By Brooke Seipel
The Trump administration has instructed border agents running an asylum program to target Spanish speakers and Latin American migrants, according to memos obtained by The Associated Press. The program was launched in late January to handle the cases of immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. and initially only was applicable to those turning themselves in at border crossings. According to The Associated Press, a memo from a top Border Patrol official says the program expanded last week to include those illegally crossing the border. The memo also reportedly laid out instructions on who to allow through the traditional asylum process and who to send back to Mexico. Those allowed to go through traditional processes include LGBT migrants, pregnant women, Mexican asylum seekers, children traveling alone, and those in medical distress, according to the AP. Another directive in the memo reportedly orders border officials to check if those seeking asylum are convicted of any felonies and to notify Mexico at least 12 hours prior to their return. Critics have pointed out that the program's guidelines almost solely target Central Americans. A second memo sent to top Border Patrol officials on Tuesday reportedly revealed that the agency is being pressured to employ the program as much as possible. Another memo obtained by the AP showed that the program is being expanded to include people who cross the border illegally between crossing points. The news of the reported memos comes as the southwest border saw a significant jump last month in apprehensions and denials of people attempting to enter the United States.
By John Bowden
President Trump's former longtime attorney Michael Cohen allegedly directed his attorney to contact Trump's lawyers about the possibility of obtaining a pardon, Cohen's attorney and spokesman said Wednesday. Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, told The Wall Street Journal late Wednesday that Cohen had asked his former attorney, Stephen Ryan, last spring to inquire about a possible pardon. Davis added that Cohen had been open to a presidential pardon in the weeks after the FBI raided his home, hotel room and office. “During that time period, he directed his attorney to explore possibilities of a pardon at one point with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as other lawyers advising President Trump,” Davis told the Journal, while calling the talks an “ongoing ‘dangling’ of a possible pardon.” The Hill has reached out to Davis for comment. The Journal had previously reported that Ryan allegedly discussed the possibility of a pardon with Trump's attorneys Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani and Joanna Hendon, following the FBI raid. According to the Journal, Giuliani left open the possibility that Trump could grant Cohen a future pardon, Trump's lawyers said. Giuliani told The New York Times late Wednesday that multiple people facing scrutiny from the Justice Department in connection with Robert Mueller's special counsel probe have reached out to him about a possible presidential pardon. Giuliani's answer reportedly came in response to a question about potential pardon discussions between him and a lawyer who, at the time, was in talks with Cohen about legal representation. “I always gave one answer, and they always left disappointed,” the former New York City mayor told the Times. Giuliani declined to comment to either outlet about whose lawyers had been in contact with him, but he told the Journal, "I would assume ones representing Cohen" were among those lawyers.
By MARIANNE LEVINE
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t shied away from publicly criticizing House Democrats’ electoral reform bill and the Green New Deal. But he’ll only allow the Green New Deal to get a Senate vote on the floor. Republicans ripped into the House Democrats’ electoral reform bill, H.R. 1, at a press conference Wednesday, arguing that the legislation was merely a tactic to tilt elections in favor of Democrats. McConnell, who has dubbed the bill the “Democrat Politician Protection Act,” said that the bill is “offensive to average voters” and will not get any floor time in the Senate. When asked at a press conference why he wasn’t bringing the House electoral reform bill to the Senate floor, McConnell responded, with a grin: "Because I get to decide what we vote on.” “What is the problem we’re trying to solve here?” McConnell asked. “People are flooding to the polls.” McConnell in February, however, said he’ll bring a vote on the Green New Deal, the resolution led by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), in order to challenge Democrats on the measure that Republicans say is far to the left of most Americans. The bill is slated to pass the Democratically-controlled House this week, fulfilling a campaign promise many members made in the last election cycle to overhaul elections. The legislation contains a series of voting reforms Democrats have long pushed for, including automatic voter registration, expansion of early voting, an endorsement of D.C. statehood and a requirement that independent commissions oversee House redistricting. In addition, the bill requires “dark money” groups to disclose donors. Democrats argue that the bill will make it easier to vote and cracks down on money in politics. But Republicans said the bill would amount to federal overreach when it comes to elections. “If the federal government begins to give lots of direction, is the federal government going to give lots of money?” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said. “If the federal government give lots of money the federal government always gives lots of control.” House Republicans also blasted their Democratic colleagues for rushing the bill through. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), ranking member of the House Administration Committee, said the bill falls under the purview of several committees and that did not undergo enough review before heading to the floor. “This bill is being pushed on us,” he said. “What this bill is, is a Democrat push to elect more Democrats.”
By BURGESS EVERETT and MARIANNE LEVINE
The Senate majority leader is moving quickly to confirm appointments to the Circuit and District Courts — likely leaving few vacancies for the next potential Democratic president. President Donald Trump’s stream of judges is about to become a torrent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his GOP caucus have long prioritized confirming conservative judges to lifetime appointments. But they’re about to accelerate their ability to unilaterally approve many nominees in dramatic fashion. The Senate is on track to confirm the 34th Circuit Court judge of Trump’s presidency in the next week and the GOP has three more ready for floor action; that would give Trump roughly 20 percent of the Circuit Court seats in the country after just two years in office. At this rate, McConnell and Trump could leave few, if any, vacancies there for a potential Democratic president in 2021. Even more alarming for Democrats, the GOP is also preparing to pull the trigger on the “nuclear option” and change Senate rules once again with a simple majority to allow much quicker confirmation of lower court judges in the coming months. “The committee is working to put [judges] out on the floor and as soon as they come to the floor the leader’s making it a priority to move them,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, McConnell’s top deputy. “It'll be a high priority for the foreseeable future. I mean, it’s one of the things we can do that we don’t need the House’s help with.” With the House controlled by Democrats, stocking the judiciary is the most tangible way for Republicans to deliver conservative results during divided government. It’s not that the Senate GOP has no legislative plans. There’s a budget deal to be had to lift stiff spending caps and an inevitable debt ceiling drama to address. But McConnell’s focus remains squarely on bending the arc of the courts to be more supportive of Trump and future GOP presidents, particularly as the fight over the direction of the country shifts increasingly to the courts. Though Trump and McConnell have set an impressive pace at the Circuit Court level, they’ve lagged on District Court vacancies. But that is likely to change as Republicans prepare to sideline Democrats and shave debate time from 30 hours to just two hours for those judges and lower-level executive branch nominees. Trump currently has 128 District Court vacancies to fill, and each one can take multiple days under current rules if any senator demands a delay; if Republicans change the rules, Trump could conceivably fill most of those over the next 20 months. “What you could witness under Senator McConnell's leadership is a situation where an incoming president has very, very few open seats to fill,” added Leonard Leo, a conservative legal advocate who frequently advises Republicans on judicial nominations. Still, Democrats say some liberal judges will opt not to retire as long as Trump is president.
By Bill Hutchinson
A former Palm Beach County, Florida, police officer was found guilty of all charges in the 2015 roadside killing of a church musician. The former Palm Beach Gardens officer, Nouman Raja, was convicted of manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder in the Oct. 19, 2015, shooting death of 31-year-old Corey Jones. Raja was immediately taken into custody once the jury's verdict was announced. "I have some closure. This is going to be a long journey for me. I'll never forget my son and now I can begin to start the process of healing and doing the things that he desired to do and that's music," Jones' father, Clinton Jones Sr., said after the verdict was read. "I'm going through this mix: Peace, the pressure just left me. And I'm just filled with a lot of joy right now. My emotions are getting pretty wild right now," he said. He thanked the jury for listening to the evidence and staying "focused." "The persevered through the process," he said. This was not about race ... this was about justice."
By Paul Farhi
The Democratic National Committee has decided to exclude Fox News Channel from televising any of its candidate debates during the 2019-2020 cycle as a result of published revelations detailing the cable network’s close ties to the Trump administration. In a statement Wednesday, DNC Chairman Tom Perez cited a story in the New Yorker magazine this week that detailed how Fox has promoted President Trump’s agenda. The article, titled “The Making of the Fox News White House,” suggested that the news network had become a “propaganda” vehicle for Trump. “I believe that a key pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach all voters,” said Perez in his statement to The Washington Post. “That is why I have made it a priority to talk to a broad array of potential media partners, including Fox News. Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.” Winning the exclusive rights to televise the 12 candidate debates is considered a prestigious prize in the television business. The debates typically draw large audiences — the first Republican debate in August 2015 attracted a record 24 million viewers — and are a vehicle for promoting the networks’ news programs. Numerous networks, including Fox, have submitted proposals to the DNC to televise one of the 12 scheduled debates, which will start in June. So far, the organization has only awarded rights to the first two — to NBC (along with sister networks MSNBC and Telemundo) and to CNN. In a statement, Fox News Senior Vice President Bill Sammon said: “We hope the DNC will reconsider its decision to bar Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, all of whom embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism, from moderating a Democratic presidential debate. They’re the best debate team in the business and they offer candidates an important opportunity to make their case to the largest TV news audience in America, which includes many persuadable voters.” The network hosted back-to-back town hall meetings with Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in 2016 but did not televise a Democratic debate that year. Fox’s connections to Trump have been documented for years. He had a regular spot on its morning program “Fox and Friends” starting in 2011 and has hired several of its former contributors and executives to work in his administration, including its former co-president, Bill Shine, who is now the president’s deputy chief of staff for communications. Trump has been interviewed many times on the network and has promoted various Fox talking points and personalities on Twitter. Some observers have suggested that the network has become a kind of de facto “state TV,” shaping and promoting Trump’s policy agency. New Yorker writer Jane Mayer added new details about the relationship in her 11,000-word article published this week. Among other things, she reported that Roger Ailes, the network’s late chief executive, may have informed the Trump campaign about a question involving Trump’s treatment of women that former Fox News host Megyn Kelly intended to ask at the first Republican debate in 2015. Mayer also reported that Trump was tipped by Fox sources to a second debate question about whether the candidates would support the Republican nominee for president, regardless of who won. In addition, Mayer wrote that a Fox reporter, Diana Falzone, had detailed information about Trump’s relationship with porn star Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election, but network officials declined to publish the story, apparently on orders from Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch. Fox has denied this account; it said it was unable to confirm Daniels’s story and didn’t publish anything as a result.
By Li Zhou
A poll finds that one-third of Republicans are among those who feel this way. A new Quinnipiac poll indicates many Americans believe President Trump has done illegal stuff. It also suggests that Trump is facing a sharp gender gap heading into 2020. According to the poll, which was conducted in the wake of his former attorney Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony last week, a majority of voters think Trump committed crimes before becoming president. Sixty-four percent of respondents to the survey think that Trump committed a crime prior to taking office, compared to 24 percent who do not and 13 percent who said they didn’t know. When the data is broken out across party lines, a whopping 89 percent of Democrats think Trump committed a crime prior to taking office, while a still-notable 33 percent of Republicans do. Sixty-five percent of independents also said they felt the same. The poll does not specify what it means by “crime” in the question, however. When it comes to the question of potential crimes during Trump’s time in office, people are a bit more unsure. Forty-five percent of respondents said they believed he had committed crimes since taking office, while 43 percent disagreed. Cohen’s testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee, which offered details about everything from hush money payments to Stormy Daniels to racist comments Trump may have made, appears to have resonated with quite a few people. Fifty percent of voters say they believe Cohen more than Trump, according to the poll, and 58 percent believe that Congress should continue to investigate claims he’s made about “Trump’s unethical and illegal behavior.” While most of the poll results are still heavily split between Republicans and Democrats, the survey suggests that a portion of the GOP is also concerned about Trump’s honesty and track record, though the majority of Republican respondents still broadly support his approach to policy. The area where Trump was most likely to get credit from voters was on his handling of the economy. Forty-nine percent of respondents overall said they approved of his work on this issue, while just 38 percent approved of his efforts on foreign policy and 40 percent approved of his approach to immigration issues. “When two-thirds of voters think you have committed a crime in your past life, and almost half of voters say it’s a tossup over whether you committed a crime while in the Oval Office, confidence in your overall integrity is very shaky,” Quinnipiac’s Tim Malloy said in a statement. ”Add to that, Michael Cohen, a known liar headed to the big house, has more credibility than the leader of the free world.”
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN)Even as the 2020 race begins in earnest, President Donald Trump is already suggesting that Democrats cannot beat him fairly -- raising the specter that if he loses next November, he will suggest that the election was not legitimate. "The Democrats in Congress yesterday were vicious and totally showed their cards for everyone to see," Trump tweeted Tuesday, referring to House Democrats' launching of a broad-scale investigation into him. "When the Republicans had the Majority they never acted with such hatred and scorn! The Dems are trying to win an election in 2020 that they know they cannot legitimately win!" Trump 2020 campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany echoed that sentiment in a statement on the Democratic investigations. "These desperate Democrats know they cannot beat President Trump in 2020, so instead they have embarked on a disgraceful witch hunt with one singular aim: topple the will of the American people and seize the power that they have zero chance at winning legitimately," she said. And asked Wednesday about the Democratic investigations, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said this: "They continue to be a group totally taken by small radical leftist fringe of their party and they're completely controlled by it, they know that's not enough to beat this President so they're going to look for other ways to do that." All of that rhetoric fits into a very clear pattern: Convince the Trump base that it is not possible for him to lose a fair and legitimate election in 2020. Thus, if he loses, it must be, by definition, illegitimate. None of this should be surprising, given Trump's oft-stated view of the 2016 election -- in which he won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. Less than three weeks after winning the White House in 2016, Trump sent out this tweet: "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." In a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers just days after his inauguration, Trump was at it again -- reportedly telling the gathering that somewhere between 3 and 5 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election and, had only legitimate votes been cast, he would have won the popular vote in addition to the Electoral College. Neither Trump nor anyone in his administration has ever provided any evidence of his claims of widespread illegality. A commission formed by Trump -- and chaired by failed Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach -- was disbanded after less than a year. And study after study has shown that widespread voter fraud -- of the sort alleged by Trump -- simply does not exist. Of course, Trump is less interested in the facts about voter fraud -- or lack thereof -- than he is about convincing his base that if he loses, it's not because he got less votes, it's because something nefarious is being perpetrated against him by the elites. How do I know? Because Trump was doing it in the 2016 election -- before he knew he actually won. In an interview on Fox News Channel on Election Day 2016, Trump said this: "It's largely a rigged system. And you see it at the polling booths, too. There are reports that when people vote for Republicans the entire ticket switches over to Democrats. You've seen that. It's happening at various places today. It's been reported. In other words, the machines, you put down a Republican and it registers as a Democrat. They've had a lot of complaints about that today." So, yeah.