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May 11, 2017

Democrats and Republicans are closely watching any and all special elections that might prophesize how things could go in 2018. Democrats are hoping that President Trump's historically low job approval rating could carry their party to victory in close counties, while Republicans have celebrated victories in Kansas and sapped the momentum of a Democratic challenger in Georgia by forcing a runoff. Montana's special election is just around the corner, on May 25.

But Republicans still have every reason to be nervous, especially judging by the results of a special election in a deep-red county east of Oklahoma City. On Tuesday, Republican Zack Taylor managed to win 50-48 over his Democratic opponent, Steve Barnes, to seize the vacant 28th State House District seat — but the race should have been a landslide for the GOP. Mitt Romney carried the district 69-31 four years ago, and Trump won the region in November a whopping 73-23.

In other words, while a win is still a win, Taylor's victory marked a 48-point fall for the party in a Republican-friendly district in Oklahoma. The win was confirmed by just 56 votes.

While the left-leaning Daily Kos points out in its analysis of the election that other factors were at play, including "a savage and unresolved budget crisis presided over by the GOP," it also notes that "we've almost never seen anything this dramatic, but the outcome fits into a pattern we've witnessed ever since Trump's win last year. Nationwide, there have now been a dozen races pitting a Republican versus a Democrat in legislative and congressional special elections, and in nine of them, Democratic candidates have performed better than the 2016 presidential results." Jeva Lange

12:52 a.m.

Instead of giving Ka'Shawn Baldwin a ticket, Officer Roger Gemoules gave him a ride, and that made all the difference.

Baldwin, 22, of East St. Louis, Illinois, had to borrow a friend's car last Wednesday so he could get to a job interview with FedEx. Gemoules, an officer with the Cahokia Police Department, spotted the car and noticed it had expired tags. He pulled Baldwin over, and soon discovered that Baldwin didn't have a valid license. Baldwin explained that he was trying to get to a job interview, and driving his friend's car was the only way he could get there.

Baldwin said he was afraid Gemoules would tow the car and bring him down to the station, and he was stunned when Gemoules agreed to give him a ride to the interview. "He was polite when I pulled him over and he seemed like a good young man, so I wanted to give him a chance," Gemoules told KSDK. "I knew if I gave him a bunch of tickets and towed his car, it would bee tough to recover from." His kindness paid off: Baldwin got the job as a package handler at FedEx, and started on Tuesday. This is Baldwin's second job — he also works at a McDonald's, taking the bus 90 minutes each way — and his plan is to save up to get his license back, buy a car, and one day, purchase a house. Catherine Garcia

April 23, 2019

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told a town hall audience in Cherokee, Iowa, on Tuesday that being censured by his colleagues in the House for making racist remarks gave him "better insight" into what Jesus Christ "went through for us."

King, who is Catholic, didn't just come right out and compare himself to Jesus — The Sioux City Journal reports he was responding to an audience member, Rev. Pinky Person, who told King she believes Christians are being persecuted in the United States.

King has a long history of making inflammatory statements, and earlier this year, he was removed from all congressional committee assignments after asking during a New York Times interview when the terms "white nationalist," "white supremacist," and "Western civilization" became "offensive." The House voted 421-1 to rebuke King, and he referred to his colleagues on Tuesday night as his "accusers." He doesn't want anyone to worry about him, though; King told the audience he's "at a certain peace, and it is because of a lot of prayers for me." Catherine Garcia

April 23, 2019

Twitter and the White House were both mum about President Trump's meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey before it happened on Tuesday afternoon, and the participants were only slightly more forthcoming afterward. Trump — who requested the meeting — tweeted a photo of the Oval Office gathering, Dorsey responded by thanking Trump for discussing ways to make Twitter "healthier and more more civil," and Twitter said the meeting centered on "protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections and efforts underway to respond to the opioid crisis."

In fact, "a significant portion of the meeting focused on Trump's concerns that Twitter quietly, and deliberately, has limited or removed some of his followers," The Washington Post reports, citing a person with direct knowledge of the conversation. "Trump said he had heard from fellow conservatives who had lost followers for unclear reasons as well."

Dorsey explained to Trump that a user's follower count fluctuates as Twitter removes bots and fraudulent spam accounts, "noting even he had lost followers as part of Twitter's work to enforce its policies," the Post reports. Trump isn't the only conservative who has complained that Twitter secretly undermines their tweets — though he is one of the few users Twitter won't touch for violating the site's terms of service — but Twitter insists it is a politics-neutral platform, and the site's "heightened crackdown against spam," the Post notes, "long has affected both liberals and conservatives on the site." Peter Weber

April 23, 2019

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said Tuesday that he will fire senior officials who did not heed warnings that a Islamist group was plotting suicide attacks against churches in the country.

"I must be truthful and admit that there were lapses on the part of defense officials," he said. On Easter Sunday, coordinated suicide bombings at churches and hotels left more than 300 people dead and 500 more injured. Sirisena said officials were aware there "was an intelligence report on the attack," but he was "not kept informed."

Sirisena's senior adviser Shiral Lakthilaka announced that two positions are "earmarked for dismissal": secretary of the ministry of defense and inspector general of police. Critics say Sirisena has to take some of the blame, since he wouldn't let Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, his political rival, attend security meetings.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and posted a video online featuring an extremist preacher from Sri Lanka named Mohammed Zaharan. Officials suspect that Zaharan, who led a small group called National Thowfeek Jamaath that defaced Buddhist statues, was the attack's ringleader; his whereabouts are unknown, and officials believe he may have been a suicide bomber, The New York Times reports. Indian officials on Tuesday said they had been keeping an eye on Zaharan, as they suspected he was an online recruiter for ISIS. Catherine Garcia

April 23, 2019

President Trump does not want any current or former White House aides to testify in front of congressional panels in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, he told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

"There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it's very partisan — obviously very partisan," Trump said. The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena on Monday to former White House Counsel Don McGahn, asking him to turn over documents and testify next month. McGahn, cited 157 times in the Mueller report, discussed how Trump tried to get him to fire Mueller and then pressed him later to lie about it.

Two people with knowledge of the matter told the Post on Tuesday the White House will fight McGahn's subpoena, asserting executive privilege. This doesn't sound like a solid plan, former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste said. "It seems to me executive privilege was waived when McGahn was permitted to give testimony and to be interviewed by Special Counsel Mueller," he told the Post. "I don't see how the White House can assert executive privilege with something that has already been revealed. To use the Watergate expression, 'You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.'"

A person close to McGahn said while he's not "eager to testify," he's also "not reluctant." McGahn doesn't "want to be in contempt of Congress," the person added, "nor does he want to be in contempt of his ethical obligations and legal obligations as a former White House official." Catherine Garcia

April 23, 2019

There could soon be signs pointing to Trumptown, Donnieville, or MAGAland in the Golan Heights.

President Trump has been slapping his name on buildings, hotels, steaks, water bottles, defunct airlines, and non-accredited universities for decades, but finally, someone else is doing the work for him. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he wants to name a new settlement in the Golan after Trump, as a way of thanking him for reversing U.S. policy toward the region.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981. This move was widely condemned, and most of the international community does not recognize Israel's sovereignty over the area. Trump tweeted in March that he feels differently, and it's "time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's Sovereignty over the Golan Heights."

There are more than 30 Israeli settlements in the Golan, which are considered illegal under international law. Netanyahu said "all Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision," and after the Passover holiday, he will bring a resolution to the government calling for a new community to be named after Trump. Catherine Garcia

April 23, 2019

While on patrol in a remote area near Clint, Texas, earlier this month, two U.S. troops were confronted by Mexican soldiers, who thought the service members had crossed the southern border and were in Mexico, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The troops were stationed at the border as part of President Trump's plan to stop undocumented migrants from crossing into the United States. In a statement, U.S. Northern Command told The Associated Press that the incident occurred on April 13, taking place on a piece of U.S. territory south of the border wall but north of the actual border. Newsweek reports that the U.S. troops were in an unmarked car when Mexican soldiers approached them. They were searched, and one of the Americans reportedly had his gun removed from his hip and thrown inside the car.

Northern Command told AP there was a "brief discussion" between the soldiers, and then the Mexican troops left. "The U.S. soldiers immediately contacted [U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement], who responded quickly," Northern Command said in a statement. "Throughout the incident, the U.S. soldiers followed all established procedures and protocols." An investigation is now underway. Catherine Garcia

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