January 24, 2019

A series of interview gaffes has left those in the White House frustrated with President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani. But he insists he knows what he's doing.

White House communications staffers "privately mock" Giuliani for his interviews that always force them into damage control mode, while members of Trump's legal team complain that his "bizarre" comments are doing more harm than good, The Washington Post reports, adding that Trump has asked Giuliani to step back from TV appearances.

This comes after a series of slip-ups from Giuliani, who earlier this week referenced "tapes" that supposedly dispute BuzzFeed News' report that Trump directed attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, only for Giuliani to immediately backtrack and say, "I shouldn't have said tapes." Giuliani also seemed to admit that negotiations on the Trump Tower Moscow deal continued until the November 2016 election, but he later said these comments were "hypothetical" and "not based on conversations I had with the president."

Moments like these have left some to wonder whether Giuliani knows what he's doing, with Fox News' Andrew Napolitano theorizing he's releasing damaging information about Trump on purpose through TV interviews so that it's not as shocking when it's revealed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.

Giuliani himself told The Washington Post that when it comes to his defense of Trump, "there is a strategy" and "you have to be patient.” But the Post notes that any such strategy was "lost" on Trump himself and that he has "puzzled" those in the White House, while a source close to the president's legal team added, "Thinking there is a strategy would give Rudy too much credit." Brendan Morrow

12:00 p.m.

James Holzhauer is kicking Daily Doubles and taking names.

On his first day on Jeopardy! two weeks ago, Holzhauer easily crushed Jeopardy!'s one-game winnings record of $77,000, pulling in $110,914. He's since passed $1 million in earnings and crushed a few more records on the way — and his fellow Jeopardy! elites have a few theories on how he's done it.

Just a few days after setting a new one-game record, Holzhauer did it again with a $131,127 haul. He now claims the top seven single-game winnings spots, per the official Jeopardy! recordbooks. Holzhauer also hit the $1 million mark in the shortest number of games — 14 — on Tuesday night, and has the second-highest regular-season winnings total of all time.

Ken Jennings, who still has the highest regular-season win total of all time, told The Associated Press that Holzhauer is doing so well because "Most Jeopardy! players never think about maximizing winnings." Jennings says he "wouldn’t have the stomach to bet $60,000 on a Final Jeopardy clue," but Holzhauer, a professional sports better, told Wired that he doesn't have a "mental block" because "it's only money." 2017 Tournament of Champions winner Buzzy Cohen also credits Holzhauer's board-hopping strategy, saying the game show prodigy "took a playbook that has existed and executed it flawlessly."

But it's not all fun and Final Jeopardy! for everyone. Seeing as "every game show has a prize budget" largely "determined by way of averages of what has been won in the past," a former Game Show Network programming head tells The Atlantic that "James's performance, I'm sure, is causing grief for an accountant somewhere." Kathryn Krawczyk

11:47 a.m.

Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee's death is forcing politicians to face hard truths, as dormant sectarian violence threatens to resurface in Northern Ireland.

At McKee's funeral in Belfast on Wednesday, the priest administering the service, Father Martin Magill, commended Northern Irish politicians — unionists and republicans alike — for their joint statement condemning violence and urging for calming following McKee's murder.

Many notable political leaders were sitting in the front pews, including Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. But after the compliment, Magill directly challenged those in front of him, sparking a standing ovation from attendees.

The 29-year-old journalist was killed last Thursday while watching a riot in Derry, Northern Ireland, by stray bullets from dissident republicans believed to be affiliated with the New Irish Republican Army, a recently formed Irish nationalist militant group that does not recognize the terms of the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998, which put a halt to sectarian violence in North Ireland.

In addition to McKee's murder, a large bomb detonated in Derry in January, though there were no casualties.

The New IRA apologized for McKee's death, but the response from Derry's citizens was not positive.

Tim O'Donnell

11:14 a.m.

Move over, geologists: there's a new field of scientific study in town.

NASA's InSight spacecraft detected a potential earthquake on Mars earlier this month, and scientists are rejoicing over the discovery of the "marsquake."

"We've been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!" NASA geologist Bruce Banerdt said, per NBC News.

The tremor was too small to help NASA obtain any information on the Red Planet's interior, NBC News reports, but scientists are hoping the discovery will lead the seismometer to detect bigger earthquakes.

"We've been waiting months for our first marsquake," Philippe Lognonné, the principal investigator for the seismometer, said in a statement. "It's so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We're looking forward to sharing detailed results once we've studied it more and modeled our data."

Lognonné expects larger quakes in the future to help determine crust thickness and core size, per NBC. Marianne Dodson

11:02 a.m.

