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    To the Trump administration, the recovered missile fragments were incontrovertible proof that Iran was illicitly arming Yemen's Houthi rebels. Yet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif brushed it off Tuesday as little more than cheese puffs. During a visit to New York, the Iranian diplomat accused U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley of displaying fabricated evidence that missiles lobbed by the Houthis at civilian areas in Saudi Arabia originated in Iran. Though Tehran supports the Shiite rebel group, it firmly denies giving them missiles. But Haley has invited journalists and U.N. Security Council diplomats to inspect missile parts recovered after strikes on Saudi Arabia, bearing what U.S. military officials said were Iranian markings and characteristics. Zarif, in an Associated Press interview, said that one such logo was from the Standard Institute of Iran, which he said regulates consumer goods — not weapons. 'It's a sign of quality,' Zarif said. 'When people want to buy it, they look at whether it's been tested by the Standard Institute of Iran that your cheese puffs are good, your cheese puffs will not give you a stomach ache.' He laughed and added, 'I mean, nobody will put the logo of the Standard Institute of Iran on a piece of missile.' Zarif also pointed to a truck-size section of a missile that the U.S. said was recovered in Saudi Arabia and was transferred to a military base near Washington, where it was on display behind Haley for a photo-op. Zarif noted that the missile had been supposedly shot down in mid-air. 'I'm not saying Ambassador Haley is fabricating, but somebody is fabricating the evidence she is showing,' Zarif said. Some of the fragments Haley presented, if authentic, would seem to implicate Iran's military industry more directly, including some with the logo of Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, an Iranian defense entity under U.S. sanctions. Haley said others had clear 'Iranian missile fingerprints,' such as short-range ballistic missiles that lacked large stabilizers — a feature she said only Iran's Qiam missiles have. 'Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK, or the airports in Paris, London or Berlin,' Haley told reporters late last year. 'That's what we're talking about here.' Tehran's denials aside, there's broad agreement among the United Nations, Western countries and the Persian Gulf's Arab leaders that Iran has armed the Houthis with ballistic missiles, even though U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibit it. With U.S. support, a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen's civil war has been bombing the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa and much of northern Yemen. Yet Iran's opponents have struggled to provide foolproof evidence to back up their claims, creating an opening for Iran to deny. After Haley's presentations at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, some national security experts raised questions, even drawing parallels to Secretary of State Colin Powell's 2003 speech to the U.N. making the case for the Iraq War. The fragments Haley presented were turned over to the U.S. by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — two of Iran's fiercest critics — and U.S. military officials had trouble tracing the fragments' chain of custody. Nor could they say when the weapons were transferred to the Houthis or in some cases precisely when they were launched.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday wades into one of the more controversial policy matters of the Trump Administration, as the Justices will hear arguments on the merits of the revised effort by President Donald Trump to block certain foreign nationals from traveling to the United States, what critics often deride as his “Muslim ban.” Before the Court is the third version of the Trump travel order, which began just a week into his Presidency, as an effort to stop travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries. After the first two versions were blocked by the courts – this third one would limit visits to the United States by people from Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Somalia, and slow down the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. “As President, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people,” Mr. Trump said as he issued the third version of the travel order in September of 2017. Lower courts have ruled against the Trump plan. The travel order is being challenged by the state of Hawaii, which has tried to use the President’s past statements and tweets about the threat of Islamic terrorism against the travel order, which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect while the case was being litigated. “The arguments against the travel ban come from every corner of our country,” says Neal Katyal, who will carry Hawaii’s case before the Justices. “It comes down to who we are as a nation,” Katyal wrote. THREAD 1. The backgrounds and perspectives of those articulating arguments against the travel ban in #TrumpvHawaii are remarkable in their breadth and diversity. Their chorus is deafening: the ban is unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary and un-American. — Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) April 24, 2018 Interest in the case has been strong, as the line for public seats began forming on Monday outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The arguments on the Trump travel order come as lower courts are still duking it out over efforts by the President to terminate the DACA program from the Obama Administration – that question is expected to reach the Justices in coming months. On Tuesday evening, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. became the third to block the President’s effort to end DACA, the program which allows younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers” to temporarily stay in the U.S. and avoid deportation proceedings. “DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” wrote Judge John Bates, though he gave the feds 90 days to better explain the decision. Judge Bates (DDC) finds DACA rescission unlawful (but note the different remedy than in prior cases; Judge Bates vacates the rescission, but stays it for 90 days to allow admin to offer a justification that might support the policy): https://t.co/ZfPkiBciYr — Leah Litman (@LeahLitman) April 24, 2018 As with the Trump travel order, the President’s effort on DACA could be on the docket next term for the Justices.
