Stephen Colbert kicked off Wednesday's Late Show monologue by talking about President Obama's farewell address on Tuesday night. "It was truly a moving experience, and I just have to say... let's talk about Donald Trump for a second," Colbert said. "Because there's a story that that came out in the last 24 hours, and — pardon the expression — it is, um, juicy." He started with CNN's report that Trump was briefed by the top U.S. intelligence officials last Friday on unsubstantiated claims that Russia has compromising information on him, then moved on to the leaked, unverified dossier.
"Everyone admits this report is unverified, and the man is about to be president of the United States, so I'm not going to validate that report by sharing the most salacious details from it," Colbert said. "Even the detail everybody's talking about, okay? You might call it the, um, No. 1 detail. I think this is just an unfortunate leak... that's making a huge mess, and I know I'm being a wet blanket, but reporting on this is the worst kind of yellow journalism. And even though jokes about this story are a golden opportunity, I just won't do it. Not to say the story didn't make a huge splash — it did. It flooded Twitter, I mean. We'll keep you up to date as facts trickle in. And we have our best researcher working on it — she's a real whiz. And one thing is for sure: The president-elect is a Goldwater Republican who truly believes in trickle-down." He cracked puns for a full two and a half minutes.
"I only feel for Donald Trump a little bit here, because he brought this on himself," Colbert said. "And I have a suggestion, Mr. Trump, of how to get rid of it: Just do the thing you have never done, which is say anything Putin wouldn't like. Alright? That would prove they're not running you." Trump could also release his tax returns — which Trump said again on Wednesday he won't do, because they're under audit, prompting Colbert to imagine the IRS agent with big enough nerve to audit the president. He ended where he began — talking about Obama's farewell speech — and with one last Russia dossier joke, and the band played him out with The Beatles' "Golden Slumbers." Watch below. Peter Weber
A fake-news site is giving progressives a chance to visit an alternative reality in which Hillary Clinton won the election. HillaryBeatTrump.org features headlines such as "Confused by fake news, Redditers think Trump is President" and "Approval ratings for President Clinton hit 89%." The site promises to deliver "news from real America," where the "majority rules."
The Department of Homeland Security was apparently unable to find sufficient evidence to back President Trump's claim that his immigration executive order banning people from certain countries from entering the U.S. could protect the nation from terrorist threats, The Associated Press reported Friday, citing a draft document prepared by DHS analysts.
The report suggests that assessments of the seven predominantly Muslim countries included in Trump's travel ban found that "few people" from those countries "have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria's civil war started in 2011," The Associated Press reported. Moreover, the draft document concluded, "country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity."
The Associated Press noted Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen did not "dispute the report's authenticity," but said it "was not a final comprehensive review of the government's intelligence."
Trump's ban is presently blocked by the courts, but he has vowed to introduce a second executive order on the issue. Becca Stanek
On Friday, President Donald Trump made a speech at CPAC in which he slammed the "fake news" media for its use of anonymous sources. "They have no sources," Trump told the crowd, referring specifically to a story in The Washington Post that cited nine unnamed sources while accurately detailing former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's discussions with a Russian ambassador. Later in the day, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held an informal, off-camera press briefing from which several prominent news outlets, including The New York Times and Politico, were specifically excluded.
CNN was also barred from entering Spicer's press gaggle Friday, prompting the network's anchor Jake Tapper to begin his afternoon show with a fiery assessment of the Trump administration's relationship with the press. Tapper noted that Trump seems "particularly averse to any criticism" and that his White House seems to have a "lack of basic understanding of how an adult White House functions." "It's petulant," Tapper said. "This White House does not seem to respect the idea of accountability. This White House does not seem to value an independent press. There is a word for that line of thinking. The word is 'un-American.'"
Watch Tapper's full takedown below. Kimberly Alters
— Nolan D. McCaskill (@NolanDMcCaskill) February 24, 2017
Amid town hall protests, GOP lawmaker worries: 'I don't know if we're going to be able to repeal ObamaCare now'
Republican Rep. Mo Brooks (Ala.) is starting to doubt the GOP will actually repeal ObamaCare. After witnessing swaths of angry citizens protesting at town halls across the nation, Brooks admitted in a radio interview this week that "a significant number of congressman are being impacted ... and their spine is a little bit weak."
"I don't know if we're going to be able to repeal ObamaCare now because these folks who support ObamaCare are very active, they're putting pressure on congressmen, and there's not a countereffort to steel the spine of some of these congressmen in tossup districts around the country," Brooks told WBHP 800 Alabama radio's The Morning Show with Toni & Gary.
Brooks, who insists the "monstrosity" that is the Affordable Care Act "needs to be repealed and right now," bashed President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for wavering on a full repeal. The Alabama congressman noted Trump's previous indication of support for parts of ObamaCare, and argued that if aspects of the ACA were retained it would be "an amendment to ObamaCare," not the promised full repeal. "Remember when Donald Trump publicly stated during the campaign that he's going to make sure everybody has health insurance?" Brooks asked. "That's ObamaCare." Becca Stanek
Republican Rep. Peter King of New York said Thursday that he is done holding town hall meetings because his angry constituents "diminish democracy," CNN reports. King, speaking on AM970 The Answer, explained: "There are people who are just angry, they're angry that Trump won, that Hillary lost. There's others who are being, I guess, egged on, if you will. So I'm assuming that they're all legitimate, but to me it just does not serve a purpose. It really diminishes democracy if you're gonna show up to a meeting to just scream and yell."
Instead of appearing in person, the Long Island representative is scheduled to hold a "tele" town hall that requires anyone interested in participating to "opt-in" online, Long Island Press reports. "I am not having these town hall meetings because to me all they do is just turn into a screaming session," King said. "What I am doing, I have done every national TV show."
King added that he is meeting with people who both support and want to repeal ObamaCare, which has proved to be one of the largest motivators for town hall dissenters. King said he will "try to explain that, when you're in front of a room and everyone is screaming and yelling [and] makes no sense, [it] really trivializes democracy." Jeva Lange
The White House blocked several major news organizations from an informal, off-camera briefing Friday in White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's office, sparking protest and outrage from the White House Correspondents' Association as well as other outlets. CNN, The New York Times, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, and much of the foreign press were not allowed in the room, CNN's Elizabeth Landers reports, although conservative outlets including Breitbart, The Washington Times, and One America News Network were allowed to attend. Networks including NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox were also included.
Reporters from The Associated Press and Time boycotted the press gaggle in protest of their colleagues' exclusion.
Reporters held out of today's White House briefing. pic.twitter.com/8uqelMjrtp
— Noah Bierman (@Noahbierman) February 24, 2017
In a statement, the White House Correspondents' Association wrote that the board is "protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House. We encourage the organizations that were allowed in to share the material with others in the press corps who were not. The board will be discussing this further with White House staff."
Some at CNN & NYT stood w/FOX News when the Obama admin attacked us & tried 2 exclude us-a WH gaggle should be open to all credentialed orgs https://t.co/8Vjcs0KCPR
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) February 24, 2017
On Thursday, chief strategist Stephen Bannon warned at CPAC: "[The press] are corporatist globalist media that are adamantly opposed to a economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has. Here's where it's going to get worse. He's going to continue to press his agenda. And, as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they're going to continue to fight. If you think they're going to give you their country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day it is going to be a fight." Jeva Lange
Leaked draft of ObamaCare replacement bill indicates Republicans plan to reduce Medicaid spending, limit subsidies
Politico shed some light on what Republicans may have in mind for their promised ObamaCare replacement plan Friday, when it published the contents of a leaked draft of a House Republican bill:
The legislation would take down the foundation of ObamaCare, including the unpopular individual mandate, subsidies based on people's income, and all of the law's taxes. It would significantly roll back Medicaid spending and give states money to create high-risk pools for some people with pre-existing conditions. Some elements would be effective right away; others not until 2020.
The replacement would be paid for by limiting tax breaks on generous health plans people get at work — an idea that is similar to the ObamaCare "Cadillac tax" that Republicans have fought to repeal. [Politico]
Though House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has promised repeal legislation will be introduced soon, Republicans have been less vocal about how they will go about replacing the Affordable Care Act, which has provided an estimated 20 million Americans with coverage. This draft suggests the GOP is "sticking closely to previous plans floated by Ryan and [Health and Human Services Secretary Tom] Price in crafting their ObamaCare repeal package," Politico reported.