×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
November 13, 2017
Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

In a letter sent to the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, a senior Justice Department official announced that prosecutors are looking into whether they should appoint a special counsel to investigate the Clinton Foundation and former President Barack Obama letting Russia's nuclear power agency purchase a controlling stake in the Uranium One company.

The move comes 10 days after President Trump told reporters he is "really not involved with the Justice Department," but he thinks they "should be looking at the Democrats" because "a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me." In his letter, Stephen Boyd, an assistant attorney general, said the prosecutors will "report directly to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit a special counsel."

Trump has been mad at Attorney General Jeff Sessions ever since he recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, setting up the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. People close to the White House told The New York Times that Sessions thinks if a special counsel is appointed to investigate the Uranium One deal, a talking point among some conservatives that is considered a non-scandal by those who have fact-checked it, he'll be back in Trump's good graces. During his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions said if there was ever any investigation into the Clinton Foundation, he would recuse himself. Catherine Garcia

7:17 a.m. ET

The Senate has scheduled a final confirmation vote for CIA Director Mike Pompeo early Thursday afternoon, and with four Democrats and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) saying they will join all Republican in supporting Pompeo for secretary of state, his confirmation is all but assured. The Senate will then leave for a weeklong recess, and if confirmed, Pompeo will immediately fly to Brussels for a NATO summit. "The secretary-designate Mike Pompeo is prepared to travel to the meeting of foreign ministers to reaffirm our commitment to NATO and coordinate the alliance's response to Russian aggression," a senior administration official told Axios.

Pompeo was narrowly endorsed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, avoiding an embarassing negative recommendation only after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) flipped to back him, and on Wednesday's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee dug a bit into Pompeo's history and past statements on gay rights and Islam, providing some examples of why the CIA director has so little Democratic support to be America's face to the world.

The hawkish former Kansas congressman "is about to be our nation's top diplomat, and he's already given up on diplomacy," Bee said. "Ellen Pompeo is a national treasure, and Mike Pompeo is a racist, war-mongering homophobe. And it looks like the only thing preventing him from being our new secretary of state is the common decency of the Senate — so, basically, nothing is standing in his way." The clip is mostly safe-for-work, and you can watch below. Peter Weber

5:48 a.m. ET
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Democrats have a real shot to pick off three Republican Senate seats in November, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll that shows the Democrat beating all three Republicans vying for an open seat in Arizona, ousting Sen. Dean Heller (R) in Nevada by 6 percentage points, and leading the GOP candidate in Tennessee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R), by a statistically insignificant 1 point. "The poll provides new evidence that Republicans' hold on the Senate may not be as solid as it once looked," Axios notes, though "the overall Senate map in this election still favors the GOP."

Democrats need to pick up two seats to gain control of the Senate in November, and a previous Axios/SurveyMonkey poll showed five Democrats at risk of losing their seats to Republican challengers. At the same time, Axios warns, "Democrats have been clearly outperforming in the special elections since Trump became president." On the issues, Republicans may be buoyed by the economy, but half of all voters in the three states surveyed want to fix the Affordable Care Act while only about 30 percent want to repeal it, and 64 percent of voters support protecting DREAMers and 71 percent favor a path to citizenship for immigrants rather than deportation.

The poll was conducted online April 2-23 with 1,667 registered voters in Arizona, 1,332 in Nevada, and 1,639 in Tennessee. The modeled error estimate is 4 percentage points for Arizona and Tennessee and 5 points for Nevada. Peter Weber

5:12 a.m. ET

President Trump's bromance with French President Emmanuel Macron may have hit a snag on Wednesday, but Trump didn't take long to rekindle an old flame. "I don't know if you've checked Twitter today, but right now my Twitter feed is just tweets from Donald Trump and Kanye West," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "I think Kanye's lobbying for a job as Trump's new communications director — he could just change his name to Kellyanne Kanye."

Colbert read the Kanye tweet where he identified Trump as his "brother" who shares his "dragon energy" and defended his "right to independent thought." "Yes, we have the right to independent thought, and I independently think that Kanye has lost his mind," he said. "But then things took an even stupider turn, because Trump actually responded to Kanye — I assume because an alarm went off in the White House that someone on Twitter was being crazier than him." Either way, this is "a total bro-fest," Colbert said. "Look for their new album, Yeezy & Sleazy."

"In a related story, Trump just made Kanye the new secretary of dragon energy," Jimmy Fallon said on The Tonight Show. "Which is amazing — I didn't even know that was a job."

"I don't even know what happened here — I think Kanye West just realized he's too rich to not be Republican," Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show. "And you know that this is also going to confuse people on Fox News, right? Because they're probably going to be like: 'Why don't these celebrity rap thugs stay out of politics and — sorry, this guy understands the American people!'" Noah reminded everyone that Kanye said George W. Bush hated black people: "When George Bush sees this on Twitter, he'll be, like, 'What the f--k? I know I was a bad president, but this guy's friends with Nazis!'" Watch below. Peter Weber

4:25 a.m. ET

On Tuesday night, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump hosted French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, for a state dinner at the White House, capping a publicly affectionate day between the two presidents, and Wednesday's Late Show began with a cheeky red carpet recap of the dinner guests.

