President Trump's approval rating just hit a new low, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday found. Just 38 percent of adults approve of Trump's performance while a whopping 56 percent disapprove, the lowest mark for the president since his inauguration. Roughly 6 percent of respondents said they had "mixed feelings."
The last two weeks have been tumultuous for Trump, starting with his abrupt dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey on May 9 and the White House's subsequent struggle to offer a consistent explanation for the firing. This week, a steady flow of leaks has upended Washington: On Monday, it was reported Trump shared highly classified intelligence information, gathered by Israel, with Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office last week; on Tuesday, the existence of memos written by Comey detailing his interactions with Trump, including when the president asked him to halt the investigation into Russia-linked former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, was revealed; on Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to head the Russia investigation; and on Thursday, it was reported Trump asked Comey when the FBI would be stating publicly that Trump himself was not under investigation for potential ties to Russia.
The Reuters poll was conducted May 14-18 among 1,971 adults, including 795 Democrats and 721 Republicans. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. On Friday, after the poll closed, The New York Times reported Trump bragged about firing Comey in his Oval Office meeting with the Russian officials, calling Comey a "nut job" and saying dismissing him had "taken off" the "great pressure" from the Russia investigation. The Washington Post reported, nearly simultaneously, that the investigation of potential collusion with Russia is closing in on a current White House official who is "close to the president," and that the "intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate."
The Republican Party is in for some more turmoil after Democrat Doug Jones beat the Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for a Senate seat in deeply Republican Alabama on Tuesday night. CNN gave the GOP a little taste of what's to come in the panel discussion after Jones declared victory, and moderator Don Lemon essentially stood back and watched the free-for-all over who will be hurt the most by Moore's loss.
Ed Martin, the Moore backer, picked the Senate majority leader and Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.), head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, both of whom immediately pointed the finger at President Trump's former campaign chairman and chief strategist, Stephen Bannon. "Mitch McConnell is going to pay a price, and so is Cory Gardner," he said. "The grassroots is not tolerating the party." "Traditional Republican" Ana Navarro said Trump and other pro-Moore Republicans chose to abandon morals, decency, and convictions rather than abandon Moore, chided Martin for constantly interrupting her, and sang "Happy days are here again."
The Martin-Navarro fight had panelists doubled over in laugher, then Bloomberg's Joshua Green threw Martin "a lifeline," saying the "Bannon wing of the Republican Party is very upset" by Moore's abandonment and is promising a more vicious GOP civil war. Conservative columnist Matt Lewis asked how it was McConnell's fault that "Steve Bannon and Donald Trump endorsed a candidate who is a very bad candidate."
CNN's Jake Tapper went with Trump. The loss of a Senate seat will make passing GOP policies even harder, he said, but "I have to say, this is a huge defeat for President Trump. This is deep-red Alabama, President Trump made the calculation that he was going to double down, he was going to stick with this candidate, the candidate who followed the Trump playbook — when there are allegations against you, just deny them all and attack the people accusing you — and it failed." Peter Weber
USA Today's editorial board savages Trump as 'uniquely awful' and 'not fit for office' after Gilibrand tweet
On Tuesday morning, President Trump sent out a tweet saying Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who had joined four male colleagues on Monday in calling on Trump to resign, had "begged" him for campaign contributions "and would do anything for them." On Tuesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted Trump's tweet wasn't "sexist" or dirty, and on Tuesday night, USA Today's editorial board disagreed in unusually strong terms.
"With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office," the editorial board wrote. "Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low." Trump's language was a "deliberate" attempt to pour "the gasoline of sexist language" on America's #MeToo fire "gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame," USA Today's editorialists wrote, adding: "A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush."
No president is perfect, and "Obama and Bush both failed in many ways," the editorial says. "But the basic decency of each man was never in doubt. Donald Trump, the man, on the other hand, is uniquely awful." They counted the ways Trump's "utter lack of morality, ethics, and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office." The USA Today editorial board did not call on Trump to quit, but said "it is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign." (Sen. Mazie Hirono [D-Hawaii] also called on Trump to step down on Tuesday.) You can read more of the editorial board's thoughts on Trump at USA Today. Peter Weber
The CW has turned the Archie comic book franchise into a hit teen drama, Riverdale. On Tuesday, The Tonight Show looked at what would happen if you gave the same treatment to another storied 1900s comic strip, Peanuts. Charlie Brown (Jimmy Fallon), now in high school (and with hair), is still (almost) kicking the football, but now Linus has been murdered, and the gang's town has a seedy underbelly. The Riverdale cast makes a cameo. Watch below. Peter Weber
On Monday night, Charles Barkley had a message for the voters of Alabama: Show the country "we're not a bunch of damn idiots" by electing Democrat Doug Jones to the Senate. After Jones' victory on Tuesday night, Barkley delivered another message, this time to the Democratic Party: "Start making life better for black folks and people who are poor."
The NBA legend and Alabama native spoke to CNN shortly after Jones won Tuesday night, saying he was "so proud of my state" because they "rose up today." By giving Jones a narrow victory — he defeated Republican Roy Moore by about 21,000 votes — it was a "wake-up call for Democrats," Barkley said, adding: "They've taken the black vote and the poor vote for granted for a long time. It's time for them to get off their ass and start making life better for black folks and people who are poor. They've always had our votes, and they've abused our votes, and this is a wake-up call. We're in a great position now, but this is a wake-up call for Democrats to do better for black people and poor white people."
The Washington Post's exit polls found that 96 percent of black voters cast their ballots for Jones, while 98 percent of black women and 93 percent of black men believed the accusations of sexual misconduct made against Moore. Catherine Garcia
On Tuesday, the Justice Department turned over to the House Intelligence Committee some 375 text messages between two FBI officials, senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and according several news organizations that reported the content of the messages Tuesday night, both FBI officials referred to President Trump as an "idiot" between Aug. 16, 2015, and Dec. 1, 2016. Strzok was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia over the summer, immediately after such messages were discovered; Page had already returned to the FBI.
Page called Trump a "loathsome human" as well as an "idiot," and Strzok also called Trump "awful." Most of the private text exchanges were in reference to Trump's appearances on TV; the colleagues were having an extramarital affair, according to Fox News. On election night, Strzok called Trump's apparent win "terrifying," and both officials said at one point during the presidential race they hoped Hillary Clinton would beat him. Strzok was assigned to the Clinton email investigation, and Republicans say these text exchanges prove he was biased toward Clinton and against Trump.
Strzok, who identified himself a "conservative Dem" in a March 2016 exchange, also called Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) an "idiot like Trump" and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) a "douche," panned former Attorney General Eric Holder, and suggested he would vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), then Trump ("He was pretty much calling for death for [NSA leaker Edward] Snowden. I'm a single-issue voter. ;) Espionage Machine Party"). Page said Kasich was rumored to be gay and said she "booed at the TV" when Holder was on.
Republicans are pouncing on the exchanges, but "the last of the messages are from last December," The Associated Press notes, "so it's unclear how helpful they will be to Trump allies seeking to prove that Mueller's probe was tainted by bias." You can read the exchanges at Fox News. Peter Weber
A forged 13-page document accusing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of sexual harassment was circulated to several major media outlets in an attempt to discredit Schumer and the publications, Axios reported Tuesday.
Axios says the document, a password-protected PDF, had the file name "Schumer_Complaint," and looked like a lawsuit that had been filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It named a former Schumer staffer, who worked in his office from 2009 to 2012; when approached by Axios, the woman said she had never seen the document before and the claims are "completely false, my signature is forged, and even basic facts about me are wrong. I have contacted law enforcement to determine who is responsible. I parted with Sen. Schumer's office on good terms and have nothing but the fondest memories of my time there."
Schumer's communications director, Matt House, also told Axios the document is fake and "every allegation is false. We have turned it over to the Capitol Police and asked them to investigate and pursue criminal charges because it is clear the law has been broken." A person close to Schumer told Axios there are several claims in the document that can easily be discredited, like the allegation Schumer acted inappropriately on Sept. 16, 2011, in Washington; he was actually in New York City at the time. Catherine Garcia
With 100 percent of precincts in Alabama reporting and Democrat Doug Jones ahead by nearly 21,000 votes, Republican Roy Moore told his supporters to keep the faith, because "when the vote is this close, it's not over."
Moore, who during the special Senate race was accused by several women of groping them when he was in his early 30s and they were teenagers, said he had been "painted in an unfavorable and unfaithful light," and he did not concede the election. He told his supporters to go home and get some rest, and stay tuned for news about a recount.
In Alabama, there is an automatic recount when the vote is within half of a percent, but Jones is ahead by 1.5 percentage points. Moore might be counting on absentee ballots, but MSNBC's Steve Kornacki said those were among the first votes to be counted. It's unclear how many provisional and military ballots there are, but Kornacki estimated there are 1,000 to 1,500 outstanding. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told CNN he doesn't think the vote margin will change substantially before the election is certified between Dec. 26 and Jan. 3. Catherine Garcia