Like any father of teenagers, President Obama tries to keep an eye on the video games his daughters play. But it turns out it was the president himself who brought into the White House a game known for its violence and mayhem. One rated “M” for Mature: “Generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.” The offending video game is “The Witcher,” which features a warrior who mutates and slays monsters. The president gets a pass this time, though. He wasn’t being a bad parent; he was just accepting a gift from another head of government, and he suggested on his trip to Poland this week that the game has never even been opened. “The Witcher” is based on a series of fantasy stories written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, and it was given to Obama by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in 2011. On his return visit, the president acknowledged that the game has “won fans the world over” and called it “a great example of Poland’s place in the new global economy.” But he added, “I confess I’m not very good at video games.”
George E. Condon Jr.
Hold the Phone
There’s an old saw about Sen. Chuck Schumer that has circulated around the Hill: The most dangerous place in Washington is between New York’s senior senator and a TV camera. But the No. 3 Senate Democrat is not always so eager to talk to the media. He regularly speed-walks from the Senate subway to the floor for votes, flip phone glued to his ear, wry smile on his face — prompting many reporters to wonder whether there is actually a person at the other end of the phone or if it’s just a prop. That question recently led a reporter to call out to Schumer, “You’re not really on the phone!” Without breaking his stride, Schumer headed up the Capitol basement stairs and good-naturedly held his phone out for the reporter to see. He really was, he shot back.
That’s a Wrap Memo to President Obama’s handlers: Next time the boss decides to shoot hoops at Fort McNair, don’t forget to bring towels. The Army discontinued towel service for workout warriors this week at its fitness center at the historic post in Southwest Washington — the nearest Army installation to the White House — and at Fort Myer, its sister post across the Potomac. So Obama, who has played basketball at McNair several times with pals, is out of luck like every other gym jock. The Army’s reason for throwing in the towel(s)? A budget crunch arising from the 2013 sequester deal. The move, according to officials of the Installation Management Command, will save water, laundry detergent, and labor costs — and solve the ever-present pilferage problem. Although a regular patron disparaged the government-issue towels as “supersized postage stamps,” one military official said his gym had to buy more than 1,000 towels each year to replace the stolen stock. “They just fly away,” he said, “especially in the summer.” McNair and Myer were among the last holdouts, probably because of the heavy concentration of senior Army generals who live on the two posts but work at the Pentagon and other federal agencies. But not all is lost. “Antibacterial wipes to wipe down equipment after use will still be provided,” an Army notice reassured.
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The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the November 14 testimony of Glenn Simpson, the man at Fusion GPS who oversaw the creation of the now infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Simpson's testimony includes a number of startling claims, including that Russia infiltrated conservative political groups prior to the election, and that Trump had "long time associations" with the Italian Mafia," and that he "gradually during the nineties became associated with Russian mafia figures." Simpson also testified that Trump called off a post-election meeting with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a longtime member of the NRA, currently under investigation by the FBI for money laundering. Simpson said that the discoveries were so alarming that he felt compelled to go to the authorities. The full text of the transcript can be read here.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has the votes to pass a short-term spending bill tonight, but "Senate Democrats said they're confident they have the votes to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, according to two Democratic senators and a senior party aide. And top Senate Republicans are openly worried about the situation as they struggle to keep their own members in the fold."
The bipartisan legislation, known as the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, means taxpayers will "no longer foot the bill" for sexual harassment settlements involving members of Congress." The legislation "would require members to pay such settlements themselves." It also reforms the "cumbersome and degrading" complaint process by giving victims "more rights and resources," and by simplifying and clarifying the complaint process. The legislation is the first major transformation of the sexual harassment complaint system since it was created in 1995.
"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.