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February 12, 2018

Life is like a box of chocolates, and rebuilding American infrastructure is akin to erecting an ice skating rink. So claimed President Trump on Monday, speaking to reporters on the heels of his administration's unveiling of its long-delayed and much-hyped infrastructure plan.

The 55-page plan calls for a $1.5 trillion investment to improve freeways, bridges, and water resources across the U.S. — just $200 billion of which would come from the federal government. The rest would ostensibly be provided by private or local matches.

Speaking to reporters about the wonders of collaboration, Trump compared the task of improving the country's infrastructure to the time he built an ice skating rink in Central Park. "We're gonna have a lot of great people working. We're gonna also have great companies investing and building, and they'll build for you," Trump said, "because sometimes the states aren't able to [build] like [the federal government] can … or like I used to do it when I did the Wollman Rink."

In the 1980s, Trump helped renovate the Wollman Rink, a process that had been stalled for years before he stepped in. "They couldn't get it built, and I did it in a few months at a much smaller price," he said. Trump said he'd been reminded of the rink "the other day" by someone who "had never forgotten it" and insisted that the rink's expedited construction "remains a big deal." He concluded: "It's really no different with a roadway ... it's no different with a bridge or tunnel or any of the things we'll be fixing."

To the president's credit, he did indeed finish the construction on the Wollman Rink under budget and quicker than expected. Trump came in "about $750,000" under the $3 million budget allotted for the project, The New York Times reported at the time, for a rough total investment of $2,250,000 — or, in other words, significantly less than 1 percent of the budget for Trump's infrastructure plan. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:35 a.m. ET

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doesn't "want to talk about any of the facts" regarding the disappearance of Jamal Khoshoggi.

The U.S.-based Saudi journalist hasn't been seen since he entered Turkey's Saudi Arabian consulate on Oct. 2, prompting a meeting between Pompeo and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. Before Pompeo left Riyadh on Wednesday after the meeting, a reporter asked him if the Saudis had indicated whether Khashoggi was "alive or dead."

"I don't want to talk about any of the facts," Pompeo responded, and the Saudis "didn't want to either." Instead, the Saudis just want "the opportunity to complete this investigation" into Khashoggi's disappearance, Pompeo said, adding that it is "reasonable" to let them do so.

Few details have emerged from Pompeo's meetings with bin Salman and Saudi King Salman. But Pompeo and bin Salman apparently did make a joint call to President Trump, in which bin Salman "totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish consulate," Trump tweeted Tuesday. Turkish officials reportedly have evidence that Saudi operatives killed Khashoggi, but Trump has pushed to presume Saudi Arabia's innocence until the investigation is complete. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:51 a.m. ET
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump apparently needed more than a cash boost from his father to create his booming real estate business.

He and the Trump Organization also worked with "accused money launderers, alleged funders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and a felon who slashed someone in the face with a broken margarita glass" in recent decades to profit off real estate projects around the world using "deceptive practices," an investigation from ProPublica and WNYC revealed on Wednesday.

In the past, the Trump Organization has claimed it wasn't deeply involved with these sketchy characters. Putting the Trump name on a project with questionable partners was just for marketing purposes, and the Trump Organization wasn't actually developing these buildings, it explained. But the ProPublica probe seems to reveal otherwise — and also alleges the Trump family attracted investors and buyers with false sales and ownership figures.

In one of a dozen examples, Trump told a Florida newspaper in 2005 he had a "substantial stake" in a tower being built in Tampa. "In reality, Trump had no ownership stake in the project," ProPublica writes. In another, Ivanka Trump told Portfolio she "sold over 90 percent" of a 1,000-unit building in Panama. Three months later, just 79 percent of the units were gone — and some of them were sold, for lower rates than she claimed, by a broker with ties to the Russian mafia. The project eventually went bankrupt and was stripped of its Trump name.

"These statements weren't just the legendary Trump hype; they misled potential buyers and investors about the viability of the developments," ProPublica and WNYC explain. And when the projects failed, as they often did, the Trumps reportedly still profited before distancing themselves from the failures.

The Trump Organization didn't respond to ProPublica/WNYC's request for comment, and the White House had no comment. Read more at ProPublica and WNYC. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:49 a.m. ET
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Many of Woody Allen's past collaborators have distanced themselves from him, but at least one has now come to his defense.

Javier Bardem, who starred in Allen’s 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, said at the Lumière Film Festival this week that the filmmaker is a “genius” and that he'd “work with him tomorrow," Variety reported Wednesday. He also warned that "public accusations are very dangerous."

Allen's adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, has accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1992 when she was seven years old. Allen denies the allegation, and New York State's Department of Social Services at the time said they found "no credible evidence" to support it, per The New York Times. Farrow stood by her claim in 2014, and her brother, investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, has said his sister's allegation is credible. Although the claim against Allen has been public knowledge for years, the #MeToo movement has spurred many actors who have worked with him to publicly announce they would not do so again, including Michael Caine, Colin Firth, and Greta Gerwig.

Bardem, however, equates this to a "public lynching" of Allen, writes The Hollywood Reporter. He says that if Allen were found guilty in a court of law, things would be different, but for now, "nothing has changed."

Whether Bardem would actually have the chance to work with Allen again remains to be seen, however. The director's latest movie may not be released at all, as several cast members have expressed regret about working on it and donated their salaries to charity. The New York Post reports that Allen has yet to secure financing for any future movies. Brendan Morrow

8:51 a.m. ET
Scott Olson / Getty Images

President Trump appears to be hoping Texas voters have forgotten about the 2016 Republican primaries.

On Twitter Wednesday, the president expressed his support for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after watching his debate with Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke, saying that Cruz has actually "long had my Strong Endorsement!"

This comment seems to raise some questions about how Trump defines "long." Trump famously gave the Texas senator the nickname "Lyin' Ted" back in 2016, accused his father of being involved in the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy, and tweeted out a picture of his wife while threatening to "spill the beans" about her, per CNN. Their feud was even more vicious than that of typical political rivals. Cruz called Trump a "sniveling coward" and refused to endorse him when he spoke at the Republican National Convention, prompting viewers to boo him off the stage.

Trump's attacks on Cruz, in fact, were so brutal that O'Rourke borrowed them during the debate, saying the "Lyin' Ted" nickname stuck "because it's true." Brendan Morrow

8:42 a.m. ET

Congressional Republicans are once again distancing themselves from a shocking tweet made by President Trump.

After Trump referred to adult film star Stormy Daniels as "horseface" on Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told CBS on Wednesday that there is "no place for that kind of language" and that Trump "should not have said that." Ryan conducted the interview alongside Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who called Trump's insult "unacceptable," adding she disagrees with the way the president addresses women.

Several other GOP members of Congress have also criticized Trump for this comment against Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) responded to the tweet by saying, "that's not the way men act," while Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) said that the insult was "unbecoming of any man, let alone the POTUS." Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), typically an ardent Trump defender, felt the tweet went too far, saying that although Trump may be "a street fighter," he's "also the president." Watch Ryan's comments to CBS below. Brendan Morrow

8:18 a.m. ET
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) "single biggest regret of my time in Congress," he told Bloomberg News on Tuesday, is "our failure to address the entitlement issue." McConnell said that the mushrooming federal deficit, which the Treasury Department just said grew to $779 billion last fiscal year — 77 percent higher than when McConnell became majority leader in 2015 — is "very disturbing," but he blamed Medicare and Social Security spending, not the $1.5 trillion tax cut he steered through last year.

"I think it's pretty safe to say that entitlement changes, which is the real driver of the debt by any objective standard, may well be difficult if not impossible to achieve when you have unified government," McConnell said. Because cutting Social Security and Medicare are politically toxic, he added, it will be "very difficult to do entitlement reform, and we're talking about Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid," while Republicans run everything. While top GOP lawmakers have recently proposed cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to shrink the deficit, Democrats reiterated Tuesday that they won't be on board if they win one or both houses of Congress.

When advocating for the tax cuts last December, McConnell predicted they would at least pay for themselves due to stronger growth. The White House blamed the ballooning deficits on stagnant tax revenue and higher spending. "Business tax revenue fell sharply in the first nine months of this year because tax rates were cut under last year's law," The Washington Post notes. "McConnell blamed the recent run-up in the deficit on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, but there haven't been policy changes in those programs to explain the major run-up in the debt in the past two years. The bigger changes have instead been bipartisan agreements to remove spending caps on things such as the military, and last year's tax cut." Peter Weber

7:44 a.m. ET
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It seems Idris Elba has landed his next role. It's not James Bond, but for musical fanatics, it's equally iconic.

Elba is reportedly in talks to join the cast of Cats, the new movie adaptation of the popular (and incredibly bizarre) Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. He'd be playing Macavity, who is essentially the story's villain, per Deadline. In the long-running musical, a group of cats gathers together to decide which of them will be sent to a sort of cat heaven referred to as the "Heaviside Layer."

The Cats movie already had a fairly random lineup of cast members including Taylor Swift, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, and James Corden. Tom Hooper, whose filmography includes the Oscar-nominated 2012 adaptation of Les Misérables, will direct, and Steven Spielberg will produce,Variety reports.

It's certainly a great time to be an Elba fan, as he's also currently filming the Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs and Shaw. Both that and Cats come out in 2019, so be prepared for Elba to get furious and — ahem — furry-ous next year. Brendan Morrow

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