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December 10, 2018

Lawmakers are considering a wide range of legislation in the final days of the current Congress, but the only bills they need to pass are the seven remaining spending measures to keep the federal government running past a current deadline of Dec. 21. The most contentious of the remaining spending bills is for the Department of Homeland Security, with President Trump demanding $5 billion for his proposed border wall and Democrats saying no. Trump is set to meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — likely the incoming House speaker — and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday to discuss the impasse. Democrats say that, based on Trump's past reneging on legislative deals, they have low expectations for the talks. Peter Weber

7:13 a.m.

The newest tell-all memoir from a former aide to President Trump is by someone you've probably never heard of, Cliff Sims, a former Trump campaign and White House communications staffer. But he has a story to tell, according to an excerpt of his upcoming book, Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, acquired by Axios.

In 2017, after talking to Trump on the phone the night before, Sims snuck into Trump's private study off the Oval Office via the private dining room, he recalls. The point of the secrecy was to hide that Sims was going to participate in a mole hunt of sorts, for "White House officials" who had been leaking stories about Trump. "Give me their names,” Trump told Sims, he writes, describing Trump's eyes as "narrowing" when he spoke. "I want these people out of here. I'm going to take care of this. We're going to get rid of all the snakes, even the bottom-­feeders." The only people above suspicion, it seems, were Ivanka Trump and maybe Jared Kushner. Sims writes:

Only in retrospect did I see how remarkable this was. I was sitting there with the president of the United States basically compiling an enemies list — but these enemies were within his own administration. ... The president proceeded to name White House staffer after White House staffer. Almost no one was deemed beyond reproach — not his chief of staff, not senior aides, almost no one other than those with whom he shared a last name. He wanted me to help him judge their loyalty. How, I wondered, had it come to this? [Cliff Sims, via Axios]

In the end, Trump's internal "enemies list," written in black Sharpie, contained about 10 enemies and five friends, Sims recalls. "Most of the targets survived, at least for a while," Axios says. You can read more at Axios. Peter Weber

5:58 a.m.

The first bill House Democrats introduced after taking control in January was ambitious legislation promising to reduce money in politics, expand voting rights, and crack down on corruption in Washington. The bill, HR 1, is "not going to go anywhere," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in December. And he explained why in an op-ed in The Washington Post late Thursday.

McConnell's op-ed, which focused on HR 1's voting rights and campaign finance aspects, could be read as a response to one published by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) in late November. They describe the bill very differently:

McConnell: "Their bill proposes making Election Day a new paid holiday," or an "extra taxpayer-funded vacation for bureaucrats."

Pelosi: "Let's make it easier, not harder, to vote."

McConnell: "Pelosi and company are pitching new taxpayer subsidies, including a 600 percent government match for certain political donations and a new voucher program that would funnel even more public dollars to campaigns."

Pelosi: "We must also empower hard-working Americans in our democracy by building a 21st-century campaign-finance system ... to increase and multiply the power of small donors" over "wealthy special interests."

McConnell: "Egregiously, the legislation dedicates hundreds of pages to federalizing the electoral process. It would make states mimic the practices that recently caused California to incorrectly register 23,000 ineligible voters. It would make it harder for states to fix inaccurate data in their voter rolls."

Pelosi: "We will promote national automatic voter registration, bolster our critical election infrastructure against foreign attackers, and put an end to partisan gerrymandering once and for all by establishing federal guidelines to outlaw the practice."

McConnell: "Many more Americans would have to notify the feds when spending even small amounts of money on speech or else be penalized."

Pelosi: "Let's rein in the unaccountable 'dark money' unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision by requiring all political organizations to disclose their donors."

This "naked attempt to change the rules of American politics," McConnell writes, "should be called the Democrat Politician Protection Act." Pelosi agrees HR 1 "will ultimately change the balance of power in Washington," though away from "special interests" and toward "hard-working Americans." Peter Weber

4:24 a.m.

The government shutdown hit Day 27 on Thursday, and The Late Show noted some of the real-world consequences.

One thing President Trump likes about this record government shutdown, though, "is that there's a chance it might make you forget, for a little while, that there's this thing called the Russia investigation," Stephen Colbert said in his monologue. But with the news that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sending internal polling data to a likely Russian agent, "the links to Russia are wrapping around Trump like a boa constrictor around a Florida grandpa."

So it's newsworthy — as well as entertaining — that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani "basically went on TV and admitted that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia," Colbert said. "That is so shocking — you saw it — he shocked himself when he heard him say it." Colbert tried to imitate Giuliani's crazy eyes, then animated his eyeballs fleeing his head. "Now, that looks bad, but only if we're going to start counting evidence as proof," he deadpanned. "Rudy's comments are just another example of the Trump team moving the goal posts," sometimes "to a whole different sport: 'It's a hole in touchdown, you're out!'"

Colbert also recapped the crazy story of Michael Cohen paying to rig polls for Trump, and for a vanity Twitter account: "So he paid fake women to say nice things. That's refreshing — usually he pays real women to say nothing."

"Remember when Trump said he would run the country like a business?" Jimmy Kimmel asked on Kimmel Live. "Turns out the business was Radio Shack. Trump is desperately trying to pin blame for this shutdown on Democrats. He lashed out this morning, he wrote: 'The Left has become totally unhinged. They no longer care what is Right for our Countrty.' That's right, you see how he spelled it — he's just as good at spelling 'country' as he is at running it." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:33 a.m.

Mary Oliver, the beloved and prolific poet whose work reflected her reverence of nature, died Thursday at her home in Florida. She was 83, and the cause of death was lymphoma, according to her literary executor, Bill Reichblum. Oliver made her literary debut in 1963, at age 28, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for her collection American Primitive, then the National Book Award for poetry in 1992 for New and Selected Poems.

Born and raised in the Cleveland suburb of Maple Heights, Oliver escaped what she called an abusive and "dysfunctional" home life by exploring the nearby woods and writing poetry. She met her partner, Molly Malone Cook, at the New York home of the late poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose papers she helped organize after high school. Cook died in 2005.

Oliver's poems mostly centered on animal life and the natural world. "One of her favorite adjectives was 'perfect,' and rarely did she apply it to people," The Associated Press notes. In her 2004 essay collection Long Life, Oliver wrote that outwardly "there's never been a day that my friends haven't been able to say, and at a distance, 'There's Oliver, still standing around in the weeds. There she is, still scribbling in her notebook.' But, at the center: I am shaking; I am flashing like tinsel."

Oliver's poem "When Death Comes," from New and Selected Poems, ends with some thoughts about her own death:

When it's over, I want to say all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Oliver's final anthology of poems, Devotions, was published in 2017. Peter Weber

2:16 a.m.

President Trump "appears to be on a collusion course with the law right now, and his alleged lawyer Rudy Giuliani was back on CNN last night and Rudier than ever," Jimmy Kimmel said on Thursday's Kimmel Live. If we didn't have video of his "crazy appearance on Chris Cuomo's show," it would "almost be too much to believe." Giuliani claimed incorrectly that he'd never said there was no collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia, so either there's "another Rudy Giuliani out there," Kimmel said, or Giuliani's lying — again. "Poor Rudy. Someday he's going to be in a mental facility telling the nurses that he used to be the mayor of New York and they'll be like, 'Uh-huh.'"

Kimmel also had some fun with the story about Trump ordering fixer Michael Cohen to hire a guy to rig some online polls, Cohen paying him a fraction of the cash in a Walmart bag, then hiring him to create a @WomenforCohen account. "I may have underestimated Michael Cohen," he said. "He might be a lot more hilarious than I ever imagined."

"It's crazy that Michael Cohen was rigging polls for Trump while Trump was out there complaining that the polls were rigged," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "But one place where there's definitely no collusion is between Rudy Giuliani's brain and his mouth." He showed the clip: "Did Giuliani just admit that there was collusion? I think he did, and look at their faces. Like, neither of them can believe what just happened." Maybe Giuliani's antics are intentional, Noah mused. "Maybe the master plan is to keep creating so many new scandals that Robert Mueller can never finish his investigation."

"It really does seem like the pressure of the job is getting to Rudy," giving the latest of his "trademark accidental confessions," Seth Meyers said on Late Night. He ran through Giuliani's ever-shifting collusion story. "If this keeps going, Rudy is going to be telling Trump, 'It's not jail, it's a gated community.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

2:01 a.m.

During a 2005 trip to southern Africa with his mother, 10-year-old Winston Duncan was inspired to start a nonprofit that, 14 years later, is still going strong.

Duncan met kids with holes in their shoes who walked miles to school and saw old women who shuffled down the streets, and wanted to make it easier for them to get around. Along with his mother, Dixie Duncan, he launched Wheels for Africa. People from his hometown of Arlington, Virginia, and the surrounding area donate bicycles to the organization, and after they are fixed up, the bikes are sent to people in need. Over the last 14 years, more than 8,000 bikes have been donated, with most going to African countries.

Last weekend, Duncan, his mom, and a small group of volunteers went to Puerto Rico for the first time, where 400 bikes were given to people still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. On Friday, the team spruced up the bikes, and on Saturday, the bicycles — along with helmets — were distributed to recipients. Now 24, Duncan is a graduate of Bard College and working at a political consulting firm. He told The Washington Post he hopes that Wheels for Africa's young volunteers see how privileged they are, and "think about giving back." Catherine Garcia

12:55 a.m.

After buying some lottery scratchers earlier this month, Tyler Heep found himself with a winning ticket. Sure, it was only for $1, but the Des Moines, Iowa, man still thought that was something worth celebrating.

It turns out, the Iowa Lottery agreed. Heep went to lottery headquarters to cash in his winning ticket, and asked for one of the large novelty checks that are given to people who win big. "They decided to treat me like a million dollar winner," Heep told WHO-TV. "The guy came down the stairs and they took me into the back room where the camera was with the Iowa Lottery logo. Sure enough they wrote me the $1 check and had me hold it up and took the picture."

Heep used his lottery win to pay for half a gallon of gas. Catherine Garcia

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