  • It took a big money push from the Republican Party, tweets by the president and the support of the state's current and former governors, but the GOP held onto an Arizona U.S. House seat they would have never considered endangered in any other year. Tuesday's narrow victory by Republican Debbie Lesko over a Democratic political newcomer sends a big message to Republicans nationwide: Even the reddest of districts in a red state can be in play this year. Early returns show Lesko winning by about 5 percentage points in Arizona's 8th Congressional District where Donald Trump won by 21 percentage points. The former state senator defeated Hiral Tipirneni, a former emergency room physician who had hoped to replicate surprising Democratic wins in Pennsylvania, Alabama and other states in a year where opposition to President Trump's policies have boosted the party's chances in Republican strongholds. Republican political consultant Chuck Coughlin called Tuesday's special election margin 'not good' for national Republicans looking at their chances in November. 'They should clean house in this election,' said Coughlin, longtime adviser to former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. 'There's a drag on the midterms for Republican candidates that's being created by the national narrative. And it would be very hard to buck that trend if you're in swing districts, much less close districts, if you can't change that narrative between now and November.' Lesko replaces former Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican who resigned in December amid sexual misconduct allegations. A former aide told The Associated Press that he pressed her to carry his child as a surrogate and offered her $5 million. The district sprawls across western Phoenix suburbs, covering some of the most conservative areas of the red state, including the retirement community of Sun City. At a victory party in her Glendale neighborhood, Lesko greeted supporters and looked back in wonder. 'I've really come a long way and this is really quite overwhelming, it's very surreal,' she said. 'Twenty-five years ago I left an abusive husband and I sure as heck never would have dreamt in a million years that I would be running for Congress to be a congresswoman.' Brewer, who backed Lesko and was at her victory party, also warned that Republicans need to make changes if they want to hold the district and other seats in November elections. 'I think all Republicans need to wake up and listen to what the public wants,' she said. 'Before November, we're going to have to work very hard. We're going to have to listen to our constituents.' Tipirneni worked the district hard, making inroads rarely seen in an area that hadn't elected a Democrat since the early 1980s. She was seen as a fresh Democratic face with relatively moderate views that could get support in the district. Making a push for older voters, she had said Lesko would vote to go after entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts that mainly benefit the wealthy. She's pushed a plan to allow some people to buy into Medicare. Tipirneni said she plans to run in November's general election and told supporters not to give up the cause. She said that despite the big Republican advantage in the district, the results show people were ready for a change. 'We have a very short amount of time, and clearly Ms. Lesko she had the registration numbers a little bit in her favor and she also had the name recognition,' Tipirneni said. 'But given more time I know we can get more folks on our side.' The Associated Press called the race for Lesko after state officials released tallies of more than 155,000 mail-in ballots, which represent about 75 percent of the votes expected. National Republican groups spent big to back Lesko, pouring in more than $500,000 in the suburban Phoenix district for television and mail ads and phone calls to voters. On Election Day, Trump and current Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey urged Republicans to go to the polls and vote for Lesko. National Democratic groups, meanwhile, didn't commit money to the race, a sign they didn't believe the seat was in play. Several Republican voters who spoke with AP said they backed Lesko primarily because she supported Trump's border security plans. David Hunt, a 64-year-old retired construction and warehouse worker from Glendale, said he cast his vote Tuesday for Lesko because he believed that immigrants in the country illegally are creating unfair competition for jobs for recent high school students in Arizona. 'She's the best candidate to deal with the porous border,' Hunt said. His views were echoed by Larry Bettis, a retiree from Glendale. 'Immigration - the fence,' Bettis said. 'That's all I really care about.' Democrats said they wanted to send a message to Trump and supported Democratic health care plans. 'I don't like the president and felt it was time to take a stand,' said Nikole Allen, a 45-year-old medical assistant from New York now living in Glendale. 'It's time for us to vote the Republicans out.
  • The security chief for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency worked on the side as a private investigator for the owner of a tabloid news company with close ties to President Donald Trump. EPA special agent Pasquale 'Nino' Perrotta performed regular work for National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. during the 2016 election, according to person with knowledge of the company's internal workings. But unlike another private investigator hired by the Enquirer, Perrotta didn't work on such newsroom projects as tracking down sources. Instead, the person told The Associated Press on Tuesday, Perrotta was engaged to discretely handle investigative work at the direction of AMI chairman and CEO David Pecker. The person was not authorized to speak publicly about the company's operations and spoke on condition of anonymity. The New York Times first reported Perrotta's link to AMI. In addition to his job at EPA, Perrotta is the top executive at Sequoia Security Group, a Maryland-based security firm. The person with knowledge of the situation did not know whether Perrotta was paid for his work for AMI and Pecker through Sequoia or another business entity. A former Secret Service agent, Perrotta has worked at EPA for more than a decade. He was tapped by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt last year to lead his 20-member, full-time personal protective detail. Perrotta's predecessor as Pruitt's security chief was reassigned for refusing to acquiesce to the administrator's demands for VIP treatment, including using the emergency lights on a government vehicle to speed through Washington traffic to make airline flights and dinner reservations. Perrotta did not respond late Tuesday to messages seeking comment. EPA's press office also did not respond to messages seeking comment about the security chief's side business. AP reported earlier this month that Perrotta oversaw a rapid expansion of Pruitt's security team and the taxpayer-funded precautions used to ensure his personal safety, including the use of first-class airline seats after a fellow traveler cursed at the EPA chief in an airport. Perrotta also spearheaded the purchase of a $43,000 soundproof booth for Pruitt's office to help ensure his telephone calls could not be overheard by others. The Government Accountability Office found earlier this month that the spending on the pricey privacy booth violated federal purchasing laws. Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday issued a letter questioning whether Perrotta was improperly operating an outside consulting firm without proper approval from EPA ethics officials. Under Pecker, American Media became one of the earliest and most fervent backers of Trump's political career, providing breathless coverage as far back as 2011 to Trump's promotion of the false theory that President Barack Obama might not be a U.S. citizen. During the 2016 campaign, Pecker's flagship National Enquirer was in close contact with Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen while it attacked Trump's Republican opponents from its perch in supermarket checkout aisles, printing thin allegations about Sen. Ted Cruz's personal life and alleging Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was in declining physical and mental health. AMI also helped Trump in a far less public fashion. The company paid $150,000 to a former Playboy Playmate for the rights to her story about an alleged affair with Trump during his marriage to Melania, and another $30,000 to a former Trump doorman peddling another story about Trump. AMI has denied the payments were hush money, though Pecker himself noted in a New Yorker interview last year that the contract with Playmate Karen McDougal prevented her from 'bashing Trump.' Records show Perrotta received clearance in March 2013 for limited nongovernment consulting work but was required to get updated approval if his job duties changed. Perrotta received a significant promotion and pay raise last year. According to the letter approving his work outside the agency, Perrotta told EPA ethics officials he expected to be 'self-employed' to provide consulting to two to three clients for approximately three to six hours per week on issues related to cybersecurity and 'denial of service insurance.' The 2013 approval, which was in effect for a five-year period that expired last month, also barred Perrotta from using his government position to advance his personal interests. AP reported in December that EPA paid $3,000 to contractor Edwin Steinmetz Associates last year to search Pruitt's office for secret listening devices. Steinmetz is also listed as a vice president at Perrotta's security firm. Emails obtained by congressional Democrats showed that Perrotta played a role in the decision to conduct the bug sweep, the contract for which the lawmakers allege he improperly steered to Steinmetz. Tuesday's letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who serve on a committee with oversight of EPA. They ask an agency ethics official to re-examine whether Perrotta's outside employment violates agency rules. ___ Follow Associated Press investigative reporters Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck and Jeff Horwitz at http://twitter.com/JeffHorwitz
  • There were no celebrity guests, Hollywood entertainers or superstar chefs. But as she stepped out of the background to host her first state dinner, Melania Trump sought to sparkle in her moment in the spotlight. After ditching her trademark dark sunglasses for a white skirt suit and hat earlier Tuesday, the first lady appeared in a Chanel gown to greet President Emmanuel Macron of France and his wife, Brigitte, as they arrived for the first state dinner of Trump's administration. It was a big moment in fashion — and public life — for the former model, who has kept a relatively low profile since Trump took office, and one that played out as her husband is shadowed by a legal threat from a porn actress who says she was paid to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump, which he denies. With the opulent affair, Mrs. Trump seemed to be aiming to make a statement, stressing her personal involvement in picking the menu and gold-trimmed table settings. In a nod to France, she wore a black Chantilly lace Chanel haute couture gown, hand-painted with silver and embroidered with crystal and sequins, according to her spokeswoman. Her French counterpart wore Louis Vuitton. The president lavished praise on his wife in his toast, calling her 'America's absolutely incredible first lady.' He went on to hail the bonds between the United States and France, saying: 'May our friendship grow even