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February 14, 2018

When the Arizona Monitor endorsed Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward last fall, her campaign quickly touted the news on Facebook. Only, there was one problem: The Arizona Monitor isn't a real publication. It is an "anonymous, pro-Ward blog" that "launched just a few weeks before publishing the endorsement, and its domain registration is hidden, masking the identity of its owner," Politico reports.

In other words, the Arizona Monitor is the very definition of fake news.

You can't be blamed for having assumed differently: In a media landscape populated by websites with names like InfoWars, Liberty Writers News, and UndergroundNewsReport.com, it is usually fairly easy to discern publications that might push an agenda with false stories. That sniff test is no longer reliable, though, Politico reports:

The Arizona Monitor seems to be part of a growing trend of conservative political-messaging sites with names that mimic those of mainstream news organizations and whose favored candidates then tout their stories and endorsements as if they were from independent journalists. It's a phenomenon that spans the country from northern New England, where the anonymous Maine Examiner wreaked havoc on a recent mayoral election, all the way out to California, where Rep. Devin Nunes launched — as reported by Politico — his own so-called news outlet, the California Republican. [Politico]

The director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, described the method as "basically … an appropriation of credibility." Read more about how fake news websites are designed to trick you, and who might be behind them, at Politico. Jeva Lange

9:14 a.m. ET

President Trump on Monday launched into a tirade against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the investigation he is leading into whether the Trump campaign was involved with Russian election interference. He claimed without evidence that Mueller has been "disgraced and discredited," writing on Twitter that the probe is "looking for trouble" while ignoring corruption within the Democratic Party.

"They are enjoying ruining people's lives," Trump tweeted, additionally claiming that collusion is a "phony crime" and obstruction of justice is an unfair way of punishing Trump when he "fights back." Mueller's investigation has so far filed charges against five Americans, 26 Russians, and one Dutch citizen, along with three Russian businesses. Summer Meza

7:25 a.m. ET

On Monday, Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the world about clerical sex abuse, begging forgiveness for the "suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power, and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons." He called for change to laws and Catholic culture and asked lay Catholics to help effect that change. The Vatican released the letter, a response to a grand jury report from Pennsylvania, as Francis heads to Ireland, which is grappling with its own abuses by the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis was pretty direct:

Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. ... The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. [Pope Francis]

The pope pointed to "clericalism," criticizing this ecclesiastical elitism as a "peculiar way of understanding the church's authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred." He expressed "shame and repentance" on behalf of priests and bishops, writing: "We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them." Pope Francis called for "penance and prayer" by all Catholics, saying fasting "can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary." You can read the entire letter via the Vatican. Peter Weber

6:35 a.m. ET
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Crazy Rich Asians beat shark movie The Meg to take top spot in its opening weekend, bringing in $25 million in the U.S. box office versus $21.2 million for The Meg and $13.6 million for the No. 3 film, Mile 22. Crazy Rich Asians is the first romantic comedy in three years to win at the box office and the first major Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. The film made $34 million in five days, easily recouping the $30 million it cost to create. "This movie is so culturally significant and so unique in that there hasn't been a cast that's predominately Asian [in years]," said Jeff Goldstein, head of U.S. distribution for Warner Bros. "This is one of those few projects that a whole studio comes together with lots of passion."

The Kevin Spacey-helmed Billionaire Boys Club fared considerably worse, taking in just $126 on Friday, its opening day, and $162 on Saturday. Peter Weber

6:04 a.m. ET

At about 5:30 a.m. in Ankara, Turkey's capital, a gunman in a white car fired six shots at the U.S. Embassy, the Ankara governor said in a statement, The embassy was closed for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, and nobody was injured in the attack. "We can confirm a security incident took place at the U.S. Embassy early this morning," said embassy spokesman David Gainer. "We thank the Turkish National Police for their rapid response."

Tensions are high between Turkey and the U.S. over Turkey's imprisonment of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, which prompted President Trump to double tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports just as the Turkish lira was weakening. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused America of waging economic warfare and steered blame for rising prices and other economic problems toward the U.S. There are fears that Turkey's troubles could spread, causing widespread global economic damage. Peter Weber

5:33 a.m. ET

On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, Rudy Giuliani finessed his and his client President Trump's "collusion is not a crime" talking point to attempted collusion is not a crime. In the same interview where Giuliani declared that "truth isn't truth," host Chuck Todd asked him about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner. "The meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about [Hillary] Clinton," Giuliani said, and when Todd interjected that Giuliani had just admitted to "attempted collusion," Giuliani laughed and disagreed.

"That was the original intention of the meeting," Giuliani said. "It turned out to be a meeting about another subject and it was not pursued at all. And, of course, any meeting with regards to getting information on your opponent is something any candidate's staff would take. If someone said, 'I have information about your opponent,' you would take that meeting." "From the Russian government?" Todd asked, incredulously. "She didn't represent the Russian government," Giuliani claimed. "All they knew is that a woman with a Russian name wanted to meet with them, they didn't know she was a representative of the Russian government."

According to emails tweeted out by Donald Trump Jr., he was informed the meeting would be with a "Russian government attorney" offering dirt on Hillary Clinton from "the crown prosecutor of Russia," as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." Also, it seems increasingly likely that whether attempting and (purportedly) failing to collude is a criminal act will be decided in court. And accepting help from foreign governments in U.S. elections is, generally speaking, illegal and not common practice. Other than that, spot-on. Peter Weber

4:07 a.m. ET

"Trade is a subject on which our current president considers himself particularly expert," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. The problem is, President Trump "seems genuinely confused" by the basics of trade economics, including tariffs and trade deficits, he said, succinctly explaining both concepts for the edification of viewers and in case a certain president of the United States was hate-watching.

To be fair, trade is "one of the most complicated issues there is, technically, politically, and emotionally," Oliver said, but Trump gets almost everything backwards. "The overwhelming consensus among economists is that trade between countries, generally speaking, can create jobs, lower costs, and be a net benefit to both nations," he said. "Essentially, think of trade like sex: If you're doing it right, it can be good for both partners — though the odds of that happening plummet as soon as Donald Trump gets involved." For example, Trump's tariffs may create 26,280 steel and aluminum jobs, according to one estimate, and eliminate 432,747 U.S. jobs elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Trump is listening to the one economist who agrees with him, Peter Navarro, Oliver said. "We're engaged in an escalating trade war that almost no legitimate economist supports, led by a man who honestly doesn't seem to fully understand the mechanics of what he's doing, getting advice from the human equivalent of an all-caps email from your uncle. And the crazy thing is, the effect of all this is the exact opposite of what Trump says he wants. Because if you want to create jobs, you don't do that by cutting off American companies' markets and suppliers, and if you want to curb the abuses of countries like China, you don't do that by pissing off the leaders of every other nation on Earth." He made a short, over-the-top, Navarro-style film to explain trade to Trump, who probably won't see it. You, however, can watch and learn below. Peter Weber

2:54 a.m. ET

A number of national polls have given Democrats the edge going into the 2018 midterm elections and a new CBS News poll of 57 competitive districts found a big reason Republicans appear to be struggling: women. In those 57 battleground districts, most currently held by Republicans, women say they plan to vote for a Democrat by a 12-point margin, 46 percent to 34 percent. Men, meanwhile, say they plan to vote for the Republican by an 8-point margin, 47 percent to 39 percent.

There's a huge partisan split — Republicans say they'll vote for Republicans, Democrats for Democrats. But white women have flipped to the Democrats, 42 percent versus 40 percent for Republicans; that's a reversal from 2016, when nationally, white women backed Republican candidates over Democrats, 55 percent to 43 percent. Independent women favor the Democrats this year, 38 percent to 32 percent, the poll found, and there's an education gap between college-educated white women — 53 percent who plan to vote for a Democrat versus 35 percent for the GOP candidate — and those without college degrees, who say they'll vote for the Republican 44 percent to 35 percent.

On CBS News, Cook Political Report national editor Amy Walter and CBS News polling director Anthony Salvanto explained why the defection of college-educated white women in suburban and exurban areas is so worrisome for the GOP, but said the real threat for Republicans is the enthusiasm gap between fired-up Democrats and on-the-fence Republicans. Walter also said the partisan gap appears historically large this year.

The poll was conducted by YouGov Aug. 10-16 among 4,989 registered voters in 57 swing districts. The topline results have a margin of error of ±1.8 percentage points; the results for women have a margin of error of ±2.4 points. Peter Weber

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