That was fast
October 29, 2019

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council, is scheduled to be deposed by House impeachment investigators on Tuesday, and a draft opening statement obtained by news organizations looks pretty damaging for President Trump.

Vindman, a top Ukraine expert on the NSC, will be the first House witness who listened to Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and he writes in his opening statement that he was so concerned about Trump's ask that Zelensky open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, he reported it to the NSC's top lawyer.

Vindman's opening statement corroborates testimony from William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and former NSC official Fiona Hill that Trump and outside advisers were pressuring Zelensky to help Trump politically in exchange for critical U.S. support.

Vindman's family emigrated to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union when he was 3, and he has served multiple tours of duty as an infantry officer, taking shrapnel in Iraq and earning a Purple Heart. Not long after The New York Times first teased Vindman's testimony, Fox News host Laura Ingraham and former U.S. Deputy Attorney General John Yoo were questioning Vindman's loyalty. This did not escape notice at MSNBC, where Brian Williams played a clip from Ingraham's show in which Yoo — himself an immigrant — suggests Vindman might be a spy.

"What are they getting at?" Williams asked Jeremy Bash, a top Pentagon and CIA official under former President Barack Obama. "I think they're alleging that a U.S. Army colonel is a traitor," Bash said.

The Washington Post's Robert Costa added that "as a reporter, I wonder is this really the line the Republicans are going to take, conservative critics of this impeachment inquiry, that someone who's an immigrant and has served this country is now a questionable person, without any kind of evidence to make this case?" Peter Weber

July 25, 2019

The Turning Point USA aide responsible for a parody presidential seal featuring a Russia symbol and golf clubs being projected behind President Trump has already been fired.

After reports emerged that Trump appeared at the conservative group's event on Tuesday and stood in front of a parody presidential seal meant to look like the Russian coat of arms and with golf clubs added, Turning Point USA told CNN on Thursday an aide has been fired.

A source with the group also told CNN, though, that they think it was not intentional but that the person simply did a Google search for the real presidential seal and "with the pressure of the event, didn't notice that it is a doctored seal." The source also apologized and said "we're sorry for the mix-up and meant no disrespect to the White House or the president or the advance team."

The group also confirmed to The Washington Post, which previously reported on the fake seal appearing behind Trump, that the aide has been fired. "I don't think it was malicious intent, but nevertheless," the spokesperson said.

The White House had previously directed questions about the incident to Turning Point USA, and a White House official told CNN "we never saw the seal in question before it appeared in the video." Still, a former White House ethics lawyer, Richard Painter, argued to the Post that Trump's team still shares some blame, as "to let someone project something on the screen that isn't controlled by the White House is pretty stupid." Brendan Morrow

April 25, 2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden already racked up two Senate endorsements within an hour of entering the 2020 race.

Biden's long-awaited announcement that he is running for president in 2020 was quickly followed by an endorsement by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), whose Senate seat was formerly held by Biden. Coons in a statement says that Biden "doesn't just talk about making our country more just, he delivers results."

After Coons' endorsement came one from Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who said that Biden "has delivered results for the middle class, kept our country safe and strengthened our standing in the world."

Biden is the only 2020 Democratic candidate who has been endorsed by more than one U.S. Senator, according to a tally by FiveThirtyEight. Previously, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) each received an endorsement from one of their Senate colleagues.

More Senate endorsements look to be on the way for Biden, with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Thomas Carper (D-Del.) having signaled they will back him. Politico previously reported that Biden was "planning to solidify his front-runner status with a wave of high-profile organizing, fundraising and endorsement news when he enters the race."

One endorsement Biden didn't receive on Thursday, however, was that of former President Barack Obama. A statement from Obama's spokesperson praises Biden's "knowledge, insight, and judmgent" but stops short of endorsing him. CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports Obama has no immediate plans to endorse any candidate, as he wants them to "make their cases directly to the voters." Brendan Morrow

November 30, 2018

Michelle Obama can now add "best-selling author" to her very long resume.

Obama's political memoir Becoming debuted just over two weeks ago. But it's already sold 3.4 million copies, surpassing every other hardcover released this year to become 2018's bestseller, Axios reports.

In Becoming, Obama recounts everything from "her childhood on the South Side of Chicago" to her time in the White House, per the book's description. Those subjects are common in White House memoirs, but Becoming is sure selling better than all the rest. "Former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's memoir Living History needed a month to sell 1 million copies," The Associated Press notes, while Obama more than tripled that in half the time.

