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January 11, 2019

Friday is Day 21 of the partial government shutdown stalemated over President Trump's spurned demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. This gives Trump the dubious distinction of overseeing the longest partial shutdown in U.S. history, tied with a 21-day shutdown during President Bill Clinton's administration. Clinton was widely seen as having won that standoff against House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), which ended on Jan. 6, 1996. But it caused enough damage that no White House or Congress has repeated the feat since. With talks deadlocked, it appears Trump will have the record all to himself by Saturday.

Some 800,000 federal employees are working without pay — including Secret Service agents — or furloughed, like most of the White House staff. Trump is taking the brunt of the blame for the shutdown, polls show, but "lengthy shutdowns can be disastrous for the White House for other reasons," notes Katie Rogers at The New York Times:

The last time a shutdown went on for this long, President Bill Clinton put himself on the long road to impeachment when he approached a young intern named Monica Lewinsky in an empty corner of the West Wing. Nonessential employees had been sent home, unpaid interns were brought in to work, and the rest is bitter history. The Obama administration barred interns from coming to work during a shutdown, and the Trump White House's new class of interns has not yet started, according to a senior official. [The New York Times]

Not allowing interns in during the shutdown would be "a smart move," Leon Panetta, Clinton's chief of staff during the shutdown, told the Times. Peter Weber

10:29 a.m.

Some of the momentum gathered by states seeking to implement more restrictive abortion measures in recent weeks was halted when a federal judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction, blocking a Mississippi law that bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Attorneys for the state's only abortion clinic said the law would effectively make all abortions illegal because most women are not yet aware of their pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat is first discovered. The bill makes an exception when the mother's health is at risk. The law, which is one in a series of Republican-sponsored abortion bills throughout the United States, was scheduled to take effect in July.

The judge, Carlton Reeves, wrote that a woman's free choice "outweighs any interest the state might have in banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat." Reeves also blocked a 2018 Mississippi law that would have banned abortion at 15 weeks. The state is still appealing that decision. Reeves wrote that the fact Mississippi lawmakers passed another ban after the first was struck down "smacks of defiance to this court." Tim O'Donnell

8:14 a.m.

As anticipated, President Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in response to rising tensions between the United States and Iran, allowing him to complete the sale of over $8 billion worth of weapons to Iran's regional rival, Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, all despite congressional objections.

Congress had blocked the sale of offensive weaponry to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for months as a result of those countries' air campaigns in Yemen and other human rights abuses. But Trump used a loophole to circumvent Congress and go ahead with the sale.

The emergency declaration was met with bipartisan disapproval. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), said there is no new emergency reason to supply Saudi Arabia with arms and "doing so only perpetuates the humanitarian crisis" in Yemen. Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) called the decision "unfortunate" and said he would have preferred the Trump administration "utilize the long-established and codified arms sale review process."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sales were necessary to deter Iran, but the decision to side step Congress was a "one-time event." Tim O'Donnell

7:44 a.m.

A federal judge in California issued a preliminary injunction on Friday temporarily blocking the government from constructing a wall in two sectors along the U.S.-Mexico border using funds diverted from the Defense Department, throwing a wrinkle into President Trump's national emergency declaration.

Construction was set to begin on Saturday, but the order — which applies specifically to two areas along the border near Yuma, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, where a total of 51 miles of fencing was set to be built — will put that on hold. The construction of additional segments, announced too late for Friday's decision, will reportedly be taken up in June.

The judge, Haywood S. Gilliam, wrote that Congress's "absolute" control over federal funding is an "essential" feature of the United States government and that Trump's emergency declaration would "pose serious problems under the Constitution's separation of powers principles." The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision a "win for our system of checks and balances." Gilliam's ruling was in response to a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition. Tim O'Donnell

May 24, 2019

The Supreme Court has blocked lower court rulings that required Ohio and Michigan's electoral maps to be immediately redrawn, NBC News reported Friday.

Previous court rulings had determined Ohio's map of congressional districts, and Michigan's map of congressional and state legislative districts, needed to be redrawn ahead of the 2020 election due to unconstitutional gerrymandering, in both cases favoring Republicans. But the Supreme Court on Friday put these orders on hold.

The justices are currently reviewing two gerrymandering cases, one concerning North Carolina and one concerning Maryland, during which they will decide whether the court has a role in such a matter. Verdicts are expected to be reached in these cases by the end of next month. Read more at The Washington Post. Brendan Morrow

May 24, 2019

Missouri's governor signed into law a strict abortion ban on Friday, adding it to the list of states that would have a dramatically different abortion landscape if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

The law, which bans abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, follows in the footsteps of four other states that have passed fetal "heartbeat" laws, as well as two states that have limited abortions to the middle of the second trimester, reports Axios.

At least six other states are currently considering restrictive abortion bills, as a nationwide momentum has led more bills to state legislatures. Six states have included "trigger laws," which are currently inactive but would go into effect banning all abortion the moment Roe is hypothetically overturned, reports CBS News.

But while Roe v. Wade remains a hot-button topic, experts say it's unlikely to be overturned — especially any time soon.

"The court just doesn't operate that way … This idea that you're going to force them to reconsider Roe v. Wade is just absurd," Pro-life lawyer James Bopp Jr. told Politico. "There's a lot of ill-informed hype on both sides about these measures … They'll never go into effect."

Caroline Fredrickson, with liberal legal group the American Constitution Society, told Politico that Chief Justice John Roberts would "probably prefer" the issue not be brought to the Supreme Court in the middle of an election. Marianne Dodson

May 24, 2019

The University of Oklahoma has been supplying false information to U.S. News & World Report for the last 20 years, reports CNN.

U.S. News & World Report, which creates the annual Best Colleges rankings, says the university has given "inflated" numbers on its alumni giving rates, of all things. Oklahoma will now be unranked in the 2019 rankings.

The university inflated its alumni giving rate by more than 4 percent, incorrectly claiming it was 14 percent instead of 9.7 percent. The alumni giving rate makes up 5 percent of the rankings formula, as it "measures student satisfaction and post-graduate engagement," reports CNN.

The school said it noticed the error in reporting in 2018 and immediately gave the accurate information to U.S. News. OU was ranked 97th in 2018 among both public and private institutions.

The revelation marks the second time in two years that a college has provided false information to U.S. News for several years, following Temple University's admission it had inflated information about its online M.B.A. program, per Inside Higher Ed. Marianne Dodson

May 24, 2019

Adam Levine has turned his chair for the final time.

The Maroon 5 frontman announced season 16 of The Voice would be his last as a coach, revealing the decision in an Instagram post Friday morning.

Levine has been with the talent competition show since its premiere in 2011 and is one of two judges, along with Blake Shelton, to remain as a coach during the show's 16 seasons. Levine and Shelton struck up a friendship and rivalry during the show's tenure, which has been credited as bolstering the show's success, reports People.

"Our friendship is and always will be one for the books," Levine wrote about Shelton on Instagram. "Whatever this whole surreal experience was, [I'm] just happy I got to experience it with you."

Levine ends his run on The Voice with three wins to his name, half of Shelton's six.

The Voice host Carson Daly told The Today Show that Levine's replacement would be former coach Gwen Stefani, who is dating Shelton. Marianne Dodson

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