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August 1, 2017

"President Trump's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, has some explaining to do," says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. On Monday night, the Post reported that Trump had personally dictated the statement put out on behalf of his son Donald Trump Jr. about a meeting Trump Jr. agreed to in June 2016 with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, also attended by White House adviser Jared Kushner and then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The president, flying back from Germany on Air Force One and overriding the tell-everything plan concocted by his advisers, reportedly worked with Trump Jr. to write a statement to The New York Times insisting that the meeting was "primarily" about adoption and "was not a campaign issue," when in fact it was arranged to discuss alleged Russian opposition research on Hillary Clinton. The problem for Sekulow, Blake notes, is that in several TV interviews he unequivocally denied that the president had anything to do with Trump Jr.'s statement.

On June 12, Sekulow told George Stephanopoulos that the Times' June 11 report was "incorrect," and "the president didn't sign off on anything. He was coming back from the G-20, the statement that was released on Saturday was released by Donald Trump Jr. and, I'm sure, in consultation with his lawyers. The president wasn't involved in that." He then told CNN's New Day that "I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the president." On June 16, he told Chuck Todd on NBC's Meet the Press: "I do want to be clear that the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement. It came from Donald Trump Jr."

Sekulow issued the Trump administration's response to the Post's inquiries, too, responding to a detailed list of questions about Trump's involvement in the statement-drafting with one sentence: "Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent." Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, suggests Sekulow's past statements could "be grounds for serious sanctions by the bar," but they could also involve him deeper in the Russia investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Peter Weber

5:14a.m.

"Voters who actually like Republican ideas are dwindling, so to stay in power the GOP is using techniques like gerrymandering, blocking judicial appointments, and voter suppression — otherwise known as Mitch McConnell's version of the devil's triangle," Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal. "And this week they have outdone themselves." She breezed through recent cases of voter quashing in Arkansas and Ohio but focused on two states: North Dakota and Georgia.

Bee started with the Supreme Court upholding a North Dakota voting law that effectively prevents thousand of Native Americans from casting ballots because they have P.O. boxes, not street addresses. The law disenfranchises a key Democratic constituency "with almost surgical precision," she said, unless they follow a complicated bureaucratic maze. "We called 911 coordinators in North Dakota, and even they weren't sure how this is supposed to work — probably because its not supposed to," Bee said. And the racially disparate voter purges and suspensions by Georgia GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who's overseeing his own bid for governor? She filed that under "How the f--- is that legal?"

"Republicans are getting more creative, and more shameless, about their attempts to block the vote because they know they're not popular enough to win without cheating," Bee said. (There's NSFW language.)

Popular or not, Republicans think they may have found their golden ticket. The "horrific" Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight may have energized Democrats, "but Republicans think it may help them more," Bee said. "But is the 'red wave' real?" Full Frontal sent Allana Harkin and Mike Rubens to a Dallas Cowboy tailgate to find out, and, well, they seemed surprised at what they found. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:24a.m.

President Trump is facing increasing pressure to take action on the presumed murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. "There's mounting evidence that Saudi Arabia's leaders ordered this killing," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show, but Trump told The Associated Press it sounded to him like Saudi King Salman "felt like he did not do it." Colbert did not find that persuasive. Trump then said the Saudis shouldn't be presumed "guilty until proven innocent," because "we just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh," he noted. "To which Brett Kavanaugh said, 'Hey, maybe leave my name out of this one. Dismembering a journalist is actually one of the crimes I have not been accused of.'"

The central figure in the story is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely called MBS, who is believed to have ordered the grisly murder. "So many people believe the crown prince was involved in the killing that Washington insiders are now grimly joking that MBS stands for Mr. Bone Saw," Colbert said. "But despite the mounting evidence, including reported audio of the murder, Trump continues to back his buddies the Saudis." Sure, "the world looks to America for moral authority, but Trump says there's something just as important," he added: Selling arms and other "things" to the Saudis, including perhaps the man sitting in the Oval Office.

"If U.S. news has you down, you can just head up north — because as of today, Canada has officially legalized recreational pot," Colbert said. "Naturally, there's going to be a lot of pot tourism, and Canada is ready to attract visitors with this new ad."

Colbert also ran through some (sometimes) happier American news about the Joker movie, Calvin Klein's tiger Obsession, gas station boner supplements, and WikiLeaks. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:18a.m.

In the final stretch of the 2018 elections, Republicans have quietly dropped their plans to run on their tax cut and the economy, Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal. "But don't worry, because Republicans have another cool technique for getting votes without doing anything useful: The terrifying culture wars." She had a graphic ready for that, and video clips. "Republicans control all three branches of government!" she protested. "How do you play the victim when you've won everything there is to win? Well, they've found a way: Telling people that Democrats will eat them."

