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March 30, 2017

If you would prefer a President Pence to a President Trump — an alluring prospect to many anti-Trump social conservatives, as well as a majority of Democrats per recent polling — the 25th Amendment might sound like just the ticket. It provides that if the president is deemed "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office," Congress can pull some strings to produce our new President Pence.

Such a removal sans impeachment process has been repeatedly proposed in recent weeks, but, as Politico explains, this hope is not grounded in reality:

In the 50 years since the 25th Amendment was ratified, it's been used twice to fill a vice presidential vacancy: when Gerald Ford replaced the disgraced Spiro Agnew in October 1973, and when Nelson Rockefeller replaced Ford in 1974. And on six occasions, the president has invoked the 25th Amendment to (very temporarily) designate his veep as acting president, always during routine medical procedures like a colonoscopy. But it's never been invoked when the president himself was non compos ...

The notion that Pence and a Cabinet majority will look at Trump's next tweets or telephonic fulminations and decide he's not fit for the job is beyond absurdity. ... In the midst of a shooting war in Vietnam, and a Cold War on constant simmer, Nixon was often abusing alcohol and prescription drugs, leading to stretches of incoherence and irrationality. No one around him even raised the specter of invoking the 25th Amendment. [Politico]

Read the rest of Politico's rationale here. Bonnie Kristian

10:10 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The cloud of corruption surrounding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is closing in.

Top lobbyist Todd Howe still had a sizable influence on the governor's administration long after he left his post as a Cuomo aide, emails obtained by The New York Times show. Howe was able to push multimillion-dollar construction deals in favor of his clients and arrange Cuomo mansion meetings just months before a federal investigation into several ex-aides' influence was launched.

Cuomo, who is seeking a third term this fall, has already seen two former aides convicted on corruption charges. Howe's cooperation with the federal probe helped make those convictions happen, the Times says — as did emails much like those the Times published Monday.

In one email, a handful of Cuomo officials were discussing how the governor opted not announce multimillion-dollar deals with two business executives in his January 2016 State of the State address. Howe was looped into the email chain and suggested inviting the men to the Executive Mansion to smooth things over; another aide then made the arrangements. Similar emails show Howe inquiring into late payments the state owed two developers — the same developers also targeted in federal corruption cases, the Times reports.

Cuomo has tried to distance himself from Howe as he prepares to fight progressive actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in New York's Democratic gubernatorial primary. Read more about Cuomo's corruption worries at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:57 a.m. ET

President Trump's personal attorney and sufferer of chronic foot-in-mouth syndrome Rudy Giuliani made headlines Sunday when he declared "truth isn't truth." Early Monday, Giuliani hopped on Twitter to try to walk it back:

To be fair, a lawyerly wariness of letting a voluble client with a casual relationship to the truth speak to an experienced federal investigator is not unusual. Still, maybe Giuliani should limit his television appearances on strategic grounds — because his helping isn't helping. Bonnie Kristian

9:14 a.m. ET

President Trump on Monday launched into a tirade against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the investigation he is leading into whether the Trump campaign was involved with Russian election interference. He claimed without evidence that Mueller has been "disgraced and discredited," writing on Twitter that the probe is "looking for trouble" while ignoring corruption within the Democratic Party.

"They are enjoying ruining people's lives," Trump tweeted, additionally claiming that collusion is a "phony crime" and obstruction of justice is an unfair way of punishing Trump when he "fights back." Mueller's investigation has so far filed charges against five Americans, 26 Russians, and one Dutch citizen, along with three Russian businesses. Summer Meza

7:25 a.m. ET

On Monday, Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the world about clerical sex abuse, begging forgiveness for the "suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power, and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons." He called for change to laws and Catholic culture and asked lay Catholics to help effect that change. The Vatican released the letter, a response to a grand jury report from Pennsylvania, as Francis heads to Ireland, which is grappling with its own abuses by the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis was pretty direct:

Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. ... The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. [Pope Francis]

The pope pointed to "clericalism," criticizing this ecclesiastical elitism as a "peculiar way of understanding the church's authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred." He expressed "shame and repentance" on behalf of priests and bishops, writing: "We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them." Pope Francis called for "penance and prayer" by all Catholics, saying fasting "can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary." You can read the entire letter via the Vatican. Peter Weber

6:35 a.m. ET
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Crazy Rich Asians beat shark movie The Meg to take the top spot in its opening weekend, bringing in $25 million in the U.S. box office versus $21.2 million for The Meg and $13.6 million for the No. 3 film, Mile 22. Crazy Rich Asians is the first romantic comedy in three years to win at the box office and the first major Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. The film made $34 million in five days, easily recouping the $30 million it cost to create. "This movie is so culturally significant and so unique in that there hasn't been a cast that's predominately Asian [in years]," said Jeff Goldstein, head of U.S. distribution for Warner Bros. "This is one of those few projects that a whole studio comes together with lots of passion."

The Kevin Spacey-helmed Billionaire Boys Club fared considerably worse, taking in just $126 on Friday, its opening day, and $162 on Saturday. Peter Weber

6:04 a.m. ET

At about 5:30 a.m. in Ankara, Turkey's capital, a gunman in a white car fired six shots at the U.S. Embassy, the Ankara governor said in a statement, The embassy was closed for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, and nobody was injured in the attack. "We can confirm a security incident took place at the U.S. Embassy early this morning," said embassy spokesman David Gainer. "We thank the Turkish National Police for their rapid response."

Tensions are high between Turkey and the U.S. over Turkey's imprisonment of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, which prompted President Trump to double tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports just as the Turkish lira was weakening. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused America of waging economic warfare and steered blame for rising prices and other economic problems toward the U.S. There are fears that Turkey's troubles could spread, causing widespread global economic damage. Peter Weber

5:33 a.m. ET

On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, Rudy Giuliani finessed his and his client President Trump's "collusion is not a crime" talking point to attempted collusion is not a crime. In the same interview where Giuliani declared that "truth isn't truth," host Chuck Todd asked him about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner. "The meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about [Hillary] Clinton," Giuliani said, and when Todd interjected that Giuliani had just admitted to "attempted collusion," Giuliani laughed and disagreed.

"That was the original intention of the meeting," Giuliani said. "It turned out to be a meeting about another subject and it was not pursued at all. And, of course, any meeting with regards to getting information on your opponent is something any candidate's staff would take. If someone said, 'I have information about your opponent,' you would take that meeting." "From the Russian government?" Todd asked, incredulously. "She didn't represent the Russian government," Giuliani claimed. "All they knew is that a woman with a Russian name wanted to meet with them, they didn't know she was a representative of the Russian government."

According to emails tweeted out by Donald Trump Jr., he was informed the meeting would be with a "Russian government attorney" offering dirt on Hillary Clinton from "the crown prosecutor of Russia," as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." Also, it seems increasingly likely that whether attempting and (purportedly) failing to collude is a criminal act will be decided in court. And accepting help from foreign governments in U.S. elections is, generally speaking, illegal and not common practice. Other than that, spot-on. Peter Weber

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