April 16, 2021

President Biden halted construction of his predecessor's U.S.-Mexico border wall right after taking office, giving his administration time to study the contracts the Trump administration had signed and exploring ways to dispatch them. But the federal review was supposed to end March 20, and while border wall construction is still on ice, the legal cases to seize land for the wall are continuing, Politico reports. That's fueling concerns that wall construction could resume, despite Biden's pledge to stop the project.

The Justice Department still has about 140 eminent domain cases active along the Texas border, the Texas Civil Rights Project says. And at least 114 of those cases have progressed since Biden's 60-day study period ended on March 21, according to the group, which represents a handful of families fighting to keep their land, including the Cavazos family. Earlier this week, the U.S. government won the title to six acres of the Cavazos family's 77-acre ranch, Politico reports. The family said Biden broke his promise to end land seizures and they are asking the government to return the title to their land.

Customs and Border Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers "have suspended surveys, negotiations with landowners, and similar real estate acquisition activities, in accordance with the president's proclamation," a CBP spokesperson told Politico. But CBP and the White House referred questions about the eminent domain cases to the Justice Department, which said it has sought to delay the cases rather than end them, pending completion of Biden's review. The White House did not explain why the review has blown past its deadline.

"They can have all the excuses they want but it's real dicey to look at what they're doing right now," a person who consults with the White House on immigration policy and has grown frustrated tells Politico. "It's a lot of stuff Trump was doing." Peter Weber

8:30 a.m.

A group of Japanese doctors is backing demands to cancel the Olympics.

The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association in a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics to be called off due to the country's COVID-19 surge, The Washington Post and Reuters report.

"We strongly request that the authorities convince the [International Olympic Committee] that holding the Olympics is difficult and obtain its decision to cancel the Games," the group said.

These doctors are hardly alone in this request. A recent poll showed that a majority of people in Japan are opposed to holding the Tokyo Olympics in July, with only 14 percent wanting them to go forward this summer, and protesters in Tokyo have been demonstrating against plans for the games. COVID-19 cases have been up in Japan, and just about 3.5 percent of its population has been vaccinated, according to Reuters.

The Tokyo doctors warn in their letter that "the medical institutions dealing with COVID-19 have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity" and that if holding the Olympics contributes to more deaths, "Japan will bear the maximum responsibility," per Reuters. This was at least the second doctor's group to call for the Olympics to be canceled, the Post notes.

Suga, though, has said the Olympics, which won't have any foreign spectators, will be able to be carried out in a "safe and secure" fashion, and the International Olympic Committee says it's "moving fully ahead." After being delayed a year due to COVID-19, the games are scheduled to begin on July 23. Brendan Morrow

7:28 a.m.

Stephen Miller, former President Donald Trump's far-right immigration czar, has tweeted 10 messages in favor of New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang over the past week, and "Yang's campaign is not happy about it," Politico's Playbook reports Tuesday. Yang's campaign has been inundated with questions about why the man behind Trump's Muslim ban and child-separation policy is talking up their Democratic candidate, and the campaign would like to know the answer to that, too.

"It's hurting us" and "making people question why people like Andrew Yang," one Yang campaign aide told Politico. "Stephen Miller doesn't endorse normal Democrats," he is likely scaring off "normy Dems," and he "must know" he's hurting Yang's candidacy.

Yang led in the Democratic primary polls until he was recently overtaken by Eric Adams, and "there are suspicions in New York political circles that Miller is sabotaging Yang to help Adams, who is considered to be the more conservative of the two," Politico reports. Miller told Politico he "would never play that game," adding, "As much as I disagree on issues with Yang, I've admired that he's taken on positions antithetical to the progressive left in a very progressive primary."

Miller said his kind tweets about Yang may even help the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate in his mayoral race. "He hasn't made any real significant attempt to distance himself from Republican praise," Miller argued, "which suggests to me that he, as an individual, understands that there are a lot of independent voters in the primary." Yang said he "certainly would never ask for or want" the support of Republican officials. Peter Weber

6:17 a.m.

