September 13, 2017

At Tuesday's White House press briefing, reporters asked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if President Trump was aware that former chief strategist Stephen Bannon had called his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey one of the worst mistakes in modern political history. "The president is proud of the decision that he made," she said. "The president was 100 percent right in firing James Comey. He knew at the time that it could be bad for him politically, but he also knew and felt he had an obligation to do what was right." She added later that Comey's "actions were improper, and likely could have been illegal."

But when asked if Trump would encourage prosecuting Comey, Sanders said that's not the president's job. "That's the job of the Department of Justice, and something they should certainly look at," she said. "If there's ever a moment where we feel someone's broken the law, particularly if they're the head of the FBI, I think that's something that certainly should be looked at."

Sanders did not say what laws she think Comey likely could have broken, though Trump has accused Comey of leaking classified information for having a friend pass unclassified notes to The New York Times. Bannon called Comey's firing a mistake in large part because it led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whom Trump has also reportedly mulled firing. In the West Wing, aides are seriously worried about Mueller's investigation, report Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan at Axios, but nobody thinks ousting Mueller would be wise. The damage would be as horrendous as "firing the pope," one Trump associate told Axios. Peter Weber

6:36 a.m. ET
Alexey Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images

In Geneva on Tuesday, a U.S. State Department official warned a United Nations disarmament conference that Russia has launched a purported "space apparatus inspector" whose "very abnormal behavior" is "of great concern" to the U.S. government. "We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it," said Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance. "But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development," especially given America's "concerns over many years that the Russian Federation is actively pursuing the development and deployment of anti-satellite weapons."

Alexander Deyneko, a senior Russian diplomat, told Reuters that Poblete's comments were "the same unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions, and so on," and suggested the U.S. join Russia and China in developing a treaty to prevent an arms race in space. ("The United States has clearly articulated the many flaws of this draft treaty," Poblete said in her speech, and Russia's "hollow and hypocritical efforts are not the answer" given its routine violations of easier-to-verify arms treaties.)

Space weapons like "lasers or microwave frequencies that could just stop [a satellite] working for a time, either disable it permanently without destroying it or disrupt it via jamming," are a real concern, Royal United Services Institute analyst Alexandra Stickings tells BBC News. And they would be hard to differentiate from other satellites. But the Trump administration may not be in the best position to complain, after President Trump ordered a new military Space Force branch, she added. "The narrative coming from the U.S. is, 'Space was really peaceful, now look at what the Russians and Chinese are doing' — ignoring the fact that the U.S. has developed its own capabilities." Peter Weber

5:26 a.m. ET

"Arguably the worst proof of abuse by the Catholic Church to date" was just released, in a 900-page Pennsylvania grand jury report, "and it isn't getting a lot of attention," CNN's Chris Cuomo said Wednesday night. "Isn't that a scary thought? In fact, it could be argued I should be talking about Omarosa or pulling clearances right now instead of this story, but I think that's really wrong. I think there's time for everything that matters, and this really does." The report listed 300 predator priests who victimized more than 1,000 children dating back to the 1940s, "and yes, the church — my church — covered it up," Cuomo said. "Are we really over the abuse of children? Is it because the details are so terrible?" He sketched out some details.

But mostly, Cuomo wanted to talk about changing statute of limitations laws so abuse victims can get justice — in Pennsylvania, New York, and elsewhere. Many of the priests named in the report "are dead, and maybe their punishment in the next life will be worse than anything that could be meted out here as justice," he said. "But as for the living, under law right now," the survivors of abuse almost never get justice. He made his case for changing the laws, comparing how we view justice for sex abuse victims against the death penalty.

"Look, we know organizations, even religious ones, will protect themselves, even if it means they're going to victimize children in the process," Cuomo said. "That's where the law comes in. That's where you come in." He had some suggestions for how to vote. As luck would have it, Cuomo's brother, the New York governor, is already on board. Peter Weber

4:45 a.m. ET

Paul Manafort, former big-time political consultant to oligarchs and volunteer campaign chairman for President Trump, may not have mounted much of a defense in his federal trial on tax fraud and money laundering charges, but he does apparently have an airtight case for not wearing socks in court.

No, it isn't a lack of petty cash. It's fashion. Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni told CNN — which seriously asked about the socks — that Manafort has limited sartorial options for his trial, including no belt or shoes with shoelaces. That explains the loafers, but Maloni also explained that Manafort only has access to government-issued white socks, and "he doesn't like white socks."

Not only does Manafort have no socks, he "has no swag," says Esquire senior style editor Jonathan Evans. "In case you hadn't heard, white socks are actually kind of a thing right now. Wearing them with loafers is a move that perfectly balances throwback vibes with a bit of tongue-in-cheek stylistic irony. It's pretty cool, to be honest! Which is exactly why I wouldn't expect Manafort to get it." And in case you were curious about Manafort's lack of defense witnesses or evidence, The Late Show has a theory. Peter Weber

4:04 a.m. ET
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Alex Jones and/or his Infowars site have been banned from Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify over their hateful and demonstrably false conspiracy theories, and even Twitter just put Jones on one-week probation, but none of that has anything to do with why the Federal Communications Commission shut down Jones' flagship radio station, Radio Liberty. According to documents in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Austin this week, Radio Liberty had been illegally broadcasting over a local FM station from 2013 until it ceased pirating the airwaves in December and switched to online streaming and a call-in "listen line."

