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June 21, 2018
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Voters are more enthusiastic than usual about voting in the 2018 midterm elections, and to an unprecedented degree, they have President Trump and partisan control of Congress in mind, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Wednesday. The numbers favor the Democrats, who have a 5-point advantage on the generic congressional ballot (48 percent to 43 percent) and voter enthusiasm (55 percent to 50 percent), but Republicans are almost as fired up, pointing to a close race. And Trump is a bigger factor than in any midterm since Pew first started asking during Ronald Reagan's first term — 34 percent of registered voters say they will essentially be voting against Trump while 26 percent will be voting for Trump, both historically high numbers.

"Trump is, on balance, a more negative than positive factor," said Carroll Doherty, Pew's director of political research. "But he is motivating about half of the voters in his own party." At the same time, Doherty said, "This is a different midterm than the ones in 2006, 2010, and 2014. In those midterms, you had one party that was more enthusiastic." This year, 51 percent of all voters are more enthusiastic than usual about casting their ballot, and 68 percent of registered voters say party control of Congress will be a factor for them this year, Pew's biggest recorded midterms number since 1998.

The poll shows that "the Democratic wave is building," Politico says, "but this year's Democratic wave may be crashing against a well-fortified GOP wall." The survey was conducted June 5-12 among 2,002 adults and 1,608 registered voters, with a margin of error of ±2.9 points for registered voters. You can find more demography and other data points at Pew. Peter Weber

7:21 p.m. ET
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Since Hurricane Maria ravaged homes in Puerto Rico last September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied at least 335,748 applications for disaster assistance, and has either rejected or not responded to 79 percent of appeals.

It's hurricane season again, and for residents like Ramón Paez Marte, they are still dealing with damage done in 2017. He lives in Canóvanas, and his home is still missing part of the roof and has a broken door. Paez Marte told NBC News he's applied for assistance, but has been told he's ineligible. FEMA requires people prove their houses were damaged, and they must be inspected by officials.

They also have to prove their identities and home ownership status, but that's an issue in Puerto Rico, where houses are passed down, some are built without legal permits, and many don't have a title or deed. Paez Marte gave FEMA a letter from the mayor of Canóvanas, which stated he had owned his home for about 20 years; his appeal was rejected, and he was told he couldn't prove that was his house. "I don't live here because I want to," he told NBC News. "No one that lives here, lives here willingly. They're here because we truly have nowhere else to go." He is now working with a nonprofit, and they will help him with a new appeal. Catherine Garcia

5:35 p.m. ET

Liz Cambage isn't just breaking records in the WNBA — she's standing beside the greatest players on the men's side too.

The Dallas Wings center scored 53 points against the New York Liberty on Tuesday, setting a new record for the most points scored by a WNBA player in a single game. The 6-foot-8 phenom toppled the record set by Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquana Williams in 2013, when she scored 51 points against the San Antonio Silver Stars while she was a member of the Tulsa Shock.

In helping the Wings to a 104-87 victory Tuesday, Cambage was clearly on point, going 17-22 from the field and 15-16 from the free throw line. She also nabbed 10 rebounds and blocked five shots. Bleacher Report's Natalie Weiner noted that the last basketball player to stuff the box score like Cambage did Tuesday was the one and only Michael Jordan.

Previously, Cambage's highest-scoring game was her 37-point performance against the Chicago Sky earlier this month. But with 44 seconds left in Tuesday's game against the Liberty, the Australian was able to sink a 3-pointer and secure her spot at the top. Watch Cambage make history below. Amari Pollard

5:30 p.m. ET
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Not everyone was buying it when President Trump said he simply misspoke during his Monday press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he said he didn't "see why it would be Russia" that interfered in American elections. On Tuesday, he told reporters that he simply meant to say that he didn't "see why it wouldn't be" Russia, adding, "I think that probably clarifies things."

Lucky for Trump, some conservative lawmakers were happy to accept his defense of Russian meddling in the 2016 election as a simple misunderstanding.

"I'm just glad he clarified it," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told NBC News. "I can't read his intentions or what he meant to say at the time, and suffice it to say that for me as a policy maker, what really matters is what we do moving forward."

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) concurred, telling Fox News that he took the president at his word when he explained his controversial comments as a botched double-negative. Portman on Monday called Trump's failure to side with the U.S. intelligence community "troubling."

While Rubio and Portman enjoyed a sigh of relief, not every conservative who condemned Trump's Monday comments has been so quick to move on. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), for example, didn't back down from his criticism, including when he said Monday that Trump gave Putin "a propaganda win." Instead, he told Fox News that Trump had been "weak" and delivered a "bad day for America." Summer Meza

3:52 p.m. ET
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Everyone predicts Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will face tough questions, especially about Roe v. Wade, when he eventually undergoes his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But two Democratic senators — Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.) — were there for Kavanaugh's last hearing. And they think Kavanaugh may have fudged a few answers.

In 2006, Kavanaugh faced the Senate committee after receiving a lifetime nomination to the D.C. Court of Appeals, The Atlantic reports. Kavanaugh had previously worked for former President George W. Bush, so Durbin and Leahy asked about his involvement in administration decisions during the war on terror. That included how detained terror subjects were treated in the early 2000s.

Kavanaugh denied knowing anything about the torture of detainees at the time, and he was confirmed. But two stories from The Washington Post and NPR soon reported that Kavanaugh discussed torture with White House lawyers in 2002, telling them that Justice Anthony Kennedy — whose impending retirement has spurred Kavanaugh's nomination to the bench — wouldn't support indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, per The Atlantic.

Durbin told NPR that the revelation made him feel "perilously close to being lied to." He wrote Kavanaugh to ask for clarification, and tweeted the same letter the day after Kavanaugh's SCOTUS nomination. Apparently, Kavanaugh never responded. Leahy wrote to the U.S. attorney general, but was denied a criminal investigation, The Atlantic says. He "still has questions about how truthful" Kavanaugh was last time around, per his statement after Kavanaugh's July 9 nomination.

Now, Kavanaugh is set to appear once again before the Senate, and Durbin and Leahy are still on the committee. And judging by Durbin's and Leahy's tweets, they haven't gotten over that one question. Read more at The Atlantic. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:34 p.m. ET
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Dogs across the country better lawyer up — the government is feeling litigious.

The United States on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against "APPROXIMATELY 30 PIT BULL-TYPE DOGS," a legal tracking Twitter account reported. The lawsuit, filed in North Carolina, alleges that the dogs were involved in an animal fighting operation, and seeks to require their owners to pay up.

Among the defendants: "a brown male, pit bull-type dog;" "a black and white, female pit bull-type dog;" and "an underweight black, male pit bull-type dog." The dogs are suspected of being involved in a fighting ring "for purposes of sport, wagering, or entertainment."

Of course, it's the humans who will ultimately be accused of violating the Animal Welfare Act, the lawsuit explains, but the poor dogs are the ones who were seized by officials and are named in the legal documents. "They are currently in the custody of the United States Marshals Service and being cared for by the Humane Society of the United States," reads the lawsuit. While the "pit bull-type" dogs were seized more than a month ago, the owners apparently still haven't paid to cover the cost of their care and veterinary treatment while in government custody.

For the record, the government's "approximate" guess was spot-on. It's unclear how much longer the exactly-30 dogs will remain in government care. Summer Meza

3:23 p.m. ET

Queen fans, get ready to belt your hearts out: Bohemian Rhapsody is just a few months away.

20th Century Fox released a new trailer Tuesday for the Freddie Mercury biopic, calling it "a foot-stomping celebration" of "one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet."

Framed by some of the band's most famous hits, including "We Will Rock You," "We Are The Champions," and of course the titular "Bohemian Rhapsody," the trailer gives us a look at the very beginnings of Queen and their unexpected rise to stardom. We also get brief glimpses of Mercury as he wrestles with his bisexuality and his struggle with his AIDS diagnosis, despite speculation that those parts of the story would be left untold.

Starring Emmy award-winning actor Rami Malek as Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody is expected to be released on Nov. 2, 2018. Watch the full trailer below. Shivani Ishwar

3:18 p.m. ET
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President Trump on Tuesday appeared to walk back many of his controversial comments from his joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, held Monday in Finland.

Trump faced widespread backlash for failing to side with the U.S. intelligence community over Putin during Monday's summit. On Tuesday, the president addressed the controversy and sought to correct the record. "I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place" he said. "Could be other people also. A lot of people out there."

He also reversed one of his most-criticized comments, when he said he didn't "see why it would be" Russia that interfered in the election. "In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't,'" Trump explained. "The sentence should have been, 'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.' Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things."

As critics pointed out, this was one of several instances in which Trump was forced to backpedal a statement after receiving fierce backlash. But Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser noted that Trump claiming he misspoke — and doing so more than 24 hours after the initial remarks — doesn't quite align with his post-press conference tweets and interview with Fox News, in which he fully stood by his comments on Russia's purported innocence.

Trump added that has "full faith" in intelligence officials, and pledged that his administration "will repel any effort to interfere in our elections" going forward. Summer Meza

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