Stephen Colbert agreed with his fellow late-night hosts that the CDC's reliance on the honor system to keep unvaccinated Americans in masks is unlikely to be effective. "Okay, the only thing Americans need to stay safe is to be honest with themselves," he said on Monday's Late Show. "We are doomed. Do you know what the serving size of Oreos is? It's not 'sleeve.'"

Meanwhile, it was another "bad day for Florida congressman Matt Gaetz," Colbert said. "Gaetz is being investigated by the feds for alleged sex trafficking and having sex with a minor, and it looks like his so-called wingman is ready to sing, man." Today, Joel Greenberg "officially pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors."

"It's not just Greenberg's guilty plea that spells bad news for Gaetz," Colbert said. "We just learned that, reportedly, at a 2019 fundraiser, Gaetz snorted cocaine and had sex with an escort who was paid with campaign money. So don't worry, donors, you didn't flush your money down the drain — Gaetz placed it on the dresser." After a few more jokes, Colbert moved on. "Okay, enough GaetzGaete," he said. "Let's turn to a completely different story, GatesGaete!" His recap of Bill Gates' problems included a lot of Microsoft jokes.

Greenberg's plea deal "doesn't seem like great news for Gaetz," Late Night's Seth Meyes agreed. "I'd say Matt Gaetz should lay low for a while, but no matter how low he lays, you can still see the top of his head." More Gaetz revelations are probably coming but "we already knew about the drug-fueled sex parties and the trip to the Bahamas with his other buddy, a Florida hand surgeon and marijuana entrepreneur — which is one of the characters in Florida Clue, along with a vaping gator in a Margaritaville tank-top," he joked.

Grown men shouldn't have a "wingman," Meyers said, "but on the topic of wingmen, one could argue Rudy Giuliani served the role for Trump." Former President Donald Trump has reportedly "blown off Rudy's pleas for help," even though he "is deeply entangled in Rudy's mess, not to mention he's got his own legal problems, including multiple criminal investigations of his own." In fact, Meyers said. "I don't want to make generalizations, but there are more criminals or alleged criminals in Trump's inner circle than there are in a motorcycle gang or a Hollywood PTA meeting." Watch below. Peter Weber

5:17 a.m.

"Last week, the CDC officially announced that aside from a few exceptions, people who have gotten the COVID vaccine no longer need to wear masks to stay safe," Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. "But now, some people are telling the CDC to slow their roll," worried it's too soon to unmask, especially with no way to tell who is vaccinated.

The honor system is not a workable solution, Noah said. "I mean, have you ever seen the 10 Items or Less line?" In reality, "lots of unvaccinated people won't be wearing masks," while, "a lot of vaccinated people who don't need to wear a mask anymore are gonna keep doing it anyway," he said. "In fact, it kind of warms my heart a little bit to think that somewhere, a liberal who's wearing a mask even though he's vaccinated will run into a conservative wearing a mask to protect himself from vaccines, and the two of them will look at each other and think, 'Yeah, this guy gets it.'"

"For the new guidelines to work, the CDC is asking Americans to be honest about their vaccination status," Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show. "Really? People can't even tell the truth on their Tinder profiles." In a boring new New York Times exposé, President Biden's advisers say he's "obsessed with details, asks many questions, and displays unexpected warmth," Fallon said. "The report also says that Biden's drink of choice is Orange Gatorade. Is it? Or is it just water with Metamucil?" He also had fun with Biden's unearthed Venmo history.

Biden apparently used his since-deleted Venmo account to send money to his granddaughters, Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "It's just weird to hear about a politician using Venmo to pay teenagers for something other than sex, isn't it?"

Kimmel also lingered on a new 60 Minutes report on UFOs. "The government calls them Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, UAP — just like the Cardi B song — and they've known about this for a couple years but they waited until now to talk about it," he said. "I feel like if this story had been on 60 Minutes in, like, 1988, it would be the only thing we talk about for the next 30 years," but after watching it, "you almost hope they're visitors from another planet, because if China has technology like this, we'd better learn to speak Mandarin like immediately." Peter Weber

2:41 a.m.

