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April 1, 2020

Everyone gets duped now and then. That goes for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well.

Netanyahu recently showed his cabinet a video he claimed was evidence Iran was engineering a novel coronavirus coverup, Axios reports. Tehran has reported more than 47,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,000 deaths, but those figures have been eyed with suspicion by much of the rest of the world, including Israel, which, to put it gently, does not get along with Iran.

The video showed people dumping bodies into garbage dumps, two cabinet ministers told Axios. They said Netanyahu's national security adviser, Meir Ben Shabbat, showed him the video, but he probably should've checked his source. Upon further review the clip turned out to be a scene from the 2007 Hallmark Channel miniseries, Pandemic.

The Israeli government certainly did a bad job of vetting the clip, but the fact it made its way up the flagpole wasn't completely random. Iranians were reportedly sharing the footage on social media last week. Read more at Axios. Tim O'Donnell

February 26, 2020

President Trump has announced a news conference on the coronavirus crisis, but only after placing blame on the media, swiping Democrats, and spelling the very thing he's talking about wrong.

Trump in a tweet Wednesday accused the media, particularly CNN and MSNBC, of "doing everything possible" to make the coronavirus "look as bad as possible, including panicking markets." The Trump administration has been repeatedly downplaying the virus' threat to the U.S., with economic adviser Larry Kudlow claiming Tuesday "we have contained this" even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans should prepare for the possibility of major disruptions to their day-to-day lives.

In this tweet, Trump also managed to bungle the spelling of coronavirus. He tagged the CDC, perhaps anticipating a fact-check on this rosy assessment.

Trump's news conference will take place on Wednesday afternoon at 6:00 p.m. ET — unless that time is also a typo. Brendan Morrow

January 29, 2020

"It's a totally upside-down world" for John Bolton, said Sen. Chris Von Hollen (D-Md.), one of the Democrats who recently called President Trump's former national security adviser a "warmonger" and now wants him to testify under oath. as the star witness in Trump's impeachment trial.

On the other side, some of "Bolton's longtime Republican friends are just as abruptly tossing him to the curb, painting him as a disgruntled former adviser who just wants to sell books," writes Peter Baker at The New York Times. "Some of the same senators who allied with him, promoted his career, consulted with him on foreign affairs, and took his political action committee money are going along as he is painted as 'a tool for the radical Dems and the deep state,'" as Fox Business host and former Bolton fan Lou Dobbs said Monday night.

Dobbs showed some confusing charts trying to connect Bolton, a Republican stalwart and hardline national security conservative, to various figures Dobbs also distrusts, like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). The charts link Romney to Bolton and Trump's current national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, for example, but don't connect Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother. But in tarring "Bolton as a tool of the president's enemies," Baker notes, Dobbs also cited as proof that Bolton "used the same literary agents as James B. Comey the FBI director fired by Mr. Trump — prompting one of the literary agents to point out that one of their other clients was Mr. Dobbs," among other conservatives.

Whether or not Dobbs is also a "tool for the left," Bolton "still wants a future in Republican politics," Baker reports, citing Bolton's friend. "He also remains as contemptuous of Democrats as ever and has not explicitly expressed support for impeachment or conviction." So maybe the world isn't so upside-down after all. Peter Weber

December 28, 2019

Despite his apparent disdain for the anonymous whistleblower who spurred House Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry, President Trump had largely played by the unwritten rules and refrained from mentioning the name of the person allegedly behind the Ukraine-related complaint. But the president veered off that path briefly this week.

On Thursday, Trump retweeted a post from his re-election campaign that linked to an article containing the alleged whistleblower's name, which led to an array of criticism. Then on Friday night, amid a barrage of posts to his 68 million followers, Trump retweeted a post from a supportive follower that included the alleged name. Trump appeared to have deleted the retweet by Saturday morning.

Legal experts disagree on whether identifying a whistleblower is a crime, but many people have argued that doing so in this instance could put the alleged person in danger. Several people in the White House, including Ivanka Trump, have reportedly cautioned the president against publicly naming the alleged whistleblower. Tim O'Donnell

November 25, 2019

Russia seems to loom over just about everything election-related these days.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unveiled a new ad Monday defending President Trump as he remains the subject of an impeachment investigation and the 2020 general election draws ever closer.

McCarthy's ad portrays Trump as someone who has shown the ability to get elected and achieve results in office, despite having many people try to upend him.

One criticism Trump hears from his opponents is that he's either willingly or unwittingly a pawn of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government is widely believed to have interfered in the 2016 presidential election. It's likely to come up more often as the election approaches, and with that in mind, some eagle-eyed observers, like CNN's Andrew Kaczynski, spotted stock footage in the McCarthy ad that seems to have been shot in Russia. The congressman's team may designate someone to check the location of images going forward. Tim O'Donnell

September 25, 2019

Today's really not the best day for someone at the White House to be extremely bad at email.

In the aftermath of the memorandum showing President Trump pushing for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, the White House was quick to shoot off an email of talking points in hopes of containing the damage.

The only problem? The email, featuring talking points allies were to use to combat arguments from House Democrats, was emailed to ... House Democrats. That includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), reports HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery.

As screenshots of the entire pushback strategy — which includes arguing that Trump was simply "suggesting that allegations of an abuse of office" by Biden "merit looking into" — circulated on Twitter, the White House apparently attempted to "recall" the email, which should surely work like a charm. Referencing this bizarre email snafu, a source told The Washington Post's Jacqueline Alemany, "It really is stupid Watergate." Brendan Morrow

September 25, 2019

Rudy Giuliani's wild night night on cable news continued right on into the morning.

The former New York City mayor who now serves as President Trump's personal lawyer said during an appearance on Fox & Friends on Wednesday that the transcript of the July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was read to him — before Congress or anyone else has seen it.

Trump allegedly pressured Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son during the call, which was a major factor in convincing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to open an impeachment inquiry Tuesday. The president announced Tuesday that he will release the transcript of the call in the hopes that it will vindicate him, but Giuliani's claim that he already knows the contents could put a dent in that plan, as it's already raised some red flags for analysts.

The new revelation comes after a night in which Giuliani said everything he did involving Ukraine on Trump's behalf was done "at the request of the State Department," while also blaming George Soros for the whole thing. Tim O'Donnell

July 7, 2019

The cat's out of the bag. It turns out that the United Kingdom's ambassador to the United States, Kim Darroch, doesn't think too highly of the Trump administration.

Leaked diplomatic cables sent from Darroch back to London describe President Trump as "inept," "insecure," and "incompetent," a U.K. government official confirmed to CNN on Saturday. The memos reportedly span from 2017 to the present day.

Darroch reportedly also said that he thinks the Trump administration could end "end in disgrace" and that the reported infighting and chaos within the White House is mostly true.

But the British Foreign Office is not exactly trying to cover up the ambassador's words or dispute the memos' existence. "The British public would expect our ambassadors to provide ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country," a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said. "Their views are not necessarily the views of ministers or indeed the government. We pay them to be candid." The spokeswoman did call the leak "mischievous" behavior, but said that it will not damage relations between London and Washington, The Guardian reports. Tim O'Donnell

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