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April 13, 2018

The Republican National Committee is going all-out to try to discredit former FBI Director James Comey, whose new book, A Higher Loyalty, is already making waves. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Friday finds President Trump and his allies have their work cut out for them. By a 48 percent to 32 percent margin, Americans say Comey is more believable than Trump, and by a similar 47-33 percent margin, they disapprove of Trump's decision to fire Comey — even though Americans don't view Comey all that favorably (30 percent see him favorably, 32 percent unfavorably).

Americans are much less ambivalent about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible Trump campaign collusion. A hefty 69 percent of Americans support the Russia collusion part of the investigation, but 64 percent also back Mueller looking into Trump's business activities — Trump's unilateral "red line" — and 58 percent favor him investigating Trump's alleged hush money payments. Women were 5, 8, and 15 points more likely than men to support those aspects of the investigation, respectively.

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos interviewed Comey, and he offered a preview on Friday's Good Morning America. The excerpt underscored the stakes of the believability question for Trump. "I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth," Comey told Stephanopoulos, "but I don't know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It's possible, but I don't know."

The poll was conducted by Langer Research Associates between April 8-11 among a random sampling of 1,002 adults, and the results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points. You can find more results at ABC News. Peter Weber

11:00 a.m.

Chicago police said on Thursday that actor Jussie Smollett staged a fake hate crime because he wasn't happy with his Empire salary.

After bringing Smollett into custody and charging him with filing a false police report, police said in a press conference that Smollett orchestrated a "publicity stunt" that has left a "scar on Chicago." Authorities for the first time alleged a motive in the case, saying Smollett was dissatisfied with his pay.

Smollett had claimed he was attacked by two men who beat him, tied a rope around his neck, and screamed, "This is MAGA country!" But Chicago police said Thursday he actually paid the two men, two Nigerian brothers, $3,500 to attack him, and that they have the checks to prove it. The brothers, one of whom worked on Empire, were the ones to tell police about Smollett's motive, authorities added.

Police also said Smollett was not hurt "other than scratches on his face" and that these injuries "were most likely self-inflicted." Smollett had said he received a threatening letter prior to the alleged attack, but police said Smollett was also responsible for sending this letter.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson went after Smollett for his alleged hoax, asking, "Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?" Johnson also said that Smollett "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career" and that what he did is "shameful." Brendan Morrow

10:14 a.m.

Fox News' Tucker Carlson really doesn't like Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) child-care plan, but for a fairly unexpected reason.

The Democratic candidate for president in 2020 on Tuesday had unveiled a new child-care proposal, explaining that the federal government would "partner with local providers ... to create a network of child-care options that would be available to every family." Access would be free for families who make less than 200 percent of the income determined as the federal poverty line, while families who make more would pay no more than 7 percent of their income for child-care.

Carlson, let's just say, was no fan of this idea, going after it Wednesday night by dismissing it as a "daycare scheme" and claiming that Warren is arguing that "the American dream is not raising your own children. The American dream is outsourcing their upbringing to government caretakers while their parents scurry back to work as good little servants of globalized market capitalism."

Carlson concluded that "the need for government daycare specialists will no doubt be used to justify more immigration" and that Democrats have decided to "outsource parenting." Watch the clip below, via Media Matters. Brendan Morrow

10:00 a.m.

Apple is looking for another route into your wallet.

After facing pretty slow adoption of its Apple Pay system, Apple has teamed up with Goldman Sachs to create an iPhone-linked credit card, The Wall Street Journal reports. Employees will test the cards within the next few weeks, and it'll be available to the public later this year, the Journal says.

iPhone sales have slowed recently, possibly as customers start to realize Apple is charging more and more for a barely changed product. So along with its forays into Hollywood, news curation, and music streaming, Apple is "turning to fee-generating services" to hopefully make an additional $50 billion by 2020, the Journal says.

Meanwhile, mega-bank Goldman Sachs is trying to recoup losses in securities trading with its new online consumer bank Marcus, the Journal says. Still, it hasn't exactly caught on with average consumers — something the bank is seemingly trying to correct with this reported Apple collaboration. Goldman Sachs has never issued a credit card before, so it's reportedly designated $200 million to build its own payment system. It's also building "customer-support call centers around the country," sources tell the Journal.

The so-called Apple Pay card will be on MasterCard's payment network, and customers will reportedly earn about 2 percent cash back, per the Journal. That percentage could be higher on Apple product purchases, some sources said. It'll all reportedly be integrated with the iPhone's Wallet app, allowing users to "set spending goals, track their rewards, and manage their balances," the Journal continues. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:01 a.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is running ... away from the possibility of a 2020 Senate bid.

In an interview with Today on Thursday, Pompeo was asked about speculation that he'll run for Senate in Kansas next year. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has announced he will not seek another term in 2020, and Politico reported last month that Pompeo was meeting with a Republican strategist to discuss possibly running for the open seat. The Washington Post had previously reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has "personally courted" Pompeo to run.

When asked about this speculation Thursday, Pompeo at first simply said that he loves Kansas and that he would serve as secretary of state as long as "President Trump gives me the opportunity." When asked if that means he has no interest in being a senator, Pompeo said, "I love doing what I'm doing."

None of this seemed to be a definitive no, so when Today's Craig Melvin observed, "Sounds like you're not ruling it out," Pompeo finally said, "It's ruled out. I'm here. I'm loving it." Watch the clip below. Brendan Morrow

8:25 a.m.

Two polls Wednesday found that a plurality of Virginia voters don't think Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should resign over his revelation that he dressed in blackface once in 1984, after a photo of a man in blackface standing next to a man in a KKK robe was found on his 1984 medical school yearbook page. In Quinnipiac's poll, 56 percent of black voters opposed Northam's resignation. There are several possible explanations for Northam's apparent political survival, but one of them is that blatantly racist yearbook photos were shockingly common in the 1970s and 1980s, USA Today found.

In a review of 900 yearbooks from 120 universities and colleges in 25 states in the '70s and '80s, USA Today found "students saluting in Nazi uniforms on Halloween or wearing orange paint and a headdress to depict a stereotype of a Native American on game day," a swastika banner, and photos of "'slave sale' fundraisers that auctioned off young women, 'plantation parties,' and a 'sharecroppers ball,'" the newspaper said. "But the vast majority of the offensive material show racist imagery, such as students in blackface or KKK robes," sometimes including nooses and mock lynchings.

"The volume of shocking imagery found in the examination, which was not comprehensive, suggests that there are likely more yearbooks that recorded racism on campuses nationwide — and countless more acts never captured on camera or submitted for publication," USA Today notes. Experts called this a systemwide failure at universities, and Andre M. Perry at the Brookings Institute had a theory. "The way to fit in, sadly, is to make fun of black people," he told USA Today. "It's a unifying act. It's sad but racism pulls people, particularly white people, together." You can read more at USA Today. Peter Weber

8:25 a.m.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is apologizing for a recently leaked expletive-laden rant, but not for the sentiment behind it.

Carlson on his show Wednesday responded to a viral video showing an unaired interview he conducted with historian Rutger Bregman, which went south when Bregman suggested Carlson's opinions were being influenced by Fox News executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and that he is a "millionaire funded by billionaires." This prompted Carlson to call him a "tiny brain" and a "moron" and telling him to "go f--k yourself."

Carlson said Wednesday that it was "too much" when Bregman suggested his "corporate masters tell me what to say." So, Carlson said, he "did what I try never to do on this show: I was rude." At the same time, Carlson argued what he said was "entirely accurate" and that the only reason the interview didn't air was that he cursed during it. He even encouraged viewers to go watch the clip.

"There is some profanity, and I apologize for that," he said. "On the other hand, it was genuinely heartfelt. I meant it with total sincerity." Watch Carlson's response below. Brendan Morrow

8:15 a.m.

Director Jason Reitman says some recent comments of his, which set off a firestorm Wednesday, simply came out the wrong way.

Reitman said in a podcast interview that his upcoming reboot of Ghostbusters will "hand the movie back to the fans." This drew instant derision on Twitter, as his statement made it sound like the 2016 all-female reboot had taken the series away from devotees, or that the misogynistic trolls who were so violently opposed to it were the true fans.

The director has now taken to Twitter to clarify that he has "nothing but admiration" for the 2016 reboot.

Reitman's "back to the fans" comment came as he was discussing ways of recreating the style of the original film, such as using the 1984 movie's score and logo for the recent teaser. He said the 2020 version will be a "love letter" to the original.

This upcoming Ghostbusterswill ignore the 2016 version, as it takes place in the universe of the first two films. Reitman previously expressed his admiration for the 2016 reboot and explained that it won't be factored into his movie simply because he wants it to be a sequel to the originals. But the decision has sparked criticism, including from actress Leslie Jones, who has called the movie "so insulting" and "like something Trump would do."

Reitman's Ghostbusters hits theaters on July 10, 2020. Brendan Morrow

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