March 24, 2015

In an effort to make its security screenings more effective — the agency has yet to catch an honest-to-goodness terrorist — the TSA implemented a behavioral profiling system called SPOT. The idea is to train agents to recognize certain "suspicious" behaviors to prevent an attack.

Formalized in 2007, SPOT has come at a price tag of $1 billion, but a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleges that the screening techniques are "discriminatory, ineffective, pseudo-scientific, and wasteful of taxpayer money."

A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in November found that SPOT's success rate is only "the same as or slightly better than chance." And all of this may be irrelevant anyway, as the TSA itself admitted in 2013 that terrorists have moved on from airplanes. Bonnie Kristian

11:50 a.m.

Janet Mock is striking all the poses today.

The director, producer, and writer for FX's hit series Pose is joining the Netflix team after signing a three-year multimillion-dollar contract, reports Variety. While Mock will continue to work on Ryan Murphy's Pose as a writer-director, Netflix now has exclusive access to her TV series and a first look at her upcoming feature film projects.

Mock is the first openly transgender woman to have creative control at a major content company, Variety wrote on Wednesday. In her deal with Netflix, she says will seek to highlight historically underrepresented communities often ignored by Hollywood, and employ the people that belong to them. "This is the first kind of deal of its kind for a trans person, no less a trans woman of color," says Mock in her Twitter announcement. "There's potential now, with Netflix's worldwide audience to introduce millions, hundreds of millions of viewers to trans people and showing people who may not understand us that we can tell our own stories."

Her current projects in development include a half-hour drama about post-slavery New Orleans, a college drama chronicling the life of a young trans woman, and a classic sitcom reboot, reports Variety. Watch her full announcement below. Amari Pollard

11:29 a.m.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders might not be out of the public eye for long.

While there is still a ways to go until the next Arkansas gubernatorial election in 2022, the outgoing White House press secretary is reportedly gathering steam to join the race, Politico reports.

While it's not entirely clear if Sanders is committed to the idea — she reportedly has not directly sought support and has occasionally joked in private about the possibility of running — three people who have spoken to her in recent days told Politico that she is seriously considering going all in. She would make a formidable candidate, too.

Sanders would likely be able to garner support from her the network built by her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, as well well as the one built by Arkansas Sen. John Boozman (R), whose campaign Sanders managed in 2010. That's not to mention her closeness to President Trump, who easily won Arkansas in 2016 and has already touted Sanders as a gubernatorial candidate multiple times in recent days. "She's got the Huckabee political machine, the Boozman political machine, and the Trump political machine," Roby Brock, a longtime Arkansas political reporter, told Politico.

Still, not every Republican in Arkansas is thrilled by the prospect — she has never held elected office and has also been out of the state for a while, meaning she needs to spend time reconnecting with issues Arkansas voters care about, Politico reports. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

10:50 a.m.

It's a wonder no one figured this out sooner.

Marcus Epstein has a history of associating with far-right groups and white nationalists while writing racially provocative pieces across conservative sites. Yet over the past two years, he seemingly dropped that history as he adopted the name "Mark Epstein" and wrote op-eds for The Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Forbes, and other publications — and the Journal has a very odd explanation for how it happened, BuzzFeed News reports.

Epstein previously worked for former Colorado congressmember Tom Tancredo, who espoused xenophobic views himself, and founded what BuzzFeed News calls a "nativist political club" with white supremacist Richard Spencer in the mid-2000s. Under his full name, Epstein also wrote a series of provocative, race-related op-eds for the anti-immigration website VDare.

But on the Journal's website, Mark Epstein is only identified as an "antitrust attorney and freelance writer" and largely writes in opposition to big tech regulation. Epstein gets that designation because that's the way "we know Mark Epstein," the Journal said in a statement to BuzzFeed News, adding that "we are not aware that he has written under any other byline." A spokesperson for The Hill said "we would never knowingly post material from a racist writer and have no information identifying this writer as such." Forbes, meanwhile, said Epstein's byline appeared "without permission as a co-author on one of our contributor’s posts" and that it would take Epstein's post down for further review.

Epstein explained the pseudonym to BuzzFeed News as a way to "move past the media-internet driven outrage culture" surrounding his past actions, including a dismissed 2007 misdemeanor assault charge. He also said he has "never been white nationalist nor held their beliefs." Read more at BuzzFeed News. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:30 a.m.

It feels like a bit of cycle.

A new poll conducted by Avalanche — a progressive public-opinion research group — shows that if the nebulous term "electability" is removed as a factor in the 2020 Democratic primaries, the race looks quite different, Axios reports. In an "electability"-free world, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) actually led former Vice President Joe Biden, 21 percent to 19 percent among those polled by Avalanche, while in many other national polls, Biden often leads substantially.

The problem for Warren, though, is reportedly not the idea that a woman isn't capable of performing the job, but the fact that too many voters are concerned that other voters won't elect a woman. It's less about Warren and more about America, Avalanche writes.

So, the distrust in their fellow voters leads people to edge away from Warren's candidacy in favor of Biden, whom voters feel has a better chance of defeating President Trump in the general election. While regular polls show Biden as the favorite among 29 percent of Democrats, that number drops to 19 percent without the "electability" factor. Warren, meanwhile, jumps from 16 percent to 21 percent when "electability" isn't considered.

For reference, Avalanche's survey shows that 97 percent of likely Democratic voters believe getting Trump out of the White House is very important, while only 28 percent feel confident that he'll lose. That, coupled with the fact that 62 percent believe that Americans won't elect a woman, is why, Avalanche's data suggests, Warren is lagging behind Biden.

Avalanche conducted a listening survey of 1,871 registered voters between May 30-June 3. No margin of error was reported. Read more at Axios. Tim O'Donnell

9:58 a.m.

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough went ballistic during a Morning Joe segment on Wednesday, demanding congressional testimony from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a fiery rant.

Scarborough interviewed Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Wednesday's show and discussed whether Mueller will testify before Congress. Mueller in a statement last month said that he does not wish to speak about his investigation further and would not provide any new information were he to testify.

"I want to know why Robert Mueller thinks he's above coming to Capitol Hill and testifying for Americans," Scarborough said. "It's outrageous!"

Scarborough then turned his outrage to House Democrats, asking Himes, "Why don't you subpoena him? This is absolutely ridiculous! ... You guys can't get him on Capitol Hill to talk? And he's too high and mighty to get on Capitol Hill and talk?"

Scarborough continued his rant while Himes said nothing at all, imploring Democrats to subpoena testimony from Mueller even if that's only going to involve Mueller reading from the report. "Millions and millions of dollars were paid for your report," Scarborough imagined a lawmaker saying to Mueller. "Not everybody, Bob, is going to read it! So you read it for them!” By the end of this rant, Scarborough found himself getting so worked up that he began to laugh while throwing his newspaper off camera.

When Himes finally chimed in, Scarborough wasn't satisfied with his answers, pushing back when the House Democrat said Mueller's testimony will happen but in private. Scarborough took to Twitter after this segment to joke about the insertion of this rant into the interview with Himes, sarcastically complaining that the lawmaker was "a little talkative." Watch a portion of Scarborough's rant below. Brendan Morrow

8:46 a.m.

Fox News' Tucker Carlson is now urging President Trump against a war with Iran both on and off his show.

The host of Tucker Carlson Tonight in recent weeks has "privately advised" Trump and warned him not to take military action against Iran while criticizing the administration's "hawkish members," The Daily Beast reports.

That's a familiar message to anyone who has tuned into Carlson's show amid rising tensions with Iran, with Carlson in May railing against National Security Adviser John Bolton, saying Bolton wants a war with Iran "more than anything in the world" and that it would be "like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and his birthday wrapped into one." Carlson also voiced concerns over Bolton's influence in the White House — and now, it looks like he's actively attempting to counteract that influence.

Trump struck a different tone than some of these more "hawkish" members of his administration when he said in a Monday interview with Time that Iran's recent actions have been "very minor" so far. And when asked if he is considering military action against Iran, Trump responded, "I wouldn't say that. I can't say that at all."

This is just the latest instance of Trump getting some private input from his favorite Fox News hosts. A New York Magazine report in 2018 suggested the president speaks with Fox News host Sean Hannity "most weeknights," with Mediaite in March reporting that Trump and Hannity still talk "constantly." Brendan Morrow

7:59 a.m.

Hope Hicks, former White House communications director and a member of President Trump's inner circle since the start of his 2016 campaign, is set to testify on Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee in a closed-door hearing.

Democrats on the panel, who are investigating possible obstruction of justice by Trump, seek to question Hicks about five instances of potential obstruction described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, in addition to allegations that Trump directed hush money payments to two women, Politico reports. Although the hearing will not be public, a transcript will reportedly be released within 48 hours. This is the first time a member of Trump's inner circle will be interviewed by a Democratically-controlled panel in their investigations into Trump, CNN notes.

The White House on Tuesday directed Hicks not to answer any questions related to her time in the administration, also saying that specific questions related to her time on the transition team would "likely implicate executive branch confidentiality interests" as well, The Hill reports.

ABC News reports that the committee "would not find it acceptable for Hicks not to answer any questions about her time in the White House," citing a committee aide, and The New York Times reports that Democrats are "prepared to contest such assertions on the spot." Democrats may, however, be able to get some answers from Hicks about her time on the Trump 2016 campaign.

Hicks previously testified before the House and the Senate in 2018 and would not answer questions about her time in the White House.

When asked by CNN's Manu Raju on Tuesday about the White House instructing Hicks not to answer questions about her time in the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) simply responded, "Obstruction of justice." Brendan Morrow

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