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February 17, 2017
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President Trump's tendency to repeat falsehoods and brag about his own election weeks after the inauguration has left both friends and enemies expressing concern about his wellbeing.

Worries came to a head on Thursday when Trump delivered a wild press conference, bashing news about the White House as being "fake" even though he conceded the "leaks are real" and bragging he had the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan, despite such an assertion being demonstrably false. "Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump's mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic, and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored, and unglued," David Brooks wrote at The New York Times.

Democrats have not been shy about expressing their concerns. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) fretted in a floor speech that the 25th Amendment of the Constitution does not adequately cover mental or emotional fitness when discussing methods for removing the president, while Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) is working on legislation that would require a psychiatrist or psychologist in the White House, The Hill reports.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) even confirmed to CNN that "a few" Republicans have confided in him concerns about Trump's "mental health."

For Brian Stelter's Reliable Sources, CNN's Brian Lowry revisited Howard Stern's prediction that the presidency would deteriorate Trump. "I actually think this is something that is gonna be detrimental to his mental health too, because, he wants to be liked, he wants to be loved. He wants people to cheer for him," Stern once said.

Mental health professionals warned The Hill against the "politicization" of claims that an opponent is suffering from mental illnesses: "We certainly wouldn't want individuals to use mental illness as a weapon to harm others," said University of Georgia psychologist Joshua Miller. But even mental health professionals are paying attention to Trump's behavior, with 35 psychologists and psychiatrists recently authoring a letter to The New York Times warning of "the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump's speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president." Jeva Lange

4:15 a.m. ET

President Trump visited North Carolina on Wednesday, after the waters of Hurricane Florence had subsided in some communities, and he had a lot of things to say about boats, telling the owner of one destroyed home that at least he "got a nice boat out of the deal," Stephen Colbert noted on Thursday's Late Show. "His comments are so disturbingly inappropriate relative to this tragedy, the only way we could make them remotely palatable is to turn them into a children's book. So gather round, kids, it's time to read a little book we at The Late Show put together called Whose Boat Is This Boat? Comments That Don't Help in the Aftermath of a Hurricane. Just a quick reminder, these are all actual things that he said to the storm-ravaged people." Also, the illustrations are actually pretty great. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:29 a.m. ET

On Thursday, ABC News reported that Michael Cohen, President Trump's longtime personal lawyer and "fixer," has spent hours talking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators about Trump's dealings with Russia and whether he had offered Cohen a pardon, which could amount to obstruction of justice.

The ABC News report cited "sources" for its scoop, but ABC's Meridith McGraw captured a tweet from Cohen's account, quickly deleted, seeming to confirm (in the third person) that Cohen had volunteered "critical information to the #MuellerInvestigation without a cooperation agreement."

Journalist Yashar Ali suggested that Cohen had been test-writing a tweet for someone else, and he appeared to be right, when Cohen lawyer Lanny Davis posted the tweet from his own account.

But Davis had a different explanation:

The bottom line would seem to be firsthand confirmation that Cohen is cooperating with Mueller. And that's potentially bad news for Trump. Peter Weber

2:05 a.m. ET
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As Terry Lauerman can attest, there's no better place to enjoy a cat nap than at an animal rescue.

Lauerman, 75, visits the Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary in Green Bay, Wisconsin, every day. The shelter's founder, Elizabeth Feldhausen, told HuffPost on Thursday that Lauerman walked into the facility about six months ago, armed with a cat brush, and said he wanted to help with grooming. Safe Haven rescues cats with disabilities that otherwise would likely be euthanized, and Lauerman spends about three hours a day there. During each visit, Lauerman will pick up a cat, start brushing it, and then doze off, still holding the feline.

Lauerman will sleep "for about an hour, then he'll wake up and switch cats," Feldhausen said. He knows all the cats, she said, and told her volunteering is "as great of an experience for him as it is for them." On Facebook this week, the shelter wrote a post praising Lauerman, and it immediately went viral. Lauerman said he hopes the attention will result in more donations to Safe Haven, and he also praised his fellow volunteers. Safe Haven is grateful for his dedication, writing on Facebook, "We are so lucky to have a human like Terry." Catherine Garcia

1:58 a.m. ET
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Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang died Friday from a "serious illness despite efforts by domestic and international doctors and professors,” state-run Vietnam Television reports. He was 61. Quang was appointed president in April 2016, and he last appeared in public on Wednesday, at a Politburo meeting and a reception for a Chinese delegation. He was one of three top leaders in the nation, along with the prime minister and Communist Party chief, and experts described his role as largely ceremonial. Before becoming president, Quang served as minister of public security, and before that he was a police general. He grew up in a small farming community south of Hanoi. Peter Weber

1:37 a.m. ET
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Republican activist Steven Alembik wants the world to know he's not a racist, and he used a bunch of slurs to prove it.

On Sept. 8, Alembik tweeted that former President Barack Obama is a "F---ing MUSLIM N----r." When asked about this tweet by Politico on Wednesday, he at first said he didn't think he wrote it. After looking at the tweet, which he deleted after speaking to Politico, Alembik acknowledged he use the N-word after Obama made an unflattering remark about the Republican Party. But he is not a racist, Alembik explained. "When I write anything inflammatory, it's because I'm seriously pissed off. I'm an emotional human being."

On the apparent theory that digging a gigantic hole is better than a small one, Alembik kept talking. "So somebody like Chris Rock can get up onstage and use the word and there's no problem?" he asked. "But some white guy says it and he's a racist? Really?" Alembik grew up in New York in the '50s, he told Politico, and then proceeded to use a string of racial slurs against Jews, blacks, and Latinos to show that back in the good old days, everyone was calling each other names based on their religion and ethnicity.

Alembik has donated more than $22,000 over the years to Ron DeSantis, Florida's Republican gubernatorial nominee, and hooked DeSantis up with a speech at Mar-a-Lago. In a statement to Politico, campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson called the tweet "disgusting rhetoric" and said DeSantis condemned it. When asked by The Associated Press if DeSantis would return any of the money he received from Alembik, Lawson said no, it has already been spent, but DeSantis will not accept any additional donations from him. For more on Alembik and DeSantis' own controversial statements, visit Politico. Catherine Garcia

1:18 a.m. ET

It's starting to look like Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school, might testify next week, though probably not on Monday, the date set by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The "geriatric meerkat" Grassley has also scotched Ford's request that the FBI investigate her allegations, saying "it's not the FBI's role to investigate a matter such as this," Stephen Colbert noted on Thursday's Late Show. "Of course not, I mean it's right there in their name: the Federal Bureau of I-don't-know-what-that-last-letter-stands-for."

Grassley set a 10 a.m. Friday deadline for Ford to decide if she will testify Monday, and Colbert said that makes sense. "The U.S. Senate is known for two things: Moving at lightening speed, and not caring what abused women have to say about Supreme Court nominees." He pantomimed what he imagined Monday's hearing would look like, complete with 5-second countdown clock. Monday is "a totally artificial deadline that they are setting for themselves," he reminded the audience. "It's like when you say to your friend, 'Okay, if we're not married by the time we're 30, we'll meet up and confirm an accused sexual predator to the Supreme Court. At least we won't be lonely.'"

Meanwhile, President Trump has ordered the declassification of sensitive documents relating to the ongoing federal investigation of his presidential campaign, despite warnings from the intelligence community that doing so would jeopardize U.S. intelligence assets. "But he's the president, and I would certainly hope he has a good reason," Colbert said. "But I would certainly be wrong," because Trump says he hasn't reviewed the documents and he's releasing them because Fox News pundits begged him to, including "the great Lou Dobbs, the great Sean Hannity, the wonderful, great Jeanine Pirro." Colbert had some thoughts. Watch below. Peter Weber

12:07 a.m. ET

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) kicked off his debate against Democratic opponent Archie Parnell at a local Kiwanis Club on Thursday with a joke he apparently borrowed from right-wing memes. It was a topical joke — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh stands accused of trying to rape Christine Blasey Ford when both were teenagers, and Washington is consumed with the allegations — but that's probably the best that can be said for it. "Did y'all hear this latest late-breaking news from the Kavanaugh hearings?" Norman asked. "Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out that she was groped by Abraham Lincoln."

Accused of making light of sexual assault — not to mention Justice Ginsburg's age — Norman said in a statement that "people really need to learn to lighten up." He said his joke was "meant to add a bit of levity to a very serious debate" and "clearly my opponent understood it that way since for the next hour we engaged in a substantive discussion about our many differences without mention of my comments." His opponent, Parnell, won his primary after losing support from his party due to newly released records from his 1974 divorce showing he had assaulted his ex-wife and threatened her with a metal bar. Parnell did not deny the allegation but said he's become a changed man over the past decades.

Nevertheless, Parnell said later Thursday that Norman "apparently thinks sexual assault is a joke. It is not," and alluded to an incident from April: "I guess that's the best we can expect from someone who pulled a loaded gun on his own constituents." Norman tweeted back that "perhaps we should have a debate about your own abuse and harassment of women, Parnell," and this is why you should probably stick to inoffensive knock-knock jokes during campaign events. Peter Weber

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