November 19, 2019

During his televised appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Tim Morrison, the former top National Security Council official for Russia and European affairs, confirmed that there was a quid pro quo when it came to Ukraine.

Democratic counsel Dan Goldman asked Morrison about a Sept. 1 conversation between U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Andriy Yermak, a Ukrainian official. One of the main focuses of the impeachment inquiry has been whether U.S. military assistance to Kyiv was tied to Ukraine publicly announcing an investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who recently served on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

Goldman asked Morrison to share what Sondland said he told Yermak, and Morrison responded: "That the Ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make a statement with respect to the investigations as a condition of having the aid lifted."

The $400 million in security aid was approved by Congress to help Ukraine fight off Russia, and Morrison and other witnesses discussed this aid during their earlier closed-door testimonies. Sondland, who revised his previous statements about no quid pro quo after others testified about it, is scheduled to appear during Wednesday's public hearings. Catherine Garcia

9:16 a.m.

Why did world leaders including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laugh about President Trump in a viral video? Because they're "jealous," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway suggests.

Conway spoke to Fox & Friends Thursday about a viral video showing world leaders including Trudeau and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson laughing about Trump and his lengthy press conference.

On Fox & Friends, Conway blasted the exchange as "childish" but said the world leaders were "hardly denouncing the president's policies" and suggested jealousy was really to blame.

"What was it really about?" Conway asked. "It was about the fact that President Trump commands a room, and he does. And maybe that makes a couple of people jealous."

After the video emerged Wednesday, Trump was "fuming" over it, CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports. He subsequently blasted Trudeau as "two-faced" and then was heard praising his own insult on a hot mic, saying, "that was funny when I called that guy two-faced." Conway doubled down on that characterization on Fox & Friends, saying with his "two-faced" description, Trump "said it best." Brendan Morrow

8:08 a.m.

NBC is formally investigating America's Got Talent after a meeting with Gabrielle Union, the former judge allegedly ousted after complaining about a toxic work environment.

Union announced on Twitter Wednesday that she had concluded a five hour, "productive" meeting with NBC, and "I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change." NBC also called the meeting "productive" in a statement, saying "there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts" and "we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution," Variety reports.

Reports emerged in Variety and Vulture last week that Union was not being brought back as a judge on America's Got Talent after she voiced concerns about the show's work environment, including complaining about alleged racist incidents like an offensive joke reportedly made by Jay Leno. She also complained about Simon Cowell smoking indoors, Vulture reports; she is allergic to cigarette smoke. Additionally, Union was told on numerous occasions that her hairstyles were "too black," Variety reports.

Deadline reports that NBC's further investigation "involves AGT creator and judge Cowell, who seems to be at the center of what went down during Union's one-season stint on the show," also reporting that "the next step in the process for NBC is to have an as yet undetermined independent investigator prioritize moving things forward." SAG-AFTRA has also launched an investigation into the allegations. Brendan Morrow

7:49 a.m.

Willie Nelson, one of the world's most famous proponents of marijuana and ganjapreneurs, surprised a lot of people when he told San Antonio's KSAT-12 TV last week that he has stop smoking weed. "I have abused my lungs quite a bit in the past, so breathing is a little more difficult these days and I have to be careful," Nelson, 86, told Paul Venema aboard his tour bus. "I started smoking cedar bark, went from that to cigarettes to whatever," he added. "And that almost killed me. ... I don't smoke anymore."

This is like "like Michael Jordan retiring from the NBA," said Page Six's Oli Coleman. "It's like Donald Trump quitting Twitter. It's like Lindsay Lohan forsaking drama. ... Nelson has allegedly smoked weed on the roof of the White House, has credited the drug with saving his life, and his personal stash was so powerful that it inspired the Toby Keith song, 'I'll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again.' Neither, apparently, will anyone else."

But there are different ways to consume pot besides smoking it, Nelson spokeswoman Elaine Schock told The Associated Press on Wednesday, and Willie avails himself of such alternative forms of weed ingestion. "That said," she added, "Willie does what he wants, when he wants, when it comes to smoking."

Nelson told KSAT he has no plans to give up touring, and he his bothered by rumors of his imminent demise. "I don't give a sh-t — excuse me," he said. "I'm here, I'm glad to be here, I'm lucky to be here." Peter Weber

6:54 a.m.

"Nearly three years after President Trump took office, work is finally underway on one of his key campaign promises," Norah O'Donnell said on Wednesday's CBS Evening News. Reporter Mireya Villarreal looked at the first new border wall being constructed under Trump's watch, in Donna, Texas. The new section won't be completed until January 2021, she noted, and the initial eight-mile stretch will cost $167 million.

"All told, nearly $10 billion has been set aside from government agencies for wall funding — and that's a bill U.S. taxpayers, not Mexico, are footing," Villarreal noted. At least 78 miles of border fencing has been replaced since 2017, and the Trump administration is shooting for 80-90 miles of new wall over the next year or 18 months, a Border Patrol official told Villarreal, calling it an "aggressive" target.

At least 31 miles of that new barrier will be built by Fisher Sand and Gravel, a company Trump has repeatedly pressured the Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Homeland Security to hire, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), a booster of the North Dakota company and recipient of donations from its CEO, Tommy Fisher, tells The Washington Post. The Pentagon disclosed Monday that Fisher was awarded $400 million to build a new barrier in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona by the end of 2020.

Trump has been impressed by Tommy Fisher's border wall pitches on Fox News, Cramer has said, but the Army Corps of Engineers had previously dismissed Fisher's bids as subpar. Fisher has also built a few miles of border wall on private land under contract with the conservative crowdfunded group "We Build the Wall." A Texas state judge ordered a halt Tuesday to the company's construction on land near the the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, because the barrier — being built without permits or an impact study and despite a cease-and-desist request from the International Boundary and Water Commission — risks doing "imminent and irreparable harm" to the nature preserve. Peter Weber

5:27 a.m.

President Trump just got back from London for NATO's 70th anniversary summit, Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Like on most anniversaries, Trump was in a bad mood, wishing he was with a younger Eastern European ally." He showed part of Trump's long public meet-and-greet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "These sit-downs with world leaders are only supposed to be brief photo opportunities," he explained, "so afterwards, other world leaders were caught on tape commiserating about it."

Trudeau — joined by French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Britain's Princess Anne — gawked about how he saw Trump's "team's jaws drop to the floor" at one point, and Colbert mock-scolded him: "Hey Justin, be nice! Stephen Miller's jaw only does that when it's feeding time and they bring him the baby deer."

"And now the bombing of Canada begins," Jimmy Kimmel deadpanned on Kimmel Live. "Trump cut the trip short after seeing" the video, and NATO allies "talking about him behind his back" is "absolutely unacceptable. How dare they laugh at our ridiculous president! That is our job." The deepest cut, Kimmel said, was Trump pal Johnson joining in the mockery. "Wasn't Donald Trump the one who said the world is laughing at us and he's going to make it stop?" he asked, showing a video montage. "Well, mock him up!"

It's amazing to learn that "when world leaders get together, they're gossipy bitches just like the rest of us," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "Trump's not wrong — Justin Trudeau is 'two-faced': He's got a white one and a brown one," he joked, pivoting to empathy: "I know a lot of people don't like Trump, but I don't care who you are, man, every single one of us knows this feeling — finding out all the cool kids at school are laughing at you." He acted this out.

"Here's how you know when you're really disliked: When you get a Canadian to talk smack about you," James Corden joked at The Late Late Show. "But this is my favorite part," when "the queen's daughter, Princess Anne, appeared to snub the Trumps," shrugging off her mom's signal to come meet the president, he narrated. "It's good to see that no matter your age, wealth, or status, deep down, we're all still kids trying to avoid talking to our parents' weird friends." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:37 a.m.

President Trump argued Wednesday night that in his infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, he was trying to help the United States — not himself or his re-election campaign — by requesting investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and a debunked Kremlin-linked conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election, not Russia. After all, Trump noted in his tweet, he asked Zelensky to "do us a favor though" after Zelensky brought up U.S. military aid, not "do me a favor."

The July 25 phone call — or at least a whistleblower complaint that referenced it — sparked the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. But Democrats pretty quickly started uncovering evidence of a longer, wider-ranging plot involving Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani — whom Trump also mentioned in the call — to exert various forms of pressure on Ukraine, including withholding nearly $400 million in military, to force the Zelenksy government to announce an investigation into Biden. For America, apparently. Peter Weber

2:59 a.m.

If you can't wait for Alanis Morisette's Jagged Little Pill 25th anniversary tour next summer, you could always try hanging around in New York City subway tunnels. For Wednesday's Tonight Show, Morisette and Jimmy Fallon sang a few songs for commuters and tourists under the streets of midtown Manhattan, first in disguise as ... hipsters? signing Christmas carols, then out of costume, belting out one of Morisette's 25-year-old hit songs that you ought to know. The Christmas busking attracted some interest, but it turns out Morisette can still draw an excited crowd — at least in the subway. Watch below. Peter Weber

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