Burned
April 26, 2018

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has been publicly admonished.

The Senate Ethics Committee has issued a public letter of admonition to the senator after he refused to disclose gifts from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen and allegedly used his job in the Senate to advance Melgen's interests.

Melgen was sentenced to 17 years in prison after swindling $73 million from Medicare, per the Sun Sentinel. Menendez accepted flights and hotel stays from the doctor, and intervened when Medicare discovered it had been overbilled by Melgen, per the letter. A federal judge acquitted Menendez and Melgen on several charges of bribery earlier this year, though the Justice Department said it intends to retry the pair.

Menendez has denied all charges against him and so far, he has escaped severe punishment — until now, with the Senate's stern warning letter. The activist group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington notes that Thursday's note from the Ethics Committee is actually the "harshest thing they've done in years."

It even finishes with this stinger: "Finally, by this letter, you are hereby severely admonished." Kathryn Krawczyk

July 31, 2017

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro shrugged off U.S. sanctions imposed on him Monday, telling supporters, "I don't take orders from the empire. Keep your sanctions, Donald Trump!"

The sanctions are in response to Sunday's election in Venezuela for a new legislative assembly that has the power to rewrite the country's constitution. The election has been called a sham by several world leaders and the Venezuelan opposition, and the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said in a statement the sanctions freeze all of Maduro's assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and also bans Americans from doing business with him.

Maduro said the U.S. has "hatred" for his government, and had a pointed message for President Trump. "In the United States, it's possible to become president with 3 million votes less than your opponent," he said. "What a tremendous democracy!" Catherine Garcia

November 16, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin took a beating at the G-20 summit in Australia this weekend from other world leaders critical of his handling of the situation in Ukraine.

"I guess I'll shake your hand," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Putin, quickly adding, "You need to get out of Ukraine."

Putin left the summit early, though he said his departure was not due to his colleagues' ribbing, but rather because he needed to get some sleep. Jon Terbush

October 7, 2014

On Tuesday, Speaker John Boehner tweeted about his jobs plan, which has been given the clever hashtag #5pts4jobs. The tweet itself? Maybe not so clever:

Though it should be noted that the tweet does contain a link to Boehner's actual plan, it gives the impression that Boehner's plan is... nothing. It didn't take long for Nancy Pelosi's staff to notice and fire back their own jobs plan, giving Boehner some points for his "blank agenda." --Marshall Bright

August 31, 2014

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) over the weekend seized on President Obama's admission that he was unsure what to do to confront ISIS, saying it was a sign Washington needed a drastic change.

"If the president has no strategy, maybe it's time for a new president," he said at the annual Americans for Prosperity summit in Dallas.

On Thursday, Obama said in a White House press conference that "we don't have a strategy yet" for dealing with ISIS in Syria. Though Obama was speaking specifically about whether he'd decided to take increased military action in the country, the comment, when taken as a general statement on his handling of ISIS, came off as horribly tone deaf and gave his critics ample ammo. Jon Terbush

August 12, 2014

Former top Obama adviser David Axelrod on Tuesday took a swipe at Hillary Clinton over the ex-secretary of state's recent criticism of the White House's handling of foreign policy.

In an Atlantic interview published Sunday, Clinton said Obama's "failure" to head off the Syrian uprising created a vacuum that allowed Islamist extremists, like ISIS, to proliferate. And as for the president's overarching 'Don't do stupid stuff' approach to foreign policy, Clinton added, "Great nations need organizing principles, and 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle."

Enter Axelrod, who took to Twitter to remind everyone that unlike Clinton, his old boss opposed intervening in Iraq from the start.

The whole brouhaha might make for some awkward conversation Wednesday when the president and Clinton drop by the same Martha's Vineyard party. Jon Terbush

June 23, 2014

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Lana Del Rey said she wished she "was dead already," citing Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain as her heroes. Now, Kurt Cobain's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, is speaking out against the singer's remarks.

"The death of young musicians isn't something to romanticize," Bean tweeted. "I'll never know my father because he died young, and it becomes a desirable feat because people like you think it's 'cool.'"

Bean then added that she "has no animosity towards Lana" and simply thinks she is "too talented to waste it away." For her part, Del Rey tweeted — and then deleted — a series of comments saying The Guardian's Tim Jonze, who conducted the interview, asked her "leading questions about death." Meghan DeMaria

June 9, 2014

On Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver used his own small platform (big enough, apparently, to crash the FCC website) to utterly humiliate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Oliver started out by noting that Assad, "half a mass murderer and half your creepy sophomore year roommate," had a trove of his emails leak last year, including insights into his musical taste. One of the songs Assad downloaded was from the 1990s one-hit wonder Right Said Fred.

Oliver didn't say which song Assad downloaded from iTunes, but it's a safe bet it was that one hit, "I'm Too Sexy." "It's so frustrating that we're powerless to do anything to hurt him," Oliver said of Assad. Then he hit on an idea. "I guess we could take something he loves and turn it against him...." If you don't see where this is heading, or if you do, watch below to see how a professional comedian with an expense account burns a brutal dictator. There is, as always, mildly profane language. --Peter Weber

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