February 12, 2020

"Today was the New Hampshire primary, so after a year of campaigning, we only have nine months to go," Stephen Colbert sighed on Tuesday's Late Show. "On the eve of the Democratic primary, President Trump held a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, because he couldn't stand the idea of other people getting any attention." Among other odd remarks, "Trump took time to tell the people of nearby Concord how much he loves Concord," only he gushed about the Concord in neighboring Massachusetts, and he delivered a "weird" and "creepy" introduction for his daughter Ivanka.

"You know, sometimes you feel like Donald Trump is corrupting all of the democratic institutions that we hold dear," Colbert said. "Well, I've got some good news for you: You're not crazy to feel that way." The latest case involves Trump crony Roger Stone. The seven felonies for which Stone was convicted last year carry a maximum sentence of 50 years, but prosecutors recommended 7-9 years, and "even that lighter sentence sit well with Stone's old pal Donald Trump," who tweeted it was a "miscarriage of justice!" he said "Then by some impossible coincidence — how could it be? — it was then announced that the Justice Department will take the extraordinary step of lowering the recommended prison time for Roger Stone."

"So Donald Trump and his attorney general are using the Justice Department to go easy on his cronies," Colbert said. "The only difference between this and a banana republic is that Trump does not eat fruit." Later, "Trump insisted he didn't make any special requests," he said but "in response to Trump's carriage of misjustice, all four of Roger Stone's prosecutors have resigned."

"Trump is absolutely drunk with power right now," Jimmy Kimmel agreed at Kimmel Live. The Justice Department's sudden decision to slash their sentence request for Stone "is appalling, even by Trump's standards," he added. "Trump tweets, all of a sudden his attorney general's like, 'Hey, you know what? Instead of seven to nine years, why don't we make that no years? Wouldn't that be better?' All four federal prosecutors today who worked on this case resigned in protest," but Trump is also getting away with blatant retaliation against people who obeyed lawful subpoenas and testified in his impeachment hearings, Kimmel noted. He spoke with sacked EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland (Jeff Ross) in a secure, disclosed location. Watch below. Peter Weber

8:25 p.m.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson announced on Sunday that she is endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

During a surprise appearance at Sanders' rally in Austin, Texas, Williamson said he "has been taking a stand for a very long time. He has been consistent, he has been convicted, he has been committed. And now it's time, I'm here and you're here, because it's time for us to take a stand with Bernie."

She also rejected the idea that Sanders can't defeat President Trump in November. "I'll tell you what's already happened to those who say it cannot happen," Williamson said. "You just tell them this: It already happened. He won Iowa. It already happened, he won New Hampshire. It already happened, he won Nevada." His supporters are "tired of saying pretty please," she added. "We're going to stand up, we're going to show up because we woke up. We're here and we're with Bernie." Williamson, who also endorsed Sanders when he ran for president in 2016, exited the race in early January. Catherine Garcia

1:19 p.m.

The Trump administration appears divided over whether to alter some expiring aspects of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Some White House officials within the Domestic Policy Council, spurred by the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page which has since been called into question, are hoping to overhaul parts of FISA which are soon due to lapse. One change they're proposing, which has actually been pushed for a long time by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, is to eventually notify subjects of national-security surveillance that they had been surveilled.

There will likely be some hurdles, though. The National Security Council, for example, generally advocates for expanded surveillance powers, and some other administration officials reportedly have privately expressed concern that the effort to scale back some of the spying powers may go too far.

President Trump hasn't said anything about the expiring segments of FISA, but he has complained about the law in relation to Page and his campaign. Still, per the Journal, presidents historically have avoided scaling back surveillance powers because they fear they'll be blamed in the event of a terrorist attack. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

12:38 p.m.

If you saw the reports that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was briefed by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was trying to aid his Democratic presidential campaign, you might have wondered, why exactly, Moscow was targeting him. After all, President Trump is still apparently the candidate the Kremlin hopes wins, and Sanders and Trump certainly have different ideological stances.

GQ's Julia Ioffe set out to answer that question, and while she reports that some people think Sanders' non-interventionist foreign policy platform is appealing to Moscow, or that he will be easier for Trump to defeat than other more moderate candidates, she also found that it may be more about optics. "The ideal scenario is to maintain schism and uncertainty in the States till the end," said Gleb Pavlovsky, a Russian political scientist who used to advise Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Our candidate is chaos."

Essentially, as described by Ioffe's sources, Moscow is licking its chops over what could be the most extreme U.S. presidential election in quite some time, if not ever, and they want to see the country turn on itself. "All of this infighting, this cannibalism, they create and deepen the crisis of the American system," said Andranik Migranyan, a close friend of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who used to run a Russian government-funded think tank.

Migranyan went on to question — perhaps facetiously — whether the U.S. will still exist after 2025. "Your country is hurtling toward the abyss," he said.

Of course, it's unclear if that's precisely why the Kremlin seems okay with a Sanders victory — and Migranyan denies Russia is actually meddling — but it's not difficult to imagine Moscow would enjoy an even more hotly contested election than in 2016. Read more at GQ. Tim O'Donnell

12:03 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) may be basking in his victory after the Nevada caucuses, but he can't celebrate for too long. The South Carolina primary is right around the corner, and despite Sanders steadily encroaching into first place for weeks in state polls, it's still former Vice President Joe Biden's state to lose in the week leading up to the vote, a new CBS/YouGov poll revealed Sunday.

Sanders crushed his competition in Nevada, where Biden finished a distant second. South Carolina, though, has always been the early voting state the vice president has had his eye on — and he's still got a chance — but Sanders is right behind him now as Biden's once dominant lead has shrunk to just a five-point advantage over Sanders in the new poll.

Some of that likely has to do with Biden's support among black voters shrinking over the last few months. He still maintains the edge, but billionaire Tom Steyer has shot up to second place among the demographic thanks to a furious final effort in the state. Steyer, in fact, is in third place in the poll, which must excite his campaign, considering he told Fox News' Chris Wallace on Sunday that he'll need a top-three finish next Saturday to get back into the race.

The CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov between February 20-22, 2020. A representative sample of 2,000 registered voters in South Carolina was selected, including 1,238 self-identified Democrats, as well as independents who plan to vote in the Democratic primary this year. The margin of error is 5.5 points. Tim O'Donnell

11:13 a.m.

President Trump continues to ride the Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) bandwagon, but some analysts think he and his Republican supporters might want to think twice about what they're wishing for.

Trump on Sunday congratulated Sanders on his big win at the Nevada caucuses, which helped increase his lead in the Democratic presidential primary substantially, making him the frontrunner to take on Trump in the general election in November. The president said it remains to be seen if Sanders can hold on, but he just hopes the Democratic Party treats Sanders fairly, perhaps hinting that he believes there may be some sort of effort from more establishment Democrats to stop Sanders' victory from happening.

Not everyone is buying Trump's call for fairness, though. Former Obama adviser David Axelrod, for example, thinks Trump is doing what he can to divide Democrats to boost his own re-election bid.

There's also the notion out there that Trump and his supporters believe Sanders gives them the best shot at staying in the White House because the senator's more extreme ideological leanings will turn swing voters back to the GOP. But CNN political commentator Mark McKinnon, who worked for former President George W. Bush, believes Republicans may be too sure of themselves, especially because Sanders is able to rile up passion in his supporters in a fashion similar to Trump himself. Tim O'Donnell

10:26 a.m.

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) thinks that even if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) proves himself to be the preferred candidate of the Democratic Party nationwide, his win could have consequences down the line.

During an appearance on ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked Clyburn if a victory from Sanders, who describes himself as a Democratic Socialist, could harm the Democrats' chances of maintaining its majority in the House. Clyburn said it will likely add an "extra burden" in some places — like the more moderate and conservatives districts in South Carolina — where Democrats pulled upsets in the last midterm election. Clyburn said it'll be a challenge to hold on to those districts if candidates have to advocate for a democratic socialist.

"South Carolinians are pretty leery about that title 'socialist,'" he said.

Clyburn also said he'll finally make an endorsement this coming Wednesday, the morning after Tuesday's debate in South Carolina. Clyburn serves as the majority whip, and his support will likely go a long way in the Palmetto State, though it seems unlikely Sanders will get the nod. Tim O'Donnell

8:09 a.m.

Trump's National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien doesn't believe there's anything to the reports about Russia once again interfering with the U.S. presidential election.

In an interview set to air on ABC News' This Week on Sunday, O'Brien denied being aware of U.S. intelligence reports that Russia is interfering to help Trump secure a second term in the Oval Office. He did acknowledge he hasn't sought out any information about the reports, but he said he considers it a "non-story" based on leaks from a congressional hearing.

"All I know is that the Republicans on the side of the House hearing were unhappy with the hearing and said that there was no intelligence to back up what was being said," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said the Trump administration has been "very tough" on Russia and has urged Moscow to stay out of U.S. elections, adding that if anyone came forward with something different, he'd be willing to take a look at it more closely. For now, though, he says the report doesn't "make any sense."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was also briefed that Moscow was attempting to aid his Democratic primary campaign. Read more at The Associated Press and ABC News. Tim O'Donnell

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