June 12, 2019

President Trump waved a folded sheet of paper at reporters multiple times on Tuesday, claiming it was the secret deal he claimed his administration had reached with Mexico on Central American migrants. Trump did not let reporters read the paper, but photographers took plenty of photos, and thanks to a little backlighting, it's clear the paper wasn't blank. The Washington Post was able to reconstruct much of what the paper said, and the low-level officials who signed it: A U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, Marik String, and Alejandro Celorio Alcantara, a deputy legal adviser in Mexico's Foreign Ministry.

The document also doesn't appear to be secret — Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard disclosed much of its contents on Monday, and he elaborated on Tuesday evening. The document has language suggesting that Mexico might consider changing its laws to facilitate a regional "safe third party" asylum system, subject to "domestic and international legal obligations," in which migrants would have to apply for asylum in the first country they enter.

Ebrard said Tuesday that Mexico has 45 days to significantly stem the flow of migrants to the U.S., and if at that point the U.S. says there isn't enough progress, "safe third country could be applied if we fail, and we accept what they say." He said Mexico had not agreed to implement a "safe third country" system, which would need approval by Mexican lawmakers, and it probably won't enact such a measure outside of a regional agreement involving countries like Panama and Brazil.

On CNN Tuesday night, Chris Cuomo was losing patience for Trump's theatrics.

"I just don't get the need for the exaggeration here," Cuomo said. You can disagree with Trump's methods and acknowledge that Mexico had already agreed to most of the measures, but "look, the threat of the tariffs moved them," so "why does he have to do that with the paper?" Peter Weber

10:35 a.m.

Since President Trump decided a week ago, after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria's Kurdish-held border with Turkey, Turkey invaded Syria, Islamic State prisoners previously guarded by the embattled Kurds started escaping, America's erstwhile Kurdish allies joined forces with Syria's Russian-backed government, many of Trump's Republican and Fox News allies are horrified, current and former U.S. military personnel are seething, the NATO alliance is teetering, and on Tuesday, Russian troops "moved to fill the void left by the United States," The Associated Press reports.

Trump's decision to effectively abandon the Kurds, in other words, doesn't seem very strategically sound at this point. At least not for the United States.

Russia, meanwhile, is "quickly moving to entrench its de facto power broker role," AP says, and that includes sending Russian troops in to keep the Turkish and Syrian armies from directly clashing. Using its troops as human shields may not seem like a winning position for Moscow, but Russia was "gloating on their global television propaganda network" as U.S. forces left the area, Defense One executive editor Kevin Baron captioned this video posted by RT.

Russian journalists are also documenting cheerful Russian soldiers apparently moving into deserted U.S. military outposts.

"It's all in working order!" translated Telegraph foreign correspondent Roland Oliphant, who added: "The Russians are having fun around playing around in this abandoned U.S. military base in Syria." Peter Weber

10:07 a.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) won't deny the late University of Houston law professor Eugene Smith played a role in getting her where she is today.

But the presidential candidate also frank about Smith's alleged sexual harassment while she taught at UH. So frank that she revealed the story of him "lunging at" and "chasing" her around her his office at his funeral, The Washington Post reports in a profile of Warren published Tuesday.

After taking classes at UH, Warren applied for a professorship there in 1978. That's when Smith took her to dinner with the hiring committee and, unable to cut his steak due to his post-polio syndrome, pushed it to Warren and implied she should do it for him. "Can't you tell I'm crippled?" retired UH professor John Mixon, who was at the dinner, recalled him saying. "I thought you knew that when you ordered the steak," Warren replied. The whole table laughed, and Warren was hired.

But with that moment, Warren knew worse things would come. Faculty members treated her like a "second-class citizen," she said. And Smith, who was essentially "the gatekeeper to her future," made uncomfortable comments about her appearance, "told dirty jokes, and invited her out for drinks," the Post writes. Warren "thought she was managing him" until that day in his office in early 1979. She kept quiet about it because "if Gene wanted to sink me, he could," she said.

That is, she kept quiet until his funeral, where Smith had asked her to speak. And she did, telling Smith's ex-wife, his three grown sons, and the rest of the "slack-jawed" crowd what happened in Smith's office, Mixon recalled. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:18 a.m.

Rudy Giuliani is hitting back at former National Security Adviser John Bolton with his own explosive comparison.

Fiona Hill, President Trump's former top Russia adviser, testified Monday that Bolton expressed concern about Giuliani's effort to get Ukraine to investigate Democrats by comparing him to a "hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up," The New York Times reports.

An angry Giuliani fired back Tuesday with a real "I know you are, but what am I" type of response, comparing Bolton himself to an explosive.

"I'm very disappointed that his bitterness drives him to attack a friend falsely," Giuliani said of Bolton, NBC News reports. "It's really ironic that John Bolton is calling anyone else a hand grenade. When John is described by many as an atomic bomb."

Giuliani further slammed Bolton while speaking to New York magazine's Olivia Nuzzi, saying he's "disappointed" and Bolton's comparison is "almost like projection." Though Bolton didn't make his comment publicly and it instead came by way of an aide's testimony, considering he's got a book on the way and had promised to have his "say in due course," this could be the shape of things to come. Brendan Morrow

8:05 a.m.

Twelve Democratic presidential candidates will gather on one stage in Ohio on Tuesday night for their first debate since House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry of President Trump tied to one of the top candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden, and another leading candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), had a heart attack. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), meanwhile, is now tied with or leads Biden in the polls. The debate, featuring the largest number of U.S. presidential candidates on stage at the same time, will be hosted by CNN and The New York Times.

