October 9, 2018

Even before the Trump administration briefly made family separation official policy, migrant children were sometimes split from their parents at the U.S. border, and when those children are placed in foster care, things can get complicated quickly. The separated children are under custody of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, but states "typically run child-welfare system," The Associated Press reports, and the end result can be deported parents deprived of parental rights, their children adopted by American families.

After an extensive investigation, AP "identified holes in the system that allow state court judges to grant custody of migrant children to American families — without notifying their parents." "When state courts gain control of a child being detained by the federal government, that child can become invisible in the system."

AP focused on the story of Salvadoran national Araceli Ramos Bonilla and her daughter Alexa, separated from her mother at age 2 when they crossed into Texas and eventually placed into a foster home in Michigan while her mother was deported. The Michigan family convinced a rural state judge to grant them full custody of Alexa without Ramos' knowledge, and if federal prosecutors hadn't stepped in after Ramos waged a social media campaign, the family may well have adopted Alexa.

Alexa was finally returned to Ramos after 15 months, and it took several more months for Alexa to bond with her mother again and relearn Spanish. Some parents haven't been so lucky. And with hundreds of children still in detention or foster care from President Trump's "zero tolerance" policy, hundreds of separated parents deported, and more than 200 children deemed ineligible for reunification or release, "it's just a recipe for disaster," says former ICE director John Sandweg.

It's unjust to "give our children up for adoption without our permission," Ramos told AP. "They are our children, not theirs." You can read more about the Ramos case and flaws in the system at The Associated Press. Peter Weber

12:40 a.m.

Ashton Edwards is changing ballet for the better.

Edwards, 18, is a member of the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Professional Division in Seattle. He started studying classical ballet at 4, and after years of performing traditional male roles, Edwards became intrigued by the idea of trying something that is traditionally for women: dancing en pointe.

"It took a lot of searching within myself," Edwards told NPR. "But I think my goals in life and in my career and who I saw myself as a person were much bigger than just one small box I was put in. So I decided to explore." Because ballet has such clear divisions between male and female roles, Edwards didn't know if his school would be open to him dancing en pointe, and was thrilled when they were "open and accepting."

Peter Boal, artistic director for the Pacific Northwest Ballet, told NPR "ballet can be a little slow," and when Edwards asked to study en pointe, "we said, 'Why not? Lead us and we will work with you.'" It usually takes several years of training before a dancer can put on their en pointe shoes, but after just six months, Edwards had the strength and technique necessary. Those shoes "have their challenges," he said, but it's all worth it: "Once you're up and once you start dancing, you're floating, and it feels like flying I think. It's amazing." Catherine Garcia

12:30 a.m.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Tuesday that the Justice Department has informed him it will not prosecute him for insider trading, making him the last of five senators known to have been investigated for selling stocks right before the market crashed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Burr sold up to $1.7 million worth of stock on Feb. 13, 2020, days after receiving briefings on the emerging coronavirus threat. Burr at the time was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Senate health committee.

Burr has acknowledged he sold the shares because of the pandemic, but says he was guided solely by public news sources, specifically CNBC's Asia health and science reporting. After the FBI executed a search warrant and seized his cellphone in May, he stepped down as chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Democrats take control of the Senate on Wednesday, and it's unclear if Burr will seek the top GOP slot on either the intelligence or health committees now that the investigation is over.

Three of the other senators investigated for possible insider trading — Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — were cleared in May. An investigation into Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.)'s stock trades expanded but then was closed in August, The New York Times reports. Perdue and Loeffler were both defeated in special elections earlier this month and their Democratic successors will be sworn in Wednesday.

Burr has already said he plans to step down after his term ends in 2022, but the timing of his exculpation, on the final day of the Trump administration, raised some eyebrows. President Trump was not a fan of Burr, who led a bipartisan investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, though Burr will now sit as a juror in Trump's second impeachment trial.

It was always a steep climb for prosecutors to prove criminality in congressional insider trading cases, The Washington Post reports. "The law under which Burr was investigated — the Stock Act, which prohibits members of Congress and other federal officials from trading on information they glean from their government work — has not been used as the basis for a criminal charge since it was passed in 2012." Peter Weber

January 19, 2021

President Trump has spent the last few days asking his friends, aides, and associates if they would like pardons — even those who are not facing any charges, a senior administration official told The Washington Post.

