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August 22, 2017

At a CNN town hall forum in Racine, Wisconsin, on Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed President Trump's various comments in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the previous week. He told one constituent that he believes Trump was "pitch perfect" in his remarks on white supremacists and neo-Nazis a week ago Monday, but added, "I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday, when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity." He added that he doesn't support a motion to censure Trump because he doesn't want condemning white supremacy to turn into a "partisan food fight."

If he appeared a little hesitant to criticize Trump, Ryan was happy to scold the Senate for not passing a health-care reform bill — part of the audience cheered when he mentioned the bill's failure, which he took in stride — and he encouraged the upper chamber to revisit the legislation. He optimistically predicted that "it's going to be far easier for us to do tax reform than it was for, say, health-care reform," because of Senate rules that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) invoked so no Democratic votes would be needed.

Ryan also said he wished Trump would tweet less, and there are "some of those tweets that I'd prefer not to have seen," but he is only responsible for his actions and Trump probably isn't going to change his Twitter habits. Which seems fair — White House Chief of Staff John Kelly can't tame Trump's tweeting habits, and the House speaker has enough other things on his plate. In September, for example, Ryan actually needs to shepherd through a budget, fund the government, and pass legislation to raise the debt ceiling. He did not address those must-pass bills at the CNN town hall. Peter Weber

4:46 a.m. ET

"The national conversation continues to be how to keep our children safe from gun violence," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, and "for the president, for the Republican Party, for the NRA, every option is on the table — except fewer guns." President Trump did a lot of coerced listening on Wednesday, but he "actually does have a suggestion to deal with the number of guns — he wants more of them," Colbert said, specifically in the hands of teachers. "Yes, just arm the teachers — I'm sure it's in the school budget," he said. "'Sorry your school doesn't have enough copies of To Kill a Mockingbird, but good news: We're giving you something that can kill any bird.'"

Trump tried to explain his position on Twitter, and Colbert read through the tweetstorm, injecting commentary. "Yes, Trump never said to give guns to teachers willy-nilly — I mean, can you imagine what this country would be like if anyone could get a gun?" he deadpanned. "Yeah, that's what 'sickos' are known for: logical reasoning," he said later, and he wasn't sure about the "weapons talented" teachers, either: "Boy, Jim, you sure are handy with guns — have you thought about working with children?"

In the name of comedy, The Late Show did find one teacher enthusiastic about getting her Trump gun.

The Florida legislature and the gun lobby both think God has an important role in the gun debate, Colbert said, playing a clip of NRA chief Wayne LaPierre speaking at CPAC on Thursday. "Guns are bestowed by God?" he asked. "Well, I guess we're going to have to update the Sistine Chapel, then. Less Michelangelo, more Quentin Tarantino. It really makes you wonder — is God pro-gun or not?" The Late Show God appeared on the ceiling to answer that: "Say hello to my little friend — no background check, and I'm a vengeful loner with a messiah complex!" Watch below. Peter Weber

3:51 a.m. ET

On Thursday, President Trump enthusiastically backed the idea of arming certain teachers in each school as a way of preventing school shootings. On Twitter and in a meeting with law enforcement, state, and local officials, Trump argued that if 10 to 40 percent of American teachers carried a weapon in school, it would "solve the problem instantly," adding, "We have to harden our schools, not soften them."

As an incentive for teachers, "you give them a little bit of a bonus, so practically for free you have now made the school into a hardened target," Trump said, echoing language used by the NRA, which has advocated arming teachers since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. (Right before Trump's meeting, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre had told fellow conservatives at CPAC that instead of passing new gun laws, lawmakers should enforce the background check system and "harden our schools" with armed guards.) Teachers unions and law enforcement officials denounced the idea as dangerous and impractical, a costly burden on taxpayers and teachers alike.

Trump has proposed other measures, like raising the age limit for purchasing a rifle to 21 from 18 — opposed by the NRA — doing something about mental health, and strengthening background checks, but he has ruled out banning military-style weapons. And he has embraced no idea so passionately as encouraging trained teachers to carry concealed weapons. "Not surprised the NRA reeled President Trump back in," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday evening. "Just amazed at how fast it happened." Peter Weber

2:32 a.m. ET

After last week's murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Trump met briefly with some hospitalized survivors of the shooting, then on Wednesday he hosted more survivors and their families for a "listening session." At the White House event, Trump had a card with five bullet points, reportedly written for him by communications director Hope Hicks, the last of which read "I hear you."

The note card has earned Trump punch lines about feigned empathy, but some of the participants found it off-putting. "Everything I said was directly from the heart, and he had to write down 'I hear you,'" student Sam Zeif tells The New York Times. He was slightly more cutting on MSNBC: "I know I was heard because I saw it on Trump's little card — 'I hear you' — but I don't think I was felt by him."

Samantha Fuentes, shot in both legs during the Parkland attack and left with shrapnel behind her right eye, also graded Trump low on the empathy scale. When Trump called her hospital room, she told the Times, "he said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, 'I'm a big fan of yours too.' I'm pretty sure he made that up. ... Talking to the president, I've never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn't make me feel better in the slightest."