Becoming is also making waves around the world, becoming the bestselling adult nonfiction book in Germany, Spain, Greece, Finland, and other countries, per Axios. Obama will soon cater to those international fans by bringing her book tour to London, Paris, and Berlin next week. She's already traveled across the U.S. promoting her memoir, bringing pals like Oprah Winfrey, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Reese Witherspoon along as special guests — and perhaps picking up a few book-selling tips along the way. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 7, 2018

President Trump didn't even wait until 24 hours after midterm election polls closed to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump announced on Twitter Wednesday afternoon that Sessions is out as attorney general and Sessions' chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, will take over until a permanent replacement is named. In his letter of resignation, Sessions makes clear that he was forced out. "At your request, I am submitting my resignation," he wrote. Trump on Twitter thanked Sessions for his service.

It was widely expected that Trump would fire Sessions or ask him to leave after the midterms, as Trump has made it clear that he was unhappy with Sessions ever since he recused himself from the probe into Russian election meddling. Trump publicly berated Sessions for this over and over, saying in September that "I don't have an attorney general."

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that a number of administration departures would follow after the midterms, potentially including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Whitaker, the new acting attorney general, wrote in an op-ed last year that Mueller's probe has "gone too far." Brendan Morrow

October 25, 2018

Two days after her controversial blackface comments, NBC may have already ended Megyn Kelly's show.

Megyn Kelly Today on Thursday aired an episode recorded in August, and NBC News said that re-runs would air for the rest of the week "given the circumstances," CNN's Brian Stelter reported. That's apparently referring to the controversy sparked by comments Kelly made Tuesday during a segment about Halloween costumes; Kelly had said that wearing blackface as part of a costume is not racist and suggested that those who think it is are just being too sensitive.

The backlash was immediate, and even Kelly's colleagues weren't happy — the hosts of Today called her comments "ignorant" and "racist." Kelly apologized for the remarks in an internal email Tuesday, and she issued another apology on-air Wednesday, saying, "I was wrong, and I'm sorry." Later on Wednesday, reports began to emerge that Kelly's show might be coming to an end. The Hollywood Reporter first wrote that it would be gradually winding down over the course of the year, and that Kelly would shift to a different role at NBC focusing on breaking news. The TV personality was reportedly already interested in ending her show in the near future, unrelated to her controversial blackface comments.

Now, however, CNN reports that Kelly's show might not return at all and her exit is "imminent," meaning Wednesday's apologetic broadcast may turn out to be her final episode. Brendan Morrow

October 3, 2018

If you still don't want to grow up, you're in luck: You may still be able to call yourself a Toys 'R' Us kid.

CNN reports that the owners of the embattled toy store are looking to revive the business after closing all of its U.S. stores earlier this year and filing for bankruptcy in 2017. The original plan was for the company's assets to be sold off in a bankruptcy auction, but that auction has now been canceled, and in court filings, the owners said they were planning to launch "a new, operating Toys 'R' Us and Babies 'R' Us branding company."

USA Today also reports that lenders are now operating a new venture called Geoffrey's Toy Box out of the Toys 'R' Us headquarters; they said in a press release they are working on "new and re-imagined" Toys 'R' Us stores. It's not clear what exactly will be different about the new stores, but at least one thing will be the same: Geoffrey the giraffe is still the mascot. He even made an appearance at a recent toy show with a cape that said, "Back From Vacation." Read more at CNN. Brendan Morrow

February 20, 2018

Florida lawmakers denied a motion to bring an assault weapons ban to a vote Tuesday, less than a week after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by a teenager armed with a semiautomatic rifle. The effort failed to pass Florida's House by a 71-36 margin, The Associated Press reports.

The proposed assault weapons ban had previously been stalled in committee, but Democratic state Rep. Kionne McGhee pushed the state legislature to consider allowing the bill to be considered anyway. Florida's Spectrum News 13 said McGhee's motion was thwarted by "almost every Republican voting no."

Florida's state Senate, however, was able to make progress Tuesday on some legislation to address the safety of students. The Associated Press reported that the state's Senate Education Committee was able to attach an amendment "to put law enforcement officers in every school in the state" to an education reform bill that is now in consideration. Kelly O'Meara Morales

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