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March 15, 2017

On Tuesday evening, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow launched a flurry of speculation and excitement by tweeting "we've got Trump tax returns" an hour and a half before her show. Her scoop — which came after a characteristic, if ill-advised, contextual wind-up, during which The Daily Beast actually beat her to the punch — ultimately revealed nothing more than that Trump finagled his way into paying a rate of less than 4 percent on his regular federal income tax in 2005.

Almost immediately, viewers began to skewer the way Maddow had hyped the information. By Wednesday, Slate's Willa Paskin recounted the event by writing that "Maddow seemed uncharacteristically nervous as she wended her way though what could kindly be described as context and which I am unkindly describing as word salad, a long meander that was difficult to follow even without the distracting promise of a revelatory tax return at its end." National Review was less kind, declaring: "Rachel Maddow Wastes Everyone's Time."

Some critics went as far as to say Maddow's handling of the news was a "nice victory" for President Trump. Jay Yarow wrote for CNBC: "For Trump, in the swirl of chaos thanks to the CBO saying the GOP health-care bill would lead to 24 million uninsured and the FBI preparing to weigh in on his accusation of President Barack Obama wire tapping him, this tax story is a welcome reprieve." Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign press secretary, Brian Fallon, had speculated that Maddow's scoop was going to be "the holy grail," only to later tweet that Democrats "should return focus to TrumpCare tomorrow [and] … not get distracted by two pages from '05 tax return."

The White House also skewered Maddow for the story, releasing a statement prior to her show that claimed "you know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago." Some people, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnson, who received the tax form anonymously, believe that Trump himself could have leaked the information.

"The media is undeniably essential, particularly in this administration," noted Esquire. "However, leaning too heavily on the shock and awe factor is a distraction at best and an exploitation of the nation's fear at worst. And after all that, in the end, we didn't learn anything we didn't already know. Fun, huh?" Jeva Lange

12:18p.m.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is stepping away from public life due to progressing dementia.

In a Tuesday statement, the 88-year-old O'Connor said she was diagnosed "some time ago" with "the beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer's disease." This "condition has progressed," and now O'Connor says she is "no longer able to participate in public life." Still, she had some thoughts to share "while I am still able," she said.

O'Connor was the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, appointed by former President Ronald Reagan in 1981. "As a young cowgirl from the Arizona desert," she wrote, "I never could have imagined that one day I would become the first woman justice." She retired from the court in 2005 at age 75, citing her husband's Alzheimer's diagnosis. Still, she remained devoted to "advanc[ing] civic learning and engagement," even founding a free online learning platform called iCivics — an organization that she said now reaches half the middle school and high school students in the country.

She recently left the office she kept at the Supreme Court and hasn't made a public appearance in the past two years, The Associated Press reported Monday. O'Connor said she would remain at home in Phoenix, Arizona. "While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying," she wrote, "nothing has diminished my gratitude." Read her full statement below. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:27a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence appeared at The Washington Post's "Transformers: Space" event on Tuesday to discuss the Trump administration's developing Space Force. But first, he had some of the administration's strongest words yet regarding Jamal Khashoggi's presumed murder.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed Tuesday that Saudi officials had been planning to kill Khashoggi inside Istanbul's Saudi consulate since September. U.S. intelligence is reportedly also skeptical of the Saudi claim that "rogue" operatives killed the U.S.-based Saudi journalist, who wrote for the Post. Still, President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been reluctant to decry Saudi Arabian officials for their alleged involvement in the murder.

Pence, meanwhile, didn't hesitate to call Khashoggi's death a "brutal murder" and a "tragedy" at Tuesday's Post event. "It was also an assault on a free and independent press," Pence said, additionally confirming that CIA Director Gina Haspel is currently in Turkey to investigate.

Pence acknowledged that Erdogan's statement "flies in the face" of Saudi Arabia's claims of innocence. But he went on to echo Trump and Pompeo, calling for a full investigation into the murder. Once that is complete, the U.S. will take retaliatory action "in the context of America's vital interests in the region," Pence said, pointing to the U.S.-Saudi "alliance" that he claimed has been "renewed" under Trump's leadership. Watch Pence's remarks below. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:34a.m.

The Trump administration wants a legally bulletproof policy to discourage Central Americans from crossing into the U.S. And it wants it now.

With "a series of intense closed-door meetings," White House officials are scrambling to craft a new immigration policy that could serve as a rallying cry ahead of the midterm elections, The New York Times writes. Planners are weighing three ways of replacing the current "catch and release" policy, with the most probable option being a "voluntary" reboot of family separation, officials tell the Times.

Rumblings of a family separation redux first emerged earlier this month, when The Washington Post reported that White House adviser Stephen Miller was pushing for a legally stronger version of the much derided "zero tolerance" policy. The new plan, known as "binary choice," would require parents to "choose between voluntarily relinquishing their children to foster care or remaining imprisoned together as a family," the Times reports. It aims to "maximize deterrence and consequences for families," and currently seems to be the administration's favorite option, a person familiar with the plan tells the Times.

