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April 18, 2018

Stephen Colbert started off his interview with former FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday's Late Show by jokingly asking for his loyalty, as President Trump allegedly did, and Comey stared him down for a minute. Colbert lightened things up by pouring them paper cups of pinot noir, like Comey drank on the plane ride back to Washington after Trump fired him last year.

Comey explained his comparison of Trump and his entourage to a mafia family. "If you felt like you were working for a mob boss, were you surprised that you got whacked?" Colbert asked. Comey laughed and said no, "because that would be a crazy thing to do — why would you fire the FBI director who's leading the Russia investigation?" "Because you're leading the Russia investigation," Colbert said. "I don't know if you've dealt with mob bosses before, but they don't like to be investigated." Comey told Colbert that yes, he does know classified things about the Russia investigation, but he can't talk about them. "Drink some more wine," Colbert joked.

When Colbert asked Comey how he felt about Trump tweeting mean things about him, Comey joked that he's "like a breakup he can't get over. ... I'm out there living my best life. He wakes up in the morning and tweets at me." He said he wasn't "trying to make fun" or light of Trump with his one paragraph describing Trump's hair, skin, and hands, he was just "trying to observe and report," like an author.

Colbert had some tough questions about Comey's decisions on the Hillary Clinton email investigation, then asked if Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation ends if Trump fires Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein? "I think most likely it goes on. I think you would need to fire everyone in the Justice Department and the FBI to stop that investigation," Comey said. "I could imagine U.S. attorney's offices picking it up, FBI field offices picking it up. I think it would be very hard to shut that down by firing."

Comey ended on a hopeful note, affirming his belief that America will thrive after Trump. "I see all parts of civil society, the media, the courts, even Congress starting to get off its read end — I see parts of this country being energized that haven't been energized, frankly, since the last great forest fire, which was Watergate." Watch below. Peter Weber

1:38 p.m. ET

Despite President Trump's focus on the matter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) doesn't think the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are ultimately consequential.

McConnell on Friday spoke at the Values Voter Summit, and sounded very confident that allegations from Christine Blasey Ford are a mere hiccup in Kavanaugh's confirmation process, as his GOP colleague said. He reassured the audience that "in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court," and received a standing ovation.

"Don't get rattled by all of this," he said. "We're going to plow right through it, and do our job." Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh forcibly groped her when they were in high school. McConnell called the allegations, and subsequent call for a delay in Kavanaugh's confirmation, obstructive "tactics" that Republicans would overcome. And if "plowing through" angered his Democratic colleagues, all the better. Bloomberg reports that McConnell also riled up the crowd by reveling in the discontent. "Look how angry the left is," he said. "The angrier they get, the better we're doing." Watch the moment below, via C-SPAN. Summer Meza

1:29 p.m. ET
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Netflix loves to revive shows that are struggling to attract audiences on traditional television. Its latest target may be the most needy yet.

Vanity Fair reported Friday that "key people" at the Academy are beginning to discuss whether the Oscars should move to a streaming service in the future, rather than continue languishing on television. The show has been losing viewers on TV year after year, with fewer people watching in 2018 than ever before, per Variety. One anonymous board member told Vanity Fair that "TV is going nowhere. So why don’t we just get our money [from a streaming deal], not worry about ratings, and call it a day?”

The report also states that Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, approached the Academy last year to express interest in streaming the Oscars. The Academy's options are limited for now, as it has a deal with ABC that lasts until 2028. Academy governor Sid Ganis told Vanity Fair that the organization and ABC are "happily partners."

Clearly, though, the powers that be have recognized the need to shake things up. The Academy has delayed plans to introduce a "best popular film" award after the idea received swift blowback, but it stills intend to cut down the length of the show in 2019, hoping a shorter runtime will keep more people engaged. But if these tweaks don't stanch the ratings bleed, it seems like the Oscars could celebrate their 100-year anniversary in 2029 by making their streaming debut. Brendan Morrow

11:54 a.m. ET
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President Trump began the week by ordering that certain documents related to the Russia investigation be declassified. He's ending the week by walking that demand back.

On Monday, Trump ordered the Justice Department to declassify some materials related to the Russia investigation, including pages of the warrant the FBI obtained to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016, The New York Times reports. He also called for the release of text messages between DOJ and FBI officials who the president has accused of being biased against him. Trump faced criticism for pushing the release of documents related to an ongoing investigation that his campaign is the subject of, and Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the Justice Department would still heavily redact the documents before releasing them.

Now, Trump is walking the order back entirely, saying on Twitter that the Justice Department feels releasing the documents "may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe." Trump also said that "key Allies" have asked him not to release the documents, echoing his statement in an interview on Thursday that he's "dealing with foreign countries that might have a problem" with the declassification order. Therefore, Trump has instead asked the inspector general to "review these documents on an expedited basis." But the president concluded by teasing he may change course yet again, writing, "In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary." Brendan Morrow

10:57 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

It's easy to win a battle when your opponent isn't in the room.

That was reportedly senior adviser Stephen Miller's strategy for convincing President Trump to cap refugee admissions at 30,000 in 2019. Miller pushed for the record-low limit in a meeting with top Trump administration officials, NBC News reported Friday — but didn't invite colleagues who he thought might make his job more difficult.

Miller reportedly left U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and other officials out of the meeting. The ones who weren't invited, curiously, were officials who have consistently voiced opposition to further lowering the refugee admission ceiling. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the change Monday, not commenting on whether he had had a change of heart since his previous preference for a higher cap. Sources told NBC News that Pompeo eventually bent to Miller's will. "Pompeo got rolled," said one former official.

Miller also headed up the Trump administration's efforts to strictly limit immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, as well as the zero-tolerance policy that lead to migrant families being separated at the southern border. He is an increasingly powerful voice on immigration, reports Politico, gaining favor with Trump with his hard-line views. Read more at NBC News. Summer Meza

10:34 a.m. ET

It wasn't quite the Butt Fumble, but still: Thursday night wasn't a great one for fans of the New York Jets.

The Jets relinquished a 14-point first-half lead to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, eventually falling to the home team 21-17. The Browns' victory was their first since Dec. 24, 2016, when they defeated the San Diego Chargers 20-17. Over 635 winless days, Cleveland had failed to prevail in 19 straight games, the NFL's second-longest winless streak since the AFL merger in 1970, per The Boston Globe. In Week 1, the Browns managed a 21-21 tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which technically ended their losing streak at 17 games.

Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield entered the game for Cleveland in the second quarter after starting signal-caller Tyrod Taylor exited with an injury, with the Browns trailing by two touchdowns. Mayfield, the first overall pick in the 2018 draft, threw 17-23 for 201 yards and caught a two-point conversion to seal Cleveland's win. The Jets were led by a rookie of their own under center in Sam Darnold, but Darnold completed just 15 of his 31 passes and threw two picks.

Cleveland fans were understandably a little excited after their team finally, finally picked up a victory:

See more footage of jubilant Browns fans here, or check in on sad Jets fans here. Kimberly Alters

9:43 a.m. ET

Former Vice President Joe Biden still has regrets over the way Anita Hill was treated by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

While speaking to Today on Friday, Biden addressed Christine Ford's sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, saying that Ford "should not have to go through what Anita Hill went through." Hill accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991 and was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Biden was the chairman of the committee at the time, and he has been criticized by his fellow Democrats for not putting a stop to questions that impugned Hill's character, as well as for not bringing in witnesses who could have backed Hill's claims, Politico reports.

"What the devil have we learned [from the Hill hearings]?" Biden asked rhetorically. He pointed to "some of the questions [Hill] was asked" and the way her integrity was questioned as mistakes not to be repeated in the Senate's handling of Ford's allegations.

Biden didn't totally let himself off the hook for his handling of the Hill hearings, either, saying, "I wish I could've done more to prevent" senators from engaging in "character assassination" when Hill came forward. "I hope my colleagues learn from that," Biden said. "[Ford] deserves to be treated with dignity."

Watch Biden's full appearance on Today below. Brendan Morrow

9:35 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward Sunday afternoon to detail to The Washington Post what she described as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempting to rape her at a high school party in the 1980s. By Tuesday morning, several Twitter accounts had posted her address, a different Christine Ford had been harassed after being fingered by a conservative news site, and by Tuesday evening, Ford's lawyers wrote to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley that Ford had been the target of "vicious harassment and even death threats," her email had been hacked, and she was being impersonated online.

Ford and her family "moved out of their home as a security precaution, and she and her husband are staying apart from their two children," The San Jose Mercury News reported Tuesday. "Judge Kavanaugh’s wife, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, also has faced threats, which are being investigated by the U.S. Marshals Service," The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing a senior administration official. "She has received two profane notes on her work email account in recent days" from the same account, one of which suggested Kavanaugh tell her husband he should "put a bullet in his ... skull." CNN also saw some abusive emails to Ashley Kavanaugh.

At least two Senate Judiciary Committee members, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), have also reported getting vulgar and threatening messages, including sexual violence against staffers. "In one case — and we are going to turn this over to the police, but unfortunately, of course, the person didn't leave a name or number — but they actually threatened to rape one of my young female staffers," Collins told the Journal. Feinstein reported similar threats against specific staff members. Peter Weber

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