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March 17, 2017

CNN's Jake Tapper tore into President Trump on Friday after Trump defended his administration's wiretapping claims at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Though Trump himself tweeted the baseless claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones at Trump Tower during the presidential election — and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer then rehashed the unfounded claims that British spy agency GCHQ was involved — Trump on Friday blamed Fox News for spreading the allegations. "We said nothing. All we did was quote a very talented legal mind," Trump said, referring to former judge Andrew Napolitano, who suggested on Fox News that Obama "used" GCHQ to get intelligence on Trump.

"In a fevered effort to try to force this outlandish claim into something remotely resembling — passably, perhaps, maybe — the truth, the White House appears actually willing to repeat another wild accusation that potentially could alienate our nation's most important ally," Tapper said, referring to Britain. A GCHQ spokesperson on Friday said the allegation repeated by Spicer is "utterly ridiculous."

"Does smearing British intelligence make your family more safe? No? So why is the White House doing it?" Tapper said. "What is the White House defending here? Because it damn sure isn't national security, or American credibility before the world." Watch the clip below. Becca Stanek

11:00 a.m. ET
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Not all of Philip Roth's best work appeared in the pages of an award-winning novel. Roth, a celebrated author who passed away on Tuesday, once penned some devastating analysis on President Trump, calling him a "callow and callous killer capitalist."

In correspondence with The New Yorker last year, Roth drew parallels between Trump and aviator Charles Lindbergh, who features prominently in Roth's novel The Plot Against America as an isolationist president during the 1940s.

"It is easier to comprehend the election of an imaginary president like Charles Lindbergh than an actual president like Donald Trump," Roth wrote. "Lindbergh, despite his Nazi sympathies and racist proclivities, was a great aviation hero who had displayed tremendous physical courage and aeronautical genius in crossing the Atlantic in 1927. He had character and he had substance and, along with Henry Ford, was, worldwide, the most famous American of his day. Trump is just a con artist."

Roth went on to further eviscerate Trump, who he called "humanly impoverished" compared to other former presidents.

"Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of 77 words that is better called Jerkish than English," wrote Roth. Read more of Roth's comments on modern politics at The New Yorker. Summer Meza

10:37 a.m. ET
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Loch Ness monster may very well be nothing more than an elaborate hoax, but a team of scientists from around the world plans to find out once and for all. The researchers will test the "environmental DNA" of the Scottish waters where Nessie allegedly dwells in order to see if anything fishy comes up, Reuters reports.

The idea is that the inhabitants of a given environment leave their traces everywhere: bits of scales, feces, cryptozoological saliva, what have you. "This DNA can be captured, sequenced, and then used to identify that creature by comparing the sequence obtained to large databases of known genetic sequences from hundreds of thousands of different organisms," said Neil Gemmell, a professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Even if "sea monster" doesn't pop up in the results, the experiment won't be a wash. The scientists are still hoping to identify new organisms in Loch Ness, just of the slightly smaller, bacterial variety. Jeva Lange

10:14 a.m. ET

Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth made a disastrous attempt at sympathizing with Kim Jong Un on Wednesday, suggesting the North Korean dictator "probably doesn't love being the guy that has to murder his people all day long."

The quote came about as Hegseth was asked why Kim would agree to a meeting with President Trump. "He wants a picture with the American president," Hegseth said. "The sanctions are having massive effect there, there's no doubt … And I think there's probably a point at which the guy who wants to meet with Dennis Rodman and loves NBA basketball and loves Western pop culture, probably doesn't love being the guy that has to murder his people all day long. Probably wants normalization."

Someone should perhaps inform Hegseth that Kim doesn't have to murder anybody. Jeva Lange

10:14 a.m. ET

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) appeared on CNN's New Day on Wednesday to make the case for a second special counsel to investigate the origins of the probe into whether President Trump's campaign colluded with Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.

Jordan and host Chris Cuomo seemed to make their arguments using entirely separate sets of facts — Jordan insisting that FBI leadership was politically motivated against Trump, Cuomo pointing out that the agency's inspector general was already investigating claims of bias, and both men sharply disagreeing with the other's evaluation of the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

When Jordan proclaimed that a year had gone by without "one bit of evidence" of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Cuomo fired back by calling the claim "demonstrably false," saying the investigation had unearthed "tons of proof of potential collusion." The congressman argued that he could "see no other remedy" besides a second special counsel, and Cuomo called the effort "politicized nonsense." Watch the full battle below, via CNN. Summer Meza

9:48 a.m. ET

Every so often there are moments where you can't help but pause and wonder, How did we get here? Case in point: Stormy Daniels Day.

The West Hollywood, California, event will take place on May 23, when the mayor and members of the city council will give porn star Stormy Daniels "a City Proclamation and Key to the City." Why? To recognize her "leadership in the #RESIST movement."

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing President Trump for defamation. She claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006, and the president's lawyer, Michael Cohen, famously paid her $130,000 in October 2016 to keep quiet about the allegations. "Daniels has proven herself to be a profile in courage by speaking truth to power even under threats to her safety and extreme intimidation," West Hollywood's press advisory said.

The ceremony will take place — where else? — at "West Hollywood's favorite gay adult boutique" Chi Chi LaRue's. Jeva Lange

9:28 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is facing eroding support and confidence among his colleagues, who have reportedly floated the idea of replacing him before he retires, The Washington Post reports.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney mentioned earlier this week that he has talked with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) about replacing Ryan in the next few months, and last week Ryan was abandoned by more than two dozen Republicans on a farm bill vote due to infighting over immigration.

With administration support also waning and the midterms looming, Politico's Jake Sherman tweeted: "The White House should find someone who can get 218 then." Rep. Scott W. Taylor (R-Va.) admitted he was "totally frustrated" with the divided GOP, but added "I'm not sure that's all on" Ryan. Jeva Lange

9:01 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Members of the Trump administration are growing increasingly paranoid about an alleged, unproven theory that the FBI planted "evidence" of the 2016 campaign's ties to Russia as a fail-safe in case Hillary Clinton lost the election, Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman reports. "The guy who will end up burning in all this is [former CIA director] John Brennan," said President Trump's close ally, Roger Stone. "If I were him I'd break the capsule and swallow it now. That psychopath is going down."

Trump has demanded that the Justice Department look into whether Obama administration officials coordinated surveillance of his campaign for political reasons, although reports on the matter said there was no evidence that an informant was ever embedded in the campaign, as Trump has repeatedly suggested. On Wednesday, Trump stoked the rumors, tweeting: "Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before!"

One West Wing insider told Vanity Fair, "There's a paranoia about who else" might be an FBI informant. Read more about the rumors bubbling up in the White House here. Jeva Lange

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