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July 24, 2018

The Department of Agriculture will provide $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers who have been negatively affected by President Trump's escalating trade war, two sources told The Washington Post.

The plan comes as retaliatory tariffs from China and other countries have slashed profits for farmers who grow soybeans, rice, beef, pork, and other products. Farm groups have criticized Trump for implementing tariffs, saying the fallout could cost them billions of dollars.

The Agriculture Department plans to provide the short-term relief by Labor Day, funding the bailout with direct assistance, trade promotion, and a food purchase and distribution program. The strategy was used during the Great Depression and does not require approval from Congress.

The Trump administration has been looking for a solution to agricultural woes that doesn't involve blinking first in the trade war with China, the Post reports, but a taxpayer-funded bailout could launch a new wave of complaints. Despite the criticism, Trump has continued to tout his tariffs, tweeting on Tuesday that they are the "greatest." Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

1:06 a.m.

"There has been, just today, another big decision in the landmark case of Donald Trump v. Getting Caught," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. On Wednesday, President Trump's former lawyer "Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison," he said, and he had a tip for Cohen: "First day in prison, you walk right up the biggest guy in the yard, and you pay him $130,000."

"Before Cohen climbed up onto the prison bus, he made sure to throw Trump under it," copping to covering up Trump's "dirty deeds," Colbert said. "And evidently, you suck at it." He read some excerpts from Cohen's tortured confessional and regrets about working for Trump. Cohen said that ironically, he is finally getting his freedom back, but Colbert disagreed: "Actually, the irony is that while you're in prison for your crimes, the guy who ordered you to do the crimes will be at Mar-a-Lago sharing chocolate cake with Xi Jinping and Kid Rock."

"It's especially infuriating to watch Trump pretend to care about the law when his own Justice Department just accused him of a crime for paying hush money to cover up affairs," the crime that's sending Cohen to jail, Seth Meyers said at Late Night. And "Cohen told the court in no uncertain terms that he committed those crimes at the direction of Donald Trump." With Trump facing potential felony charges, he joked, "forget running for re-election — in two years, Trump might be running from the feds." His imagined reason Trump gets caught is worth a watch.

While Cohen was being sentenced to three years, "Michael Flynn, Trump's former National Security Adviser, made an interesting argument for why he shouldn't go to prison," Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show. "Yeah, that's right, Michael Flynn says he didn't know lying to the FBI is a crime." He suggested helpfully that "going forward, everyone working for Trump should just be read their Miranda rights on their first day." Watch below. Peter Weber

December 12, 2018

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sealed a deal with restive Democratic lawmakers Wednesday evening that gives her enough votes to ensure a second turn as House speaker when the next Congress gavels into session in January.

Under the agreement, finalized Monday night with three Democrats who opposed her speakership, Pelosi pledges to support a measure that will limit the top three House Democrats — Pelosi, incoming Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), and Democratic Whip Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) — to three two-year terms, with a fourth term possible given support from two-thirds of Democrats. Since all three Democrats have already served two terms in their upcoming roles, they would have to step down no later than 2022. House Democrats will vote on the proposal by Feb. 15.

Hoyer and Clyburn oppose the measure, but Pelosi, 78, said in a statement that she's "comfortable with the proposal and it is my intention to abide by it whether it passes or not." She reiterated that she sees herself "as a bridge to the next generation of leaders, a recognition of my continuing responsibility to mentor and advance new members into positions of power and responsibility in the House Democratic caucus." After she released her statement, seven Democratic holdouts said they will vote for her, giving her one more vote than needed to be elected speaker.

If elected Jan. 3, Pelosi, already the first female House speaker, will join a small group of lawmakers who lost the speaker's gavel then reclaimed it. The last repeat House speaker was Sam Rayburn (D-Texas), whose second term began in 1955. "No other two-time speaker has reclaimed the gavel after more than four years out of power," The Washington Post notes. Peter Weber

December 12, 2018

President Trump's administration is again ramping up its anti-refugee efforts. And this time, people who fled the Vietnam War are in the crosshairs.

Vietnam and the U.S. established diplomatic ties in 1995, and immigrants who arrived in America before then were protected from deportation under a 2008 agreement. But the Trump administration now believes the agreement doesn't actually protect them, a spokesperson for Hanoi's U.S. embassy tells The Atlantic, and it might start sending some of them back.

Trump has a long track record of opposing refugee resettlement, from reducing America's cap on how many refugees it will accept per year to moving to end protections that spare at-risk immigrants from deportation. Just Tuesday, Trump officials moved to deport 46 Cambodian immigrants legally living in the U.S., The New York Times reported.

This latest refugee crackdown came as Trump officials met with Washington's Vietnamese embassy, with an advocacy group telling The Atlantic they discussed reworking the 2008 agreement. A previous reinterpretation of the deal under Trump decided its protections didn't apply to "pre-1995 arrivals with criminal convictions," The Atlantic writes. A handful of Vietnamese immigrants were deported after the August decision.

