House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) may well be retiring to spend more time with his family. "Everybody's going to write the timing is just because Republicans are going to lose — and that's true," GOP mega-donor Dan Eberhart told New York on Wednesday. "But he really just wanted to go home." Like other Republican strategists, donors, and lawmakers, Eberhart argues Speaker Nancy Pelosi is already a fait accompli. "I mean, I think the House is gone," he said. GOP donors, he told USA Today, are "going to naturally shift their focus to the Senate."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies have been making the same save-the-Senate pitch. "It seems clear now that the fight is to hold the Senate," Billy Piper, a lobbyist and former McConnell chief of staff, tells The New York Times. Scott Jennings, a longtime GOP operative close to McConnell, agreed. "If you're a donor, and you're looking at Paul Ryan saying, 'I'm going to go ahead and retire,' it's a pretty clear signal," he told New York. "If he thinks the House is lost, who would be more in the know than Paul Ryan? ... McConnell, in the last few days, has said, 'The House is lost, we have to hold the Senate.'"
There is no guarantee that Democrats will win the House, but they need to flip 24 seats to take control, and anywhere from 50 to 80 GOP-held seats are at risk in competitive races versus 16 competitive seats for Democrats, according to Cook Political Report. Ryan's retirement is "a major symbolic blow to the party as it heads into a tough campaign season," Harry Enten says at CNN, but "the writing has been on the wall for a while now. President Donald Trump's low approval rating, Republicans' poor standing on the generic congressional ballot, and Democratic performance in special elections since Trump took office all point to a bad outcome for Republicans in November." Peter Weber
When Dawn Johnson and her partner, Kurt Casperson, bought a house in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, they did so having no idea that their new neighbor was family.
Johnson, 50, and Casperson moved in last June, and quickly met their neighbors — Hillary and Lance Harris and their 5-year-old daughter, Stella. They shared a driveway, and Stella instantly felt a bond with Johnson, her mother said. "Stella was just so drawn to her," Harris told The Associated Press.
Harris, 31, was adopted as an infant, and in 2012, received information about her birth parents. She found two half-brothers through her mother's side, but struggled to find two half-sisters listed in her father's obituary (he died in 2012). She knew she was searching for a Dawn Johnson, but the obituary had her living in Greenwood. It wasn't until she saw a delivery for her neighbors in their shared driveway that she learned Johnson's last name, and realized that Dawn Johnson had been right next door.
Harris told AP she had no idea how to break the news to Johnson, but finally sent a text asking the name of her father. She responded with the name Harris was expecting, and their lives haven't been the same since. The families are now celebrating holidays and birthdays together, and just enjoying getting to know each other. "I can feel the love," Harris said. Johnson, who had no idea her father had another daughter, has shared pictures of him with Harris, and introduced her to the other half-sister she was trying to locate. Catherine Garcia
The Trump administration has slowly shutting immigration down since Day One, Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. "But after enacting their latest policy of taking children away from their parents at the border, they seem to have hit a wall." There is growing bipartisan condemnation of taking kids from the parents and holding them in cages, he noted. "There's no way that you can defend this, unless you work at Fox & Friends."
President Trump's defenders point to the amenities at the detention centers, "but that's not really the point," Noah said. "The point is, the federal government is effectively stealing kids away from their parents. Like, if some guy in an unmarked van took your kids from the park, the last think you'd be worried about as a parent is how nice the van was or whether they had the good candy." And Noah called BS on Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Trump himself blaming everyone but themselves for their own policy.
The policy of snatching children from parents "sounds harsh, but that's also the policy of witches in candy houses," Jordan Klepper responded at The Opposition. And sure, "if you think about it for a second — literally only a second — it sounds really, really bad. Movie villain bad. We're the guys who phone up and say 'We have your daughter. I hope you don't have a special set of skills, or else you'll find us.' But guys, don't let them shame you. ... This is who we are. We're the side that supports separating kids from their parents. We're the deplorables." And if Trump officials feel a little twitch in that "fist-sized spot between your lungs," he said, that's just "growing pains — sorry, shrinking pains" — as they work though the "stages of self-acceptance." Watch below as Klepper walks through the Trump team's denial, blame, appealing to a higher power, and for one man, acceptance. Peter Weber
Jeff Sessions: Trump's border policy isn't like Nazi Germany because 'they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country'
Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared on Fox News Monday night to defend the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" for people crossing the border illegally, and he made an odd claim about one of history's darkest times.