deeper, may our kinship grow even stronger and may our sacred liberty never die.' With 123 attendees, the event was smaller and more intimate than President Barack Obama's dinners. Among those attending were Vice President Mike Pence, Chief Justice John Roberts, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and two Winter Olympians, who flashed their gold medals on their way into the pre-dinner reception. Guests at Trump's table included Apple CEO Tim Cook and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, the president's nominee for secretary of state, as well as Macron and his wife. In his toast, Macron talked about the countries' 'unbreakable friendship' and referenced both his and Trump's rapid political ascents, saying: 'On both sides of the ocean some two years ago, very few would have bet on us being here together today.' While Ivanka Trump, a senior White House adviser and the president's elder daughter, and Louise Linton, the wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, wowed in designer gowns, there were no surprise celebrity guests, in contrast with past years. Asked what she was looking forward to, Linton said: 'Everything French!' The White House stressed that Mrs. Trump, who planned her 2005 wedding, had a hand in every aspect of the social denouement of Macron's visit. She released a brief video showing her working on the details with her staff, including the menu and the table settings. The guests, seated at round candle-lit tables decorated with bouquets of white flowers, dined on rack of lamb and nectarine tart served on a mix of china settings from the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. After-dinner entertainment was courtesy of the Washington National Opera. Trump's Cabinet was well-represented at the dinner. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were there, along with Mnuchin and Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton, and new top economic adviser Larry Kudlow. Others were absent, including Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has been under scrutiny over ethical questions. And while it was an evening of celebration, Trump aides couldn't fully escape questions about the tumult within the administration, with many dodging questions about his pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, who is facing questions about improper workplace behavior. Earlier Tuesday, Mrs. Trump wore a stylish belted suit with a broad-brimmed chapeau for her public appearances, including on a brief outing to the National Gallery of Art with Mrs. Macron to view an exhibit of works by French painter Paul Cezanne. The hat stayed put as she returned to the White House and took her front-row seat in the East Room for the president's joint news conference with Macron. It bobbed up and down across the bottom of television screens as she entered the room and again as she rose to leave, spawning many a Twitter meme. The hat was designed by Herve Pierre and the skirt suit was by Michael Kors. ___ Follow Darlene Superville at http://www.twitter.com/dsuperville and Catherine Lucey at http://www.twitter.com/catherine_lucey
  • President Donald Trump is sounding more optimistic about a summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, even calling the leader he once tagged with the nickname 'Rocket Man' both very open and very honorable. Brokering a deal on North Korea's nuclear program is the primary U.S. aim for a face-to-face meeting with the North in May or June. Trump cautioned Tuesday that North Korea had not followed through on previous promises. But he credited sanctions, pressure from international allies and other tough action pushed by his administration for having forced the North to hold talks. And the president again suggested that he would 'leave the table' if the negotiations were not productive or if North Korea was not operating in good faith. Trump says, 'We'll see where that all goes.
  • With exaggerated handshakes and a pair of kisses, President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron professed a sunny, best-friends relationship, even as the two allies strained to bridge differences over the Iran nuclear agreement, Syria and more. Hosting Macron for the first state visit of his administration, culminating in a lavish dinner Tuesday night, Trump remained firm in his criticism of past and enduring American undertakings in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East. But he appeared open to the French president's pleas to maintain U.S. involvement in Syria — and expressed openness to negotiating a new agreement with Iran. As Trump weighs withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear accord, he issued a warning to Iran against restarting its nuclear program, saying, 'They will have bigger problems than they've ever had before.' At a joint White House news conference, he appeared to be more in line with Macron's push for a longer-term U.S. presence in Syria. Trump, who announced weeks ago that he would withdraw American troops, said Macron reinforced the idea of a potential Iranian takeover of territory liberated from the Islamic State group. 'We'll be coming home,' Trump said, 'but we want to leave a strong and lasting footprint.' Macron told Trump that together the U.S. and France would defeat terrorism, curtail weapons of mass destruction in North Korea and Iran, and act together on behalf of the planet. That last point was a reference to Macron's work to revive the U.S. role in the Paris climate accord to fight global warming, another international agreement Trump has spurned. Differences aside, Trump and Macron lavished praise — and even a pair of kisses — on each other Tuesday. 