If Tuesday was a Trump-Macron lovefest, "today, Trump's brand new best friend, his cher ami, addressed a joint session of Congress, and he reminded everyone assembled of the long history of friendship between our two nations," Stephen Colbert said. Then "the speech took a shockingly honest turn when he threw shade at Trump's America First policy" — and Trump's denial of climate change and rejection of the Iran nuclear deal, which, Macron pointed out, both the U.S. and France signed. "Oh honey, you think just because America signed something we won't leave it?" Colbert asked. "Why don't you talk that over with first lady Ivana Trump?"

Colbert jumped from "casual infidelity" to the flailing nomination of White House physician Ronny Jackson to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. He ran through some of the new detailed allegations. "These are pretty scandalous revelations, just in the last 24 hours, but honestly we shouldn't be surprised," Colbert said. "Would a sober man describe Trump's health this way?" After reminding people of Trump's physical, Colbert noted that at the White House, they reportedly called Jackson "the candy man," but "that's just a nickname. His official title was secretary of you good?" The "candy man" allegations inspired Colbert to sing a special new version of the Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory song. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:23 a.m. ET

Former FBI Director James Comey took questions from students at Virginia's College of William & Mary, his alma mater, Wednesday night in an hour-long town hall event broadcast on CNN. One student asked if President Trump has a credible argument that Comey broke the law when he gave his friend Daniel Richman one of his memos recording his encounters with Trump and asked him to disclose its substance to the media. Comey said no, "I think he's just making stuff up," and he explained why. "The bottom line is, I see no credible claim by any serious person that that violated the law," he said.

CNN's Chris Cuomo played that clip for White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and it did not change her opinion of Comey's actions. "He gave memos to his friend Daniel Richman," she said, "with the intent that Richman would leak it to the media and hoping to trigger a special counsel." She had what she portrayed as a bombshell about Richman, but Cuomo did not see why it was relevant and told her so.

Comey also discussed the idea of a "deep state" with CNN's Anderson Cooper, arguing that "there's no deep state, but there is a deep culture and a commitment to the rule of law" in the military, law enforcement, and intelligence communities.

Comey also explained why he was a Republican in the 1980s but is now "embarrassed and ashamed" that the GOP has abandoned "the notion that character matters, and values matter most of all," and he also told a terrifying story of being held hostage as a high schooler by the "Ramsey rapist." Comey said he does not have a nickname for Trump. "I call him the president of the United States, because I respect the office," he explained, and "no matter my concerns about him, I want him to be successful." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:11 a.m. ET

Conservatives from Sean Hannity to Alex Jones' InfoWars are proudly annoyed that Hillary Clinton is still speaking in public, and Jordan Klepper heartily agreed with them on Wednesday's The Opposition — for the first few minutes. Then, once "the liberals" had stopped watching, he laid it out for his fellow "Opposers." "We need Hillary Clinton," Klepper said. "She's basically the whole GOP strategy for winning the midterms. Without her to crap on, our candidates have nothing to stand for. Republicans have already given up on legislating this year, and it's only April!"

And it doesn't even matter if Clinton is still making news, Klepper said. "What do we do when Hillary isn't relevant anymore? Same thing I do when my therapist tells me to stop bringing up my ex-wife: Talk about her anyway." He showed examples of how Republicans are running against Clinton this year — even though Clinton isn't running for anything — including an NRSC ad campaign in several states attacking the same Clinton footage. "Oh man, and libs say we can't recycle," he deadpanned. "Hillary is literally the only renewable resource we care about." Klepper ended with an emotional, cinematic plea for Clinton to stick around. You can watch below, or read Paul Waldman's longer, straighter version of the same argument at The Week. Peter Weber

1:35 a.m. ET
Sean Zanni/Getty Images for NARAS

When Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) abruptly resigned earlier this month, the chances he would ever repay taxpayers for the $84,000 sexual harassment settlement he reached with a staffer, as he'd promised, shrank significantly. But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has an idea for how he can fulfill his pledge. On Tuesday, Abbott used emergency powers to order a special June 30 election to fill the House seat Farenthold vacated, citing Hurricane Harvey to skirt state and federal election laws, and on Wednesday, he asked Farenthold to pay for that election.

"While you have publicly offered to reimburse the $84,000 in taxpayer funds you wrongly used to settle a sexual harassment claim, there is no legal recourse requiring you to give that money back to Congress," Abbott wrote in a letter to Farenthold's office. "I am urging you to give those funds back to the counties in your district to cover the costs of the June 30, 2018, special election. This seat must be filled, and the counties and taxpayers in the 27th congressional district should not again pay the price for your actions."

Local election officials estimate that the special election will cost the 13 counties in the district more than $200,000, the Houston Chronicle reports. Farenthold, worth $2.4 million according to 2016 financial disclosure statements, is under no obligation to pay anything for the election or even respond to Abbott, and few analysts expect that he will. Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson called Abbott's request "strange" and "unprecedented," adding, "The governor does not expect that Farenthold is going to pay the cost."

Abbott sought and quickly received a waiver from state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) to hold the emergency election for Farenthold's seat because his district was hit by Harvey and, Abbott argued, "hurricane relief efforts depend heavily on action at the federal level, which can only occur if Texans residing in disaster zones have full and effective representation in Congress." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads