June 16, 2015

When asked on the Today show if she identifies as being an African-American woman, Rachel Dolezal confirmed, "I identify as black."

The interview came in the wake of accusations that the former NAACP chapter leader has been falsely posing as black —  Dolezal says she is part African-American, but her birth certificate lists both of her parents as white — but Dolezal avoided apology and claimed she hasn't been deceptive.

"I do take exception to that because it's a little more complex than me identifying as black, or answering a question of, are you black or white?" Dolezal told the Today show's Matt Lauer.

Dolezal explained that she has viewed herself as black since she was 5, when she would draw self-portraits "with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon, and black curly hair."

Dolezal also responded to widespread criticisms — from people on social media, and from her family members — that she is essentially putting on blackface.

"She grew up white in the middle class and she's trying to say she had to deal with racism her entire life," Dolezal's brother, Ezra Dolezal, had said previously in an interview with CNN.

But Dolezal responded that she has "a huge issue with blackface."

"This is not some freak Birth of a Nation mockery blackface performance. This is on a very real, connected level," Dolezal said. Jeva Lange

5:02 p.m.

President Trump has gone full bipartisan.

Matching calls from both sides of the aisle, Trump announced Monday that he would soon authorize sanctions "against current and former officials" in Turkey and "any persons contributing to Turkey's destabilizing actions in northeast Syria," as well as other tariffs against the country. The move comes after the U.S. withdrew troops from the Kurdish-held area and Turkey quickly invaded.

Trump's promised executive order includes an increase on steel tariffs back to 50 percent, "the level prior to reduction in May," a Monday statement from Trump read. The U.S. Commerce Department will "also immediately stop negotiations" with Turkey regarding a $100 billion trade deal. All of this will let the U.S. punish "those who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire," and other "threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria," per the statement.

Talk of Turkey sanctions began last week when Trump unexpectedly announced he'd remove U.S. troops from the Kurdish-held area of Syria and essentially okay Turkey's imminent invasion of the area. Shortly after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) agreed they'd introduce sanctions on Turkey if the country attacked the Kurds, which it promptly did. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:54 p.m.

A day after former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, announced that he was resigning from a Chinese private equity firm and that he would no longer sit on the board or work for any foreign company, the elder Biden unveiled a sweeping ethics agenda as part of his presidential campaign.

The plan, though, did not mention his son, whose foreign business dealings have raised some eyebrows and, well, conspiracy theories, despite no evidence of any actual wrongdoing. Instead, Biden went after President Trump and his administration, which he dubbed "most corrupt" in modern history. Like other Democratic candidates who have released ethics plans, Biden addressed issues such as campaign finance, tax returns, and lobbying.

Additionally, one of the points in the agenda seeks to prevent the president from "improperly interfering in federal investigations and prosecutions." If Biden is elected to office, that is, he will work to ensure that he and any succeeding presidents don't have too much say about "who or what to investigate or prosecute." While this addresses federal investigations, rather than foreign ones, it's worth noting that Biden and his son were the subject of unsubstantiated allegations of corruption in Ukraine by members of the Trump administration, which, in turn, led to Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate them.

Biden also plans to eliminate a loophole in existing financial disclosure law that allows candidates and public officials to transfer personal assets into trusts controlled by family members and close friends, assuring voters that "any member of his administration who is a beneficiary of a discretionary trust" will "disclose all of its holdings." Read the full plan here. Tim O'Donnell

3:41 p.m.

A Fort Worth police officer who killed a black woman with her 8-year-old nephew in the room resigned Monday and could see criminal charges.

The officer, who Police Chief Ed Kraus identified as Aaron Dean, shot 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson through a window at her house around 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Kraus said in a Monday press conference that he was going to fire Dean, but that the ex-officer had resigned before he could do so. Dean is now facing a criminal investigation, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Neighbors of Jefferson's called for a welfare check at her home on Saturday morning because the home's doors were open and its lights had been on for hours, per The Dallas Morning News. The officers who responded didn't know it was a non-emergency call, Kraus said. When they arrived, Dean did not announce himself as a police officer, but shouted at Jefferson to put up her hands and then quickly shot her through a bedroom window, a body-cam video of the situation shows. Dean was set to be interviewed regarding the shooting Monday, but "resigned before his opportunity to be cooperative," reflecting a "dishonorable discharge," Kraus said Monday.

The news has sparked an ongoing stream of protests and rallies demanding justice for the Jeffersons. "Why this man is not in handcuffs right now is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community, and it must be addressed," S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for the family, told The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:10 p.m.

It appears that President Trump was a bit off the mark Monday morning when he tweeted a theory that Kurdish forces were releasing prisoners with ties to the Islamic State in an attempt to get the U.S. to continue fighting alongside them. Trump's suspicions were likely derived from the fact that the Kurds, longtime U.S. allies in the Middle East, were disappointed in Washington for removing U.S. troops from the region, providing Turkey — which considers Kurdish forces a national security threat — an opening to invade.

U.S. officials have said that prisoners with ISIS ties are being deliberately released, but it's actually Turkish proxy forces in the Free Syrian Army — a decentralized rebel group that has been linked to extremists groups and was once recruited by the CIA to aid the U.S. in its fight against ISIS — who are behind it, rather than the Kurds, Foreign Policy reports. The Free Syrian Army has also been accused of executing Kurdish prisoners and killing unarmed civilians.

As for the Kurds, one U.S. official said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have not abandoned or released any prisoners with ISIS ties and, in some cases, the SDF has reportedly moved detainees to other facilities further south.

Subsequently, Trump's theory is not sitting well with U.S. and Kurdish forces. "That has enraged our forces in Syria," another senior U.S. administration official said. "Kurds are still defending our bases. Incredibly reckless and dishonest thing to say." Tim O'Donnell

3:09 p.m.

It's been more than seven months since former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he wouldn't run for president in 2020, but he's reportedly still thinking about doing it anyway.

Bloomberg has been telling associates recently that "Joe Biden's recent struggles against Sen. Elizabeth Warren are making him rethink his decision to stay out of the 2020 Democratic primary," CNBC reports.

“I think it's something he wants," an ally of Bloomberg's told CNBC. "He has not been shy about that."

There's a catch, though: In this hypothetical scenario, Biden would apparently need to drop out of the race early on in the primaries. "Nothing can happen unless Biden drops out, and that's not happening anytime soon," the Bloomberg ally told CNBC.

Axios similarly reported way back in April that Bloomberg would reconsider his decision not to run if Biden didn't get into the race. Biden did announce his candidacy soon after, but with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) overtaking him in some national polls recently, Bloomberg is apparently doing that reconsideration as we speak, even with just four months left to go until the Iowa caucuses.

"He's like everyone else," a Bloomberg associate told CNBC. "They can't get it out of their system." He can't get teasing the increasingly unlikely idea of a late entrance into the race out of his system, at least. Brendan Morrow

2:17 p.m.

As she seeks sole custody of their daughter, Jeremy Renner's ex-wife has reportedly accused him of threatening to kill her.

The Avengers actor is currently in a custody battle with Sonni Pacheco, who TMZ writes Monday is accusing him of "rhapsodizing about killing" her at a club while he was "coked up and drunk." Later that night, Renner allegedly "put a gun in his mouth, threatened to kill himself, and fired the gun into the ceiling" while his 6-year-old daughter, Ava, was sleeping in her bedroom.

Pacheco also claims in the legal documents that Renner was once overheard by their nanny saying he was going to kill Pacheco at her home because "it was better that Ava had no parents than to have [Pacheco] as a mother," TMZ reports. Additionally, she alleges Renner has often been under the influence while with their daughter and left cocaine on his bathroom counter, where she could have reached it. Renner and Pacheco married in 2014, with Pacheco filing for divorce less than a year later.

In a statement to TMZ, a representative for Renner said, "The well-being of his daughter Ava has always been and continues to be the primary focus for Jeremy. This is a matter for the court to decide. It's important to note the dramatizations made in Sonni's declaration are a one-sided account made with a specific goal in mind." Renner himself has yet to speak publicly about the report. Brendan Morrow

1:58 p.m.

Fiona Hill might be a major threat to President Trump.

Hill, who previously served as Trump's top adviser to Russia, was hired in March 2017 as an ally to then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And as a story of her first time meeting Trump reveals, she's seemingly unafraid to hurt the president's feelings — something that could prove notable as she testifies for Congress on Monday.

As The Washington Post reported in 2017, Hill's hiring was "a reassuring selection among Russia hard-liners." But as the Post continues, Hill's "relationship with Trump, however, was strained from the start."

In one of her first encounters with the president, an Oval Office meeting in preparation for a call with Putin on Syria, Trump appeared to mistake Hill for a member of the clerical staff, handing her a memo he had marked up and instructing her to rewrite it. When Hill responded with a perplexed look, Trump became irritated with what he interpreted as insubordination, according to officials who witnessed the exchange. As she walked away in confusion, Trump exploded and motioned for McMaster to intervene. [The Washington Post]

Things got even worse for Hill "when she was forced to defend members of her staff suspected of disloyalty" after Trump's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was leaked, per the Post. Read more about Hill and Trump's troubles at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

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