July 14, 2020

The Trump administration may be caving to criticism — and lawsuits — over a newly-unveiled U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rule that would bar international students from remaining in the U.S. if their college instruction remained solely online in the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reports.

ICE hasn't formally published the rule, so there's still time for the White House to amend it, and people familiar with the matter told the Journal that's a real possibility. The administration may not scrap the idea completely, but could instead scale it back following pressure from students, universities, tech companies, and states. Dozens of colleges and universities have already sued the administration.

Currently, the rules would mean foreign students at schools planning to rely only on online courses next semester, like Harvard University, would have to leave the U.S. Per the Journal, if a school switches to remote classes amid a worsening pandemic, those students would have to up and leave.

If the White House does go through with the changes, however, one new iteration of the rule under consideration would allow returning students to remain in the U.S., while still preventing newly-enrolling students from entering, an official told the Journal. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

Opinion
2:33 p.m.

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday released a proposed rule change putting new limits on visas for international students, exchange visitors (au pairs, visiting scholars, and the like), and foreign journalists. The rules for students especially have drawn immediate criticism because, as is so often the case with the Trump administration's immigration policy, they are needlessly onerous and cruel.

As it stands, the student visas in question don't have an expiration date — their duration is linked to the duration of study. The new rule would limit these visas to four years, regardless of degree length. But for students from certain countries, the limit would be just two years, typically half the time to complete a bachelor's degree. Students could request extensions, but they're not guaranteed. The risk of spending two years of time and tuition on a degree that can't be completed is likely great enough to deter many students from studying in America at all.

Those familiar with President Trump's past country-specific immigration rules won't be surprised to learn the stricter, two-year version applies overwhelmingly to nations in Africa and the Middle East, including many Muslim-majority countries. It does this by targeting the four nations on the state sponsors of terrorism list and, crucially, "citizens of countries with a student and exchange visitor total overstay rate of greater than 10 percent."

But overstay rate often doesn't correlate with overstay volume (India, for example, has more than 20 times as many overstays as Iraq, but a much lower percentage rate). Thus using the overstay rate limits student visas for what Trump would reportedly dub "shithole countries" via an ostensibly neutral formula while doing relatively little to cut down on total visa overstays.

Perhaps most galling of all is this metric's inclusion of nations like Afghanistan and Iraq, where the United States is actively at war and engaged in nation building, ostensibly spreading democracy and promoting education. Other countries we've invaded or otherwise subjected to military intervention — including Yemen, Vietnam, and Somalia — are on the list, too. Citizens of these countries get American bombs, but maybe not books. Bonnie Kristian

1:53 p.m.

President Trump's niece after slamming him in a tell-all book is taking him to court.

Mary Trump, the president's niece who spoke out against him as she published the book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man in July, on Thursday filed a lawsuit against him in New York, accusing the president and his siblings of fraud, NBC News reports.

The lawsuit claims that for president, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, and his late brother Robert Trump, "fraud was not just the family business — it was a way of life," and it accuses them of having "concocted scheme after scheme to cheat on their taxes, swindle their business partners, and jack up rents on their low income tenants."

Mary Trump also claims in the lawsuit that after the death of her father, Fred Trump Jr., the president and his siblings "fleeced her of tens of millions of dollars" of her inheritance after they "designed and carried out a complex scheme to siphon funds away from her interests, conceal their grift, and deceive her about the true value of what she had inherited," per NBC.

President Trump previously attacked his niece after the publication of her tell-all book, calling her a "seldom seen niece who knows little about me," and the White House called Too Much and Never Enough a "book of falsehoods." White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany also said Thursday that "the only fraud committed there was Mary Trump recording one of her relatives," referring to Mary Trump having secretly recorded conversations with Maryanne Trump Barry.

Mary Trump in a statement on Thursday alleged Trump and his siblings "betrayed me by working together in secret to steal from me" and said she's bringing the lawsuit "to hold them accountable and to recover what is rightfully mine." Brendan Morrow

1:32 p.m.

FBI Director Chris Wray has affirmed there's no proof of a national attempt to defraud the 2020 election.

On Wednesday, President Trump refused to say whether he would peacefully give up power if Democratic nominee Joe Biden is elected this fall, once again repeating baseless allegations that Democrats are running a "scam." But in sworn testimony before Congress on Thursday, Wray said he's seen no evidence of this happening.

While Wray takes "voter fraud and voter suppression ... seriously" and is committed to investigating those situations, "We have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or otherwise," Wray said when questioned by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). He has seen instances of local voter fraud, but "to change a federal election outcome by mounting that kind of fraud at scale would be a major challenge," Wray added.

Wray was Trump's pick to replace James Comey as FBI director, but Trump has reportedly been considering ousting Wray for months. Trump also publicly disparaged Wray on Twitter after the director made it clear Russia was trying to interfere in the 2020 election. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:49 a.m.

Republican congressmembers are calling out President Trump's election fraud allegations without actually calling him out.

In a Wednesday press conference, Trump refused to say if he would accept a loss in the 2020 election, instead baselessly suggesting Democrats are running a "scam" that "will end up in the Supreme Court." Democrats roundly accused Trump of acting like a "dictator," but Republicans waited until Thursday to issue gentler, less direct criticisms of their own.

The House's No. 3 Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) ensured in a tweet that "the peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution."

While Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) guaranteed even though "it may take longer than usual to know the outcome," the 2020 presidential election will produce a "valid" winner. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) meanwhile brushed off Trump's comments as merely saying "crazy stuff," but said "We've always had a peaceful transition of power. It's not going to change."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) capped them off with a rare criticism, ensuring whoever wins the election will be inaugurated in January, and "there will be an orderly transition" of power when that happens. Kathryn Krawczyk

Kathryn Krawczyk

11:29 a.m.

President Trump on Thursday paid his respects to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and while doing so was booed by protesters in the area.

The president, alongside first lady Melania Trump, on Thursday visited the United States Supreme Court, where Ginsburg lay in repose after she died last week at 87. Video from the scene showed loud booing from nearby protesters, who could also be heard chanting "vote him out!" and "honor her wish!"

The latter chant was a reference to Ginsburg having dictated a statement to her granddaughter prior to her death saying that her "most fervent wish" was not to be replaced on the Supreme Court "until a new president is installed," as NPR reported. Trump earlier this week baselessly suggested Ginsburg's statement was made up, telling Fox News, "I don't know that she said that." Republicans are moving forward to fill Ginsburg's seat prior to the November election, and Trump has said he will announce his nominee on Saturday.

CNN's Kevin Liptak noted that it's "rare for this president to see his opposition this up-close and in-person" as he did on Thursday. Another example was in October 2019, when Trump attended Game 5 of the World Series in Washington, D.C. and was met with boos, as well as chants of "Lock him up!" Watch the moment below. Brendan Morrow

10:40 a.m.

United Airlines has announced plans to start offering COVID-19 tests to certain passengers, becoming the first U.S. airline to do so, CNN reports.

The airline on Thursday said that beginning on Oct. 15, passengers traveling from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii will be able to take either a rapid COVID-19 test at the airport or a test that they can administer at home prior to the trip.

At the airport, United will offering Abbott's COVID-19 test that provides results in 15 minutes. For the mail-in test from Color, passengers will be able to return it through mail or a drop box and get the results back in between 24 and 48 hours. According to CBS News, the rapid testing at the airport "takes about 20 minutes from arrival to result and initially will cost $250," while the at-home testing "will be $80 plus shipping and go to a San Francisco lab for processing."

This program, United said, will help ensure that these passengers who test negative for COVID-19 will not be subject to Hawaii's 14-day quarantine requirements. As CNN notes, Hawaii says that those who "are tested no earlier than 72 hours before their flight arrives with an FDA-approved nucleic acid amplification test" can avoid the 14-day quarantine.

United Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist says the company will "look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year." Brendan Morrow

10:35 a.m.

President Trump will accept the results of the 2020 election, but only under select conditions.

In a press conference Wednesday, Trump raised concerns from both sides of the aisle as he refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the election this fall. Trump suggested, without evidence, that ballot fraud would lead him to lose the election, and that it would likely be decided in the Supreme Court.

So in a Thursday appearance on Brian Kilmeade's Fox News Radio, the host asked Trump if he would accept a Joe Biden victory if it came from the Supreme Court. "That I would agree with," Trump responded. "But I think we have a long way before we get there. These ballots are a horror show."

But it's not as if Trump has no influence on the court he's relying on to make a 2020 decision. The Supreme Court already has a conservative majority, with two of Trump's own nominees already on the bench. And after Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death last week, Trump ominously said Wednesday it was important to get a new nominee on the bench before Election Day. "I think this [the election] will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it's very important that we have nine justices," Trump said, alleging Democrats are running a "scam" that will end up "before the United States Supreme Court." Kathryn Krawczyk

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