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September 18, 2017

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer burst onto the scene with his boasts about the crowd size at President Trump's inauguration. In his first-ever press briefing the Saturday after Inauguration Day, Spicer scolded reporters for suggesting that the turnout for Trump's big day was anything short of huge, insisting — regardless of photos and Washington Metro ridership suggesting otherwise — that this "was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in-person and around the globe."

Now, he wishes he could take it all back.

The morning after he poked fun at himself in a surprise Emmys cameo on Sunday night, Spicer admitted to The New York Times that he regrets making those claims. "Of course I do, absolutely," Spicer said.

Still, Spicer said he certainly hopes Trump doesn't take offense at his performance mocking his crowd size claims, as this was just "an attempt to poke a little fun at myself." Spicer admitted he didn't give the White House any advanced warning of his appearance.

In fact, Spicer said he didn't really tell anyone. When he and his wife departed for Los Angeles, he was wearing a disguise. The Times reported that Spicer "wouldn't say what it was, though a friend of his hinted that it might have included fake facial hair."

Read more at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

2:47 p.m.

President Trump has announced the postponement of an upcoming event, but not the one House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had in mind.

Trump said in a letter to Pelosi Thursday afternoon that an upcoming, previously-unannounced trip she had planned to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan, is off. This comes one day after Pelosi wrote a letter to Trump suggesting he delay the State of the Union. "In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate," Trump wrote to Pelosi.

While Trump doesn't actually mention the State of the Union in his letter, it's hard not to see this as a direct response to that seeing as Pelosi's rationale for postponing Trump's address was that it should not take place as long as the government is shut down. Trump told Pelosi that she's welcome to still go on the trip if she doesn't use military aircraft, writing, "Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative." Fox News' John Roberts reports that Trump's letter to Pelosi was delivered not long before she was set to leave.

Read Trump's letter below. Brendan Morrow

2:37 p.m.

A new program in California is helping former inmates get back on their feet by pairing them up with people who have rooms to spare, NPR reports.

The Homecoming Project, run by nonprofit organization Impact Justice in Alameda County, California, gives subsidies to those who are willing to rent a room to a recently-released former inmate. The group covers the formerly incarcerated person's rent for six months and goes through a lengthy screening process to find a good home for them. Not only does the organization aim to help former inmates return to a normal life as quickly as possible rather going from prison into restricted communal living, but they also hope to fight misconceptions about ex-convicts in general, they told NPR.

"Project Homecoming says you're a person and we're going to treat you like a person and give you the footholds and the scaffolding to be able to come back home and to be a full member of society just like anybody else," said Alex Busansky, who runs Impact Justice.

Coordinator Terah Lawyer also told NPR that "most of our hosts are familiar with redemption and change and want to be a part of helping be the stepping stone for someone's second chance." There are currently only six former inmates participating in the program, but Impact Justice says it is looking to expand to 25 this year. Brendan Morrow

1:55 p.m.

The Trump administration has owned up to taking 2,737 migrant children from their families after they crossed the border. A government report shows that number is probably way off.

Family separation is largely attributed to Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, and previous counts usually just included children split from their parents after the policy took effect in spring 2018. But the Office of Refugee Resettlement actually saw a "steep increase" in family separations that started in summer 2017, a report issued Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services' Inspector General says. "Thousands of children may have been separated" during that time, the report says — and the government never tracked just how many.

Even before zero tolerance took hold, "HHS faced significant challenges identifying which children in its care had been separated by" the Department of Homeland Security, and which had just arrived alone, assistant inspector general Ann Maxwell told BuzzFeed News. That meant the government had no accurate count of which children were separated, and couldn't easily find those children's families after a July 2018 lawsuit ordered their reunification. Separated children "were still being identified more than five months after the original court order" to find their families or sponsors, the report says.

Since the lawsuit, DHS intake forms now indicate whether a child was separated and include parental information. But Maxwell is still skeptical if they've recorded enough data to eventually reunite a child with their family, she told reporters Thursday. Based on this report, the inspector general's office plans to issue recommendations to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Read more about the report's findings at BuzzFeed News and read the whole report here. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:20 p.m.

Hollywood has spent more than a decade trying to get a Monopoly movie made, and they're still not giving up.

A film based on the popular board game is moving forward at Lionsgate, with Kevin Hart starring in the lead role and Tim Story (Ride Along) directing, Deadline reports. Hart, who has also signed on to produce, confirmed the news with an Instagram post.