Billionaire Tom Steyer is making his first debate appearance, and several second-tier candidates are facing a shrinking window to break through before the first caucus. The other eight candidates in Tuesday's debate are three more U.S. senators — Kamala Harris (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) — South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

The candidates "are really being distinguished on the same set of issues ... impeachment, what's happening in Syria and a lot of other places," Sean Bagniewski, chairman of Iowa's Polk County Democrats, told Politico. "People are actually starting to look at who would be the best leader in challenging times like these." But with so many candidates facing so much pressure to stand out, there might be some unexpected moments. “Who knows what goofy bulls--t Steyer will pull, or Gabbard will pull,” an adviser to one candidate told Politico. Peter Weber

8:00 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden in a new interview concedes he exercised "poor judgment" in serving on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Biden spoke with ABC News in an interview Tuesday about his work with Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian oil and gas company where he served on the board. He has faced criticism from those who say he was inappropriately profiting from his father's position while the former vice president was overseeing Ukraine policy, as well as unfounded allegations of illegal activity from President Trump, whose request that Ukraine's president investigate Biden sparked an impeachment inquiry.

In the interview, Biden concedes that "in retrospect," he used "poor judgment" in getting "in the middle of something that is a swamp in many ways." He also admits he "probably" wouldn't have gotten the position if his last name wasn't Biden, although he defended his qualifications and again denied anything allegations of illegality, saying he did "nothing wrong."

"Did I make a mistake? Well, maybe in the grand scheme of things, yeah," Biden said. "But did I make a mistake based upon some ethical lapse? Absolutely not." He also said it was a mistake in that he "gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father." Biden denied ever discussing his work with Burisma with his father outside of one "brief exchange."

This interview aired the morning of the fourth Democratic presidential debate, though whether any of Biden's opponents will seize upon this criticism or dismiss it as a distraction remains unclear. Brendan Morrow

7:15 a.m.

American Media Inc. and its soon-to-be-sold tabloid National Enquirer shredded secret documents potentially damaging to President Trump right before the 2016 election, Ronan Farrow writes in his new book, Catch & Kill. After reporters for The Wall Street Journal called AMI to ask about a $150,000 payout to a former Playboy model whose story about an extramarital affair with Trump was never published in the pro-Trump tabloid, a panicked Enquirer editor in chief Dylan Howard ordered a staffer to "get everything out of the safe," adding, "we need to get a shredder down there," Farrow writes, according to Politico and CNN.

"The staffer opened the safe, removed a set of documents, and tried to wrest it shut," Farrow recounts, and an Enquirer employee said a trash crew collected "a larger than customary volume of refuse" that day. After the news of AMI's secret Trump files came out, Farrow says, "reporters would discuss the safe like it was the warehouse where they stored the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones, but it was small and cheap and old."

The Journal published its article Nov. 4, 2016, and along with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's $130,000 hush payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels, it formed the backbone of a post-election scandal that eventually ended in a three-year jail sentence for Cohen. AMI cooperated in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

As scrutiny of Trump's close relationship with AMI and its publisher, David Pecker, grew, the materials were moved to a bigger safe. It was then that an employee "found something amiss: the list of Trump dirt didn't match up with the physical files," Farrow writes. "Some of the material had gone missing." Howard, who has retained a lawyer and is considering legal action, declined to comment on Farrow's reporting. AMI said in a statement that "Mr. Farrow's narrative is driven by unsubstantiated allegations from questionable sources and while these stories may be dramatic, they are completely untrue." Peter Weber

5:30 a.m.

"The impeachment train is picking up steam," Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Kimmel Live, running through the various depositions House impeachment investigators have conducted in President Trump's Ukraine scandal and catching up on the legal woes of Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani. "Make no mistake, the president is melting down like a creamsicle in July," Kimmel said. "He's threatening to sue Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff — which you can't do, and not only that, who's he going to get to sue them? All his lawyers are either in jail or going there soon."

"With this and the impeachment and Turkey and Syria and all manner of hell breaking loose," Trump is urging followers to vote for Sean Spicer on Dancing With the Stars, Kimmel said. "And that might be his greatest abuse of power yet."

Trump has "shaken Washington to its core by refusing to recognize the power of Congress to impeach him," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "The question is: Why does the president think he can get away with this?" Neal Brennan had an answer: "Trump doesn't think he got elected; Trump thinks he bought America." When Noah protested, Brennan countered: "Dude, he tried to buy Greenland eight weeks ago" His supporting evidence was kind of persuasive.

"In a normal administration, an impeachment inquiry would be enough drama on its own, but the Trump presidency is like a Black Friday sale happening at the Fyre Festival," Noah said: "Pure chaos!"

Trump faced near-universal condemnation for unilaterally pulling U.S. troops back from Kurdish-held areas of Syria, and now "the thing everyone warned Trump would happen is happening," Noah said. "Turkey invading, Kurds fleeing, ISIS escaping? Like, the Middle East was already a geopolitical Jenga tower, with everyone trying to figure out the right move. And then Donald Trump comes in, he's like, 'What if we move the whole table?'" And while Trump says he's just bringing U.S. troops home, he's actually just shifting them to Saudi Arabia — for cash, Trump bragged. "He is right, that is a first," Noah said. "I don't think America has ever rented out its military before." Watch below. Peter Weber

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