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August 2, 2017

After sparring with The New York Times' Glenn Thrush on Wednesday, President Trump's senior policy adviser Stephen Miller engaged in a second heated debate during the daily press briefing. Miller's second scuffle was with CNN's Jim Acosta and centered on the history of the Statue of Liberty.

Miller was at the briefing to discuss the Trump administration's newly announced merit-based immigration system, which Acosta accused of contradicting the American tradition of welcoming immigrants. "The Statue of Liberty says, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,'" Acosta said. "It doesn't say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer."

"Well, first of all," Miller began, "right now, it's a requirement that to be naturalized, you have to speak English. So the notion that speaking English wouldn't be a part of the immigration systems would be actually very ahistorical. Secondly, I don't want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world … The poem that you're referring to was added later, it's not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty."

Despite Miller's best efforts, however the pair then immediately got into a "whole thing about history."

"You're saying ["The New Colossus" poem] does not represent what the country has always thought of as immigration?" Acosta asked. "I'm sorry, that sounds like some national park revisionism."

The debate hardly ended there. Watch the entire heated exchange below. Jeva Lange

9:39 a.m. ET
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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears to have misled Congress when he testified that the Justice Department had "initiated" including a question about U.S. citizenship on the U.S. census, according to newly unredacted documents released Monday as part of a lawsuit. Ross said in March that the Justice Department had pushed for the citizenship question, which hasn't been included in the census since 1950, so it could enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The new documents add to the evidence that Ross was the driving force.

In a September 2017 email to Ross, Commerce official Earl Comstock said he had approached the Justice Department in May to "discuss the citizenship question," and "Justice staff did not want to raise the question given the difficulties Justice was encountering in the press at the time (the whole Comey matter)." Comstock said he then tried the Department of Homeland Security, and they pointed him back to the Justice Department, so he asked a Commerce Department lawyer to explore "how Commerce could add the question to the census itself." A few months later, the Justice Department formally requested the citizenship question.

The Census Bureau's chief scientist, other researchers, and a bureau-sponsored marketing campaign have found that including the citizenship question depresses the participation of Latinos, Asians, and other minorities, skewing the constitutionally mandated decennial head count. Ross "personally lobbied the attorney general to submit the memorandum that the secretary 'then later relied on to justify his decision,'" plaintiffs' lawyers argued in the lawsuit, one of six around the country seeking to strike the citizenship question.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who's overseeing the lawsuit in Manhattan, had ordered the Trump administration to release the unredacted memos, saying they "go to the heart" of the central question of Ross' intent in adding the citizenship question. Furman has potentially scheduled a trial to start Nov. 5, though Justice Department lawyers are arguing against a trial and Ross deposition. Peter Weber

9:36 a.m. ET
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A new poll has the Republican National Committee very concerned about the upcoming midterms.

The internal RNC poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies shows that about half of Republicans, and 57 percent of Trump supporters, don't believe Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives, Bloomberg reports. According to the report, the RNC is worried this complacency will lead GOP voters to stay home, and subsequently hand the House to the Democrats.

The Democrats' prospects of winning at least 23 additional seats in the November midterms and thus retaking the House have been steadily climbing in recent months. FiveThirtyEight puts the chances at about 82 percent. Even in the RNC poll, 71 percent of overall voters said it was likely to happen. The report notes that Republicans must now make it their mission to clearly communicate to voters that the midterms matter, adding that Trump supporters don't seem to think "there is anything at stake in this election."

One reason for this false sense of security might be President Trump's utter confidence that Republicans could actually end up with an even bigger majority than before the midterms. GOP strategists told Axios in August that they feared Trump's prediction of a "red wave," in combination with Trump voters' tendency to dismiss anything negative about the president as "fake news," might suppress turnout and spell real trouble.

The poll was conducted from August 29 through Sept. 2 by speaking to 800 registered voters over the phone. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points. Read more at Bloomberg. Brendan Morrow

7:55 a.m. ET
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Following months of speculation over how Roseanne Barr's character would be written out of the upcoming Roseanne spinoff The Conners, the comedian just casually spoiled it.

During a recent appearance on the YouTube talk show Walk Away, Barr, who was fired from ABC over a racist tweet in May, said that her character dies of an opioid overdose in The Conners, the new series that's almost exactly the same show as Roseanne but without Barr's involvement. Barr added that she's not happy with her character's fate. "It's so cynical and horrible," she said, per Deadline. "She should have died as a hero or not at all."

Some fans had already guessed this was coming, as the last season of Roseanne involved the title character being addicted to painkillers, which she takes to deal with a knee injury. By the end of the season, she is preparing to undergo surgery, so presumably, that surgery, and the subsequent overdose, will happen off-screen between Roseanne and The Conners.

