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March 8, 2018
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Pennsylvania holds a special congressional election next Tuesday, and Republicans aren't sure their candidate, Rick Saccone, can win the conservative district President Trump took by 20 percentage points. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both came up to campaign with Saccone, but internal polling shows him barely trailing Democrat Conor Lamb, a 33-year-old former prosecutor and Marine veteran who has spent his nearly $4 million war chest on professional ads and a 16-person full-time campaign team, Politico reports. Saccone has four full-time staffers and is a lackluster fundraiser; the national party has pumped millions into the race to rescue him.

"Candidate quality matters, and when one candidate outraises the other 5-to-1, that creates real challenges for outside groups trying to win a race," says Corry Bliss, who runs the main super PAC tied to House Republicans. As of Tuesday, Republican groups had spent nearly $7.5 million on TV ads alone, Politico says, but that infusion — "much of it highlighting the GOP tax cuts and attempting to tie Lamb to [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi — has failed to move the needle." White House counselor Kellyanne Conway is scheduled to campaign with Saccone on Thursday and Trump has another rally planned with him on Saturday.

As the election nears, "the national GOP is increasingly pinning the blame on Saccone," but "with so much attention trained on the race, House GOP leaders determined they had little choice but to spend whatever is needed to pull Saccone over the finish line," Politico says. "A loss would be wholly embarrassing, many Republicans privately acknowledge, given that it would take place in a state that Trump made a cornerstone of his 2016 victory. And the themes that the GOP has highlighted in the special election ... are the centerpieces of the party’s 2018 campaign plan." You can read more about the race at Politico. Peter Weber

July 21, 2018
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Hamas on Saturday announced it has accepted a ceasefire deal in the contested Gaza Strip after fighting on Friday left four Palestinians and one Israeli soldier dead. The temporary peace was brokered by officials from Egypt and the United Nations.

Israel has yet to confirm its acceptance of the agreement, but the Israeli military said in a statement Saturday it has "decided to maintain a full civilian routine in the communities close to the Gaza Strip," suggesting a cessation in hostilities. Nevertheless, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also reported an Israeli tank targeted a Hamas outpost Saturday morning after "a number of suspects" allegedly crossed a border fence into Israel for a brief time.

This is the second ceasefire in a week, punctuating the worst conflict in Gaza since 2014. Palestinians have been protesting at the Gaza border fence since March, and about 140 Palestinians — including protesters, militants, and medical workers — have been killed in that span. Thousands more have been wounded, including journalists. One IDF soldier has been killed and 10 Israelis injured. Bonnie Kristian

July 21, 2018
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Police in Clearwater, Florida, declined to arrest or charge a man who fatally shot another over a handicapped parking spot because they believe he is likely shielded by the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law.

"I don't make the law. I enforce the law," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri at a press conference Friday. "The law in the state of Florida today is that people have a right to stand their ground and have a right to defend themselves when they believe that they are in harm."

Gualtieri noted the state's attorney's office will review the case and could decide to bring charges if it seems realistic to "overcome that heavy burden at a Stand Your Ground hearing of proving by clear and convincing evidence [the shooter] was not entitled to use force in this circumstance."

The shooting took place at a convenience store Thursday afternoon. The shooter, Michael Drejka, confronted a woman, Britany Jacobs, who had parked in a handicapped spot to wait while her boyfriend, Markeis McGlockton, and their 5-year-old son went inside the store.

When McGlockton and the boy came outside, he saw the argument and intervened, forcibly pushing Drejka to the ground. From there, Drejka fired a single round at McGlockton's chest with his handgun, for which he had a valid concealed carry permit. McGlockton died at a hospital soon after. Bonnie Kristian

July 21, 2018
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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and new progressive darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took their democratic socialist show on the road Friday with a campaign stop in Wichita, Kansas.

They appeared together at a rally for Democrat James Thompson, who is challenging GOP incumbent Rep. Ron Estes for his House seat. "People told me Kansas was a Republican state," Sanders told an enthusiastic crowd. "It sure doesn't look that way."

Some attendees were not previously familiar with Ocasio-Cortez, who burst onto the national scene this summer with an upset primary win against the No. 4 House Democrat, Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), in her Bronx district. In Kansas, she touted the broad appeal of her platform. "What you have shown me, and what we will show in the Bronx, is that working people in Kansas share the same values — the same values — as working people anywhere else," she said.

Whether Ocasio-Cortez's optimism is justified remains to be seen. Kansas voted for President Trump by a 20-point margin and has not elected a Democrat to Congress in a decade. Bonnie Kristian

July 21, 2018
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The father of two survivors of February's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was fatally shot by an armed robber in his convenience store Tuesday.

Ayub Ali, 61, was stocking shelves when a robber forced him to open the cash register. The robber took the money and left, but then returned to shoot Ali, who was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

A suspect identified as Tyrone Fields Jr., 19, was arrested Friday based on security camera footage from the store. He has been charged with murder and robbery with a firearm.

Ali is survived by his wife and four children, the youngest of whom is just 22 months old. "It's hard for them to accept it," said a family representative. "He [met] everyone with a smile." Bonnie Kristian

July 21, 2018
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Is a laugh enough to get you fired in Trump's White House? President Trump is "exasperated" with his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, Politico reported Friday night, after the intelligence chief publicly chuckled Thursday at the idea of another Trump summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"That's going to be special," Coats said of Trump's invitation to Putin to visit Washington this fall, indicating he did not know of the meeting plan in advance. A former Trump administration official described the administration as in "meltdown" over Coats' comments, and Reuters reports White House staff are alarmed Coats was kept in the dark about the forthcoming Putin visit.

Some sources suggested to Politico the DNI, who is 75, may soon wish to retire — or that he may become Trump's newest target for firing. "He was not particularly eager to take the job to begin with and was sort of talked into it on the theory of when the president asks, you should serve," explained one of Politico's sources. Should Coats leave or be forced out, Politico notes, Trump may have a difficult time replacing him, especially given Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian election interference. Bonnie Kristian

July 21, 2018

President Trump on Twitter Saturday lashed out against his former attorney, Michael Cohen, for reportedly making recordings of Trump two months before the 2016 election discussing payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to silence her about an alleged affair.

Per Friday reports from The Washington Post and The New York Times, the FBI gained access to the recordings when the agency raided Cohen's office earlier this year. Cohen is under investigation for potential campaign finance violations committed while paying hush money to cover up the president's alleged extramarital liaisons. Bonnie Kristian

July 21, 2018

Demonstrating that he has never met a dead horse he did not want to beat, President Trump tweeted Friday evening about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, proposing unpaid suspensions for repeat protesters:

The NFL announced Thursday it would not enforce its policy, implemented earlier this year, of requiring players to stand during the national anthem. The new rule was introduced after uproar — most loudly from Trump himself — over athletes' decision to protest institutional racism and police brutality by kneeling while the song is performed. The policy is now subject to a complaint filed by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and is under confidential review.

NFLPA President Eric Winston responded to Trump on Twitter Friday. "Thanks for your thoughts," he wrote, "but we'll take it from here." Bonnie Kristian

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