'It's an honor to call you my friend,' Trump said, after predicting Macron would be a historic leader of France. In one light moment, Trump sought to demonstrate some of the personal chemistry he claimed. The U.S. president brushed something off Macron's suit jacket, saying, 'We have a very special relationship; in fact, I'll get that little piece of dandruff off. We have to make him perfect — he is perfect.' The meetings followed a pomp-filled welcome ceremony on the South Lawn. Highlights included a 21-gun salute and Melania Trump's wide-brim white hat, which drew more comments than all the rest of the pageantry. Trump said before an audience of U.S. soldiers and members of his Cabinet that the relationship he forged with Macron at the start of his presidency was a testament to the 'enduring friendship that binds our two nations.' He thanked the French leader for his 'steadfast partnership' in the recent missile strike in response to the chemical attack in Syria. Macron said, 'History is calling us. It is urging our people to find the fortitude that has guided us in the most difficult of times. France and with it, Europe, and the United States have an appointment with history.' Later he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. The social highlight of Macron's visit was Tuesday night's formal state dinner at the White House. More than 130 guests dined on rack of lamb and nectarine tart and enjoyed an after-dinner performance by the Washington National Opera. The previous evening, the leaders and their wives took a helicopter tour of Washington landmarks and had dinner at the Potomac River home of George Washington in Mount Vernon, Virginia. As he gave a toast at the dinner, Trump hailed the bonds between the U.S. and France, saying, 'May our friendship grow even deeper, may our kinship grow even stronger and may our sacred liberty never die.' As for substantive issues, one of Macron's main objectives during his three-day visit to Washington was to persuade Trump to stay in the Iran accord, which is aimed at restricting Iran's development of nuclear weapons. Trump is skeptical of the pact's effectiveness — 'it's insane, it's ridiculous,' he said Tuesday — but he declined to say whether he would withdraw the U.S. by the May 12 deadline he has set. He reminded his French counterpart of what he sees as flaws in the agreement, which he said fails to address ballistic missiles or Iran's activities in Yemen or Syria. Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that pulling out would undermine America's upcoming nuclear talks with North Korea by proving the U.S. reneges on its promises. He told The Associated Press in an interview in New York that if Trump withdraws, Iran would 'most likely' abandon the deal as well and would no longer be bound by its international obligations. That would free Iran to resume enrichment activity beyond the limits imposed by the 2015 accord. Macron told reporters that he and Trump would look at the Iran deal 'in a wider regional context,' taking into account the situation in Syria. 'We have a common objective, we want to make sure there's no escalation and no nuclear proliferation in the region. We now need to find the right path forward,' Macron said. Trump suggested he was open to 'doing something' beyond the current Iran agreement as long as it was done 'strongly.' On North Korea, Trump told Macron that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wanted to meet 'as soon as possible.' The president, who once derided Kim as 'Little Rocket Man,' said he has been 'very open' and 'very honorable' so far. Macron, who calls Trump often, has emerged as something of a 'Trump whisperer' at a time when the American president's relationships with other European leaders are more strained. Trump, who attaches great importance to the optics of pageantry and ceremony, chose to honor Macron with the first state visit of his administration as he woos the French president. Trump ended his first year in office without receiving a foreign leader on a state visit, the first president in nearly 100 years to fail to do so. He was Macron's guest last July at the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris. Macron and his wife, Brigitte, also took Trump and his wife on a tour of Napoleon's tomb and whisked them up in the Eiffel Tower for dinner overlooking the City of Light. ___ Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report. ___ Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
  • The Supreme Court is saving one of its biggest cases for last. The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday over President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from several mostly Muslim countries. It's the last case the justices will hear until October. The Trump administration is asking the court to reverse lower court rulings striking down the ban. The policy has been fully in effect since December, but this is the first time the justices are considering whether it violates immigration law or the Constitution. The court will consider whether the president can indefinitely keep people out of the country based on nationality. It will also look at whether the policy is aimed at excluding Muslims from the United States. People have been waiting in line for a seat for days. In another sign of heightened public interest, the court is taking the rare step of making an audio recording of the proceedings available just hours after the arguments end. The last time was the gay marriage arguments in 2015. The travel ban is the first Trump policy to undergo a full-blown Supreme Court review. The justices are looking at the third version of a policy that Trump first rolled out a week after taking office, triggering chaos and protests across the U.S. as travelers were stopped from boarding international flights and detained at airports for hours. The first version was blocked by courts and withdrawn. Its replacement was allowed to take partial effect, but expired in September. The current version is indefinite and now applies to travelers from five countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also affects two non-Muslim countries: blocking travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. A sixth majority Muslim country, Chad, was removed from the list this month after improving 'its identity-management and information sharing practices,' Trump said in a proclamation. Trump's campaign pledge to shut down Muslim entry into the U.S., his presidential tweets about the travel ban and last fall's retweets of inflammatory videos that stoked anti-Islam sentiment all could feature in the justices' questioning of Solicitor General Noel Francisco, defending the ban, and Neal Katyal, the former acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama. Katyal is representing the challengers. The administration has argued that courts have no role to play because the president has broad powers over immigration and national security, and foreigners have no right to enter the country. Francisco also has said in written arguments that Trump's September proclamation laying out the current policy comports with immigration law and does not violate the Constitution because it does not single out Muslims. The challengers, backed by a diverse array of supporting legal briefs, have said that Trump is flouting immigration law by trying to keep more than 150 million people, the vast majority of them Muslim, from entering the country. They also argue that it amounts to the Muslim ban that Trump called for as a candidate, violating the Constitution's prohibition against religious bias. A decision in Trump v. Hawaii, 17-965, is expected by late June.
