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January 11, 2018

President Trump on Thursday appeared bewildered by his own administration's goals, tweeting out his disapproval of a House bill reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — a contradiction of the White House's official position — before tacking his support back onto it an hour and a half later.

As Jonathan Chait observed at New York, Trump's initial tweet was apparently a response to Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano, who advised Trump on TV against the reauthorization of the bill. "The president's alarm was unfortunate, since the Trump administration strongly supports reauthorization of this law," Chait writes. "It has sent its highest-ranking security officials to lobby Congress for reauthorization, and reiterated its endorsement of the law as recently as last night."

Someone in the White House perhaps intercepted Trump before he could do more damage, as the president tweeted this later in the morning:

At least a few Republicans were relieved by the correction. "The House should pass the #FISA HPSCI compromise bill as is," tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). "This program is about stopping terrorists and keeping the U.S. safe, and it protects the privacy of American citizens." Jeva Lange

12:02 p.m. ET
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Yale Law School professor Amy Chua told law students that it was "not an accident" that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's female law clerks all "looked like models," The Guardian reported Thursday.

Chua, who has hailed Kavanaugh as a "mentor to women," played a key role in selecting and vetting clerks for the judge. She reportedly told female students that she could advise them on their physical appearance and how they dressed, in order to help give them a "model-like" look that she said would help boost their odds of working for Kavanaugh.

Another Yale professor, Jed Rubenfeld, who is Chua's husband, reportedly told a prospective clerk that she "should know that Judge Kavanaugh hires women with a certain look." Chua, who wrote the controversial 2011 book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, told the same student that she should dress in an "outgoing" way for an interview with Kavanaugh. Rubenfeld and Chua were not known to give similar advice to students seeking jobs with other judges, The Guardian reports.

"I have no reason to believe he was saying, 'Send me the pretty ones,'" said one student, "but rather that he was reporting back and saying, 'I really like so and so,' and the way he described them led [Chua and Rubenfeld] to form certain conclusions." When Chua said that Kavanaugh's clerks "looked like models," students noted that Chua's daughter was poised to work for Kavanaugh. Chua reportedly said that her daughter would not tolerate any inappropriate behavior.

Rubenfeld said in a statement that he has "reason to suspect" he is facing "false allegations," and Chua said that Kavanaugh "only hires those who are extraordinarily qualified." Yale said it would "look into these claims promptly." Read more at The Guardian. Summer Meza

10:45 a.m. ET
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Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are increasingly cracking down on noncriminal immigrants.

ICE arrests of people without criminal records has increased 66 percent this year, The Associated Press reported Thursday. Meanwhile, arrests of convicts rose less than 2 percent.

"Unshackling ICE has really allowed it to go after more individuals," Sarah Pierce, an analyst for the nonpartisan think tank Migration Policy Institute, told AP. She called the dramatic increase in noncriminal immigrant arrests "a defining characteristic of this administration's approach to immigration."

In 2017, there was a 174 percent increase in noncriminal immigrant deportations compared to the previous year, while the number of immigrants expelled who had convictions rose less than 13 percent.

The Trump administration has touted an ICE report that said 56 percent of its deportations in 2017 were among people with criminal convictions, but AP notes that President Trump's hard-line approach to immigration has led to a sharp uptick in deportations for people with lower-level infractions. The Bush administration deported even more noncriminal immigrants, ICE data shows, and the Obama administration deported record numbers of immigrants but decreased the number of noncriminal deportations.

Comparatively, ICE is more recently increasing the number of arrests among immigrants already living in the U.S. — often for many years — rather than focusing efforts on illegal border crossings. Experts say ICE will continue targeting "low-hanging fruit," like noncriminal immigrants involved in traffic violations, in order to keep increasing numbers. Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

10:42 a.m. ET
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When Solo: A Star Wars Story severely underperformed at the box office this summer, fans everywhere debated what went wrong. Now, the CEO of Disney himself is taking the fall.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he made a "mistake" by scheduling so many Star Wars movies back-to-back, adding that he "made the timing decision." "I take the blame," he said. "[It] was a little too much, too fast." Going forward, Iger said Disney will be "a little bit more careful about volume and timing." Iger did not cite specific box office figures or even mention Solo by name, but he was responding directly to a question about whether Disney should "pump the brakes and not put out a Star Wars movie each year."

Solo only made $213 million domestically this past summer, per Box Office Mojo. Its predecessor, The Last Jedi, made $620 million. The film before that, Rogue One, made $532 million. Adjusting for inflation, Solo was the worst-performing Star Wars movie of all time. It was also the first movie in the long-running series to be released less than one year after the previous one, hitting theaters in May 2018, just five months after The Last Jedi.

Box office analysts have speculated this scheduling hurt Solo's chances of financial success, as moviegoers needed more time before wanting to see another Star Wars adventure in theaters. There has been a new installment of the iconic franchise every year since 2015.

