×
December 7, 2017

On Thursday, Australia's House of Representatives approved a measure to redefine marriage as "a union of two people," not just a man and a woman, paving the way for the first same-sex marriage in February. The Senate had passed the measure last week, 43-12. The lower house of Parliament rejected all amendments, including ones on freedom of speech and religion, meaning the bill will become law as is, after royal assent and a few other formalities.

Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull's government had introduced the bill after 62 percent of Australians voted in favor of same-sex marriage in an eight-week national poll; turnout was 79.5 percent of eligible voters, or 12.7 million people. Peter Weber

4:14a.m.

If President Trump was trying to neuter Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into his campaign and Russia when he appointed Matthew Whitaker acting attorney general, he may have been "too clever by half," conservative law professor John Yoo writes at The Atlantic. Whitaker "cannot legally hold the office," thanks to the Constitution's Appointments Clause, and it's very unlikely this Supreme Court will uphold the White House's legal argument that his appointment is valid.

Yoo expressed a famously expansive view of presidential powers in his defunct "torture memo." But even Yoo has argued that Trump occassionally exceeds his presidential powers, and the Whitaker appointment is one of those times. Whitaker can try to shut down the Mueller investigation, an idea he's publicly advocated, but it won't stick, Yoo explains:

The White House may have thought it had cleverly figured out a way to curtail the investigation by appointing Whitaker, but it has instead virtually assured that Mueller will complete his job in his own good time. With questions surrounding the ethics and now the legality of his appointment, Whitaker will have little political capital to expend in defending any limits on Mueller. And even if Whitaker displays terrible judgment and makes the fateful choice to cut off the probe, Mueller now has the grounds to refuse to obey the orders of an unconstitutional attorney general. Trump's clever maneuvering has provided Mueller all the space he needs to finish his investigation and even hand over his files and concluding report to a Congress eager to launch impeachment proceedings. [John Yoo, The Atlantic]

"Trump critics should not find joy in such a result," Yoo cautioned, because "every action of the Justice Department might fall before challenges to Whitaker's appointment," including the prosecution of criminals. You can read Yoo's conservative legal case that Whitaker is an invalid attorney general, and his helpful suggestions for what Trump can and should do, at The Atlantic. Peter Weber

2:52a.m.

In one week, President Trump has transformed from a nonstop campaign-rally machine to a nearly invisible figure communicating mostly by tweet. Trump returned late Sunday from a 43-hour trip to Paris, where he sat out some big events and clashed with allies, and on Monday he ended his public day at 10:03 a.m., skipping the Veterans Day trip to Arlington National Cemetery every president since at least John F. Kennedy has made to lay a ceremonial wreath. On Tuesday, Trump's only public appearance was a brief showing at a Diwali ceremony, and he had Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet with visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence to the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) summit typically attended by presidents, potentially offending Asian leaders; canceled a trip to Colombia; and opted not to visit the U.S. troops he sent to the U.S.-Mexico border to protect a "caravan" he seems to have forgotten about. Maybe Trump is just tired, but White House officials and Trump allies say he's in a particularly sour mood amid a string of late Democratic victories in areas where he campaigned, looming investigations by House Democrats, expected indictments from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and bad press from his France trip.

"Trump has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment," the Los Angeles Times reports, citing multiple administration sources. "Behind the scenes, they say, the president has lashed out at several aides," sketching "a picture of a brooding president 'trying to decide who to blame' for Republicans' election losses, even as he publicly and implausibly continues to claim victory."

"It's like an episode of Maury," one former Trump aide told Politico. "The only thing that's missing is a paternity test." You can read more about Trump's "five days of fury" at The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, and Politico has more on the mood in the White House. Peter Weber

1:14a.m.

A Houston neighborhood is now home to 12 special murals that merge art with poetry.

The Gulfton neighborhood is one of the most diverse areas in Texas, with residents coming from more than 40 different countries and able to speak 80 languages, the Houston Chronicle reports. Many are immigrants, and Dr. Aisha Siddiqui created a nonprofit called Culture of Health — Advancing Together (CHAT) for those in need of a strong support system. "This land of opportunity is great but daunting for people," she said.

Art is "a universal language," Siddiqui said, and "helps make people take ownership of communities." To bring art to Gulfton, CHAT partnered with several other nonprofits and the mayor's office to launch the Gulfton Story Trail Mural Project. Community members were invited to write poems about the neighborhood, and Houston-area artists then selected their favorites and painted murals based on the poetry.

The colorful murals "make it more welcoming," Siddiqui said, and give people "the sense that someone cares for them." Artist Natalia Victoria painted a garden based on the poem "Ego For Thought" by local resident Emmanuel Nwaobi. "The poem was about the community working together to be a better community," Victoria told the Chronicle. "I thought that was inspiring and so important." Catherine Garcia

12:45a.m.

"Here we are once again: Trump wants to fire somebody," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "But in a refreshing change of pace, it's not Donald, because today we found out that in a stunning move, first lady Melania Trump is calling for the firing of Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel. I assume Melania's doing it with her traditional goodbye gift, a jacket that says 'U Don't Really Work Here Anymore, Do U?'"

The first lady's office apparently believes Ricardel has been leaking negative stories about her, but "this story has unearthed some juicy behind-the scenes details about the first lady's relationship with Chief of Staff John Kelly," including getting President Trump to yell at Kelly for not approving her promotion of staff members.

His wife's veering into Trump's "you're fired!" lane and Democrat Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema's historic win in Arizona are "just the latest in a very bad week for the president — case in point, North Korea," Colbert said. Trump has been saying for months that he solved North Korea's nuclear crisis, "but somebody didn't get the memo that North Korea wasn't a threat anymore, and that somebody was Kim Jong Un," who is moving ahead with his ballistic missiles program at 16 hidden bases.

Trump responded to that and other embarrassing news with an active day on Twitter, and Colbert read and commented on the tweets — disputing Kim's missiles, defending his widely mocked decision to skip a World War I memorial in France due to rain, and several attacks on French President Emmanuel Macron, one of which included a threat to raise tariffs on French wines. "Aren't you losing support with suburban white women?" Colbert asked. "Maybe now's not the time to come after wine. What's next? Banning book clubs and Nancy Meyers movies?" Watch below. Peter Weber

November 13, 2018

Conservative author and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi told The Guardian on Tuesday that during a recent interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, he was asked about Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party and a prominent Brexit campaigner.

Corsi is one of GOP strategist Roger Stone's associates, and on Monday, he announced he expects to be indicted by Mueller soon. Corsi said Mueller's investigators asked him about any advance knowledge he may have had regarding WikiLeaks releasing emails stolen from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and Corsi said the questions about Farage were related to U.S. politics "but of course Brexit was in the background." Farage, who campaigned with Trump, has denied having any involvement with Russia ahead of the Brexit vote.

Corsi said he was also asked about Ted Malloch, an American academic based in London, who has ties to Farage and was an informal adviser to Trump. Earlier this year, FBI agents interviewed Malloch; at the time, he told The Guardian he was asked about his relationship with Stone and if he ever visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. While he was willing to share with The Guardian that he was asked about Farage and Malloch, Corsi refused to go into "detail because I respect the special counsel and the legal process." Catherine Garcia

November 13, 2018

On Tuesday, President Trump hosted a celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights and one of the religion's most popular annual festivals, at the White House. Diwali was actually a week earlier, Nov. 7, and in his tweet marking his belated celebration of the festival, Trump — or more likely, one of his staffers — explained that Diwali is "a holiday observed by Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains throughout the United States & around the world."

Diwali is not widely celebrated among Buddhists, and people noticed that he left out the Hindus.

Trump — who proclaimed during the 2016 election that "we love the Hindus!" — followed up with a tweet expressing his "great honor" at hosting a "celebration of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights," calling the attendees of his celebration "very, very special people!"

Last year, Trump hosted an intimate Diwali celebration in the Oval Office, organized by major GOP fundraiser Shalabh "Shalli" Kumar, India Abroad reports. And that this year's Diwali celebration almost did not happen because the White House was busy with the midterm elections and, as one senior administration official told the publication, with "everything else that’s going on, organizing a Diwali event this year has not been something we've been thinking about." There has been a White House Diwali celebration every year since 2003. Peter Weber

November 13, 2018

Democrat Josh Harder has defeated Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in California's 10th Congressional District, The Associated Press reports.

With the latest vote count released on Tuesday, Harder has a 4,919-vote lead over Denham, the four-term incumbent, and because there aren't many ballots left to count, there's no way he can overcome the deficit.

A first time candidate, Harder, 32, was born and raised in the 10th District, which sits in California's Central Valley. While campaigning, the venture capitalist said he will push for universal health care, and repeatedly brought up Denham's vote against the Affordable Care Act. Denham, 51, painted Harder as someone with an "extreme" agenda who doesn't understand the area.

This is the fourth Democratic pickup of a Republican House seat in California. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried the district, but Denham was able to win his race by 3 percentage points. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads