June 12, 2019

Everyone, meet "Mr. Attorney."

Pat Cipollone, the replacement for former White House Counsel Don McGahn, has been on the job for only six months, but he already has a big fan in President Trump, who reportedly dubbed him with the aforementioned moniker. Whereas McGahn never meshed with Trump on a personal or professional level, Cipollone, thanks in large part to his "affable" nature, has excellent chemistry with the president, Politico reports. That has some people, reportedly even Trump's allies, worried, however.

Cipollone reportedly spends a good chunk of time helping Trump find legal pathways to accomplish some of his more controversial goals, such as declaring a national emergency at the southern border or imposing tariffs on Mexico. But some anonymous White House officials are reportedly concerned that the White House counsel's job should not be focused on encouraging the president's actions, but rather to exercise caution and temper some of the more questionable ideas that emerge out of the Oval Office. Cipollone has on occasion done some tempering, Politico reports. For example, he advised Trump in March not to change the administration's stance on the Affordable Care Act and back a lawsuit seeking to overturn the entire law. But, in general, critics within the administration say he treats Trump too similarly to a normal client. Read more on Cipollone at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

3:59 a.m.

The California Department of General Services announced late Friday that the state will only purchase hybrids and electric cars and trucks, with an exception for some public safety vehicles. In the statement, the department also said California will only buy state vehicles from companies that "recognize the California Air Resources Board (CARB)'s authority to set greenhouse gas and zero emission vehicle standards."

Essentially, The New York Times reported Monday, California announced it won't buy state vehicles from GM, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, and some smaller automakers that sided with the Trump administration last month in its fight to strip California of its right to set its own tailpipe emission standards. Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW of North America reached agreement with California over the summer to make more fuel-efficient vehicles through 2025.

"Carmakers that have chosen to be on the wrong side of history will be on the losing end of California's buying power," Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement. GM told the Times that California is undermining its own "goal of minimizing the state government's carbon footprint" by refusing to buy "vehicles like the Chevy Bolt." California seems to think it has enough other hybrid and electric vehicles to choose from. Peter Weber

2:36 a.m.

Stephen Colbert recapped where things stand with President Trump's impeachment at the start of Monday's Late Show. "For those just joining us, it looks like Donald Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine to try to pressure that country into announcing a bogus investigation of Joe Biden, and I'm happy to say, people understand that simple story. In a new poll, 70 percent of Americans say Trump's actions tied to Ukraine were wrong."

This week's impeachment hearings are expected to peak with Wednesday's testimony of Gordon Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the European Union. "Sondland is in deep," Colbert said, but his biggest "slip-up was when he called Donald Trump from a public restaurant in Kyiv, where several witnesses at the table heard Trump over the phone demanding an investigation of Biden. That's a direct link." Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch also testified she "was ousted after a smear campaign involving Rudy Giuliani," he said. "And if there's one thing Rudy Giuliani knows, it's how to destroy a reputation — so far just his, but he burned that mother to the ground."

Trump and Giuliani knew Yovanovitch "would be an obstacle to their corrupt scheme," Seth Meyers said on Late Night, and "as she was testifying, Trump decided to attack her" on Twitter, potentially committing another impeachable crime. "That's like punching the bailiff during your assault trial," he joked. Meyers ran through the public evidence against Trump, suggested it's enough to impeach and convict him already, then said if "you still needed more evidence tying Trump directly to this scheme to extort a foreign country to investigate his political rivals by dangling hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money," Sondland's call with Trump should seal the deal.

"Trump talking investigations on the call with Sondland looks pretty bad," Trevor Noah agreed at The Daily Show. "What's even worse is that after the call — and this is crazy — after the call, Sondland recaps what just happened for everyone at the table." He laughed at Sondland's alleged assurance to Trump that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "loves your ass," quipping, "A few days ago, Fox news was saying impeachment wasn't 'sexy' enough." He imagined Wednesday's hearings: "'Mr. Sondland, does Zelensky really love Trump's ass?' He'll be like, 'That's correct. He likes big butts and I cannot lie ... to Congress.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

When a San Diego police officer went to inspect a stolen car last month, he had no idea he was about to meet his new best friend.

Inside the abandoned car, Officer Andre Thomas discovered a scared yellow Labrador in the back seat. The dog reminded him of Melakai, his own yellow Lab who died in March. For more than 10 years, Thomas and Melakai were always together, and because they were so close, it was hard for Thomas to ever imagine getting another dog.

