April 25, 2019

President Trump made some promises during the 2016 campaign: He would release his tax returns, "build the wall," "drain the swamp," protect Medicare and Social Security, and champion law and order, to name a few.

Like all presidents, he has been pretty selective about which campaign promises merit follow-through. The "wall", for example, was worth shutting down the government and sparking a constitutional crisis; his tax returns were deemed worthy of going to court and threatening a constitutional showdown to keep hidden. One of the "promises" he has tried to keep, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, is "lock her up," his enduring campaign chant about 2016 rival Hillary Clinton.

Mueller's report "brimmed with examples of Mr. Trump seeking to protect himself from the investigation," The New York Times reports, but it also shows at least three instances of him "trying to wield the power of law enforcement to target a political rival, a step that no president since Richard M. Nixon is known to have taken." As with many potential crimes Mueller records, Trump's orders or suggestions to prosecute Clinton were apparently ignored or redirected by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former White House Counsel Don McGahn.

Still, Trump's attempt to target Clinton "reeks of a typical practice in authoritarian regimes where whoever attains power, they don't just take over power peacefully, but they punish and jail their opponents," political historian and professor Matthew Dallek tells the Times. It appears from Mueller's report that Trump, encouraged by his Fox News allies, didn't appreciate the difference between political self-preservation and weaponizing the law enforcement tools he seems to think work for him, adds Duke University law professor Samuel W. Buell. "All of his demands fit into a picture that he believes the apparatus is mine"

You can read the details of Trump's attempts to "lock her up" in Mueller's report and at The New York Times. Peter Weber

1:08 p.m.

Game of Thrones and Veep are poised to win big at the 2019 Emmys. But as with any awards show, it's always wise to expect the unexpected.

Ahead of Sunday's broadcast, let's check in on the likeliest winners in the top categories, as well as the dark horses to keep an eye on.

1. Bill Hader (or Michael Douglas) - Barry's Hader will probably win the comedy series lead actor award again, but don't count out Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method), who defeated Hader in the equivalent category at the 2019 Golden Globes.

2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (or Phoebe Waller-Bridge) - The Veep star's victory is the night's biggest lock; Louis-Dreyfus has never lost lead comedy actress for playing Selina Meyer. Some experts have wondered about a potential upset by Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but certainly don't place a bet on that.

3. Veep (or Fleabag) - Veep is similarly favored to maintain its comedy series winning streak. But the critically-acclaimed Fleabag could potentially take it down after winning a Creative Arts Emmys bellwether, while The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which won last year but has yet to face off against Veep at the Emmys, has the potential to surprise as well.

4. Billy Porter (or Jason Bateman) - Pose's Porter would make history by becoming the first openly gay black man to win the best drama lead actor award, but after collecting a Screen Actors Guild Award win for Ozark, could it be Bateman's night?

5. Sandra Oh (or Jodie Comer) - Although Oh is favored to take the lead drama actress award, some experts see it as a battle between Oh and her Killing Eve co-star, Jodie Comer.

6. Game of Thrones (or Succession) - Thrones is widely expected to maintain its drama series winning streak, but could the Roy family sneak in? Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson, noting the controversial nature of Thrones' final season, identifies Succession as the "potential disrupter waiting in the wings." Either way, HBO wins. Brendan Morrow

11:45 a.m.

President Trump claimed Friday it "doesn't matter" what he discussed with Ukraine amid the ongoing scandal over a whistleblower's "urgent" concern.

Trump spoke in the Oval Office following days of reporting about a whistleblower's complaint filed in August reportedly about a troubling "promise" Trump made on a call with a foreign leader. The Washington Post reported Thursday it has to do with Ukraine, and weeks before the complaint, Trump spoke over the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

But questioned Thursday about conversations with Ukraine, and about whether he spoke about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Trump deflected.

"It doesn't matter what I discussed," Trump said. "But I will say this: somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement, because it was disgraceful."

Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, admitted in a CNN interview Thursday he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden over an allegation he bribed the country's former president to fire a prosecutor investigating his son. The president Friday seemed to be referring to Biden's statement recalling telling Ukraine "you're not getting" a billion-dollar loan guarantee if the prosecutor wasn't fired, although PolitiFact writes this was also "the position of the wider U.S. government, as well as other international institutions" and "we found no evidence to support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son's interests in mind."

The president Friday attacked the whistleblower as "partisan" even though he admitted he has no idea who it is. "I just hear it's a partisan person," he said. He also claimed his conversation was "beautiful" despite subsequently admitting "I really don't know" what conversation the complaint concerns. Brendan Morrow

10:54 a.m.

Disastrous weather is a problem, but disastrous climate change that contributes to it apparently isn't.

That seemed to be the take of Fox & Friends hosts Friday morning as they covered massive climate change protests happening around the world. Except perhaps a better description is "took a few cheap shots before ironically changing their focus to devastating effects of a tropical storm hitting the coast of Texas."

The hosts opened their segment by factually declaring that New York City students may be skipping class today because it's "global climate strike day." "Right, because the best thing you can do for climate problems is not go to work or school and scream on the grass and make a sign" host Brian Kilmeade said. They then showed aerial shots of the absolutely massive strikes across the world and played snippets of 2020 Democrats' appearances at MSNBC's Thursday evening climate forum, after which Kilmeade decried Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for "yelling at you."

Next up? Coverage of Tropical Storm Imelda, which caused flooding in Houston and throughout southeast Texas, and is just one of many storms growing in frequency and intensity as human-caused climate change worsens. Watch the irony unfold below. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:56 a.m.

Alienstock ended up facing approximately the same fate as Woodstock.

After gaining millions of RSVPs on Facebook, a joking promise to "storm Area 51" on Friday morning succumbed to its first defeat when event organizers renamed it "Alienstock" and rescheduled it for next year. Yet some brave truth-seekers still set out to the Nevada desert Thursday evening — and found a knockoff Coachella, The Washington Post reports.

In the hours before the proposed 3 a.m. raid of Area 51 to "see them aliens," Daniel Martinez, a 31-year-old Pokémon card dealer dressed in a wolf "spirit hood," was already dancing through a sound check, the Post writes. But Martinez wasn't there to storm the military base. He came for the "big open space" and the moment when the music "infects everybody with positivity," he told the Post. He was among about 1,500 people who had come to two desert towns nearest the base and set up a makeshift stage for a weekend festival, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said.

Of them, only about 150 people drove to the Area 51 military base itself by Thursday night, Lee said. They snapped selfies with the gate and generally seemed to respect strict Air Force warnings to stay out. The only infraction came last week from two Dutch YouTubers, who made it about 3 miles beyond the fence in the nearby Nevada National Security Site before they were arrested, CNN reports.

Find more disturbing glimpses of Alienstock at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:42 a.m.

The hosts of Fox & Friends sure do hate speculation over that intelligence community whistleblower — unless it's their speculation, that is.

Amid the ongoing scandal surrounding a whistleblower complaint reportedly about President Trump communicating with a foreign leader and making a troubling "promise," the hosts of Fox & Friends went to bat for the president Friday, voicing outrage over leaks and slamming the rest of the media for its speculation.

At one point, a whole montage of other news networks' coverage that was "all speculation" was played, and Brian Kilmeade summed it up as the "same exasperating, zero-to-ten type of emotional reaction" that took place during Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, reports Media Matters for America's Bobby Lewis.

Yet the hosts weren't above some speculation of their own, with Kilmeade at one point tossing out a theory that the anonymous New York Times op-ed writer, who last year alleged they were part of a "resistance" within the Trump administration, is involved. Ainsley Earhardt, meanwhile, wondered if someone working at the White House is responsible for leaks.

Immediately before the anti-speculation montage played, Kilmeade also speculated this whole thing was simply "the president having a discussion," Mediaite reports.

Still, the hosts seemed to suggest that even if some of the speculation and reporting about the whistleblower is true, it would be just fine, with Earhardt claiming Trump "making promises, leaking maybe some delicate information to another head of state" is just "what they do" and "the art of the deal." Brendan Morrow

8:03 a.m.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is finally calling it quits.

The 2020 Democrat announced Friday he's ending his campaign for president, saying in an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe, "It's clearly not my time."

De Blasio entered the 2020 Democratic presidential race in May but didn't qualify for the third Democratic debate in September due to his low polling; he was unable to reach two percent support in four qualifying polls and 130,000 individual donors. His polling hadn't much improved since then, and he was generally earning either zero or one percent support.

De Blasio cited this as his reason for not remaining in the race, saying he was not "going to be able to meet" the "high bar" required to get back into the debates. He declined to endorse another candidate but said he will support the eventual Democratic nominee.

Now, de Blasio can focus full time on New York City, where a recent poll found his presidential bid earned zero percent support. Brendan Morrow

7:49 a.m.

Many Republicans were highly critical of former President Barack Obama's decision to bail out U.S. automakers after taking office at the peak of the Great Recession. Mitt Romney, now a U.S. senator, even wrote an op-ed urging Obama to let Detroit go bankrupt. President Trump has his own bailout, sending extra federal subsidies to farmers hurt by his trade war with China. The $28 billion and counting isn't fully offsetting the loss of Chinese purchases and markets for U.S. soybeans, pork, and other agricultural products, but it is still relatively generous, as Bloomberg Businessweek notes:

China hawks in Trump's administration want Beijing to quit subsidizing strategic industries, yet that hasn't deterred the White House from doling out billions in aid to American farmers, who have become more dependent on government money than they've been in years. At $28 billion so far, the farm rescue is more than twice as expensive as the 2009 bailout of Detroit's Big Three automakers, which cost taxpayers $12 billion. And farmers expect the money to keep flowing. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Agriculture was actually one of the few sectors of the American economy that consistently ran a surplus with China, and Trump's tariffs are mostly supposed to be for the long-term benefit of the tech and manufacturing sectors. Farmers say they're upset about the handouts, but so far "there's been no break in Trump's support in rural areas, where his poll numbers are consistently about 12 percentage points higher than they are nationally," Bloomberg notes. And Trump is pretty open about wanting to keep it that way.

"I sometimes see where these horrible dishonest reporters will say that 'Oh jeez, the farmers are upset.' Well, they can't be too upset, because I gave them $12 billion and I gave them $16 billion this year," Trump said in a phone-in to Illinois farmers in late August, adding, "I hope you like me even better than you did in '16." Peter Weber

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