August 29, 2017

President Trump on Tuesday wasted no time responding to a rare criticism voiced on Fox & Friends, a must-watch show for the president.

Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham argued during Tuesday morning's episode that the havoc wreaked by Tropical Storm Harvey proves how imperative it is that the Trump administration fill the many vacancies at federal agencies, particularly those tasked with disaster recovery. "I think we can all look at these horrific pictures, and we can conclude a federal government does need staff. We see it acutely in need of staff in a situation like this," Ingraham said.

While the Trump administration has claimed that Democrats are holding up the nomination process, Ingraham noted that the administration hasn't even nominated people for hundreds of vacant positions. Politico reported that 366 positions requiring Senate confirmation are "currently without a nominee." "This is a question that has to be posed to the administration. I know they have a lot on their hands, but we have to have people in place," Ingraham said. "If there's a plan to not staff and cause the ultimate shrinkage of government, then let's hear about that as well."

Trump took this opportunity to claim that these vacancies were actually all part of his grand plan. Despite his repeated attacks on Democrats for "taking forever" to confirm nominees, Trump tweeted Tuesday that he didn't even want all those positions filled anyway. Becca Stanek

8:04 a.m. ET

President Trump suggested a controversial solution to America's gun violence crisis during a listening session with survivors and family of survivors on Wednesday. "If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly," the president said. "I really believe if these cowards knew that the school was well guarded … I think they wouldn't go into the school to start off with."

On Thursday, Trump backed off the proposal, only to reiterate it again:

Trump faced pushback immediately from Sandy Hook parents in the room for the proposal, the Hartford Courant reports. Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel in the 2012 attack, told the president: "A deranged sociopath on his way to commit an act of murder in a school, knowing the outcome is going to be suicide, is not going to care if there's somebody there with a gun. That's their plan anyway." Jeva Lange

6:41 a.m. ET
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The latest school mass shooting, and the vocal advocacy of student survivors at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has made enacting new gun restrictions a viable possibility for the first time in years. Not everyone is happy about that. In a discussion Wednesday about calls for stricter gun laws, first-term Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) offered an interesting rebuttal. "Yeah, well, obviously there is a lot of politics in it, and it's interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats, but the media doesn't talk about that either," Tenney told Talk 1300 Radio host Fred Dicker.

Tenney already has a Democratic challenger for November, state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, and he called the comments "disgusting" and "toxic." He urged Tenney to apologize, but instead she issued a statement Wednesday night saying she is "fed up with the media and liberals attempting to politicize tragedies and demonize law-abiding gun owners and conservative Americans every time there is a horrible tragedy."

The people who perpetrate "these atrocities have a wide variety of political views," Tenney clarified, adding that her comments were "about the failure to prosecute illegal gun crime," and she "will continue to stand up for law-abiding citizens who are smeared by anti-gun liberal elitists." Tenney did not explain why she thinks "anti-gun liberal elitists" would care about the party affiliation of mass shooters, when what they really want is fewer military-style weapons for any civilian. Peter Weber

5:46 a.m. ET
Carlos Schiebeck/AFP/Getty Images

The Rev. Billy Graham, who died in his sleep on Wednesday morning at age 99, will lie in repose under a revival-style tent for two days next week before being buried in a coffin made by inmates on March 2, said Mark DeMoss, spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham, known as "America's Pastor," was a counselor to American presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush, which was "a source of pride for conservative Christians who were often caricatured as backward," The Associated Press says. But when his good friend Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in disgrace, Graham was "devastated and baffled."

After being burned by Nixon, Graham "resolved to take a lower profile in the political world, going as far as discouraging the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a founder of the Moral Majority, from mixing religion and politics," AP reports, offering this 1981 advice from Graham: "Evangelicals can't be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle, to preach to all the people, right and left. ... I haven't been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will in the future."

Falwell did not heed Graham's advice — the Moral Majority, and the evangelical Christian power structure Graham made possible, became deeply entwined in Republican politics, but Graham had his lapses, too: He effectively endorsed Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, AP notes. Graham's son and heir, Rev. Franklin Graham, is one of President Trump's most stalwart supporters.

Billy Graham was "firmly committed to remaining bipartisan," but his "legacy of outreach across lines of race, class, and political party doesn't seem as resonant in contemporary evangelicalism," Emma Green says at The Atlantic. "His death marks the end of an era for evangelicalism, and poses a fundamental question: Will his legacy of bipartisan, ecumenical outreach be carried forward?" Peter Weber

4:47 a.m. ET

"The big story tonight continues to be the inspiring activism of children," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show, pointing to the big student protests and walkouts in Florida, D.C., and around the country to demand action on gun control. He played some of the stirring and angry messages to lawmakers from students who survived the Parkland school shooting, and when the camera cut back, he was on the phone. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch all of that, I was reading on Twitter about how all millennials are lazy and entitled," Colbert deadpanned.

