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July 6, 2018

President Trump is clearly an Elton John fan. "Tiny Dancer" was a campaign rally staple, he referred to North Korea's Kim Jong Un as "Rocket Man" on Twitter and before the United Nations General Assembly, John had to shoot down a hopeful Trump team rumor that he was performing at Trump's inauguration, and at a rally in Montana on Thursday evening, Trump bragged about his crowd sizes, telling the audience:

I have broken more Elton John records — he seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don't have a musical instrument. I don't have a guitar or an organ — no organ. Elton has an organ, and lots of other people helping. ... So we break all of these records. Really we do it without like, the musical instruments. This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully, the brain attached to the mouth, right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important. [President Trump, Montana rally]

But it's the "Rocket Man" nickname that is making actual news. During Trump's lunch with Kim in Singapore last month, "Kim mentioned that Trump referred to him as 'Rocket Man' when tensions ran high last year," and "Trump then asked Kim if he knew the song and Kim said no," a diplomatic source in Washington tells South Korea's The Chosunilbo. So Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is bringing a CD with "Rocket Man" with him to Pyongyang on Friday, reportedly bearing a note for Kim from Trump and Trump's signature. Pompeo, who is under mounting pressure to get Kim to agree to concrete denuclearization steps, is also apparently bringing a letter from Trump to Kim. Many experts are skeptical that Kim is open to destroying his nuclear weapons program. Read more about Trump's gifts for Kim at The Chosunilbo. Peter Weber

7:24 a.m. ET

There was some liberal Sturm und Drang when The New York Times hired conservative Wall Street Journal editorialist Bret Stephens for its op-ed stable. But it would be hard to find a liberal columnist with a more damning indictment of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) than the one Stephens meted out Tuesday. Stephens said he shared colleague Gail Collins' enthusiasm for the Texas Senate race for a couple of reasons: "Small reasons: I like Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic challenger, and I like the idea that Texas can turn a bit purple if you have a candidate with energy, wit, and a human touch."

"The big reason," Stephens added, "is that I despise Ted Cruz. That is 'D-e-s-p-i-s-e.'" He explained why, savagely:

Because he's like a serpent covered in Vaseline. Because he treats the American people like two-bit suckers in 10-gallon hats. Because he sucks up to the guy who insulted his wife — by retweet, no less. Because of his phony piety and even phonier principles. Because I see him as the spiritual love child of the 1980s televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining. Because his ethics are purely situational. Because he makes Donald Trump look like a human being by comparison. Because "New York values." Because his fellow politicians detest him, and that's just among Republicans. Because he never got over being the smartest kid in eighth grade. Because he's conniving enough to try to put one over you, but not perceptive enough to realize that you see right through him. Because he's the type of man who would sell his family into slavery if that's what it took to get elected. And that he would use said slavery as a sob story to get himself re-elected. [Bret Stephens, The New York Times]

For what it's worth, Cruz seems kind of obsessed with the race, too. Read more of Stephens' musings at The New York Times. Peter Weber

6:29 a.m. ET
Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

In about five years, the U.S. federal government could starting spending more in interest on its debt than on the military — which accounts for more than half of discretionary spending — or domestic programs like Medicaid, The New York Times reports, citing Congressional Budget Office projections. "The run-up in borrowing costs is a one-two punch brought on by the need to finance a fast-growing budget deficit, worsened by tax cuts and steadily rising interest rates that will make the debt more expensive," the Times explains.

Years of record low interest rates have "allowed the government to take on more debt without paying more interest," says Marc Goldwein at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "That party is ending," and "by 2020, we will spend more on interest than we do on kids, including education, food stamps, and aid to families." Within 10 years, the U.S. will face more than $900 billion a year in interest payments, the CBO projects. Next year, when the federal deficit is forecast to top $1 trillion, interest costs will hit $390 billion, 50 percent more than in 2017.

Interest payments were already going to grow without the massive tax cut Republicans pushed through in December and higher spending approved by both parties in February. But the combination of the tax cuts, spending hikes, and rising interest rates puts the U.S. in the largely uncharted territory of stimulating an already booming economy, giving the government fewer tools for when a recession hits. "There's no guarantee that these forecasts will prove accurate," the Times cautions. "If the economy weakens, rates might fall or rise only slightly, reducing interest payments. But rates could also overshoot the budget office forecast." You can read more, and see some helpful charts, at The New York Times. Peter Weber

4:44 a.m. ET

After tweeting about the "False Acquisitions" Democrats are using to "destroy" Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump also flubbed "accusations" when defending Kavanaugh at the U.N. on Tuesday, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. Things got weird when Trump asked the Colombian president to agree that the Kavanaugh sexual assault accusations are nonsense and a little iffy when he mocked one of Kavanaugh's accusers.

"In other tales of justice, today Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison for sexual assault," Colbert said. "At this point, obviously, no one can defend Bill Cosby — unless you are his publicist," who made some pretty bold comparisons. "If Cosby is like Jesus," he said, "that means in three days he'll be back prowling the streets."

Cosby went straight to jail, Jimmy Kimmel noted on Kimmel Live, and "TMZ did a little research, and they found out that his first meal in jail will include pudding. It's all ... it's like Hakuna Matata." He also laughed at Trump's "False Acquisitions" tweet, but "for me, the scariest part of that tweet is it stayed up for 10 minutes," Kimmel said. "We now know it takes 10 full minutes for someone to be able to get to the president, turn off Fox News, dodge the fried chicken leg hurtling toward their head, and tell him, 'Hey, you spelled accusations wrong.'" That will be an eternity when Trump tweets an insult at a nuclear-armed adversary, he added. "Basically, a hilarious typo just explained how we're all going to die one of these days."

Like his late-night colleagues, Kimmel was puzzled by Kavanaugh's assertion to Fox News that he was a virgin well into college. "Why he admitted this, I don't know," he said. "I mean, does he thinks that helps? Basically what he told us is that for much of his adolescent life he was dangerously horny." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:34 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

It may be true that, as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh joked in 2015, "what happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep." But Yale University? Not so much.

Reporters have apparently spent about a week trying to contact Yale classmates of Kavanaugh and Deborah Ramirez, who says Kavanaugh exposed his genitals to her freshman year, but Kavanaugh's Monday night interview on Fox News prompted some of them to call back. Kavanaugh told Fox News he "never" drank so much he didn't remember things and didn't have sexual intercourse until at least several years into college, among other things.

"He's trying to paint himself as some kind of choir boy," Lynne Brooks, a Republican and former Ramirez roommate, told The Washington Post on Tuesday. She remembers several instances where Kavanaugh was extremely inebriated. "You can't lie your way onto the Supreme Court, and with that statement out, he's gone too far," she said.

Liz Swisher, a Democrat and oncologist who also roomed with Ramirez, said "there's no medical way I can say that he was blacked out," but "it's not credible for him to say that he has had no memory lapses in the nights that he drank to excess." How did she know? "Brett was a sloppy drunk, and I know because I drank with him," she told the Post. "He'd end up slurring his words, stumbling." A freshman roommate of Kavanaugh's and almost a dozen other classmates remember the same thing. Some Yale friends said Kavanaugh drank heavily but not sloppily.

One classmate, Stephen Kantrowitz, tweeted: "Perhaps Brett Kavanaugh was a virgin for many years after high school. But he claimed otherwise in a conversation with me during our freshman year in Lawrance Hall at Yale." Kantrowitz, now a historian, told BuzzFeed News he remembered Kavanaugh's claim "because it was the first time I had had such a conversation with an acquaintance who was not a friend." Peter Weber

2:33 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford have given the Senate Judiciary Committee sworn and signed statements from four people, including Ford's husband, affirming that she told them about her alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as early as 2012, USA Today reported early Wednesday. "The declarations will be used by Ford's attorneys during a committee hearing on Thursday that could determine the fate of Kavanaugh's embattled nomination." Ford says that at a house party in 1982, Kavanaugh and a friend locked her in a room and Kavanaugh pinned her down, tried to remove her clothes, and covered her mouth when she tried to yell for help. Kavanaugh denies the allegation.

Ford's husband, Russell Ford, says that he learned about his wife's experience "around the time we got married" but didn't know the details until 2012. "I remember her saying that her attacker's name was Brett Kavanaugh, that he was a successful lawyer who had grown up in Christine's home town, and that he was well-known in the Washington, D.C., community," he attests. A friend, Adela Gildo-Mazzon, said Ford told her about the alleged assault over dinner in June 2013, Keith Koegler says Ford told him in 2016 during the Brock Turner assault scandal at Stanford and shared Kavanaugh's name in June, and neighbor Rebecca White said Ford described the assault to her in 2017.

For Thursday's hearing, Republicans have hired Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Ford about her allegations on behalf of the all-male Republican Senate Judiciary Committee membership. You can read more about Ford's sworn statements at USA Today. Peter Weber

1:13 a.m. ET

President Trump was so late to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, his speech was bumped back a slot. "Once he actually made it to the U.N., he jumped right into his favorite talking point, himself," a newly beardless Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. The audience of diplomats and world leaders found that topic unintentionally hilarious. "Don't worry, Mr. President, they're not laughing at you," Colbert said. "They're laughing with each other at you."

"After explaining to the countries of the world that America would leave them alone, he started picking on them," Colbert said, playing some examples. "He's working the room like an insult comic. 'Hey, check out Italy over here — hey, you're not fooling anybody with that big boot. Gambia, Gambia, we all know their national motto: Where the hell is Gambia?'" Trump wasn't mean to everyone, though, he noted: "I can't believe the only guy he praised was Kim Jong Un. Putin is gonna be jealous."

Colbert compared the American president's main message — "Trump appeared before the United Nations to reject the premise of nations uniting," he summarized — to a wedding toast, delivered in Trump voice: "Congratulations to Mike and Diane on their wedding. We believe the institution of marriage is a sham, we reject the ideology of monogamy. Diane, when Mike gets fat, call me.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

12:41 a.m. ET

On Monday, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh did something unprecedented, Trevor Noah said on Tuesday's Daily Show: "He went on TV to reassure the nation that he's not a sexual predator." Kavanaugh repeated the phrase "dignity and respect" a conspicuous amount, Noah said, "like it's a vodka brand that pays him for product mentions. 'Whenever I'm at a prep school party, I always treat women with Dignity & Respect.'" He said Kavanaugh's yearbook also basically disproves his claim he's "always" treated women with dignity and respect, especially Renate Dolphin.

"I'm going to be honest: As a man, I haven't always treated women with dignity and respect, so I'm not trying to throw the first stone," Noah said. "What I'm saying, though, is Kavanaugh is trying way to hard to convince everyone that not only did he not assault anyone, he's always been a living saint. ... It seems like Kavanaugh is so desperate to get this gig, that he's willing to say anything — and I mean anything." Dulcé Sloan shared her thoughts on Kavanaugh's assertion he was a virgin well into college, and she went heavy on the virgin-shaming.

Late Night's Seth Meyers focused on the irrelevance of Kavanaugh's assertion: "First thing: It does not matter if you were a virgin. You are being accused of sexual assault, not sexual intercourse. Those things have nothing to do with each other. It's the same as saying, 'I couldn't have robbed that bank, I'm a virgin.'" Meyers also suggested that "if you're trying to distance yourself from sexual assault, maybe Fox News isn't the place to hang out. Usually when they interview someone accused of sexual assault, it's for a job."

The Late Show's Stephen Colbert just spliced himself into the Kavanaugh interview, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

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