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March 9, 2018
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Something fishy is happening on the Jersey Shore.

The Federal Transit Administration has been helping a New Jersey beachfront town with its plans to develop a ferry service and build a pier that would shuttle passengers between New York City and Long Branch, where White House adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner co-owns a resort. The project would boost the value of Kushner's beachfront condos by as much as 50 percent, a local business administrator told The Associated Press. The 269 units currently sell for as much as $1.9 million each.

The FTA gave Long Branch $3.34 million to rebuild the pier back in 2008, but it wasn't enough to complete the project. City officials reportedly kept the Kushner family, which has developed property in Long Branch for decades, in the loop about plans to continue to fund the pier. City officials have simultaneously been in talks with the feds about how to score more federal funding and get this potentially profitable project finished.

All of this is raising eyebrows over whether the federal government is inappropriately pushing a project that would directly benefit the president's family.

Kushner resigned as CEO of Kushner Cos., his family's company, when he joined the White House, but is still the owner of various real estate holdings. Kushner Cos. insists there's nothing fishy about the Long Branch project, saying in a statement that "to suggest that we have done anything unethical is patently false and appears to be drummed up again for political gain." Summer Meza

9:08 a.m. ET

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow broke down in tears Wednesday night while trying to make her way through an Associated Press report about "tender age" shelters, which are being used by the Trump administration to house babies and toddlers forcibly separated from their parents on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Maddow, visibly distraught, was unable to make her way through the opening sentence of the report, looking up at the camera to say, "I think I'm going to have to hand this off. Sorry, that's it for us tonight, we'll see you again tomorrow."

She later tweeted an apology to her viewers:

Maddow subsequently shared the AP report, which reads: "Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents to at least three 'tender age' shelters in South Texas. Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the 'tender age' shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis." Maddow added: "Again, I apologize for losing it there for a moment. Not the way I intended that to go, not by a mile."

Her fans were understanding. "Rachel Maddow breaking own on live TV is all of us," tweeted writer Brian Tyler Cohen. Jeva Lange

8:56 a.m. ET

With the possible exceptions of Corey Lewandowski and White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, nobody in Washington says they like President Trump's new "zero tolerance" policy and the resulting separation of 2,300 migrant children — including babies — from their parents, and counting. Even Trump disavows responsibility for his administration's policy. But Iran sees the value in America separating families and locking children up in cages.

"Iran state TV no longer needs to broadcast slogans against America," U.S.-Iranian journalist Borzou Daragahi noted. Now Tehran "just shows handout pictures distributed by U.S. [government] itself." Those who live in free-press-less houses, of course, have no business throwing stones. But the Iranian government is surely not the only repressive regime delighted at this propagandistic own-goal. Peter Weber

8:48 a.m. ET

Spectrum News NY1 captured "jarring" footage of a number of young girls being ushered to and from the building that houses the Cayuga Centers in Harlem around 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, after a tipster told reporters that "kids separated from their parents along the southern U.S. border would be brought there," said anchor Josh Robin, who was on the scene.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has confirmed that more than 70 children who were separated from their parents at the border are now being housed in New York state. People familiar with the situation told NY1 that the Cayuga Centers are helping to care for such kids, including by placing them in foster care. A woman who was with the girls seen in the video "emphatically denied they had been separated from their parents."

"We want to be very careful," Robin said. "We don't know for sure the situation … We can't say for sure what my sources have told me, that [these girls] have been brought from the southern border." You can watch the footage below. Jeva Lange

8:26 a.m. ET
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Industrial giant GE was removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Tuesday and replaced with drug-store chain Walgreens. GE was one of the 30 original stocks in the index in 1896, and it had been on the list continuously since 1907. The company's stock has struggled over the past year. GE's leaders are implementing a turnaround plan, and the company said getting booted from the Dow "does nothing to change those commitments or our focus in creating a stronger, simpler GE." David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said replacing GE with Walgreens boosts the index's coverage of the consumer and health-care sectors, making it "a better measure of the economy and the stock market." Harold Maass

8:12 a.m. ET

In retrospect, maybe Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen should have picked another type of restaurant while America is in an uproar about her department separating mostly Latino migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. But Nielsen chose the D.C. Mexican restaurant MXDC Cocina Mexicana — a fact the protesters from the Democratic Socialists of America noted when they descended on her table, yelling "shame." "The irony isn't lost on us that this is a Mexican restaurant," the group said on Facebook.

