November 12, 2018

Mississippi's Senate race hasn't come to an end — and neither has the controversy surrounding comments one candidate made about a "public hanging."

In a video that surfaced Sunday, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is seen telling a man standing with her at what appears to be a Nov. 2 campaign event that "if he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." Hyde-Smith has been asked several times about the comments, and has used every opportunity to double down on her unapologetic statement about the video, The Associated Press reports.

In the statement, Hyde-Smith defended her comments as "an exaggerated expression of regard," adding that "any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous." And when accepting an endorsement from the National Right to Life Committee on Monday, Hyde-Smith again referred questioning reporters to that statement, per AP.

Her comments hit a nerve, especially considering Hyde-Smith's Democratic opponent, former agriculture secretary Mike Espy, is black. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., pointed out that Mississippi has a long history of lynching, and called the senator's comments "a reminder ... that racism is still a festering, pervasive evil in the U.S."

Hyde-Smith was appointed to fill Sen. Thad Cochran's (R) seat after he retired amid health concerns, and has served in the Senate since April. Both she and Espy failed to reach the 50 percent threshold in last week's Senate special election, so they will face each other once more during a runoff on Nov. 27. Hyde-Smith is expected to win the deep red state. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:23 a.m.

One of President Trump's favorite stories just won't stop changing.

As Toronto Star's Daniel Dale reports, Trump has repeatedly recounted an anecdote about a New York City cop apparently thanking him because, as Trump said in December 2017, "My 401(k) is up 39 percent in nine months" and "my family thinks I'm a financial genius."

Trump has continued to tell this story both during rallies and elsewhere, but by the March 2018 telling, the policeman's quote was now, "Sir, thank you very much. My 401(k) is up 41 percent. My wife thinks I'm a genius." In June, it was up to 46 percent. In July, it was back down to 44 percent. And in August, it was back up to 49 percent.

Most recently, Trump during a May 8 rally once again told the story, this time describing the cop as a "big, strong guy" and noting that his supporters "might have heard" this one. Those who have were probably on the edge of their seats wondering what the number would be this time. The answer? 47 percent — down two percent from his August 2018 telling of it.

So what might the percentage be at next? Could it climb past 50 percent? Will it start creeping back down to 39 percent? With plenty of more rallies on the way as Trump prepares to formally launch his 2020 re-election campaign, the suspense is palpable. Brendan Morrow

11:13 a.m.

Bill de Blasio is really counting on winning the "niche music taste" demographic.

The New York City mayor followed more than 20 other people in announcing his 2020 presidential candidacy last week, and has since failed to draw a crowd in any polls — or town halls — out there. Still, de Blasio remains convinced he can win, and he's channeling his punk roots to do it.

In Tuesday morning interview on CNN's New Day, host Alyson Camerota asked, as she apparently does with every candidate, what de Blasio's favorite band is. "My favorite band is the Clash," de Blasio responded before getting wistful about the London Calling album. "Their music spoke about a different, better world," de Blasio said, mentioning Joe Strummer's famous line "the future is unwritten" and saying that applied to "global warming" and "a huge economic inequality" today. De Blasio was also sure to mention that "I love reggae" and, upon prompting from Camerota, "I love ska."

This whole conversation isn't too surprising once you recall what de Blasio looked like in college. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:52 a.m.

Oh, the irony.

President Trump's attorneys have filed an appeal after a federal judge ruled on Monday that Trump could not block a House subpoena of his financial records. The appeal, Politico reports, will be heard by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is headed by none other than Merrick Garland (though Garland won't necessarily be on the three-judge panel that will hear the actual appeal.)

Garland was infamously nominated by former President Barack Obama for the Supreme Court in 2016 to replace former Justice Antonin Scalia after his death, but the Republican-controlled Senate refused to to vote on Garland's nomination, claiming Obama's dwindling time in office meant that he should not have the authority to elect a justice who would serve long past the end of his presidency. So instead, lawmakers stalled until after the 2016 presidential election, which resulted in a Trump victory and, subsequently, the appointment of the more conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Now, it's possible the GOP's decision to block Garland could actually serve as a thorn in the president's side — at least in this instance. But it's also likely this won't be the final time Garland will be in the middle of Trump's battles with Congress. Tim O'Donnell

10:22 a.m.

Walmart employees routinely show up at the company's annual shareholders meeting to push for better working conditions. This year, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is taking their place.

The massive retail chain has been a focus of Sanders' pro-worker push — he even introduced the pointedly titled Stop WALMART Act to Congress last November. Now, the 2020 candidate is arguing that hourly Walmart workers should have a guaranteed seat at the shareholders meeting each year, and he'll make his case right to those shareholders' faces, The Washington Post reports.