In one case, the official said, Trump offered a pardon to a person who declined the chance at clemency, saying they weren't in any legal trouble and hadn't committed any crimes. "Trump's response was, 'Yeah, well, but you never know. They're going to come after us all. Maybe it's not a bad idea. Just let me know,'" the official recounted.

Trump has taken a great interest in pardoning people, the Post reports, even calling families to personally let them know he granted a pardon. A person familiar with the matter told the Post that Trump was talked out of pardoning himself, family members, and controversial figures like Rudy Giuliani. An aide said there was also a brief discussion about possibly issuing pardons related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, but that idea went nowhere.

While Trump has held a few ceremonial events in recent weeks, journalists have been kept away from the White House, largely because the president is "just not in a place where they would go well," one official told the Post. Trump is constantly flip-flopping, another administration official said, talking about his future but uncertain of where he will be. "He goes between, 'Well, I'm going to go to Florida and play golf, and life is honestly better,' and then in the next moment, it's like, 'But don't you think there's a chance to stay?'" the official said. Read more at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

January 19, 2021

President-elect Joe Biden spent the night before his inauguration honoring the more than 400,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19.

During a Tuesday ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, Biden said in order for the country to "heal, we must remember. It's hard sometimes to remember, but that's how we heal. It's important to do that as a nation. That's why we're here today."

The memorial's Reflecting Pool was surrounded by 400 lights, representing the victims of the pandemic. Other landmarks across the United States were also lit up to pay tribute to the dead, including the Space Needle in Seattle and Empire State Building in New York City.

Biden was joined by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Harris also spoke, saying that for months, Americans have "grieved by ourselves. Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together. Though we may be physically separated, we, the American people, are united in spirit and my abiding hope, my abiding prayer, is that we emerge from this ordeal with a new wisdom: to cherish simple moments, to imagine new possibilities, and to open our hearts just a little bit more to one another." Catherine Garcia

January 19, 2021

Just because he's leaving the White House, that doesn't mean President Trump is ready to put politics behind him.

In recent days, Trump has talked with aides and friends about starting a new political party, called the "Patriot Party," people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. Trump wants to still exert influence over politics, they said, and thinks this is one way of making sure that happens.

Trump does have a loyal base, but it's almost guaranteed Republican officials would oppose the Patriot Party, due to fears it would attract too many GOP voters. Catherine Garcia

January 19, 2021

Twelve National Guard members have been removed from inauguration duties and sent home, following screenings to see if any of the troops were involved in extremist activity, Defense Department officials confirmed on Tuesday.

Two of the troops made threatening comments about politicians via text and on social media, Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters. He would not reveal the exact threats, only saying they were "inappropriate." The other 10 National Guard members were removed due to domestic abuse, criminal investigations, and outstanding complaints, The New York Times reports.

In the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, officials have been looking to root out any troops with anti-government or white supremacist sympathies, and the FBI helped the military vet the more than 25,000 National Guard members being deployed to D.C amid the inaugural festivities. "At this point, we don't have the time to rundown every single piece of information," Hokanson said. "But there's enough information for us to determine to remove them from the Capitol."

Hokanson and other officials stressed that most of the National Guard troops are dedicated to protecting the United States, with Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) saying in a statement they "put their lives on hold to answer the call to service. They will defend the U.S. Capitol with their lives, and I trust them implicitly with mine." Catherine Garcia

January 19, 2021

Don Sutton, the Hall of Fame pitcher who racked up 324 wins over a 23-year career, died Monday night, his son announced Tuesday. He was 75. The cause of death isn't clear, but Sutton's son said his father "passed away in his sleep."

Sutton was a prolific hurler, who took the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, and the then-California Angels between 1966 and 1988. His best years came in the first half of his career with the Dodgers — including five straight seasons in which he finished in the top five of Cy Young Voting — but he remained a workhorse as he got older, routinely throwing more than 200 innings per year.

All told, Sutton finished 324-256 with a career 3.26 ERA and 3,574 strikeouts, a statline that landed him in Cooperstown. Tim O'Donnell

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