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June 14, 2018

President Trump may think he's solved the North Korean nuclear crisis, "but now he's got to deal with an even greater threat: Robert Mueller," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. Specifically, Trump's lawyer and longtime fixer Michael Cohen has reportedly lost his legal team and is about to flip. "Yes, Michael Cohen is going to sing like a canary — which is ironic, because it's Trump that actually looks like one," Colbert said. He suggested Cohen hire Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti: "I hear that the last lawyer to go up against him is about to get arrested."

This is bad news for Trump, not just Cohen. "One former White House official said, even before the news that Cohen was cooperating broke, that 'Trump should be super worried about Michael Cohen. ... If anyone can blow up Trump, it's him,'" Colbert said. "Okay, well, that gives Cohen leverage because the last guy who threatened to blow up Trump got his own summit." Cohen apparently hasn't flipped yet, but Trump has reportedly been fuming about Cohen in private, blaming him for the Daniels fiasco. The Late Show had a brief video waving "goodbye to their beautiful friend-thing."

Colbert shot down Trump's claim to have already denuclearized North Korea and noted the disconnect between Trump's version and North Korea's of what they agreed to orally, because, Trump says, he didn't have time to get it in writing. "This raises a troubling question," Colbert said. "If we're negotiating with dictators, what happens to America's status as an international bulwark against the rise of totalitarian — forget it! Can we talk about that raccoon now?!?" Watch below. Peter Weber

12:01 p.m.

After repeatedly claiming that there would not be enough time to bring the First Step Act — the bipartisan prison reform bill endorsed by President Trump — to a vote this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that his chamber would begin debating the measure as early as this week, reports The Hill.

"At the request of the president and following improvements to the legislation that has been secured by several members," McConnell said on the Senate floor, "the Senate will take up the recently revised criminal justice bill."

The legislation is designed to, among other reforms, make more prisoners eligible for early release and give judges greater latitude in the face of mandatory-minimum sentencing. Despite the president's backing — including a Friday tweet encouraging McConnell to "Go for it" — opponents, such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), have said that "most" senators "don't want to touch the bill with a 10-foot pole." Thanks to McConnell, that assertion will now be put to the test. Jacob Lambert

11:52 a.m.

NBC's Today is losing yet another host.

After more than a decade on the air, Kathie Lee Gifford is leaving the NBC morning show in April 2019. Gifford announced her departure in a tearful segment on Tuesday morning, saying she never intended to stay on the show for more than a year but did so because she loves everyone she works with so much. But she said this is "an exciting time for me" and that she's "thrilled about all the projects that are coming up."

In an internal NBC News memo, NBC News President Noah Oppenheim thanked Gifford for her "eleven extraordinary years," report CNN. Oppenheim also said that Gifford, who "has been overflowing lately with film, music and book projects," has decided to turn her attention fully to these other endeavors and step away from her hosting duties.

After working for years alongside Regis Philbin, Gifford joined Hoda Kotb as co-host of Today's 10 a.m. hour in 2008. During a segment Tuesday, Gifford said she has no doubt she and Kotb will still be close friends just as she and Philbin remain.

This is another major change to NBC's morning show after Megyn Kelly, who hosted the hour before Gifford and Kotb, was fired over controversial remarks about blackface. She is still negotiating her exit from the network but is reportedly going to receive $30 million on her way out. Brendan Morrow

Brendan Morrow

11:46 a.m.

As he gears up for the 2020 election, President Trump is ready for a challenge from one of his own.

Trump's re-election team has discussed the possibility that he will face a Republican primary challenger in 2020, The Associated Press reports. In particular, the two potential candidates they're keeping an eye on are Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

Both Kasich and Flake are leaving office soon and have discussed potential 2020 bids, with Kasich saying last month that he is looking at it "very seriously" because "we need different leadership," ABC News reports. Flake, meanwhile, has said that he hopes someone runs against Trump in the Republican presidential primaries, although he said in November that he doesn't necessarily see himself running, per CNBC. Both Kasich and Flake have made recent visits to New Hampshire, however, often a signal of forthcoming candidacy.

Trump's campaign plans to seek loyalty pledges from the GOP hoping to avoid a Republican challenge, per AP, and Politico reports that Trump's allies are trying to get the New Hampshire GOP to break from its usual tradition of remaining neutral in the state's primary. This would be so the Republican Party in the state can officially endorse Trump, and the president's team is also looking to get someone loyal to them as the state party's head. Interestingly, Kasich's team criticized this move, with strategist John Weaver saying it wouldn't impact the governor's decision on whether to run. Kasich came in second place to Trump in the 2016 New Hampshire Republican primary and CNN reports he refused to vote for him in the presidential election, writing in John McCain's name instead. Brendan Morrow

11:27 a.m.

