At 9 p.m. Thursday night, the House Benghazi Committee's hearing adjourned, after 11 hours of questioning Hillary Clinton on everything from her email correspondence with friend Sidney Blumenthal to her Libya policy as secretary of state to efforts to rescue Ambassador Chris Stevens.
During the hearing, Clinton revealed that during her time as secretary of state, she "did not do the bulk of my work on email. Some of [the memos] were so top secret that they were brought into my office in a locked briefcase that I had to read and immediately return to the courier." Clinton also said multiple times that Stevens had been in contact with her inner circle, and if he'd wished to communicate his needs, he could send cables and emails. She described how rescuers had tried to get Stevens, who died from smoke inhalation, into a "safe room" following the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi. "One of our failures after the attack was our failure to find the ambassador," she said. "We hoped against hope that he had somehow managed to get out of the compound. Additional efforts to find his body or to find him were unsuccessful, and they had to withdraw because of the continuing attack on the CIA annex before we knew what happened to the ambassador." Later, it came to light that "the Libyans had found the ambassador. And they had carried him back to the hospital, and Libyan doctors labored nearly two hours to resuscitate him."
Committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said the hearing was "not a prosecution," but the Democrats questioned its purpose, with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) telling Clinton: "There's a lot of interest in trying to score points against you tonight." The panel, Schiff said, found "nothing new to tell the American people," adding, "I think we'll rue the day that we did this." Committee member Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) announced on Twitter before the hearing started that "this investigation does not end today. We will continue interviewing others till we get to the bottom of this." He tweeted throughout the day, and after the hearing concluded, stated: "And with that — it's over. The Committee is one step closer to understanding the truth surrounding the death of 4 Americans."
Toward the end of the hearing, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) alluded to accusations that the committee's goal was to harm Clinton's presidential campaign, saying to applause: "We are better than using taxpayer dollars to try to destroy a campaign. That's not what America's all about." Clinton responded by saying her answers haven't changed since she appeared before the House and Senate two years ago to discuss Benghazi. "I can only hope that the statesmanship overcomes the partisanship," she said. "At some point we have to do this. It is deeply unfortunate that something as serious as what happened in Benghazi could ever be used for partisan political purposes, and I'm hoping that we can move forward together and start working together, we can start listening to each other." Catherine Garcia
On Thursday morning, the White House is expected to announce its proposal to merge the Departments of Labor and Education, a person with knowledge of the matter told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday.
Over the last month, the White House has gone through a review of the different cabinet agencies, looking for ways to make the federal government smaller. The merger would likely need to be approved by Congress, and isn't the only change being eyed by the White House; there's also been discussion of renaming the Department of Health and Human Services to something closer to its previous moniker, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, The Journal reports.
The Education Department is already one of the smaller government agencies, with 3,900 employees, while the Labor Department has 15,000 employees. Catherine Garcia
Nowhere in her tweet did Trump note that it was a self-made crisis, as her father's administration was behind the policy. "Thank you @POTUS for taking critical action ending family separation at our border," she said. "Congress must now act + find a lasting solution that is consistent with our shared values; the same values that so many come here seeking as they endeavor to create a better life for their families."
Before Wednesday, Ivanka Trump never publicly commented on the policy or news that infants and toddlers were in "tender age" facilities, although the president said after signing the executive order that his daughter and first lady Melania Trump both pressed him to do something about the forced separations. On Sunday, the first lady's office said she "hates to see children separated from their families," and wanted Democrats and Republicans to unite for comprehensive immigration reform. A White House official told The Washington Post that over the last few days, Melania Trump, an immigrant from Slovenia, "became even more vocal about her thoughts and opinions on the topic." Catherine Garcia
After actor Peter Fonda tweeted about her 12-year-old son, Barron, on Wednesday morning, first lady Melania Trump had her office contact the Secret Service.
In response to the administration's policy of taking children away from their parents at the border, Fonda tweeted, "WE SHOULD RIP BARRON TRUMP FROM HIS MOTHER'S ARMS AND PUT HIM IN A CAGE WITH PEDOPHILES AND SEE IF MOTHER WILL STAND UP AGAINST THE GIANT ASSHOLE SHE IS MARRIED TO." Fonda later deleted the tweet, and "sincerely apologized" for tweeting "something highly inappropriate and vulgar about the president and his family in response to the devastating images I was seeing on television."
Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's communications director told The Hill that the tweet was "sick and irresponsible." Catherine Garcia
Burger King has apologized for an ad that ran on VK, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, promising 3 million rubles ($47,000) and a lifetime supply of Whoppers for any woman impregnated by a soccer player competing in the World Cup.
Burger King's Russian division is known for dreadful campaigns, The Guardian reports; in one advertisement for a buy one burger get one free deal, the company used the image of a 16-year-old rape victim. After pulling the World Cup ads, Burger King apologized on VK, calling the campaign "too offensive." Catherine Garcia
Republican lawmaker shuts down Trump's claim that his jokes about a departing colleague were well-received: 'People were disgusted'
President Trump patted himself on the back for trash-talking Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) in front of House Republicans, but not everyone enjoyed the show.
Trump claimed that GOP leaders loved it when he joked about Sanford's recent election loss. "I want to congratulate Mark on a great race," Trump reportedly said in the meeting, calling Sanford a "nasty guy." Most accounts say that lawmakers were simply silent, and Fox News reports that some audience members booed the "low blow," but Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) made his disapproval publicly known.
Amash called it a "classless cheap shot," and set the record straight that no House members applauded, despite Trump's claims. Summer Meza
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) June 20, 2018
Russia thinks the U.S. may trigger another space race.
President Trump directed the Pentagon to add a Space Force to the military Monday, declaring that this new branch of the military would preserve "American dominance in space." The first few goals include a mission to Mars and a system for space traffic management, Trump said.
But to the Russian Foreign Ministry, that sounds like the U.S. might deploy weapons over Earth, a spokeswoman told AP. That could spark consequences "no less harmful than the nuclear arms race," the spokeswoman said.
Russia and China did draft a treaty to preserve space as neutral territory, but the U.S. opted out. Regardless of a treaty, U.S. intelligence cautioned in February that the two countries are developing weapons that could be used to shoot down American satellites. Officials under past presidents have suggested defensive measures in space as well.
Looks like this star war could be heating up. Kathryn Krawczyk
President Trump has signed an executive order reversing his administration's own policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. "We're going to have a lot of happy people," said Trump, who in the past week doubled-down on his false claims that there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"We're going to have a lot of happy people," Trump says, attempting to make his reversing his own policy that separated thousands of migrant children sound like he is generously fixing the problem. (There's still no plan to reunite the parents & children btw). pic.twitter.com/slHWvI4aHF
— David Mack (@davidmackau) June 20, 2018
The executive order is titled "Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation," despite the family separation policy not being a law; it was introduced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May. The executive order states: "It is ... the policy of this administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources." The New York Times more critically described the order as allowing authorities to detain "families together indefinitely."
Trump's executive order has to contend with the 1997 Flores settlement, which prohibits the government from holding minors in immigration detention for more than 20 days, regardless of whether they are with a parent or not. The order appears to declare a challenge to the settlement: "The Attorney General shall promptly file a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores v. Sessions ... in a manner that would permit the [homeland security secretary], under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings." Read the full order here. Jeva Lange