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December 5, 2018

Most nonpartisan legal analysts view Special Counsel Robert Mueller's sentencing memos on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as a potentially ominous omen for Flynn's former boss, President Trump. Mueller refers to three ongoing investigations, and two are entirely redacted. That secrecy combined, with Mueller's recommendation that Flynn spend little to no time in prison because of his "substantial" cooperation including 19 interviews with investigators, suggest to many that Flynn has provided damning evidence about some bigger fish, up to and possibly including Trump himself.

"The defendant provided firsthand information about the content and context of interactions between the [Trump] transition team and the Russian government," Mueller's memos state. "Additionally, the defendant's decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming with the [special counsel] and cooperate."

Still, since "the good stuff is all redacted," as Jonathan Swan notes at Axios, there's ample room for interpretation, and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is looking on the bright side. "Wow big crime for a SPECIAL WHATEVER," Giuliani wrote in a text message to Politico, "maybe a group of Angry Bitter Hillary Supporters who are justifying themselves by the goal justifies the means."

Trump's supporters also downplayed the memos on Fox News Tuesday night. "There is no suggestion that Michael Flynn had anything to do with collusion," Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told Sean Hannity. "I think it's good news for President Trump tonight, that this is what it's come down to. ... Even though they said he substantially cooperated, I think he substantially cooperated to say that there was no collusion." Host Laura Ingraham was slightly more cautious, saying that if this is all Mueller got after having Flynn "in a vice grip for 18 months," then the White House can probably relax. "I mean, unless those reductions are really, like, knock-your-socks-off — maybe they will be — I think this is a big zero." Peter Weber

1:19 a.m.

"Remember a couple of years ago, when [President] Trump first got into office, we were all so nervous that Donald Trump was some sort of sleeper agent who was going to sell America out to a foreign power behind our backs?" Stephen Colbert asked on Thursday's Late Show. "Well, it's Throwback Thursday!" He ran through the outline of the whistleblower complaint that over the summer, Trump made a very troubling "promise" to an unknown "foreign leader." Colbert saw the silver lining: "Thank God Trump never keeps his promises."

"Trump denies he did anything wrong," Colbert said, reading the tweet. "Very good point: What kind of moron would think you would make an inappropriate offer to a foreign country while you were being recorded?" He let Trump answer that, then played a game to try and figure out what Trump promised to which leader. But it turns out, according to The New York Times, that the complaint actually involves a "series of actions" Trump took. "Oh, a series?" Colbert said. "Great. Now we can binge-watch the end of America."

This story is "stunning," Late Night's Seth Meyers said. "Now, we don't know which foreign leader this is, and this is a complicated story, so just to help you follow along, we put together a helpful little mnemonic device. Remember: It's a [P]romise from the [U]nited States made by [T]rump to an [I]nternational leader, but we do not know their [N]ame. Could be anyone." (It actually appears to be somebody in Ukraine.)

Meyers also answered Trump's question about whether he would say something "inappropriate" to a foreign leader over the phone: "It's not that we're dumb enough to believe it, it's that we're smart enough to believe you're dumb enough to do it." Still, Trump "probably feels like he has impunity to do whatever he wants because so far he's face almost no consequences," he said, making his case for impeachment. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:05 a.m.

Following a public outcry, the Trump administration reversed policy on Thursday and restored the medical deferred action program, which protects immigrants with life-threatening medical conditions from deportation as they receive treatment.

Last month, applicants received letters from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services saying that requests were no longer being accepted, and the sick migrants had to leave the United States within 33 days. Recipients who spoke to the media, like 16-year-old Jonathan Sanchez, said that if they went back to their original countries, they would die; Sanchez has cystic fibrosis, and said doctors in Honduras are not equipped to treat him.

When U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stopped the program on Aug. 7, the agency did so without alerting Congress or the public. Hearings were held on Capitol Hill, with immigrants sharing their stories about how the program helped them, and USCIS said it would reopen cases that were pending as of Aug. 7. In a letter to the House Oversight Committee sent Thursday, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said he had directed USCIS to start considering all applications again.

"It should not take an emergency hearing by Congress — and threats for more — to force the Trump administration to do the right thing," House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement. "Because of the secrecy and obstruction surrounding this policy, we will be taking additional steps to verify that these children and their families do not need to live in fear and uncertainty." Catherine Garcia

September 19, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and other presidential candidates shared their climate change plans on Thursday during MSNBC's Climate Forum 2020.

The two-day event at Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service kicked off Thursday morning with a question-and-answer session between students and the candidates. Twelve presidential candidates are participating, with Thursday's lineup consisting of Sanders, Yang, Castro, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), author Marianne Williamson, former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio).

Castro said his $10 trillion climate plan consists of a public-private partnership that will result in 10 million new jobs and the United States having net zero emission within the next 30 years. Ryan is calling for a forceful climate police that focuses on bringing manufacturing jobs back to hard hit rural and industrial areas. Delaney said he would re-enter the Paris climate agreement and promote global development of clean technologies.

Sanders declared that "unlike Trump, I do believe in science," and said one of his first acts as president would be to sign an executive order prohibiting fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Williamson said people need to push back against corporations and lawmakers who are tight with the fossil fuel industry.

Yang feels that action should have been taken two decades ago, and wants to see corporations taxed on their carbon production. Bennet said he would give lawmakers nine months to pass climate change legislation, and if they didn't do it he would turn to executive orders. He also discussed the importance of talking about the economy and jobs and how they tie in to climate change, so people don't fall for President Trump's scare tactics. "We can't lose an economic debate to a climate denier," he said. Catherine Garcia

September 19, 2019

During a chaotic interview Thursday night with CNN's Chris Cuomo, President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani was happy to accuse former Vice President Joe Biden of bribing Ukrainian politicians, but he grew enraged when asked about Trump's relationship with the country's leader.

Throughout the rambling, nearly 20-minute interview, Giuliani made it clear that he doesn't like Biden, whistleblowers, CNN, or using his inside voice. His appearance coincided with The Washington Post's report that a U.S. intelligence whistleblower filed an "urgent" complaint last month about President Trump's communications with someone in Ukraine. Giuliani didn't want to talk about that, though, instead telling Cuomo the real story is his allegation that Biden bribed the former president of Ukraine to fire a prosecutor investigating his son.

Giuliani also claimed that several Ukrainians tried to tell him that there was collusion between Ukrainian politicians, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic National Committee, but the U.S. ambassador blocked them. This has all the trappings of an "astounding scandal of major proportions," he said, but it's "being covered up by the news." Cuomo finally got a question in about the whistleblower, which Giuliani immediately shot down. "I'm here on television," Giuliani said, while "this guy is hiding somewhere, skulking around."

Cuomo reminded the former U.S. attorney that there are protections in place for whistleblowers. Giuliani said sure, but "some whistleblowers are liars." Giuliani went on to insult Cuomo and CNN several more times, accusing the network of favoring Democrats and covering up their scandals, and patted himself on the back for insulting Cuomo "directly to your face and not behind your back." Lower the volume on your computer, and watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

September 19, 2019

The whistleblower complaint filed Aug. 12 by a U.S. intelligence official involves Ukraine, two people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Post reported that the complaint centers around Trump's communications with a foreign leader, and a "promise" he made. The intelligence official was so troubled by this that they notified Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who marked the complaint as being of "urgent concern" and passed it along to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.

By law, Maguire was supposed to pass this complaint on to Congress, but he said he talked to Justice Department officials, who claimed it did not meet the definition of an urgent concern and was not under the DNI's jurisdiction. Maguire's refusal to notify lawmakers about the complaint has sparked a battle between Democratic lawmakers and the acting DNI. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Thursday that someone is "trying to manipulate the system to keep information about an urgent matter from the Congress. ... There certainly are a lot of indications that it was someone at a higher pay grade than the director of national intelligence."

Trump had a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky two-and-a-half weeks before the complaint was filed. Zelensky is an actor and comedian who was elected in May, and House Democrats are already investigating that call as part of a probe into whether Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani tried to manipulate the Ukrainian government into assisting with Trump's re-election campaign. Catherine Garcia

September 19, 2019

Southeastern Texas is still being pounded by rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda.

The region has been experiencing heavy rains since Tuesday, and officials in Jefferson County on Thursday said they recorded 43.15. inches of rain. The National Weather Service's Houston office said that Imelda is the seventh wettest tropical cyclone in U.S. history, and the fourth wettest to ever hit Texas.

Thirteen counties have been declared disaster areas, with thousands evacuated from their homes due to floodwaters. In Harris County, first responders said they have responded to 133 high-water rescue calls since noon. At least three deaths have been linked to the storm. Catherine Garcia

September 19, 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday warned that if the United States or Saudi Arabia launches an attack on his country, it will launch an "all-out war."

Over the weekend, Saudi oil facilities were damaged in a drone and cruise missile attack. The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen took credit for the incident, but the U.S. and Saudi Arabia say Iran was behind it, an allegation Tehran denies. Zarif told CNN that Iran "won't blink to defend our territory," but does not "want war. We don't want to engage in a military confrontation. We believe that a military confrontation based on deception is awful."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is visiting the United Arab Emirates, and responded by saying he was doing "active diplomacy while the foreign minister of Iran is threatening all-out war to fight to the last American." Catherine Garcia

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