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September 3, 2018

Longtime acquaintances of President Trump's lead defense attorney, Rudy Giuliani, say they are startled by the shift in the man, who was heralded as "America's Mayor" after 9/11 but now makes headlines primarily for his bizarre appearances on talk shows in defense of the president. "He's making arguments that don't hold up," observed one judge, John S. Martin, to The New Yorker. "I always thought of Rudy as a good lawyer, and he's not looking anything like a good lawyer today."

The New Yorker, though, makes the case that Giuliani has long shown signs that he and Trump are more akin than what might initially meet the eye — "Giuliani's combative style of politics anticipated, and perhaps served as a model for, Trump's," writes Jeffrey Toobin. "He described his approach as mayor to me as 'provocative and not politically correct.'"

For his part, Giuliani does not care what people think about his tumultuous allegiance to Trump:

The problem for Giuliani is that his loyalty may not be reciprocated. Since Trump became president, his closest advisers have been humiliated (Tillerson, Priebus), disgraced (Sean Spicer, Bannon), prosecuted (Flynn, Rick Gates), or all of the above (Manafort). At one point, I asked Giuliani whether he worried about how this chapter of his life would affect his legacy.

"I don't care about my legacy," he told me. "I'll be dead." [The New Yorker]

Read more about how Giuliani got to this point at The New Yorker. Jeva Lange

12:03 p.m.

President Trump is sure he beat out every branch of U.S. intelligence in figuring out Osama bin Laden wasn't such a great guy. He most certainly did not.

In a Monday tweet, Trump doubled down on his Sunday insistence that the Navy SEAL who commanded the bin Laden raid should've tracked the former al Qaeda leader down "a lot sooner." After all, Trump said Monday he "pointed [bin Laden] out in my book just BEFORE the attack on the World Trade Center."

It's true, Trump did give bin Laden a brief mention in "The America We Deserve," published in 2000. In fact, he suggested bin Laden was just "a shadowy figure with no fixed address" and not America's "public enemy No. 1."

Just as Trump mentioned in his book, American warplanes had already taken aim at bin Laden because he'd been indicted for bombing U.S. embassies in 1998, per The Washington Post. CNN also reported in 1999 that U.S. officials feared bin Laden was planning a terrorist attack.

Still, Trump's Monday comments reflect a claim he'd made throughout the 2016 campaign: that America should've found bin Laden before 9/11, and if he'd been in charge, it would've. Trump failed to concede that perhaps bin Laden's lack of a fixed address complicated things. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:49 a.m.

Some Senate Democrats are taking their grievances with Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker's appointment to court.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) are filing a new lawsuit against Whitaker and President Trump in U.S. District Court, The Daily Beast reported Monday. Their argument is that Trump violated the Appointments Clause of the Constitution when he named Whitaker the acting attorney general since he was not confirmed by the Senate. Prior to his appointment, Whitaker was former Attorney General Jeff Sessions' chief of staff, a job that didn't require Senate confirmation.

The constitutionality of Whitaker's appointment has been the subject of debate for this reason. Last week, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel argued in a memo that Whitaker's appointment was constitutional and that while "presidents often choose acting principal officers from among Senate-confirmed officers ... the Constitution does not mandate that choice."

This is not the first legal challenge Whitaker has faced, as the state of Maryland is also battling the appointment in court, arguing that Trump is trying to "bypass the constitutional and statutory requirements for appointing someone to that office." Trump has defended Whitaker's appointment by saying that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was not Senate-confirmed either, although this was not a requirement. Brendan Morrow

11:23 a.m.

The White House Correspondents' Dinner will be dropping the jokes in favor of a history lesson next year.

The White House Correspondents Association, which puts on the yearly event, announced Monday that the featured speaker for 2019's dinner will be Ron Chernow, a historian who has written a number of popular biographies including the one on Alexander Hamilton that inspired the Broadway musical Hamilton.

Chernow will speak in lieu of a comedian, which is the usual featured guest. "While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won't be dry," Chernow said in a statement. Chernow will "make the case for the First Amendment" in his speech, the WHCA says.

This year's featured speaker at the White House Correspondents' Dinner was comedian Michelle Wolf, whose jokes about the Trump administration drew some criticism. Trump had declined to attend the dinner for the second year in a row, making him the first president in decades not to show up. After the event earlier this year, WHCA President Olivier Knox told The New York Times he was looking at ways to improve the dinner, including possibly inviting a serious speaker. Knox told CNN that he's been hoping for changes to the format for a long time, though, saying it should be "focused on journalists and the work of good reporters." In other words, he said, "the dinner should be 'boring.'" Brendan Morrow

11:01 a.m.

When 3-year-old Mikaila Bonaparte was found to have an unprecedentedly high level of lead in her blood, a health inspector quickly found the cause: Her mother's and grandmother's public housing units in Brooklyn were covered in lead paint.

The New York City Housing Authority's response? That can't be right.

In a massive investigation published Monday, The New York Times found that the authority retested Bonaparte's apartments with its own inspector and insisted there was no lead. But Bonaparte had still still somehow ingested enough lead to perhaps "cause irreversible brain damage," the Times writes. And her story is seemingly one of hundreds.

Because it's been shown to stunt brain development, lead paint was banned in New York City in 1960. Starting in 1989, the city sued lead paint companies and alleged "its public housing buildings were riddled with lead," the Times writes. But by 2004, the Housing Authority's position flipped, claiming only 95 of its 325 developments contained lead, likely because reported instances of lead poisoning had become uncommon.

The authority "was apparently wrong," the Times writes, seeing as the city's health department continued to find lead paint across New York's public housing developments. But from 2010 until this July, the authority challenged the health department on 95 percent of those findings. More often than not, the health department backed down, with a spokesman telling the Times the department was convinced of a false positive in 158 of those 211 cases.

After the Times inquired into the contestations in September, the housing authority's interim chairwoman said the authority was now "accepting whatever the finding of the health department is." New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to respond to the findings Monday. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:42 a.m.

The man who shouted "Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!" from the balcony of a Baltimore Fiddler on the Roof performance has said he's sorry for his outburst, which he believes "came out wrong." He did not explain how yelling about Hitler during a play about Jewish people could ever not "come out wrong."

"I opened my mouth and it was so wrong. I know that now," said the shouter, identified as one Anthony M. Derlunas. "I don't know what I was thinking. I'm so ashamed."

Derlunas claims he is actually opposed to President Trump — "The thing that I can't stand is Trump spreading hatred, and what did I do? I spread hatred" — but that the story reminded him of the administration's immigration policies. Fiddler ends with the Jewish community in a Russian town being forced by the tsarist government to abandon their homes and emigrate abroad; several of the main characters decide they will join family who have already moved to the United States. Bonnie Kristian

9:25 a.m.

Houthi rebels in Yemen's civil war indicated Monday they are willing to comply with a key Saudi condition for peace talks: They will stop firing rockets into Saudi Arabia.

This compliance with a long-time demand from Riyadh, which is leading a U.S.-supported coalition intervention against the rebel fighters, could help foster an enduring ceasefire in the tiny Mideast nation suffering the world's most acute humanitarian crisis.

"We are ready to freeze and stop military operations on all fronts in order to achieve peace," said rebel leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi in a Monday statement. He also critiqued the United States' role in Yemen's grueling internal conflict, calling Washington the chief culprit of international aggression against Yemen.

The United Nations sponsored peace talks between the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government in September, but fighting has continued in the months since. The U.N. is pushing for a new round of diplomacy by the end of this month. Bonnie Kristian

9:12 a.m.

Americans' opinions on the impact social media is having on the country have shifted quite a bit in the past year.

A SurveyMonkey/Axios poll found that when asked if social media is helping promote democracy and free speech or doing more to hurt it, 57 percent of Americans said it hurts more than it helps, a dramatic spike from last year when only 43 percent said the same thing. In November 2017's survey, 53 percent of Americans said social media helps more than it hurts.

This shift in opinion has affected voters of both parties, although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to call social media harmful. Among Republicans, 69 percent now think social media does more harm than good to democracy and free speech compared to 52 percent in 2017; among Democrats, 48 percent say the same, up from 37 percent in 2017.

Additionally, 55 percent of Americans are concerned that the federal government won't do enough to regulate big technology companies, a 15-point increase from when that question was asked last year. The last version of the survey was conducted before it was reported that a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, had accessed users' private Facebook data. Despite all this, 63 percent of Americans still said that social media has a positive impact on their life, with more Democrats saying that than Republicans.

This poll was conducted by speaking to 3,622 adults online from Nov. 9-13. The margin of error is 2.5 percentage points. Read more at Axios. Brendan Morrow

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