March 14, 2018

President Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday. "The strange part about this is ... everything," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "But strangest of all is how Trump told him, via tweet. ... What could be worse than learning you got fired from your boss' tweet? Oh, maybe seeing that 86,000 people 'liked' it. 'I lost my job but I am #trending,'" Colbert joked. "It's too bad Twitter wasn't around when Trump ended his first two marriages — back then he had to do it by fax."

The White House said it did not fire Tillerson by tweet, but via a phone call from Trump last Friday — but State Department spokesman Steve Goldstein contradicted that, saying Tillerson did not have advance warning and had planned to stay on. Colbert laid out a scenario where the White House apologized to Tillerson for getting it wrong, said he was just kidding, then explained what really happened: Trump fired Goldstein, too. Trump kind of elaborated on why he let Tillerson go, but one phrase caught Colbert's attention: "Rex will be much happier now? Every word in that sentence is what you say to a child when their dog has been put down."

So what was the final straw for Tillerson. "We don't know for sure — but yes we do, it was Russia," Colbert said, pointing out that just one day earlier, after the White House declined to blame Russia, Tillerson had strongly criticized Moscow for the attempted murder of a former Russian spy in Britain and said it would certainly "trigger a response." And it did, Colbert noted: "Goodbye, Rex. ... Tillerson should have known better. Russia has denied the whole thing, and the only thing worse than contradicting your boss is contradicting your boss' boss." Tillerson said his public farewells, but notably he "didn't mention Donald Trump" at all, Colbert said. "Sounds like Rex just made $130,000." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:25 p.m. ET

President Trump announced plans to expand U.S. nuclear capabilities during his signing of the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill Friday, pledging to create the "most powerful nuclear force on Earth."

The president leaned heavily on his praise of increased military and defense funds within the federal spending bill, which he said he signed reluctantly after threatening a veto earlier Friday.

"We're spending a lot of money on nuclear, our nuclear systems, to upgrade and in some cases brand new, whether it's submarines, nuclear submarines, and others," he said.

Trump claimed that building up the U.S. nuclear arsenal would mean that no other country would "come even close" in capability.

"We'll have by far the most powerful nuclear force on Earth and it will be absolutely in perfect shape and condition and hopefully, praise be to God we don't ever have to use it," he said. Watch his remarks below, via Fox News. Summer Meza

2:15 p.m. ET
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

In his usual disappointing fashion, Punxsutawney Phil spotted his shadow on Groundhog Day and promised six more weeks of winter.

That was seven weeks ago. So with the Northeast freshly coated by another massive storm, a Pennsylvania sheriff is coming after the dishonest rodent.

The Monroe County Sheriff's office put up a wanted poster accusing a brown-haired, 20-pound suspect of "deception," WBRE reported.

The groundhog is still at large, but the public is encouraged to phone in tips on the fugitive's whereabouts. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:04 p.m. ET

President Trump addressed recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program during his signing of the omnibus spending package Friday, telling young immigrants brought into America illegally as children: "The Republicans are with you."

Trump further insisted: "The Democrats fought us. They just fought every single inch of the way. They did not want DACA in this bill." He added that he wants "the Hispanic community to know and DACA recipients to know that Republicans are much more on your side than the Democrats, who are using you for their own purposes."

Trump announced in September that he would end DACA earlier this month, but a number of court rulings have blocked the president from successfully terminating the Obama-era protections. Jeva Lange

1:45 p.m. ET

President Trump on Friday reluctantly signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress, after writing on Twitter earlier in the morning that he was "considering a VETO." With his tweet, Trump had built up the hopes of some critics who are angry about a resulting budget deficit of more than $800 billion this year, including Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who urged Trump to "please do" veto the measure.

Trump said he signed the bill "to take care of our military," but vowed, "I will never sign another bill like this again." He called for Congress to give him the power of a line-item veto for spending bills and to kill the legislative filibuster in the Senate. "Nobody read it," he said of the legislation he signed. "It's only hours old. Some people don't even know what's in it."

The omnibus provides $1.6 billion for the border wall, far short of what the White House wanted, but it also increases spending on the military and border protection. It does not address the DACA program, which provides protections for young undocumented immigrants. Jeva Lange

12:32 p.m. ET

In an idea that makes bringing knives to a gunfight sound like a prudent decision, the superintendent of the Blue Mountain School District in Pennsylvania has suggested equipping classrooms with "five-gallon bucket[s] of river stone" so that "if an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance into any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full [of] students armed with rocks and they will be stoned."

The idea, first reported by Pennsylvania's ABC 16, came to Dr. David Helsel, who announced it at the House Education Committee meeting in Harrisburg. He stressed that the rocks ought to be "the right size for hands" and that they need to be thrown "very hard" in order to fend off a potential attacker who could be armed with a semi-automatic rifle.

One student, a senior at Blue Mountain High School, said he liked the idea because "anything helps, rocks are better than books and pencils." A college student in Schuylkill Haven dismissed the idea as "rather comical."

President Trump has controversially suggested arming teachers, an idea that perhaps could be a little more effective than rocks, although it has widely been criticized by school officials.

Maybe everyone just needs to take a deep breath and go back to the drawing board. Has anyone considered sling shots? Spitballs? Jeva Lange

12:02 p.m. ET

Sparring partners Chris Cuomo and Kellyanne Conway were at it again on CNN's New Day on Friday morning, debating the hypothetical fist-fight between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Cuomo blasted Trump for focusing on such distractions, wondering "how difficult is it to get the job done there," while the White House counselor waved off his complaints.

Trump "doesn't spend much time on that," Conway insisted, claiming that it is Biden and "that woman who lost the election whose name I don't say on your network anymore" that "seem pretty obsessed."

Cuomo said that "only one" of the people engaged in the debate is the president, although Conway countered that Biden "was vice president for eight years" and Hillary Clinton was "a former secretary of state and [a] twice failed presidential candidate." Conway asked: "They have considerable platforms, why aren't they using them for more good?"

Cuomo shut her down: "Don't take us down that road," he said. "I don't care what she's doing. She's not in charge of keeping my kids safe ... You guys are. You're in power." Watch the heated exchange below. Jeva Lange

11:41 a.m. ET

The Department of Justice has charged nine Iranians in a major hacking conspiracy that targeted American universities and government agencies. The Trump administration on Friday announced criminal indictments against the alleged hackers, who were involved in "massive, coordinated cyberintrusions" at the behest of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an intelligence-gathering arm of the Iranian government.

Also Friday, the Treasury Department announced sanctions against 10 Iranians, in tandem with the DOJ's indictments. Nine of the sanctioned individuals were the nine indicted Friday, who are "leaders, contractors, associates hackers-for-hire or affiliates" of the Mabna Institute, an Iranian company accused of working with Tehran to steal more than 31 terabytes of intellectual property and data in what officials called a "significant, malicious" attack. The 10th individual was indicted in November for involvement in hacking HBO computer servers.

The stolen data was "one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns" ever, officials said, affecting at least 300 universities worldwide, 144 of which were in the United States. The Department of Labor, the United Nations, and the states of Hawaii and Indiana were also targeted, a DOJ announcement stated.

The revealed cyberattacks "should send a message around the world about Iran's continued deceptive practices," said Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, "but it should come as no surprise."

Those sanctioned will have American assets frozen and will be blocked from traveling to more than 100 countries at risk of being extradited to the U.S. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

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