April 23, 2017

“We're going to get paid for it one way or the other," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said of President Trump's proposed border wall while speaking with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. After raising the issue, Stephanopoulos asked if Sessions has any evidence Mexico will fund construction, as Trump repeatedly promised on the campaign trail.

Sessions conceded he does not expect the government of Mexico to "appropriate money," but maintained the United States has other options to get money from Mexicans. We could "deal with our trade situation to create the revenue," he suggested, or, "I know there's $4 billion a year in excess payments," Sessions continued, "tax credits that they shouldn't get. Now, these are mostly Mexicans. And those kind of things add up — $4 billion a year for 10 years is $40 billion."

Sessions appears to be referencing a 2011 audit report Trump also cited while campaigning. As Politifact explains, the report said that in 2011, $4.2 billion in child tax credits was paid to people filing income taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number. Some of these filers are illegal immigrants, but many are legal foreign workers, and the audit did not say how many are Mexican.

"The vast majority of that $4.2 billion, the filer may be undocumented, but you have to have a child to receive it," said Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "And the children are overwhelmingly U.S. citizens." Watch an excerpt of Sessions' remarks below. Bonnie Kristian

8:39 a.m.

The United States is aiming to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade, President Biden has announced.

The White House confirmed on Thursday that the administration is setting a goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas pollution by 50 to 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, and Biden spoke on this target during a climate summit with world leaders that took place on Earth Day.

"Scientists tell us this is the decisive decade," Biden said. "This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis."

The target, The New York Times wrote, was a "significant step up" from the pledge for a between 26 to 28 percent reduction by 2025 that was set under former President Barack Obama. An official told CNN the more ambitious target unveiled Thursday would give the United States "significant leverage" to convince other countries to step up their goals ahead of this year's climate summit in Glasgow.

"The steps our countries take between now and Glasgow will set the world up for success," Biden said during his Thursday remarks.

The president didn't go into details about how the U.S. plans to meet this new goal, but a senior administration official told CNN that "achieving that target is something we can do in multiple ways." Brendan Morrow

7:49 a.m.

Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to continue their ban on earmarks — or money for special projects — but "the whole debate was pretty much for show because GOP senators can take earmarks with or without the ban," Politico reports. Senate rules allow earmarks, and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) reportedly told his colleagues at their private lunch, "You can't stop me." Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also said she plans on trying to nail down earmarks for projects in Maine. House Republicans dumped their earmarks ban last week.

Several Senate Republicans expected to run for president, including Ted Cruz (Texas), Tom Cotton (Ark.), and Josh Hawley (Mo.), have decried earmarks as wasteful and corrupt. But here's "a fun little side drama to all of this," Politico added:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), a fan of earmarks, had been telling appropriators that his pal [former President Donald] Trump was about to weigh in with a letter endorsing the controversial practice — giving cover to Republicans worried about blowback. But some Republicans snickered at Graham’s assurance, wondering whether Trump even knew what an earmark was. More likely, they speculated Graham was trying to make it seem like Trump supported earmarks. Whatever the case, the promised letter from Trump never materialized. [Politico]

Whatever Trump's views on earmarks, or lack thereof, former Vice President Mike Pence's new organization tweeted they "just make it easier to enact the Biden-Harris-Pelosi-Schumer agenda." Presumably, he meant that in a bad way.

Senate Republicans also approved a resolution to oppose raising the debt ceiling without corresponding spending cuts. That resolution is also nonbinding, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) called it "aspirational," but if Republicans follow through, it could set up another high-stakes debt ceiling showdown this summer. Peter Weber

6:41 a.m.

In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) asked Georgia voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams if she could list the specific things she objects to in Georgia's restrictive new voting law. She could. "It's a long list," the Senate Democrats' Twitter account said, helping the exchange go viral on Wednesday. Kennedy and Abrams are both very smart lawyers who graduated at the top of their class at elite universities, MSNBC's Brian Williams noted Wednesday night, setting up the clip.

"Is that everything?" Kennedy asked about 90 seconds into Abrams' recitation. "No it is not, no sir," she replied, laughing. We never find out where her list ended, though, because Kennedy finally threw in the towel. "Okay, I get the idea," he said "I get the idea." Peter Weber

5:39 a.m.

"Tomorrow, President Biden and 40 other world leaders are kicking off a big virtual climate summit," Jimmy Fallon said on Wednesday's Tonight Show. "They're meeting virtually because of the pandemic, otherwise they would have flown 40 different private jets to a meeting about the climate. The guest list includes Vladimir Putin, Bill Gates, Pope Francis, and one very stressed-out IT guy."

The Late Late Show's James Corden, after wishing the queen a happy birthday, tried to make a joke about Biden cutting hot air emissions, and it mostly went nowhere.

Los Angeles once again has the dirtiest air in the country, Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "All the benefits of us not driving during the pandemic were wiped out by the wildfires caused by climate change, which was caused by all the driving we did before the pandemic. It's what you call a Catch 2022."

Lots of people spoke out after a Minneapolis jury convicted Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, Kimmel said, "but none spoke less eloquently than Tucker Carlson of Fox News," who "had a little explosion in his head" when a guest unexpectedly criticized Chauvin. MyPillow guy Mike Lindell, a Kimmel Live guest next week, "he's bananas all the time, he's consistent," Kimmel said. "Tucker Carlson just lets little bursts of it slip out, like the Joker or something. Meanwhile, the Penguin, Chris Christie, may be throwing his top hat in the ring."

Christie "thinks he might do well in the polls, as long as None of the Above doesn't run again," Seth Meyers joked at Late Night. After the Chauvin denouement, "Tucker Carlson claimed the jury was intimidated into the guilty verdict by the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement — which is frustrating for Carlson, because he put a lot of work into intimidating that jury."

Meanwhile, "there's big science news out of Texas, where a Republican state legislator wants to legalize deer cloning," so ranchers can breed bigger hunting prey, Stephen Colbert noted at The Late Show. "One Texas rancher says he's cloned somewhere between 35 and 40 deer over the past decade. So, there are a bunch of deer clones out there already? You know what this means? Texas is about to open Deerasic Park. 'Don't move, or they'll nibble your hydrangeas!'"

The Late Show also turned that story into an animated Bambi Returns: The Clone Wars. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:25 a.m.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced Wednesday that his office will no longer prosecute prostitution and unlicensed massage, and moved to dismiss nearly 6,000 cases dating back to the 1970s. Along with seeking to vacate 878 open prostitution cases and 36 unlicensed massage cases, Vance asked the Manhattan Criminal Court to discharge 5,080 cases where the main offense was "loitering for the purpose of prostitution." New York State scrapped that "loitering" crime, known as "walking while trans," in February.

Many of the cases Vance requested dismissed "dated to the 1970s and 1980s, when New York waged a war against prostitution in an effort to clean up its image as a center of iniquity and vice," The New York Times notes. The cases "are both a relic of a different New York, and a very real burden for the person who carries the conviction or bench warrant," Vance said in a statement. "Over the last decade we've learned from those with lived experience, and from our own experience on the ground: Criminally prosecuting prostitution does not make us safer, and too often, achieves the opposite result by further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers."

While sex workers won't face charges, Vance's office confirmed "it will not change the office's existing approach to arresting patrons of prostitution," NPR News reports. The Manhattan D.A. will also "prosecute other crimes related to prostitution," including "promoting prostitution and sex trafficking," the Times adds. "That means, in effect, that the office will continue to prosecute pimps and sex traffickers, as well as people who pay for sex, continuing to fight those who exploit or otherwise profit from prostitution."

Vance is the highest-profile prosecutor to shift away from prosecuting sex workers, but the movement is gaining steam. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City's other boroughs have all stopped prosecuting prostitution to varying degrees. Peter Weber

2:25 a.m.

India on Thursday reported 314,835 new COVID-19 cases in the country over the previous 24 hours, the highest one-day case count of the coronavirus pandemic. Another 2,104 people died from the disease, the health ministry said, bringing India's official total to 184,657 deaths. India's second wave of COVID-19, fueled by new variants and loosened mitigation measures, has led to a shortage of hospital beds and medical oxygen for COVID-19 patients. The previous one-day record was from the U.S. on Jan. 8.

"As cases worldwide reach new weekly records, 40 percent of the infections are coming from India, a sobering reminder that the pandemic is far from over, even as infections decline and vaccinations speed ahead in the United States and other wealthy parts of the world," The New York Times reports. India's new seven-day average of more than 1,300 COVID-19 deaths a day "is less than at the worst points of the pandemic in the United States or Brazil, but it is a steep increase from just two months ago, when fewer than 100 people in India were dying daily."

The oxygen shortage is so acute that the New Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the government to "beg, borrow, or steal" oxygen from industrial and other sources and give it to hospitals. There are so few hospital beds that India's government, criticized for holding mass rallies and allowing super-spreader Hindu festivals to take place, has turned 75 railroad coaches into mobile COVID-19 hospitals. Peter Weber

1:18 a.m.

At least four people were killed and 12 injured late Wednesday night when a car bomb exploded outside the luxury Serena Hotel in Quetta, Pakistan.

The hotel is where visiting diplomats and government officials typically stay while in Quetta, and Pakistan's interior minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, told ARY News TV that while Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong was a guest at the hotel, he was not there when the blast occurred.

Quetta is in the Balochistan province, near the Afghan border. There have been several recent attacks in the area by militants who want independence from Pakistan and an end to Chinese infrastructure projects in the province, BBC News reports. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the bombing. Catherine Garcia

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