Bee played some ads. "I wish the left were 'crazytown,'" she said. "By the way, do you know what is actually nuts? Conflating Nancy Pelosi with a handful of masked anarchists who hate Nancy Pelosi more than any Republican." She ran through various "scary "groups, like kneeling football players, Beto O'Rourke, and especially women. "The right is really painting a picture of liberal women as deadly bitch tornado," Bee said.

The hot new attack is the incessant incantation of the word "mob" connected to "left-wing" or "Democrat." "The only time I've seen an unhinged mob of Democrats is when NPR runs out of totes," Bee joked, conceding: "Well, if anyone would know about the mob, it's Donald Trump."

"So, is this culture war bulls--t actually working? " Bee asked. "It's unclear. The typical American voter is looking around and seeing that their wages are stagnating, their health care's in danger, and their boss just bought another mega-yacht. I tend to think that's gonna matter more than a few loud pussy hats." There is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber

2:37a.m.

There's a growing consensus in Washington and Europe that Saudi Arabia, specifically Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is culpable in the Oct. 2 disappearance and likely murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And the latest group signaling its conviction of the crown prince's guilt is the U.S. intelligence community, The New York Times reports. This assessment, based so far on growing circumstantial evidence, poses a challenged for President Trump and some of his key advisers, who have urged patience and highlighted Saudi Arabia's denials and the kingdom's economic and strategic importance.

Trump can ignore or disagree with the U.S. intelligence assessment, the Times says, but so far he's keeping Congress out of the loop. The Trump administration has "clamped down" on sharing intelligence about the Khashoggi case and canceled a classified briefing scheduled for Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday. "I suppose they don't want us to see the intel," he said, and "I can only surmise that probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia." Based on previous intelligence he reviewed, Corker added, "everything points not to just Saudi Arabia, but to MBS," as bin Salman is commonly called.

Other senators from both parties have also called for a stronger response to Saudi Arabia's apparently brutal murder inside its Istanbul consulate, and they can act without the White House, voting for sanctions with a veto-proof majority. But Trump is reportedly holding out for what The Washington Post calls a "mutually agreeable explanation" from the Saudis, one that avoids implicating MBS. "The president is trying to introduce a little calm into this, to wait and see who's directly responsible," Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani explained to the Post. "While he makes clear he doesn't approve of what has happened, it's complicated because this isn't a pure enemy he's dealing with, like if Iran did it." Peter Weber

1:33a.m.

It will be called the Harmony Playground, where all children will be free to play in their own way.

The town of Clayton, North Carolina, is planning on breaking ground for this inclusive project in 2019. The inspiration came after planners heard about the difficulties some families face when it comes to finding places where their children feel welcome. "You know, it really broke my heart when I started talking to parents that when they have children with special needs, that they avoid playgrounds," Dean Penny of the Clayton Recreational Foundation told WRAL.

Harmony Playground's design takes into account all kinds of special needs and disabilities; for example, the sidewalks will be at different elevations, so a child in a wheelchair will be able to wheel down to the lower level. Several businesses in the area are supporting the effort and helping raise funds, and the town is about halfway to its goal of $800,000. Catherine Garcia

12:55a.m.

Dennis Hof, a Republican candidate for the Nevada state legislature, died on Tuesday, but that might help him get even more votes, his campaign manager said Wednesday.

Hof, 72, owned five legal brothels and a strip club, wrote the book The Art of the Pimp, and appeared on the HBO show Cathouse. His name will stay on the ballot, campaign manager Chuck Muth told Reuters, and he has several things going for him — not only are there more registered Republicans than Democrats in his state Assembly district, but "there are a lot of Republicans who were uncomfortable voting for Dennis because of the nature of his business and they now know that he is not the one who will be serving. They will feel much more comfortable casting the ballot for him knowing there will be another Republican to replace him."

Assembly District 36 covers three counties, and if Hof wins, each county's board of commissioners would nominate a candidate to fill the vacancy, then hold a joint meeting to discuss the nominees and pick one to replace Hof before the 2019 legislative session starts, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Catherine Garcia

12:37a.m.

President Trump gave quite the interview to The Associated Press on Tuesday, and Stephen Colbert ran through some of the highlights on Wednesday's Late Show: Whether it was appropriate to call Stormy Daniels "Horseface," Don Jr.'s meeting with Russian officials in Trump Tower, and, especially, Trump's continued ambivalence over climate change. Trump said he felt comfortable disagreeing with 97 percent of the world's scientists because he has an inherent, inherited knack for science, thanks to an uncle who was a professor at MIT. Colbert had some questions.

"First of all, why did you bring up your science uncle if you never talked to him about science?" Colbert asked. "And second, you have a 'natural instinct for science'? That's not how knowledge works. You don't inherit it from your uncle! The most you ever get from your uncle is your own nose back." Of course, Trump "and his petrochemical pals would like you to ignore global warming altogether, but that may not be possible soon," he said, "because a new study says that beer prices could double because of climate change. Or as the brothers at Sigma Phi Epsilon put it, 'Climate change just got real.'" And yes, there is a shout out to Brett Kavanaugh. Watch below. Peter Weber

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