January 11, 2018

During a meeting with both Democratic and Republican senators on Thursday, President Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as "shithole countries," a Democratic aide told NBC News.

The lawmakers were in the Oval Office discussing changes to the visa lottery system and immigration as a whole, and when talk turned to immigrants from Africa, Trump asked why they would want people from "all these shithole countries" coming to the United States. Trump, who met with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Wednesday, then said the U.S. should try to instead attract people from Norway and similar countries.

In a statement, the White House did not dispute the remarks, merely saying Trump "will always fight for the American people." On MSNBC, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told Ari Melber Trump's comment "smacks of blatant racism. The most odious and insidious racism masquerading, poorly, as immigration policy. And, I'll be very blunt — the president doesn't speak for me as an American." Catherine Garcia

9:14 a.m.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says China wanted Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey fired over his Hong Kong tweet, but China is already denying it.

Silver spoke Thursday amid the ongoing controversy that began when Morey earlier this month tweeted his support for the pro-democracy, anti-Beijing Hong Kong protests. The NBA immediately distanced itself from his tweet in a statement, prompting criticism that it was kowtowing to the Chinese government due to the league's business in China.

Following that criticism, Silver defended Morey's freedom of speech, and he spoke further about the situation on Thursday, explaining that "we were being asked to fire [Morey], by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business,” The Washington Post reports. He added, "We said there's no chance that's happening."

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang claims there's no chance the request itself happened, saying the "Chinese government never posed this requirement," The Associated Press reports.

Silver also said Thursday the NBA's initial statement calling Morey's tweet regrettable was "misinterpreted," since it was referring to "the fact that we'd upset our Chinese fans" and "there was no regret directed to the [Chinese] government." China's state broadcaster in the aftermath of the tweet suspended the broadcast of NBA games, with Silver saying Thursday the "financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic." Brendan Morrow

8:02 a.m.

Mexican security forces on a routine patrol in the northern Mexican city of Culiacan came under fire from a house on Thursday, returned fire and took control of the house, and discovered among its four occupants Ovidio Guzman, one of jailed drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's sons and apparent successor as a leader in the Sinaloa cartel, Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said in a televised message Thursday night. Guzman's armed allies quickly arrived and "surrounded the house with a greater force," he added, and "other groups carried out violent actions against citizens in various points of the city, generating a situation of panic."

Durazo later told Reuters that the National Guard patrol released Guzman, in what the Los Angeles Times called "a stunning humiliation for the Mexican government" and a challenge to new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. "The decision was taken to retreat from the house, without Guzman, to try to avoid more violence in the area and preserve the lives of our personnel and recover calm in the city," Durazo told Reuters.

Along with losing Guzman, who the U.S. has indicted on drug trafficking charges along with older brother Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar, the state and federal police lost control of Culiacan. Video footage from the city "showed heavily armed men firing on police, with cars, bodies, and burning barricades strewn in the road," BBC News reports. Sinaloa state authorities advised residents to shelter in place as "fighters swarmed through the city, battling police and soldiers in broad daylight," Reuters reports. "They torched vehicles and left at least one gas station ablaze, and "a large group of inmates escaped from the city prison."

A rival cartel is suspected of ambushing and killing of 14 police officers in Michoacan state Monday, and the army killed 14 suspected gangsters the next day. Murders in Mexico are on track to hit a record high this year. Peter Weber

7:37 a.m.

After a delay, NASA is taking one giant leap with the first ever all-female spacewalk.

Astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are about to make history Friday morning when they begin the first spacewalk to be conducted entirely by women, CNET reports. The spacewalk outside the International Space Station is expected to last between five and six hours, NASA says, and it's being streamed live on NASA's YouTube channel.

This step was expected to be taken back in March, which would have aligned with Women's History Month, but it was canceled at the last minute — believe it or not, because NASA didn't have the right size suit for one of the astronauts. History will finally be made Friday, albeit seven months later than expected.

"It's wonderful to be contributing to the space program at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role," Koch told NASA.gov. "That can lead in turn to increased chance for success. There are a lot of people who derive motivation from inspiring stories of people who look like them, and I think it's an important story to tell."

NASA actually didn't plan the all-female spacewalk on purpose, though, noting it was simply "bound to happen eventually because of the increasing number of female astronauts." Meir will become only the 15th woman to spacewalk, with the first being Svetlana Savitskaya in 1984, CNN reports. Next up, NASA is looking to put the first woman on the moon by 2024. Brendan Morrow

6:45 a.m.

Some people are clearly happy about the five-day pause in fighting in northeastern Syria that Turkey and the U.S. negotiated Thursday — Turkey refuses to call it a ceasefire — giving America's Kurdish former allies a chance to retreat from a "safe zone" Turkey plans to carve out inside Syria.

President Trump called the deal "a great day for civilization," while Turkish officials and pro-government media hailed it as a "great victory" in which "Turkey got everything it wanted." The chaos in northeast Syria is also "proving to be a propaganda windfall" for the Islamic State, which is "racing to capitalize on the deteriorating security situation," The Washington Post reports.

