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April 25, 2019

President Trump made some promises during the 2016 campaign: He would release his tax returns, "build the wall," "drain the swamp," protect Medicare and Social Security, and champion law and order, to name a few.

Like all presidents, he has been pretty selective about which campaign promises merit follow-through. The "wall", for example, was worth shutting down the government and sparking a constitutional crisis; his tax returns were deemed worthy of going to court and threatening a constitutional showdown to keep hidden. One of the "promises" he has tried to keep, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, is "lock her up," his enduring campaign chant about 2016 rival Hillary Clinton.

Mueller's report "brimmed with examples of Mr. Trump seeking to protect himself from the investigation," The New York Times reports, but it also shows at least three instances of him "trying to wield the power of law enforcement to target a political rival, a step that no president since Richard M. Nixon is known to have taken." As with many potential crimes Mueller records, Trump's orders or suggestions to prosecute Clinton were apparently ignored or redirected by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former White House Counsel Don McGahn.

Still, Trump's attempt to target Clinton "reeks of a typical practice in authoritarian regimes where whoever attains power, they don't just take over power peacefully, but they punish and jail their opponents," political historian and professor Matthew Dallek tells the Times. It appears from Mueller's report that Trump, encouraged by his Fox News allies, didn't appreciate the difference between political self-preservation and weaponizing the law enforcement tools he seems to think work for him, adds Duke University law professor Samuel W. Buell. "All of his demands fit into a picture that he believes the apparatus is mine"

You can read the details of Trump's attempts to "lock her up" in Mueller's report and at The New York Times. Peter Weber

June 24, 2019

Several Democrats in the House are struggling with backing a $4.5 billion emergency aid package, as they want to help migrants but worry that the money will somehow be used to carry out President Trump's promised deportation raids.

The House is planning a vote on Tuesday, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spent Monday evening meeting with Democrats who have issues with the bill, The New York Times reports. Pelosi has said the measure "does not fund the administration's failed mass detention policy," and does not change asylum laws. Several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus want to make it clear the money will go to improving facilities where migrant children are being held, especially in the wake of a shocking report describing filthy conditions at a Border Patrol station in Texas.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Monday night said she "will not fund another dime to allow ICE to continue its manipulative tactics," while Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she doesn't trust Trump to follow restrictions in the bill, adding, "He's creating these crises and then trying to point the finger at Democrats to give him more money, which he then uses for his own purposes." Trump enacts "cruel immigration policies," Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said, but "Democrats cannot allow our anger at this president to blind us to the horrific conditions at facilities along the border as the agencies run out of money."

Republicans are opposing the package for different reasons, specifically that the money won't be used to enforce immigration law, the Times reports. The White House said in a statement Monday night that Trump would likely veto the House legislation because it "does not provide adequate funding to meet the current crisis" and "contains partisan provisions designed to hamstring the administration's border enforcement efforts." Catherine Garcia

June 24, 2019

NASA's Curiosity rover has detected methane on Mars several times since landing in 2012, but last week, it measured the highest level yet: 21 parts per billion.

This is an "unusually high" level of the odorless, colorless gas, but NASA cautioned that while methane is produced by living organisms, this is not absolute proof of life on Mars, now or ever. "While increased methane levels measured by @MarsCuriosity are exciting, as possible indicators for life, it's important to remember this is an early science result," NASA's Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted. On Earth, major sources of methane include cattle and the production of fossil fuels.

Scientists will analyze the information, and plan on conducting more observations, NBC News reports. The methane was detected on Teal Ridge, inside the 96-mile-wide Gale Crater. Catherine Garcia

June 24, 2019

A hotel in the Dominican Republic where two American tourists recently died said it is removing liquor bottles from its minibars, but denies the move has anything to do with the deaths.

Erica Lopez, the general manager of The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana, told CNN the decision to take out the bottles was made last week. Over the last year, at least 10 American tourists have died in the Dominican Republic, including David Harrison, 45, of Maryland, who died at the Hard Rock last July, and Robert Wallace, 67, of California, who died there in April. One theory behind the deaths is that tainted alcohol was somehow involved, and Wallace's relatives told KTXL he became ill after drinking scotch from the minibar in his room.