It appears the man at the top agrees, if his conversation with The Hollywood Reporter is any indication. Fans can "expect some slowdown" in the Star Wars series going forward, Iger said. Read his full interview at The Hollywood Reporter. Brendan Morrow

9:57 a.m. ET
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You know how when you scarf down your brunch a little too quickly, you get the hiccups? That's sort of what it's like when you're a Supreme Court nominee accused of sexual assault, one Republican senator said Wednesday.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), one of the GOP's most vulnerable senators in this fall's midterm cycle, held a "'VIP' conference call" Wednesday in which he described California professor Christine Ford's allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s as a "little hiccup" on the road to confirmation, The Nevada Independent reported Wednesday. "We'll get through this, and we'll get off to the races," Heller reportedly said.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have indicated that they will forge ahead with Kavanaugh's embattled nomination, while President Trump has also signaled continuing support for his second Supreme Court nominee. Ford and Kavanaugh were set to testify publicly to the Senate on the matter Monday, but it's unclear whether Ford will actually agree to appear before lawmakers. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) gave Ford until Friday morning to decide whether she'll testify. Kavanaugh has steadfastly denied Ford's allegations.

Heller is facing Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) in a tight race this fall, with Real Clear Politics showing the two in a virtual tie in its latest polling average. He has supported Kavanaugh's nomination since Trump tapped the D.C. judge in July and has remained confident that Kavanaugh will be confirmed — "little hiccup" and all. Kimberly Alters

9:38 a.m. ET
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In a move right out of President Trump's playbook, researchers want to solve the world's problems by building a wall.

Some scientists say that building underwater walls could help prevent glaciers from melting away too quickly and contributing to rising sea levels, The Guardian reported Thursday. The Band-Aid solution would help slow the effects of climate change and buy some time to keep warmer water from reaching the glaciers and causing even faster melting.

"We are imagining very simple structures, simply piles of gravel or sand on the ocean floor," geoscience researcher Michael Wolovick told The Guardian. Wolovick and other researchers at Princeton University found that creating a structure near the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica would have a 30 percent chance of preventing a collapse of the surrounding ice sheet. A 980-foot structure could be made of already-excavated material, turning it into columns or mounds. A more solid underwater wall could have a 70 percent chance of blocking warm water from the Antarctic ice sheet.

Wolovick notes that the solution would merely be a temporary fix, and that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the way to actually keep glaciers from melting. Disintegrating ice is sending fresh water into the world's oceans, which means rising sea levels and therefore even more glacier melt. But until then, he said, underwater walls are "within the order of magnitude of plausible human achievements." Read more at The Guardian. Summer Meza

9:27 a.m. ET
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British audiences have been going nuts over the drama series Bodyguard — and now, the rest of the world will see what all the fuss is about.

Netflix has picked up the distribution rights to Bodyguard, a massively popular six-part BBC miniseries starring Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes, per Deadline. The show will air its finale Sunday before coming to Netflix on Oct. 24; the streaming service bought the rights to showcase the series outside of the U.K. and Ireland.

Created by Jed Mercurio, Bodyguard is a thriller revolving around a war veteran who is assigned to protect an important government official, with whom he soon begins a relationship. It has been a huge hit in the U.K., with the first episode scoring an audience of 10.4 million viewers — the best debut for any new drama in the U.K. since 2006, per BBC. Deadline reports that Netflix has been involved with Bodyguard since the writing phase.

This is the latest example of Netflix releasing a British series to audiences outside of the U.K., having previously distributed shows like The End of the F***ing World, Wanderlust, and Black Mirror. With Black Mirror, Netflix fully took over the show from Channel 4 rather than just release episodes that were produced in Britain, and The Telegraph reports that there may be a fight between BBC and Netflix over the rights to a possible second season of Bodyguard should one go into production. Brendan Morrow

8:50 a.m. ET
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One of the red-state Democrats thought to have been a potential "yes" vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has come out against his nomination, though it's not because of the recent sexual assault allegation made against him.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said in a news release Wednesday that although the "recent allegations against [Kavanaugh] are troubling," she's voting "no" because of his positions on a few important issues, namely campaign finance. McCaskill expressed her disagreement with what she called Kavanaugh's "bias against limits on campaign donations," saying she thinks he'll "give free reign to anonymous donors and foreign governments" to influence elections.

While specifying that Christine Blasey Ford's recent allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were both in high school is not the reason she's voting no, the senator did say this claim should receive a "fair examination by the Senate Judiciary Committee." Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.

McCaskill's opposition to Kavanaugh is noteworthy because she's up for re-election this November in a state that President Trump won in 2016, so there was some speculation she would vote to confirm the president's pick, as Talking Points Memo points out. Still, Republicans have a 51-seat majority in the Senate, so if all of them stick together, Kavanaugh will still be confirmed without needing any Democratic support. Brendan Morrow

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