But fighting continued Friday morning, with shelling and gunfire in the border towns of Ras al-Ayn and Ceylanpinar, The Associated Press and Reuters report, suggesting the truce hasn't gone into effect everywhere. Kurdish commanders, who had no part in Thursday's negotiations, suggested they would try to abide by the ceasefire unless attacked. An aide to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called Turkey's pause "ambiguous" and said Syria and its Russian allies might not sign on, BBC News reports.

The Kurds are also accusing Turkish-backed forces of using white phosphorous and possibly napalm against civilians in Ras al-Ayn. Turkey denies using the banned chemicals to burn and maim people, but photos of burned children from the area lend credence to the allegations, Foreign Policy reports. A senior U.S. administration official and an aid organization both confirmed that civilians have turned up with wounds consistent with white phosphorous, and the U.S. official told Foreign Policy that "Turkey will be held accountable by the international community for the crimes they commit against the Kurds."

At a rally in Dallas on Thursday night, Trump compared the battle between the Kurds and Turkey to "two kids in a lot," adding, "you've got to let them fight and then you pull them apart." He said the ceasefire never would have happened without the "tough love" he showed Turkey. Peter Weber

4:53 a.m.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry, one of President Trump's last remaining original Cabinet members, is resigning, Jimmy Kimmel noted on Thursday's Kimmel Live. "Man, when Ben Carson wakes up, he's gonna be, like, 'Where the hell is everybody?' The president reportedly blamed Rick Perry for getting him on that now-infamous call to Ukraine, but keep in mind, all though this story, the president and his admirers have been insisting that there was no quid pro quo. ... Then today, Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, went in front of reporters and blatantly admitted that there was."

"So all the bad stuff they've been saying the president didn't do, now they're saying he did it and he does it 'all the time'?" Kimmel asked. "Their defense has gone from 'If the glove doesn't fit you must acquit' to 'Gimme back my glove!'"

On top of everything else, the White House announced Thursday that "the president is generously renting his golf club out to all the leaders of the world" at next year's G7 summit in Miami, Kimmel deadpanned. "Most experts say this is a clear violation of the Emoluments Clause, which says the president, a president, cannot profit from a foreign government — although the G7 summit happens in June, which there's a good chance he might not be president by then." He laughed at the idea of Trump having "to watch President Pence chatting it up with the world leaders while he guzzles Diet Cokes in the clubhouse."

Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, "flew to Turkey to negotiate an agreement wherein Turkey gets everything they want and the United States gives it to them," while America's Kurdish allies die or flee and, "thanks to our genius commander-in-chief, the U.S. military is now bombing itself," Kimmel said. "Mission accomplished."

The Daily Show noted that Trump wasn't always so cavalier about the Kurds' well-being. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:32 a.m.

On Wednesday, 129 House Republicans joined every House Democrat to pass a nonbonding resolution condemning President Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces from northeastern Syria, paving the way for Turkey to invade and slaughter America's Kurdish allies. On Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the few senators to back Trump's policy, blocked that resolution from coming up for a vote, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) panned it as "backward looking," saying he would prefer "something even stronger."

The net effect was no action by the Senate. "History will show that the country, the Senate, and even the senator from Kentucky will regret blocking the resolution," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said afterward, referring to Paul. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced a bill to impose strict sanctions against Turkey, specifically targeting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but McConnell hasn't committed to taking it up.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) stepped into the inertia to publicly roast Trump's troop withdrawal, explain the accurately predicted consequences, and criticize the weak "pause" in fighting Turkey agreed to and Trump touted as a great victory:

The decision to abandon the Kurds violates one of our most sacred duties. It strikes at American honor. What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a blood stain in the annals of American history. There are broad strategic implications of our decision as well. Iranian and Russian interests in the Middle East have been advanced by our decision. ... Russia's objective to play a greater role in the Middle East has also been greatly enhanced. The Kurds, out of desperation, have now aligned with [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad. So America is diminished; Russia, Iran, and Assad are strengthened. [Mitt Romney]

Romney went through various defenses of Trump's policy and rebutted them. "Are we incapable of understanding and shaping complex situations? Russia seems to have figured it out," he said. "Are we so weak and so inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey?" Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

The flower girls stole the show at Lyndsey Raby's wedding, just like she knew they would.

Donning matching blue dresses, Lyndsey's grandmothers — Betty Brown, 72, Kathleen Brown, 90, Wanda Grant, 76, and Joyce Raby, 72 — made their way down the aisle ahead of her during the Sept. 22 nuptials in Benton, Tennessee. "I'm so lucky," Lyndsey told Today Style. "A lot of women don't get one grandparent at their wedding, and I was blessed to have all of them."

The flower girls had a blast, although there was a bit of a disagreement over the dresses, Lyndsey said — her grandmother Betty Brown insisted they wear something long, while Betty's mother Kathleen Brown, Lyndsey's great-grandmother, would have preferred something shorter. The newest member of the family is Joyce Raby, Lyndsey's husband Tanner's grandmother, and she has already bonded with the crew. "They're all besties now, and talking on Facebook," Lyndsey said. "Family is the most important thing to all of us." Catherine Garcia

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