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November 17, 2017

Lame-duck New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was pilloried nationwide during the 2016 presidential election as he was repeatedly demeaned by then-candidate Donald Trump and his aides, most notably when he was apparently sent to fetch Big Macs for the future president. But a Politico story published Friday raises a different possibility: What if those stories were fake news?

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide, told Politico that he fabricated the story of Christie fetching McDonald's for Trump because he wanted to humiliate the governor. "The sad reality is that it was believable," Nunberg said.

Christie himself claimed that other gaffes of his have been exaggerated, too. Take his infamous summer trip to the beach, for example — a beach he'd ordered closed to the public over the July 4 weekend during a state budget shutdown, but then used for himself and his friends and family anyway. Christie defended himself, saying he did not regret the shoreline excursion because he'd already told his children that they'd spend the holiday on the beach. He added that he had no way of knowing he was being photographed: "Could you imagine that I could see the long lens? Of course not."

Christie's various scandals didn't seem to bother President Trump all that much, however, as the mogul reportedly made several overtures to the governor to secure his endorsement during the Republican presidential primary. Although Christie did not address rumors that Trump extended — and then rescinded — an offer for him to be vice president, he did say that Trump offered "two Cabinet positions and three other really senior positions in the administration." "I've turned them all down because they weren't stuff I was interested in," Christie said.

Read the full profile of the outgoing governor at Politico. Kelly O'Meara Morales

2:32a.m.

Four Americans and their Costa Rican tour guide were killed on Saturday when their rafts overturned on the Naranjo River in Quepos, Costa Rica.

Officials on Sunday said three rafts carrying 18 people overturned, and 13 passengers were able to hang onto the rafts, five were pulled downstream. The victims have been identified as American tourists Ernesto Sierra, Jorge Caso, Sergio Lorenzo, and Andres Dennis, all between the ages of 25 and 35, and their Costa Rican tour guide, Kevin Thompson Reid.

The river was high from rains, officials said, and the Red Cross had 12 workers in the area, who helped assist with the rescue. Catherine Garcia

2:23a.m.

WikiLeaks founder and longtime resident of Ecuador's London embassy Julian Assange now has to pay for his own medical bills and phone calls, clean up his bathroom and living area, and take care of his cat, including paying for its food and cleaning the litter. Assange is suing Ecuador and its foreign minister, Jose Valencia, arguing that the new protocols are unfair and were created without his input. The obligations to clean up after his cat are particularly "denigrating," his lawyer Baltasar Garzón said at a news conference in Quito on Friday.

Assange sought asylum in Ecuador's London embassy in 2012, evading a Swedish arrest warrant for suspected sexual assault. Sweden later dropped the investigation, but Britain says it will arrest him if he leaves the embassy for violating the terms of his bail. Assange, who gave a boost to President Trump during the 2016 election, has said he believes Britain would extradite him to the U.S. to face prosecution for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents. Ecuador granted Assange, an Australian national, citizenship in 2017, then briefly tried to name him to a diplomatic post in Russia, Reuters reports.

Assange "has been held in inhuman conditions for more than six years," Garzón said. "Even people who are imprisoned have phone calls paid for by the state." He also said Assange hasn't had internet access since March, contradicting a statement from WikiLeaks last week. Garzón did not say who has been cleaning up after Assange's cat for six years. Valencia, named in the lawsuit because he is the intermediary between Assange and Ecuador's government, said Ecuador "will respond in an appropriate manner," but "the protocol is in line with international standards and Ecuadorian law." Peter Weber

2:10a.m.

The official Saudi Press Association reported on Sunday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the eldest son of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi to offer his condolences to the family.

On Oct. 2, Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and was never seen again. Turkish officials said he was murdered by Saudi agents, and on Friday, Saudi Arabia admitted he was killed inside the consulate, claiming he died during a fistfight. On Fox News Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said it was a "rogue operation," and "the individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority. There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up. That is unacceptable in any government."

The foreign minister said the crown prince and the kingdom's intelligence services did not know about the operation in advance, and that the Saudis do not know exactly how Khashoggi was killed or where his body is now. Saudi Arabia feels the Khashoggi family's "pain," al-Jubeir said, and "I assure them that those responsible will be held accountable for this." Catherine Garcia

1:08a.m.

The Miami Herald on Sunday endorsed Democrat Andrew Gillum for governor, saying he's the "best candidate to pull Florida back to center."

The editorial board has a lot of faith in Gillum, the mayor of the state capital, Tallahassee. Gillum will ensure that "the middle class and working class don't continue to bear the brunt of Tallahassee's misguided spending," the editorial said, and will also put public schools back "in the spotlight," will help those denied health insurance, and will "fight against sea-level rise and the degradation of the environment."

