×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
January 31, 2018

In a rare public statement, the FBI said Wednesday that it has "grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact" the accuracy of a secret memo backed by Republicans. The memo, which was compiled by GOP staffers for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), reportedly accuses FBI and Justice Department officials of abusing surveillance laws to get court permission to surveil President Trump's campaign adviser Carter Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the document Monday. The FBI said it was "provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it." Democrats have argued that the memo is misleading, could compromise intelligence sources and methods, and aims to undercut the Russia investigation.

President Trump has three days left to review the memo and decide if he should block its release. Read the FBI's full statement below. Jeva Lange

10:25 a.m. ET

A memo for Democratic candidates from debate strategists Ron Klain and John Neffinger advises an aggressive approach to messaging in the 2018 midterms. The document, obtained by Axios, advises Democrats to stay on the offensive this year, to "smile ... and attack."

"Debates are much more confrontational now," argues Klain, who has worked with every Democratic presidential nominee since 1992. "The emphasis has shifted from persuading undecided voters to motivating your own supporters, and showing your supporters you'll fight for what you believe in."

That means goals like "staying above the fray" or "just getting my own message out" aren't good enough, the memo argues. This is not a time for going high when opponents go low.

Strategies thus including maintaining a small smile to look like you are the candidate having the most fun; preparing one-liner comebacks, especially if you're facing a Trump-y candidate who has a few favorite phrases; resisting the urge to play fact-checker on stage; and ending answers with direct attacks on the opponent. And when shaping the post-debate coverage, the memo concludes, "[l]ook for specific issues raised in the debate, especially (but not exclusively) gaffes or odd answers or behavior by your opponent." Bonnie Kristian

10:10 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The cloud of corruption surrounding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is closing in.

Top lobbyist Todd Howe still had a sizable influence on the governor's administration long after he left his post as a Cuomo aide, emails obtained by The New York Times show. Howe was able to push multimillion-dollar construction deals in favor of his clients and arrange Cuomo mansion meetings just months before a federal investigation into several ex-aides' influence was launched.

Cuomo, who is seeking a third term this fall, has already seen two former aides convicted on corruption charges. Howe's cooperation with the federal probe helped make those convictions happen, the Times says — as did emails much like those the Times published Monday.

In one email, a handful of Cuomo officials were discussing how the governor opted not announce multimillion-dollar deals with two business executives in his January 2016 State of the State address. Howe was looped into the email chain and suggested inviting the men to the Executive Mansion to smooth things over; another aide then made the arrangements. Similar emails show Howe inquiring into late payments the state owed two developers — the same developers also targeted in federal corruption cases, the Times reports.

Cuomo has tried to distance himself from Howe as he prepares to fight progressive actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in New York's Democratic gubernatorial primary. Read more about Cuomo's corruption worries at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:57 a.m. ET

President Trump's personal attorney and sufferer of chronic foot-in-mouth syndrome Rudy Giuliani made headlines Sunday when he declared "truth isn't truth." Early Monday, Giuliani hopped on Twitter to try to walk it back:

To be fair, a lawyerly wariness of letting a voluble client with a casual relationship to the truth speak to an experienced federal investigator is not unusual. Still, maybe Giuliani should limit his television appearances on strategic grounds — because his helping isn't helping. Bonnie Kristian

9:14 a.m. ET

President Trump on Monday launched into a tirade against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the investigation he is leading into whether the Trump campaign was involved with Russian election interference. He claimed without evidence that Mueller has been "disgraced and discredited," writing on Twitter that the probe is "looking for trouble" while ignoring corruption within the Democratic Party.

"They are enjoying ruining people's lives," Trump tweeted, additionally claiming that collusion is a "phony crime" and obstruction of justice is an unfair way of punishing Trump when he "fights back." Mueller's investigation has so far filed charges against five Americans, 26 Russians, and one Dutch citizen, along with three Russian businesses. Summer Meza

7:25 a.m. ET

On Monday, Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the world about clerical sex abuse, begging forgiveness for the "suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power, and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons." He called for change to laws and Catholic culture and asked lay Catholics to help effect that change. The Vatican released the letter, a response to a grand jury report from Pennsylvania, as Francis heads to Ireland, which is grappling with its own abuses by the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis was pretty direct:

Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. ... The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. [Pope Francis]

The pope pointed to "clericalism," criticizing this ecclesiastical elitism as a "peculiar way of understanding the church's authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred." He expressed "shame and repentance" on behalf of priests and bishops, writing: "We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them." Pope Francis called for "penance and prayer" by all Catholics, saying fasting "can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary." You can read the entire letter via the Vatican. Peter Weber

6:35 a.m. ET
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Crazy Rich Asians beat shark movie The Meg to take the top spot in its opening weekend, bringing in $25 million in the U.S. box office versus $21.2 million for The Meg and $13.6 million for the No. 3 film, Mile 22. Crazy Rich Asians is the first romantic comedy in three years to win at the box office and the first major Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. The film made $34 million in five days, easily recouping the $30 million it cost to create. "This movie is so culturally significant and so unique in that there hasn't been a cast that's predominately Asian [in years]," said Jeff Goldstein, head of U.S. distribution for Warner Bros. "This is one of those few projects that a whole studio comes together with lots of passion."

The Kevin Spacey-helmed Billionaire Boys Club fared considerably worse, taking in just $126 on Friday, its opening day, and $162 on Saturday. Peter Weber

6:04 a.m. ET

At about 5:30 a.m. in Ankara, Turkey's capital, a gunman in a white car fired six shots at the U.S. Embassy, the Ankara governor said in a statement, The embassy was closed for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, and nobody was injured in the attack. "We can confirm a security incident took place at the U.S. Embassy early this morning," said embassy spokesman David Gainer. "We thank the Turkish National Police for their rapid response."

Tensions are high between Turkey and the U.S. over Turkey's imprisonment of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, which prompted President Trump to double tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports just as the Turkish lira was weakening. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused America of waging economic warfare and steered blame for rising prices and other economic problems toward the U.S. There are fears that Turkey's troubles could spread, causing widespread global economic damage. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads