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June 20, 2018

With the possible exceptions of Corey Lewandowski and White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, nobody in Washington says they like President Trump's new "zero tolerance" policy and the resulting separation of 2,300 migrant children — including babies — from their parents, and counting. Even President Trump disavows responsibility for his administration's policy. But Iran sees the value in America separating families and locking children up in cages.

"Iran state TV no longer needs to broadcast slogans against America," U.S.-Iranian journalist Borzou Daragahi noted. Now Tehran "just shows handout pictures distributed by U.S. [government] itself." Those who live in free-press-less houses, of course, have no business throwing stones. But the Iranian government is surely not the only repressive regime delighted at this propagandistic own goal. Peter Weber

8:41a.m.

President Trump last week floated the idea of a "new election" in Arizona. But now, it's Democrat Stacey Abrams who may be pushing for that option in Georgia.

Republican Brian Kemp currently holds an 18,000-vote lead over Abrams in the Georgia gubernatorial election, but with the official state certification of the results possibly coming on Friday, The Associated Press reports that Abrams' campaign is preparing an "unprecedented legal challenge" that could involve pushing for a new vote.

Abrams would be challenging the result by saying there was "misconduct, fraud, or irregularities," enough "to change or place in doubt the results," as outlined in Georgia election law. Her team would then assemble affidavits from voters who say they were disenfranchised. Abrams accused Kemp of voter suppression throughout the campaign; in one example, tens of thousands of voters' registrations were put on hold because information on their applications wasn't an exact match with information in voter databases. There were also reports on Election Day of long lines, a problem exacerbated by some technical issues in the state's second-largest county, and voters not being offered provisional ballots when they should have been.

If Abrams' team took this case to court, their argument would be that as many as 18,000 voters could have been disenfranchised; had Abrams received that many additional votes, she would be able to force a runoff election in December. Abrams' lawyers, however, say no decisions have been finalized and they are "considering all options," one of which would involve a judge reopening the certified results to address potential irregularities. Kemp declared victory last week, and his campaign argues Abrams is trying to "count illegal votes" and that his lead is too great for any remaining uncounted ballots to make a difference. Brendan Morrow

7:18a.m.

In a video posted Thursday, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is captured saying at a Nov. 3 campaign stop: "And then they remind me that there's a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who maybe we don't want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that's a great idea." Hyde-Smith, appointed earlier this year, is in a Nov. 27 runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy to fill the remaining two years of former Sen. Thad Cochran's (R) term.

Lamar White Jr., who posted both this video and the one where Hyde-Smith said if a supporter "invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row," said this is the only part of the clip he received. It was recorded in Starkville, during a Mississippi State University football game. It's not clear what "those other schools" are, CNN notes, but "Mississippi is home to several historically black colleges and universities, and black voters in the state overwhelmingly back Democrats."

"Obviously Sen. Hyde-Smith was making a joke and clearly the video was selectively edited," Hyde-Smith spokeswoman Melissa Scallan said Thursday. (White told The Clarion-Ledger the video clearly wasn't edited, and "this is what she said, verbatim.") Scallan told The Washington Post that Hyde-Smith made her comment while "talking to four freshmen at Mississippi State University about an idea to have polling places on college campuses," and "that's what she said was a great idea." Her comment "was a joke," she added. "The senator absolutely is not a racist and does not support voter suppression."

Espy spokesman Danny Blanton said the "joke" wasn't funny: "For a state like Mississippi, where voting rights were obtained through sweat and blood, everyone should appreciate that this is not a laughing matter." If you want a recap of Hyde-Smith's damage control on her "public hanging" comment, Late Night has a very stylized walkthrough below. Peter Weber

5:43a.m.

Former first lady Michelle Obama got a very warm welcome on Thursday's Jimmy Kimmel Live. "You see how much we miss you?" Kimmel said. "We're here, we're in another house," Obama said. "How's unemployment going?" Kimmel asked. "You embracing it?" She said yes, but "truthfully, we're boring. You know, we have a teenager at home, and she makes us feel inadequate every day." The former president, Obama said, is spending his days holed up in his messy office, writing his own book.

