×
April 4, 2019

President Trump once again said on Wednesday he's not "inclined" to release his tax returns because he says they're under audit — but even Fox News believes his hands are probably tied at this point.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, has formally requested Trump's tax returns in a letter to the IRS, but the president batted down the suggestion, per The New York Times.

Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano on Thursday concluded that an audit doesn't matter, saying the "obscure statute" Neal cited says the committee can ask for anyone's tax returns without needing a reason. He also said that Trump's taxes being under audit would "not be a defense," and he wasn't sure what the legal argument against releasing them would be, per Mediaite.

Fox's analyst was in agreement with one over on MSNBC, with Jake Sherman saying on Morning Joe that it's the law that the committee "has the unilateral right to obtain any American's tax returns." Sherman noted that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin can perhaps "put up some roadblocks" by saying Trump is under audit, but he noted that "this is the law." MSNBC's Willie Geist, meanwhile, mocked the very idea that Trump is still under audit after years, quipping, "This is the longest audit in the history of audits, if in fact there is an audit." Earlier, Hardball's Chris Matthews said the situation is "black and white" because the law requires Trump to turn over his taxes when requested.

Those on Fox and MNSBC didn't agree, however, whether this is a good thing, with Napolitano expressing his outrage at this law he says he didn't even know existed until this week and fretting, "they did this to Donald Trump, they could do it to any of us." Brendan Morrow

3:54 a.m.

John Oliver's main story on Sunday's Last Week Tonight focused on — what else? — Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which he framed as the latest and maybe last chapter of his "Stupid Watergate" series — "basically Watergate, but if Nixon had been kicked in the head by a billy goat, and also if that billy goat had been the White House chief of staff."

Once people actually read the 448-page redacted report released Thursday, "it became clear that there was a lot in it," Oliver said. "And some of the details in this report were incredible." The one he lingered on, with artistic license, was Trump reportedly saying Mueller's appointment marked "the end of my presidency, I'm f---ed" — except Oliver, of course, did not censor the F-word. Since "we clearly can't cover everything in the report tonight," he said, "I'd like to concentrate on two key factors that may have saved the president here": Incompetence and disobedience.

"When it comes to conspiracy, Trump's saving grace may have been that despite Russians wanting to help," his campaign and family displayed "often cartoonish levels of disorganization and incompetence," plus "ignorance of basic legal concepts," Oliver said. He said the report's findings that so many of the people in Trump's orbit just ignored his orders to potentially obstruct justice is "both reassuring and also terrifying," though worryingly, "lots of those people are gone now, and the newer figures seem very much on the same page as the president," notably Attorney General William Barr.

Barr's preemptive spin now "seems laughably and willfully misleading," Oliver said. "It's like Barr summarized the Twilight novels as: 'A girl in Florida goes to third base with a wookie.'" The parts of Mueller's report we can read may feel like a letdown, he said, but its imparted knowledge "can inform Congress going forward and, crucially, voters a year and a half from now." The clip is full of NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:24 a.m.

There are many reasons people who work in the White House are reluctant to take notes, and traditionally they center around protecting the president. But lots of people in President Trump's White House took notes for the opposite reason, report Peter Baker and Annie Karni at The New York Times: To protect themselves against "a mercurial, truth-bending chief executive who often asked them to do things that crossed ethical or even legal lines, then denied it later."

Some notes by Trump staffers have ended up as tell-all books, but Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report also drew from contemporaneous notes, shining new light on Trump's actions — and his strong aversion to note-taking, especially since he can no longer rely on nondisclosure agreements.

Mueller's team obtained notes or contemporaneous memos from former White House Counsel Don McGahn, his deputy Annie Donaldson, former White House Chiefs of Staff Reince Priebus and John Kelly, former Trump campaign chiefs Paul Manafort and Corey Lewandowski, adviser Stephen Miller, and other advisers, lawyers, and government officials. Some of them kept notes of alarming conversations with Trump in safes, according to Mueller's report.

We know Trump hated note-taking from McGahn's notes and Trump himself, who alleged in a Friday tweet that some "so-called 'notes' ... never existed until needed" and contained "total bullsh-t." Trump also publicly berated former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster for taking copious amounts of notes, the Times reports.

W. Neil Eggleston, who served as a lawyer for President Bill Clinton and as president Barack Obama's White House counsel, told the Times he "didn't take notes when I worked with either president," but to protect the presidents, not make sure he wasn't "part of a criminal conspiracy," like Trump's aides. "To create records of information that was quite harmful to the president, that is really remarkable," he added. "And to do it and then stay on and continue to write them, is really something to me." Read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

April 21, 2019

Every time Avery Fauth, her two sisters, and her parents visit North Topsail Beach in North Carolina, they scan the sand, hoping to spot an ancient megalodon shark tooth.

The family kept up their tradition while at the beach over spring break. As they walked along, Fauth, a middle school student from Raleigh, saw something that caught her eye. Intrigued, she went to the object, which was buried in the sand. "I uncovered it and it keeps coming, and it's this big tooth, and then I hold it up and I'm screaming for my mom," Fauth told WECT.

It was a megalodon shark tooth, and her father, who started searching for megalodon teeth 25 years ago and got his daughters hooked on the hunt, was stunned. "I was really shocked and excited for her that she found something that big," he said. The megalodon, the largest shark ever documented, went extinct millions of years ago, and Fauth's tooth could date back three million years. "They're really rare to find and they're some pretty big teeth and they're pretty cool," she said. The tooth will live in a "special box" inside Fauth's home. Catherine Garcia

April 21, 2019

After creating a replica of the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones, welding student Michael Hayes can tackle anything.

The Louisville, Kentucky, resident attends the Knight School of Welding. Ahead of his wedding, the Game of Thrones fan decided to make the ultimate gift for his soon-to-be wife: an Iron Throne. He enlisted some of his instructors to help him, and over the course of two months, they cut out 400 aluminum swords for the 200-pound throne.

It took nearly 110 hours to complete the throne, which became the centerpiece of Hayes' wedding. His new wife, Kacie, was impressed not only by the throne, but by how much work Hayes put into the project. "The show is one of the first things my wife and I bonded over," he told WLKY. "It's a really important thing for us." The Knight School of Welding funded the $7,000 project, and it's now renting the throne out to fans holding watch parties and Game of Thrones-related events. They're sitting on something special: Instructor Anthony Williams says the throne is even more authentic than the one used on the show, which is made of fiberglass. Catherine Garcia

April 21, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is planning on telling allies Japan, South Korea, and Turkey on Monday that the United States will begin sanctioning them if they keep importing Iranian oil, three U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Sunday.

After the Trump administration pulled the U.S. from its 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, eight countries who received oil from Iran were granted sanctions waivers and told they needed to start looking for alternate energy sources. Greece, Taiwan, and Italy have all stopped importing oil from Iran, but Japan, South Korea, Turkey, China, and India have not, and the waivers expire on May 2. Turkey has been vocal about the fact that it needs Iranian oil to meet its energy needs, with senior officials urging the U.S. to reconsider, AP reports.

President Trump decided on Friday not to extend the waivers, as a way to pressure Iran, officials said. It's unclear if sanctions will start on May 3 if the countries do not immediately stop importing the oil. Catherine Garcia

April 21, 2019

Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky plays the president on TV, and will soon take on the role in real life, too.

Exit polls show that Zelensky won Ukraine's presidential election on Sunday in a landslide, with 73 percent of the vote. Zelensky, 41, has no previous political experience. He handily beat incumbent Petro Poroshenko, who has conceded defeat.

On the show Servant of the People, Zelensky plays a teacher who accidentally becomes Ukraine's president. Ukraine is at war in its eastern Donbass region, and critics worry that because of his lack of experience, Zelensky, who has ties to billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, won't be able to stand up to Russia or make peace with separatists. Catherine Garcia

April 21, 2019

President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani made the talk show rounds on Sunday to defend his client following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on 2016 Russian election interference and the Trump campaign's conduct surrounding the meddling. The former New York City mayor wasn't exactly cautious when responding to questions from Fox News' Chris Wallace, CNN's Jake Tapper, and NBC's Chuck Todd. Here are three of Giuliani's boldest opinions on the Mueller Report.

Info sharing is a-okay — Giuliani told Tapper on CNN's State of the Union that "there's nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians," saying that campaigns get information on their opponents from so many different sources.

On NBC's Meet the Press, Giuliani told Todd that using material stolen by foreign adversaries in a campaign isn't fundamentally a problem — it just depends on the material itself.

Interference didn't do much anyway — While speaking with Todd, Giuliani — who said that much of the Mueller report is questionable — argued that it's "hard to believe" Russian interference did much to sway the 2016 election. While there is no way of quantifying the interference's tangible influence on the vote count, even members of the Republican Party, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), expressed serious concern over the amount of Russian interference the investigation uncovered.

Trump had reason to fire Mueller — Much of the analysis on the Mueller report points to aides such as former White House Counsel Don McGahn preventing Trump from "influencing" the investigation and, therefore, obstructing justice. But Giuliani told Wallace that even if Trump had fired the special counsel, it would not have been obstruction. Giuliani's point was that Trump had good reason to replace Mueller because he hired "very, very questionable" people to investigate Trump. Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads