June 16, 2019

President Trump is angry at The New York Times once again.

The newspaper reported on Saturday that the U.S. has enacted a more aggressive approach when it comes to cyber attacks on Russia's electric power grid. The Times conducted interviews over a three month period in which current and former officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia's grid and other targets. The actions are reportedly seen as a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Two administration officials told the Times that they do not believe President Trump has been briefed about the new digital incursion strategy, while Pentagon and intelligence officials told the newspaper that they were concerned about how the president would react to the news. They also reportedly feared he would reverse the operations or discuss the classified information with foreign officials.

Trump has denied the story, even calling it a "virtual act of treason." Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

5:28 p.m.

Several members of the media were holding out for a while before reporting on a letter that President Trump supposedly sent to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan because they weren't sure if it was a joke at first.

In the bizarre letter, which was dated Oct. 9 and first reported by Fox News' Trish Regan on Wednesday, Trump tells Erdogan not to be a "tough guy" or a "fool" and warns him against "slaughtering thousands of people" during Turkey's military offensive in northern Syria following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in the region before promising to call him "later."

Despite reports that it's real, many observers are still not quite convinced of the letter's authenticity or if it was actually sent last week — either way, they're baffled by its content and style. Tim O'Donnell

5:01 p.m.

It sounds like President Trump has had a rough day.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Trump had a "meltdown" during a meeting with Democratic leaders about Syria on Wednesday. Pelosi added that Trump was "shaken" throughout the meeting because the House, including 129 Republicans, voted Wednesday to pass a resolution condemning the U.S. military withdrawal Trump authorized in northern Syria, which allowed for a Turkish incursion that has placed Washington's Kurdish allies at risk.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was also in the meeting, said Trump was particularly insulting toward Pelosi, even calling her a "third rate politician" to her face, ultimately causing the Democrats to walk out of the room.

Schumer said Trump went on a "nasty diatribe," in which the president also reportedly said that the Democrats might be happy with the fact some members of ISIS were communists. Or, well, something along those lines — everyone seemed a bit confused about what was actually being said during the meeting. Tim O'Donnell

4:16 p.m.

The House of Representatives has just delivered a rebuke to President Trump's Syria pullout.

The House easily passed a bipartisan resolution Wednesday to condemn Trump's decision to pull troops out of northern Syria ahead of a Turkish military offensive, with the resolution passing 354 to 60, Axios reports. Every Democrat voted in favor, and 129 Republicans also supported the resolution, The Hill reports.

This rebuke to Trump was delivered by the House as he defended his Syria decision Wednesday, saying in the Oval Office, "If Turkey goes into Syria, that's between Turkey and Syria. It's not between Turkey and the United States."

But he's continuing to face pushback from Democrats and Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who said Wednesday Trump's Syria pullback is "the most screwed up decision I have seen since I have been in Congress." Trump in a press conference Wednesday afternoon railed against Graham, who is typically an ally on Capitol Hill, saying, "Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years, with thousands of soldiers, and fighting other people's wars. I want to get out of the Middle East." Brendan Morrow

3:34 p.m.

In the wake of a series of explosive allegations from Ronan Farrow, Time's Up is calling NBC out.

The group founded in 2018 to combat sexual harassment and assault in the workplace spoke out Wednesday after Farrow revealed new details about Lauer's alleged sexual misconduct, also alleging NBC settled with multiple Lauer accusers in the years prior to his firing. The network denies being aware of Lauer's behavior prior to firing him in November 2017.

"This is not simply the case of one bad actor," the statement from Time's Up reads, per Variety. "Egregious behavior like Lauer's is often only possible in a toxic work environment, where protecting working people takes a backseat to protecting the careers of powerful men and the reputation of an even more powerful company."

While Time's Up says it commends NBC for "taking an important step" by firing Lauer following an allegation of rape, the group says "that must only be the start."

"Real progress happens when corporations like NBC make a transparent and continuous commitment to creating and nurturing a culture of safety and equity, which often involves long-term structural change across all levels," Time's Up says. "Instead, NBC's latest statements fail to demonstrate a commitment to such change and fail to support the victims who take the courageous step to come forward."

Farrow has alleged a "chain of secret settlements at this company that were covered up," but NBC News President Noah Oppenheim has been forcefully pushing back on these claims, saying earlier this week in response to allegations laid out in Farrow's book, "I feel absolutely terrible that these three employees were subjected to Matt Lauer's horrific behavior, but the facts do not support Farrow's allegation of a 'cover-up,' and he offers no further evidence." Oppenheim also accused the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter of having an "axe to grind" with the network. Brendan Morrow

3:14 p.m.

Virgin Galactic and Under Armour want you to fulfill your sci-fi dreams.

In a dramatic press conference in New York on Wednesday morning, dancers performed in spacesuits in a zero-gravity simulation and Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson donned his new space threads as the companies unveiled their spacewear collaboration to be worn on commercial space flights by "private astronauts."

Under Armour designer Nick Cienski reportedly drew inspiration from both Battlestar Galactica and the sun casting rays on Earth. The full getup includes a base layer, spacesuit, boots, a training suit, and a jacket, reports CNN.

Suits will be customized with country flags and name badges, and feature a transparent inner pocket for photographs of loved ones "who will literally be close to the heart," according to Virgin Galactic. Beyond aesthetics, the suit will help regulate body temperature and provides the space tourists with shoulder pads for comfort and safety during portions of the flight with high G-forces.

Roughly 600 people have purchased tickets — at around $200,000 each — for the nearly 2-hour commercial space flights, which are set to launch in 2020, reports CNN.

The "private astronauts" will pay homage to the scientist who discovered gravity, Sir Isaac Newton, by wearing his words imprinted on the sockliner of their spacesuit: "We Stand on the Shoulders of Giants." Taylor Watson

3:04 p.m.

Fiona Hill, President Trump's former top Russia and Europe adviser, was reportedly quite concerned that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, would accidentally divulge national security secrets while on the job, two people familiar with her private congressional testimony told The New York Times.

Hill reportedly testified on Monday that Sondland was so unprepared for his job that she considered him a national security threat, though she reportedly did not accuse him of intentionally putting the country at risk. Instead, she reportedly likened him to someone driving a car without guardrails or a GPS.

The actions that reportedly concerned Hill include Sondland's use of a personal cell phone for diplomatic business and his penchant for inviting foreign officials to pop by the White House whenever they felt like it, which once reportedly resulted in Romanian officials arriving at the White House without an appointment. Sondland, Hill reportedly testified, would also provide the cell phone numbers for other American officials to foreigners.

Hill's concerns were likely enhanced by the fact that she feared Sondland was replacing Washington's previous ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, as part of the Trump administration's effort to pressure Kyiv into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, among other Democratic figures. Sondland is expected to testify before impeachment investigators Thursday, despite the White House directing him not to cooperate. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

2:50 p.m.

Former President Barack Obama has one big executive endorsement.

While he's not wading into America's presidential election just yet, Obama tweeted Wednesday to reveal his position on Canada's upcoming federal election. He's hoping current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will keep his spot, which wouldn't have been surprising if Trudeau hadn't gotten into a blackface scandal just a month ago.

Trudeau's Liberal Party currently holds a majority in the Canadian parliament, but has seen its popularity fall since the last election in 2015. It's currently neck-and-neck with its rival Conservative Party, a toss-up that somehow wasn't hurt by the revelation that Trudeau wore blackface and brownface and unknown number of times. In fact, polling averages show the gap between the two parties has only narrowed since Trudeau apologized for painting his face and body as recently as 2001. Kathryn Krawczyk

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