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May 30, 2017

President Trump has never been quiet about his plans to reverse some of the stepped-up civil rights enforcement of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and he's doing that in big ways and small, by proposing to cut some civil rights divisions entirely, cutting funding and staff levels, and putting critics in charge of agencies, among other actions. On Tuesday, The Washington Post focused on a few of the moves, including a proposal in the Labor Department's fiscal 2018 budget to eliminate the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and fold it into the separate Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The compliance program conducts audits for discriminatory practices among federal contractors, and has done so for decades. As the Post's Juliet Eilperin explains in the video below, that affects about a quarter of the U.S. workforce, and the cut is not yet a done deal:

At the Environmental Protection Agency, new leaders have recommended scrapping the environmental justice program, which helps mitigate oil spills, hazardous leaks, and other environmental threats concentrated in minority areas. The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights faces steep budget and staffing cuts, hampering investigations of discrimination in school districts, and its new director, Candice E. Jackson, wrote a book arguing that attempts to promote diverse student bodies disregard "the very real prices paid by individual people who end up injured by affirmative action."

Trump has similarly suggested he wants to put the Justice Department's civil rights division under the leadership of conservative lawyer Eric Dreiband, who has represented several companies in discrimination lawsuits. The Trump Justice Department has already moved to dismantle challenges to a Texas voter ID law and, with the Education Department, rolled back Obama-era guidance about transgender students and bathrooms.

Trump administration officials insist that they believe in civil rights. "The Trump administration has an unwavering commitment to the civil rights of all Americans," White House spokeswoman Kelly Love told The Washington Post. Vanita Gupta, who led the DOJ's civil rights division until January, disagrees. "They can call it a course correction, but there's little question that it's a rollback of civil rights across the board," she said. You can read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

3:33 p.m. ET

On Monday, President Trump stared directly at the sun during the solar eclipse and proceeded to give the moon a big thumbs up. As Trump snuck a peek sans glasses, defying common sense and the advice of scientists, a bystander reportedly shouted: "Don't look."

The president watched the rare event from the White House's Truman Balcony. He was joined by first lady Melania Trump and their 11-year-old son Barron, neither of whom appeared to look directly at the sun without the necessary protective eyewear, which is intended to prevent permanent eye damage.

Watch Trump watch the eclipse below. Becca Stanek

3:00 p.m. ET

On Monday afternoon, portions of the United States fell dark as the moon eclipsed the sun. For those who missed the rare coast-to-coast event — or for those who simply want to relive its spectacular beauty — check out some photos and videos of the total solar eclipse below. Becca Stanek

1:39 p.m. ET
JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images

Spanish police confirmed Monday that they shot and killed 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaquob, the man suspected to have driven the van down Barcelona's La Rambla on Thursday in a terrorist attack that killed 13 people in the city center. Police shot Abouyaaquob in the outskirts of Subirats, a region west of Barcelona, after an extensive manhunt took place over the weekend. He was apparently wearing a fake suicide belt.

Abouyaaquob escaped from Thursday's crash scene on foot and was believed to be the last remaining member of a wider terrorist cell suspected of planning last week's attacks in Barcelona and the coastal city of Cambrils, where another vehicle attack killed one and injured six. Kimberly Alters

1:20 p.m. ET

GOP Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) isn't so sure President Trump will be the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 2020. While Trump apparently doesn't think it's too early to start campaigning for 2020 — he's holding a campaign-style rally Tuesday night in Phoenix, after all — Collins said in a MSNBC interview Monday that she thinks it's "far too early to tell now" what the future will hold for Trump.

"Do you think he will end up the party's nominee in 2020?" MSNBC's Hallie Jackson asked. "It's too difficult to say," Collins said.

Collins, notably, did not support Trump as the party's nominee in 2016, and she was one of three Republicans to oppose the party's ObamaCare repeal. At this point, Collins said she is particularly disappointed in Trump's hesitancy to directly condemn white supremacists in the wake of the Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist rally. "I think the president failed to meet the standard we should have expected a president to do in a time like that," Collins said.

Watch the interview below. Becca Stanek

1:08 p.m. ET

The New York Times has been talking about today's total eclipse since 1932. On Monday, ahead of the solar eclipse that will sweep the country from Oregon to South Carolina, the Times shared an archived clip from 85 years ago that accurately predicted the totality of today's eclipse:


Citing a study by Dr. S.A. Mitchell, director of the Leander McCormick Observatory of the University of Virginia, the Times warned that if viewers didn't catch the Aug. 31, 1932 eclipse, they'd be waiting until Aug. 21, 2017 for "conditions that are really favorable and promise scientific success."

With that prediction seemingly coming true, we'll have to wait and see if the Times is also right in predicting the next similarly phenomenal solar eclipse — mark your calendars for April 8, 2024. Becca Stanek

11:08 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

How many voters could ousted White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon take from President Trump? The question has become pertinent since Bannon's firing Friday, as it is still unclear how the once and future (err, current) Breitbart News chief will use his role in relation to the president.

Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight has done the math: By Enten's calculations, the "Bannon wing" of the Republican Party — which he defines as "Trump voters who are pro-police, against free trade, against the U.S. playing an active role (militarily and diplomatically) in the international community, strongly against illegal immigration, and in favor of more infrastructure spending" — accounts for about 15 percent of the GOP voter base. That's the proportion of Republicans who agree with Bannon on all five of those points, though there are certainly more who support only a plurality of these positions. Only 2 percent of Republicans disagree with all five.

While 15 percent is not a huge number, it's more than enough to swing an election. For comparison, Enten notes, Hispanic voters for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election accounted for just 12 percent of her vote. And in the GOP primaries, Trump won only 45 percent of Republican support, a figure that makes 15 percent look pretty crucial.

Of course, it's not as if Bannon could simply command these voters to drop Trump, but he is positioned to significantly influence their assessment of Trump's service come 2020. Bonnie Kristian

10:42 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and Google artificial intelligence developer Mustafa Suleyman head a list of 116 tech experts who implored the United Nations to preemptively ban lethal autonomous weapons — in layman's terms, killer robots — before it's too late.

"Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend," the experts warned, in a letter reported Monday. "These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora's box is opened, it will be hard to close."

Central to the experts' concern is how killer robots could change the risk calculations and casualties of war. While autonomous weapons may make battlefields safer for soldiers who can be removed from the scene, the same is not true for civilians who have the misfortune to be nearby. A killer robot's ethics will only be as good as its programming, which could vary widely depending on the government or terrorist organization controlling it. Autonomous weapons also raise troubling and complicated questions of accountability and recourse in the event of mistakes.

The letter asks the U.N. to add killer robots to list of banned conventional weapons, which currently includes landmines, intentionally blinding lasers, and other technologies "deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects." Bonnie Kristian

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