FBI Director Christopher Wray has muddled the White House's official story about the departure of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter. Porter resigned last Wednesday after two of his ex-wives claimed to have suffered years of physical and mental abuse at his hands. The White House initially defended Porter against the allegations and claimed not to have known about them until last week, but Wray called that assertion into question Tuesday during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Wray: "Was the FBI aware of allegations related to Rob Porter and domestic abuse? And if so, when was the White House informed this could affect his security clearance?" The FBI director noted a "limit" to what he could disclose publicly, but said his intelligence agency "submitted a partial report on the investigation … in March" of 2017, and that a background check on Porter was completed by July of last year. He continued: "Soon thereafter we received requests for a follow-up inquiry … and provided that information in November." Wray said that this month the FBI "received some additional information and we passed that on as well," but the investigation officially concluded in January.
FBI Director Wray on Rob Porter background investigation: "We administratively closed the file in January. And then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well."
Watch Senate Intelligence Cmte – LIVE C-SPAN3 https://t.co/kmRM1pLJeS pic.twitter.com/4LJ3x78Z3p
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 13, 2018
Wray's statements seem to contradict the White House's story about the FBI background check. As The Wall Street Journal's Rebecca Ballhaus points out, White House spokesperson Raj Shah claimed the background check into Porter was "ongoing" when the allegations came to light. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the same assertion Monday. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the PBS show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and PBS and the U.S. are gearing up to celebrate the legacy of Fred Rogers, its creator and star. Next week, PBS will pair thematically similar episodes of Mister Rogers and its 2012 spinoff, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, and on March 6, PBS will broadcast the star-filled retrospective Mister Rogers: It's You I Like. A Fred Rogers biopic starring Tom Hanks is in the works, and the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? is coming to theaters after its well-received debut at Sundance. The U.S. Postal Service is rolling out a Forever stamp featuring Rogers and his puppet King Friday XIII on March 23.
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood debuted on Feb. 19, 1968, and officially ended its 31-year run (it was on hiatus from 1976 to 1979) on Aug. 31, 2001. Rogers died of stomach cancer at age 74 in 2003. "Mister Rogers is producing these programs bookended between the beginning of 1968 ... and just before the Sept. 11 attacks," says Robert Thompson at Syracuse University. "He took American childhood — and I think Americans in general — through some very turbulent and trying times." One Rogers quote in particular continues to make the rounds on social media after school shootings and other tragedies: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"
"He's more relevant than ever right now," says Amy Franzini at Pennsylvania's Widener University. "He's a dependable figure we can fall back on that makes us feel safe. ... He's the good in the world." "This is the year of Fred," said David Newell, who played the "speedy deliver" post man Mr. McFeely. "The program has really resonated — it's very rewarding. People in their 50s now are the first generation that watched the Neighborhood, and it goes all the way down to teens." Peter Weber
John Oliver shows how the world is laughing at Trump's America, offers a star-struck immigrant's defense
Last Week Tonight returned from its winter hiatus on Sunday night, and John Oliver's main topic was President Trump — again. "But tonight we'd like to do it from a slightly different angle," he said, "and that is focusing on his relationship with the world." It isn't good. Oliver did a brief survey of Trump insulting other countries, from his "shithole" slur on Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador, to his revealing excuse for retweeting anti-Islam videos from a British fringe group.
"That is exactly his attitude: If it wasn't big where I could see it, then it wasn't big," Oliver said. "So forget foreign affairs — Trump may not have mastered object permanence, which you really need to be a president, or even a good f---ing baby." But "the world continues to exist whether Trump acknowledges it or not," he said, focusing on a few "basic questions": "What is Donald Trump's foreign policy," "how is his approach to the world going," and "what are the consequences"? The short answers are "America First," horribly, and America is losing to China.
Oliver spent some time on Trump's promise that the world would stop laughing at America if he were elected. "If anything, the world is laughing harder than ever before," he said, showing Trump impersonators and world leaders making fun of Trump around the world. Still, there's nothing funny about the leadership vacuum America has left in the world.
"It seems like America's reputation overseas is under attack from its own president — which is just ridiculous," Oliver said. "Soft power is an act of salesmanship, it's selling your brand — it is the one thing that Trump is supposed to be good at, and he's f---ing blowing it. So as an immigrant who has fallen in love with this country, for what it's worth, please allow me to speak to the rest of the world in America's defense for a moment." There is some NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber
"Of course the president can lead on this and should lead on this, and Mr. President, I ask you to do this," Kasich said on CNN's State of the Union. "You don't have to boil the ocean, but take some steps now," he continued. "I believe those who are Second Amendment advocates realize that common-sense, real reforms can happen in this country to answer the cries and the anguish of people all across this country who have lost loved ones."
