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January 22, 2018

As the government shutdown heads into its third day, there are two big questions about President Trump's role in the negotiations and underlying issues: Does Trump understand immigration policy, and is he being manipulated and undercut in his negotiations by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and policy adviser Stephen Miller?

On Sunday, Kelly "fielded most of the calls" about the shutdown from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), The New York Times reports, and "the president was urged for a second day to step back from the fray, and for a second day he vented to aides that he wanted to do more to get involved." Friday's shutdown-averting negotiations between Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were "derailed" by Kelly and Miller, "whose stance on immigration, coupled with Kelly's position on defense spending, pushed Trump off any compromise," NBC News reports, citing senior administration officials.

Trump's "heart is right on this issue," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters on Sunday. "I think he's got a good understanding of what will sell, and every time we have a proposal, it is only yanked back by staff members. As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere. He's been an outlier for years."

Mark Krikorian, a notable proponent of curtailing immigration, tells the Times he doesn't subscribe to this "Svengali theory" and says Trump's "inclinations are hawkish on immigration." In Congress, Democrats and Republicans are frustrated and confused at a president "either unwilling or unable to articulate the immigration policy he wanted, much less understand the nuances of what it would involve," the Times reports. The resulting "paralysis" in Washington has complicated shutdown talks and "raised questions not only about Mr. Trump's grasp of the issue that animated his campaign and energizes his core supporters, but his leadership." Peter Weber

1:05p.m.

A massive caravan of mostly Honduran migrants stalled Friday and Saturday at Mexico's southern border while trying to make their way to the United States.

Mexican authorities have said those who meet entry requirements, like holding a visa, will be allowed through, but so far only a trickle — many women and children — have made it past the bridge checkpoint over the Suchiate River where hundreds waited overnight.

Police in riot gear have used tear gas and smoke to control the crowd. Those permitted to apply for refugee status can stay in a shelter, but conditions on the bridge are rapidly becoming unsanitary.

President Trump has threatened to close the southern border to keep the migrants out, but he agreed Thursday night to evaluate their asylum claims. At a rally in Arizona Friday evening, Trump alleged "many of those people [in the caravan] — a fairly big percentage of those people — are criminals."

The group includes young children and pregnant women seeking to escape dire economic circumstances and even violence in their home countries. "We have suffered so much," one migrant mother on the bridge told CBS News. "She has a fever and we brought nothing," she added, gesturing to her baby. Bonnie Kristian

11:23a.m.

This whole immigration mess could be solved in a matter of minutes, President Trump claimed on Twitter Saturday morning, if those pesky Democrats would just do what he wants:

In past negotiations about specific immigration reform proposals, Trump has proven mercurial, taking a variety of rapidly changing and inconsistent positions and drawing critique even from within his own party.

Several additional Saturday tweets saw Trump endorsing a pair of GOP candidates for the midterm elections. He praised Ron DeSantis, the would-be Republican successor to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and also backed Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in his gubernatorial race. Kemp is embroiled in controversy surrounding his "exact match" system of maintaining voter registrations. The president claimed both men's electoral opponents would "destroy" their respective states. Bonnie Kristian

10:52a.m.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) announced Friday he and Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson will not continue their re-election campaign.

"With more time, I am confident that Val and I could deliver a message and a campaign that could earn a victory in this election," he said. "But there are only 18 days remaining before election day. Absentee ballots have already been mailed, and Alaskans are already voting. In the time remaining, I believe we cannot win a three-way race."

Davidson took office Tuesday after former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott (D) resigned over "inappropriate comments." Walker, a former Republican, endorsed Democrat Mark Begich against Republican Mike Dunleavy. Bonnie Kristian

10:35a.m.

A week after the remains of 11 babies were found in the ceiling of a shuttered Detroit funeral home, another 63 bodies of infants were discovered in a separate funeral home in the city.

So far, police say there is no apparent connection between the two facilities. The second funeral home has now been closed as well. "This is deeply disturbing," said Detroit Police Chief James Craig. "I have never seen anything like this."

Investigators are working to determine the identities of the infants as well as why they were not handled appropriately. One theory suggests the remains should have received a proper burial after donation for educational use at a nearby medical school.

While the first set of remains were uncovered thanks to an anonymous tip to state authorities, the second set came to light though a lawsuit against the funeral home alleging improper burial of an infant girl. Bonnie Kristian

10:24a.m.

At least 60 people were killed and dozens more injured when a speeding train plowed into a crowd of people watching fireworks at a religious festival in northern India Friday night.

Eyewitnesses say the victims did not hear the train coming over the booms of the fireworks display, and the train reportedly did not blow its whistle before striking the crowd. Locals say festival attendees sit on the tracks to watch the show every year.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered condolences on Twitter:

An inquiry into the accident is ongoing. The Railway Board rejected responsibility on the grounds that people "are not expected to be on the tracks." Bonnie Kristian

10:10a.m.

The U.S. and South Korea on Friday canceled plans for a major joint military exercise previously set for December. The schedule change is intended to foster continued progress in diplomacy with North Korea.

"Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo decided to suspend Exercise Vigilant Ace to give the diplomatic process [with North Korea] every opportunity to continue," said chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White. She also reported Japan was consulted before the decision was made, and said Mattis and Jeong have "pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises."

North Korea has long complained of such exercises, calling them "war games." While meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore this past summer, President Trump agreed to suspend some exercises while denuclearization talks proceed. Bonnie Kristian

8:40a.m.

President Trump targeted his ire at migrants who want to come to the United States and the Democratic Party at a campaign rally in Arizona Friday night.

Referring to the caravan of an estimated 4,000 people traveling on foot from Honduras to the U.S. border, Trump alleged "many of those people — a fairly big percentage of those people — are criminals."

"You think they're all wonderful people. You've got some bad people in those groups," Trump said. "You've got some tough people in those groups. And I'll tell you what, this country doesn't want them. Okay?" The caravan includes young children and pregnant women seeking to escape dire economic circumstances and even violence in their home countries.

The president claimed "cuckoo" Democrats want to give illegal immigrants the right to vote, along with "free welfare, free health care, and free education" and a luxury car, like a "Rolls-Royce, made not in America, so I hope that's not what we do." Polling shows a majority of Americans in both major parties oppose allowing non-citizens to vote. Bonnie Kristian

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