This is the first we've heard about the Monopoly movie in nearly four years, as it was reported in July 2015 that it would be happening at Lionsgate, but there had been no updates since then. Attempts to turn the board game into a movie stretch back much further than that, though. Ridley Scott was set to direct back in 2008, as Slashfilm reported at the time. Universal eventually dumped the movie, only for it to be revived in 2015.

Although there's not much by way of a storyline or characters to adapt from Monopoly, that's not stopping Hasbro, which is probably targeting the success of 2014's The Lego Movie, as well as Hart's live-action family friendly hits like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. With Hart on board, could it finally be time for this project to pass go and collect $200? Lionsgate can certainly hope. Brendan Morrow

1:06 p.m.

Brexit just keeps getting even more complicated.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's plan to pull Britain out of the E.U. failed spectacularly Tuesday, leaving her Conservative Party scrambling to formulate a new deal for leaving the coalition. A vote on that yet unrevealed "Plan B" is scheduled for Jan. 29, but May wants a little help from her opposition before that happens, Al Jazeera reports.

In Tuesday's Parliament vote, Labour Party MPs and even May's Conservative colleagues resoundingly voted down the prime minister's slow Brexit pullout, 432-202. May will have to win back those defectors to formulate a deal before the country's scheduled March 29 exit. Otherwise, the country will depart without a deal, postpone its departure, or schedule a second referendum on Brexit.

May has since asked for the opposition party's help in figuring things out. But Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is telling his party not to talk unless "the threat of a disastrous no-deal outcome is ruled out," he said Thursday, per Reuters. Corbyn has also said he'd consider a second Brexit referendum. Seeing as a no-deal Brexit could throw Britain's trade deals into chaos, May isn't pushing for that option like some of her party colleagues. But she also won't postpone the departure or allow another referendum, leaving the whole debacle in very shaky territory.

Regardless, a vote on May's next Brexit plan is slated for Jan. 29, House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said Thursday, per Reuters. That doesn't leave much time for the opposing parties to get talking, especially since Leadsom said May would discuss her next steps on Monday. Read more about what comes next at Al Jazeera. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:28 p.m.

Louis C.K. is at it again.

The comedian in another graphic stand-up set Wednesday made the most direct reference yet to his sexual misconduct scandal, joking about the situation by saying, "I like to jerk off, and I don't like being alone," The Daily Beast reports. C.K. in 2017 was fired from all of his Hollywood jobs after admitting to masturbating in front of unsuspecting women, including at work. In previous stand-up sets that have been leaked, C.K. made vague references to having lost work and getting "in trouble" but did not directly mention the behavior that was first reported by The New York Times.

C.K. reportedly told the audience Wednesday that they had come to see him despite having "read the worst possible things you could read about a person." He also defended his increasingly controversial recent material, including a set that went viral in which he made fun of school shooting victims. "The whole point of comedy is to say things that you shouldn't say," C.K. argued, also commenting on being in the news over those jokes by saying that "if you ever need people to forget that you jerked off, what you do is you make a joke about kids that got shot."

Although C.K. didn't tell the school shooting joke again, he did repeat a widely criticized joke from his leaked December set about Asian men and threw in some new ones about 9/11, dead babies, and mentally challenged children. He also reportedly suggested that porn prevents men from molesting coworkers. The Daily Beast writes that although the crowd seemed to be with C.K. for the first half of the show, by the time he started joking about September 11th, "the energy started to go downhill" and "there were a lot of groans." Brendan Morrow

11:47 a.m.

A Democratic member of Congress is doubling down on her claim that her Republican colleague has been "compromised."

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was questioned on CNN Thursday morning about her tweet from the previous day, in which she said that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), once a critic of President Trump but now a supporter, "is compromised!" On Thursday, she repeated that statement and said that Graham has made "not only a 180 [degree] turnaround but a 360 [degree] turnaround" in terms of his Trump support, and so "I am pretty sure there is something happening with him."

As far as what that something is, she wasn't sure but speculated it could be "something that has to do with his funding when it comes to running for office," or "the polling that they might have in his district," or perhaps "some sort of leadership within the Senate." Regardless, he is "somehow compromised to no longer stand up for the truth," she said, also suggesting Graham is no longer fulfilling the oath he took.

CNN's Jim Sciutto responded that this is "quite a charge to make," asking her for evidence. She responded that the "evidence really is present to us" based on Graham's behavior, but when Poppy Harlow pointed out that "that's not evidence," she conceded that it's "just an opinion." She added, "I am pretty sure there are lots of Americans who agree on this." Watch the exchange on CNN below. Brendan Morrow

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