8:19 a.m. ET
President Trump’s button-measuring contest with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday night sparked dark jokes and genuine concern about the possibility of nuclear war. But are articles about the “nuclear war tweet heard ’round the world” exaggerating? CNN’s Jake Tapper didn’t seem to think so when he appeared on The Lead on Tuesday night, calling Trump’s response to Kim’s threats something “the world has frankly never before heard from an American president.”
Tapper then ominously quoted former President John F. Kennedy: “Every man, woman, and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness.” Tapper didn’t dance around his concerns, though, adding that “it may be difficult for those of you at home to wrap your minds around a U.S. president who makes statements like this about the use of nuclear weapons, which would of course murder millions of people.”
Other anchors and analysts also reacted to Trump’s tweet with shock. , NBC national security analyst Jeremy Bash said “this is a tweet that could lead to confrontation and maybe even war.” On MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell called the tweet proof that the president is “unfit to serve.” Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) offered a different perspective: “We’ve gotten to a weird place where it really doesn’t matter what the president of the United States says anymore, because it’s so bizarre, strange, not true.”
But it was Tapper who summed up Trump’s tweet with a grim reminder: “None of this [is] normal, none of this [is] acceptable, none of this [is] — frankly — stable behavior,” he said.
9:20 a.m. ET
Speaking on Morning Joe on Wednesday, Game Change author John Heilemann did not hold back in his blistering criticism of President Trump’s tweet that taunted North Korea over the unimpressive size of its nuclear button. Trump “is not merely being cavalier with a threat about nuclear war,” said Heilemann. “He’s being cavalier in a way that makes him seem demented and deranged.”
Heilemann had also pointed out that neither Republican nor Democratic presidents in the past have ever before treated the nuclear threat in a “cavalier” way. Trump’s comments make none “of our serious allies or adversaries around the world think he’s a serious person talking in this way about the most serious threat that the world ever faces,” Heilemann insisted. Watch his comments below, and read more responses to Trump’s tweet here. Jeva Lange
8:48 a.m. ET
Hoda Kotb was named as Matt Lauer’s replacement on Today on Tuesday, but she will make approximately $18 million less per year than he did, people familiar with the decision . Lauer earned an eye-popping $25 million a year on the job, while Kotb will make $7 million a year, the same as her co-host Savannah Guthrie.
Lauer’s salary notably “reflected the long time he was on the show,” an insider told Page Six. Another massive NBC contract belongs to Megyn Kelly, who joined the network last year and reportedly makes as much as $20 million a year.
The insider added, “Hoda isn’t complaining about the money. She has landed the big job she always dreamed of, and most definitely deserves.” That being said, “the figures underline the huge wage disparity at NBC News.”
8:04 a.m. ET
On Tuesday, H. Brandt Ayers, the chairman of Alabama’s Consolidated Publishing and former publisher of one of its newspapers, The Anniston Star, acknowledged that he had spanked at least one female reporter in the 1970s. Former Star editor Trish O’Conner said she had received a phone call from “very, very upset” 26-year-old police reporter Wendy Sigal in 1974. “She said Brandy had been to her apartment. He told her she had been a bad girl and she needed to be spanked — and he spanked her.” Ayers, who was about 39 at the time, confirmed that account, The Star reports:
Ayers claimed Sigal had been out of work because of a psychological ailment. “I called the doctor and asked what should do, and he said ‘calm her down,'” Ayers said. He said he asked the doctor if spanking would work, and the doctor said yes. Ayers said Tuesday he didn’t recall the name of the doctor. O’Connor and one other Star reporter said they’d never heard of management contacting employees’ doctors when they were home sick in the 1970s. [The Anniston Star]
Ayers also tacitly confirmed the account of another Star reporter, Veronica Pike Kennedy, who said Ayers spanked her in the newsroom in 1975, when she was in her early 20s; another former Star reporter said he witnessed the assault on Kennedy, and two other unidentified women told The Star that Ayers had also spanked them against their wishes, with sexual overtones. Ayers, who was publisher until 2016, said he has no intention of stepping down as chairman of his family’s publishing company. “Of course not,” he said. “I am the third generation of a family that has served honorably, even courageously, in the public interest.” You can .
7:16 a.m. ET
Last spring, congressional Republicans passed and President Trump signed a law repealing former President Barack Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, finalized in August 2016, as part of their liberal use of the Congressional Review Act to nullify 14 Obama-era regulations. The rule required federal contractors to disclose sexual harassment and other labor violations before receiving significant federal contracts, reports, and also forbade large contractors from forcing employees to take labor complaints to arbitration, typically secret proceedings where the worker is more likely to lose than in court.
Mandatory arbitration plays a big part in sexual misconduct cases, and former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson has made abolishing such clauses — ubiquitous in her former employer’s sexual harassment settlements — a central plank in her campaign against sexual harassment. A few months after Trump signed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces repeal, The New York Times published its exposé on Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, starting the #MeToo moment that has forced out prominent men in media, the arts, and Congress.