Another Republican has hopped on the impeachment train.

After the Mueller report detailed President Trump's failure to take what Michael Gerson calls "a criminal plot by a hostile foreign government" to the FBI, the chief speechwriter for former President George W. Bush writes that "House leaders should lay the groundwork for impeachment." This move strays from politics' usual goals of "partisanship" and "endless fundraising," Gerson continues in his Monday op-ed for The Washington Post, but adds that this choice will "echo across the decades."

As Gerson describes in the Post, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report "shows that Trump and members of his campaign team were willing — actually, eager — to cooperate with Russian attempts to subvert a presidential election." Trump also "ordered subordinates to lie about their ties to the Russians," Gerson continues, going on to decry Attorney General William Barr for "provid[ing] cover for those deceptions." Yet Congress, Gerson writes, is "punting" its "responsibility" to hold Trump accountable for these actions. It's time for impeachment, Gerson finishes, because "the honor of the presidency now depends on the actions of Congress."

Gerson has previously authored Post op-eds saying Trump is a "Russian stooge" and a "danger to democracy." But it ran just ahead of another Republican's call for impeachment, this one from former Trump transition staffer J.W. Verret, published Tuesday in The Atlantic. Verret was not a "Never Trumper," but opposed Trump on several policy points. And after reading the Mueller report twice, he reached a "tipping point" with Trump's leadership and said "Republicans in Congress" should have reached it too. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:52 a.m.

President Trump just put a reporter from The Washington Post on blast for the weirdest reason imaginable.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he didn't actually call journalist Robert Costa for an interview that was published the night before. Instead, Trump said, he "returned his call!"

Not only was Trump strangely insisting that calling someone back can't accurately be described as calling them, but this is also exactly how Costa originally described the situation, anyway. Costa tweeted on Tuesday that Trump had called him "in response to my request for comment" about a different story and then took additional questions. In other words, Trump returned his call.

Costa was quick to point this out, tweeting back at Trump on Wednesday, "Yes, I noted this last night, before the interview posted." As the president's especially active week on Twitter continues, which reporter's statement will he call out — while at the same time confirming is completely accurate — next? Brendan Morrow

10:18 a.m.

Steven Spielberg and Netflix seem to have buried the hatchet — if there ever even was one to begin with.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors in a meeting on Tuesday decided not to make any changes to its Oscars eligibility rules, per CNBC. Going forward, a movie will still only have to play in theaters for a minimum of one week in Los Angeles in order to qualify for the awards, Variety notes, and it's still allowed to be released on streaming immediately.

There had previously been reports that Spielberg was engaged in a full-on war with Netflix and would be proposing a rule change at this meeting that would affect the streamer, which debuts its movies online either the same day as they open theatrically or a few weeks later. For example, a rule could be implemented requiring films to play in theaters for a longer period of time to be eligible or requiring they be exclusive to theaters for some time.

This war, as it turns out, may have been overblown. Spielberg didn't even end up attending this meeting let alone propose anything, and The New York Times cites sources as saying Spielberg is actually less frustrated with streaming services than with major theater exhibitors who refuse to play films like Roma since they require a lengthy exclusivity window. In fact, Spielberg reportedly lobbied AMC and Regal to play Netflix's Roma to no avail.

Breaking his silence on the issue, Spielberg told the Times that people should be able to watch movies "in any form or fashion that suits them," whether that's on the big screen or the small screen, although did still exalt the importance of movie theaters. Ironically, reports suggest Netflix may be giving its upcoming The Irishman a robust theatrical release, meaning Spielberg may get his wish without any rules changes even being required. Brendan Morrow

10:05 a.m.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is out for revenge.

That's what former President Barack Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod thinks, at least. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that during Nielsen's tenure in Washington she tried to draw up a plan to prevent Russian election interference in 2020, but was rebuffed by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who said the subject should be kept below President Trump's level.

Axelrod, who has his fair share of White House experience, believes this story might just be the start of a slew of negative stories about the Trump administration following Nielsen's resignation in April after clashing with the president over immigration policies. Axelrod's theory is that the source may be none other than Nielsen herself.

The New Yorker's Susan Glasser also hinted at the idea in recent weeks after The Washington Post reported on the White House proposing to release immigrant detainees in sanctuary cities to hurt political opponents. That story also cited DHS officials.

That said, not everyone's on board with the idea of turning Nielsen into a Trump-fighting vigilante leaker. "Water cannon" or not, Union Veterans Council director Will Fischer says even a revenge plot won't make him a fan. Tim O'Donnell

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