July 11, 2018

British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has a mysterious new show about America on Showtime, and it's sure to fit in nicely with the current political climate by trolling politicians who hit their apex years ago. On Tuesday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) revealed that, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, she had been "duped" by Cohen. "I join a long list of American public personalities who have fallen victim to the evil, exploitive, sick 'humor' of the British 'comedian,'" Palin wrote on Facebook.

Palin said she and one of her daughters flew to Washington to participate in what they thought was a “legit Showtime historical documentary," only to be disrespectfully and sarcastically interviewed by a fake, "heavily disguised," and apparently disabled U.S. veteran she now presumes to be Cohen. Finally, she said, she'd "had enough and literally, physically removed my mic and walked out, much to Cohen's chagrin." Cohen, presumably, is actually quite pleased with the free publicity for his show, which debuts Sunday. Cheney, it seems from a teaser Cohen posted Sunday, at least seems to have been in on the joke.

Or perhaps Cheney was duped, too. Cohen, 45, is best known for his turns as Borat, Brüno, Ali G., and as the voice of the animated lemur King Julien. Peter Weber

8:32 a.m.

Outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley swears that when it comes to foreign policy, Trump's unpredictable nature is a feature, not a bug.

Haley spoke with Today on Wednesday morning as she prepares to exit the Trump administration after two years on the job. She told NBC's Craig Melvin that there were scenarios in which the president's bombastic rhetoric actually helped her maneuver behind-the-scenes.

"He would ratchet up the rhetoric, and then I'd go back to the ambassadors and say, 'You know, he's pretty upset. I can't promise you what he's going to do or not, but I can tell you if we do these sanctions, it will keep him from going too far,'" she said.

When Melvin observed that it sounded like they were playing good cop, bad cop, Haley simply said she was "trying to get the job done." She went on to say, "I got the job done by being truthful, but also by letting him be unpredictable and not showing our cards."

This is the first interview Haley has given since announcing her departure from the administration, and while her October announcement set off a firestorm of speculation about her eying a possible White House bid, she swore to Today that she and her husband have "never talked" about the possibility of her running for president. Watch Haley's interview with Today below. Brendan Morrow

8:23 a.m.

The few people who actually want to become the next White House chief of staff may need to go through the president's daughter and son-in-law first.

Politico reports that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are playing a major role in President Trump's chief of staff search; they're looking for a "political ally" and are "using their unrivaled influence to ensure they get one," the report states, noting that the process is being "carefully regulated" by the president's family.

Trump's daughter and son-in-law are so crucial in this decision, in fact, that their disapproval of some candidates makes their hiring seem unlikely. According to Politico, this includes David Bossie, Trump's former deputy campaign manager who he specifically cited as a potential candidate in a Tuesday interview with Reuters. A former White House official told Politico that Ivanka Trump and Kushner have to "sign off" on the pick, also noting that Chief of Staff John Kelly was one of their last political rivals in the White House.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Kushner is reaching out to candidates about the job, as is Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff who himself declined the role and was reportedly Trump's only real choice; he was also Ivanka Trump and Kushner's preferred choice. Kelly, however, is "not playing a role" in finding his successor. Brendan Morrow

7:59 a.m.

While President Trump sparred with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over funding his proposed border wall on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence sat there silently for the entire 17 minutes, occasionally nodding or blinking. His stoicism amid the new onslaught of divided government did not go unnoticed online or on late-night television. The Daily Show's Trevor Noah compared him to "a guy whose edibles just kicked in," imaging him daydreaming about handmaids.

Stephen Colbert's Late Show imagined a longer internal monologue, with Pence meditating in a strange drawl: "I'm a manila envelope taped to a beige wall. No one can see me."

The Washington Post rounded up some other late-night quips about Pence.

Social media had a ball, too, comparing Pence to an Elf on the Shelf and an armadillo, giving his blank face a soundtrack, and imagining him silently plotting, patiently suffering the end of Trump's presidency so he could change the Oval Office carpet. You can watch CNN's Jeanne Moos wrap-up some of this fantasia below. Peter Weber

7:04 a.m.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) got all the snappy one-liners after her contentious meeting Tuesday with President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), but Trump was "mostly aggravated with Schumer," a White House staffer told Los Angeles Times reporter Eli Stokols, frustrated that Schumer kept mugging to the cameras Trump had called in at the last minute. An administration official told Stokols that after the meeting, Trump stormed into a side office and flicked a briefing folder, scattering paper around the room.

