February 11, 2020

President Trump on Tuesday night attacked the judge presiding over his friend and adviser Roger Stone's criminal case.

Stone was found guilty last year of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing a House investigation. The Department of Justice recommended he receive seven to nine years in prison, but after Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning that this was a "miscarriage of justice!" the DOJ suddenly reversed course, calling the recommendation "grossly disproportionate."

All four of the federal prosecutors who worked on the case have withdrawn in an apparent protest, with one of them choosing to resign from the department altogether.

Trump began tweeting about Stone's case as the results of the New Hampshire Democratic primary began trickling in. "Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure?" he tweeted. "How did she treat Crooked Hillary? Just asking!"

The judge in question is Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who has presided over several cases involving people close to Trump, including Manafort, his former campaign chairman. Manafort is now serving a 7-and-a-half year prison sentence after being found guilty of tax and bank fraud and pleading guilty to conspiracy charges. Hillary Clinton has not been on trial for any crimes, and thus has not appeared before Jackson. Catherine Garcia

12:40 a.m.

Yes, the Police hit "Don't Stand So Close to Me" was inspired by Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and Sting's time as a school teacher, but on its face, it's also a perfect song for our age of social distancing. So on Thursday's Tonight Show, Sting remotely teamed up with Jimmy Fallon at the Roots to perform the song from their various homes, using whatever instruments they had on hand, real and improvised. There are two guitars and a bass but also scissors, shoes, forks, a sousaphone, a pillow, a melodica, and Fallon as a second Sting on backup vocals. The sousaphone, it turns out, makes the whole thing work. Peter Weber

12:13 a.m.

President Trump tweeted Wednesday that "the Radical Left Democrats have gone absolutely crazy that I am doing daily presidential news conferences," adding that "the ratings are through the roof." But it was The Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial page that urged Trump, a few hours later, to give up his favorite "showcase" and let Vice President Mike Pence and "his first-rate health experts" run the briefings.

When the briefings started, "Trump benefited in the polls not because he was the center of attention but because he showed he had put together a team of experts working to overcome a national health crisis," the Journal editorialists said. Now each briefing devolves into a "dispiriting brawl" with the press, and "the president's outbursts against his political critics are also notably off key at this moment. This isn't impeachment, and COVID-19 isn't shifty Schiff. It's a once-a-century threat to American life and livelihood."

Trump rejected the advice.

Fox News senior analyst Brit Hume called that "a ridiculous tweet," adding that Trump "could get his views across without bragging, endlessly repeating himself, and getting into petty squabbles" with the press. Anti-Trump GOP strategist Stuart Stevens tried to imagine any recent president "bragging about his ratings" for speeches they gave after national tragedies, adding: "Decency is a place never visited by this damaged man."

Trump revels in "belittling Democratic governors, demonizing the media, trading in innuendo, and bulldozing over the guidance of experts," so "the publicity-obsessed president is unlikely to relinquish his grip on the evening sessions," The New York Times reports. But "White House allies and Republican lawmakers increasingly believe the briefings are hurting the president more than helping him," and one top political adviser said Trump was just creating ammunition for Joe Biden.

"He can't escape his instincts, his desire to put people down, like Mitt Romney, or to talk about his ratings," former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) told the Times. "A leader in this sort of crisis should have a 75-to-80-percent approval rating." Still, Trump spoke only 20 minutes at Thursday's briefing, after averaging 53 minutes in recent weeks. Peter Weber

April 9, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden is reaching out to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) supporters, just a little bit.

Sanders suspended his 2020 run on Wednesday, though he pledged to keep collecting delegates and fighting for his progressive platform. So in an effort to win over Sanders' backers, Biden adopted a lighter version of some of Sanders' policies Thursday, pledging to lower the age of Medicare eligibility and forgive some student debt.

In a Thursday blog post, Biden first promised he'd let Americans receive Medicare benefits once they turned 60, a small step down from the current eligibility age of 65. This "reflects the reality that, even after the current crisis ends, older Americans are likely to find it difficult to secure jobs," Biden wrote, though he was sure to point out that "those who prefer to remain on their employer plans would be permitted to do so." Sanders' health care plan, famously known as Medicare-for-all, would swap all private insurance to a universal public plan.

Biden also adopted Sanders' and Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) plans to forgive student loan debt, albeit with several restrictions. Biden would "forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000," he said in the blog post. "Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas," Biden finished in his post, though some Sanders backers weren't totally happy with Biden's proposals. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 9, 2020

Live from ... home ... it's Saturday night!

Saturday Night Live is returning with a new episode this weekend after going off the air amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, NBC announced on Thursday.

This episode will be produced remotely, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, it won't have a host. The show's official Twitter account provided a preview, showing the cast assembled on what looks like a rare Zoom call that's actually entertaining.

In recent weeks, late night shows that suspended production due to the coronavirus pandemic have managed to come back with their hosts delivering monologues from home, though a live sketch show with a full cast of performers will naturally be more challenging to replicate remotely.

Details on exactly how this will be pulled off haven't been revealed, and NBC News notes it's not actually clear if the episode will be live. It will reportedly feature Weekend Update in addition to some other unspecified content that will surely require some creativity given the limitations; at least one sketch parodying our newfound reliance on Zoom and other video conference technology is surely in the cards, though. It's also not clear whether SNL will now return on a weekly basis, as at the moment, this is "considered a one-off," the Reporter says.

Either way, expect to get to know SNL cast members' homes pretty well when the show returns on April 11. Brendan Morrow

April 9, 2020

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) isn't too worried about democracy right now.

As Congress discusses further relief bills amid the COVID-19 pandemic, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has insisted they include funding for mail-in ballots through the primaries and November election. But McCarthy slammed that demand as "disgusting" on Thursday, even after Wisconsin's pandemic primary proved problematic just days earlier.

"You want to hold up the bill because you want to change election law for November, because you think that gives you some political benefit?” McCarthy told Politico and other reporters during a press call. “That's disgusting to me," he continued, saying Democrats should worry about "the health of the nation" and "our economy" instead.

"The health of the nation" is exactly what Democrats say they are trying to address in funding mail-in voting. The current system relies on in-person voting — something that isn't safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic's stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines. Wisconsin displayed how untenable the in-person voting system is on Tuesday when hundreds of polling sites had to close, in-person turnout plunged, and voters were forced to wait for hours in socially distanced lines. Absentee ballot returns skyrocketed, but many people in Wisconsin reported they didn't receive them in time to cast their votes.

Without a provision for remote voting in Congress, every coronavirus relief package can be held up with a single sign of opposition. That's what happened Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) $250 billion small business loan package as Democrats demanded more accountability and an additional $250 billion in funding for health care facilities and local and state governments. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 9, 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is no longer in intensive care after being hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms.

Downing Street said on Thursday that the British prime minister "has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery," per BBC News. A spokesperson added that he is "in extremely good spirits."

Johnson was admitted to the hospital in London on Sunday, 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19. Downing Street said this was a "precautionary step" because he continued "to have persistent symptoms," and Johnson said he would receive "some routine tests." He described his coronavirus symptoms as mild on March 27, saying they included a fever and a persistent cough.

On Monday, Johnson was moved into intensive care after his condition "worsened." But now, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday said Johnson is "making positive steps forward. Brendan Morrow

April 9, 2020

Mort Drucker, the beloved artist known for his work at MAD magazine, has died at 91.

Drucker died Thursday at his home in New York, his daughter, Laurie Bachner, confirmed to The New York Times. She told The Associated Press he was experiencing breathing problems and difficulty walking but was not tested for COVID-19.

After joining MAD in 1956, Drucker's caricatures satirizing pop culture soon became iconic, and he illustrated more than half of the magazine's movie parodies from the 1960s through 2008, per the Times. In a 2000 interview with the Times, he noted, "I think I've drawn almost everyone in Hollywood."

Drucker's other notable work includes the poster for George Lucas' American Graffiti; according to The Hollywood Reporter, Lucas personally drove to Drucker's home on Long Island to convince him to draw it.

"The World has lost a not just an extraordinary talent but a shining example of kindness, humility and humor," the National Cartoonists Society said in a statement.

MAD fans on Thursday quickly began sharing their favorite cartoons from Drucker's legendary career, including his parodies of Jaws and Star Wars. "Many of his illustrations are as vivid in my mind as the movies and TV shows that inspired them," The New York Times' Dave Itzkoff wrote.

A friend of Drucker's, John Reiner, told CNN's Jake Tapper that Drucker's final words to him were, "I'm the luckiest man — I've had a wonderful life." Brendan Morrow

Update 5 p.m. ET: Since publication, the Times clarified he died on Thursday rather than Wednesday as originally reported. This story has been updated.

See More Speed Reads