Kasich specifically recommended more extensive background checks as well as "local law enforcement or the FBI" monitoring those believed to suffer from mental illness or emotional distress. Watch an excerpt of his CNN interview below. Bonnie Kristian
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 18, 2018
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting on Wednesday, on Sunday announced "March for Our Lives," a demonstration for new gun control legislation scheduled for Saturday, March 24, in Washington, D.C., and cities around the country.
"People are saying that it's not time to talk about gun control. And we can respect that," said Cameron Kasky, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas junior who explained the event on ABC's This Week. "Here's a time: March 24 in every single city. We are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives," Kasky continued. "At this point, you're either with us or against us."
Kasky and four fellow Stoneman Douglas students — Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind, and Jaclyn Corin — made a similar appearance on Fox News Sunday. Watch a clip of that interview below. Bonnie Kristian
Stoneman Douglas students announce March for Our Lives on March 24. "One of the things we've been hearing is that it's not the yet time to talk about gun control... so here's the time we're going to talk about gun control." pic.twitter.com/CLUf6JM9fs
— Axios (@axios) February 18, 2018
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Sunday offered a qualified defense of President Trump's claim that he has been vindicated by the evidence revealed in federal investigations of Russian election meddling.
Friday's indictment of Russian nationals and entities by Special Counsel Robert Mueller "proves there’s no collusion to this point," Christie said on ABC's This Week. "There's no collusion in terms of the Facebook ads, the other social media activity."
"Director Mueller made it very clear in the indictment that any participation by anybody — whether it was in the Trump campaign or the [Bernie] Sanders campaign, which they said was also being assisted by this effort by Russia — that all of that was done unwittingly," Christie continued. "No one participated in a knowing fashion. Now, we have to see where [Mueller] goes next, but certainly at this point, there is no allegation by Director Mueller and his team of collusion."
Watch a clip of Christie's comments below, or read his full interview here. Bonnie Kristian
Does @GovChristie believe the new Russia indictments prove there was no collusion by the Trump campaign? He tells @MarthaRaddatz “Well, it proves there’s no collusion to this point… we have to see where [the special counsel] goes next.” pic.twitter.com/Qtvbse9G9R
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) February 18, 2018
President Trump posted a pair of tweets Sunday morning aimed at Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), whom he dubbed "Liddle' [sic] Adam Schiff, the leakin' monster of no control." The president was pleased with Schiff's Friday statement that Russian meddling in U.S. politics should have been addressed sooner and more forcefully by the Obama administration. However, he also suggested Schiff's true motive was excusing Hillary Clinton's election loss.
Later Sunday, on CNN's State of the Union, Schiff hit back. Friday's indictment of Russian nationals "ought to put to rest for anyone, including the president who continues to call this a 'witch hunt,' that the evidence is now overwhelming and unequivocal and we need to move to protect ourselves from Russian interference in elections that are coming up," Schiff said.
Asked whether he concurs with Trump's frequent claim that his campaign has been proven innocent of collusion with Russian election meddling, Schiff disagreed. "No, of course not," he said. "This is a president who claims vindication anytime someone sneezes."
Watch an excerpt of the interview below. Bonnie Kristian
Rep. Adam Schiff on the Russia indictment: “The evidence is now overwhelming and unequivocal and we need to move to protect ourselves from Russian interference in elections that are coming up” #CNNSOTU https://t.co/RHY23eupjK
— CNN (@CNN) February 18, 2018
An Iranian passenger plane heading to Tehran crashed Sunday morning in a mountainous rural region. All 66 people on board, 60 passengers and six crew members, are presumed, though not confirmed, to be dead. Retrieval efforts have been hindered by the crash site's remote location and bad weather.
Iran has a poor record on aviation safety because international sanctions intended to restrain its nuclear development make it difficult to obtain parts to keep planes in good condition. This plane, operated by Aseman Airlines, was 25 years old. The airline signed a contract with Boeing last year to purchase a new fleet of as many as 60 planes, but that agreement could be jeopardized if the Trump administration seeks to exit the Iran nuclear deal. Bonnie Kristian