February 22, 2018

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) invoked The Simpsons to make a point about politics.

Cruz was being interviewed by Ben Domenech, the founder of the conservative publication The Federalist, who began the exchange by referring to a Simpsons episode where patriarch Homer and his daughter Lisa talk about gun control. "Homer points out that guns are for things like protecting your family, hunting delicious animals, and making sure that the King of England never shows up to push you around," Domenech said.

With a laugh, Cruz replied, "All good things," before Domenech noted that Lisa told her father that the Second Amendment is just "a relic of the Revolutionary War era." "I think the Democrats are the party of Lisa Simpson," Cruz replied, while "Republicans are happily the part of Homer, and Bart, and Maggie, and Marge," referring to the rest of the Simpson clan.

Cruz's comparison may not portend a bright future for the Republican Party: In an episode called "Bart to the Future," President Lisa Simpson is tasked with cleaning up a "budget crunch from President Trump." Kelly O'Meara Morales

2:36 a.m. ET

"You up to date on Trump vs. Biden?" Jimmy Kimmel asked on Thursday's Kimmel Live. If you aren't, he walked through former Vice President Joe Biden's claim that he would have "beat the hell" out of Trump in high school for disrespecting women and President Trump tweeting back his fantasy of beating up Biden and making him cry. "This is what it's come to, though: Two old men arguing over who could beat the other one up," Kimmel said, before speculating about who would actually win such a fight back in high school.

"Fortunately, for the good of all of us and our entertainment, Trump and Biden have decided to put the talk aside and settle this man-to-man," Kimmel said, rolling a fake preview of the fight — POTUS vs. JOETUS, live on C-SPAN pay per view. "They really should do that — all proceeds to charity, whoever wins gets to be president," he said, then staged a press conference about the idea with Sarah Knucklebee Sanders, the handy White House press secretary.

"This is just what America needs: The Thrilla in Vanilla," Seth Meyers said on Late Night, rolling his eyes at the idea of the 71-year-old Trump and 75-year-old Biden throwing down. "The last time I saw two old dudes going at it like that, my local Walmart was down to its last bottle of prune juice," he joked. "This whole ordeal is embarrassing not only because it degrades our political discourse but also because it would never happen. Can you imagine these two actually fighting?" He gave it a shot.

Also, "shame on Joe Biden," Meyers said. "We all know you want to fight Donald Trump. But when it comes time for someone to fight Donald Trump, I'm sorry, we're just not going to pick you — we're gonna pick Ronda Rousey." He turned to Trump's legal battles, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

2:09 a.m. ET
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Isaac Larian is the billionaire CEO of one of the world's largest privately held toy companies, and he wants your help saving Toys 'R' Us.

Larian's company, MGA Entertainment, is behind several well-known brands, including Little Tikes. He said along with other investors, he will pledge $200 million of the $1 billion necessary to bid on 400 Toys 'R' Us stores that are being liquidated. The rest of the money would be raised through a GoFundMe campaign, with donors receiving special items depending on how much they give. "There is nothing quite like the joy and and awe of a child walking through the aisles of a Toys 'R' Us store," he said in a statement. "I want to preserve that innocent experience for future generations. We can't sit back and just let that disappear."

Toys 'R' Us closing its stores would cause a ripple effect, Larian said, with suppliers having to lay off workers, too. MGA Entertainment depends on Toys 'R' Us — Larian said nearly 1 in every 5 sales was to the company — and it was the only store that had enough room to display Little Tikes bikes. "People do not realize the hole that can't be filled by other retailers," he said. "The pipeline is too big." Should enough money be raised, a bankruptcy judge would have to authorize the deal. Catherine Garcia

1:26 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

At this rate, the next time you turn on Fox News it might just be an empty set or this guy, since all of the on-air personalities are being poached by President Trump.

On Thursday, Trump announced that John Bolton, a Fox News analyst and George W. Bush administration alumnus, will be replacing National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and another frequent guest on Fox News, Joseph diGenova, just signed on to be part of Trump's legal team. We already know Trump watches Fox & Friends like it's his job, but he sometimes changes the channel, as shown by his recent hiring of conservative CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow as director of the National Economic Council.

It makes sense for Trump to pluck people his base is familiar with, Fusion TV host Alicia Menendez told CNN. "If you love the president, if you love Fox News, then his hiring from Fox validates Fox's credibility and it also validates the president's great taste, right?" she said. "It works both ways." Why stop there, though? Trump should turn to network television to start filling positions — make nemesis Alec Baldwin his body double, replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Judge Judy, put the kids from Riverdale in charge of homeland security, and let Young Sheldon take over NASA. Catherine Garcia

1:20 a.m. ET
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Early Friday morning, the Senate passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus bill to fund the government through September. The 65-32 vote came hours after the House passed the bill, 256-167; the 2,232-page legislation was released Wednesday night. Trump is expected to sign the bill, likely the last major legislation Congress gets through this year, before Saturday, averting a third government shutdown this year.

Some fiscal conservatives were upset with the price tag of the spending bill, which includes big increases for the military and domestic programs — as sought by Republicans and Democrats, respectively — but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who caused the last, brief government shutdown, did not reprise his efforts to block the legislation after intense discussion with Senate leaders. Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) did slow down the bill a bit Thursday evening over a proposal to rename a forest in Idaho after Cecil Andrus, a former four-term Idaho governor who died last year. Risch backed down after the Senate agreed to separate legislation postponing the forest renaming. It's unclear if the House will approve that motion. Peter Weber

12:46 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

When President Trump tweeted Thursday evening that he was firing National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and replacing him with John Bolton, effective April 9, Bolton told Fox News a few minutes later that he'd been surprised by Trump's offer, though they had apparently discussed the move for weeks. But Trump's decision to fire McMaster so abruptly also "surprised senior White House aides who had been preparing a single statement announcing the departure of multiple top Trump officials," Politico reports, citing two senior administration officials.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who supported ousting McMaster, had been planning to announce the firing of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, and maybe several senior White House aides at the same time as they announced McMaster's departure, Politico says. "It's unclear which other West Wing officials were possibly set to depart with McMaster, but the two senior administration officials said they believed it would be easier to manage the optics if multiple firings were made public in a single statement instead of drawn out."

Such an announcement wouldn't have been made for at least another week, until after inspector general reports on Carson and Shulkin were out. "Trump upends whatever he wants to upend," a White House official told Politico. Trump called McMaster Thursday afternoon to thank him and give him a heads-up about his ouster, not wanting to publicly humiliate him as he had outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, The Washington Post reports, but the mounting rumors of McMaster's firing had made it difficult for him to do his job. "Everyone in the White House knew that," a senior official told the Post. "It was the same as Rex. Everyone knew their days were numbered, so people didn't take them seriously." Peter Weber

12:05 a.m. ET

Guccifer 2.0, the hacker who says he provided WikiLeaks with emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee in 2016, is a Russian intelligence officer, The Daily Beast reports.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Guccifer 2.0, and the FBI agents who determined his identity are on Mueller's team, The Daily Beast says. Guccifer 2.0 made his online debut June 15, 2016, only a few hours after a computer security firm tied the DNC hack to Russia. Claiming to be a lone hacker, Guccifer 2.0 posted and tweeted DNC documents, while "projecting an image as an independent Romanian," The Daily Beast says. He denied that Russia was involved in the attack, and a few days before Trump's inauguration, he stopped posting online.

Not many people believed that Guccifer 2.0 was Romanian, and after he forgot to connect online using an anonymizing service, investigators were able to track his real IP address to Moscow, The Daily Beast reports. From that, they identified Guccifer 2.0 as a specific GRU officer, working out of the military intelligence department's headquarters (his name was not disclosed to The Daily Beast). It has also been determined that one person launched the Guccifer 2.0 persona, then passed it off to someone with a better grasp of the English language. Read more about how leaks from Guccifer 2.0 helped a Florida Republican, and how Trump adviser Roger Stone ties into the story, at The Daily Beast. Catherine Garcia

March 22, 2018

In an interview Thursday with CNN's Anderson Cooper, former Playboy model Karen McDougal said she "spent a lot of time" with President Trump more than a decade ago, and she found him to be "very sweet" and "liked his charisma," but was "sad" when he offered her money after they had sex for the first time.

McDougal alleges she had an affair with Trump, knowing he was married to his third wife, Melania Trump. She "felt guilty about it," McDougal told Cooper, and is "sorry" for what happened. "I wouldn't want it done to me," she added. McDougal said she was in love with Trump and he "told me all the time he was in love with me," calling her "baby" and "beautiful Karen."

She said that after they had "been intimate" the first time, Trump "tried to pay me, and I actually didn't know how to take that." When he attempted to hand her money, "I don't even know how to describe the look on my face," McDougal said, and she cried the entire way back to her house. McDougal also said she got to know Trump's former bodyguard Keith Schiller well, as he would pick her up for meetings with Trump in Los Angeles and then take her home. She said she and Trump were intimate "many dozens of times," and she "didn't know he was intimate with other ladies. ... I thought I was the only one."

Earlier this week, McDougal filed a lawsuit against American Media Inc., the company that owns the National Enquirer. She sold her story about the alleged affair to the publication, but it never appeared in the tabloid. Catherine Garcia

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