-Ryan rant from "Judge Sally Blazerface." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:31 a.m. ET

On Monday, a 28-year-old white man who has confessed to fatally stabbing a 66-year-old black man, Timothy Caughman, in New York City last week out of racial animus, was charged with murder as an act of terrorism, in addition to murder as a hate crime. "James Jackson prowled the streets of New York for three days in search of a black person to assassinate in order to launch a campaign of terrorism against our Manhattan community and the values we celebrate,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Monday. Jackson, who grew up and lived in Baltimore, told police he "was angered by black men mixing with white women," New York police said.

Jackson elaborated in a disturbing interview from Rikers Island prison, telling the New York Daily News that killing Caughman was intended as "a practice run" in his drive to prevent mixed-race relationships. He imagined white women thinking, "Well, if that guy feels so strongly about it, maybe I shouldn't do it," he said, adding that he regretted Caughman was "elderly" instead of "a young thug" or "a successful older black man with blonds... people you see in Midtown. These younger guys that put white girls on the wrong path." Jackson's lawyer, Sam Talkin, said if the allegations are anywhere close to true, "we're going to address the obvious psychological issues that are present in this case."

Last week, the NAACP's Sherrilyn Ifill wrote Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to investigate Caughman's murder as a potential federal act of terrorism, and American Urban Radio Networks correspondent April Ryan followed up at a Monday press conference about "sanctuary cities," asking Sessions if the Caughman murder was a hate crime. Sessions ignored the question, so Ryan asked White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer about the uptick in hate crimes and specifically, "What does this White House say about this obvious apparent hate crime?"

Spicer said he was "not going to reference any specific case before the DOJ right now" — though the Caughman case is being handled in New York State court — assured Ryan that Trump believes "hate crimes and anti-Semitic crimes of any nature should be called out," then pivoted to arguing that "the left" should apologize for "immediately jumping" on "people on the right" in their "rush to judgment on some of the anti-Semitic cases" (apparently referencing a specific case). He suggested he wasn't familiar with the details of the Jackson case, even though Caughman was murdered by a sword in midtown Manhattan, where Trump's wife and youngest son live. Watch the exchange below. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m. ET
Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Tropical Cyclone Debbie roared across northeast Australia on Tuesday, and was classified as a category four when it made landfall in Airlie Beach.

"It's very noisy," witness Jan Clifford in Airlie Beach told Reuters. "Screaming, howling wind, sounds like a freight train." In addition to strong winds and gusts that have reached more than 160 mph, the rain is coming down hard, and there are reports of damage to homes. Thousands of people are also without power. So far, no one has been reported injured. The cyclone is moving slowly, and forecasters say conditions could stay the same for 24 hours. Catherine Garcia

1:28 a.m. ET
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Maybe rumors of the American Health Care Act's death were exaggerated a bit. After House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pulled the bill on Friday because his broadly unpopular health-care overhaul plan didn't have enough Republican votes to pass, he called ObamaCare "the law of the land" for the visible future and the White House said it is ready to move on to tax reform and other issues. On Monday afternoon, however, Ryan told a group of donors that he will continue to push forward on health care "on two tracks," as the GOP pursues other parts of its agenda, according to The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the call.

House Republicans have sent mixed messages as to whether they will try to tinker with the AHCA or start over, and Ryan did not divulge any details to his political operation's donors. But he said he plans to outline his plans to Republican donors at a retreat in Florida on Thursday and Friday. "When we're in Florida, I will lay out the path forward on health care and all the rest of the agenda," Ryan said. "I will explain how it all still works, and how we're still moving forward on health care with other ideas and plans.... It will be good to look at what can feasibly get done and where things currently stand. But know this: We are not giving up."

Ryan laid blame for the AHCA's defeat on members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, not mentioning at least 25 other House GOP members who said they would vote no, too. He said he met with President Trump on Monday and separately with Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, describing his relationship with the White House as closer than ever. "We're not going to just all of a sudden abandon health care and move on to the rest," he said. "It's just that valuable, that important." Ryan had counted on the AHCA tax cuts to allow him to cut taxes deeper and more permanently later in the year. Peter Weber

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