President Biden is trying to tackle a number of big problems, and he pretty clearly was hoping Mideast peace wasn't going to be one of them. But the long-simmering conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted again last week, more than 200 Palestinians and 10 Israelis are dead, and the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and Hamas rockets for Israel show no sign of letting up.

Biden said Monday that he had voiced support for a ceasefire in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but he isn't publicly pressuring Israel to accept a pause in fighting and Netanyahu has made clear he's not currently interested. Instead, Biden and his top aides have used some version of urging "calm" or a "sustainable calm" or de-escalating "tensions" more than 40 times over the past week, Politico reports. "What about 'peace,' 'peace talks,' or even 'ceasefire'? Not so much."

Biden and his team "have devoted relatively little time and staffing to the Israeli-Palestinian issue." Politico reports. "The administration, and many other observers, for that matter, also concluded that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have the political will to engage in serious negotiations." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said "every statement we make is with the objective of reducing the violence and bringing an end to the conflict on the ground."

Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama administration official, said calm may be the most realistic hope right now. "Honestly, every Israeli and Palestinian I talk to tells us not to use the word 'peace,'" he told Politico. "They tell us nobody in both societies thinks that is possible right now."

But advocates for Palestinians say Biden is aiming too low. Khaled Elgindy, director of the Program on Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs at the Middle East Institute, said calls for "calm" benefit Israel, because Israelis will resume relatively normal lives when the violence ends while Gazans, still under Israeli occupation, will return to bombed-out buildings and heavy casualties. Peter Weber

2:05 a.m.

Rudy Giuliani is arguably a lot of things, but he isn't the "head of a drug cartel" or "a terrorist," his lawyers say, and shouldn't be treated as such.

In a redacted letter made public on Monday, Giuliani's attorneys asked a Manhattan federal judge to unseal the affidavits in support of a November 2019 search warrant that prosecutors used to secretly obtain files from Giuliani's Apple iCloud account. At the time, Giuliani was serving as the personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump, and his attorneys say the iCloud files collected likely included "material relating to the impending impeachment, the welfare of the country, and to national security."

The judge is deciding whether a "special master" should be appointed to Giuliani's case to protect attorney-client privilege. Giuliani's attorneys have asserted that the unsealed affidavits will help prove their argument that "this unilateral, secret review was illegal," The Associated Press reports.

Giuliani's legal team described him in the letter as a "distinguished lawyer," and accused prosecutors of treating him "as if he was the head of a drug cartel or a terrorist, in order to create maximum prejudicial coverage of both Giuliani and his most well-known client — the former president of the United States."

Federal prosecutors are looking closely at Giuliani's ties to Ukraine and whether he violated federal laws regarding lobbying for foreign countries, AP reports. Before the 2020 presidential election, Giuliani went to Ukraine to try to dig up dirt on then-candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and has said the work he conducted in the country was on behalf of Trump. Catherine Garcia

1:26 a.m.

Thanks to the members of Girl Scout Troops 2377 and 134, kids playing at two parks in northern Illinois will now always be able to find new friends.

The Scouts spent two years collecting more than 300 pounds of plastic bottle caps, and using money raised through cookie sales, had those caps made into rainbow-colored buddy benches. When a child sits on the bench, it indicates that they are looking for someone to play with, ensuring that no one feels left out.

The benches were installed last month at Converse Park in Island Lake and Fort McHenry Park in McHenry. Troop leader Kelly Bays told The Daily Herald the benches are a "tangible way for us to share the Girl Scout law with our community. The Girls Scouts were able to use resources wisely, make the world a better place, be friendly and helpful, caring and considerate, and be a sister to every Girl Scout as two troops worked together to do this project." For their hard work, the Scouts earned their Take Action award. Catherine Garcia

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