Walmart's annual meeting of "a dozen wealthy executives from companies like McDonald's and NBCUniversal" is coming up on June 5 in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Post writes. That's where Sanders will tell shareholders that "if hourly workers at Walmart were well represented on its board, I doubt you would see the CEO of Walmart making over a thousand times more than its average worker," he tells the Post. Walmart pharmacy technician Cat Davis introduced the proposal, which reads that "hourly associates can guide a more fair, inclusive, and equitable corporate ecosystem that bridges differences," and invited Sanders to deliver the message.

Sanders' Stop WALMART Act, introduced in Congress in November, would stop large employers from buying back stock unless they introduced a $15 minimum wage, gave workers 7 days of paid sick leave, and made sure the highest paid employees earn no more than 150 times what the lowest paid are making. Walmart unveiled a revamped paid leave program in February, but Sanders quickly decried it as "not good enough." Kathryn Krawczyk

10:00 a.m.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said on Monday night that the Hispanic Caucus — a 38-member congressional caucus chaired by Castro which advocates for issues concerning Latinos in the United States — is turning its focus toward pursuing investigations into the deaths of migrant children in U.S. custody.

The group was stirred to action earlier on Monday after Customs and Border Protection confirmed a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died while in their custody, though the cause is unknown. It was the fifth death of a migrant child detained by CBP in the last six months, The Hill reports — a fact that Castro called "outrageous and unacceptable."

In a statement, Castro wrote that before the first of the five recent deaths, then-CBP Commissioner and current acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan had said no child had died in CBP custody in more than a decade. But now, Castro said, "it is clear that this Administration's policies hurt families and have proven deadly for immigrant families and have proven deadly for immigrant children and their parents." The Trump administration, he added, "owes the American people answers." Tim O'Donnell

9:06 a.m.

Laura Ingraham is firing back at South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg after he called her out on Fox News itself.

Ingraham spoke after Buttigieg during a Fox News town hall cited Ingraham as one of the reasons Democrats hesitate to appear on Fox News, suggesting she doesn't operate in "good faith."

While not playing a clip, Ingraham obliquely referenced what Buttigieg said about her — a comment she's "sure you saw again and again on the other networks" — saying he showed an "unattractive strain" by doing so.

"It's hard to patronize and condescend your way to winning the nomination," she said, Mediaite reports.

Ingraham went on to mockingly call Buttigieg "Pope Pete" — which her graphics team was fully prepared for with an image of Buttigieg wearing the pope's hat — and say that just because he "attends church" doesn't make him the "be-all and end-all moral authority" or "arbiter of who is and who is not operating in good faith." This came during a segment in which Ingraham picked apart Buttigieg's Fox town hall and called him "judgmental and sanctimonious," also contending his "modulated tone" and "cool-cat exterior" are "designed to make the extreme seem downright pedestrian." Brendan Morrow

8:09 a.m.

On Monday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fended off several calls to start impeachment inquiries against President Trump, The Washington Post and Politico report. At a closed-door leadership meeting, at least five members of Pelosi's leadership team pressed her to authorize impeachment hearings, arguing that starting the impeachment process would strengthen their hand in the heated legal fight with Trump's White House over documents and witness testimony. Later, Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) reportedly made his case to Pelosi to start impeachment proceedings.

Pelosi was not persuaded. Her main arguments, according to people in or familiar with the meetings, were that the majority of House Democrats aren't in favor of impeachment yet, that it would further distract from the economic and social case Democrats are trying to make, that impeachment is divisive, that the courts are siding with Democrats against Trump, and that impeachment hearings would undercut the five other House committees investigating Trump, leaving everything in the Judiciary Committee. "You want to tell Elijah Cummings to go home?" Pelosi asked, referring to the House Oversight Committee chairman.

The pro-impeachment Democrats, including former law professor Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), argued that starting an impeachment inquiry would streamline the many Trump investigations and give Democrats more robust subpoena powers, and it wouldn't necessarily lead to an impeachment vote or trial. Nadler said "the president's continuing lawless conduct is making it harder and harder to rule out impeachment or any other enforcement mechanism." Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) confirmed to Politico that he pointed out that House Republicans launched immediate impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton "over sex," while Trump is "raping the country."

Nadler later appeared to side with Pelosi, saying it would be best to give the courts a chance first. "There's no divide," Pelosi told Politico on Monday night. "We're fine." Peter Weber

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