June 20, 2019

"Last winter, the ouster of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro seemed a sure bet to President Trump, a quick foreign policy win at a time when other initiatives in Asia and the Middle East appeared stalled or headed in the wrong direction," The Washington Post reports. Since a U.S. backed uprising led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó fizzled in April, senior administration officials tell the Post, Trump "is losing both patience and interest in Venezuela."

Trump is clearly frustrated about Venezuela, a foreign policy issue he "always thought of ... as low-hanging fruit" on which he "could get a win and tout it as a major foreign policy victory," one former Trump administration official involved in Venezuela policy tells the Post. Now Trump rarely talks about Venezuela in public and his Twitter account has dropped all mentions of the country, save for one tweet earlier this month in which he claimed "Russia has informed us that they have removed most of their people from Venezuela," the Post notes. Russia denied both leaving Venezuela and talking about leaving Venezuela with the Trump administration, and "it was never mentioned again."

In private, Trump "chewed out his staff" about the failed Venezuela regime change, blaming National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Latin America policy director Mauricio Claver-Carone for getting "played" by both Guaidó and key Maduro figures, current and former administration officials tell the Post. Some current officials disputed that characterization of Trump's reaction and said his Venezuela policy was always long-term and is on track. But Maduro appears safely ensconced in the presidential residence, the Post says, and "while Trump appears to have withdrawn from the fray, Bolton tweets about Venezuela more than on any other foreign policy issue," and he's still bullish on thwarting Maduro. Peter Weber

3:45 a.m.

Among President Trump's 100+ tweets and retweets on Thursday, one stood out. Time naming 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg its Person of the Year is "so ridiculous," he tweeted, adding with no apparent irony that "Greta must work on her Anger Management problem," advising: "Chill Greta, Chill!" Trump had some company in his mockery, The Washington Post notes, but "the rush among Trump allies to bash Thunberg marked a striking contrast to their professed outrage last week when Pamela Karlan, a Stanford University law professor, had invoked Barron Trump’s name during her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing."

Among those who slammed Karlan was first lady Melania Trump, whose signature project is her #BeBest anti-bullying campaign. Reporter David Nakamura asked the first lady and the other Republicans who prominently scolded Karlan what they thought about Trump's Thunberg tweet — and got total radio silence.

"Some conservatives have argued that because Thunberg, unlike Barron Trump, is a political activist, she is fair game for criticism from those whose policies she has campaigned against and whose moral values she has questioned," the Post reports, noting that "Trump has not engaged Thunberg on specific policy points but rather made personal attacks." She responded to the critique anyway.

Undeterred, Trump's campaign had one last trick to try and upstage Thunberg: They simply pasted Trump's head on Thunberg's body on the Time cover. Like "chill" adults do. Peter Weber

1:56 a.m.

Jim Annis can turn any piece of wood into a toy that will be treasured forever.

For the past 50 years, the 80-year-old Army veteran has spent countless hours carving, sculpting, and sanding wooden blocks, transforming them into cars, piggy banks, and fire trucks. When Christmas rolls around, he donates the toys — usually about 300 every year — to the Salvation Army in Sanford, North Carolina. "When the Salvation Army gives out the food and clothes to people in this area, I give out my toys," he told ABC11.

Growing up in a family with five kids, money was tight, and Annis can remember what it was like to wake up on Christmas with no presents waiting for him under the tree. Those memories are what push him every year to make hundreds of gifts. "I love when people ask me how much do I get paid for making these toys," he said. "I tell them my pay is when I see the smile on kids' faces. I hope to be able to do this until my toes curl up." Catherine Garcia

1:53 a.m.

"Today, the House Judiciary Committee debated whether to send two articles of impeachment to the House floor, but first they spent hours proposing highly specific and asinine amendments," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, pointing to one in particular by "human-hangover hybrid" Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) targeting Hunter Biden and mentioning his history of drug use. "It's pretty ballsy for a congressman to bring that up when he was arrested for DUI in 2008," Colbert said. "Now, you might not have known that — but Georgia's Hank Johnson did," and slyly hammered Gaetz with it in "a master class in passive-aggressiveness."

Assuming Trump is impeached, the Senate trial will apparently last two weeks in January and have no witnesses. "Now, the president's putting a brave face on in public, but impeachment seems to be getting to Trump," Colbert said. But "it's not just impeachment that's getting on Trump's nerves, it's why he's being impeached," he added, quoting a Trump adviser who told CNN the president is "a little surprised it's the Ukraine thing that's done it.

Colbert agreed: "After all the shady deals he's been involved in over the years, he gets tripped up by a phone call? Trump getting impeached for Ukraine is like Paul Newman winning an Oscar for The Color of Money: He definitely deserves it, but it should have happened way before this."

"For three years, this moment has somehow felt both inevitable and also impossible at the same time," Seth Meyers said on Late Night. He called Trump's reported surprise that it's the Ukraine affair that will get him impeached "an amazing confession. Think about that: That's like getting pulled over for a broken tail light and saying: 'Tail light? I got, like, 10 dead bodies in my trunk!'"

"Usually, Republicans are able to dodge questions about all this by hiding in elevators," Meyers said, but "one of the many reasons these public impeachment hearings have been so valuable" is that "Republicans have been forced to sit there and confront the evidence in plain sight, and we've all been able to see in real time that they have no defense." Watch below. Peter Weber

1:10 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is prepared to start an impeachment trial in lockstep with the White House.

McConnell told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday night that if there is an impeachment trial, "my hope is that it will be a shorter process rather than a lengthy process," adding, "there will be no difference between the president's position and our position in how to handle this." Whether the trial lasts one day or one month, McConnell is confident Trump will be acquitted. "There's no chance the president will be removed from office," he said. "My hope is there won't be a single Republican who votes for these two articles of impeachment."

Earlier in the day, McConnell met with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, and they agreed to coordinate on impeachment trial plans, two people familiar with the matter told CNN. They weren't able to agree on a final strategy, though, CNN reports, as Trump wants witnesses to testify while Senate Republicans are afraid of the can of worms that would open. McConnell and Cipollone were able to reach a consensus on trial proceedings, establishing that House Democratic impeachment managers would present their case first, followed by Trump's lawyers with his defense. Catherine Garcia

12:12 a.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party notched a landslide victory in national elections Thursday. Thanks largely to gains in long-held Labour areas that supported Britain's departure from the European Union, Johnson is on track to have the largest Tory majority since the 1980s. The Labour Party lost dozens of seats, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced early Friday that he will not lead the party in future elections. He did not step down immediately, though, pledging to stay on as party leader during a post-defeat "process of reflection."

Jo Swinson, the leader of the center-left, anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, won't have that option: She lost her Glasgow-area seat by 149 votes on Thursday, contributing to Liberal Democrats losses and strong gains by the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP).

Johnson called his win "a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done," likely starting with formal withdrawal from the European Union at the end of January. Corbyn said the results were "very disappointing" and that the divisive Brexit issue "contributed to the results," though he also blamed Labour's roughly 71-seat loss on bad press. Many Labour members blamed Corbyn, who is widely unpopular, and called on him to step down as party leader immediately.

With a projected 52 seats, the SNP will be the third-largest party in the 650-seat House of Commons, after the Conservatives (362) and Labour (199). SNP leaders said they will push for a new referendum of indepdence from the United Kingdom. Johnson now has "a mandate to take England out of the EU but he must accept that I have a mandate to give Scotland a choice for an alternative future," SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC early Friday. Peter Weber

December 12, 2019

After a session that lasted more than 14 hours, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Thursday night abruptly postponed the panel's vote on articles of impeachment against President Trump.

Lawmakers had planned on voting Thursday, but Nadler delayed what is expected to be the approval of charges against Trump until Friday morning. "I want the members on both sides of the aisle to think about what has happened over these last two days and to search their consciences before we cast our final votes," Nadler said.

The committee's ranking member, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), was furious, saying Democrats moved the vote to the morning because they want a "prime time hit," adding, "That was the most bush league play I have ever seen in life." Democrats told NBC News they want the vote to take place in the day so Trump can't say they carried out the impeachment under cover of darkness. The full House is expected to debate and vote on the articles next week. Catherine Garcia

December 12, 2019

Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) spent his last few weeks in office issuing 428 pardons, with his list including a woman who threw her newborn in the trash, a convicted child rapist, and a man who murdered his parents when he was a teenager.

Bevin was defeated last month by Democrat Andy Beshear, who was sworn into office this week. Bevin's pardoning spree has left many of the state's prosecutors stunned, The Washington Post reports, with Commonwealth Attorney Jackie Steele, a prosecutor for Knox and Laurel counties, saying, "What this governor did is an absolute atrocity of justice. He's put victims, he's put others in our community in danger."

Steele told the Post she was shocked to see Patrick Brian Baker on the pardon list. In 2017, Baker was convicted of reckless homicide, robbery, impersonating a peace officer, and tampering with evidence in connection with a 2014 home invasion that left one man dead. Baker's brother was a Bevin donor, who raised $21,500 to pay off Bevin's 2015 campaign debts. Baker was sentenced to 19 years in prison, but only served two years before his release on Dec. 6. Bevin did not pardon Baker's co-conspirators.

There were some pardons that didn't raise eyebrows; Gregory Wilson, a death row inmate, had his sentence commuted to life with the possibility of parole after 30 years. Wilson's 1988 trial was described as being "a travesty of justice and a national embarrassment for Kentucky," the Courier Journal says. Bevin told the Post he is "a big believer in second chances. I think this is a nation that was founded on the concept of redemption and second chances and new pages in life." Catherine Garcia

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