“I can tell you without a doubt,” Ben Olinsky, an Obama labor policy aide who helped write the jettisoned rule, . “This provision would have brought significant new accountability to federal contractors with sexual harassment and assault.” Now, Congress is working on bipartisan legislation, Senate bill 2203, that would ban forced arbitration not just among federal contractors but all businesses. Its main sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), voted to repeal the Obama rule.
Republicans say they did not repeal the Obama rule because of sexual harassment, which they point out is already illegal. But labor experts say contractors are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment, and the problem has grown as the number of federal contractors has mushroomed, costing more than $400 billion a year now from $182 billion in 1993. You can .
5:46 a.m. ET
On New Year’s Eve, CNN sent Randi Kaye to cover a busload of stoners in Colorado, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday’s Late Show, and things got predictably wacky as the night wore on. “But the pot party wasn’t just happening on the CNN, because as of yesterday, recreational pot is officially legal in California,” he said. “That’s right, Californians can finally try marijuana.” Colbert tried to celebrate the new law in America’s most populous state with Stoney Von Dankington, his staff stoner, but Stoney had some other new California laws on his mind.
At The Daily Show, Trevor Noah also took a broader look at the new legislative landscape in America. “With every new year comes new resolutions, new sexy calendars, and most importantly, new laws,” he said, noting higher minimum wages in 18 states, doggie divorce custody in Illinois, and jaywalking reform in California. “Oh, and in California, every day is now 4/20,” he said. “It’s great that recreational marijuana is now legal in California, especially because it’s been so good for Californians’ health. Did you know that in the past 48 hours, California’s glaucoma rate has dropped by 98 percent? Stoners everywhere were like, ‘Doc, it’s a miracle — I can see again!'” Noah did despair a bit at the toll legalization will take on rap, trying out a modified Snoop Dogg lyric, then he took on the bummer of tax reform and President Trump’s blunt message to his rich friends.
Jimmy Kimmel, with one of the few late-night shows based in California, decided to test the new law and himself, having Cousin Sal introduce three pedestrians on Hollywood Boulevard and having Kimmel guess which one of them was (legally) high. See if you can do better than Kimmel below. Peter Weber
4:34 a.m. ET
Stephen Colbert kicked off his first Late Show of 2018 by talking about the weather, specifically the brutal cold tormenting New York City and much of the rest of the country. “And reports say ‘the worst is yet to come,'” he added. He made a joke about the ball not dropping in Times Square, and how it’s colder in Canada than on Mars. “Speaking of new lows, Donald Trump,” Colbert said.
He read Trump’s tweet about needing some “good old Global Warming,” then tried to figure out its logic: “Because Donald Trump’s cold right now, that’s evidence that the Earth is not getting warmer — just like because Donald Trump is president right now, that’s evidence we’ve never had a competent president.” Trump really hit the Twitter on Tuesday morning, though, and Colbert poked fun at some of the punchier ones. “Trump took credit for no one dying in plane crashes this year?” he marveled. “That explains his new campaign slogan, ‘Trump 2020: You Got to Tulsa, Didn’t Ya?'”
North Korea is threatening to nuke the U.S. but also inviting itself to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, Colbert said. “There are even rumors that North Korea has been pumping their Olympic team with performance-enhancing food.” Of course, Trump is taking all the credit for the Koreas starting to talk again, he sighed, reading the relevant tweet.
Trump hasn’t just been tweeting, he also designed a new “challenge coin,” Colbert said. “I’ve received several coins myself, it’s a great honor and a wonderful American tradition — so naturally, Trump is ruining it.” After going through the ways Trump aggrandizes himself on the medallion, Colbert had a good laugh at Disney’s animatronic Trump — or “Jon Voight after a chemical spill,” as he put it. “That is truly disturbing — I know one sculptor who did not vote for him.” Watch below. Peter Weber
3:21 a.m. ET
Thomas S. Monson, 16th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Tuesday night at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 90 and had been in poor health. Monson was president, “prophet, seer, and revelator” of the Mormon church for nearly a decade, but he had been one of the church’s 12 apostles since 1963, at age 36, after 14 years as a bishop. When he joined the top ranks of the LDS church 53 years ago, there were 2.1 million Mormons and 12 temples around the world; by the time he died, the religion had expanded to 15.9 million members and 157 temples, notes.
Monson will be succeeded by Russell M. Nelson, who is 93 but was ordained an apostle in 1984. When Monson had been ordained 20 years earlier, he “joined a quorum with a handful of men who knew or were raised by Latter-day Saint pioneers who crossed the plains in 1847,” says. “They could speak from experience about the church before the Manifesto that ended polygamy in 1890. … He was the final prophet to have served in the Twelve with church leaders who had known men who knew the first, Joseph Smith.” Monson was also the last living person who was present in June 1978 when the Mormon leaders received a revelation allowing black people and other minorities to become full members of the church, a move Monson supported.
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