Americans are mostly happy with how President Trump is handling border security, but they still want him to hit pause on building a border wall.

As a government shutdown looms closer, 57 percent of Americans say Trump should "compromise on the border wall to prevent gridlock," an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll released Tuesday found. Just 36 percent say Trump shouldn't compromise — it's likely Trump will listen to the minority.

Trump has said he'd only pass this year's spending bill if he gets $5 billion in border wall funding, but Democrats will so far only agree to $1.6 billion. Without a compromise or concession, the dispute would trigger a government shutdown starting Dec. 21.

Americans overwhelmingly want Trump to compromise to avoid the shutdown, with 71 percent of Democrats saying Trump should relent, per the poll. Still, 65 percent of Republicans think Trump should stand firm "even if it means a government shutdown," the poll shows. Trump has generally focused on catering to Republicans, suggesting he'll keep fighting for his $5 billion, NPR says.

The poll also shows 53 percent of Americans approve of Trump's "protection of the U.S. borders." Approval drops as Americans dig deeper into Trump's immigration policies, with only 36 percent approving of how Trump is handling "undocumented immigrants already in this country" and reuniting families separated at the border, the poll says.

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist surveyed 1,075 adults via landline and cell phones from Nov. 28-Dec. 4 with a 3.7 percent margin of error. See more results at NPR. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:39 a.m.

The number of women in Congress is about to spike — but that's no thanks to Republicans.

Next year, the GOP will have just 13 women lawmakers in Congress, down from 23 last cycle. Republican congresswomen know that's a problem, but men leading the party are doing nothing about it, they tell Politico.

Last month's midterms were brutal for the GOP-held house, likely because suburban moms largely flipped to vote for Democrats, Politico says. Many Republican congresswomen, namely Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Rep. Diane Black (Tenn.), think the GOP can reel those suburbanites back in and regain a congressional majority. But they need to start catering to women first, they said.

In 2012, Black realized the National Republican Congressional Committee wasn't pushing hard to elect women. So she and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) started fundraising to push Stefanik, Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), and several other woman past primaries to win congressional seats. Only Stefanik won re-election this year, leaving Black feel "so disappoint[ed] I could just scream," she tells Politico.

The losses prompted Wagner to run for NRCC chair "in the hopes of leading a recovery," Politico writes. But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy reportedly told her not to run, putting yet another man at the helm of the GOP's campaign efforts. Rep. Tom Emmer's (R-Minn.) comment that it was "a mistake" to push for female candidates didn't help matters. It's all led Stefanik to leave the NRCC, saying last week she'll start her own operation to get women elected — just like what Black and Wagner did six years ago, but a step further. Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:24 a.m.

Americans are increasingly unhappy, a new CNN poll published Tuesday finds, with how President Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are handling the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Approval for both has fallen since CNN asked the same questions in October:


(CNN)

Intriguingly, while each man's ratings vary along predictably partisan lines, Trump's performance in regards to the probe is a low point even for Republicans. GOP respondents ranked Trump well — often 80 percent support or higher — for his performance on other specific issues and for his presidency in general. But on the Russia probe, a bare majority of 51 percent approve of Trump, a record low.

See the full poll results here. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percent. Bonnie Kristian

9:48 a.m.

The most notable quote of 2018 — the statement that is most emblematic of this chaotic, endless, maddening year — is Rudy Giuliani's "Truth isn't truth."

Such is the determination of Yale Law School librarian Fred Shapiro, who each December releases a 10-quote update to The Yale Book of Quotations. Shapiro's selection criteria are not concerned with whether the quotes are wise or admirable. (As NBC's Chuck Todd told Giuliani immediately after he uttered his winning line, its proper end is "to become a bad meme.") Rather, Shapiro's aim is to capture of the zeitgeist of the year — for better or worse.

Here are 2018's top three:

1. "Truth isn't truth." — Rudy Giuliani, interview on Meet the Press, Aug. 19.

2. "I liked beer. I still like beer." — Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee testimony on his Supreme Court nomination, Sept. 27.

3. "While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication." — Sanofi drug company, in a tweet responding to Roseanne Barr's blaming of their product Ambien in explaining a tweet that led ABC to cancel her show, May 30. [The Yale Book of Quotations via The Associated Press]

Read the rest of the list of 10 via The Associated Press. President Trump makes an appearance, as one would expect from "a very stable genius." Bonnie Kristian

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