FCC agents from Houston tracked the pirate radio signals to apartments in north-central Austin owned by defendants Walter Olenick and M. Rae Nadler-Olenick, the Austin American Statesman reports. According to the FCC, the Olenicks refused to pay the agency's $15,000 fine or recognize its authority and threatened to treat FCC agents as trespassers if they returned to the property. On Wednesday, the American Statesman said, the once-pirated frequency, 901. FM, was playing religious programming. Peter Weber

3:19 a.m. ET

"It is a chilling day in American history, and not just because I keep this theater at 52 degrees," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "For the first time ever, a president has used the power of his office to punish members of the intelligence community who have criticized him." He played White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reading President Trump's statement on why he revoked former CIA chief John Brennan's security clearance, and one charge stuck out: Brennan's alleged "wild outbursts on the internet." "I'd say that's the pot calling the kettle black, but there may be tapes of it calling the kettle much worse," Colbert joked.

Trump's been threatening to hit Brennan for a month, and announcing it today "is just an obvious attempt to distract our attention from America's sweetheart, Omarosa," Colbert said. Her claim that Trump used the N-word, and that it's on tape, "has sparked a national debate: Exactly how big of a racist is the president? I mean, on a scale of "Drunk Uncle at Thanksgiving' to 'Drunk Uncle at Trump Rally'?" Trump has insisted, frequently, that he is "the least racist" person, and Colbert suggested Trump doth protest too much.

Yes, it was "another rough week for the Trump White House: scandals, bad press, bad polls numbers," Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show. "But the good news is, they found someone to blame," Brennan. He also found Trump's rationale curious. "Unfounded allegations, wild internet outbursts, and lying?" Noah asked. "It sounds like Sarah Sanders is just reading from President Trump's daily schedule." Throw in the officials he says he's targeting next, "Trump's enemies list," and it's pretty clear "Trump isn't just protecting secrets for the good of the country," Noah said, wondering how Rosie O'Donnell and Don Lemon aren't on the list, too. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:25 a.m. ET

Tom Arnold, promoting a Viceland show about hunting for "the Trump tapes," sat down with Jimmy Kimmel on Wednesday's Kimmel Live, and he said Omarosa Manigault Newman is right — there is tape of President Trump using the N-word. On reality TV shows, "the crew has fun" and creates compilations tapes, Arnold explained, and in 2016 he mentioned on a comedy show that he's seen an Apprentice compilation tape in which Trump uses the N-word and also jokes that Eric Trump is mentally disabled. "There's two people that have never called me a liar about the N-word tape: Donald Trump and Mark Burnett," Arnold said. "Because they know it's true. They absolutely know it's true."

Burnett, the Apprentice producer, and Trump are "best friends," Arnold claimed, and Burnett is protecting the president. "If you could see one day of Donald Trump on that set, one full day, you'll realize, 'Oh my God, that's what's going on in the White House — he's incompetent, he is racist, he sexually harasses people,'" he said. "You've seen it?" Kimmel asked. "Absolutely I've seen it, and you will see it," he said. "And there's a pee-pee tape!"

"The truth is, we don't know if there's a tape," Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show, and Roy Wood Jr. explained why he hopes there isn't one. When Noah suggested fallout from a recording of Trump using the N-word "would be catastrophic," Wood played his own "tapes of Trump saying racist things," not secretly. "You don't need to wait for a secret tape to prove Trump is a racist," he said.

"I don't give a damn about what an N-word tape would mean for Donald Trump, I care what it would mean for black people," Wood said. "The last thing we need is his supporters hearing him say the N-word, because then the floodgates open. We're gonna hear Trump supporters using that word everywhere." Watch below. Peter Weber

1:55 a.m. ET

The parents of an Ohio man who went missing last week on Mount St. Helens said he survived by killing and eating bees and foraging for berries.

Last Thursday, Matthew Matheny borrowed a friend's Subaru Outback for an afternoon at Mount St. Helens. When he didn't come back, he was reported missing, and the car was found Saturday. Matheny was discovered "conscious and alive" on the flanks of Mount St. Helens Wednesday, the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office said, and he was rushed to a hospital in Vancouver.

Matheny's parents, Carney and Linda, told reporters their son is a nurse and interested in nutrition and health. "We think that may have saved him," Linda Matheny said. He has scratches on him and is dehydrated. "He never found water, but the berries must have had enough fluid to keep him going," Linda Matheny said.

Her son decided to go to Mount St. Helens for the afternoon while his friends were at work, and he "had no idea how turned around he could get, how prepared people have to be," Linda Matheny said. Both parents thanked the search and rescue teams, and said they are "so grateful to everyone we encountered." Catherine Garcia

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