May 17, 2019

"There's nothing better for taking your mind off a looming trade war than a looming war war," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. And "we might be headed to one with Iran." He explained the omens: "Rising tensions in the Middle East, American military moved to the region based on questionable intelligence — the worst Throwback Thursday ever. And I'm not the only one who feels this way — so does Donald Trump! ... In this case, Trump is absolutely right here — and if anyone knows how not to go to war, it's Donald Trump."

Except that Trump hired John Bolton to run his national security policy. "Bolton has advocated regime change in Iraq, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran — it's all promoting his business, Quagmires 'R' Us," Colbert joked. "So who's going to win this argument, the president or his national security adviser?" He was not reassured by Trump's answer.

With the possibility of war with Iran, the Defense Department really, actually sent Kiss frontman Gene Simmons out to meet the press at the Pentagon podium, and then Simmons headed to meet with Trump in the Oval Office. Colbert arched an eyebrow: "Wow, an alleged sexual harasser who wears scary clown makeup at the White House, and Gene Simmons visited?"

"Trump was in the Rose Garden this afternoon pushing a brand new immigration plan," Colbert said. "It's slightly more nuanced than his previous strategy, 'Wall!' The new plan comes courtesy of professional daughter-husband Jared Kushner," and it favors "merit-based" immigration over family ties. "Really?" Colbert asked. "Jared Kushner is really calling for an end to giving people special treatment because of their relatives? You don't want to rethink that?"

It hardly matters. "Both Democrats and Republicans hate this plan," Colbert said, and he had a visual demonstration of what Politico called "Jared's big whiff." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:04 p.m.

Fifth grade, meet the Senate floor.

During Wednesday arguments in President Trump's impeachment trial, senators seemed to have trouble staying awake and even staying in the room. So Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) broke out a middle school solution, passing out fidget spinners to Republicans at the "Carolina Cookout" lunch he hosted Thursday, CQ Roll Call reports. USA Today's Nicholas Wu noticed a few of Burr's colleagues had taken him up on the offer.

Along with Burr, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) found their own ways to pass the time, some more disengaging than others.

But none of the boredom-staving measures were enough to keep Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) from walking out again. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:40 p.m.

House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is making his impeachment argument with a little blast from the past.

Nadler during Democrats' impeachment arguments on Thursday made use of 1990s-era clips of allies of President Trump, the first being Alan Dershowitz, who's serving on Trump's defense team. While arguing that abuse of power is an impeachable offense, Nadler pointed to Dershowitz — or "at least Dershowitz in 1998," he said.

In an old clip Democrats then played, Dershowitz says "you don't need a technical crime" to impeach a president if they are "somebody who completely corrupts the office of president, and who abuses trust, and who poses great danger to our liberty."

Later, Nadler turned to the words of one of his colleagues, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who during the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton argued a crime isn't required to impeach a president. In an old clip, Graham says that "when you start using your office and you're acting in a way that hurts people, you committed a high crime."

Although Graham is in attendance for the impeachment trial, The New York Times' Catie Edmondson reports the Republican senator "left the Senate floor minutes before Nadler started playing the video of him." But The Daily Beast's Sam Brodey reports Nadler drew "some astonished looks" from Democrats when he played the Graham clip, including from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who reportedly "shook his head and looked around at neighbors." Brendan Morrow

2:30 p.m.

Behold, the impeachment contradiction of contradictions.

It's not surprising that a full 91 percent of Democrats have said they think President Trump "definitely" or "probably" did something illegal to warrant his impeachment, as a recent Pew Research Center poll found. But a solid 32 percent of Republicans or those who lean Republican have also said the same about Trump's conduct — not that they necessarily think it should warrant his removal.

Yes, of Republicans who are either "definitely" or "probably" convinced Trump's behavior was illegal, a full 59 percent say that doesn't mean he should be removed from office, Pew found. As for those Republicans who say Trump has "definitely" or "probably" done something unethical, 78 percent believe he should remain.

Pew surveyed 12,638 people from Jan. 6–19 via phone and online, with a 1.3 percent margin of error. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:55 p.m.

Jim Lehrer, the longtime anchor of PBS NewsHour who moderated more presidential debates than anyone else, has died at 85.

Judy Woodruff, managing editor of PBS NewsHour, said in a press release that the beloved journalist died "peacefully in his sleep at home" on Thursday.

"I'm heartbroken at the loss of someone who was central to my professional life, a mentor to me and someone whose friendship I've cherished for decades," Woodruff said. "I've looked up to him as the standard for fair, probing and thoughtful journalism and I know countless others who feel the same way."

PBS President Paula Kerger said the network is "deeply saddened" by Lehrer's death, noting that he "exemplified excellence in journalism throughout his extraordinary career." Lehrer served as PBS anchor for 36 years, founding PBS NewsHour with Robert MacNeil. He also moderated 12 presidential debates, which PBS notes in its press release is the most of anyone in U.S. history, and wrote numerous novels, memoirs, and plays.

Journalists paid tribute to Leher on Thursday, with CNN's Jake Tapper remembering him as a "wonderful man and superb journalist," Fox News' Bret Baier calling him "one of the best debate moderators and an inspiration to a whole generation of political journalists — including this one," and The Washington Post's Robert Costa writing, "I will miss him, particularly the love of country and politics he brought to everything he did." Brendan Morrow

12:47 p.m.

Apocalyptic doom is apparently closer than it's ever been before.

Every year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announces the world's status on its "doomsday clock," which reveals just how close all of humanity is to certain destruction. And after putting it at a dangerous two minutes from apocalypse for the last few years in a row, scientists upped their prediction to an unprecedented 100 seconds on Thursday.

The greatest threats to humanity, as outlined by the Bulletin, are "nuclear war and climate change," which are "compounded by a threat multiplier — cyber-enabled information warfare — that undercuts society's ability to respond." The scientists specifically called out how 2019 saw the end of "several major arms control treaties and negotiations," while "political conflicts regarding nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea remain unresolved and are, if anything, worsening."

As for climate change, scientists acknowledged "public awareness of the climate crisis grew over the course of 2019, largely because of mass protests by young people around the world." But "government action" hasn't risen to meet that public push, and even the UN has "put forward few concrete plans to further limit the carbon dioxide emissions," the statement continued. Altogether, this puts the world closer to a metaphorical midnight than ever before in the clock's 73-year history. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:46 p.m.

Actress Annabella Sciorra took the stand in Harvey Weinstein's criminal trial Thursday, providing harrowing testimony alleging the disgraced producer raped her.

Sciorra was called as a witness in the New York trial, in which Weinstein is facing sexual assault and rape charges. The Sopranos actress told jurors that in 1993 or 1994, Weinstein raped her in her New York apartment after a dinner, pushing the door open after he dropped her off, per The Hollywood Reporter. She previously spoke with The New Yorker about her allegation.

"He kept coming at me, and I felt very overpowered because he was very big," she testified. "...As I was trying to get him off of me — I was punching him, I was kicking him — and he took my hands and put them over my head. He put my hands over my head to hold them back, and he got on top of me and he raped me."

Sciorra, who The New York Times reports was "fighting back tears" as she testified, went on to say that she couldn't fight Weinstein off "because he had my hands locked." She said she didn't call the police and tried to pretend "it never happened" but that she "began to drink a lot" and "began to cut myself." Weeks later, Sciorra said she confronted Weinstein and he told her in a "very menacing" and "threatening" way, "This remains between you and I."

Weinstein lawyer Damon Cheronis cast doubt on Sciorra's account, saying "we can't interview neighbors to figure out what happened" because she can't recall the exact date the encounter took place, per the Times.

Prosecutors in Weinstein's case allege he forcibly performed oral sex on a woman in 2006 and raped a woman in 2013, although additional witnesses will testify as prosecutors seek to establish a pattern of behavior. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and has denied allegations of non-consensual sex. If convicted, he faces possible life in prison. Brendan Morrow

11:18 a.m.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has officially switched her 2020 allegiances.

Previously a supporter of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) before she dropped out late last year, Breed announced Thursday she would endorse former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for president. "He has the ability to beat Donald Trump this November, and that is of the most concern to me," Breed, who was elected in a ranked-choice vote in 2018, said.

While she "thought long and hard" before making her decision, Breed said Bloomberg's "track record of what he's done as New York City mayor and what he's done afterward has been significant." Breed will start advising Bloomberg on homelessness and housing and climate change, she said, noting Bloomberg has used his wealth to "improve the climate and the quality of life in other communities."

One of the candidates Breed beat out was Jane Kim, who's now a regional director for Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2020 campaign. Breed was considered more of a moderate in that race, making her the latest addition to Bloomberg's slate of moderate mayoral supporters that includes the leaders of Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Philadelphia; and San Jose, California.

Still, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is dominating the mayoral endorsement market in terms of sheer numbers. He's got some big-city backers in the mayor of Austin, Texas and a former mayor of Houston, but mostly excels in rounding up support from mid-size and smaller cities. Kathryn Krawczyk

See More Speed Reads