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May 11, 2018

Stephen Colbert began Thursday's Late Show with an appreciative nod to the three Korean-Americans who landed in the U.S. early Thursday after being released by North Korea. "The president was there to meet the freed men, along with Melania — who is hoping to be freed next," he joked. "Trump made some brief remarks," and "all he had to do was not thank the murderous dictator who had imprisoned these men in a windowless black hole." He did. Kim "wasn't 'excellent' to them," Colbert said. "And you know the hint that he wasn't? They look happy to be with you."

"Of course, no Trump accomplishment would be complete without a little bragging about ratings," because "this is how history judges all presidential accomplishments: Did it do better than an infomercial for Slapchop?" Colbert said. "Some are attributing this diplomatic victory to Trump's plan to out-'crazy' North Korea," he added, slipping into Trump voice: "Thanks for releasing the hostages, Kim. Now I'm sending them back — didn't see that coming, all right? I've been eating paint chips."

"If Kim Jong Un wants insight into the president," Colbert said, he could just hire Michael Cohen. The payments to Cohen from a Russian oligarch and corporations Colbert talked about Wednesday were "just the tip of the bribeberg," he said. Cohen indulged in some "pretty bald influence-peddling," but he wasn't alone — one GOP consultant said that everyone was hiring "Trump whisperers" in 2017, Colbert said. "A Trump whisperer is like a dog whisperer because, well, there's a lot of indoor peeing and hitting with rolled-up magazines."

Colbert recounted some racial profiling incidents at Nordstrom Rack and Duke University. "We have see far too many of these types of stories popping up in recent months, which leads white people like myself to ask, 'What can we do?'" he said. His solution: a new segment, "Late Show Tolerance Tips." It was pretty comprehensive. Watch below. Peter Weber

9:45a.m.

President Trump is taking his immigration rhetoric up to eleven.

Trump on Thursday urged Mexico "in the strongest of terms" to stop what he called an "onslaught" of illegal immigration into the United States. About 4,000 Central American migrants are heading toward the U.S. in hopes of crossing the border, NBC News reports, and the State Department wants Mexico to stop this caravan when it reaches the border with Guatemala. Mexico has dispatched about 500 officers to confront the caravan, but has said they will treat these migrants the same as any others, reports The Washington Post.

Now, the president is warning that if Mexico is unable to stop the group of migrants, which he said includes "MANY CRIMINALS," he will "call up the U.S. military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!" He also suggested this could damage the recently-signed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as this "assault on our country" is "far more important" than trade.

Trump sought to place blame on Democrats, accusing them, without evidence, of wanting open borders and faulting them for "weak laws" on immigration. Based on his tweetstorm and recent USA Today op-ed, in which he claimed Democrats wanted "open-borders socialism," it seems Trump has found a new favorite talking point for the weeks leading up to the midterms. Brendan Morrow

8:58a.m.

When President Trump referred to Stormy Daniels as "horseface" on Twitter this week, one might have assumed he was acting on impulse. But amazingly, it seems he may have actually given the tweet some thought.

Trump workshopped the "horseface" nickname among White House aides and friends before firing it off, The Daily Beast reports, and he thought the tweet would be "politically advantageous." Some at the White House reportedly told him that going after Daniels would be unwise, but Trump disagreed, apparently feeling that hitting back at her would fire up his conservative base. Daniels has alleged she had an affair with Trump in 2006, an allegation Trump denies.

West Wing officials were still "caught off-guard" when Trump's tweet actually went live Tuesday, The Daily Beast reports. Many congressional Republicans pushed back against the remark, with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) saying there's "no place for that kind of language" and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) saying that Trump is "a street fighter, but he's also the president." Still, many Trump supporters lapped it up, and Fox News host Jesse Watters said Trump's critics were "clutching their pearls." Brendan Morrow

8:32a.m.

The Midwest is posing a challenge for Democrats' hopes of taking the Senate, but the party's prospects are a lot brighter in the gubernatorial races, according to projections from Politico on Thursday. Democratic candidates are expected to win in Illinois, Michigan, and New Mexico, all currently run by Republican governors. Races in GOP-held Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa are tossups, as are contests in Republican states Florida, Georgia, and Nevada. There are seven states that could tip either way, Politico reports, while Republicans are projected to win 17 races and Democrats are projected to win 12. Currently, Republicans hold the governorships in 33 states.

The Democrats' three best shots to flip Republican states are Illinois, where Democrat J.B. Pritzker is significantly ahead of incumbent GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner; New Mexico, where Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) leads Rep. Steve Pearce (R) to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Susana Martinez; and Michigan, where Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is term-limited and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is leading state Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) and just won endorsement from the Detroit Area Chamber of Commerce's PAC, the first Democrat to get the regional business group's backing since 1990.

Democrats even have a shot at winning the governorships of deep-red Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, though Republicans are within striking distance of unseating Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D). You can read more about the races and projections at Politico. Peter Weber

8:18a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is coming out swinging against President Trump, saying his handling of the mounting diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia is hurting the U.S. internationally.

Biden told CBS Thursday that while we don't yet know for sure whether Saudi Arabia was responsible for the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the allegations are "not inconsistent" with the kingdom's behavior, and it's worrying that Trump "seems to have a love affair with autocrats."

Trump has repeatedly floated the idea that the Saudi government may not be behind the killing of the Washington Post columnist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He has emphasized the Saudi kingdom's denial of responsibility, and even suggested "rogue killers" could be to blame. But U.S. intelligence officials are growing more convinced that the Saudi crown prince himself is culpable, per The New York Times.

Biden went on to say that Trump is "already making excuses" for Saudi Arabia "before the facts are known," and this "hurts us internationally." He added that there "absolutely positively" should be consequences if the Saudi government truly was involved, suggesting canceling arms sales to the country could be an option. "The idea that we would not take retaliation against them is ridiculous," Biden said. Watch his comments below. Brendan Morrow

7:02a.m.

The Llano River in central Texas receded on Wednesday, after hitting near-record levels on Tuesday after days of heavy rains. The Llano River, which rose to 30 feet above flood stage, feeds into the Colorado River, and the deluge caused flooding all the way from Llano to Austin. One woman's body was found at a low-water crossing on Wednesday after floodwaters receded, and another person was found dead on the banks of Lake LBJ on Tuesday. At least one bridge, on RM 2900, was washed out completely by the swollen Llano River.

The break in the rains and opened floodgates on dams controlled by the Lower Colorado River Authority helped reduce river levels to just above flood stage on Wednesday, but more rains are expected over the weekend, and with the ground already saturated, the National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for several counties in central Texas. "We really are not sure if this disaster has fully unfolded," said Llano County emergency management coordinator Ron Anderson. "We could see another rise of the Llano River. Whether or not it will be of historic value or not, we do not know yet."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a disaster declaration for 18 counties affected by the flooding on Wednesday. The Austin American Statesman has more photos and numbers in the video below. Peter Weber

6:03a.m.

Saudi Arabia paid $100 million to the U.S. government on Tuesday, the same day Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Riyadh for an apparently friendly discussion with the Saudi rulers about the disappearance and presumed murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen and government critic. A State Department official confirmed the payment on Wednesday but insisted it had nothing to do with the Khashoggi disappearance, widely blamed on the Saudi government.

The money was part of Saudi Arabia's pledged contribution to a U.S. stabilization effort in Syria, the State Department said. The Saudis promised the payment in August, and "questions persisted about when and if Saudi officials would come through with the money," The Washington Post notes. "We always expected the contribution to be finalized in the fall time frame," said Brett McGurk, the State Department envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition. "The specific transfer of funds has been long in process and has nothing to do with other events or the secretary's visit."

Middle East experts, who suspect the Saudis are also planning to compensate Turkey for agreeing to a joint investigation of Khashoggi's disappearance at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, aren't convinced that the timing of the payment is coincidental. "In all probability, the Saudis want Trump to know that his cooperation in covering for the Khashoggi affair is important to the Saudi monarch," Joshua Landis, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, tells the Post. "Much of its financial promises to the U.S. will be contingent on this cooperation." Peter Weber

5:14a.m.

"Voters who actually like Republican ideas are dwindling, so to stay in power the GOP is using techniques like gerrymandering, blocking judicial appointments, and voter suppression — otherwise known as Mitch McConnell's version of the devil's triangle," Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal. "And this week they have outdone themselves." She breezed through recent cases of voter quashing in Arkansas and Ohio but focused on two states: North Dakota and Georgia.

Bee started with the Supreme Court upholding a North Dakota voting law that effectively prevents thousand of Native Americans from casting ballots because they have P.O. boxes, not street addresses. The law disenfranchises a key Democratic constituency "with almost surgical precision," she said, unless they follow a complicated bureaucratic maze. "We called 911 coordinators in North Dakota, and even they weren't sure how this is supposed to work — probably because its not supposed to," Bee said. And the racially disparate voter purges and suspensions by Georgia GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who's overseeing his own bid for governor? She filed that under "How the f--- is that legal?"

"Republicans are getting more creative, and more shameless, about their attempts to block the vote because they know they're not popular enough to win without cheating," Bee said. (There's NSFW language.)

Popular or not, Republicans think they may have found their golden ticket. The "horrific" Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight may have energized Democrats, "but Republicans think it may help them more," Bee said. "But is the 'red wave' real?" Full Frontal sent Allana Harkin and Mike Rubens to a Dallas Cowboys tailgate to find out, and, well, they seemed surprised at what they found. Watch below. Peter Weber

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