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October 31, 2017

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was the first guest on Laura Ingraham's new Fox News show, The Ingraham Angle, and Ingraham started off by asking Kelly about the White House reaction to the indictments and guilty plea unsealed Monday for members of President Trump's 2016 campaign, including campaign chairman Paul Manafort. "All of the activities, as I understand it, that they were indicted for were long before they met Donald Trump or had any association with the campaign," Kelly said. Manafort was charged with 12 counts, including conspiring to defraud the United States "between 2006 and 2017," mostly involving alleged financial crimes.

"I think the staff is very comfortable with simply serving the nation," Kelly said, when Ingraham asked how the White House staff is holding up. "The vast majority of the staff would have nothing to do with this kind of thing."

Kelly, a retired Marine general, stood up for Confederate monuments, arguing that tearing them down for not meeting modern standards of right and wrong is "just very, very dangerous" and shows "a lack of appreciation of history, and what history is." He specifically mentioned the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who opposed erecting Confederate monuments himself. "I will tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man" who "gave up his country for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country," Kelly said. "The lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stands where their conscience had them make their stand."

Kelly also said he won't apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) for his misleading attack on her following her criticism of Trump's call to a Gold Star widow. Peter Weber

8:49 a.m. ET

The Trump administration is close to naming a Republican professor whose work has been used to support GOP redistricting efforts as deputy head of the Census Bureau, Politico reports. The rumors of Thomas Brunell's impending appointment are concerning to many voting rights advocates because as deputy head, he would not require Senate confirmation and therefore could not be blocked. After the resignation of former Census Director John Thompson in June, and Trump's failure to nominate anyone for permanent director in his wake, Brunell could become the most powerful permanent official in the agency.

If indeed appointed, Brunell's decisions ahead of the 2020 Census would theoretically shape the future of American elections: "There are tons of little things he could be doing to influence what the final count looks like," a former high-ranking official in the Commerce Department explained to Politico. "The ripple effect on reapportionment would be astounding."

What's more, Brunell has little obvious experience for the job, having no background in statistics or in government, as the position's appointees typically do. In addition to a Ph.D. in political science, Brunell is the author of a 2008 book, Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America. In it, he argues:

…[P]artisan districts packed with like-minded voters actually lead to better representation than ones more evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, because fewer voters in partisan districts cast a vote for a losing candidate. He has also argued that ideologically packed districts should be called "fair districts" and admits that his stance on competitive elections makes him something of an outlier among political scientists, who largely support competitive elections. [Politico]

The former director of the Census-tracking organization Census Project, Terri Ann Lowenthal, said if the rumors of Brunell's appointment are true, "it signals an effort by the administration to politicize the Census. It's very troubling." Read more about Brunell at Politico. Jeva Lange

8:16 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Republicans who implicitly or explicitly support Roy Moore, the Alabama GOP nominee for Senate, despite the credible accusations that he sexually assaulted or harassed teenage girls as young as 14, tend to point to his support for tax cuts or opposition to abortion and transgender rights. Moore is still in a competitive race against Democrat Doug Jones in part because Alabama is about half evangelical Christian, and many evangelical Christians and their leaders either give Moore the benefit of the doubt or, like Gov. Kay Ivey (R) say they believe Moore's accusers but will vote for him anyway.

The Southern Baptist and other evangelical Christian leaders who support Moore are vocal about it, but the ones who don't, for a variety of reasons, are "reticent," says New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein, who spoke to many of them. And of the ones who are vocal about their support, Earl Wise, a pastor from Millbrook, wins the prize for worst defense of Moore, so far.

"I don't know how much these women are getting paid, but I can only believe they're getting a healthy sum," Wise told The Boston Globe, which contacted pastors on a list shared by Moore and his wife. (Ten responded to the Globe, including Wise, whose church and religious affiliation are not noted, though he appears to be a real estate agent and pastor at Hunter Station Baptist Church.) "How these gals came up with this, I don't know. They must have had some sweet dreams somewhere down the line," he said, adding, "Plus, there are some 14-year-olds, who, the way they look, could pass for 20."

You can read what some of the other pastors have to say at The Boston Globe. Peter Weber

7:42 a.m. ET

CBS This Morning hosts Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King delivered powerful, shaken reactions Tuesday morning to the news that their co-host, veteran journalist Charlie Rose, was suspended following eight women's accusations of sexual harassment. "Let me be very clear," said O'Donnell, looking firmly into the camera. "There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive, and I've been doing a lot of listening."

King was also deeply affected by the news. "I am really reeling," she said, calling the Washington Post article that first reported the allegations "deeply disturbing, troubling, and painful for me to read."

"Oprah called me and said, are you okay? I am not okay," King said. She explained: "I'm really struggling, because how do you — what do you say when someone that you deeply care about has done something that is so horrible?"

King added that despite her conflicted feelings, "Charlie does not get a pass here. He doesn't get a pass from anyone in this room." Watch her comments below. Jeva Lange

6:31 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert started his interview with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday's Late Show by commiserating about President Trump, and then he threw her a curveball, noting that Warren and Trump both agree the 2016 Democratic primaries were "rigged." Warren took the opportunity to "clarify" her comments to CNN's Jake Tapper, then more cheerfully turned to the Democratic mini-wave in 2017, and her party's — and her own — chances in 2018, when she's up for re-election. "What about 2020?" Colbert asked, nodding to Warren's possible presidential aspirations.

She didn't bite. Democrats have to fight hard now, this week, Warren said, pointing to the GOP tax plan, which she called "$1.5 trillion in giveaways for giant corporations, for billionaires," paid for by working families. "This is about numbers, but it's about values," she said. "I don't believe one middle class person in America should have her taxes raised in order to do tax giveaways to billionaires and giant corporations."

Colbert played devil's advocate, earning a groan from the crowd and an eye-roll from Warren by bringing up trickle-down economics. "We have the data — trickle-down doesn't work," Warren said. "When you help the rich get richer, the rich get richer, and they keep it." CEOs have been admitting that on earnings calls for months, she added, urging people to call lawmakers, tweet, and take to the streets.

Colbert asked Warren if she thinks Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) should step down. She said she "was just enormously disappointed about this," but Franken will answer his "serious" sexual harassment allegations before the Senate Ethics Committee. "We're going to watch this thing play out with famous men," Warren said, but the big question is if this "moment in America" will be just "a big flash and then nothing really changes." We'll know this change is real, she said, when jerks in the office no longer feel it is safe to sexually harass their female coworkers or employees. Peter Weber

5:17 a.m. ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in Sochi, Russia, on Monday, the Kremlin announced Tuesday. Assad thanked Putin "and all Russian people" for "the efforts that Russia made to save our country," and Putin said Russia's "joint operation to fight terrorists in Syria, this military operation is indeed coming to an end." Putin and Assad use the word "terrorists" to describe both Islamic State militants and Syrians who oppose Assad in the civil war that has roiled Syria since March 2011.

More than 400,000 people have been killed in the war and millions of Syrians fled to Europe and elsewhere, and Russia's use of military force on Assad's behalf starting in 2015 tipped the war decisively in Assad's favor. This was only Assad's second trip out of Syria since his harsh crackdown on protesters led to war, following an October 2015 visit to Russia. On Wednesday, Putin is hosting the leaders of Iran, which also backed Assad, and Turkey, which supported the opposition.

Video and photos released by Russia show Putin and Assad embracing and meeting with Russian generals and other military leaders. "I would like to introduce you to people who played a key role in saving Syria," Putin told Assad.

If you are interested in what else Putin and Assad said and don't speak Russian, the Kremlin has an English-Language transcript. Peter Weber

4:41 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert kicked off Monday's Late Show with the news that Monday is hard, as demonstrated in the foiled plans of a Weather Channel cameraman to document the implosion of the Georgia Dome. "Can a bus drive in front of 2017 for a while?" he asked. "Or maybe just park in front of Charlie Rose?" But "Monday also means that it's time to dig through Trump's weekend tweets," he said, and so he did.

Colbert started with President Trump's demand for thanks from the three UCLA basketball players on whose behalf he interceded after they were arrested for shoplifting in China. When one of their fathers shrugged of Trump's role, he hit back, suggesting he should have left the UCLA players in Chinese jail. Colbert raised an eyebrow: "Mr. Trump, I know you're upset, but maybe now's not the time to be implying that someone's kids should go to jail for what their dad did."

Trump also hit back at Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), after Flake was caught on mic saying if the GOP is the party of Trump and Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore, "we are toast." Colbert protested. "Sen. Flake, that is a little too hard on toast," he said, poking at Moore. "May I remind you, sir, toast doesn't cruise the mall looking for dough that hasn't risen yet." He found Trump's counterpunch tweet equally iffy. "Either he misspelled the abbreviation for microphone," he said, "or he's implying that Sen. Flake was caught 'on Mike,' which does not sound like something Vice President Pence would be into, but if so, good for you — live your best life, sir."

Colbert was pleased that Trump will keep a ban on elephant trophies, but also a little confused. "Are we supposed to thank Trump for not doing a terrible thing that nobody was talking about doing until his administration was gonna do it?" he asked. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m. ET

Meet Lawrence of Abdoun, the British Embassy in Amman's new diplocat.

Named after T.E. Lawrence and adopted last month from a Jordan animal shelter, he resides at the embassy in Amman's Abdoun neighborhood. "Apart from his mousing duties, he reaches out to followers on Twitter," Deputy Ambassador Laura Dauban told Reuters. "What's quite interesting is the British public are seeing the U.K. embassy in Jordan in a different light. Through Lawrence's Twitter account, we're trying to show a different side to Jordan, what it is really like, a peaceful, prosperous country that British tourists should come and visit."

He isn't the only cat working for the U.K. government — in fact, he reports directly to Palmerston, the chief mouser at London's Foreign Office. Catherine Garcia

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