Host Laura Ingraham scoffed at critics who compare placing children in detention centers to Nazi concentration camps, and she asked Sessions to respond to the charge. "Well, it's a real exaggeration, of course," he said. "In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country." Sessions went on to argue that the government is "doing the right thing, we're taking care of these children, they are not being abused," and admitted that separating children from their parents is meant as a deterrent for others who might try to come to the U.S. "Hopefully people will get the message and come through the border at the port of entry, and not break across the border unlawfully," he said.
As for Ingraham, she said it's a "rare" occurrence for families to be broken up at the border (the Department of Homeland Security has reported that from April 19 to May 31, 1,995 minors were separated from adults who said they were their guardians), and referred to the detention centers where children are living as "essentially summer camps." Catherine Garcia
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced the White House press corps for 20 minutes Monday afternoon to defend the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" border policy and the resulting separation of at least 2,000 children from their parents. Her at-times contradictory responses, The Washington Post says, "offered evidence that the administration — and perhaps Nielsen herself — was still struggling to formulate a message to counter critics who have accused the Trump White House of creating a humanitarian disaster."
In fact, inside the administration, Nielsen "is not seen as a supporter" of the policy, Eliana Johnson and Annie Karni report at Politico. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a mentor to Nielsen, urged her not to do Monday's press conference, but Nielsen is under tremendous pressure from President Trump, who blames her for the rise in illegal immigration and drove her to the brink or quitting in a Cabinet-meeting berating that "several of those present at the meeting" tell Politico was "the most uncomfortable scene they have witnessed in their professional lives."
At the same time, Kelly "and the president are now seen as barely tolerating one another," Politico reports, throwing in this anecdote:
According to four people close to Kelly, the former Marine general has largely yielded his role as the enforcer in the West Wing as his relationship with Trump has soured. While Kelly himself once believed he stood between Trump and chaos, he has told at least one person close to him that he may as well let the president do what he wants, even if it leads to impeachment — at least this chapter of American history would come to a close. [Politico]
"It wasn't a joke, according to my source," Johnson tweeted, "who said his attitude is let the sh-t hit the fan, make Corey [Lewandowski] chief of staff, instruct Cabinet secretaries to do things that are illegal — so be it." Read the entire article at Politico.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Monday said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen should step down due to her record of making "misleading statements" about the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy that separates children from their parents at the border.
On Sunday, Nielsen tweeted that the administration does "not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period." Harris said that for more than a year, she's been asking for "complete data on the number of children separated and what training and protocol exists for carrying out such separations. In response, the leadership of the department has routinely failed to provide complete answers to questions from me and my colleagues." The Department of Homeland Security "should have a commitment to transparency and accountability," Harris continued, but under Nielsen, it "has a track record of neither."
It's not just the border crisis that's an issue, Harris said; she also cited Nielsen's "failed response" to the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year. Several other Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Ted Lieu of California, have also called on Nielsen to resign. Catherine Garcia
During a combative interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Monday night, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said she does not want to see kids and their parents separated at the border "unduly," but there are several reasons why the Trump administration has enacted its "zero tolerance" policy.
Conway said children are coming to the border, clearly uncomfortable with the adult accompanying them, and Border Patrol agents need to figure out if that is their actual parent. She also said that over the last several years, thousands of girls have come to the U.S. from Central America, but the government lost track of them and now no one knows their whereabouts.
Cuomo wasn't interested in her talking points. "I don't think tonight's the night to fight," he said. "I think this is black and white." The Trump administration "created this situation," and had to know that there would be an outcry over separating kids and their parents. "You don't have the high moral ground on this," he said. "You changed a policy to impress your base, you got a pop in the polls with them, and you're okay with the instruction and harshness. Just own it." "How dare you," Conway responded. Watch the tense interview below. Catherine Garcia
Tucker Carlson spent part of his Monday night Fox News show smugly accusing "elites" of using the "spectacle" of children being separated from their parents at the border to try to "take the moral high ground."
Carlson — who, let's not forget, is a millionaire with his own cable show who attended boarding school and famously used to wear a bow tie 24/7 — just could not stop railing against those "elites," claiming their concern over families being split up is "performance art" and that most of the people "yelling at you on TV don't even have children, so don't for a second let them take the moral high ground. Their goal is to change your country, forever — and they are succeeding, by the way."
In the world according to Carlson, "the ruling class" cares "more about foreigners than their own people," and they want to see the collapse of "strong families" because that helps their political power. "The left" wants "immediate amnesty for anyone who crosses our borders with a minor in tow," he declared, and their elitist neighborhoods "look exactly like they did in 1960 — no demographic change at all, just like they like it," but if you think that's a problem, it's best to keep those thoughts to yourself. "There is no cost to them," he said. "The cost is entirely on you — but don't complain, or else they will call you 'Hitler.'" Watch the eye-roll-inducing video below. Catherine Garcia