Barr also suggested that killing off her character like this is an "insult" to "the people who loved that family and that show." The Conners will premiere on Oct. 16 on ABC. Brendan Morrow

6:31 a.m. ET

South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday for a three-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, their third meeting since a historic summit in April. After an elaborate welcome ceremony at the airport and a ride through Pyongyang in an open-air limousine, the two leaders began official talks Tuesday afternoon. Kim told Moon he hoped the talks would produce a "bigger outcome at a faster pace" than the previous summits and Moon said it was "time to bear fruit." This is the first visit to Pyongyang for a South Korean president in at least a decade.

The talks are expected to focus on reducing military tensions and increasing economic cooperation on the Korean Peninsula and furthering nuclear diplomacy as denuclearization talks have stalled between North Korea and the U.S. over lack of agreement on details and timing.

"When the two Korean leaders met for the first time back in April, the simple fact that they were meeting was itself a major step," but "this time, Mr. Moon has to make real progress in persuading the North Koreans to make concrete steps to denuclearize," says BBC Seoul correspondent Laura Bicker. "Otherwise, the flurry of inter-Korean summits and the much-hyped Singapore meeting between Mr. Kim and President Trump this year will be seen as glossy photo ops, and the U.S. leader may begin to lose patience."

Top executives from South Korean business conglomerates, or chaebols, including Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and SK Group traveled to Pyongyang with Moon and they will meet with North Korea's deputy prime minister to focus on economic ties. South Korean officials said they don't expect any economic breakthroughs given the sanctions on North Korean. Peter Weber

5:23 a.m. ET
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Russia said Syrian antiaircraft missiles shot down a Russian Il-20 military reconnaissance plane early Tuesday as it was preparing to land at Khmeimim air base on Syria's Mediterranean coast. Russia blamed Israel for the friendly fire incident, which killed all 15 Russian service members on board, and threatened to retaliate with an "appropriate response."

Israel was conducting airstrikes on Syrian targets, and "the Israeli pilots were using the Russian aircraft as a shield and pushed it into the line of fire of the Syrian defense," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. "We view the actions of the Israeli military as hostile." Konashenkov said a recovery operation is underway in the Mediterranean, where the plane went down.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Israel maintain a special hotline to prevent their aircraft from clashing over Syria, but Russia said Israel did not warn it of this attack until one minute before the strike, preventing Russian aircraft from getting out of the way in time. Israel, which typically does not claim responsibility for its strikes on Syria, said it does not respond to "foreign reports." Peter Weber

4:32 a.m. ET

After John Oliver's Last Week Tonight won its third consecutive Emmy for best variety talk series on Monday night, Oliver fielded a few questions from the press. The first question, from an Australian reporter, was about Russell Crowe's Cinderella Man jockstrap, which Oliver paid $7,000 for in a bid to keep a Blockbuster video store in Alaska from going under. "I had a close, personal experience with Russell Crowe's jockstrap, the kind of experience that you don't go into life desiring and you end life regretting," he joked.

The jockstrap and other Crowe memorabilia did not save the Anchorage Blockbuster, Oliver said, and after the store closed, the jockstrap went missing. "The current location of that jockstrap is not clear. I know they sent the rest of that stuff to the Blockbuster in Oregon, but no one knows where the jockstrap is."

One journalist asked Oliver if he was surprised nobody mentioned President Trump during the Emmys. He called it a public service, pointing to "the drinking game" and explaining, "I think we're just trying to keep America sober. Everyone needs their wits about them right now. You can't drink the pain away." When the journalist asked Oliver if he thinks the lack of Trump jokes meant that "we're moving on," Oliver has an animated, NSFW response, and if that doesn't bother you, watch below. Peter Weber

3:35 a.m. ET
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The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general has referred an internal investigation into Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long's frequent commutes to North Carolina to federal prosecutors for possible criminal charges, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing people familiar with the investigation. Long and two other FEMA employees may have broken as many as six laws by traveling from Washington, D.C., to Long's home in Hickory, North Carolina, in a caravan of government vehicles.

The aides who traveled the 400 miles with Long for his long weekends at home stayed in hotels, at taxpayer expense, the inspector general's office found. Long has spent about 150 days in North Carolina since becoming FEMA administrator in June 2017, the Journal reports, and he continued his government-subsidized commute after DHS lawyers warned him it was illegal last year, prompting the inspector general's office to put him under surveillance. There are strict federal laws about use of government travel because "it's simply too tempting to use government resources for personal commuting," explains Norm Eisen, ethics lawyer for former President Barack Obama.

Long, who says he is cooperating with he DHS investigation, told CBS News on Sunday that he was authorized to commute home with aides because the FEMA chief has to follow a presidential directive to ensure continuation of federal services at all times, which entails access to secure communications. Former FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate tells the Journal he drove home to Florida in his own car by himself, with planned stops along the route if he needed secure communications.

The White House was prepared to fire Long after getting the inspector general's preliminary report, the Journal reports, but the looming Hurricane Florence helped Long keep his job, for now. He seems prepared for a career shift, the Journal notes, because "the inspector general is also reviewing communications between Mr. Long and a FEMA contractor that appear to include discussions about future employment." Peter Weber

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