Other people had more positive reactions. Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was killed in the attack, said that Trump "showed us nothing but love" in a private meeting before the listening session. "The guy really cared, you know? He flew us in, he had a bus waiting for us, he made time for us," he said, going so far as to keep a photo of Meadow and sign his son's MAGA hat. Peter Weber

1:27 a.m. ET

It has been two weeks, and President Trump still has not released the Democratic rebuttal to the memo compiled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and nobody is sure why. The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to release the Democratic memo, but Trump said it contains classified information (he ignored similar concerns when he approved release of the Nunes memo, with no redactions). On Thursday, Stephen Colbert's Late Show found a creative way to remind everyone that the Democratic memo is still being withheld.

The Democratic memo apparently shows, among other things, that the FBI did not rely on the Trump-Russia dossier to obtain a FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, as the Nunes memo claims. So Colbert had the dossier interview the Democratic memo, depicted as blindfolded and in prison. But The Late Show throws in a twist at the end. Watch below. Peter Weber

12:57 a.m. ET

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) entered the lion's den Wednesday night, attending a CNN town hall on school shootings. "Rubio tried his best to explain his positions, but you could tell he was totally out of sync with the rest of the room," Trevor Noah said on Thursday's Daily Show, playing Rubio getting cheers for saying you'd have to ban every semiautomatic rifle in America to make an assault weapons ban work. "That was such an epic fail — Rubio said the solution like it was the problem," Noah said. Town halls are usually a dud, but "these kids held Rubio's feet to the fire so hard that they got him to do something that most conservatives hate: evolve."

President Trump didn't attend the town hall, "but he did host his own listening session in the Mar-a-Lago of the north, the White House," Noah said, armed with a note card that reminded him "what emotions to feel," notably, empathy. "I feel bad for Donald Trump," he said. "Because you know that we never would have seen that note if he just had bigger hands." Then he laughed: "Seriously, the guy's a 'stable genius' but he can't remember to say 'I hear you'? It's a listening session!"

On Thursday, Trump proposed paying teachers "bonuses" to carry guns in class. "America really is a special place," Noah said. "For years, teachers have been asking for more pay and politicians have said they don't have enough money, but now the president's, like, 'If you're willing to cap some fools, we're gonna make it rain.'" He sighed: "There are so many practical issues with this plan that I don't even know where to begin, but honestly, it's not even worth going through them all. Because once you decide that Ms. Flenderson needs to be locked and loaded during English class, you're not trying to solve the problem anymore, you're admitting defeat." Watch below. Peter Weber

12:04 a.m. ET

The sheriff's deputy assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took up position outside the school last week about 90 seconds after the suspected 19-year-old gunman started firing, then waited outside for the remaining four minutes of the deadly rampage, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday. "He never went in." Seventeen people were killed during the six minutes of shooting. The deputy, Scot Peterson, was armed and in uniform, and he should have "went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer," Israel said. "I'm devastated, sick to my stomach." He said he informed Peterson on Thursday he was suspended without pay pending an internal affairs investigation, but Peterson chose to resign instead.

Peterson, 54, had been with the Broward County Sheriff's Office since 1985, and a school resource officer at the high school since 2009. "The investigation will continue" into Peterson's performance, Israel said. "When we in law enforcement arrive to an active shooter, we go in and address the target and that's what should have been done." Before the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, officers were generally told to wait outside until a SWAT team arrived, but now they are told to confront the shooter, even if, like Peterson, they are alone and outgunned. Research has shown that an officer on the scene can slow down or stop a suspect, USA Today reports, even though about a third of those officers are shot.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office also released information on 23 calls related to the suspected shooter going back a decade, progressing from suicide concerns to fears about him harming others, including calls in February 2016 and November 2017 expressing fears that the suspect might shoot up a school. Israel said he has placed two deputies on restricted duty while the department looks into whether they mishandled tips about the suspect. Peter Weber

February 22, 2018

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) was indicted by a grand jury in St. Louis on Thursday for conduct stemming from a 2015 extramarital affair. The charge — a single count of felony invasion of privacy — stems from reports that Greitens, in an effort to cover up his marital transgression, threatened his affair partner that he would release an intimate photo of her if she spoke about their relationship.

Greitens' threat was first reported by local St. Louis news station KMOV, after the woman's ex-husband approached the network. The man had surreptitiously recorded a conversation he had with his then-wife, in which she apparently confesses to the affair with Greitens, describing how Greitens invited her to his home and posed her for a compromising photo before saying, "You're never going to mention my name, otherwise there will be pictures of [you] everywhere."

The blackmail allegation against Greitens led to a criminal investigation by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, whose office handed down the indictment Thursday. Greitens has denied blackmailing the woman, the Springfield News-Leader notes, though he has admitted to having the affair.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Robert Patrick said Thursday that he saw Greitens "being led away in the custody of" St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts. Read the statement from Gardner's office below. Kimberly Alters

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