The FBI is assisting Dominican officials with toxicology reports, testing samples from some hotel minibars; authorities say that any time someone dies in a hotel room in the Dominican Republic, they test minibars for bacteria and take samples of water from showers and sinks. Last year, 6.5 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic, with 2.2 million from the United States, and officials from both countries say the deaths are not connected and there's no reason to cancel any upcoming vacations. Catherine Garcia

June 24, 2019

Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins, 103, is a force to be reckoned with on the track.

The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resident has always been active, but preferred riding her bicycle to other activities. After she fell off her bike and dislocated her elbow, Hawkins switched to running a few years ago, telling Today, "I always came running in to answer the phone, so I thought maybe I could run."

Last week, she became the oldest woman to compete — and win — in the National Senior Games, taking home the gold in the 50- and 100-meter races. Hawkins, a former elementary school teacher, doesn't train for her runs, and said she gets her exercise from gardening. Inspiring older people to stay active is "a good thing," she told Today, and she wants everyone to remember "you can still do things when you get older. Just keep moving and be interested in things." Catherine Garcia

June 24, 2019

As part of an audit, the Office of the Inspector General will investigate why the Treasury Department delayed the release of a redesigned $20 bill featuring abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked the Treasury's watchdog to look into the matter and if there was "any involvement by the White House." In a statement released Monday, Schumer said there are "no women, there are no people of color on our paper currency today, even though they make up a significant majority of our population ... the $20 note was a long overdue way to recognize that disparity, and rectify it."

During the Obama administration, former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced the redesign, scheduled for release in 2020. In May, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Tubman $20 was being pushed aside, as the $10 and $50 bills needed to be redesigned first due to counterfeit concerns. The audit, which should take about 10 months to complete, will also look at security measures in place for currency. Catherine Garcia

June 24, 2019

It's fair to assume that, when playing word association games, "Burning Man" and "lobbyist" don't pair together all too often.

But that's exactly what's happening in real life, Politico reports. Burning Man, an annual festival — actually, Burning Man's official website is loud and clear about the fact that the event is not a festival, but a "community," "temporary city," or "global cultural movement" — that takes place in the Nevada desert.

Burning Man organizers are reportedly afraid that new federal regulations could end its reign, or at least kill its vibe. The Bureau of Land Management wrote a 372-page draft creating a whole set of new standards that would seemingly knock some of the wind out of the event's carefree, unrestrained spirit, including calls for reduced light pollution, additional dumpsters, a wall outside of the venue, and maintenance on Nevada's County Road 34.

So, because those proposals are "in direct conflict with" Burning Man's "core principles," the event now has some "top-shelf" lobbyists from the firm Holland & Knight on retainer, Politico reports. Several lobbyists from both sides of the aisle, including a former Trump campaign staffer, will reportedly talk with the Bureau of Land Management on getting a permit for the event. Tim O'Donnell

June 24, 2019

Prisoners of some of the world's worst terrorist groups had a privilege that many migrant children don't.

Reports had already indicated that migrant children were being held in disgusting conditions in U.S. detention centers, and last week, that story came to a head as a video showed a Trump administration lawyer arguing that toothpaste and soap aren't necessary to constitute "safe and sanitary" conditions. That viral footage prompted a response from Michael Scott Moore, who tweeted Saturday that "Somali pirates gave me toothpaste and soap."

Moore would know. He was kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2012 and was held for two and a half years before he was released. His response then got some backup from David Rohde, who tweeted that "the Taliban gave me toothpaste and soap." The journalist was kidnapped by Taliban members in 2008 and held for eight months before escaping.

An Associated Press report last week first described conditions at a Clint, Texas detention facility, where there was "inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens" being held there. A doctor who visited the facility later filed a report saying it "could be compared to torture facilities." All but 30 of those children have since been taken out of the facility and to a tent detention center, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) told AP on Monday. Kathryn Krawczyk

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