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January 12, 2018

A growing number of pregnant Russian women have been traveling to Miami to give birth, with the wealthier ones buying birth tourism packages and those of more modest means putting together DIY packages. Giving birth in the U.S., and Miami in particular, is a status symbol in Moscow, NBC News reports, and the big draw is birthright citizenship. All children born in the U.S. are U.S. citizens. "The child gets a lifelong right to live and work and collect benefits in the U.S." NBC News says. "And when they turn 21 they can sponsor their parents' application for an American green card."

President Trump, a critic of birthright citizenship, has been insisting on getting rid of such "chain migration" in immigration talks going on in Washington. But as The Daily Beast reported last year, Trump-branded condos in Miami, especially its Sunny Isles Beach area — dubbed "Little Russia" — are especially popular birth tourism bases for women who can afford the rent. Some Russian birth tourism outfits tout the Trump name in their packages. "There is no indication that Trump or the Trump Organization is profiting directly from birth tourism," NBC News says, though The Daily Beast notes that Trump's company "does benefit from Russian patronage of the nearby Trump International Beach Resort."

Birth tourism is perfectly legal — for now — as long as the birth tourists don't lie on their immigration or insurance forms, and California is a popular destination for Chinese mothers-to-be — as Jeb Bush awkwardly highlighted in 2015. There are no official numbers for how many foreign women come to the U.S. to give birth to U.S. citizens each year, but Florida says the number of births there by all foreign nationals who live outside the U.S. has spiked 200 percent since 2000. Peter Weber

7:53 a.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller faced a midnight deadline Friday to file a memo with his recommendations for the sentencing of Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chair, who was convicted last year of eight counts of financial fraud. Contrary to expectations, the memo was not released to the public.

Friday's filing was sent to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, possibly under seal and with a request for redact some material before public release. If that is the case, Jackson would determine whether and how to publish the document.

A previous sentencing memo from Mueller's office recommended Manafort be sentenced to between 19 and 25 years in prison, a penalty that could see him spend the rest of his life behind bars. The sentencing is scheduled for March 13. Bonnie Kristian

February 22, 2019

The Trump investigations aren't stopping at Russia.

President Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen has fully flipped, sharing his accounts of working with Trump with both federal and New York prosecutors. Part of that testimony includes "possible irregularities" within Trump Organization business dealings, specifically involving insurance claims and the Trump inaugural committee, The New York Times reports.

Trump's inaugural committee has reportedly been under investigation for how it spent its $107 million haul, and whether the committee's biggest donors sought special favors from the incoming Trump administration for their donations. Cohen, meanwhile, has reportedly given Manhattan prosecutors details about dealings between the Trump organization and inaugural committee donor Imaad Zuberi. Zuberi donated $900,000 "around the time ... he also tried to hire Cohen as a consultant and wrote him a substantial check," Cohen has told prosecutors, the Times says. It's unclear if prosecutors even think Cohen's word is credible, but it does suggest they're digging deeper into Trump's personal and business life.

Cohen reached a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller last year, pledging cooperation with Mueller's probe into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian election interference. He recently had his report date for a prison sentence pushed back to May, giving him time to testify before Congress on a still-unscheduled day. Read more about what he's reportedly already shared at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 22, 2019

President Trump might be the only person in the White House looking forward to his meeting with Kim Jong Un.

When Trump scheduled a second meeting with the North Korean leader for next week, the news apparently wasn't well-received by his advisers. They're not just worried that a second meetup with produce not-so-historic results, but also that Trump may mess up a denuclearization deal completely, Politico reports.

Trump and Kim met last June in Singapore, signing what the White House called a "historic" commitment to denuclearization and what others called a "nothingburger." Trump has since gone on about the "beautiful letters" Kim has sent him, and said this second conference in Vietnam will help make North Korea an "economic powerhouse." His advisers reportedly don't agree.

Among the "skeptics" is, surprisingly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Politico says. He's continued to meet with Kim and other North Korean officials, but thinks those same people will steamroll Trump completely, one source says. And even if Trump does hold his own, "Pompeo believes the North Koreans are just playing for time" and won't hand over "anything of substance on denuclearization," foreign policy expert Ian Bremmer tells Politico. National Security Adviser John Bolton, meanwhile, hasn't even pretended he's onboard.

The State Department declined to comment, and Bolton's spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 22, 2019

After months of endless confusion and controversy, the 2019 Oscars is nearly here. Here's what to expect from what could be the most bizarre Academy Awards in years:

1. Roma wins Best Picture: Netflix's film is the heavy favorite, although the Academy has never chosen a foreign-language Best Picture, so don't count out Green Book. In fact, nearly all of the nominees have a shot — yes, even Bohemian Rhapsody. Roma's Alfonso Cuarón should also take Best Director.

