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February 12, 2018

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed the controversy surrounding Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary accused of domestic violence. Porter resigned last Wednesday after the allegations against him were detailed by his two ex-wives to the Daily Mail and The Intercept. The White House initially defended him against the reports, only to backtrack once The Intercept published graphic photos of one of the women with a black eye — images Porter admitted taking.

In the aftermath of the allegations and Porter's departure, President Trump himself reminded reporters Friday that Porter "says he's innocent." He also tweeted Saturday that "lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation."

Reading from prepared remarks Monday, Sanders insisted that Trump "supports victims of domestic violence and believes everyone deserves to be treated fairly and with due process." The press corps was not placated that easily, as ABC News' Cecilia Vega asked why Trump hadn't made any statement supporting the victims. "Why doesn't the president say exactly what you just said right there?" Vega asked. Sanders maintained that she was "relaying" Trump's words as dictated to her.

Vega pressed Sanders, asking, "Does [Trump] believe Rob Porter's accusers, or are they lying?" Sanders repeated that "the president … [takes] domestic violence very seriously" and is also a firm believer in "due process." When Vega pointed out that Sanders hadn't answered her question, Sanders replied, "I'm not going to go beyond that."

Watch the exchange below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

4:07 a.m. ET

"Trade is a subject on which our current president considers himself particularly expert," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. The problem is, President Trump "seems genuinely confused" by the basics of trade economics, including tariffs and trade deficits, he said, succinctly explaining both concepts for the edification of viewers and in case a certain president of the United States was hate-watching.

To be fair, trade is "one of the most complicated issues there is, technically, politically, and emotionally," Oliver said, but Trump gets almost everything backwards. "The overwhelming consensus among economists is that trade between countries, generally speaking, can create jobs, lower costs, and be a net benefit to both nations," he said. "Essentially, think of trade like sex: If you're doing it right, it can be good for both partners — though the odds of that happening plummet as soon as Donald Trump gets involved." For example, Trump's tariffs may create 26,280 steel and aluminum jobs, according to one estimate, and eliminate 432,747 U.S. jobs elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Trump is listening to the one economist who agrees with him, Peter Navarro, Oliver said. "We're engaged in an escalating trade war that almost no legitimate economist supports, led by a man who honestly doesn't seem to fully understand the mechanics of what he's doing, getting advice from the human equivalent of an all-caps email from your uncle. And the crazy thing is, the effect of all this is the exact opposite of what Trump says he wants. Because if you want to create jobs, you don't do that by cutting off American companies' markets and suppliers, and if you want to curb the abuses of countries like China, you don't do that by pissing off the leaders of every other nation on Earth." He made a short, over-the-top, Navarro-style film to explain trade to Trump, who probably won't see it. You, however, can watch and learn below. Peter Weber

2:54 a.m. ET

A number of national polls have given Democrats the edge going into the 2018 midterm elections and a new CBS News poll of 57 competitive districts found a big reason Republicans appear to be struggling: women. In those 57 battleground districts, most currently held by Republicans, women say they plan to vote for a Democrat by a 12-point margin, 46 percent to 34 percent. Men, meanwhile, say they plan to vote for the Republican by an 8-point margin, 47 percent to 39 percent.

There's a huge partisan split — Republicans say they'll vote for Republicans, Democrats for Democrats. But white women have flipped to the Democrats, 42 percent versus 40 percent for Republicans; that's a reversal from 2016, when nationally, white women backed Republican candidates over Democrats, 55 percent to 43 percent. Independent women favor the Democrats this year, 38 percent to 32 percent, the poll found, and there's an education gap between college-educated white women — 53 percent who plan to vote for a Democrat versus 35 percent for the GOP candidate — and those without college degrees, who say they'll vote for the Republican 44 percent to 35 percent.

On CBS News, Cook Political Report national editor Amy Walter and CBS News polling director Anthony Salvanto explained why the defection of college-educated white women in suburban and exurban areas is so worrisome for the GOP, but said the real threat for Republicans is the enthusiasm gap between fired-up Democrats and on-the-fence Republicans. Walter also said the partisan gap appears historically large this year.

The poll was conducted by YouGov Aug. 10-16 among 4,989 registered voters in 57 swing districts. The topline results have a margin of error of ±1.8 percentage points; the results for women have a margin of error of ±2.4 points. Peter Weber

1:59 a.m. ET
Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

Taliban militants stopped three buses driving through Kunduz province on Monday and abducted more than 100 passengers, including women and children, Afghan authorities said.

Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of a provincial council in Kunduz, told The Associated Press he believes the fighters were trying to find government employees or members of the security forces on the buses. The area where they were abducted is controlled by the Taliban.

Abdul Rahman Aqtash, a police chief in Takhar province, said the passengers were from Takhar and Badakhshan, and headed to Kabul. On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he would be open to a ceasefire with the Taliban through the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. Catherine Garcia

1:37 a.m. ET
iStock

Hope Faith Wiggins set a goal for herself: to read 300 books before the summer was over.

The 8-year-old from Aldine, Texas, was successful, even surpassing that number; in mid-August, she had 302 books finished. She spent her entire summer with a book in her hand, and told ABC 13 she likes reading because "it's fun. It's like being inside of a whole other world. You can imagine that you're the character, and for me, one thing that happens when I read a book or watch a video is I dream about it."

Her mother told ABC 13 the "library opened up so many worlds. It was like a vacation, but inside our house." Wiggins read so many books that sometimes when her mother would suggest a title, she had to tell her she already read that book earlier. Wiggins, who said one of her favorite books is Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama's First Words to America, received a medal from her library for completing the summer reading challenge. Catherine Garcia

1:33 a.m. ET

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) spent his August break traveling across the U.S. to shore up vulnerable House Republicans and, not coincidentally, bolster his bid to take over as leader of the House Republican caucus when Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) steps down, The Washington Post reports. McCarthy is close with President Trump, but he "faces persistent doubts among the most conservative GOP voters, who have long seen him as part of an establishment that has sought to sideline their views," the Post says. Those doubts helped sink his 2015 bid to become House speaker, and so he has been working "to strengthen his standing with conservatives by pushing for House action on spending cuts and hard-line immigration measures."

And recently, McCarthy, 53, has joined the ranks of Republicans accusing Twitter of censoring conservatives, a charge made on Twitter by Trump himself this weekend. But McCarthy's example of Twitter bias toward conservatives mostly demonstrated that he has chosen, wittingly or unwittingly, to screen out "sensitive content." As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a 78-year-old grandmother, pointed out:

McCarthy shot back on Twitter, "Once again Nancy has no idea what is going on," without explaining what Pelosi purportedly doesn't understand. In any case, if you, unlike McCarthy, would like to see "sensitive content" on Twitter without the scourge of "censorship," the Twitterati are happy to show you which box to check. Peter Weber

1:10 a.m. ET
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Lin Keitch thought her ring, a 40th birthday present from her husband, was gone forever, until dinner one night last week.

Her husband, Dave Keitch, dug out some vegetables from their garden in Somerset, England, and gave them to her to clean. "I cut the greens off and scrubbed them, and I thought, 'What's that? Goodness, it's my ring,'" she told BBC News.

Lin Keitch, 69, gave the ring to her daughter after it became too small for her, and she lost the ring in the garden at least 12 years ago. Lin Keitch and her husband were both surprised to see the carrot managed to grow through the ring, which even though it was covered in dirt, she instantly recognized. Dave Keitch said he would always look for the piece of jewelry when he was out there in the garden, and called it a "chance in a million" discovery. Catherine Garcia

12:27 a.m. ET
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Kering

In November 2017, a month after The New Yorker published its bombshell exposé of Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual predation, actor and musician Jimmy Bennett contacted one of Weinstein's accusers, Italian actress and director Asia Argento, through a lawyer, asking for $3.5 million in damages related to a traumatizing sexual encounter in 2013, The New York Times reports, citing documents related to legal a settlement. Argento agreed to pay Bennett $380,000 over two years. Bennett was 17 and Argento was 37 when they had sex in her hotel room in California, the documents say. The age of consent in California is 18.

After accusing Weinstein of raping her, Argento became a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement.

Bennett, who started acting at age 6, was cast as Argento's son in a 2004 movie, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, when he was 7, and they stayed in intermittent contact. "Jimmy's impression of this situation was that a mother-son relationship had blossomed from their experience on set together," his lawyer, Gordon Sattro, wrote in the notice of intent to sue. The documents, including a May 2013 selfie of the Argento and Bennett in bed, were sent to the Times by an unidentified party via encrypted emails.

The agreement did not include a nondisclosure clause, as California state law doesn't allow them and Argento declined to get around that by using a New York lawyer, "because you felt it was inconsistent with the public messages you've conveyed about the societal perils of nondisclosure agreements," her lawyer, Carrie Goldberg, wrote to Argento. "Bennett could theoretically tell people his claims against you," though "he is not permitted to bother you for more money, disparage you, or sue." Argento did not respond to numerous requests for a response, directly and through multiple representatives, the Times notes, and Bennett declined to be interviewed via his lawyer. Peter Weber

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