December 30, 2018

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly formally leaves his post this Wednesday, Jan. 2, and he discussed his time with President Trump in an exit interview with the Los Angeles Times published Sunday.

Kelly described an administration in chaos on his arrival to the White House last summer. For example, Trump wanted to withdraw the United States from the war in Afghanistan, Kelly said, which "was a huge decision to make ... and frankly there was no system at all for a lot of reasons — palace intrigue and the rest of it." Pushing back on perceptions that Trump's decision-making is emotional and divorced from fact, Kelly said he kept Trump "fully informed" of the consequences of his choices.

He also spoke at length about immigration policy, faulting former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the administration's court-halted policy of separating migrant children from their families at the border. "What happened was Jeff Sessions, he was the one that instituted the zero-tolerance process on the border that resulted in both people being detained and the family separation," Kelly said. "He surprised us."

As for Trump's promise to wall off the southern border, Kelly quibbled about terminology — "To be honest, it's not a wall" — but insisted a physical barrier is the recommendation of "salt-of-the-earth, Joe-Six-Pack" border patrol agents.

Working as Trump's chief of staff has been a "bone-crushing hard job," Kelly mused, "but you do it." Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney will do it next as acting chief of staff.

Read the full interview at the Los Angeles Times here. Bonnie Kristian

6:55 a.m.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton has said he is willing to testify at President Trump's Senate impeachment trial, and "Trump's legal defense team and Senate GOP allies are quietly gaming out contingency plans" to make sure that doesn't happen, The Washington Post reports.

Under rules proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate won't vote on whether to allow testimony from new witnesses or other new evidence until after House impeachment managers and Trump's team lay out their arguments and senators ask questions, and four Republicans would have to join all 47 Democrats to approve witnesses. If 51 senators allow subpoenaing witnesses, "McConnell is expected to ensure that those individuals are questioned in a closed-door session rather than a public setting," the Post reports, and Bolton's deposition could be moved to "a classified setting because of national security concerns, ensuring that it is not public."

"But that proposal, discussed among some Senate Republicans in recent days, is seen as a final tool against Bolton becoming an explosive figure in the trial," the Post reports. "First, Republicans involved in the discussions said, would come a fierce battle in the courts," with Trump invoking executive privilege to keep Bolton from talking then asking the courts for an injunction if Bolton "refuses to go along with their instructions."

Republicans are also warning Democrats that if they win on Bolton's testimony, Trump's team will subpoena Hunter Biden — though Senate Democrats seem pretty comfortable with that trade, or perhaps calling that bluff. Nobody's sure if Bolton would help or hurt Trump, but Republicans are not eager to find out. At the same time, a CNN-SSRS poll released Monday found that 59 percent of American adults and a 48 percent plurality of Republicans want the Senate trial to include testimony from witnesses not interviewed by the House. Peter Weber

5:37 a.m.

"Three years ago today, this country took on an extraordinary challenge, and that challenge was to answer the question: Can democracy survive the worst person on Earth?" Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Kimmel Live, celebrating the third anniversary of President Trump's inauguration. "And so far, the answer is: Barely."

"The moment Donald Trump put his hand on the Bible and swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, that was his first official lie as president," Kimmel said. "And he just kept going from there. According to The Washington Post, since taking office, Trump has racked up more than 16,000 false or misleading claims," including an average of 22 a day in 2019. To put that in perspective, he said, Trump's 16,241 documented falsehoods are "more than 7,000 more lies than there are visible stars in the night sky," or a pancake stack as high as the Empire State Building.

"It's three years of Donald Trump, which is a lot — it's too much, really," Kimmel said. "So much has transpired over the last 1,000-plus days, and tonight we decided to pay tribute to remember the highlights of these three years under our president, Donald Trump." Needless to say, these are not the clips Trump's campaign will use in his re-election ads or convention highlight reel.

The Daily Show also took a look back at Trump's three years in office, but with more of a toddler-in-chief vibe — and a snappier soundtrack. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:51 a.m.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer most famous for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her case against President Trump, was arrested in California last week and transferred over the weekend to New York's federal Manhattan Correctional Center to face charges of extortion and embezzlement, his lawyers told a federal court on Monday. In fact, lawyer Scott Srebnick wrote, Avenatti is being housed, for reasons that are unclear, in the MCC's "Special Housing Unit on the notorious 10-South," the "most secure secure floor in the entire facility," in "a cell reportedly once occupied by El Chapo, on a floor that houses individuals charged with terrorism offenses."

Not only is Avenatti being held in the freezing cell that once housed notorious Mexican drug trafficker and escape artist Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Srebnick said, but he's on 24-hour solitary confinement with a guard and two cameras keeping watch on him from outside his cell 24 hours a day. MCC appears to have learned from the suicide of another recent inmate, Jeffrey Epstein, as Srebnick alludes to in his filing.

Srebnick asked for the court's help in finding out why Avenatti is under such strict lockdown and in getting him moved to regular incarceration amid the general population of MCC, saying the current conditions are hindering Avenatti's participation in his defense case. Peter Weber

3:59 a.m.

In 1998, when the Senate held an impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, Alan Dershowitz argued that "if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime" to impeach. Now that he's part of President Trump's defense team, he argues that "without a crime, there can be no impeachment." Anderson Cooper asked Dershowitz about the apparent discrepancy between those views on CNN Monday night.

Dershowitz said he still believes you don't need a "technical crime," just "criminal-like behavior akin to bribery and treason." He said his argument is consistent, and when Cooper pointed out it isn't, he insisted he "wasn't wrong" in 1998, he just has "a more sophisticated basis for my argument now." Cooper wasn't persuaded by Dershowitz's logic and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin didn't agree with his legal argument that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress aren't impeachable offenses.

"What is clear is that Alan was right in 1998 and he's wrong now," Toobin said. "The idea that you can only impeach a president for criminal or criminal-like behavior is absurd on its face." Dershowitz disagreed and insisted again he hasn't changed his views. "I wasn't wrong, I'm just far more correct now than I was then," he said. "And I think your viewers are entitled to hear my argument without two bullies jumping on everything I say."

Cooper also spoke with Dershowitz's former Harvard Law colleague Lawrence Tribe, who said Dershowitz is clearly wrong and, sadly, appears to be "selling out, I don't think for money but just for attention." He "was a great teacher," Tribe added and "he's perfectly entitled to defend the president, although I don't like that he pretends he's defending the Constitution instead of the president. He's not the Constitution's client."

On MSNBC, former federal prosecutor Maya Wiley agreed that Dershowitz is dangerously "wrong" while anti-Trump conservative Rick Wilson compared Dershowitz to "a prank character on a reality TV show" spouting "performative B.S." on cable news to make his client happy. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:26 a.m.

Over the weekend, House impeachment managers laid out their case that President Trump was "the Framers' worst nightmare" and should be removed from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. "In response, the president's lawyers say that abuse of power is not impeachable. Yes it is! It's the most powerful job in the world! That's why abuse of power is the thing a president is not supposed to do."

"With his presidency on the line, Trump is turning to his favorite legal scholar: television," Colbert said. Among the TV lawyers Trump hired is Alan Dershowitz, whose list of past clients is ... notable. Colbert turned on his Trump voice: "Get me Dershowitz! I'm exactly as innocent as Jeffrey Epstein and O.J. Simpson — but Jared, just in case, gas up the Bronco." Dershowitz is going on TV arguing Trump's technically-it-wasn't-a-crime impeachment defense, and Colbert played his exact opposite argument in Bill Clinton's impeachment, plus a doozy of a Dershowtiz quote from Richard Nixon's impeachment.

Trump's "all-star defense team" does include Dershowitz, who's past clients also include Claus von Bülow and Harvey Weinstein, "so he definitely has a type," Jimmy Kimmel deadpanned at Kimmel Live. But "Trump summoned all the ghosts of impeachments past, including Kenneth Starr, who led the case against Clinton and was attacked for it by a number of high-profile people," including Trump.

"Rudy Giuliani will not be on the Trump legal team, but he claims he wants to testify," though "Senate Republicans don't want any witnesses, and they're limiting press access," Kimmel said. "These guys really are something: They don't want witnesses, they don't want new evidence, they don't want reporting, and they don't want people watching — it's almost like they have something to hide. But what could that be? The phone call was 'perfect.'"

Trump is "desperately trying to soothe his ego and pretend he doesn't know the key players in the scandal," but he "knows that ultimately, in the eyes of history, it won't matter whether Republicans successfully rig his impeachment trial to let him off the hook," Late Night's Seth Meyers argued. "No matter what, he will be only the third president in history to face such a trial, and it follows him forever, especially as more damning evidence emerges." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

Alyssa Nakken is making history as the first woman to become a full-time coach in Major League Baseball.

Last week, it was announced that Nakken has been hired as an assistant under San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler. Not only will she coach, but Nakken will also "focus on fostering a clubhouse culture that promote high performance through, among other attributes, a deep sense of collaboration and team," Kapler said in a statement.

Nakken was a softball star at Sacramento State, playing first base. By the time she graduated in 2012, she was in the top 10 for most home runs and runs scored in team history. Nakken joined the Giants in 2014 as an intern in baseball operations, and worked her way up; recently, she spearheaded health and wellness initiatives and worked to promote diversity within the organization, ABC 10 reports. Catherine Garcia

1:14 a.m.

Rudy Giuliani is "heartbroken" over recent comments made by his former associate Lev Parnas, who says he worked closely with Giuliani in Ukraine as part of an attempt to find damaging information about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Speaking to Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday night, Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, said he was once "close to" Parnas, but was "misled by him." In October, Parnas and his business partner Igor Fruman were arrested and charged with campaign finance violations. Last week, Parnas made several public accusations against Giuliani, President Trump, and Attorney General William Barr, implicating all of them in the Ukraine scheme that is central to Trump's impeachment.

While Fruman did not cooperate with House impeachment investigators, Parnas did, turning over documents and other materials. Parnas said while he was in Ukraine trying to find dirt on the Bidens, he "wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani and the president." Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney, refuted this, saying Parnas "in very large part did not tell the truth" and "lied stupidly."

Giuliani told Ingraham he would not discuss all of Parnas' accusations, but did deny ever talking about his Ukraine investigation with Barr and said Parnas' account of a meeting during a 2018 White House Hanukkah party was a lie. In November, CNN reported that Parnas told two people close to him that during the celebration, Trump let Parnas and Fruman know he wanted them to go on a "secret mission" to Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Giuliani said this was "absolutely untrue," as they were never pulled into a private meeting.

Parnas posted a photo taken at the party on social media, showing him posing with Trump, Giuliani, Fruman, and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump has repeatedly denied knowing Parnas; Parnas has promised to keep releasing pictures of the two of them together. Catherine Garcia

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