October 10, 2018

President Trump's USA Today op-ed lacerating Democrats' push for Medicare-for-all on Wednesday used his signature hyperbolic flair, including claims that health care as we know it would be "forced to die" and that Democrats want to recreate Venezuela.

But The Washington Post's fact checker found that the op-ed was even worse than merely hyperbolic. "Almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood," the Post concluded. The single-payer health-care plan as outlined by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would expand services for seniors, not "take away benefits that seniors have paid for their entire lives," as Trump posited.

Fact checker Glenn Kessler also pointed out that health insurance premiums have not, in fact, gone down on average, and Trump did not keep his promise to bolster protections for pre-existing conditions. Where Trump blames Democrats, the Post blames the efficacy of health-care providers; where Trump claims seniors will be disproportionately harmed, the Post describes the opposite. When Trump, or his ghostwriter, inexplicably ropes in the calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Kessler reminds him that it's far from a widely held view.

Trump's warning that the "Democratic plan would inevitably lead to the massive rationing of health care" is nothing more than a "Chicken Little" style "scare scenario," Kessler determines. Read the point-by-point dismantling of Trump's rhetoric at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

8:11 a.m.

President Trump is hosting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, in Lavrov's second Oval Office meeting with Trump. Likely topics of conversation include nuclear weapons and, a senior U.S. official said, "the state of the bilateral relationship." The last time Lavrov visited Trump in the Oval Office, Trump had just fired FBI Director James Comey and reportedly bragged that the move relieved pressure on an investigation into his campaign's ties with Russia; he also divulged highly classified intelligence from Israel with Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Americans only learned about the meeting after Russia released photos.

This time, Lavrov's visit comes as House investigators unveil articles of impeachment against Trump tied to his withholding of anti-Russia military aid and a crucial White House visit from Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky at the same time he was asking Zelensky to announce investigations into Trump's Democratic rivals and a baseless conspiracy theory meant to absolve Russia of 2016 election interference. Zelensky still has not been invited to the White House.

"We didn’t pick this date to coincide with the process on Capitol Hill, but we can't allow the zaniness that's taking place on Capitol Hill to impact our job," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the conservative One America News Network on Monday. "We're not going to let that activity distract us from this important work." Peter Weber

8:05 a.m.

President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Avengers: Endgame produced some of 2019's most notable quotes, according to the editor of the Yale Book of Quotations.

Yale Law School's Fred Shapiro each year compiles a list of most notable quotes as an update to his book first published in 2006. Topping Shapiro's list for 2019, per The Associated Press, is "I would like you to do us a favor, though," said by Trump on his phone call with Ukraine's president that led to the impeachment inquiry.

A quote delivered by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate change activist who spoke at the United Nations in September, came in at number two, reading in part, "How dare you!" Number three was the closing statement of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings during the congressional testimony of Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

"When we're dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: 'In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?'" Cummings said. "'Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?'"

At number four is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's declaration that he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than ask for another Brexit delay (which he ultimately did), while number five is Britain's Supreme Court's finding that Johnson's suspension of Parliament was "unlawful."

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's statement that he "would have said so" if he was confident Trump "clearly did not commit a crime" was number six, while "I have a plan for that" from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was number seven. Another 2020 Democrat's quote occupies number eight: Biden's gaffe, "Poor kids are just as bright, just as talented, as white kids."

Finally, the list's last two quotes are Emma Watson's description of herself as "self-partnered," and the memorable line from Avengers: Endgame first said by Tony Stark's daughter: "I love you 3000." Read the full quotes at The Associated Press. Brendan Morrow

6:54 a.m.

At least six people are confirmed dead and eight more suspected dead after Monday's eruption of White Volcano, also called Whakaari, a private scenic reserve island about 30 miles off New Zealand's North Island. Police estimate that 47 people, mostly tourists from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation of the Seas, were on the island when the volcano erupted, and about 30 survivors remain hospitalized with serious burns. Some of those hospitalized are not expected to live.

Russell Clark, a paramedic who flew in one of the helicopters trying to rescue survivors from White Island, compared the scene to something out of "the Chernobyl miniseries," telling TVNZ, "Everything was blanketed in ash."

Richard Arculus, an Australian National University volcanologist, told The Associated Press that the eruption probably wouldn't have just sent rock and ask flying into the air, but also blasted out in a vertical ring close to the ground. "In that crater, it would have been a terrible place to be," he said. "There would have been nowhere safe for you to be hiding."

Police say 24 of the people on the island during the eruption were Australian, nine were American, five were from New Zealand, four from Germany, two each from China and Britain, and one person from Malaysia. New Zealand's Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims initially said Tuesday that police were opening a criminal investigation into the deaths apart from health and safety inquiries, but police later said "it is too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation. Peter Weber

5:39 a.m.

On Friday, President Trump "went on a rant about deregulation," especially "environmental regulations that limit water use in the bathroom," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. And he had a very memorable, very strange example involving prolific toilet-flushing. "People are flushing toilets 15 times?!?" Colbert asked. "What? Are they trying to get rid of a body?" He asked "who in the world needs to flush 15 times," then showed a photo of Trump's diet of choice: "Okay, yeah, that checks out."

"After confirming that he takes huge dumps and doesn't wash his hands," Colbert said, "Trump discussed the big shower in the sky," explaining what rain is.

Yes, Trump "claimed that 'people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times,'" Seth Meyers said at Late Night. "Apparently it's harder than I thought to get rid of a wedding ring."

Trump's flushing comment "might top all of the things he's said," including "covfefe," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "Fifteen times?!? What are you eating? The only time you flush a toilet 15 times is if the DEA is banging on your door and you have a kilo of cocaine up you." Apparently, "this is a big issue for anti-regulation conservatives, and Trump is embracing it," he added. "He even has a new campaign slogan: 'Drain the Toilet.'"