The Republican candidate, former Rep. Ron DeSantis, is "using worn-out fear tactics to win votes," and voters should "really be alarmed at DeSantis' close proximity to supporters and contributors who have made racist comments, especially at the candidate's campaign appearances." In contrast, Gillum has conducted an "all-embracing, optimistic, and engaging campaign throughout the state," the editorial board said, and that's "another quality that speaks well of the state leader he would be."

The board believes that "after eight years of misplaced priorities, it's time to swing the pendulum back, back to a Florida that works for more of us, that builds on its prosperity and that doesn't squander its more precious resources, be they fiscal, environmental, or human." Read more of the Herald's endorsement of Gillum here. Catherine Garcia

12:48a.m.

President Trump has apparently managed to make people very excited to vote in midterm elections. The percentage of voters with a high interest in the election — a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale — has jumped to 65 percent, according to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday, the highest numbers ever recorded in the poll. A record-hight 72 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Republicans are very interested, versus 46 percent among independents.

Overall, 50 percent of likely voters want Democrats to control Congress versus 41 percent who favor Republicans, an improvement of 1 percentage point for Democrats since the September survey. Unusually for a midterm election, Democrats fare better among likely voters than the overall electorate, where they hold a 48-41 percent advantage, down from 12-points in the September survey. The percentage of engaged Latino and young voters, two groups that skew Democratic, has jumped by double digits from previous NBC/WSJ polls. Women favor Democrats by 25 points.

"Although Democrats are preferred in the national poll overall, their advantage has vanished in the House districts that matter most," The Wall Street Journal reports. And as Republican interest in the midterms has jumped, so have Trump's poll numbers — he gets his best job approval number to date in the poll, with 47 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving. Among likely voters, 45 percent approve of Trump and 52 percent disapprove.

The "blue wave" has run into a "riptide of uncertainty" from the "surge of Republican intensity," said Democratic pollster Fred Yang. Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the poll with Yang, called the election "a barnburner." Republicans are in a better position, he added, but "you've got to look where the tilt is going. And the tilt didn't change." NBC's Chuck Todd says the data point to a "choose your own adventure" election:

The poll was conducted via telephone Oct. 14-17 among 900 registered voters and 645 likely voters, with an overall margin of error of ±3.3 percentage points, ±3.9 points among likely voters. Peter Weber

12:45a.m.

Florida's gubernatorial candidates — Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis — faced off in a debate Sunday in Tampa, moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper, and they touched on everything from race to climate change to school safety.

On the environment and climate change: DeSantis said he "ran in the Republican primary stressing the need for clean water," but he doesn't "want to be an alarmist" on climate change, and "I want to look at this and do what makes sense for Florida." Gillum said when he's elected, Floridians will "have a governor who believes in science, which we haven't had for quite some time in this state." After DeSantis said Gillum wants to enact a "California-style energy policy," he responded, "I'm not so sure what's so California about believing that the state of Florida ought to lead in solar energy. We're known as the Sunshine State."

On school shootings: Tapper mentioned that after the deadly shooting earlier this year in Parkland, Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed legislation that, among other things, raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm, and he asked DeSantis why he said he'd have vetoed that bill. "We are gonna fix it in terms of school security," DeSantis said, adding he's a "big supporter of school security." Gillum said DeSantis was against the legislation because "he is wholly owned by the NRA. He's not gonna stand up to the National Rifle Association."

On race: DeSantis received criticism after he used the phrase "monkey this up" in regards to Gillum and did not return money to a donor who used a racial slur. He said on Sunday he will be "a governor for all Floridians, that's the only way you can do it." Gillum said that throughout the race, DeSantis has done everything "to draw all the attention he can to the color of my skin," and the "'monkey up' comment said it all." Catherine Garcia

October 21, 2018

Julia Louis-Dreyfus was celebrated on Sunday as she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, becoming the 21st person the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has recognized with the award.

The acclaimed Emmy-award winning comedic actress, best known for starring in Seinfeld and Veep, was praised by 2010 Mark Twain recipient Tina Fey, who lauded Louis-Dreyfus for her "secret precision" and commitment to making her Seinfeld character Elaine Benes flawed. "Julia let Elaine be selfish and petty and sarcastic and a terrible, terrible dancer," she said.

Before the event, Louis-Dreyfus told The Associated Press she remembers when she realized she could crack people up. "The first time I really knew was when I stuffed raisins in my nose and my mother laughed," she said. "I ended up in the emergency room because they wouldn't come out." PBS will air the ceremony on Nov. 19. Catherine Garcia

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