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September 7, 2018
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President Trump is now calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department to find the author of Wednesday's bombshell New York Times op-ed, which alleged that members of the Trump administration are working to undermine the president from within.

While speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday, Trump said that finding the anonymous writer is a national security issue and that Sessions should, therefore, be launching an investigation, per NBC News. This comes after the president suggested that the writer of the Times piece committed an act of treason and demanded the newspaper turn the person responsible over to the federal government.

As CNN observes, there is currently no indication that the unidentified writer actually broke any laws. Rather, the writer — described as a "senior administration official" by the Times — characterizes themselves as one of many "adults in the room" who are working to prevent Trump from acting on his worst impulses.

But Trump claims that Sessions must find the author because they could have a security clearance and would, therefore, be authorized to attend a "high-level meeting concerning China or Russia or North Korea or something," The Washington Post reports. The president also said that the White House is actually a "well-oiled machine" that is "running beautifully." Brendan Morrow

11:42 a.m. ET
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White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reconciles her traditional Christian beliefs with President Trump's sometimes-not-so-Christian tendencies by separating church and state. "I'm not going to my office expecting it to be my church," she told The New Yorker in an interview published Tuesday.

Sanders fell into the press secretary job last year when tumultuous staffing issues left the post open; as one former adviser said, "There wasn't anybody else." She was reportedly brought on to Team Trump as a way to link the president to evangelicals and suburban women.

Though she rarely hints at her personal views on Trump's policy decisions, she is steadfastly loyal to the president's message, functioning at once as "the wall" Trump built and the "battering ram" fighting through his myriad crises. Her views or style can sometimes diverge from what The New Yorker calls Trump's "immorality," by evangelical standards, but she focuses on the positive aspects of his "unconventionality." Someone close to her said that she views Trump's bombastic and uncompromising approach as effective, if unsavory.

During official press briefings, Sanders can't say anything "even somewhat nuanced" about Trump, a source said — praise only. However, behind the scenes, reporters say she is much less confrontational and is often quite helpful. The New Yorker reports that she stays aggressive on camera because it pleases Trump and helps him push his claims of "fake news." Sanders says she likes the "nervous adrenaline" that comes with the job. "The odds are stacked against you," she said of entering the briefing room to face upwards of 50 reporters. "I like it, though." Read more at The New Yorker. Summer Meza

11:41 a.m. ET

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is really, really salty about a man turned meme.

The Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, better known as the internet-famous "Salt Bae" who artfully sprinkles seasoning on meat, served Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro at his Istanbul steakhouse and tweeted a video of it Monday. And because Gökçe has another restaurant in Miami, Rubio has decided it's worth slamming him in five separate tweets.

On Monday night, Rubio tweeted that he didn't even know who this "weirdo #Saltbae" was, and presumably wasn't aware Gökçe had a Florida restaurant. Still, he slammed Gökçe for feeding Maduro, the "overweight dictator of a nation where 30 percent of the people eat only once a day." Eater reports that Maduro's steak cost $275; meanwhile, 90 percent of his country lives in poverty.

Once Rubio realized Gökçe's local ties, he rubbed some more salt in the chef's wounds:

Gökçe deleted his dictator-serving video, but the Miami Herald has since reposted the footage of his over-the-top slicing skills. And Rubio, whose ire had been preserved for another day, encouraged his followers to watch it Tuesday morning.

Rubio, who is Cuban-American, probably wouldn't be pleased to know Gökçe also dressed up as Cuba's ex-dictator Fidel Castro last year. But for now, the senator has moved on to tweeting Bible verses scorning "those who seek to destroy my life." Kathryn Krawczyk

10:49 a.m. ET

The mass shootings of the past few years may not have led to any major national gun policy changes. But gun control is playing a massively larger role in campaign advertising for the 2018 election than it did in the last midterm cycle.

While mentions of gun policy have increased across the board, a Wall Street Journal analysis published Tuesday shows, ad mentions supporting stricter gun control policies have spiked dramatically. In the entire 2014 election, the Journal's data counts just under 4,500 campaign ad mentions of pro-gun control messages. With more than a month to go in this year's race, those mentions have already topped 100,000 in 2018.


(The Wall Street Journal)

Guns are not only mentioned in far more ads now than they used to be, but the proportion of views represented has undergone a significant shift. In 2014, ads that mentioned guns were 600 percent more likely to oppose gun control policies as to endorse them. This year, they are about 50 percent more likely to call for more regulation instead of less.

This change has been particularly striking in states, like Nevada and Florida, where mass shootings have recently occurred. Those two states alone "went from zero pro-gun control ads in 2014 to more than 45,000 this year," the Journal reports. Bonnie Kristian

10:21 a.m. ET
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Anita Hill knows a little something about senators, the Supreme Court, and sexual harassment.

Before this past weekend, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was on track for a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation vote Thursday. But Christine Blasey Ford's allegation of sexual assault against Kavanaugh upended the process, and now Kavanaugh and Ford are both scheduled for hearings with the committee next week.

Back in 1991, Hill faced a ruthless hearing and public smears as she alleged sexual harassment from then-nominee Clarence Thomas. So now, as the court once again deals with sexual misconduct allegations against a nominee, Hill has authored a New York Times op-ed to school senators on how they can "get the Kavanaugh hearings right." The Brandeis University professor outlined four "basic ground rules" for ensuring that the committee doesn't "fail" like it did 27 years ago:

1. "Refrain from pitting the public interest in confronting sexual harassment against the need for a fair confirmation hearing," as maintaining the Supreme Court's "integrity" and "eliminating sexual misconduct ... are entirely compatible."

2. "Select a neutral investigative body with experience in sexual misconduct cases" to investigate the incident and report back to the committee.

3. Don't rush. Planning these hearings for next week is "discouraging," as a week isn't enough time to prepare "meaningful inquiry into very serious charges."

4. "Refer to Christine Blasey Ford by her name," as she is "not simply 'Judge Kavanaugh's accuser.'"

If the Senate sticks to these rules and puts the "burden of persuasion" on Kavanaugh, Hill says that a Senate "with more women than ever" can finally "get it right." Read all of Hill's advice at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:13 a.m. ET
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When Florence's still-rising floodwaters finally subside, the coastal Carolina regions that have suffered the worst of the storm's wrath will begin to rebuild. But for many, the question remains: With what money?

Only about 10 percent of housing units have flood insurance in many of the areas Florence drenched, and homeowners expecting to rely on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) help to rebuild will be sorely disappointed. While a good flood insurance policy will provide several hundred thousand dollars to restore a house and replace possessions, FEMA flood grants cover, at most, $33,000. Most payouts come in below $10,000.

Thus, for "the insurance industry in general, Florence looks like ... a manageable event that will hurt earnings to some degree but won't affect capital," The Wall Street Journal reports. Because there are so few flood insurance policies to pay out, homeowners rather than their insurers will take on the financial brunt of the storm's destruction. Accordingly, share prices for major insurers recovered swiftly after a few days' dip as Florence made landfall.

Flood insurance is distinct from regular homeowner's insurance. It must be purchased separately from either private carriers or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a FEMA subsidiary, a month before flood damage occurs to receive a payout. The NFIP, which now operates at a loss, offers below-market insurance rates for construction in flood-prone areas, arguably subsidizing dangerous construction. Bonnie Kristian

9:59 a.m. ET

Earth's mightiest gang of heroes is about to get a whole lot mightier.

Disney on Tuesday released the first trailer for Captain Marvel, the latest Marvel superhero film. The flick stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot who gains otherworldly powers and joins an alien military unit. Upon returning to Earth, she tries to piece together her mysterious past.

The new footage focuses on Danvers' relationship with a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who still has both of his eyes at this point. That's because Captain Marvel is set in the 1990s, as an opening beat in a Blockbuster Video makes clear — which also means Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) will return to the film franchise after being killed off in 2012's The Avengers.

Marvel fans have been jonesing for a glimpse at Captain Marvel ever since the final scene of Avengers: Infinity War earlier this year, in which Fury pages Danvers for help following Thanos' decimation of half the universe. The pager he uses in that scene makes an appearance in this clip, teasing the film's Infinity War connection.

After this solo movie, which hits theaters on March 8, 2019, Danvers will appear in the untitled fourth Avengers film in May 2019. Considering Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige calls Danvers the most powerful Avenger, she will likely play a key role in defeating Thanos and bringing the fallen heroes back to life. Watch the first trailer for Captain Marvel — Marvel Studios' first female-centric superhero movie — below. Brendan Morrow

9:55 a.m. ET
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Long before President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Christine Blasey Ford told her friends that he sexually assaulted her back in high school.

Ford "was up and down about whether she was going to go public" with the allegations, her friend Kirsten Leimroth told The Mercury News on Monday. Leimroth said that Ford told her about the alleged assault long before she came forward this year, and said that it's "preposterous" to imagine Ford would make it up. Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegations.

"There's absolutely no way it's made up. She can't even go home," said Leimroth, explaining that Ford's kids are staying elsewhere and that Ford had shut down her social media accounts since identifying herself. "Why would she do that?" Ford couldn't decide whether coming forward would "do any good," continued Leimroth, because it wasn't an "actual rape." Ford alleges that Kavanaugh forcibly groped her during a party in the 1980s and that he tried to undress her, but may have been struggling due to how intoxicated he was. Ford thought Kavanaugh would "go through" even if she did come forward, per Leimroth, and wondered whether it was worth putting herself through the public scrutiny.

Another friend, Rebecca White, said that Ford told her about the alleged assault back in 2017, and that she mentioned that her alleged assailant was a federal judge. White said that Ford described the event as "violent" and "physically scary" and said Ford found it difficult to see that Kavanaugh had become "a super powerful guy." Kavanaugh was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006.

Ford told a third friend, Jim Gensheimer, that she was scared Kavanaugh defenders would try to assassinate her character. "I've been trying to forget this all my life, and now I'm supposed to remember every little detail," he recalls her saying. Read more at The Mercury News. Summer Meza

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