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November 28, 2018

Former President Barack Obama got in a dig against President Trump on Tuesday, and he didn't even have to say his name.

Obama was at Rice University, attending a gala honoring the nonpartisan Baker Institute for Public Policy. He sat for a joint interview with the institute's namesake, former Secretary of State James Baker, moderated by presidential historian Jon Meacham. Baker had a long career in politics, working under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, and he remarked that he was most proud of not being indicted, The Houston Chronicle reports.

Obama then reminded the audience that "not only did I not get indicted, nobody in my administration got indicted. By the way, it was the only administration in modern history that that can be said about. In fact, nobody came close to being indicted, probably because the people who joined us were there for the right reasons." Several of Trump's former high-level advisers and associates, including onetime National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and campaign chairman Paul Manafort, have been indicted or pleaded guilty to charges.

Baker and Obama also discussed how the political climate changed between the Reagan era and when Obama took office. Gerrymandering plays a role, Obama said, as well as the media landscape. During Reagan's time, "there was a common set of facts, a baseline," he said, and by 2009, "what you increasingly have is a media environment in which if you are a Fox News viewer, you have an entirely different reality than if you are a New York Times reader." Baker agreed, saying, "The responsible center in American politics has disappeared." Catherine Garcia

5:30 p.m.

Some Asian Americans laughed when entrepreneur Andrew Yang's said on the debate stage Thursday night in Houston that he knew a lot of doctors because he's Asian. But others find that that the presidential candidate's supposedly self-deprecating humor — which has also included jokes about being good at math and loving to work — too often reinforces racial stereotypes, The Washington Post reports.

"I found this part galling, because here he is sort of obtusely reinforcing the model-minority myth and model-minority myth and model-minority stereotypes," Jenn Fang, who runs the blog Reappropriate, told the Post, referring to the debate line. Fang added that, in making a comment like that, Yang also "implicitly suggests that the Asian American experience is only represented by his specific middle-to-wealthy-upper-class East Asian American experience," which in the process "completely flattens all of the other ways people are Asian American and don't have access to health care and access to higher education."

Yang, though, has defended himself. In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper over the weekend, the candidate said the "Asian American American community is very diverse, and certainly I would never claim that my individual experience would speak to the depth and breadth of our community." In fact, Yang argues, by "poking fun" at the myth surrounding Asian Americans, he's "making Americans reflect more on it."

Janelle Wong, a professor of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland, said it's "certainly dangerous" for Yang to "deploy stereotypes," but he is also "breaking stereotypes by seeking the presidential nomination." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

5:23 p.m.

John Bolton might be ready to drop a (thankfully metaphorical) bombshell.

President Trump fired/accepted the resignation of his national security adviser last Tuesday amid reports that Bolton was fighting with just about everyone in the White House. Bolton eerily left his position with a promise that he would "have my say in due course," and less than a week later, The Daily Beast is reporting that "due course" could be sooner than expected.

Bolton is already talking with literary agents in hopes of writing a memoir of his time working for Trump, two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Daily Beast. "He has a lot to dish," one of the sources said, though both what was on the menu and when it will be served have yet to be revealed. Bolton would join a long line of former Trumpers to give an inside scoop on their White House tenures, and judging by the rocky way Bolton went out, it wouldn't be the softball former Press Secretary Sean Spicer tossed out there.

When asked about a possible book deal, Bolton only told The Daily Beast he had "no comment." Read more at The Daily Beast. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:40 p.m.

President Trump still doesn't want to go to war with Iran, he said, but the U.S. is prepared for it nonetheless.

Saudi Arabia announced Monday that its initial investigation into the drone strikes against two of the country's major oil production facilities revealed that Iranian weapons were used in the attack. The kingdom will now reportedly invite United Nations and other international "experts" to further investigate the situation.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels initially claimed responsibility for the attack, but the U.S. has accused Iran of orchestrating them. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have alleged that Tehran supplies the Houthis with arms in Yemen's civil, however, so — even if the weapons are indeed Iranian — it will likely remain unclear exactly what Iran's role was.

Trump, meanwhile, said there are "some very strong studies" being conducted on the attacks and that it looks like Iran is behind them. The president, when asked if the U.S. is ready for war, said the country is more prepared for a conflict than anyone in "any history."

He said the attack on Saudi Arabia could be "met with an attack many, many times larger" by the U.S. Tim O'Donnell

4:27 p.m.

Shane Gillis won't be live from New York after all.

The comedian hired as a cast member for Saturday Night Live last week has just been fired following reports on his use of offensive racist and homophobic slurs, a spokesperson for the show announced.

"We were not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days," a spokesperson for SNL said, reports The New York Times' Dave Itzkoff. "The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable. We are sorry that we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to our standard."

Gillis' SNL hiring was announced Thursday, but within hours, a clip from a September 2018 podcast in which he uses a racist slur against Asians spread on Twitter. Subsequent reports shed light on his use of other offensive language including homophobic slurs; in May 2019, he again used a racist slur against Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

In a statement last week, Gillis did not apologize for his remarks, although he said he would be "happy to apologize to anyone who's actually offended." On Monday, Gillis released another statement in which he brags that he's "a comedian who was funny enough to get SNL" and "that can't be taken away." After saying he respects SNL's decision, he makes light of the situation by writing he "was always a Mad TV guy anyway." Gillis again did not apologize. Brendan Morrow

3:55 p.m.

House Democrats have another investigation on their hands.

Earlier this year, reports suggested President Trump's Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao had held onto investments she was supposed to divest, and that her family's shipping company had used her ties to Trump to its benefit. So in a Monday letter, House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) requested Chao hand over documents and communication related to Chao's business and investment holdings by Sept. 30.

In the first half of the letter, Cummings discusses a June New York Times report detailing how Chao allegedly "used her connections and celebrity status in China to boost the profile" of her family's shipping business Foremost Group. Chao's DOT has reduced funding for U.S.-flagged ships, Cummings says, which could benefit her family's China-flagged company. He's asking for any of Chao's business communications with her family and Foremost, as well as any DOT employees' communications with Foremost.

Cummings then details Chao's "failure to divest" her stock in construction company Vulcan Materials Group, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal in May. Chao wrote on a financial disclosure form that she would sell her stocks in the company, but failed to do so, Cummings says. He is similarly requesting communications between Chao and Vulcan, and between DOT employees and Vulcan.

The investigation comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) prepares to ramp up attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Democratic aides tell Axios. Chao and McConnell are married, and their political paths have reportedly overlapped in some suspicious ways during the Trump administration. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:40 p.m.

The off-the-field drama surrounding New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown is not going away anytime soon.

The last year of Brown's life has grown steadily more controversial, beginning with a series of locker room feuds while playing for two different franchises. That didn't reflect kindly on the All-Pro, but he now faces a much more serious accusation of sexual assault, and an explosive piece published Monday by Sports Illustrated details Brown's long of history of allegedly refusing to pay wages to his former assistants and part-time employees.

SI spoke with several people who have worked for Brown who have accused him of failing to pay them thousands of dollars. "There's something wrong with him," Michael Daniel Kolodzi, an attorney representing a client who says Brown owes him money. "He doesn't feel like he has to pay working class people."

Brown also once hosted a charity softball game in Pittsburgh when he was playing for the Steelers in 2017. At an auction during the event, Brown reportedly became an enamored with a portrait of himself and offered to pay $700 for it, far surpassing the winning bid of $450. He promised to pay for it at a later date, but allegedly still has not sent over the money more than two years after the fact.

The SI piece also sheds light on a second sexual misconduct allegation against Brown involving the artist of the aforementioned painting, whom Brown hired to paint a mural in his home. The woman told SI that while she painted, Brown appeared behind her naked save for a hand towel covering his genitals. She kept painting that day, but then lost contact with Brown, though he did pay her for her work. The artist is not pursuing sexual misconduct charges against Brown for his behavior, but she did say she was bothered by it. Read more at Sports Illustrated. Tim O'Donnell

3:27 p.m.

Another subpoena has been issued for President Trump's tax returns.

This time, it's from Manhattan state prosecutors, who have subpoenaed Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, for eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns, The New York Times reports. This subpoena was reportedly issued by the Manhattan district attorney's office late last month, and it comes as part of the ongoing investigation into the hush-money payment made to keep porn star Stormy Daniels quiet about her alleged affair with Trump prior to the 2016 presidential election. Trump has denied the affair.

Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was previously sentenced to three years in prison for his role in paying off Daniels. Although Cohen was convicted for violating federal campaign finance laws, the Times notes New York prosecutors are examining whether state laws were violated when Cohen was reimbursed.

"In particular, the state prosecutors are examining whether the [Trump Organization] falsely accounted for the reimbursements as a legal expense," the Times writes.

Democrats investigating Trump have previously moved to obtain financial documents by issuing subpoenas including to the Treasury Department, but the president has taken these requests to court. The Times writes that for Trump, "it may be more difficult to fend off a subpoena in a criminal investigation with a sitting grand jury, as there is in Manhattan," although the tax returns would only be made public if they became evidence in a criminal case. Read more about the subpoena at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow

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