"Let's just assume that people are flushing their toilets 10 or 15 times," Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show. "Does that mean that people are telling the president of the United States about their flushing habits, or Trump is asking about them?" Trump went on to attack modern light bulbs for making him look orange, he said, "which means there's a decent chance Trump might not know the difference between a light bulb and a mirror."

The Daily Show's Trevor Noah was more receptive to Trump's concern about lackluster toilets. "If Trump can solve that problem, he's getting four more years," he said, conceding that it's "crazy how Trump had so much more emotion talking about toilets than he does about most tragedies." Watch below. Peter Weber

4:07 a.m.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a 476-page report Monday detailing his conclusions about the FBI's investigation of Russian election interference and people associated with President Trump's 2016 campaign. The report had a little something for everyone, disclosing "significant inaccuracies and omissions" at the FBI but also dismantling Trump's accusations that the FBI investigated his campaign for political reasons, broke the law, and launched its investigations without sufficient legal or factual basis.

The reactions to Horowitz's report were mostly positive and wildly divergent.

FBI Director Christopher Wray emphasized to ABC News that he doesn't see any evidence that his agency "unfairly targeted the Trump campaign," but acknowledged the FBI's shortcomings and said he has proposed 40 corrective actions.

"I think it's important that the inspector general found that in this particular instance the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization," Wray said, and without "political bias or improper motivations" in "opening the investigation or the decision to use certain investigative tools," including electronic surveillance.

Trump claimed Horowitz uncovered FBI malfeasance "far worse than what I ever thought possible" and said incorrectly that the report pointed to "an attempted overthrow" of his government. He suggested the "overthrow" might have succeeded if he hadn't taken certain unspecified actions, likely meaning his firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Comey claimed vindication in a Washington Post op-ed and on CNN Monday night. "On all the important things," the report "tells the truth," he said, and the truth is that Trump has been lying about the FBI for two years. "People have internalized the lies they've heard," including his mother-in-law, Comey said. "Good people believe when a president says something, so they've heard 'treason' and they've heard 'spying' and they've heard 'informants in the campaign' for two years," and "it's a risk we've become so numb to the lying that we just move on to the next outrage, and we can't do that."

Comey took responsibility for the errors uncovered in the report, but insisted they didn't affect the investigation and the FBI had no choice but to act: "The facts were there, and we should have been fired if we didn't follow up on the facts that we received in late July — and we followed up, as you know, quietly, we didn't reveal it to anyone, we didn't leak it to anyone." Peter Weber

1:45 a.m.

"It's 16 days until Christmas, but we got a little present today ahead of time from the inspector general of the Justice Department," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. For years, President Trump has insisted that "the 2016 Russia probe started only because of anti-Trump bias in the FBI. He said that was the real scandal. Well, today, after months of investigating, the DOJ inspector released his report finding no bias, concluding that the FBI had sufficient evidence to lawfully open the Russia investigation."

"Okay, there it is," Colbert said. "Truth wins. This wasn't an overthrow of the government, this wasn't even an attempted overthrow, and no one was 'in on it.'" He chose those words because, as he showed, Trump used them to claim the exact opposite. "Okay, I didn't read that part," Colbert deadpanned. "So you're saying the 'Deep State' was trying to overthrow your government when they started the Russia investigation in July of 2016, before you were elected?" Nothing Trump said "was actually in the report," he emphasized. Trump is just spinning "an alternate reality he wants to exist."

"So on one level, obviously, this is fun, and ha ha ha," Colbert said. "But it's also really dangerous, because why have an election if next Nov. 3 he can just say, 'I just saw the election results — I won all 50 states, plus Manitoba'?" The report also had some new information about former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled the infamous dossier on Trump. Steele said he was "favorably disposed" toward the Trump family before he started digging, because he had "been friendly" with Ivanka Trump, Colbert noted. He also touched on Trump's impeachment, bizarre speech to a Jewish group over the weekend, and ... Ivanka. Watch below. Peter Weber

12:50 a.m.

President Trump and his allies have hinged their "witch hunt" narrative in part on private text messages the Trump administration released between FBI lawyer Lisa Page and FBI agent Peter Strzok, both of whom have since left the FBI. Some of the text messages suggested the pair would have preferred that Hillary Clinton, not Trump, win the 2016 election.

The report Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released Monday on the FBI's handling of the Trump-Russia investigation found no "documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation" influenced the decision to investigate members of Trump's 2016 campaign, including from Page — who played no role in those decisions — or Strzok.

Horowitz's report did, interestingly, include some text messages between two FBI agents and a special supervisory agent (SSA) with an evident pro-Trump, anti-Clinton bias.

In Nov. 9, 2016, text messages, the supervisory agent said he "was so elated with the election" and volunteered to investigate the Clinton Foundation "if you hear talk of a special prosecutor." When confronted with his texts, the SSA explained it was "just energizing to me to see" Clinton lose because "I didn't want a criminal to be in the White House."

In Horowitz's previous report on the FBI and the 2016 election, he detailed how FBI and Justice Department leaders were so concerned about anti-Clinton leaks from the FBI's New York field office — former Attorney General Loretta Lynch told Horowitz it was "clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton" — they decided they had to publicly disclose that the FBI was briefly reopening the Clinton email investigation in late October 2016.

"It played as a stunning piece of news, a fresh gust of scandal 11 days before the election," The New York Times recounted Sunday. Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, then a top campaign surrogate, had teased this "surprise," citing FBI agents, showing yet again "that working with virtually nothing, he could cultivate the mere existence of investigations to his political benefit." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads