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August 31, 2018

President Trump's Twitter feed this week is a jumble of transcribed Fox News quotes, campaign endorsements, positive affirmations of economic data, and bizarre or false, often vitriolic attacks on the media, tech companies, and various members of the law enforcement community. What's going on? Three theories:

1. Trump's agitated about the Russia investigation: "The president's tweetstorm late this week reflects a certain agitation with the news swirling around him, according to people close to Trump, including a growing anxiety within the White House about the possibility of the 'I-word,'" impeachment, Ashely Parker reports at The Washington Post. Those tweets focus on the "Rigged Russia Witch Hunt" by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and various other Justice Department and FBI officials who, as The Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand points out, all have "extensive experience in probing money laundering and organized crime, particularly as they pertain to Russia."

2. Trump wants to reclaim the spotlight from McCain: As the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was being eulogized on Thursday, "Trump aggressively tried to wrestle back the attention," tweeting about his 2016 victory, "fake news" — anything but McCain, Katie Rogers says at The New York Times. When McCain's body arrived in Washington, Trump was at a rally in Indiana, and when McCain is being celebrated by "virtually all of official Washington," Rogers and Michael Shear report, "Trump is expected to have retreated to Camp David, where White House aides hope he will contain his anger at the attention being lavished on Mr. McCain."

3. He's sprinting toward authoritarianism: Trump's tweets, Parker says, "are bound by one unifying theme: All of his perceived opponents are peddling false facts and only Trump can be trusted." NYU history professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat says claiming to "the only arbiter of truth" is the hallmark of "an authoritarian in the making or an authoritarian wannabe. ... When Donald Trump is starting to raise the specter of trying to fiddle with search engines and saying that they are rigged — this raises alarm bells in me as a scholar of authoritarianism." Peter Weber

10:12 a.m.

A resurfaced video from 2017 of former Vice President Joe Biden recounting how in 1962 he faced down a black neighborhood gang leader caused a stir this weekend. Many people questioned the veracity of the tale, and some even figured the adversary was a figment of Biden's imagination, but it turns out that William "Corn Pop" Morris was real.

Biden said he was working as a lifeguard at a pool in Wilmington, Delaware, when he reprimanded Morris for breaking pool rules. Morris supposedly threatened to fight Biden after the pool closed, but Biden instead used diplomacy to prevent a physical altercation. The two then allegedly reconciled and became friends, and Biden has since told the story as an example of his conflict resolution skills, while noting that the event was key to developing his relationship with the black community in Delaware. (The latter aspect, in particular, has garnered criticism).

It turns out that many people remember Morris and Biden interacting at the pool, even if they can't verify the specifics of Biden's retelling, The Washington Post reports. Even if they never did almost fight, sources do recall the two eventually hitting it off. The late Morris' family also remembers Morris talking about the Democratic presidential candidate. His son, Leon Morris, reportedly has no issue with Biden telling the story; he just doesn't want his father, whom he said was a "kindhearted man" to get a bad reputation because of it. Read more at The Washigton Post. Tim O'Donnell

9:49 a.m.

Yet another new streaming service is entering the crowded marketplace next year, and let's just say it's got a ... unique name.

NBCUniversal just announced new details of its upcoming streaming service, including what it's called: Peacock. That, of course, is a reference to the NBC logo, although despite the name, those famous peacock feathers don't seem to actually be included in the logo for Peacock. The Peacock Network is also a nickname for NBC.

Peacock is set to feature more than 15,000 hours of programming, The New York Times reports, including reboots of Battlestar Galactica, Punky Brewster, and Saved by the Bell. Some of the new originals that aren't reboots include a comedy from Parks and Recreation creator Mike Schur starring Ed Helms. Despite what the name Peacock might suggest, the service will also feature content outside of the NBC network, including movies from Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Animation.

Perhaps just as importantly, though, Peacock will also be the exclusive streaming home of The Office, which is set to leave Netflix, where it has been among the streamer's most popular offerings. Every episode of shows like Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live will also be exclusive to Peacock. But two notable NBC classics missing are Friends, which is instead headed to WarnerMedia's streaming service HBO Max, and Seinfeld, which is headed to Netflix.

This announcement comes a few weeks before Apple launches its new streaming service, Apple TV+, which will shortly be followed by Disney's service, Disney+. NBCUniversal didn't announce a price point for Peacock, but it'll enter this race for viewers' streaming dollars in April 2020. Brendan Morrow

9:32 a.m.

Sean Spicer has just scored a key endorsement — for his Dancing With the Stars run.

The former White House press secretary dazzled during his Monday night Dancing debut — not that he had much of a choice thanks to the terrifyingly neon shirt he was wearing. But the judges granted Spicer far less than the largest score ever to grace a DWTS performance, prompting former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to step in and try to give him a boost.

Showing there's no bad blood between Huckabee and the man who preceded his daughter as press secretary, the former GOP presidential candidate tweeted Monday evening that voting for Spicer would "create an emotional meltdown in Hollyweird." Spicer thanked him for the compliment, and then apparently decided he has a lock on the DWTS Evangelical vote.

Watch Spicer's whole Monday night performance here, at your own risk. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:10 a.m.

President Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is set to testify Tuesday as part of the House Judiciary Committee's first impeachment hearing, and sparks are likely to fly.

Lewandowski will speak after the Judiciary Committee voted last week to set the guidelines of its hearings, with Democrats saying they're investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Trump. But CNN notes this "could be a combative hearing," especially since when Lewandowski last appeared before Congress, things turned quite heated and expletive-laden. Unlike that 2018 hearing, Tuesday's will be public, beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET.

The White House on Monday directed Lewandowski, who never actually worked in the White House, not to talk about any conversations with the president outside of what's mentioned in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. No significant new information, therefore, should be expected. As this is the first official impeachment hearing, it will be the first time that Judiciary staff questions a witness, The Washington Post reports.

Mueller in his report said that Trump instructed Lewandowski to tell then Attorney General Jeff Sessions to deliver a statement declaring that Trump has done nothing wrong and to limit the scope of the Mueller investigation. Lewandowski didn't do so. The report also says that on another occasion, Trump again told Lewandowski to deliver the message to Sessions and fire him if he refused. This time, Lewandowski passed that task off to another White House official, Rick Dearborn, who again didn't deliver it. Democrats have identified these incidents as examples of obstruction of justice by Trump; Mueller did not determine whether Trump obstructed justice.

Lewandowski, who is considering a 2020 Senate run, tweeted Monday morning that he's "excited" about the opportunity to testify and push back against the "angry Democrats who tried to take down a duly elected president." He also previewed this hearing as possibly serving essentially as a campaign stop by using the hashtag "#Senate2020." Brendan Morrow

8:37 a.m.

Israeli voters go to the polls Tuesday in an election that will determine whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power. It is the country's second national election in five months, coming after Netanyahu's failed effort to form a governing coalition.

Netanyahu, seeking a fourth straight term with corruption charges against him looming, is the longest serving leader in Israel's history. Ahead of the vote, he promised to annex Jewish settlements in the Palestinian West Bank, and touted his relationship with President Trump, Politico reports. Retired military chief Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party was even with Netanyahu's Likud in polls ahead of the vote. Gantz said he offered a fresh start.

Either side was expected to have trouble forming a majority coalition. Harold Maass

8:35 a.m.

A bomb blast killed at least 24 people at a campaign rally for Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani, on Tuesday, The New York Times reports. At least 31 other people were wounded. Ghani was inside a building when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated the bomb outside. He was unhurt; many of the casualties were women and children, The Associated Press reports.

Ghani has been campaigning in his re-election bid mostly by video conference ahead of the Sept. 28 vote, which is taking place under threat of attacks by Taliban insurgents. The Taliban has vowed to disrupt the vote. Hours after the blast at the rally, another blast hit near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Few details on the second explosion were immediately available, and no group claimed responsibility for either blast. Harold Maass

7:52 a.m.

President Trump sought to appeal to Hispanic voters with a New Mexico rally Monday, though an oddly-phrased question directed at one of his supporters may have somewhat undermined that goal.

Trump at one point during his rally singled out Steve Cortes, an author and member of his Hispanic Advisory Council who has appeared on cable news in support of the president. He "happens to be Hispanic, but I've never quite figured it out, because he looks more like a WASP than I do," Trump said of Cortes.

The president declared that there's "nobody that loves this country more or Hispanics more" than Cortes, who was at the rally and who Trump then directly asked, "Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics?" From off stage, Cortes apparently responded with the former, to which Trump responded, "I don't know, I may have to go with the Hispanics."

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) was among those to push back on this distinction from Trump, tweeting in response, "I don't even know where to begin with that question. Hispanics are proud Americans. We are part of this country, just like you @realdonaldtrump. Do better."

Trump lost New Mexico by eight percentage points in 2016, and Axios reports his net approval rating there has dropped from +17 at the beginning of his presidency to -13 in July. Brendan Morrow

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