Despite once claiming that Russia intrigue is a "waste of time," it seems Stephen Bannon is starting to sweat the investigations into the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 election.
Bannon — the former White House chief strategist who recently resigned his post atop Breitbart News — will be interviewed next week by the House Intelligence Committee. The Daily Beast reported Thursday that in anticipation of his testimony, Bannon has hired Bill Burck, a Washington lawyer who The Daily Beast notes is also advising White House Counsel Don McGahn and President Trump's former chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
Both McGahn and Priebus have come under the microscope of the various investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Bannon's arrangement with Burck "covers only Bannon's role on Trump's campaign," The Washington Post explains, adding that the scope is limited to the House's Russia probe and does not include any potential cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's separate investigation.
The Post notes that Bannon didn't seek legal counsel at all until the House Intelligence Committee asked to interview him. The recent release of Michael Wolff's tell-all book Fire and Fury may inform at least some of the committee's interview with Bannon, as the former strategist was quoted describing a meeting held by Donald Trump Jr. with Russian individuals as "treasonous," as well as suggesting that Mueller's investigation will eventually home in on money laundering by Trump Jr., former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Kelly O'Meara Morales
The Pentagon announced Thursday night that the flashy, Bastille Day-like military parade President Trump had demanded would be pushed backed to at least 2019, but it did not give a reason. On Friday morning, Trump offered an explanation: The "local politicians who run Washington" had thwarted him with their financial demands.
The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up! I will instead...
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2018
....attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th. Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN. Now we can buy some more jet fighters!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2018
Also Thursday, CNBC reported that the Pentagon raised its estimate for the parade's cost to $92 million, a big jump from the original estimate of $12 million. It's theoretically possible the D.C. city council wanted $80 million for security and cleanup costs, but either way, a new F-35 fighter jet costs about $100 million (the entire F-35 program is currently expected to cost $406.1 billion). So maybe instead of buying 9/10 of a jet, Trump can find another use for that $92 million. Peter Weber
Support for President Trump's second Supreme Court nominee, U.S. Appellate Judge Brett Kavanaugh, is lower than the support for failed 2005 justice nominee Harriet Miers and only slightly higher than the support for approving failed nominee Robert Bork, the last nominee to come up short in a Senate confirmation vote, according to a CNN/SSRS poll released Thursday. Including Bork, Kavanaugh is the only nominee whom a plurality of Americans don't want to see confirmed, the poll found.
The poll found that 37 percent of U.S. adults want the Senate to confirm Kavanaugh versus 40 percent who don't. Miers, whose nomination former President George W. Bush pulled amid an outcry from Republicans, had 44 percent of the public behind her and 36 percent opposed; Bork was supported by 31 percent of Americans but opposed by only 25 percent. The third failed nominee on CNN's list, Merrick Garland, drew support from 52 percent of adults and opposition from 33 percent; he never got a confirmation hearing or vote in 2016 because Republicans did not allow it.
There is a strong gender divide in the Kavanaugh numbers, possibly because he is widely seen as the key vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Only 28 percent of women want the Senate to confirm Kavanaugh, including 6 percent of Democratic women, 28 percent of independent women, and 71 percent of GOP women. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Sept. 4, but Democrats say they are preparing to sue the National Archives for withheld records from Kavanaugh's time in the Bush White House. CNN's poll was conducted by SSRS Aug. 9-12 among 1,002 adults; it has a margin of sampling error of ±3.9 percentage points. Peter Weber
The Texas Rangers were so pleased with this triple play at the top of the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night, they put three versions of it in their highlight reel.
Can't. Stop. Watching. pic.twitter.com/FV1WApLpqA
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) August 17, 2018
It was only the sixth triple play in Rangers team history, USA Today reports, but it's even rarer than that — it was the first triple play without the batter being one of the outs in 106 years, according to the baseball nerds at STATS.
In the 4th inning tonight, the @Rangers turned a triple play against the @Angels without retiring the batter, David Fletcher.
It was the first MLB triple play without the batter being retired since June 3, 1912, when the Dodgers did so against the Reds.#TexasRangers
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) August 17, 2018
Since the play is a little confusing, this is what happened: Rangers third baseman Jurickson Profar caught a grounder from Angels batter David Fletcher, then tagged out runner Taylor Ward — who didn't run because he thought Profar caught the ball in the air — and forced out the runner on second base, then threw the ball to Rougned Odor at second, who forced out the runner from first base and tagged him for good measure. The Rangers rallied to win the game, 8-6. Peter Weber
On Thursday morning, Omarosa Manigault Newman released a recording of a December 2017 conversation with Lara Trump, the wife of Eric Trump, in which she appeared to offer the just-fired Manigault Newman $15,000 a month for what didn't sound like very taxing work on President Trump's re-election campaign.
And $15,000 a month seems to be the going rate for former Trump White House officials who worked closely with the president. According to federal election filings reviewed by ABC News, the Trump campaign, Republican National Committee, or pro-Trump America First PAC are also paying former Oval Office security chief Keith Schiller's private firm $15,000 a month for "security services" tied to the 2020 GOP national political convention, $14,000 per month for "payroll" to Trump "body man" John McEntee, and $15,000 a month to former ad director Gary Coby — all of whom, presumably, signed restrictive nondisclosure agreements.
According to the Lara Trump tape, that money comes straight from donors — and some major donors are getting irked "by the revelations that the campaign may have been used as a slush fund to pay fired or troublesome employees," The New York Times reports. "It's diverting donor money that could be used to wage the midterm election battle or store resources for Trump's re-election," said Dan Eberhart, Trump donor and America First adviser. "Instead, it's an elongated hush payment." At the same time, he said, "they still want to win elections," so wallets aren't necessarily closed.
If the donors are annoyed, Trump is "rattled" by the trickle of Manigault Newman's recordings and "Trump's aides have been concerned that they will make appearances on other tapes, of which Ms. Manigault Newman is believed to have as many as 200," the Times reports. On MSNBC Thursday morning, she said, "Believe me, my tapes are much better than theirs." And so far, she's right. Peter Weber
Vatican expresses 'shame and sorrow' over U.S. clergy sex abuse, says Pope Francis sides with the victims
Two days after a Pennsylvania grand jury released an 884-page report detailing more than 1,000 cases of child sex abuse by 300 "predator priests" in six dioceses dating back to the 1940s, the Vatican responded Thursday, condemning "unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors." Responding to the report specifically — which also documented widespread cover-ups of the child rape and abuse by bishops and other church leaders — Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said "there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow."
"The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible," Burke said. "The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur." For Pope Francis, he added, "those who have suffered are his priority, and the church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent." Burke said Francis wants victims to know "the pope is on their side." Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who empaneled the two-year grand jury, suggested the pope push to enact the grand jury's recommendations on extending or ending the statue of limitations for suing over or prosecuting child sex abuse.
— AG Josh Shapiro (@PAAttorneyGen) August 16, 2018
The U.S. Catholic Church has been dealing with the fallout from decades of child sex abuse by clergy since The Boston Globe uncovered the extent of it in the Boston archdiocese in the early 2000s, and Chile, Ireland, Australia, and other countries have since uncovered similar abuses. Peter Weber
Omarosa Manigault Newman's new White House tell-all has some eye-catching rumors about first lady Melania Trump, including that she chooses her wardrobe to irk President Trump and can't wait to divorce him after Trump leaves office. "That is going to be tough on Trump, because whatever lawyer she gets is already better than his," Stephen Colbert joked on Thursday's Late Show. Whether or not those allegations are true, "there are other signs Melania is distancing herself from Trump," he said, including her supportive statement about LeBron James after her husband called him stupid.
"Now, things may seem tense with Donald and Melania, but they also just spent last week on vacation together, so maybe they've patched things up," Colbert said. To get an insight on that, he turned to Late Show Melania Trump impersonator Laura Benanti. So, are Omarosa's allegations true? he asked. "Of course not, Stephen, she is a wacky lowlife," Late Show Melania replied. "What kind of person ends up in the White House after being on The Apprentice? Ohhh." And what about the LeBron James statement? "LeBron shows that it's never too late to leave home and sign with another team," she said, with sartorial backup. Watch the entire exchange, and the ersatz first lady doing the floss, below. Peter Weber
12 ex-U.S. intelligence chiefs defend Brennan, rebuke Trump for using security clearances as a 'political tool'
Late Thursday, a dozen former U.S. intelligence chiefs dating back to the Reagan administration joined retired Adm. William McRaven in openly criticizing President Trump's decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance for what appear to be political reasons. The six former CIA directors, five deputy CIA directors, and one director of national intelligence said in their open letter they felt compelled to respond after Trump's "ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions" regarding Brennan's security clearance.
The intelligence officials defended Brennan as "an enormously talented, capable, and patriotic individual" and said "insinuations and allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Brennan while in office are baseless." They noted pointedly that not all of them have chosen to "speak out sharply" on Trump's perceived "threats to our national security," as Brennan has. But, they added:
Regardless, we all agree that the president's action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances — and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech. You don't have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information. We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case. ... Decisions on security clearances should be based on national security concerns and not political views. [Letter from intelligence chiefs]
Trump is clearly sending a signal to other government officials, they wrote, and "that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable." Officials typically retain their security clearance after they leave the government "in order to ensure institutional continuity and in the event their expertise proves useful to their successors," CBS News explains, and some also use it to obtain jobs in the private sector. Peter Weber