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January 23, 2018

Republicans start 2018 with full control of the federal government, at least one government shutdown under their belt, a historically unpopular president, and a potentially ominous sea change among white women. But "Republican strategists are plotting an election-year survival strategy to steer the midterms away from the dangerous terrain of Trump's tweets and Capitol Hill dysfunction," The Washington Post reports: "Talk up job growth, highlight the soaring stock market and, most of all, convince voters that the tax-cut legislation that stands as their only major accomplishment is bringing back the good times."

About 60 percent of U.S. adults in a new Washington Post/ABC News poll say the GOP tax overhaul favors the rich over the middle class, and 46 percent say passing it was a "bad thing," versus 34 percent who call it a "good thing." But there's a large swathe of persuadable voters, and Republicans, wealthy donors, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are throwing tens of millions of dollars into a full-court press to convince voters to love the tax cut.

"Answer this question and I will tell you if we keep the House or not," says Corry Bliss, head of the GOP-aligned American Action Network, which pumped $24 million into GOP tax-cut boosterism last year and plans to spend $10 million more this quarter: "In 10 months, does the middle class think we cut their taxes?"

Without a push, most people won't really notice a 2018 tax cut until they do their taxes in 2019, though a single person making $50,000 should see $35 extra in each paycheck this year — or about $3,600 a year. The top 1 percent of households will get a tax cut of about $50,000. Luckily, the wealthy donors bankrolling the tax pitch were already thriving before the tax cuts — 82 percent of all wealth created last year went to the top 1 percent, Oxfam says in a new report, and the three wealthiest Americans now have the same wealth as the bottom 50 percent, or 160 million Americans. Peter Weber

3:10a.m.

As President Trump's "West Wing careens through one of the most turbulent weeks of his presidency, White House officials are struggling to understand the source of the fury fueling the president's eruptions," Vanity Fair reported Wednesday, quoting a former West Wing staffer: "This is a level of insanity I've never seen before." But Trump's "oddly detailed condemnation" of Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Twitter Thursday bolsters the speculation that Trump's mood is tied to the Russia investigation, Politico reports.

"Half a dozen people in contact with the White House and other Trump officials say a deep anxiety has started to set in that Mueller is about to pounce after his self-imposed quiet period, and that any number of Trump's allies and family members may soon be staring down the barrel of an indictment," Politico says. Trump and his lawyers have been meeting this week to answer Mueller's questions about Russia's Trump-friendly interference in the 2016 election. But Trump's "unusually specific" accusations against Mueller suggest the cause of his anxiety is based on specific knowledge, Natasha Bertrand reports at The Atlantic.

Trump's angry tweets "could just be another rant," former Manhattan federal prosecutor Elie Honig tells Bertrand. But Trump allies may also have informed Trump that Mueller's prosecutors are getting impatient with a less-than-forthcoming witness. "My hunch is that prosecutors had some sort of 'Time to get real' conversation with someone implicated in the investigation, which was then relayed to Trump by defense attorneys," Honig said. Fellow former federal prosecutor Dan Goldman agreed, saying he believes "indictments are coming," maybe Friday.

"You can see it in Trump's body language all week long, there's something troubling him," a senior Republican official in touch with the White House speculates to Politico. "It led me to believe the walls are closing in and they've been notified by counsel of some actions about to happen. Folks are preparing for the worst." Peter Weber

1:34a.m.

"You have to be very careful when you're a first lady," Jimmy Kimmel said to former first lady Michelle Obama on Thursday's Kimmel Live. "But you're not first lady anymore. And as far as I'm concerned, you can really cut loose and say anything now, right?" Obama said yes, tentatively. "I've written some things down," Kimmel said, and "if you're game for this, maybe here's some things you could say now you are..." "So you want me to just look at those cards and just read what you said?" a skeptical Obama asked. "Don't even look at them, just read what I wrote," Kimmel said. And she did, gamely.

After the first one — "I've never eaten a vegetable" — Obama laughed and commented her way through the rest of Kimmel's cards. The last one's a little spicy. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:10a.m.

President Trump appears to be "pretty grumpy" these days, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "Reports are he's moping around the White House," apparently "pissed — at damn near everyone." Wow, Colbert said, "being president has really worn him down. Remember Inauguration Day, when he was so light-hearted and filled with joy?" (Colbert didn't either.) Another former Trump staffer said there's "a level of insanity I've never seen before" at the White House," and "keep in mind, this White House has seen Kanye," he noted.