Per protocol, Thomas brought the dog to the Humane Society, but he couldn't stop thinking about him. After three weeks, the owners hadn't yet claimed him, so Thomas stepped up and filed the adoption paperwork. The two have become inseparable, and the pup is now known as Victor, "a name worthy of the adversities the dog has overcome," the San Diego Police Department said. Catherine Garcia


View this post on Instagram

When Police Officer Andre Thomas responded to the call of a stolen car on Oct. 7, he was surprised to find a yellow Lab abandoned in the back of the vehicle. Only a few months prior, Officer Thomas had lost his beloved yellow Labrador, Melakai, a life-companion who had walked alongside him for over a decade. The two had made the move from their native Fresno to San Diego when Andre was just 18 years old. Andre and Melakai were so close that when his faithful, canine friend passed away of old age in March, Andre made a vow to never get another dog, a promise that he kept until he spotted a frightened, lone pup in the back of the stolen vehicle that Andre was called to investigate. Following protocol, Andre immediately took the dog to the San Diego Humane Society hoping that his owners would reclaim him. Yet when three weeks went by and nobody had come to pick up the dog, Andre knew exactly what to do. He adopted the pup, took him home and gave him a name worthy of the adversities the dog had overcome: Victor. The two have been best friends ever since. ❤️ Andre has been with the San Diego Police Department for four years. As a Police Officer II, he patrols the streets of the Central Division. #SDServes #FeelGoodFriday #yellowlab @sdhumanesociety @sandiegopd

A post shared by City of San Diego (@thecityofsandiego) on

1:28 a.m.

During his closed-door testimony to House impeachment investigators last week, David Holmes, a counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, said hearing U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland call President Trump from the middle of a Kyiv restaurant was "an extremely distinctive experience in my foreign service career."

The House released the Holmes transcript Monday night, and he is expected to attend a public impeachment hearing on Thursday. Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor first discussed the overheard Trump-Sondland call during his public testimony last week.

The call took place July 26, one day after Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and requested he launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a baseless conspiracy theory about Ukraine meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Holmes said Sondland placed the call to Trump through a switchboard, and he overheard Trump ask if the Ukrainians were going to "do the investigation." Sondland responded, "He's gonna do it."

Holmes testified that he was shocked by Sondland's brazenness. "I've never seen anything like this, someone calling the president from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language," he said. "There's just so much about the call that was so remarkable that I remember it vividly." Holmes said most of the local mobile networks are "owned by Russian companies, or have significant stakes in those. We generally assume that mobile communications in Ukraine are being monitored."

Click here to read the entire transcript. Catherine Garcia

12:07 a.m.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) probably made some important points on Monday night's Hardball about President Trump's alleged bribery, high crimes, and/or misdemeanors through subverting U.S. law and government apparatuses in service of his personal political benefit. But nobody will remember his point because in the middle of his interview with Chris Matthews, this happened:

Did Swalwell really submit to a massive attack of flatulence on live national television that was so loud his lapel microphone picked it up? He says no.

Hardball briefly toyed with turning the entire kerfuffle into an audio version of he-who-smelt-it-dealt-it.

But cooler minds prevailed. Or something.

Luckily, as we all know, conspiracy theorists are often persuaded by plausible explanations. Peter Weber

November 18, 2019

Hoping to end speculation about President Trump's surprise weekend visit to Walter Reed Medical Center, the White House released a memo on Monday night written by Trump's physician, who said the "trip was kept off the record" due to "scheduling uncertainties."

On Saturday, Trump underwent a "routine, planned interim checkup as part of the regular, primary preventative care he receives throughout the year," Dr. Sean Conley said. Trump has "not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues," he continued. "Specifically, he did not undergo any specialized cardiac or neurologic evaluations."

When a president or other notable person visits Walter Reed, staffers are usually notified ahead of time, people familiar with the matter told CNN, and this didn't happen on Saturday. Several doctors who treated former presidents and vice presidents said they found the unannounced hospital visit worrisome, including Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist who treated former Vice President Dick Cheney. "It's concerning that there hasn't been any transparency in what occurred on Saturday," he told CNN before the memo was released.

In the memo, Conley said next year, he will put together a report with a full summary of Trump's labs and exam. With the president's consent, Conley did share Trump's cholesterol numbers, which are down from earlier this year. Catherine Garcia

November 18, 2019

On the eve of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman's public testimony before House impeachment investigators, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) sent a letter to House Republicans, questioning Vindman's credibility.

Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert and a Purple Heart recipient, is set to testify on Tuesday. He listened to President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and immediately shared his concerns over Trump's request that Zelensky launch an investigation into a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter.

In his letter, Johnson opines that there are "bureaucrats and staff members within the executive branch" who have "never accepted President Trump as legitimate and resent his unorthodox style and his intrusion onto their 'turf.' They react by leaking to the press and participating in the ongoing effort to sabotage his policies and, if possible, remove him from office. It is entirely possible that Vindman fits this profile."

Johnson tried to defend Trump throughout the letter, saying he could not recall Trump ever talking to him about the Bidens, while also attacking the whistleblower whose complaint about Trump's call launched the House impeachment inquiry. "If the whistleblower's intention was to improve and solidify the relationship between the U.S. and Ukraine, he or she failed miserably." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads