On Tuesday evening, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow launched a flurry of speculation and excitement by tweeting "we've got Trump tax returns" an hour and a half before her show. Her scoop — which came after a characteristic, if ill-advised, contextual wind-up, during which The Daily Beast actually beat her to the punch — ultimately revealed nothing more than that Trump finagled his way into paying a rate of less than 4 percent on his regular federal income tax in 2005.
Almost immediately, viewers began to skewer the way Maddow had hyped the information. By Wednesday, Slate's Willa Paskin recounted the event by writing that "Maddow seemed uncharacteristically nervous as she wended her way though what could kindly be described as context and which I am unkindly describing as word salad, a long meander that was difficult to follow even without the distracting promise of a revelatory tax return at its end." National Review was less kind, declaring: "Rachel Maddow Wastes Everyone's Time."
Some critics went as far as to say Maddow's handling of the news was a "nice victory" for President Trump. Jay Yarow wrote for CNBC: "For Trump, in the swirl of chaos thanks to the CBO saying the GOP health-care bill would lead to 24 million uninsured and the FBI preparing to weigh in on his accusation of President Barack Obama wire tapping him, this tax story is a welcome reprieve." Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign press secretary, Brian Fallon, had speculated that Maddow's scoop was going to be "the holy grail," only to later tweet that Democrats "should return focus to TrumpCare tomorrow [and] … not get distracted by two pages from '05 tax return."
The White House also skewered Maddow for the story, releasing a statement prior to her show that claimed "you know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago." Some people, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnson, who received the tax form anonymously, believe that Trump himself could have leaked the information.
"The media is undeniably essential, particularly in this administration," noted Esquire. "However, leaning too heavily on the shock and awe factor is a distraction at best and an exploitation of the nation's fear at worst. And after all that, in the end, we didn't learn anything we didn't already know. Fun, huh?" Jeva Lange
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has requested the Department of Justice hand over documents related to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the investigation into President Trump's campaign and any connections to Russian officials, a person familiar with the matter told ABC News Sunday.
The special counsel is looking into whether Trump attempted to obstruct the federal investigation, and the request for documents, delivered within the past month, is the first sent by Mueller's team to the Justice Department. ABC News reports the special counsel has asked for communications between DOJ officials and communications with their counterparts at the White House. Catherine Garcia
For two months, surfer Conrad Carr gave up the ocean for land, walking more than 1,000 miles from New York to Florida to help animals affected by hurricanes.
After his friend dared him to walk 1,000 miles, promising to give him $100 for every mile completed, Carr decided to take him up on his offer. Some of his famous friends, including Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, helped spread the word about Carr's journey, and more donations came in for the cause. "The animals don't have a voice, and I saw the Humane Society was right on the front lines," he told USA Today. "You gotta save all those guys struggling out there."
His journey lasted from September to November, and he's happy to have brought awareness to the plight of animals struggling due to hurricanes. "You feel a lot better when you go out there and do something good for someone who can't," he said. Catherine Garcia
Actor Jeffrey Tambor announced Sunday he will be leaving Amazon's Transparent, after two members of the show's crew said he sexually harassed them.
"Playing Maura Pfefferman on Transparent has been one of the greatest privileges and creative experiences of my life," he told Deadline. "What has become clear over the past weeks, however, is that this is no longer the job I signed up for four years ago." Tambor said he apologizes if any of his actions were ever "misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive," but called "the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone…simply and utterly untrue." Because of the "politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set," he added, "I don't see how I can return to Transparent."
Amazon is investigating the allegations, and prior to Tambor's announcement, there was talk of writing his character out of the show, Deadline reports. Catherine Garcia
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent died Sunday after he was injured while on duty in Texas, the agency said in a statement.
Rogelio Martinez, a 36-year-old from El Paso, and his partner responded to activity in the Big Bend area when they were injured; a Border Patrol spokesman said he could not disclose what happened to the agents. Martinez died in the hospital, and his partner, whose name has not been released, remains in serious condition. Authorities are searching for suspects and witnesses to the incident, with the FBI taking over the investigation. Martinez became a border agent in August 2013. Catherine Garcia
President Trump responded on Twitter Sunday to comments from LaVar Ball, the father of a UCLA basketball player, which downplayed the president's role in getting his son, LiAngelo Ball, and two other student athletes, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, released from shoplifting charges in China.
"Who?" the elder Ball said to ESPN Friday when asked about Trump's actions. "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out." Trump reportedly spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the players while visiting Beijing on his tour of Asia this month, and he did not appreciate Ball's remarks:
Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2017
In previous tweets this past week, Trump took credit for the athletes' release, wondered if they would thank him, and told them to "HAVE A GREAT LIFE" and be wary of "many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!" Bonnie Kristian
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney addressed the Trump administration's tax reform agenda in a pair of interviews Sunday, depicting a White House willing to do whatever is necessary to change the tax code.
"We're using reconciliation so that we only need 50 votes in the Senate instead of 60," Mulvaney explained on NBC's Meet the Press. "In order to do that, the certain proposals can only have certain economic impact, and one of the ways to game the system is to make things expire," he continued, clarifying that "this is done more to force, to shoehorn the bill into the rules than because we think it's good policy."
Likewise, on CNN's State of the Union, Mulvaney said the White House would endorse removing the ObamaCare individual mandate repeal rider from the tax bill if that is what it takes to pass the legislation. "If we can repeal part of ObamaCare as part of a tax bill and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill that can pass, that's great," he told host Jake Tapper. But if "it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can," the repeal amendment will go.
Read the NBC transcript here, and watch Mulvaney's full CNN appearance below. Bonnie Kristian
White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short on Sunday sidestepped no less than 13 questions from ABC News host George Stephanopoulos as to whether President Trump wants embattled Alabama candidate Roy Moore to win a seat in the Senate given credible allegations of his sexual misconduct toward teenage girls as young as 14. Here's a small sample of the merry-go-round interview:
Stephanopoulos: So, you're not willing to make a yes or no judgment on whether the president believes the women?
Short: I think I have answered your question three times now.
Stephanopoulos: No. I think what you have said is you have questions and concerns about the allegations.
Short: We do. We do have serious questions about the allegations. And the president has raised those and it's one of the reasons why he has not gone down to campaign for Roy Moore.
Stephanopoulos: So, he promised after the primary to back Roy Moore. Is he still backing Roy Moore?
Short: I don't think you have seen him go down there and campaign for him. I don't think you have seen him issue an endorsement. You have not seen him issue robocalls. I think he thinks at this point it is best for the people of Alabama to make the decision for their state.
Stephanopoulos: So he no longer backs Roy Moore?
Short: I think he thinks it is best for the people of Alabama to make the decision. [ABC]
After persistently pressing Short to give a yes or no answer, Stephanopoulos finally moved on to a simpler subject, tax reform. Watch the exchange below, or count all 13 questions in the full transcript here. Bonnie Kristian
— American Bridge (@American_Bridge) November 19, 2017