Another proposed plan would process families on "a first-in, first-out basis" to hopefully clear out immigration courts' massive backlog, the Times reports. A third would again try to raise the standards for granting asylum.

As a migrant caravan makes its way to the U.S., President Trump has grown frustrated at how long it has taken to rebuild a legally solid migrant-deterrence policy, the Times reports. With the midterms drawing closer, Trump and the GOP will likely continue relying on anti-immigration rhetoric alone to drum up GOP votes. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:18a.m.

Conspiracy-monger Alex Jones was on hand for the campaign rally with President Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in Houston Monday night, and he had a full conversation with a pile of horse poop.

Addressing the pile as "Beto" — as in, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), Cruz's Democratic challenger — Jones screamed attacks at his silent foe, making sure to glance up at the Infowars camera every few seconds. The performance was caught by Reason editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown, who was covering the rally:

Jones' rant is difficult to decipher as he is at least 20 feet from Brown, but he seems to take issue with O'Rourke's nickname, which Cruz and his allies have suggested is an attempt to appeal to Hispanic voters. Beto is a childhood moniker based on O'Rourke's full name, Robert.

Unfortunately for Jones, his interviewee wasn't giving him the answers he wanted. "Talk to me!" he yelled at the poop. "Treat me like a human!" Bonnie Kristian

10:18a.m.

Two weeks ahead of a likely tight election, Democrats' lead over Republicans in battleground districts has narrowed slightly, but there's at least one area where they've retained a decisive advantage.

A new Washington Post-Schar School poll of likely voters in 69 battleground districts found that of the 10 percent who have an unfavorable view of both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, about 6 in 10 prefer the Democratic candidates in their area. This 15-point advantage for the Democrats is a shift from 2014, when the Republicans had a 17-point advantage among battleground district voters who dislike both parties. Republicans that year ended up with their largest House majority since 1928.

These voters could be key, as all signs are pointing to a close election. Democrats overall have a slim three-point advantage over Republicans in this poll of battleground districts, which falls within the margin of error. That lead is down slightly from a Washington Post poll conducted earlier this month, in which Democrats had a four-point advantage.

The Democratic Party is looking to gain 23 seats in order to take the majority in the House. At the moment, they are favored to do so, while Republicans are expected to maintain control of the Senate.

This poll was conducted by speaking to 1,545 registered voters, including 1,269 likely voters, in battleground districts online or over the phone from Oct. 15 through Oct. 21. The margin of error is 3 percentage points. See more results at The Washington Post. Brendan Morrow

10:01a.m.

A Florida man named Bruce Michael Alexander has been charged with abusive sexual contact after he allegedly groped a woman on a flight from Houston to Albuquerque Sunday. His defense, per court documents: President Trump approves.

Alexander was seated behind the woman, identified only as C.W., while she napped. She reports she awoke to find him lifting her sweater and touching her near her bra line. C.W. wrote the first touch off as an accident, but about half an hour later, she says she was groped again. This time, she confronted Alexander and asked flight attendants to move him to another seat.

"After being placed in handcuffs" following landing, the criminal complaint against Alexander says, he asked officers about the sentence associated with his charge. He then invoked the Trump defense, telling them "the president of the United States says it's okay to grab women by their private parts."

It won't fly in court, but he's not wrong. Bonnie Kristian

9:30a.m.

Game 1 of the 2018 World Series is just hours away.

The best-of-seven series between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers — two of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball — is sure to be compelling. Clayton Kershaw, arguably the best pitcher of his generation, will start for the Dodgers tonight, facing off against Red Sox ace Chris Sale. The game starts at 8:09 p.m. ET.

Here are a few compelling numbers to help get you excited for this historic series.

102 — Years since the Red Sox and the Dodgers last faced off in the World Series. At the time — 1916! — the Dodgers were known as the Brooklyn Robins.

30 — Years since the Dodgers last won the World Series.

3 — Times the Red Sox have won the World Series since 2004, last doing so in 2013. Prior to 2004, the Red Sox hadn't won since 1918.

8 - Years since the Dodgers last played at Fenway Park.

50 — Temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, expected at Fenway Park during Game 1, although temperatures could drop into the 40s.

108 — Wins the Red Sox racked up during the regular season, 16 more than the Dodgers. This was a franchise record for the Red Sox.

$29 million — How much more expensive the Red Sox's payroll is than the Dodgers'; the Red Sox lead the MLB with $228.4 million, while the Dodgers come in third with $199.6 million.

$74 — Money you'd win if you successfully bet $100 on the Red Sox to win the World Series.

$115 — Money you'd win if you successfully bet $100 on the Dodgers to win the World Series.

1 - Supposed belly-button ring infection that kept Chris Sale from his last start in the American League Championship Series.

1 - Throat-slashing gesture made by fiery Dodgers star Yasiel Puig after belting a three-run homer in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. He also engaged in multiple "crotch chops."

Should be a fun series. Let's play ball! Brendan Morrow

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