Colbert listed some real and speculative reasons Trump is so upset, including the possibility son Don Jr. will be indicted and the lack of a grand parade in Paris. But "Trump's not just moping around the White House, he's also moping around the Twitter," he said, reading Trump's tweeted tirade against Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Colbert suggested Trump was "transparently projecting his insecurities onto Robert Mueller," and demonstrated what that might look like.

At Late Night, Seth Meyers focused on Trump's "post-election funk as the blue wave that put Democrats in charge of the House keeps getting bigger." He made special note of how some of the House Democrats Trump has mocked for two years will soon have power to investigate his government and personal finances. "Damn," he said, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) "can subpoena his tax returns, his bank records — hell, she can subpoena the results of his IQ test."

"Trump knows that he'll be held accountable for his actions for the first time in two years, and as a result he's panicking," Meyers said. Watch that and his delightful cue-card incident below. Peter Weber

12:10a.m.

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you. In a recently unsealed court filing, a U.S. federal prosecutor in Virginia inadvertently disclosed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged with an undisclosed crime, The Washington Post reported Thursday night. Hours earlier, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. prosecutors are increasingly confident about indicting Assange and prosecuting him in U.S. court.

Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador, and he's been living in the country's London embassy since 2012. He has long maintained that leaving the embassy would lead to his arrest and attempted extradition to the U.S. The U.S. government has never said if it has sealed charges against Assange, but former President Barack Obama's Justice Department reportedly decided against pursuing charges on the ground that WikiLeaks is too similar to a news organization.

In the Aug. 22 filing, unsealed in late September and noticed Thursday by a sharp-eyed counterterrorism expert, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer urged a judge to keep charges against a sex trafficking and terrorism suspect, Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, under seal because "due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged." The charges "need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested," Dwyer added later.

It isn't clear what charges have evidently been filed against Assange. "The court filing was made in error," said Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia. "That was not the intended name for this filing." Assange's lawyer Barry Pollack said he has "no idea if he has actually been charge or for what," but "the only thing more irresponsible than charging a person for publishing truthful information would be to put in a public filing information that clearly was not intended for the public and without any notice to Mr. Assange." Peter Weber

12:06a.m.

On the fifth anniversary of Miles Scott, a.k.a. Batkid, saving San Francisco from the Penguin and the Riddler, the Make-a-Wish Foundation gave a wonderful update: Scott is now cancer free.

Scott was 5 years old and battling leukemia when Make-a-Wish teamed up with the San Francisco mayor's office, police and fire departments, and the Giants to turn the city into Gotham, just for him. After he spent the day getting rid of bad guys and rescuing Giants mascot Lou Seal, he received a key to the city, and the San Francisco Chronicle published the Gotham City Chronicle, his face on the cover along with the headline "Batkid Saves City."

On Thursday, Make-a-Wish said Scott is "a happy, healthy fifth grader," and has been in remission since 2013. He plays baseball in Little League, helps on his family farm, and loves science and robotics. When wishes are granted, the foundation said, they have "proven physical and emotional benefits and can produce better health outcomes." Catherine Garcia

November 15, 2018

With his family by his side, Alex Reins has been busy knitting hats and scarves for people who will need them this winter.

The 9-year-old from Lakewood, Colorado, was inspired to give back after hearing about a person who was discharged from the hospital wearing only a hospital gown and socks, and had to wait for the bus in the cold. "His big heart saw that and he thought, 'We just need to do something to help other people,'" his great-aunt, Cherie DeHerrera, told 9News.

Reins, his mother, Bri Reins, and three great-aunts regularly get together to knit for what they call Alex's Warm Hat Project. They've worked diligently, and they've made more than 300 hats and scarves. They drop them off at local food banks and homeless shelters, for distribution to those who are "out in the cold and don't have enough money to get a hat," Alex Reins said. It's not difficult to make the scarves and hats, Bri Reins said, and it makes a huge difference in people's lives: "You can turn a ball of yarn into something beautiful." Catherine Garcia

November 15, 2018

David Hockney's "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" sold on Thursday for $90.3 million, setting a new auction record for a living artist.

Christie's in New York estimated that the 1972 oil painting would fetch $80 million. The bidding lasted nine minutes, with the two most active bidders calling in by telephone. The previous record was held by Jeff Koons, whose "Ballon Dog (Orange)" sold in 2013 for $58.4 million.

Hockney, 81, is considered one of the most influential British artists. Before the sale, Ana Maria Celis, vice president of postwar and contemporary art at Christie's, said auction houses can "rarely say, 'This is the one opportunity to buy the best painting from the artist.' This is it." Catherine Garcia

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