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March 7, 2018

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 84 years old and, as she remarks in the inspiring new trailer for RBG, "everyone wants to take a picture with me." One of the most talked about films at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, RBG seeks to honor Ginsburg's groundbreaking career and her 25 years on the Supreme Court. It is "a rare peek behind the curtain" at the life of "the Thurgood Marshall of Women's Rights" — pushups, internet memes, and all.

In its review of the film, Indiewire calls RBG a "fist-pumping, crowd-pleasing documentary that makes one heck of a play to remind people of Ginsburg's vitality and importance, now more than ever." Watch the trailer below, and RBG in theaters May 4. Jeva Lange

5:34 a.m.

First lady Melania Trump sat down for an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday night, and Stephen Colbert took it a little personally. "Hannity asked Melania what's her least favorite part about first lady," and her list of the "opportunists" profiting from her name sounded familiar, he said on Thursday's Late Show. "Comedians, journalists, performers, book writers — hey, I'm some of those things. But you left off Grammy-winning audio book narrator and disgraced lifeguard." The first lady also said she will ignore the criticism from the media and do what she thinks is best for the country and true to herself. "Well certainly there's nothing wrong with trying to stay true to yourself," Colbert said. "It's just like Shakespeare famously said, 'This above all: To thine own self be best.'"

"On Fox News last night, Melania Trump was interviewed by Sean Hannity," Jimmy Fallon said on The Tonight Show. "Trump said it was a lot of fun tuning in to watch the love of his life, and also Melania."

Hannity asked Melania "the moment she and Donald fell in love," Seth Meyers said on Late Night. "Said Melania: I'll let you know. In the same interview, Melania said the hardest part about her role is dealing with opportunists who use her name and her family's name to advance themselves. Said one such opportunist: You're not my real mom!" Meyers joked over a photo of Donald Trump Jr. "Now give me my allowance!"

Coincidentally, a CNN/SSRS poll released Thursday found Melania Trump's favorability rating dropping to 43 percent, from 54 percent in October. She is still widely popular among older white male Republicans and conservatives, the poll found. CNN's Kate Bennett suggested that her recent media appearances, in which she said she felt bullied and aligned herself with her husband and his policies, probably account for her drop in approval among women and younger Americans. Peter Weber

4:02 a.m.

Federal prosecutors in New York City have begun a criminal investigation into whether President Trump's 2017 inaugural committee misspent any of its record $107 million haul and whether any of the committee's biggest donors sought access to or special favors from the incoming Trump administration for their donations, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday evening, citing people familiar with the matter.

The investigation arose party out of materials seized by the FBI in an April raid of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen's office and residences, the Journal says, and federal prosecutors have sought information from Rick Gates, deputy chairman for both Trump's campaign and inaugural committee, who has pleaded guilty to different crimes and is cooperating with investigators. "Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws," the Journal notes. "Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law."

Trump's $107 million inaugural fund was more than twice the previous record, set in 2009. The inaugural committee has not publicly accounted for how it spent $103 million, though it has identified vendors it paid $61 million and broken out some of the broad spending categories. Thomas Barrack, the real estate developer and longtime Trump friend who chaired the inaugural committee, said the committee's finances were audited by an outside organization, though he has not made that audit public. "There is no sign the investigation is targeting Mr. Barrack," the Journal says. Reporter Rebecca Davis O'Brien, who helped break the story, walked through some of the other details with CNN's Jake Tapper, and you can watch that below and read more at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

3:06 a.m.

On Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala had died of dehydration and shock more than eight hours after the Border Patrol took her into custody, along with her father and 161 other migrants who turned themselves in after crossing into New Mexico from Mexico on Dec. 6. The following morning, the unidentified girl began having seizures, The Washington Post reports, and the emergency responders who arrived shortly measured her temperature at 105.7 degrees. She "reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days," CBP said, and she died at a hospital in El Paso "less than 24 hours after being transported."

"Food and water are typically provided to migrants in Border Patrol custody, and it wasn't immediately clear Thursday if the girl received provisions and a medical exam before the onset of seizures," the Post reports. The initial diagnosis for cause of death was septic shock, fever, and dehydration, and an autopsy is being performed. "Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child," CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan said in a statement.

Even as the number of border crossings has dropped this year, the numbers of families traveling to the U.S. from Central America has risen. So have the number of migrant deaths, said Cynthia Pompa at the ACLU Border Rights Center. “This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions. Lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths." Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said he will ask the Homeland Security Department's inspector general to investigate the death, noting that a previous IG report found that as President Trump limits asylum seekers at ports of entry, migrant families are forced to make "dangerous treks across the desert in search of safety, and a better life." Peter Weber

2:18 a.m.

"It really feels that we're at a turning point in the Trump presidency — not the point where he's turning himself in, but still," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. According to a guilty plea from President Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen, Trump is essentially "an unindicted co-conspirator" in felony campaign finance violations, Colbert said. And "when he saw he was in trouble with the Justice Department, Trump immediately appealed to a higher authority, Fox News." Trump said he doesn't think he ever paid the National Enquirer to "catch and kill" a story for him and insisted the feds cut a deal with Cohen to "embarrass" him. Colbert laughed: "Well, if they're giving out deals to people who embarrass the president, you might have a chance."

"Trump also keeps insisting that the payments were totally legal and do not violate campaign finance law, despite the fact that prosecutors in his own Justice Department and independent legal experts say they did," Seth Meyers said on Late Night. When pressed by Fox News, Trump said hiring lying criminals like Cohen is something that "just happens," and Meyers disagreed: "It only happens to you. No one else accidentally hires a criminal liar who pays hush money to cover up an affair!"

"Paying people hush money is not a crime," Trevor Noah noted on The Daily Show, "but if it turns out that a presidential candidate secretly used campaign funds to hide damaging information from voters, that is a felony. And today, it's being reported that Donald Trump was actually in the room when the whole plan was hatched." Most people agree that being "implicated in a criminal conspiracy" is a really bad look for Trump, but many top Republicans are waving it away, Noah said, shaking his head. "I understand the Republicans' desire to protect their party's president, I get that. But they're pivoting so far just to defend him that they're moving away from what they said the Republican Party stands for in the first place: law and order." No one claimed that more than Trump. Noah squared the circle, in Trump voice: "That's right, folks, I am the law-and-order candidate — as in, I will break the law in order to become president." Watch below. Peter Weber

12:47 a.m.

In Wednesday's non-prosecution deal with National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc., federal prosecutors said AMI admitted that in an August 2015 Trump Tower meeting with President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen and "at least one other member of the [Trump] campaign," CEO David Pecker had agreed to "help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate's relationships with women." AMI subsequently made a $150,000 payment "in concert with the campaign" to one purported mistress, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, prosecutors said, and the "principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman's story so as to prevent it from influencing the election."

In that August 2015 meeting, "the 'other member' was Trump," NBC News reports, citing "a person familiar with the matter." Trump's active participation in the meeting — and direct involvement in or knowledge of the hush payment — was reported by The Wall Street Journal in early November. Cohen has since pleaded guilty to felony campaign finance violations, purportedly committed at the direction of Trump, in connection with a separate hush payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump and his lawyers have continuously shifted their story about what happened and what Trump knew about the hush payments, with the latest iteration being Trump's insistence Thursday that he "never directed Michael Cohen to break the law," and if any laws were broken, that's on Cohen. "But if Trump is now in the room, as early as August of 2015 and in combination with the recording where Trump clearly knows what Cohen is talking about with regarding to David Pecker," former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman told NBC News, "you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud."

At CNN, The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow discussed the Enquirer's "catch and kill" practices and reminded Anderson Cooper that AMI paid to bury at least one other negative story about Trump during the campaign. Peter Weber

December 13, 2018

It's so obvious, it's amazing no one thought of it sooner.

President Trump is considering his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to be his next chief of staff, HuffPost reports. That would put Kushner on the list of five possible candidates Trump said he is looking at after current Chief Of Staff John Kelly announced his departure Saturday.

Kelly spent months possibly on the outs with Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence's Chief of Staff Nick Ayers was reportedly set to take his place. But Ayers turned down the job Sunday, leaving the field wide open for a potential replacement. Longtime loyalist Newt Gingrich has been floated as a frontrunner, and now, Kushner is reportedly joining him as a contender.

Kushner has been a steady aide to Trump's tumultuous agenda, steering the president in favor of prison reform and an alliance with Saudi Arabia. His friendship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seemingly even stopped Trump from condemning him for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Politico also reported Wednesday that Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump had a heavy hand in choosing Trump's next right-hand man. So it's no wonder that, as sources tell HuffPost, Kushner met with Trump about the job and is touting his policy accomplishments in an effort to secure it.

The White House has denied Kushner is being considered for the job, per The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who essentially points out that this doesn't mean Kushner is out of the running. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 13, 2018

The Senate voted Thursday, 56-41, to withdraw American support for Saudi Arabia's coalition in Yemen's war. Just minutes later, they unanimously voted to condemn Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder, reports The Washington Post.

Both moves are major rejections of President Trump, seeing as he never wavered in his support of the kingdom despite Khashoggi's murder and apparent human rights violations against Yemeni civilians. The vote to revoke military support also called into question Trump's war powers, but will likely expire before Trump gets a chance to sign or veto it, The New York Times says, making its passage largely symbolic.

Khashoggi's October murder in Turkey's Saudi consulate set a wave of lawmakers against the president, even those who usually back Trump's policies. While Trump repeatedly refused to accept the CIA's reported findings that bin Salman directed the killing, allies such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) vehemently countered him. As it turns out, every Republican and Democrat voted against the president Thursday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said.

The other Senate move on Thursday comes days after several humanitarian groups implored the federal government to withdraw its military support in the Yemeni civil war. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were backing efforts to fight Houthi rebels in the country, putting millions at risk of famine along the way. The House just squashed a similar resolution earlier this week to end Saudi support, the Times notes. Still, this shows there's a powerful coalition of Saudi skeptics in the Senate. Kathryn Krawczyk

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