2. Rami Malek, Glenn Close, Mahershala Ali, and Regina King win: The four acting prizes look essentially locked up, although there could potentially be an upset win for Rachel Weisz over King.

3. No host, but plenty of presenters: The Academy is proceeding without a host for the first time in three decades, and the show is expected to rely on presenters to keep the night moving — including some from outside of Hollywood like Serena Williams and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). The last host-less Oscars was an infamous disaster, so is another train wreck in store?

4. Musical performances: The songs are back on after the Academy briefly considered cutting all but two, although Black Panther's Kendrick Lamar and SZA won't be coming. Still, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga will sing "Shallow," and Jennifer Hudson, Bette Midler, and Queen + Adam Lambert will also perform.

5. The Academy put on blast? Almost everyone had a reason to be mad at the Academy's leadership over the past six months due to a variety of since-rescinded changes, including a proposal to not give out all the awards live. After the most contentious Oscars rollout ever, don't be surprised to see a rogue presenter — Frances McDormand, anyone? — call out the producers and speak against similarly awful tweaks to 2020's show.

6. So much for three hours: Remember when the Academy vowed to rein the show into a tight three hours? Well, they've since given up, so expect another late night. Brendan Morrow

February 22, 2019

Reports of the Mueller report may have been greatly exaggerated.

On Wednesday, sources told CNN that Attorney General William Barr will announce the completion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe "as early as next week." Now, a senior Justice Department official is telling NBC News that's not quite true.

Mueller has been investigating potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian election interference for nearly two years, and has levied indictments against or negotiated plea deals with 37 people. Still, as NBC News reported Friday, the Justice Department isn't expecting to hear everything from him next week. And when Mueller does drop the details, Barr will still have to read it and write a summary of the confidential report that he'll give to Congress.

If you're still itching for details, Mueller's sentencing memorandum in his case against ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort is due Friday at midnight. The report will contain pretty much everything prosecutors want a judge to know before Manafort's March 13 sentencing, CNN notes.

Meanwhile, reports are also saying Mueller will issue his report before the sun expands to engulf the planet. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 22, 2019

Reproductive health organizations that refer patients to abortion providers are about to lose major federal funding.

Reflecting conservative calls to "defund Planned Parenthood," the Trump administration on Friday issued a new rule that excludes abortion providers and abortion referrers from Title X funding. Once it takes effect, the family planning program will largely direct its $286 million budget to faith-based reproductive health groups, The Washington Post reports.

The rule, which will take effect 60 days after it's published on the federal register in the next few days, doesn't completely strip Planned Parenthood's funding, Politico notes. But it still means it and other providers can't conduct abortions or issue referrals at the same facilities it uses for other reproductive services, such as STD and breast cancer screenings. If Planned Parenthood violates those standards, it won't be able to access about $60 million in annual funding it gets from Title X.

President Trump's Department of Health and Human Services issued a first draft of the report last year, NPR says. The newest edition comes as Trump has ramped up his anti-abortion rhetoric, and governors, state attorneys general, and advocates have already promised they'll challenge it legally. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 22, 2019

The New York Times has just published the third exposé on Sen. Amy Klobuchar's (D-Minn.) alleged mistreatment of her staff this month.

Reports about the evidently nightmarish experience of working for Klobuchar, who is running for president in 2020, were previously documented by HuffPost and BuzzFeed News, but Friday's from the Times is by far the weirdest if only for its opening anecdote.

Apparently, during a 2008 trip to South Carolina, an aide delivered Klobuchar a salad but didn't bring a fork, and there weren't any on the flight. "What happened next was typical: Ms. Klobuchar berated her aide instantly for the slip-up," the Times writes. "What happened after that was not: She pulled a comb from her bag and began eating the salad with it." Klobuchar reportedly then handed the comb to the aide and demanded they "clean it."

Aides interviewed for this piece described working for Klobuchar, who is reportedly known to berate employees frequently and throw office supplies at them, as "dehumanizing." Klobuchar is also described as shooting "slashing remarks" at employees "without particular provocation," including once saying to a staffer, "I would trade three of you for a bottle of water."

There also seems to be a potential violation of Senate rules: Klobuchar reportedly has an "unusual" parental leave policy, requiring those who take leave to commit to staying for three times as long as they were gone when they return. If they don't, they have to pay back the money they earned while on leave. A spokeswoman for Klobuchar said they have "never made staff pay back any of their leave and will be changing that language in the handbook."

Klobuchar has responded to reports of her alleged behavior by saying, "Am I a tough boss sometimes? Yes." Read more at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow

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