December 13, 2017

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 to 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

4:39 a.m.

President Trump finally endorsed face masks last week, telling Fox Business in an interview that he's "all for masks, I think masks are good." While Trump said he thinks "we're going to be very good with the coronavirus" and repeated his hope that it's "going to sort of just disappear," he also suggested he had changed his mind on the aesthetics of masks and his willingness to wear one in public.

"I had a mask on," Trump said. "I sort of liked the way I looked, okay? I thought it was okay. It was a dark black mask, and I thought it looked okay — it looked like the Lone Ranger."

Sarah Cooper, who makes TikTok videos performing selected Trump statements, demonstrated what that might look like in a re-enactment posted Monday.

Cooper wasn't the first to point out that the Lone Ranger wears a mask over his eyes, not his mouth and nose.

But she might also have been inspired by real-life characters.

Incidentally, Trump still hasn't worn a mask in front of the cameras. Peter Weber

3:44 a.m.

The faculty of Washington and Lee University voted overwhelmingly Monday to remove Robert E. Lee's name from the Virginia university. The faculty of then-Washington College voted to add Lee's name in 1870, right after the former Confederate general died. The resolution to remove Lee's name passed 188-51, while a proposed motion to remove George Washington's name failed.

Lee, who had served as the college's president after the Civil War, "was a symbol of who that faculty wanted to be, and who they were," said Alison Bell, head of the Faculty Affairs Committee. "The faculty is back 150 years later, asking the university for a name change because Lee does not represent who we are and who we want to be." Washington and Lee's student government formally asked for Lee's name to be scrapped last week, and more than 200 faculty members had signed a petition with the same goal.

The board of trustees, which would have to approve the name change, is "carefully monitoring developments regarding issues of race, monuments, and symbols of the Confederacy and their implications" for Washington and Lee, a spokeswoman said last week.

Elsewhere in Virginia, Confederate names are being stripped from public K-12 schools at a rapid clip, The Washington Post reports. Stonewall Middle School in Prince William County is getting a new name, as is Robert E. Lee High School, one of the most diverse schools in Fairfax County. Loudon County High School is getting a new mascot after the school board voted unanimously to drop the Raiders, a reference to Confederate Col. John S. Mosby's guerrilla troops.

"Historians said the wholesale rejection of Confederate iconography by Virginia schools is unprecedented," the Post reports, though James Grossman at the American Historical Association noted Black students, parents, and communities have objected since the schools were named in the 1950s and '60s, in an angry backlash to the Supreme Court's seminal ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

"It was trying to make Black students feel unwelcome, while white students and white communities were emboldened to resist desegregation," said historian Adam Domby. Peter Weber

1:47 a.m.

Jimmy Kimmel took the summer off but his show still goes on. Monday's Kimmel Live was guest-hosted by actor-comedian Anthony Anderson, who said he wasn't a fan of the phrase "guest host." "When you invite a guest over for dinner, you don't make them show up to an empty house and cook their own damn food," he pointed out. Anderson was impressed with the pirate fireworks displays blanketing the Los Angeles skyline on what was "probably the worst 4th of July ever" and disgusted with a "particularly infectious" party "at Diamond Lake in Michigan on Saturday."

"President Trump also had a rager outside the White House on Saturday, and this kind of tells you everything you need to know about America right now," Anderson said. "In 2015, President Obama had Bruno Mars perform at his 4th of July party." Trump, he showed, had a Bruno Mars military cover band playing to a sparse crowd. "Wow, Major Embarrassment — that's the name of that lead singer," he said. (The singer was actually SFC Christopher Rettig of the U.S. Army Band.)

Anderson also shrugged off Kanye West's presidential publicity stunt — "laugh all you want, but this would be historic, because this country has had a Black president, we've never had a crazy Black president" — and unveiled a special offer for white viewers who want to show how not-racist they are.

Tooning Out the News also touched on Trump's July 4th weekend, but the Mount Rushmore part. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:46 a.m.