Trump told reporters "it was a very good meeting," and he didn't regret taking ownership of any government shutdown, but a staffer told the L.A. Times that after Schumer and Pelosi left, the West Wing sprang into "damage-control mode," adding, "The aftermath of that meeting was not pretty."

There were differing accounts of the closed-door portion of the Trump-Schumer-Pelosi meeting — sources told The New York Times that Trump suggested the next Congress could be the "greatest Congress in the history of Congress," filled with deal-making; The Washington Post says Trump tried to convince the Democrats that Mexico actually will pay for the wall through higher prices under his NAFTA replacement agreement; and a staffer told the L.A. Times that very little of substance happened because "once the president has been aggravated to that level, there's no coming back from that and re-focusing."

Regardless, "several White House advisers and GOP congressional aides said they believed Trump damaged himself by agreeing to own a possible shutdown and so vividly saying he would not blame it on Schumer," the Post reports. "For months, Trump's aides have told him he is unlikely to get $5 billion for the border wall in December, but he wants to show his supporters that he is fighting for the funding." Winning, perhaps, is optional. Peter Weber

5:02 a.m.

Canada's Dec. 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, on a U.S. warrant has roiled U.S.-China trade negotiations and Chinese-Canadian relations. The dicey situation got even more complicated on Tuesday, when Canada confirmed that Chinese security agents arrested former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig for unspecified reasons and President Trump said he would consider intervening in the Meng case, politicizing what U.S. and Canadian officials have insisted is purely a legal affair. A judge in Vancouver also agreed to release Meng on $7.5 million bail.

The U.S. accuses Meng, the 46-year-old daughter of Huawei's founder, of conspiracy to defraud banks about the company's alleged violations of Iran sanctions. If she is extradited to the U.S. and convicted, Meng faces decades in jail. When Reuters asked Trump on Tuesday if he would intervene in the Meng case, he said he might.

"Whatever's good for this country, I would do," he said. "If I think it's good for the country, if I think it's good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what's good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary." It's possible Meng could be released, he added. "It's also possible it will be a part of negotiations. But we'll speak to the Justice Department, we'll speak to them, we'll get a lot of people involved."

"The U.S. and China have tried to keep Meng's case separate from their wider trade dispute," The Associated Press reports. "Trump undercut that message." Also, "an intervention by Trump would seem to confirm China's suspicion that this is not a legal proceeding but a political negotiation," The Washington Post adds, "potentially changing the terms of the conflict." Peter Weber

3:23 a.m.

At least 48 Conservative Party members of Britain's Parliament have signed a letter to trigger a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Theresa May. Graham Brady, leader of the 1922 Committee that oversees Tory leadership contests, says the vote will happen between 6 and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, London time (1-3 p.m. ET). If May gets fewer than 158 votes, or a majority of Conservative MPs, she will be forced to step down and the Tories would vote on a new leader. If she wins, she can't be challenged again for another year.

The leadership challenge is from pro-Brexit Conservatives who are concerned that she is bungling Britain's divorce from the European Union, especially after she pulled her unpopular Brexit plan before a House of Commons vote on Monday. "Normally when a prime minister loses her main policy she resigns, that is the main constitutional convention, they don't just carry on regardless," Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former May ally who signed the no-confidence letter, told CNBC on Tuesday. "The prime minister only holds office as long as she maintains the confidence of the House of Commons." Peter Weber

2:32 a.m.

"I've shared a story or two this week about my ongoing struggle with the elf in our shelf at home," Jimmy Kimmel said on Tuesday's Kimmel Live. He described the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon as "a very sneaky way to get kids to behave: The elf watches everything your child does and then goes to Santa and rats them out when they do bad things. But now there's a new holiday character to counter that little narc, to help kids spin their bad deeds and hopefully make Christmas great again." And the tagline for Kimmel's new product is pretty hard to resist: "Protect yourself from prosecution this holiday season with 'Huckabee in a Tree' — 'Kellyanne in a Garbage Can' sold separately." Watch below. Peter Weber

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