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December 21, 2017

President Trump and his former White House chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, have a confusing relationship. Trump reportedly dislikes when anyone credits Bannon as being the "mastermind" behind his campaign, at one point telling the New York Post that "you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late." On the other hand, the pair have spoken on the phone more than half a dozen times — "most initiated by the president" — since Bannon was ousted in August, Vanity Fair writes.

And while Bannon claims he is assisting Trump from his resumed post atop Breitbart, he doesn't appear to think especially highly of the president's intelligence. "He's like an 11-year-old child," Bannon reportedly joked to a friend last month.

Bannon apparently isn't always so generous in his remarks, though. One "prominent Republican" added to Vanity Fair: "I think there was a lot of rage when [Bannon] was in the White House. Steve had to subsume his ego to Donald, who Steve thinks is dumb and crazy."

Read the full scoop at Vanity Fair, and more about Bannon's trouble with making friends in the White House at The Week. Jeva Lange

1:07 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence on Fox News Sunday slammed congressional Democrats' rejection of the immigration policy package President Trump proposed Saturday as a deal to re-open the federal government from its partial shutdown.

"Well, there's a legislative process that is going to begin on Tuesday in the United States Senate" based on Trump's pitch, Pence said, "and it was disappointing to see [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)] reject the offer before the president gave his speech. I mean, look, the president is offering a solution, and what we have from Democrat [sic] leadership so far is just soundbites."

There were multiple points of overlap between Trump's plan and the statement Pelosi released shortly before Trump's Saturday remarks, though Pelosi panned Trump's deal as "a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people's lives."

Pence also pushed back on claims from immigration hardliners that Trump's offer of "three years of legislative relief" for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status (TPS) recipients amounts to amnesty. "This is not amnesty," he said. "There's no pathway to citizenship there's no permanent status here at all, which is what amnesty contemplates."

In a Sunday morning tweet, Trump also said the three-year extension is not amnesty, but he suggested he could accept amnesty in a future immigration deal.

Watch Pence's full interview below, or read a transcript here. Bonnie Kristian

12:29 p.m.

President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen pursued the possibility of a Trump Tower project in Moscow as late as October or November of 2016, Trump's current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday.

Cohen initially told Congress he abandoned the project in January of 2016, as the Republican primary elections began. He later admitted this was a lie and said talks related to the project continued through June of 2016, around the time Trump clinched the GOP nomination.

"Well, it's our understanding [conversations about the project] went on throughout 2016. Weren't a lot of them, but there were conversations," Giuliani told host Chuck Todd. "Can't be sure of the exact date. But the president can remember having conversations with [Cohen] about it ... as far as October, November. Our answers cover until the election."

Trump has repeatedly claimed the Moscow deal ended before his presidential campaign began. "I mean, I have nothing to do with Russia. I don't have any jobs in Russia. I'm all over the world but we're not involved in Russia," he said in July of 2016 — per Giuliani's present account, four to five months before these conversations about the Moscow project ended.

Watch a clip of Giuliani's comments below, and read his full interview here. Bonnie Kristian

11:07 a.m.

About 170 migrants are missing and feared dead after two shipwrecks in the Mediterranean this week.

Three survivors of one wreck rescued by an Italian naval helicopter on Friday said they'd been on a ship with about 120 people which began sinking after leaving Libya Thursday. A 2-month-old baby was among the passengers. Another 53 people who sailed from Morocco are also missing, though at least one person from that boat was rescued.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to the high numbers of people dying on Europe's doorstep," said a statement from the United Nations' refugee agency. "No effort should be spared, or prevented, from saving lives in distress at sea." Bonnie Kristian

10:56 a.m.

Local authorities by Saturday evening had revised their estimate of deaths in a Friday explosion at a Mexican fuel pipeline to 73, with another 74 people injured in the blast and more still missing.

The death toll was initially put at 21 but quickly rose. Casualties are high because a crowd of hundreds of villagers had gathered in hopes of collecting free gasoline after the pipeline was punctured by fuel thieves. Gas stations in the area have been rationing gasoline because of fuel shortages, and word of the spill from the pipeline spread quickly.

"I trust in the people, and I know that with these painful, regrettable lessons, the people will also distance themselves from these practices" of fuel theft, said Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who visited the site of the tragedy Saturday. Bonnie Kristian

10:35 a.m.

A dangerous winter storm that brought extreme cold and heavy snow to much of the Midwest on Friday and Saturday moved east to New England Sunday. States of emergency have been declared in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and widespread travel delays are anticipated.

"Feet of snow, blizzard conditions, a significant build-up of ice, tree-breaking winds, and plunging temperatures will close roads, cause flight cancellations, and disrupt daily activities over a large part of the northeastern United States this weekend," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

"Be careful and try staying in your house," President Trump tweeted Sunday morning. "Large parts of the Country are suffering from tremendous amounts of snow and near record setting cold. Amazing how big this system is." Bonnie Kristian

8:26 a.m.

Saturday Night Live returned from a holiday hiatus with Alec Baldwin as President Trump playing Deal or No Deal to end the partial government shutdown, as "a TV game show with women holding briefcases" is the "only format [he] can understand."

SNL's Trump gives an overview of the plan the real president proposed earlier Saturday, but host Steve Harvey (Kenan Thompson) has an array of alternative deals from congressional leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Kate McKinnon) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (Alex Moffat). Trump cannot be tempted by their pitches, but when a Clemson University football player shows up with some "hamberders," he's ready to talk.

Watch the full sketch below. Bonnie Kristian

8:09 a.m.

When BuzzFeed News approached Peter Carr, spokesman for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, for comment on Thursday's explosive report, Carr was not told the full scope of what BuzzFeed planned to publish, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

Emails from BuzzFeed reporters say they have "a story coming stating that Michael Cohen was directed by President Trump himself to lie to Congress about his negotiations related to the Trump Moscow project." The emails do not mention reporting that Mueller's office had collected document evidence and a confession from Cohen. Carr's denial of the BuzzFeed story the next day was delayed by the special counsel's office's efforts to independently verify BuzzFeed's claims, the Post reports.

BuzzFeed again stood by its reporting in a second statement Saturday. "As we've re-confirmed our reporting, we've seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate," the statement said. "We remain confident in what we've reported, and will share more as we are able."

Read the full Washington Post story here. Bonnie Kristian

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