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January 25, 2018

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has whipped up quite a frenzy about a classified memo that he says proves that the FBI improperly surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Many Republicans are now clamoring for Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and author of the document, to go public with it, despite the Department of Justice saying such a move would be "extraordinarily reckless." Fox News has given the supposed scandal prominent coverage, but one network host does not believe the hype: Shep Smith.

In a segment Thursday, Smith questioned Nunes' credibility, pointing out that Nunes has previously made "bogus" allegations about wiretapping abuses. Smith detailed the risks of releasing the memo, explaining that the Justice Department "says it should not be made public as it would damage the nation" and that the document has been called "misleading" by those who have read it.

"A memo can be a weapon of partisan mass distraction," Smith declared. Citing President Trump's possible upcoming interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Smith said that this was "a pivotal moment in American history." The release of the memo, Smith said, "behooves" Trump as it would bolster his efforts to discredit the FBI's investigation.

"Context matters," Smith said. Watch the segment below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

4:33a.m.

The pivotal 2018 elections are in two weeks, "Democrats are presently ahead in the polls, but President Trump's is employing the same winning strategy as of 2016: racism and lying," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. On both fronts, he said, Trump is trying to paint a huge group of Honduran migrants and their kids as a pack of "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners," a veritable "National Emergy" [sic], as he tweeted Monday. "It's not a dog whistle, that's a dog trombone," Colbert said. "He's just stuffing all the fears into one burrito of doom." He suggest a few ingredients Trump might have missed, including "gay spiders."

"Trump is pulling out all the stops in the midterms to try to avoid the impending blue wave," Seth Meyers said on Monday's Late Night. "And the reason these midterms feel so tense is that right now, millions of Americans feel their democracy isn't working." He pointed to GOP gerrymandering, voter purges, and minority rule. Trump is using that anger to beget more anger.

"People are angry that a minority faction is ruling the country and ignoring what most people want, and they've expressed that anger in various ways, like confronting politicians in public or protesting in the capital," Meyers said. Trump and other Republicans are fancifully calling that "mob violence," and Trump has embraced a catchy rhyme. "When Trump finds a rhyme like 'mobs' and jobs,' that his Gettysburg Address," he sighed. "Meanwhile, there are Republicans who are literally violent," and Trump runs his administration like a "protection racket." You can watch Meyers' case for how Trump is "an actual crime boss" below. Peter Weber

3:41a.m.

CIA Director Gina Haspel flew to Turkey on Monday, ahead of a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Turkey's evidence that Saudi Arabia murdered and dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Istanbul's Saudi consulate on Oct. 2, The Washington Post reports, citing people familiar with the matter. "The arrival of the director suggests an effort by the U.S. intelligence community to assess the information the Turks have," including purported audio recordings of Khashoggi's killing, the Post says. "Intelligence officials are increasingly skeptical of the Saudi account and have warned President Trump" to take the Saudis' explanations with a large grain of salt.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia finally acknowledged that Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen and U.S. resident, had died inside its consulate, but claimed it was due to a fight gone awry with rogue agents and that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had no involvement with the plan. Evidence keeps emerging to cast doubt on that story. On Monday, Trump said he's "not satisfied with what I've heard" from Saudi officials, adding: "We have top intelligence people in Turkey. We're going to see what we have. I'll know a lot tomorrow."

The Trump administration and Saudi allies in the region, including Israel and the United Arab Emirates, have vested interests bin Salman and other Saudi royalty being uninvolved in the scandalous murder. "The chief concern for Washington is that Erdogan will reveal details about Khashoggi's killing that implicate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, who has been a key ally for the Trump administration," the Post notes. Peter Weber

2:59a.m.

On Monday evening, police in New York's Westchester County recovered and "proactively detonated" a suspicious device discovered in the mailbox of billionaire philanthropist and conservative bête noire George Soros, The New York Times reports. The Bedford Police Department said it has handed the investigation over to the FBI, which tweeted Monday night that it is conducting an investigation "at and around a residence in Bedford." An employee of the residence "opened the package, revealing what appeared to be an explosive device," the police said in a statement. "The employee placed the package in a wooded area and called the Bedford police." Soros wasn't home at the time.

Soros, an 88-year-old Hungarian-born U.S. citizen who has given at least $18 billion of his fortune to his Open Society Foundations to promote democracy and human rights around the world, started donating to Democratic candidates during George W. Bush's presidency. "His activism has made him a villain to conservative groups and the target of anti-Semitic smears" and bizarre conspiracy theories, the Times notes. His home address, in Bedford's Katonah area, "is posted on pro-Trump Twitter accounts several times a month, including twice Monday," the New York Daily News adds. One of those posts Monday night said that the "only way we can stop them is to cut the head off the snake."

Soros, who once stated he doesn't "particularly want to be a Democrat," says his U.S. political contributions are in service of encouraging bipartisanship and countering the accelerating rightward drift of the Republican Party, the Times says. He gave more than $25 million to Hillary Clinton and other Democratic candidates and causes in the 2016 election — or less than a quarter of the $113 million fellow billionaire Sheldon Adelson has given to Republican candidates and causes in the 2018 election cycle. Peter Weber

2:12a.m.

Saturday Night Live returns to the air on Nov. 3, right before the midterm elections, but SNL cast member Melissa Villaseñor was on Monday's Tonight Show, and it had nothing to do with politics. Villaseñor had challenged Jimmy Fallon to a round of Wheel of Musical Impressions via Instagram, and on Monday's show she drew Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera before nailing Bjork, all singing nursery rhymes. "The world has always wanted to hear this, Bjork doing 'Rock-A-Bye Baby,'" Fallon said. For his part, Fallon requested auto-tune for his Post Malone impersonation but was ready for Barry Gibb all on his own. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:54a.m.

You may not need political experience to work in this White House, but a background in MMA could be helpful.

On Feb. 21, the same day families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victims were visiting with President Trump, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Corey Lewandowski, Trump's first campaign manager, got into a physical altercation, six people with knowledge of the scuffle told The New York Times on Monday. The fight took place outside the Oval Office, and Secret Service agents had to get involved after Kelly grabbed Lewandowski by the collar and attempted to push him up against a wall, people familiar with the incident told the Times.

It started when both men were meeting with Trump, and Kelly was critical of Lewandowski, saying he was making money off of Trump's name, the Times reports. Kelly was also unhappy with Lewandowski for going on television and discussing how he'd handled the situation with Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary accused of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives. Lewandowski did not get physical, people with knowledge of the matter told the Times, and while he still visits the White House, aides make sure he doesn't go near Kelly.

Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, became chief of staff last year. Last week, it was reported he got into a screaming match with National Security Adviser John Bolton over immigration, and Anthony Scaramucci, the onetime White House communications director turned interpretive dancer, blasted Kelly on Sunday's Meet the Press, saying he "hurt the morale inside the place" and "has hissy fits." Read more about Kelly's temperament, and what his supporters have to say about it, at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

1:33a.m.

President Trump was in Texas on Monday to rally for the man he used to call "Lyin' Ted" Cruz. But that was then, in 2016. "Trump is so close to Cruz now, he's even pretending to unveil a new nickname for him," Stephen Colbert laughed on Monday's Late Show. "'Beautiful Ted'? Really? Somewhere, Ted Nugent is weeping over his assault rifle. 'I thought I was Beautiful Ted. Wango saddo.'

"And there's more random cruelty from the Trump administration coming down the pike," Colbert said. "This time they spun the Wheel of Discrimination and they landed on transgender." The Trump administration says its proposed change, to recognize people only by their birth genitalia, rests "on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science." Colbert threw up his hands: "Oh, now you care about science! Wow, how convenient." He poked a little fun at himself and his Lord of the Rings obsession: "Gender is clearly a spectrum, okay? We know this. For instance, I identify as a man, but it's a little fluid. I enjoy getting my hands dirty and repairing boats; then again, my favorite book is about elves and jewelry."

Colbert ended on the "obvious and shocking murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey," and he wasn't buying Saudi Arabia's belated story that their agents killed Khashaoggi accidentally, in a spontaneous brawl. "Saudi Arabia's excuses are so lame that they're being doubted by even the most gullible people, like Donald Trump," he said. But even as he shows some skepticism of the Saudi version of events, Trump insists he doesn't want to cancel weapons deals with Saudi Arabia "because he's protecting America's jobs," Colbert said. "How many jobs? You won't believe how many." Literally, Trump's numbers are unbelievable. Says who? "As Trump put it, 'fake news' from the 'Failing White House,'" Colbert surmised. Watch below. Peter Weber

12:51a.m.

At a rally in Houston Monday night, President Trump declared he's a "nationalist," and urged his supporters to "use that word."

Trump was in Texas to campaign for Sen. Ted Cruz (R), who is running against Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke. "You know, they have a word, it sort of became old-fashioned," Trump said. "It's called a nationalist. And I say, 'Really? We're not supposed to use that world.' You know what I am? I'm a nationalist. Okay? I'm a nationalist." As the crowd cheered him on, Trump said, "use that word. Use that word."

The Democrats, he said, "want to turn back the clock. Restore the rule of corrupt, power-hungry globalists. You know what a globalist is, right? A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can't have that." Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

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