Nielsen and a companion had been dining at the restaurant for about an hour before a dozen or so protesters walked in, restaurant general manager Thomas Genovese told The Washington Post. The Democratic Socialists of America say a diner tipped them off. She sat at the table, protesters yelling, for 10 to 15 minutes, paid her check, and left the restaurant escorted by Secret Service agents, Genovese said. Homeland Security Department spokesman Tyler Houston put a friendly gloss on the protest:

"A lot of people were very happy to see her shamed," fellow diner Brent Epperson, visiting from Canada, told the Post. Nielsen and her dinner companion "tried to pretend like nothing was happening, but it lasted long enough that they couldn't," he added. "They were just sitting there like statues, waiting for the protest to end." You can see a sample of the protest in the Good Morning America roundup of the increasingly tense national standoff over the family-separation policy, or watch the entire video at Facebook. Peter Weber

8:04 a.m. ET
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The U.S. government continues to house migrant children in private facilities that have a history of facing disturbing allegations of sexual and physical abuse, as well as neglect and poor medical supervision, The Texas Tribune has learned. The children housed in such facilities include the thousands of minors who have been separated from their parents at the border under the Trump administration's new "zero tolerance" policy.

At a Southwest Key Programs facility in San Benito, Texas, inspectors found some 246 violations, including an employee who showed up to work drunk, and shampoo dispensers filled with hand sanitizer; the same company operates a converted Walmart in Brownsville that holds more than 1,000 children. Another shelter, the Shiloh Treatment Center, has been awarded $26 million from the Office of Refugee Resettlement since 2013, although Maribel Bernardez claims it administered psychotropic drugs to her 9-year-old son without her consent and despite her protests. At a temporary facility in Florida, an employee asked a 15-year-old boy for a pornographic video of himself; although that specific shelter was shut down in 2017, it reopened in February, being awarded $30 million after its population doubled to 1,000 children.

There are apparently hundreds of such stories:

In Texas, where the resettlement agency awarded the majority of the grants, state inspectors have cited homes with more than 400 deficiencies, about one-third of them serious.

Allegations included staff members' failure to seek medical attention for children. One had a burn, another a broken wrist, a third a sexually transmitted disease. In another shelter, staff gave a child medicine to which she was allergic, despite a warning on her medical bracelet. Inspectors also cited homes for "inappropriate contact" between children and staff, including a case in which a staff member gave children a pornographic magazine. [The Texas Tribune]

Read the full investigation at The Texas Tribune. Jeva Lange

7:11 a.m. ET

Steve Schmidt was a top campaign strategist for former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), so it is hardly a huge surprise that he is no fan of President Trump. But in a scathing series of tweets early Wednesday, he denounced today's entire "corrupt, indecent, and immoral" Republican Party and the "feckless cowards" who lead it (save for a few GOP governors).

The final straw, Schmidt said, was Trump's policy of separating migrant children from their parents. GOP icon Ronald Reagan "would be ashamed of [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and [House Speaker Paul] Ryan and all the rest while this corrupt government establishes internment camps for babies," he said. "Every one of these complicit leaders will carry this shame through history. [Their] legacies will be ones of well earned ignominy. They have disgraced their country and brought dishonor to the Party of Lincoln." The only solution to renew America "is the absolute and utter repudiation of Trump and his vile enablers in the 2018 election by electing Democratic majorities," not because of their "progressive agenda," but to save "DEMOCRACY and decency," Schmidt said. He concluded:

You can read Schmidt's entire goodbye letter on Twitter. Peter Weber

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