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July 29, 2018

President Trump on Twitter Sunday did a stunningly good impression of a toddler throwing a tantrum as he threatened to shut down the federal government to force Congress to appropriate funds for his promised border wall construction:

In earlier tweets on the subject, Trump accused migrant parents of using their children for "sinister purposes" and quoted praise for himself from the former director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Trump has reportedly said in the past he believes shutdowns can advantage him politically. His tweets come as 711 migrant children remain in federal custody after being separated from their parents at the border by the Trump administration. A court-ordered deadline to reunite the families has already passed.

Read The Week's Paul Waldman on how Trump has chosen "the dumbest political fight ever" by threatening a shutdown — and Matthew Walther on why it's an obvious choice for Trump to make. Bonnie Kristian

7:44 a.m. ET
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It seems Idris Elba has landed his next role. It's not James Bond, but for musical fanatics, it's equally iconic.

Elba is reportedly in talks to join the cast of Cats, the new movie adaptation of the popular (and incredibly bizarre) Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. He'd be playing Macavity, who is essentially the story's villain, per Deadline. In the long-running musical, a group of cats gathers together to decide which of them will be sent to a sort of cat heaven referred to as the "Heaviside Layer."

The Cats movie already had a fairly random lineup of cast members including Taylor Swift, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, and James Corden. Tom Hooper, whose filmography includes the Oscar-nominated 2012 adaptation of Les Misérables, will direct, and Steven Spielberg will produce,Variety reports.

It's certainly a great time to be an Elba fan, as he's also currently filming the Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs and Shaw. Both that and Cats come out in 2019, so be prepared for Elba to get furious and — ahem — furry-ous next year. Brendan Morrow

6:38 a.m. ET
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Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any involvement by the Trump campaign is still chugging along, quietly, but "Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections as he faces intensifying pressure to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation," Bloomberg News reported early Wednesday, citing two U.S. officials. "Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry," whether there is clear evidence of collusion, and whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.

If Mueller does issue those reports, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein may still prevent them from being sent to Congress or made public. Rosenstein has been privately pressuring Mueller to wrap up his investigation as quickly as possible, and President Trump has been doing so publicly, Bloomberg reports, but a lot could change after the Nov. 6 elections: Notably, Rosenstein and/or Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be gone, giving Mueller a new boss, and Democrats could win control of one or both houses of Congress, changing the political calculus in Washington.

"That suggests the days and weeks immediately after the Nov. 6 election may be the most pivotal time since Mueller took over the Russia investigation almost a year and a half ago," Bloomberg says. "So far, Mueller has secured more than two dozen indictments or guilty pleas. ... And because Mueller's investigation has been proceeding quietly, out of the public eye, it's possible there have been other major developments behind the scenes." Former federal prosecutors say Mueller appears in no hurry to close up shop and probably has several important leads he is still nailing down. You can read more about what Mueller may be up to Bloomberg News. Peter Weber

5:50 a.m. ET
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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has told his staff that Suzanne Israel Tufts, a political appointee at HUD, has been named acting inspector general of the Interior Department. The role of internal watchdog at federal agencies is traditionally nonpartisan, and the Interior Department's inspector general's office has several investigations ongoing into conduct by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, making the installation of a political appointee all the more unusual, The Washington Post reports.

That's not the only strange thing about Tufts' apparent appointment. The Interior Department's Office of Inspector General said it "has received no official communication about any leadership changes," and an Interior Department spokeswoman, Faith Vander Voort, referred questions to the White House, noting that the inspector general "is a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed position, which would be announced by the White House." The White House has not announced Tufts' nomination and did not respond to the Post's request for comment. A HUD spokesman said Tufts was on temporary loan to Interior, but Carson described her departure as permanent.

Tufts is a lawyer from Queens with no experience in government oversight; when she was hired at HUD, she replaced a career official who had objected to Carson's costly office makeover, the Post reports. The current acting Interior inspector general, Mary Kendall, is a longtime government lawyer who has served as deputy inspector general since 1999. She took over as acting inspector general in 2009; President Barack Obama nominated her to serve as inspector general but the Senate never voted on it.

Kendall's investigations of Zinke include a Montana land-investment deal involving the chairman of Halliburton and a foundation tied to Zinke and his wife, Lola; Lola Zinke's government travel with her husband; a casino project blocked after Zinke met with MGM Resorts International lobbyists; and whether the shrunken boundaries for Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument were drawn to benefit a Utah Republican state lawmaker. Peter Weber

4:34 a.m. ET

Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson just "went on a podcast and explained how the real victim of our divided nation is his dining options," Stephen Colbert said, unsympathetically, on Tuesday's Late Show, playing the audio of Carlson complaining about people yelling obscenities at him when he goes out to eat. "Come on, somebody yelling 'f--- you!' doesn't ruin a meal. In fact, I think it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it." But "good news, there's still one establishment Tucker frequents," Colbert said. "Naturally, I though it was Extremely White Castle, but I was wrong. Turns out, it's a restaurant that caters just to him." The Late Show has the commercial.

The Late Show also had a theory on what happened to a rabid raccoon that was terrorizing Washington. And you can watch that below. Peter Weber

4:01 a.m. ET

"It's been a huge month for Melania Trump — she just returned from a trip to Africa, which was her first solo trip overseas," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "While she was on her first trip without the president, Melania sat down with ABC News to do something she never does with her husband: Talk for an hour." Several of her comments made headlines, including her explanation for that "I Really Don't Care Do U?" jacket and her indifference to her husband's alleged infidelities.

"But is she really still deeply in 'yes we are fine, yes' with her husband?" Colbert asked. "Here to tell us, in her first exclusive interview since her first exclusive interview," Melania Trump (or at least her Late Show stand-in, Laura Benanti). It is a little surprising that her pronunciation of "focus" made it past the CBS censors. The Late Show Melania Trump had a lot to say about love, marriage, being bullied, sexual assault, whether the press should pay attention to her clothes or her words, and the rationale behind her perennially misunderstood #BeDressed initiative. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:05 a.m. ET

Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) and President Trump don't agree on much politically, but O'Rourke said in a debate Tuesday night that the president had a point when it comes to his opponent Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) truthfulness. "Sen. Cruz is not going to be honest with you," O'Rourke said in the San Antonio debate, likely his last face-off against Cruz before the election. "He's dishonest. It's why the president called him Lyin' Ted, and it's why the nickname stuck. Because it's true."

O'Rourke, who's trying to unseat Cruz, is trouncing him in fundraising but trailing in the polls. Cruz characterized O'Rourke as too liberal for Texas on a number of issues, while O'Rourke said "Ted Cruz is for Ted Cruz" and "all talk and no action" when it comes to helping Texas. They sparred on border security and abortion rights, but largely agreed on trade, and both stressed the importance of civility — though Cruz snapped "Don't interrupt me, Jason," at one of the moderators when he tried to ask a followup question about the uncivil Brett Kavanaugh confirmation battle, CBS News notes.

When O'Rourke pointed to Cruz's 2013 government shutdown over ObamaCare, Cruz shot back that if you "want to talk about a shutdown," O'Rourke's efforts to investigate Trump would lead to "two years of a partisan circus and a witch hunt on the president." O'Rourke replied that it's "really interesting to hear you talk about a partisan circus after your last six years in the Senate."

Both candidates tried to end on a high note. "We're in desperate need right now of inspiration," O'Rourke said, adding that he's constantly inspired by the people of Texas. Cruz highlighted his policy differences with O'Rourke and portrayed himself as the actual candidate of hope. "Do we choose fear, or do we choose hope?" Cruz asked. "I believe in hope." Peter Weber

2:09 a.m. ET

CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett found himself on the same New York–bound flight as President Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner — both White House employees — on Tuesday evening, and he took the opportunity to ask Kushner a question about Saudi Arabia and the presumed murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Or rather, he tried to ask that question. A Secret Service agent accompanying Kushner blocked Barnett's phone, according to a video of the incident he posted online, and when Barnett showed the agent his press credentials, he said: "I don't give a damn who you are, there's a time and place."

On the CBS Evening News, Barnett explained press-shy Kushner's role as Trump's main envoy to Saudi Arabia — the U.S. doesn't have an ambassador in Riyadh — and centerpiece to Trump's close ties to the Saudi rulers. "The Secret Service officer said to me there is a time and a place for these types of interviews. I have to make the point that it's unclear what time and place that would be to ask Jared Kushner questions."

Blocking a reporter from asking a government employee a question is apparently against Secret Service protocol. In a statement to Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, the Secret Service said the incident is under review. Peter Weber

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