Officials from Vietnam and the U.S. protested the change, and both countries' governments tried to reason further with the White House, America's ambassador to Vietnam through October of this year says. But Trump officials are still moving to strip the 2008 deal's protections from all pre-1995 immigrants — many of whom fled the Vietnam War and have obviously lived in America for decades.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said "we have 5,000 convicted criminal aliens from Vietnam with final orders of removal" and "it's a priority of this administration to remove" them. Read more at The Atlantic. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 12, 2018

British Prime Minister Theresa May has won a vote of confidence among her party with 200 votes in favor and 117 against, BBC reports.

The vote comes just after May said she wouldn't lead her party in 2022's general election, and protects her from immediately being forced out in favor of new leadership. But its "not all comfortable" margin signals a "blow" to May's authority, BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says.

Confidence in May's leadership has dwindled in the past few days as her plan to remove the U.K. from the European Union stalls in Parliament. May tried to have members of Parliament vote on her Brexit plan earlier this week, but she postponed the vote over fears it might fail. Pro-Brexit members from May's Conservative Party then triggered a no-confidence vote against her. If May had lost the vote with a majority, or 158, of Conservatives voting against her, the party would've elected a new leader.

Sensing her party's resistance to her leadership, May told Conservatives earlier that she wouldn't lead them into the country's next general election and may step down as soon as Brexit goes through. May's narrow win on Wednesday signals just how strong that resistance seems to be.

Britain voted more than two years ago to leave the E.U., and lawmakers have since fought over how close to remain with the trading bloc. The U.K. is scheduled to leave the E.U. in March, despite a the country remaining far from reaching a deal to do so. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 12, 2018

The Great Barrier Reef may not be so doomed after all.

Hundreds of the Australian reef's coral species are blossoming deeper in the ocean than biologists previously thought, a report published by The Royal Society on Tuesday reveals. Growing further from direct sunlight could save these species from coral bleaching caused by climate change and prove essential for their conservation, Science News says.

The world's largest coral reef has been decimated as climate change warms waters and strips corals of their bright colors, killing them. Deeper-growing corals are safer from climate change, but scientists thought only a few species could grow more than 100 feet from the surface. It turns out 195 species can actually grow in the shady, cold depths and not just near the sun, per the study. So when shallow-water corals die off, scientists might be able to "transplant" these "deep ocean corals" and repopulate the surface, Science News writes.

The study was published just two days after another promising reef report. Though bleaching may severely damage of Great Barrier Reef, corals that survived one season tended to tolerate hotter temperatures the following year, a study published Monday in Nature shows. It's not great that any corals are dying, scientists assure, but at least this suggests the strongest ones will live on and repopulate the reef. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 12, 2018

The House and Senate are finally tackling a big problem happening in their own halls.

The two chambers on Wednesday agreed on a bill to better handle sexual harassment in Congress, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a co-sponsor of the Senate's version of the bill, tells Politico. Other congressional staffers confirmed the news to The Washington Post and CNN.

Following the #MeToo movement's rise late last year, members of Congress started looking inward at the harassment aides and lawmakers had long faced. The reality became particularly clear after former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) allegedly used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, and after he and other lawmakers stepped down after their own sexual harassment scandals.

The House passed its harassment-fighting bill in February, under which lawmakers would be held "personally liable for harassment and discrimination settlements," per Politico. The Senate's latest version only made legislators pay for harassment settlements. Wednesday's compromise agrees on barring legislators from using taxpayer money to settle "harassment and retaliation for harassment claims, but not discrimination," staffers tell Politico.

Opponents of the Senate bill worried accused congressmembers would settle harassment claims as "sex discrimination," per CNN. So Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) say they'll craft a new bill to address discrimination, per Politico. The two chambers hope to pass the still-unfinalized bill within the next few days after working out a few more specifics, Blunt says. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 12, 2018

For Star Wars fans, the new TV show's latest casting news is a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one.

After it was reported that the upcoming live-action series The Mandalorian would star Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones), Lucasfilm confirmed the choice on Wednesday and announced seven additional members of the cast, including none other than Werner Herzog. Yes, that Werner Herzog: the 76-year-old German director who might be one of the very last people you'd expect to see cast in a Star Wars project. He's taken some acting roles in the past like in Jack Reacher and had previously been rumored for a part in the series, but while it might have seemed too good (and weird) to be true, it's official now.

Also joining the cast of The Mandalorian is Giancarlo Esposito, best known for playing Gus Fring on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, and Carl Weathers, best known for his role as Apollo Creed in the Rocky series. Other members of the cast include Emily Swallow (Supernatural), Gina Carano (Deadpool), Omid Abtahi (American Gods), and Nick Nolte (Affliction).

The Mandalorian is set to follow the adventures of a lone gunfighter, played by Pascal, in the galaxy's outer reaches a few years after the events of 1983's Return of the Jedi. It's currently in production under the stewardship of Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book) and will be an exclusive to the Disney+ streaming service, which launches in late 2019. Brendan Morrow

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