Obama talked about raising kids in the White House, her mother's unsuccessful attempts to escape living there after a few years, whether she'd live in the White House if one of her daughters becomes president — "Oh god, that will never happen," she said — the dogs, and how first families have to pay for their own food while living in the White House. "That's crazy to me," Kimmel said. Obama explained that it generally isn't crazy, except that the staff "are very responsive, at your expense."

"If you wanted to get someone in your husband's administration fired, how would you do that?" Kimmel asked after a break. Obama laughed. "Why do you ask?" she said diplomatically. She explained that nobody on the White House staff rubbed her the wrong way, Kimmel said he didn't believe her, and he brought up a game he and his wife play, informally called "What if Obama had done this?" "Oh god, we play that at home, too," she said. "Quite often." Kimmel asked Obama if anybody has seriously approached her about running for office, she said "all the time," but she's "never had any serious conversations with anyone about it because it's not something that I'm interested in or would ever do, ever." You can watch that, her un-first-lady-like comments, and how she tried to get copies of her book, Becoming, to old boyfriends and bullies, below. Peter Weber

4:44a.m.

"President Trump has been spinning in a Tasmanian Devil-style rage this week," Jimmy Kimmel said on Thursday's Kimmel Live. "As rumors of turmoil and tumult continue to swirl, Trump took to Twitter to lash out at Special Counsel Robert Mueller," his "witch hunt," and his staff. "He always forgets we had real witch hunts in American history, in which they killed witches, but this is the biggest witch hunt, and Bob Mueller is moving on you like a witch," Kimmel said. Still, "what Donald Trump should be worried about" isn't Mueller, but Russian President Vladimir Putin's warm exchange with Vice President Mike Pence at an Asia-Pacific summit on Thursday. He narrated the video.

The Late Show kicked off with a different Trump conspiracy theory, showing a fake commercial to mock Trump's "nuts" idea that you need to voter ID card to buy cereal.

"With Trump in such a bad mood, no one is safe," not even Fox News host Sean Hannity, Stephen Colbert said in his monologue. "Apparently, Trump's close relationship with Hannity hasn't stopped the president from mocking the Fox News star behind his back for being such a suck-up. Does Hannity really suck up that much?" Colbert asked. It was a rhetorical question, but he played some clips anyway. Trump is reportedly so critical of Hannity he has been known to imitate his voice and mannerisms. "I would love to see Trump's impressions," Colbert said, trying out a few. The Nixon one got a little strange.

"This news about Hannity has sent shockwaves through our in-house, pro-Trump news team, Real News Tonight, who now don't know how to talk about the president," Colbert said. You can watch Jim Anchorton and Jill Newslady struggle that out below. Peter Weber

3:58a.m.

Right after Act I of Wednesday night's performance of Fiddler on the Roof at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theater, the intermission was interrupted by a shout from the balcony: "Heil Hitler, Heil Trump!" Late Thursday, Baltimore police identified the shouter as Anthony Derlunas II, a 58-year-old man who said he had been "drinking heavily throughout the night" and was inspired to yell pro-Nazi slogans during the popular musical because the end of Act I — where Russians storm a Jewish wedding, staging a pogrom against the village's Jewish residents — reminded him of his hatred of President Trump.

Derlunas, the police said, blamed the anger his outburst caused and his rapid expulsion and lifetime ban from the Hippodrome on Trump supporters in the theater. Other theatergoers told The New York Times they assumed the shouting of "Heil Hitler" was linked to the rise in U.S. anti-Semitism and feared the shouter also had a gun. "I was waiting to hear a gunshot, frankly," sportswriter Rich Scherr told the Times. "I'm like shrinking in my seat thinking, 'Oh my God, does this guy have a gun?'" added Beth Pendergast, who brought her 23-year-old daughter to the show.

Derlunas will not face any charges, said Matthew Jablow, a spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department. "As reprehensible as the man's words were, they are considered protected free speech because nobody was directly threatened." A few weeks earlier, a gunman murdered 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Coincidentally, this touring production of Fiddler on the Roof is scheduled to head to Pittsburgh after its Baltimore run ends Nov. 18. 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

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