Monday morning news: December 17, 2018

President Trump continues attack on Russia probe » President Trump and his legal team continued on Sunday to lash out at the Russia probe.

On his Twitter account, the president once again criticized former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying—quoting here—“He should be ashamed of himself for allowing this total HOAX to get started in the first place.”

He also called his former personal attorney Michael Cohen a “rat,” for his cooperation in the probe. Trump says Cohen, who was just sentenced to three years in prison, lied about him to get a more lenient sentence.

And Trump’s current personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said Sunday Cohen’s claims that he was loyal to Trump are laughable.

GIULIANI: He was fiercely loyal to Donald Trump? Even though at the very time he was fiercely loyal to him he was taping him and lying to him? He was never fiercely loyal to Donald Trump. He’s fiercely loyal to himself. 

He also said President Trump has done nothing wrong or illegal, either in regard to any possible Russian collusion or regarding payments to women alleging past affairs.

And when asked if the president might still sit down for in-person testimony with Mueller, Giuliani responded:

GIULIANI: Over my dead body, but you know I could be dead. 

Interior secretary steps down » President Trump announced over the weekend that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will be stepping down at the end of the year.

Zinke said—quote—“vicious and politically motivated attacks” forced his resignation.

The former Montana congressman faces federal investigations into his travel, political activity, and potential conflicts of interest. With Democrats set to take control of Congress, Zinke could have faced new investigations had he stayed.

President Trump said he’ll likely announce a nominee to replace Zinke sometime this week.

Mick Mulvaney set to take over as WH chief of staff » The White House also announced that budget director Mick Mulvaney will take over as President Trump’s chief of staff though it’s not yet clear how long he’ll serve. The president said over the weekend that Mulvaney will be his “acting chief of staff next year.”

GOP Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas says Mulvaney’s skillset and his demeanor make him a good fit for the job.

BRADY: He says it the way it is. I think that’s why the president likes him. I think he also can, frankly, handle as we know, a number of tasks at one time. So he’s got a lot of the skills that are needed. 

He’ll replace outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly, who’s leaving the White House at year’s end.

Legal battle over constitutionality of Obamacare renewed » Obamacare is back in the spotlight this week after a federal judge on Friday ruled the law unconstitutional.

District Judge Reed O’Connor said that when last year’s tax cut legislation removed the individual penalty for not having health coverage, it knocked the constitutional foundation out from under the law.

Supporters of the law immediately condemned the decision. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told NBC’s Meet the Press…

SCHUMER: It’s an awful, awful ruling. We’re going to fight this tooth and nail. And the first thing we’re going to do when we get back there in the Senate is urge—put a vote on the floor urging an intervention in the case.

President Trump, meantime, praised the ruling.

TRUMP: It was a big, big victory by a highly respected judge.

He added that—quote—“Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.” End quote.

But it remains to be seen if the ruling will ultimately stand. The judge’s decision sets up a major legal showdown but won’t affect existing Obamacare coverage in the short term.

Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse tops box office » At the weekend box office, the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse debuted at number one.

TRAILER: My name is Miles Morales. I’m the one and only Spider-Man. At least that’s what I thought. 

It hauled in $35 million over the weekend. That’s the strongest December opening ever for an animated film.

Clint Eastwood’s latest, The Mule, debuted in second place with $17 million in ticket sales. The Grinch held onto third place with $12 million.  

You can find WORLD’s reviews of current films—along with ratings and content information—at

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) In this Nov. 29, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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