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November 20, 2018

Retail giant Walmart withdrew its support from Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) Tuesday morning in a tweeted response to actress Debra Messing. The company said it is requesting Hyde-Smith return all funds Walmart donated to her campaign.

Hyde-Smith finds herself in a competitive runoff after she said she'd "be on the front row" if a supporter invited her to "a public hanging." The senator has defended her remark as "an exaggerated expression of regard" with no negative meaning, but it has been widely linked to Mississippi's history of lynching.

Later, Hyde-Smith said making it difficult for "liberal folks" to vote sounded like a "great idea." Her campaign said it was a joke unconnected to the state's record of black voter suppression. Hyde-Smith's campaign rival is Democratic former congressman and agriculture secretary Mike Espy, who is black.

Walmart contributed $2,000 to Hyde-Smith's campaign on Nov. 18, after both comments became public. The runoff election is Nov. 27. Bonnie Kristian

12:10 p.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both defended President Trump after a Wednesday rally in which his supporters chanted "send her back" about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), while Democrats warned about the danger of this rhetoric.

Graham on Thursday argued that chanting "send her back" about a minority congresswoman who came to the United States as a 12-year-old refugee from Somalia isn't racist and that this rhetoric is fine because Trump doesn't want to "send back" those who agree with him.

"A Somali refugee embracing Trump would not have been asked to go back," Graham said, per CNN's Manu Raju. "If you're a racist, you want everyone from Somalia to go back because they're black or they're Muslim." Graham also suggested that this means the rhetoric is "about the criticism and the critic," although he offered some light criticism by saying that "I don't like it" and "I'm not going around telling anybody to leave the country who's an American citizen," The Hill reports.

McConnell also came to Trump's defense Thursday on Fox Business, saying the president is "onto something" with his attacks on the four congresswomen, although McConnell did not reference the "send her back" chant and instead praised the president as being "right about 'the squad' wanting to turn us into a socialist country," Mediaite reports.

Democrats, meanwhile, slammed Trump after the Wednesday rally, with the Congressional Black Caucus' Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) saying Omar's "life is in imminent danger" as a result of his rhetoric, Politico reports, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) accusing Trump of "instilling fear." Omar herself said that "racism distracts, racism hurts, racism kills." Brendan Morrow

11:15 a.m.

Merriam-Webster has a bit of information it would just like to leave right here after President Trump's Wednesday rally.

After Trump supporters at the event chanted "send her back!" about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the dictionary company tweeted that its top search results that night included "racism," "fascism," "xenophobia," and "bigot," with "racism" topping the list.

"Socialism" also made the list at number two, as Trump labeled the Democratic congresswomen he has been attacking as socialists.

This isn't the first time Merriam-Webster has weighed in on the controversy over Trump's tweets telling minority Democratic congresswomen to "go back" to where they came from. When Fox News' Brit Hume earlier this week claimed that Trump's comments don't "meet the standard definition of racist," linking to Merriam-Webster's definition, Merriam-Webster seemed to respond by gently pointing to an entry noting that its definitions are "not always well suited for settling disputes." Brendan Morrow

10:26 a.m.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg's resume in politics is deeper than he lets on.

The 2020 candidate has broken barriers as the first openly gay man to make a presidential debate stage, while his folksy yet progressive charm have earned him comparisons to former President Barack Obama. And yet he also has a less public history of working for Democratic presidential campaigns and in political strategy, giving him "more in common with Bill Clinton than Obama," Mark Leibovich reports for The New York Times Magazine.

The 37-year-old Buttigieg has brushed off questions regarding his age and distance from national politics, touting that he has more "executive experience" than all the senators and congressmembers in the Democratic field. Yet that inexperience is also some of the appeal of his campaign, and Buttigieg embraces it, broadly promising Leibovich that he'll fashion a "completely different" response to the outrage against President Trump that's encompassed this presidential cycle. But as Leibovich writes, Buttigieg is still "at heart, a fairly conventional political animal:"

Buttigieg is steeped in campaign life, having worked for John Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008, and he tends to talk, more than most candidates, like an operative. In 2017, he ran unsuccessfully to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee — a position that is essentially that of a glorified fund-raiser, talking head and political strategist rolled into one. His early ambitions, his methodical climb up the accomplishment ladder and his youthful attention to networking have more in common with Bill Clinton than Obama.

Read more about Buttigieg's political history at The New York Times Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:42 a.m.

President Trump's former director of communications, Anthony Scaramucci, is downright begging him to knock it off with the racist attacks on minority congresswomen.

Scaramucci, who served in the White House for just 10 days in 2017, spoke to CNN's New Day on Thursday morning after previously denouncing Trump's tweets telling four minority congresswomen to "go back" to where they came from as "racist and unacceptable." At a rally on Wednesday, Trump supporters chanted "send her back" about one of the women he attacked, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

During the interview, Scaramucci implored elected Republicans to "pick up the phone and say, 'Hey, you should really knock this off'" to Trump, per Mediaite. He also predicted that if the president "continues on that path" with this apparent new strategy that is "against the idealistic values of America," a "glacier of support is going to break off and float away from him in a way that he doesn't fully understand." Asked if he will personally still support Trump in this scenario, Scaramucci responded, "No."

Recent polling has suggested Trump actually increased his support among Republicans in the immediate aftermath of his weekend tweets, with one poll showing that 57 percent of Republicans agreed with him.

At the same time, Scaramucci suggested he'll have to weigh who Trump's opponent is when making the decision to abandon him over what he considers to be blatant racism, telling CNN, "You also have to compare it to what you're going up against." At some point, though, Scaramucci said this will become a "moral question." Brendan Morrow

9:17 a.m.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) didn't even dignify President Trump's rally attack with her own words.

At a Wednesday night presidential rally, Trump called out Omar by name and accused her of "launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds" during her time in office. That launched the crowd into chants of "send her back," echoing Trump's racist tweets against Omar and other Democrats earlier in the week. But instead of brashly fighting back, Omar responded to the rally attack with a bold quote from Maya Angelou.

The rally attack came after Trump on Sunday directed racist tweets at Omar and three other Democratic congresswomen, calling on them to "go back" to the countries they came from. Only Omar was not born in the U.S., but she became a citizen as a teenager. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:53 a.m.

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, is pushing back — though only slightly — after President Trump's rally crowd chanted "send her back!" about a minority congresswoman.

Walker on Thursday tweeted that "I struggled with" the chant at Trump's Wednesday night rally, which came as the president repeated his attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), one of the four minority congresswomen he told to "go back" to where she came from in a weekend tweet. Omar fled to the United States as a refugee from Somalia at a young age.

This language at the rally, Walker suggested, is "painful to our friends in the minority communities." At the same time, Walker didn't veer too far from Trump's talking points because in the same tweet he attacked Omar as someone who has "great disdain" for the United States.

Trump's weekend tweets drew some pushback from elected Republicans, while GOP leaders like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defended him and argued he is not racist. On Thursday, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) joined Walker in criticizing the chant by saying "there is no place for that" while defending Trump as someone who "does not have a racist bone in his body," reports Time's Alana Abramson.

Outside of elected officials, Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, also called the chants "wrong" and "vile," adding that they "don't reflect who we are as Americans," while conservative Trump critic Bill Kristol tweeted that "'send her back' conservatism is not a conservatism worth defending." Brendan Morrow

7:52 a.m.

As many as 23 people have been killed, and dozens more injured, after an apparent arson attack on Kyoto Animation's studio in Japan.

Thirteen people have been confirmed dead and another 10 are presumed dead, with at least 36 people injured, after an attack on the popular animation studio's three-story building in Kyoto that had more than 70 people in it at the time, The Associated Press reports.

The fire began at about 10:30 a.m. local time after a man reportedly entered the building and spread a flammable liquid while shouting, "Die!", The New York Times reports. A 41-year-old man is in custody, and per the AP, he is not an employee. Kyoto Animation President Hideaki Hatta says the company had received threats, The Washington Post reports.

This attack, if 23 people are ultimately confirmed dead, would be Japan's deadliest mass killing since 19 people were killed in a knife attack in Tokyo in 2016, the AP writes. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday called the attack "so horrifying that I am at a loss for words," the Times reports, offering his "deepest condolences to the victims." Brendan Morrow

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