May 29, 2020

The National Park Service is rolling back Obama-era regulations that banned hunters in Alaska's national preserves from using food to lure black and brown bears out of their dens.

The new rules will also let hunters use artificial light to attract black bears and their cubs, shoot caribou from motorboats, and hunt wolves and coyotes during the denning season, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The Obama administration enacted the regulations in order to prevent the destabilization of Alaska's ecosystems.

This change is "amazingly cruel," Jesse Prentice-Dunn, policy director for the Center for Western Priorities, told The Guardian, and is "just the latest in a string of efforts to reduce protections for America's wildlife at the behest of oil companies and trophy hunters."

Several Native American tribes criticized the original rule, opposing it due to rural Alaskans needing wild food sources. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) cheered the reversal, saying it was necessary "not only as a matter of principle, but as a matter of states' rights." Catherine Garcia

9:46 a.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appears to be getting desperate as his re-election race gets narrower and narrower.

Graham has brought in record-breaking fundraising hauls throughout his race — but Democrat Jaime Harrison has still ended up besting him so far this year. Graham admitted his struggles Thursday night in appearance on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, pleading with Hannity's viewers to "help me" because "they're killing me money wise." Hannity then suggested it was famously liberal celebrities who were backing Harrison's campaign, despite the fact that both candidates have gotten a good deal of money from Hollywood, big media companies, and people outside of the state.

Graham made a similar plea on Fox & Friends Thursday morning, leading Harrison to conclude Graham knows "he's going to lose" this election.

As of the most recent Federal Election Commission filings, Harrison has raised $28.6 million to Graham's nearly $30 million. Graham has about $5 million more than Harrison to spend in the last weeks of the race. The latest South Carolina Senate race poll showed Harrison and Graham statistically tied. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:05 a.m.

President Trump has said several times this week he may not accept an electoral loss, won't commit to a peaceful transfer of power, and expects the election to be decided by a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court.

"After more than four years of non-stop voter fraud claims" and "at least one float about delaying the November election," Politico reports, "Republicans can no longer truthfully deny that Trump may be unwilling to leave office in the event he is defeated. And Democrats must now confront the possibility they may not have the power to stop him." But Democrats are lawyering up to fight Trump's expected attempts to throw out mail-in ballots or otherwise circumvent the voters.

"I've been spending the last six weeks gaming out all the crazy things this man could do," one Democratic strategist told Politico on Thursday. "If you're prepared ... it's not as disturbing." Lots of Democrats are still disturbed. "We're a lot more organized than in 2000. A lot," said Matt Bennett at the center-left group Third Way, "but I don't know if it's enough."

The Defense Department has ruled out dragging Trump from the White House, but senior Pentagon leaders are privately discussing what to do if Trump invokes the Insurrection Act and tries "to use any civil unrest around the elections to put his thumb on the scales," The New York Times reports. "Several Pentagon officials said that such a move could prompt resignations," starting with Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I know that Milley is trying to think his way through, but I have my doubts he can," John Gans, former chief speechwriter to the defense secretary, told the Times. "The Pentagon plans for war with Canada and a zombie apocalypse, but they don't want to plan for a contested election."

And those congressional Republians subtweeting at Trump about an orderly transfer of power take this more seriously that you might think, Brendan Buck, a top adviser to former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), tells the Times. "Senators are stating their principle here because it's obvious to everyone that he is, in fact, planning to dispute the results if he loses, no matter how lopsided. Calling him names isn't going to stop him, but they are trying to save themselves some trouble later by making clear they're not going to flirt with crazy conspiracies that make a mockery of our democracy." Peter Weber

8:33 a.m.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has offered a rare apology following the killing of a South Korean official.

Kim in a message to South Korea on Friday said he's "deeply sorry that an unexpected and unfortunate thing has happened in our territorial waters" after a government official from South Korea was killed at sea by North Korean troops earlier this week, The New York Times reports.

The official, South Korea said, was apparently "trying to defect to North Korea" and "was killed by troops in the North who set his body on fire for fear he might be carrying the coronavirus," the Times previously wrote. It was the "first time ​that North Korea has killed a South Korean citizen in its territory since 2008," the Times added, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in called the official's killing a "stunning and deeply regrettable act that cannot be tolerated."

North Korea in its message on Friday reportedly denied that troops burned the body of the official, who they called an "illegal intruder," but did say they burned his flotation device "according to our epidemiological regulations."

Institute for National Security Strategy researcher Byun Sang-Jung explained to ABC News that it's "extremely unusual for North Korea to issue a statement of regret so fast," and in fact, according to the Times, this was the first apology to the South issued in Kim's name during his time as North Korean leader. Ewha Womans University international studies professor Leif-Eric Easley told the Times this apology was a "low-cost way of managing a potential crisis situation," adding that it "may also mitigate the deepening of North Korea's pariah status in South Korean public opinion." Brendan Morrow

7:11 a.m.

A federal judge in California blocked the U.S. Census Bureau late Thursday from ending the 2020 count of every U.S. resident at the end of September, siding with civil rights groups and local governments who argued that the Trump administration's premature termination of the census would result in an undercount of minorities and other hard-to-count communities. The Commerce Department had argued that ending the already shortened decennial head count on Sept. 30, not Oct. 31, was necessary to meet a Dec. 31 deadline.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh agreed with the plaintiffs that the inaccurate results would inequitably affect the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding and skew political representation. Lawyers for the Census Bureau and Commerce Department said they will likely appeal the ruling. Peter Weber

6:23 a.m.

"Folks, you know you're going through a bit of a dark patch in your nation's history when the president not endorsing the peaceful transition of power is the feel-good story of the day," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. The decision in Kentucky that "no officers would be charged with the killing of Breonna Taylor" once again "undermines many Americans' faith in our system of government — and clearly Trump is jealous, because that's kind of his thing."

Colbert was perplexed at why Team Trump would openly tell us how they plan to steal the election, but Joe Biden was right that Trump himself refusing to commit to leaving office isn't surprising: "I'm not putting it past Trump to barricade the White House gates and put Eric in a Baby Bjorn and use him as a human shield, but what Trump really wants to do is undermine your faith in the election, so you go, 'Eh, what's the point of voting?' The point is: You vote, he goes, regardless of what he tries. We just need to bury him under a mountain of votes."

If Trump "doesn't win, he wants to burn this country down," and "what he just said is terrifying," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "Rarely do you see someone be a sore loser before they even play the game." Still, "several Republican senators pushed back on the president's dangerous words," he added. "Even that old son-of-a-Mitch McConnell poked his head out of his shell to refute it."

"And if recent news has taught us anything, it's that you can always count on Mitch McConnell to keep his word," Jimmy Fallon deadpanned at The Tonight Show. "Seriously, even other Republicans were like, 'Mitch, please.'"

"When Time Life releases a box set of Trump's craziest moments, this will be on it," Fallon said. "I'm getting the feeling this is gonna end with Trump locking himself in the Oval Office while yelling into the phone, 'Space Force attack!'"

The reporter's "mistake was phrasing the question that way," Late Night's Seth Meyers said. "You should've asked: 'If Joe Biden wins, do you commit to playing even more golf?'"

What Trump said was alarming, but "this does give me an idea for a new sitcom," James Corden said at The Late Late Show: "Trump refuses to leave the White House, Biden moves in anyway — Our Two Presidents, this January on CBS." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:37 a.m.

"President Trump capped his fruitless four-year journey to abolish and replace the Affordable Care Act by signing an executive order Thursday that aims to enshrine the law's most popular feature," protections for people with pre-existing conditions, while "avoiding the thorny details of how to ensure such protections without either leaving the ACA, or ObamaCare, in place or crafting new comprehensive legislation," The Washington Post reports.

Stat News describes Trump's affirmation of pre-existing conditions protections as "likely empty rhetoric" and one of several "simple, superficial, and non-binding executive orders" that will neither "improve the quality of Americans' health care or lower its cost."

Trump was more bullish in what was billed as a health-care policy speech in North Carolina. "The historic action I'm taking today includes the first-ever executive order to affirm it is the official policy of the United States government to protect patients with pre-existing conditions," he said. His administration is backing a lawsuit before the Supreme Court that could strike down those protections, already enshrined in the sweeping law Democrats passed a decade ago, but Trump said he's "putting it down in a stamp, because our opponents, the Democrats, like to constantly talk about it."

Thursday's actions were "a tacit admission that Trump had failed to keep his 2016 promise to replace his predecessor's signature achievement with a conservative alternative," the Post reports. But that failure "has not stopped Trump from repeatedly promising a soon-to-come health-care plan in a repetitive cycle of boastful pledges and missed deadlines that intensified in recent weeks ahead of the November election."

Trump also "promised millions of older Americans would receive $200 toward the cost of prescription drugs and signed executive orders he said would somehow prevent unexpected medical bills," the Post reports. The $200 coupons, which Trump said will arrive for 33 million Medicare beneficiaries "in the coming weeks," are pretty clearly "a political ploy to curry favor with seniors who view drug prices as a priority," Stat News says. And it's not clear how or if the White House can legally pay the $6.6 billion price tag, though the administration pointed to savings from a regulation that hasn't yet been implemented.

You can read more about the $200 gift cards, Trump's other largely symbolic moves on health care, and the conference call in which Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Medicare administrator Seema Verma struggled to portray them as "historic" at Stat News. Peter Weber

2:26 a.m.

At least two Senate elections Nov. 3 are actually special elections, but while the winner of the Arizona race will take office early, Georgia's contest is almost certainly headed to a January runoff. The appointed incumbent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), is ahead slightly in the polls, but GOP challenger Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.) and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock are essentially tied in close second place. Loeffler, who is very wealthy, tried to pay President Trump to make Collins go away, according to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Collins ally.

"This is what the Loeffler team went to the Trump team with," Gaetz said at a campaign event last week, The Daily Beast reported Thursday. "They went and said, 'Look, you guys gotta get Doug Collins out of this race.' … She said, 'I have $50 million for this project, and I can either spend my $50 million getting new voters and helping the Trump campaign, or I can spend that $50 million taking out Doug Collins.'"

Gaetz's version of events isn't the only one, and other sources told The Daily Beast the offer from Loeffler's camp was more nuanced, with money dangled to support other Senate candidates, not Trump, or at least relayed to Trump using Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as an intermediary. "Basically it was to get McConnell and the Senate committee behind Loeffler and to not support Collins,'" a source told The Daily Beast.

Whatever was said or wasn't said, Trump has remained neutral in the race and Loeffler's husband, New York Stock Exchange Chairman Jeffrey Sprecher, has so far reported giving $1 million to a super PAC supporting Trump and a six-figure contribution to another GOP PAC, Trump Victory, The Washington Examiner reports, noting these checks are nowhere "near the $50 million that Gaetz suggested they would spend." You can read more at The Daily Beast. Peter Weber

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