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March 8, 2019

President Trump took to Twitter after the release of a disappointing jobs report on Friday to tout the strength of the U.S. economy.

Trump tweeted a quote attributed to Stuart Varney, who said on Fox & Friends there is no better time to be an American worker and that "we have the strongest economy in the world." Trump added, "So true!"

This tweet followed the Labor Department's report that just 20,000 U.S. jobs were added in February. This was significantly down from the 311,000 jobs that were added in January, and down from the 172,000 jobs that were expected to be added in February. It's also the smallest increase since September 2017.

In a second tweet, Trump picked out the fact that women's unemployment is down to 3.6 percent, concluding, "Things are looking good!" Brendan Morrow

February 5, 2019

The president of ABC appears to be grateful the 2019 Oscars rollout has been such a mess because, well, at least it's gotten your attention.

ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke on Tuesday confirmed the Academy won't have a host for the 2019 Oscars and will instead rely on various presenters to carry the night, writes The Hollywood Reporter. Kevin Hart was originally tapped to host the show, only to step down over controversy surrounding homophobic tweets and jokes from years earlier. The Academy spent nearly two months keeping everyone in the dark about how they would salvage the show, which will air on ABC.

But while some might see this situation as dire, Burke said Tuesday she's not nervous about the Oscars' controversies. "Ironically, I have found that the lack of clarity around the Oscars has kept them in the conversion," she said. "The mystery is really compelling. People really care." She went on to say that the Academy "wisely" decided not to have a host in order to "keep the show to brisk three hours." The Academy announced in August that it would cut the length of the show.

This was decided seemingly in an attempt to boost the Oscars' sagging ratings, and on Tuesday, Burke expressed confidence that there will be a "big turnout" this year, pointing out that several of the nominees were box office hits and that "people are wildly excited about the best song nominees." Those people may be disappointed to learn that the Academy is reportedly limiting all of the song performances to 90 seconds. Whether that's true hasn't yet been clarified with mere weeks to go, but it sounds like Burke and the Academy are perfectly happy keeping us in a state of confusion ahead of the big night on Feb. 24. Brendan Morrow

January 30, 2019

Potential 2020 candidate Howard Schultz thinks the Democratic backlash he has received this week is actually good.

The former Starbucks CEO went on Morning Joe Wednesday days after saying he is "seriously considering" running for president as an independent candidate, which sparked fierce criticism from those on the left who fear he would simply be siphoning votes from the Democratic candidate and helping President Trump win a second term. Since Schultz joined Twitter, every single one of his posts has been "ratioed," a term that refers to a controversial tweet receiving more replies than it does likes.

"I must be doing something right to create so much interest and backlash from the Democratic Party," Schultz told MSNBC. He went on to say that he "expected to see some of the level of vitriol, but not to the extent it's been."

When asked why he doesn't simply run as a Democrat, Schultz said he believes the party has gone too far to the left. But he argued he really can win as an independent, saying he has "done the work" and "can get to 270" electoral votes to claim victory. He also said that the notion that he will simply help Trump get re-elected with his candidacy is "not true." Watch Schultz's comments below. Brendan Morrow

December 12, 2018

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) got all the snappy one-liners after her contentious meeting Tuesday with President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), but Trump was "mostly aggravated with Schumer," a White House staffer told Los Angeles Times reporter Eli Stokols, frustrated that Schumer kept mugging to the cameras Trump had called in at the last minute. An administration official told Stokols that after the meeting, Trump stormed into a side office and flicked a briefing folder, scattering paper around the room.

Trump told reporters "it was a very good meeting," and he didn't regret taking ownership of any government shutdown, but a staffer told the L.A. Times that after Schumer and Pelosi left, the West Wing sprang into "damage-control mode," adding, "The aftermath of that meeting was not pretty."

There were differing accounts of the closed-door portion of the Trump-Schumer-Pelosi meeting — sources told The New York Times that Trump suggested the next Congress could be the "greatest Congress in the history of Congress," filled with deal-making; The Washington Post says Trump tried to convince the Democrats that Mexico actually will pay for the wall through higher prices under his NAFTA replacement agreement; and a staffer told the L.A. Times that very little of substance happened because "once the president has been aggravated to that level, there's no coming back from that and re-focusing."

Regardless, "several White House advisers and GOP congressional aides said they believed Trump damaged himself by agreeing to own a possible shutdown and so vividly saying he would not blame it on Schumer," the Post reports. "For months, Trump's aides have told him he is unlikely to get $5 billion for the border wall in December, but he wants to show his supporters that he is fighting for the funding." Winning, perhaps, is optional. Peter Weber

November 26, 2018

President Trump is doubting a conclusion reached by his government once again.

On Friday, the Trump administration produced an assessment that concluded only "decisions made today" can mitigate the real threats posed by climate change. The report was dropped on Black Friday, a day when few Americans were reading the news. Trump on Monday said he has read "some of" the assessment and that "it's fine."

When asked specifically about the conclusion that the economic impact of climate change will be devastating, Trump responded, "I don't believe it." Before he became president, Trump falsely claimed that climate change itself was a hoax invented by the Chinese. His comments Monday come after he shed doubt on the CIA's reported conclusion that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was directly involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying they actually "did not come to a conclusion." Watch Trump's comments on climate change below. Brendan Morrow

October 18, 2018

Jared Kushner seems to think the mounting international tensions sparked by Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance will blow over.

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser has urged him to stand by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, thinking the outrage sparked by the suspected murder of a Washington Post columnist "will pass," The New York Times reports.

Kushner reportedly pointed to other recent incidents that the public largely moved on from, such as when 40 children were killed in a Saudi-led airstrike last month. CNN reports that Kushner and the crown prince have a close relationship and have communicated privately on WhatsApp.

Saudi Arabia is considering placing blame for Khashoggi's suspected death on one of the crown prince's advisers, reports the Times. Officials will reportedly admit that bin Salman ordered General Ahmed al-Assiri to capture Khashoggi so he could be brought to Saudi Arabia for interrogation, but will say he didn't authorize Assiri to kill him. Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month to obtain a marriage document and has not been heard from since. The United States has reportedly been briefed on the Saudis' plans to blame Assiri.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the United States would give Saudi Arabia a few more days to complete its investigation, at which point they will examine the facts before deciding whether to respond. Read more at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow

June 18, 2018

Sometimes bad memes happen to decent people, and unfortunately that appears to be the case for Minnesota Democratic Senate candidate Richard Painter, who got a little too literal with the ol' "dumpster fire" joke. Speaking in front of a flaming trash receptacle, Painter informs his would-be constituents that "some people see a dumpster fire and do nothing but watch the spectacle. Some are too scared to face the danger, or they think it will benefit them if they let it keep on burning."

With a truly astonishing lack of humor, Painter then reveals that while there is an "inferno raging in Washington … here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, we know how to put out a fire." This proclamation is accompanied by a literal cascade of water mercilessly extinguishing the metaphor.

Try to watch with as straight a face as Painter's, below. Jeva Lange

March 5, 2018

When Michael Cohen, a personal lawyer for President Trump, wired a former adult film actress thousands of dollars in 2016, his bank apparently took notice. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Cohen's $130,000 transfer to Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels — allegedly made so that Clifford would keep quiet about a tryst she'd had with Trump in 2006 — was flagged to the Treasury Department by his bank, First Republic.

Clifford received the payment on Oct. 27, 2016, which the Journal notes was just 12 days before the election. "It isn't clear when First Republic reported [the transfer] to the government as suspicious," the Journal writes. Last month, Cohen admitted to The New York Times that he had personally funded the payment to Clifford, insisting neither the Trump Organization nor Trump campaign were involved and calling the exchange a "private transaction." He also declined to explain why the payment was made.

But on Monday, the Journal reported that after the election, Cohen "complained to friends that he had yet to be reimbursed for the payment." Cohen additionally told people that he had missed two prior deadlines to pay Clifford because he could not get in contact with Trump at the time, just a few weeks before the election.

Cohen emailed a two-word statement to the Journal in response to its Monday report: "Fake news." Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Kimberly Alters

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