"It's hard not to be inspired by these kids, but some people have managed to do it," Colbert said, teeing up the various conspiracy theories about the Parkland students, starting with CNN contributor Jack Kingston's theory that George Soros is puppet-mastering the kids. "Jack, teenagers are pretty good at planning big gatherings by themselves," Colbert explained. "I mean, didn't you ever go to a party in high school... oh. Oh, never mind." He turned to sarcasm for the slur that the students are "crisis actors": "That's right, we're all being taken in by the dazzling theatrical performances of high school actors," illustrating his point with a theater-nerd joke — several, actually.

It isn't just internet cranks spreading these conspiracies, Colbert sighed, pointing to Donald Trump Jr. before shifting to a critique of "DJTJ" touring India.

The Late Show elaborated on that Don Jr. critique with a Bollywood-style number, "The Dance of the Greasy Son."

Meanwhile, President Trump keeps tweeting about Russia, Colbert said, reading Trump's Wednesday morning tweet asking why his predecessor, Barack Obama, didn't stop Russian election meddling, why Democrats aren't being investigated, and urging people to "ask Jeff Sessions!" Colbert noted that Trump could just call his attorney general himself from his Twitter phone, explained to Trump how investigations work, and showed other ways Trump is trying, and failing, to one-up Obama. Peter Weber

2:59 a.m. ET

Team USA beat Canada in the Olympic women's hockey finals on Thursday in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in a thrilling 3-2 shootout after a hard-fought game that had ended 2-2 even after a 20-minute overtime. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson fired in the game-winning shot past Canada's Shannon Szabados, and when U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney blocked the potential equalizing shot from Canada's Meghan Agosta, the U.S. women won their first gold medal since 1998, and their second ever. Canada had won the women's hockey gold in the past four Winter Olympics.

Canada led near the end of regulation time, before Monique Lamoreux-Davidson — Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson's sister — tied the score 2-2. Before Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson's game-winning shot, Americans Gigi Marvin and Amanda Kessel had scored, as had Canadians Agosta and Melodie Daoust. It was the first time the women's hockey gold medal had ever been decided in a shootout.

The U.S. is now in 4th place with eight golds and 21 total medals, behind Norway (33 medals), Germany (24 medals), and Canada (22 medals, 9 golds). Peter Weber

2:28 a.m. ET

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) participated in a CNN town hall in Sunrise, Florida, on gun violence and school shootings Wednesday night, and it was not a particularly friendly crowd.

Rubio actually announced some new positions on gun rights. "I absolutely believe that in this country if you are 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle, and I will support a law that takes that right away," he said. He backed "a gun violence restraining order" in which a parent or caretaker petitions authorities to prevent family members from buying guns or take guns away. Rubio said he's "reconsidering" his opposition to limiting magazine clip size because "while it may not prevent an attack, it may save lives in an attack."

Still, people who lost loved ones in the Parkland shooting grilled him. Fred Guttenberg, who's daughter was one of the 17 people killed in the shooting, told Rubio his comments over the past week have been "pathetically weak" and asked him to support a ban on assault rifles. (Rubio argued such bans don't work because people find loopholes.)

Cameron Kasky, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, asked Rubio if he would continue taking donations from the NRA. (Rubio said the NRA and other donors "buy into my agenda.")

Rubio was booed a lot, but Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told the audience that Rubio showed "guts" by coming to the forum, when President Trump and Gov. Rick Scott (R) — Nelson's possible 2018 opponent — declined invitations.

Finally, Rubio said that, unlike Trump, he does not support arming teachers. "The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that are armed with a weapon is not something that, quite frankly, I'm comfortable with," he said. He might want to borrow a line comedian Jimmy Kimmel tried out Wednesday night: "Can you imagine if teachers are allowed to guns to school and not peanut butter?"

1:22 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, word came that "President Trump might be supporting a ban on bump-stocks and the strengthening of background checks — which is weird, right?" Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show. "Trump might do something good. You know you don't know how to feel about that." Maybe Trump is softening his opposition to gun laws because "he's watching the same kids we've all been watching over the past few days — survivors of the shooting" in Parkland, Florida, Noah suggested.

"Most people who see those kids are impressed by how articulate they are and they're inspired by their passion," Noah said, but others "think it's suspicious that these kids say they don't want to be shot in the face." He focused on that second group, swatting down their various conspiracy theories.

"Here's what I find funny about this whole debate," Noah said: "Most of the arguments boil down to one idea — teenagers are too young, too emotional, too inexperienced to talk about guns. But as soon as they turn 18, they can own as many of those bad boys as they want. And I guess in a way, this is now you know these students are having an effect: You've never seen gun advocates so desperate that they'd start attacking the victims of a mass shooting."

"There are always crackpots in situations like this who come out of the woodwork with this irrational, this paranoia-fueled nonsense — it happened after Sandy Hook, too," Jimmy Kimmel said on Wednesday's Kimmel Live. But it isn't normal for people like Donald Trump Jr. and NRA board member Ted Nugent to be "perpetuating this kind of stuff."

Kimmel asked viewers, especially Trump supporters, if they believe these students "are actors who are part of some kind of deep-state, left-wing conspiracy," and if the answer was yes, he had "some bad news": "You're crazy. You're a crazy person." If not, he said, "you can't just sit there and let these scumbags spread these lies about these kids." Peter Weber

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