October 30, 2017

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders launched into her first press briefing Monday since early morning reports about Special Counsel Robert Mueller indictments with a convoluted story about — taxes? "I want to start the briefing today by addressing a topic I know all of you are preparing to ask me about," joked Sanders, "and that's tax reform."

In order to explain why tax reform is needed, Sanders gave an almost word-for-word recitation of a viral email forward that has been circulating since at least 2011. "Suppose that every day, 10 people — for our purposes, we'll say 'reporters' — go out for beer, and the bill for all 10 comes to $100," she began. "If these 10 reporters paid their tab every night the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this: The first four, the poorest, would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay … "

Sanders quickly lost everyone:

Watch the whole thing below. Jeva Lange

5:53 a.m. ET
Sergei Chirikov/AFP/Getty Images

Russia's Central Election Commission said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin won re-election with 76.67 percent of the vote in a field of eight candidates. That was a record-high number for Putin, who won his third term in 2012 with 63.3 percent. In second place was communist Pavel Grudinin, with 11.78 percent, followed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky (5.66 percent) and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak (1.68 percent), the only of the candidates to openly criticize Putin.

The candidate most likely to do well against Putin, Alexei Navalny, was barred from running because of a questionable disqualifying conviction. Election observers reported widespread ballot stuffing and unusually intense pressure on voters to participate in the election. "Our elections have proved once again ... that it's not possible to manipulate our people," said Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of Russia's upper house. "People came together. No other country in the world has such open and transparent elections." Peter Weber

5:23 a.m. ET

On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver spent 20 minutes talking about Vice President Mike Pence, the one White House official President Trump can't fire. Pence's constitutional immunity from being sacked is actually worrisome, "because he's synonymous with some extreme positions," especially on abortion and gay rights, Oliver said. "If there are any Mike Pence supporters watching this, I cannot promise that he is going to come out of tonight's show looking great, but I can promise that I will say something nice about him before this piece is over."

"Pence's reputation is as the old, boring, principled contrast to Donald Trump," but he's actually morally pretty wily and "exceptionally good at dodging tough questions," Oliver said. And if you think his impeccable social conservatism — say, his recent opposition to women in the military — is because he grew up in the 1950s, nope, "he's 58 years old," Oliver said. "Pence is three months younger than Flavor f---ing Flav." He is most well-known for his opposition to gay rights, though, and Oliver spent the rest of the time on that topic.

Pence "clearly" believes in LGBTQ discrimination, "and yet, interestingly, one specific allegation he's pushed back on concerns whether or not he supported 'gay conversion' therapy," Oliver said. He found Pence's denial dubious, not least because of Pence's frequent praise for James Dobson, a big promoter of such "therapy" and, apparently, a big producer of gay-sounding double entendres. "Saying you don't support conversion therapy and then calling Dobson your 'mentor' is like saying you're a 'staunch vegetarian and a law-abiding citizen, and by the way, please meet my lifelong friend and mentor the Hamburlgar,'" he quipped.

That led Oliver to the one thing he likes about Pence, and since Pence seems set on ruining even that, Last Week Tonight wrote a book. You can watch an excerpt at the end, but be warned: There is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber

3:54 a.m. ET

John Oliver kicked off Sunday's Last Week Tonight with a brief look at President Trump's White House, "rated No. 1 place to work by Subpoena Magazine. Now, this week it seemed almost everyone in the White House was about to get fired," he said, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson actually was, apparently in a particularly humiliating way — on the john, with a stomach bug. "Come on, Rex, deep down, when you took this job, you knew it would end like this," Oliver said.

Still, "instead of getting sucked down a White House rabbit hole yet again this week, let's instead focus on Russia," Oliver said, starting with the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. "Basically every country agrees that Russia did this, which is incredible — we can't even get the world to agree on a single shape for electrical outlets," Oliver said. "And frankly, the Russian government hasn't really gone out of its way to not look suspicious," up to and including President Vladimir Putin.

Russia also held presidential elections on Sunday, and "the winner was the poison guy," Oliver said. "Putin's win isn't really much of a surprise, given that three potential candidates who might have had the best chance against him didn't even make it onto the ballot." Putin actually bothered to campaign a little bit this time, and he had help from, among other people, a girl group that recorded a song fantasizing about marrying Putin. "What young woman wouldn't want to settle down with a joyless 65-year-old whose ex-wife once said of him, 'Unfortunately, he is a vampire'?" Oliver asked. His favorite propaganda campaign, however, involved children drawing pictures of Putin, and after showing some examples, he wrapped up. "What today's result means is that everything Putin is famous for — oppression, threats, and meddling in elections — will likely continue for the foreseeable future." Watch below (there is NSFW language). Peter Weber

2:23 a.m. ET
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Florida State knocked No. 1 seed Xavier out of the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Sunday night, taking the lead for the first time with 1:08 left in the game then holding on for a 75-70 finish. Following the shocking elimination of overall top seed Virginia by University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), only two No. 1 seeds are advancing to the Sweet 16 round for the first time since 2004. (UMBC's underdog run was ended by ninth-seeded Kansas on Sunday, 50-43.) The NCAA says it is the first time in tournament history that any region — in this case the South — isn't sending any of its top four seeds to the Sweet 16.

In the East Region, No. 5 seed West Virginia will face Villanova, after the Mountaineers beat Marshall on Sunday night, and second-seeded Purdue will battle No. 3 seed Texas Tech. In the West, third-seeded Michigan will face Texas A&M, a seventh-seeded team that knocked out defending champions North Carolina on Sunday, and No. 4 seed Gonzaga will face Florida State. In the Midwest, No. 1 seed Kansas will play fifth-seeded Clemson and No. 2 seed Duke will face No. 11 seed Syracuse. In the South Region, No. 5 seed Kentucky will take on No. 9 seed Kansas State and seventh-seeded Nevada will battle No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago. If you bracket isn't already busted, congratulations. Peter Weber

2:22 a.m. ET
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In September 2016, two counselors and a resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School recommended that Nikolas Cruz be involuntarily committed for a mental health evaluation, per court documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Cruz, 19, stands accused of killing 17 people in a mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida, high school last month. Under Florida's Baker Act, a person can be forcibly committed for a mental health exam for at least three days, and it's not clear why no one ever followed through on the recommendation. The resource officer who proposed Cruz be committed was Scot Peterson; he resigned after the shooting when it emerged that he did not enter the building during the massacre. Had Cruz been committed, authorities told AP, it would have been a red flag during a background check, making it extremely difficult for him to get a gun legally.

The court documents state that Cruz told a classmate he wanted to purchase a gun and use it; told another student he tried drinking gasoline and was throwing up; and wrote "kill" in a notebook. He also cut his arm several times after he and a girlfriend broke up and punched a hole in a wall at his house, the documents say, but told clinicians with Henderson Behavioral Health that he was feeling better. Cruz admitted that he had a pellet gun, but said he was not capable of doing "serious harm" with it, AP reports. Catherine Garcia

1:27 a.m. ET

While walking home from the subway last Thursday, firefighter Roben Duge saw black smoke billowing from his neighbor's two-story house, and although he was off-duty and didn't have his gear on him, Duge ran into the flames to save a family.

"I'm not a hero, I'm just reacting off instinct," the father of three told the New York Daily News. "When I heard the kids screaming, it hit home." Duge, a resident of Jamaica, Queens, has been with the FDNY for five years, and was able to get a grandmother and her two grandchildren out of the building safely. He brought the trio over to his house, and they were treated by paramedics.

His neighbors praised him for his bravery, but Duge's wife, Crystal, wasn't surprised by his act of heroism. "It's just who he is," she said. "He's Superman." Catherine Garcia

1:05 a.m. ET

On Sunday night, an explosion of some kind injured two men in their 20s in southwest Austin, according to Austin-Travis County Emergency Management Services. In a short press briefing, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said it is not yet clear if the explosion is related to the three package bombs that killed two people and injuring another on March 2 and March 12 in eastern and northern Austin. The two people injured on Sunday night suffered "significant" but apparently "non-life-threatening" injuries, he added, and police and FBI agents are working to "clear" a suspicious backpack from the area. Manley urged residents within a half-mile of the blast to remain indoors until at least morning.

"Do not touch any packages or anything that looks like a package — do not even go near it at this time," Manley told residents. "Given the darkness we have not had an opportunity to really look at this blast site to determine what has happened." Earlier Sunday, Manley raised the reward for information leading to the arrest of the bomber to $115,000 from $50,000. He said investigators haven't ruled out any motive and don't yet have any clear idea of "what the ideology is behind this."

Update 2:55 ET: Manley said in a second press briefing early Monday that the explosion, believed to be some sort of bomb, may have been set off by a trip wire. The victims were riding or pushing bikes. He said police are waiting until daylight to examine the blast scene. "We are working under the belief that this is related to the other bombing incidents" in March, Manley said, and a chemical analysis of the explosion will probably provide the conclusive evidence. Peter Weber

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