In his new book, Separated: Inside an American Tragedy, NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff writes that Katie Miller, former spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, told him she was sent to the southern border to see the plight of migrant families in an attempt to make her "more compassionate," but it "didn't work."

Separated explores the Trump administration's systemic separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. The book is out Tuesday, and on Monday night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow interviewed Soboroff and revealed Miller's comments for the first time. Miller is now Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary, but while at DHS, she was an "unwavering defender of what we were doing," Maddow said, "taking these kids away from their parents."


Soboroff writes that Miller said her "family and colleagues told me that when I have kids I'll think about the separations differently. But I don't think so. ... DHS sent me to the border to see the separations for myself — to try to make me more compassionate — but it didn't work." Soboroff said he was astonished by Miller's remarks, and asked her: "Are you a white nationalist?" She responded, "No, but I believe if you come to America, you should assimilate. Why do we need to have 'Little Havana'?"

Katie Miller is married to Stephen Miller, one of President Trump's senior advisers. An immigration hardliner who has himself been accused of being a white nationalist, Stephen Miller was the architect of Trump's family separation policy. In May, Katie Miller announced she is pregnant with their first child. Catherine Garcia

12:15 a.m.

You can, if you choose, take White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany at her word that President Trump was taking no position on the Confederate flag when he tweeted Monday morning that NASCAR's decision to ban the flag from its races helped cause NASCAR's "lowest ratings EVER!" But that "second part of Trump's tweet, about NASCAR's TV ratings, is completely false," says Daniel Roberts at Yahoo Finance.

Ratings for the first NASCAR event after the sport announced its Confederate flag ban, the June 10 race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, jumped 113 percent from the same race last year, Fox Sports said. And overall, ratings are up 8 percent since the sport returned from COVID-19 lockdown on May 17 and 8 percent since the June 10 post-flag race. "In fact, every NASCAR race on Fox since the Confederate flag ban, except for Talladega on June 22, has rated higher than the equivalent race the year before," Roberts writes.

There is room for speculation over why Trump demanded an apology from Bubba Wallace, NASCAR's only top-tier Black driver, for a noose incident he played no real part in, and it isn't entirely clear why NASCAR's ratings are rising. "Whether the extra eyeballs are because of the controversial Confederate flag ban or despite it, or whether it's all thanks to the current dearth of live sports to watch, is up for debate," Roberts writes. "But the sport is enjoying a clear ratings bump over last year." Peter Weber

12:11 a.m.

President Trump can breathe a sigh of relief — the latest tell-all book from a member of his orbit isn't about him, but rather first lady Melania Trump.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former friend and senior adviser to Melania Trump, is writing a memoir that will detail their 15-year relationship, from beginning to implosion. Melania and Me is due to hit shelves on Sept. 1, Vanity Fair's Emily Jane Fox reports, and will be published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster — the same company behind former National Security Adviser John Bolton's The Room Where it Happened and the upcoming Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, written by the president's niece, Mary Trump.

Wolkoff, a former special events director at Vogue, helped plan the 2017 inauguration, and soon after became a senior adviser to the first lady. Her time in the White House was short-lived; she was ousted in February 2018 after it was revealed that the Trump inaugural committee paid her firm $26 million to assist with the inauguration.

Wolkoff told The New York Times in 2019 that she had been "thrown under the bus." Time has evidently not healed all wounds, as people with knowledge of Melania and Me told The Daily Beast it is "largely negative," "explosive," and "heavily trashes the first lady." Catherine Garcia

July 6, 2020

In a segment Sunday on Ghislaine Maxwell's arrest, Fox News showed this photo of Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein, and future first lady Melania Trump from February 2000. They cropped out Donald Trump. That was a mistake, a Fox News spokeswoman said Monday.

Embed from Getty Images

“On Sunday, July 5, a report on Ghislaine Maxwell during Fox News Channel’s America’s News HQ mistakenly eliminated President Donald Trump from a photo alongside then Melania Knauss, Jeffrey Epstein, and Maxwell," the spokeswoman said in a statement. "We regret the error.” Peter Weber

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