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March 20, 2019

President Trump is both modestly bragging about donating his $400,000 salary to the Homeland Security Department and proposing to strip $5 billion from the DHS budget, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "So Trump's paycheck donation is like robbing a restaurant then, on your way out, throwing a nickel in the tip jar."

Trump "gets paid nothing to be president, and today he earned every penny," Colbert continued. On Tuesday, Trump hosted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, "often called the 'Trump of the Tropics,' which is also what Trump will be called when his climate policies turn Ohio into a rain forest." Colbert scratched his head over Trump's ad-lib at a joint press conference about socialism's "twilight hour" and chuckled at his suggestion that Brazil join NATO.

Yes, "why isn't Brazil in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?" Colbert pondered in Trump voice. "And, while I've got them on the phone, I'm going to ask why aren't I in the NAACP?" Watch below. Peter Weber

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

9:21 a.m.

President Trump has a few intense details to add to reports of a Mexico-U.S. conflict at the border.

On April 13, Mexican soldiers confronted two U.S. troops in a remote part of Texas, as they apparently thought the service members had crossed the southern border and were in Mexico, U.S. officials said Tuesday. Trump took that account to the next level in a Wednesday tweet, saying "Mexico's soldiers recently pulled guns" on the service members, and that he was "sending armed soldiers to the border" in apparent retaliation.

The incident happened in part of Texas where the border wall is actually built north of the actual border, U.S. Northern Command told The Associated Press in a statement. Northern Command said there was a "brief discussion" between the soldiers, and that the Mexican troops eventually left. But Newsweek reports the American troops were searched, and that one reportedly had his gun removed from his hip and thrown inside a car. It's unclear if Trump means he'll send additional armed soldiers to the border, seeing as the Newsweek report suggests the U.S. troops involved were armed and at the border already. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:57 a.m.

President Trump on Wednesday repeated a conspiracy theory that British intelligence spied on his 2016 campaign, an idea that Fox News backed away from years ago.

Trump tweeted out a quote from a former CIA analyst, who on the right-wing One America News Network alleged that U.K. intelligence helped former President Barack Obama's administration spy on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Trump added that eventually, "the truth comes out."

If this sounds familiar, it should. This conspiracy theory was previously promoted by the White House in 2017, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer referencing it in a briefing. He got the idea from Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, who had used former CIA analyst Larry Johnson as a source, per The New York Times.

After this theory was elevated by the White House, Fox News pushed back on it, with Shepard Smith saying on air, "Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano's commentary. Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop.”

Napolitano was subsequently pulled from the network for a time, while Spicer defended himself as simply "passing on news reports." A spokesperson for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May called the claims "ridiculous," also saying that "we've received assurances that these allegations won't be repeated," per CNN.

Still, Trump repeated the allegations two years later on Wednesday, just one day after announcing his upcoming U.K. visit — a visit that likely just became a lot more awkward. Brendan Morrow

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