  • As President Donald Trump's pick to lead Veterans Affairs skids to a halt, senators from both parties are voicing frustration that the White House is skipping crucial vetting of nominees and leaving lawmakers to clean up the mess. That sentiment was evident Tuesday on Capitol Hill after senators delayed hearings for White House physician Ronny Jackson, Trump's surprise pick to head the VA. Jackson is facing questions about improper workplace behavior, and even Trump himself acknowledged that there were concerns about his nominee's experience. 'The White House still seems to be feeling its way on the nomination process,' said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, 'and does not fully appreciate how important it is to do a thorough vetting and FBI background check on nominees.' Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said that while lawmakers want to be 'deferential as much as we can' to the president's preferences for his Cabinet, 'it would be nice to know some of the issues that come up after the fact before the fact.' Trump, who promised to fill his administration with the 'best people,' often gravitates toward advisers he has a personal connection with or who look the part, drawing on the approach he took as a business executive. But as president, the result is a growing list of Cabinet secretaries and other officials who do not appear to undergo the rigorous scrutiny typically expected for White House hires. Andy Puzder, Trump's initial choice to lead the Labor Department, stepped aside before his confirmation hearings, in part over taxes he belatedly paid on a former housekeeper not authorized to work in the United States. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price won confirmation, but ultimately resigned amid disclosures about his expensive travel habits. Others are fighting similar charges, most notably Scott Pruitt, the embattled head of Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt faces multiple allegations of improper housing, expensing and other practices, prompting several lawmakers to call for him to step down. The Senate has increasingly become a partisan battleground for nomination fights, a war that escalated when President Barack Obama was in the White House and Senate Democrats, who had majority control, changed the rules to allow majority vote for confirming most nominees — the so-called nuclear option — to get around GOP filibusters. Republicans returned the favor once Trump was in the White House, and they had the Senate majority, deploying the tactic to seat Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Some GOP senators argue that Democrats are slow-walking even those Trump nominees with a solid track record, including Mike Pompeo, who got votes from 14 Democrats and one aligned independent last year during his confirmation for CIA director. Pompeo is now in line to run the State Department, but has faced stiff opposition from some of the same Democrats who backed him a year ago. The Democratic opponents are going to 'embarrass themselves,' said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Thune called it 'really a new low.' But questions about the White House's vetting standards have no doubt given Democrats fresh ammunition to challenge Trump's Cabinet picks. 'Our Republican colleagues bemoan the pace of the nominations,' said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. But he said because of the administration's 'quick, sloppy vetting process,' the Senate job of vetting nominees 'is more important than ever before.' Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said senators don't have to agree with a nominee's position on the issue, but the Senate has a historic role — to advise and consent — that the president's picks are up to the job. 'We're not going to allow nominees to be jammed through without proper scrutiny and debate,' Murray said. 'Now hopefully, the events of the last 24 hours have made it very clear why this is so important.' Asked about the adequacy of vetting process Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that such questions are better raised with the White House. 'Look,' McConnell said, 'it's up to the administration to do the vetting.' ___ Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Andrew Taylor in Washington contributed to this report. ___ Follow Mascaro on Twitter at https://Twitter.com/LisaMascaro
  • His nomination in peril, Veterans Affairs nominee Ronny Jackson fought to convince lawmakers of his leadership abilities as more details of accusations against him emerged, ranging from repeated drunkenness to a toxic work environment as he served as a top White House doctor. President Donald Trump sent mixed signals about his choice to lead the sprawling veterans' agency, suggesting during a White House news conference that Jackson may want to withdraw because of unfair scrutiny. But the president privately urged his nominee to keep fighting to win Senate confirmation, and Jackson showed few signs of backing down. A watchdog report requested in 2012 and reviewed by The Associated Press found that Jackson and a rival physician exhibited 'unprofessional behaviors' as they engaged in a power struggle over the White House medical unit. The six-page report by the Navy's Medical Inspector General found a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members, who described the working environment as 'being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce.' 'There is a severe and pervasive lack of trust in the leadership that has deteriorated to the point that staff walk on 'eggshells,'' the assessment found. The inspector general report reviewed by The AP included no references to improper prescribing of drugs or the use of alcohol, separate allegations revealed by a Senate committee. Jackson declined to answer reporters' questions about those allegations and gave no indication he would withdraw. The White House disputed that he had improperly administered medication, saying the medical unit passed regular audits by the Controlled Substance Inventory Board. The audit appeared to contradict public statements from Jackson, who denied the existence of any inspector general report detailing troubling behavior. After the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee abruptly postponed his confirmation hearing, which had been set for Wednesday, Jackson visited lawmakers to assure them he was fit to lead the VA. 'I'm looking forward to getting it rescheduled and answering everybody's questions,' he said in video captured by MSNBC, referring to his hearing. During a White House news conference, Trump insisted he would stand behind Jackson, calling the White House doctor 'one of the finest people that I have met.' But he questioned why Jackson would want to put himself through the confirmation fight, which he characterized as unfair. 'I wouldn't do it,' Trump said in the East Room, standing next to French President Emmanuel Macron. 'What does he need it for? What do you need this for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren't thinking nicely about our country?' Trump asked. Trump said Jackson, who has been a White House physician since 2006, would make a decision soon. Jackson met privately with Trump Tuesday afternoon in the Oval Office and the president urged him to keep fighting to win confirmation, according to a White House official briefed on the meeting. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions, said Jackson denied the allegations. Digging in, the White House released handwritten reports from Trump and former President Barack Obama praising Jackson's leadership and medical care, and recommending him for promotion. Obama wrote in one report, 'Promote to Rear Admiral now.' Trump wrote last year that Jackson is 'A GREAT DOCTOR + LEADER - '2 STAR MATERIAL.'' A doomed VA nomination would be a political blow to the White House, which has faced criticism for sloppy vetting of Cabinet nominees and tough confirmation battles in a Senate where Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority. Prior to Jackson's nomination, Trump had told aides and outside advisers that he was fond of Jackson personally and was said to be particularly impressed with Jackson's performance at the White House press room podium in January, when he offered a glowing report on the president's physical and mental well-being. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the American people were the losers in a shaky nomination effort. The Trump Cabinet, he said, 'is turning into a sad game of musical chairs.' Trump tapped Jackson last month after firing former Obama administration official David Shulkin following an ethics scandal and mounting rebellion within the agency. But Jackson has faced numerous questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as veterans groups, about whether he has the experience to manage the massive department of 360,000 employees serving 9 million veterans. Allegations began surfacing late last week involving Jackson's workplace practices, including claims of inappropriate behavior and over-prescribing prescription drugs, according to two aides granted anonymity to discuss the situation. The complaints the White House heard include that he oversaw a poor work environment and that he had drunk alcohol on the job, according to an administration official who demanded anonymity to speak on a sensitive personnel matter. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said it would postpone indefinitely Jackson's hearing to give it more time to sort through the allegations. Detailing the allegations to NPR, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the committee's top Democrat, said more than 20 current and retired military personnel had made complaints to the committee about Jackson. They included claims that Jackson was 'repeatedly drunk' while on travel with Obama and that on overseas trips he excessively handed out prescription drugs to help travelers sleep and wake up. Tester later told CNN that Jackson was known inside the White House as 'the candy man,' because he would hand out prescription drugs 'like candy.' Jackson is also accused of creating a 'toxic work environment,' Tester said on NPR. 'He is the physician for the president, and in the previous administration we were told the stories he was repeatedly drunk while on duty, where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world. That's not acceptable,' Tester said. Asked if Jackson's nomination is still viable, the committee chairman, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., responded, 'We'll see.' The two lawmakers sent a letter to Trump on Tuesday requesting additional information about Jackson. It demands any communication between the Pentagon and the White House for the last 12 years regarding 'allegations or incidents' involving him. The 2012 assessment reviewed by the AP suggested the White House consider replacing Jackson or Dr. Jeffrey Kuhlman — or both. Kuhlman was the physician to Obama at the time, and had previously held the role occupied by Jackson: director of the White House medical unit. According to the report, Jackson admitted he had failed to shield the White House medical unit from the leadership drama. He is quoted saying he was willing to do what was necessary to straighten out the command, even if it 'meant finding a new position in Navy Medicine.' The report stated that the 'vast majority' of those interviewed said Kuhlman had 'irrevocably damaged his ability to effectively lead.' It added that 'many also believe that CAPT Jackson has exhibited poor leadership,' but attributed those failures to the relationship with Kuhlman. The report quoted unnamed members of the White House medical unit who, while participating in a focus group, used phrases like 'Worst command ever,' ''No one trusts anyone' and 'The leaders are child-like.' Jackson was named physician to the President in 2013, after Kuhlman left the unit entirely. Still, a follow-up assessment was done in 2013, and found that the climate in the office had improved a great deal, according to an official familiar with the report. At that point, Jackson was still in the office, but Kuhlman had left. ___ Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Catherine Lucey, Lolita Baldor, Alan Fram and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

News

  • Jurors in the Tex McIver murder trial told Channel 2 Action News it took a lot of compromise to reach a verdict. The 12-person panel deliberated for four days before finally reaching a verdict Monday afternoon. They found the Atlanta attorney guilty of murdering his wife, Diane, as they rode in their SUV in September 2016. They also found him guilty of trying to influence a witness, Dani Jo Carter, who was driving the SUV at the time of the shooting. Earlier Monday it appeared that a verdict might never come when jurors told the judge they were deadlocked and couldn’t come to a unanimous decision on four of the five counts. The judge sent them back, telling them they needed to keep deliberating and continue to try for a verdict. RELATED STORIES: 5 things to know about Diane McIver Juror breakdown for the Tex McIver murder trial Tex McIver found guilty of murdering his wife A breakdown of the verdict in the Tex McIver trial After the trial ended, Channel 2 Action News spoke with some of the jurors outside the courthouse.  'It definitely took a lot of compromise on both sides of where we were with our deliberations,' juror Aubrey Gray said. 'There was definitely a point where we did not think we were going to get to guilt or innocence.” He said after the judge read them the Allen charge Monday afternoon, telling them they needed to keep deliberating and try to reach a verdict, they re-examined their positions and were able to come to a unanimous decision. “(We were able to) specifically look at the evidence, take away any emotion that we had, and that’s how we came up with our guilty verdict on four of the five counts,” Gray said. Gray said he was back and forth for much of deliberations. “I was in both camps for a while, flip-flopping sides, trying to come to a rational decision,” he said. Gray said there were several “gun experts” on the jury, who helped them talk through many of the questions. [SPECIAL SECTION: Tex McIver Trial] “That was one of our contingents the entire time, why was his hand, particularly his finger, on the trigger. And one of the key things for us, we had to look back at his statements to police when he said the gun just went off, and we finally decided that a gun just doesn’t go off,” Gray said. “It was not an accident. His hand was on the trigger. Guns just don’t go off.” Another juror, Lakeisha Boyd, said the deciding factor for her was also the finger on the trigger, and holding the gun inside the car. “We went back down to the vehicle. We were able to take the firearm to the vehicle and were able to test it out ourselves,” she said. Boyd said, at the end of the day, they did their job. “Justice was served,” she said.
  • The Latest on the White House visit of French President Emmanuel Macron (all times local): 1:20 p.m. President Donald Trump says U.S. troops will come home from Syria, but he wants to leave a 'strong and lasting footprint' in the region. Trump's comment signaled a softening in tone. Trump was insisting just a few weeks ago that he wanted to pull out U.S. troops and leave the job of rebuilding Syria to others in the region. Asked about his timeline for bringing the troops home, Trump reiterated his desire to exit Syria. But he also said that he and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed that neither of them wants to give Iran more of an opening in the region. Trump said 'we'll see what happens but we're going to be coming home relatively soon.' He commented during a White House news conference Tuesday with Macron, who is on a state visit to the U.S. ___ 1:15 p.m. French President Emmanuel Macron says he's confident about the future of his country's trading relationship with the U.S. He says it's good when allies work together. Macron says in a joint news conference with President Donald Trump that trade is balanced between the two countries and he's suggesting all nations follow the rules of the World Trade Organization. The French president has been critical of Trump's protectionist moves on trade in recent weeks and has called upon the U.S. to exempt European nations from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. ___ 1 p.m. President Donald Trump is thanking French President Emmanuel Macron for his partnership on the recent missile strikes against chemical weapons in Syria and the fight against terrorism. Trump says at a joint White House news conference that he will soon be meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He says the U.S. won't 'repeat the mistakes of past administrations' and will pressure the North Korean regime. Macron is pointing to the need for the Iran nuclear deal. He says he wants to work on a new deal in the weeks and months ahead. Macron says any new agreement would need to block any nuclear activity in Iran through 2025, cease any uranium activity and put an end to the country's ballistic missiles program. ___ 12:16 p.m. A pair of designers is responsible for Melania Trump's white skirt suit and matching hat. The first lady's office says Michael Kors designed the two-piece suit that Mrs. Trump wore for Tuesday's White House arrival ceremony for President Emmanuel Macron of France and his wife, Brigitte. Mrs. Trump also wore the suit on an outing to the National Gallery of Art in Washington with Mrs. Macron. The first lady topped her outfit with a broad-brimmed white hat designed by Herve Pierre. Pierre designed the first lady's inaugural ball gown. The white hat quickly became the talk of the town, as well as on Twitter. Mrs. Trump typically doesn't wear hats. Still to come is Tuesday night's piece de resistance: the first lady's state dinner gown. ___ 10:40 a.m. President Donald Trump is warning that if Iran restarts its nuclear program it 'will have bigger problems than they have ever had before.' Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron will be discussing the Iran nuclear deal Tuesday during their meetings at the White House. Macron wants Trump to maintain the deal. Trump is undecided but has called it 'a terrible deal.' Though Trump has warmly welcomed Macron to Washington, the two have disagreements to sort through, including Trump's decision to leave the multinational Paris climate change agreement. While with Macron, Trump refused to answer a reporter's question as to whether he is considering a pardon for his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, whose office was raided by the FBI. Trump called it 'a stupid question.' Cohen has not been charged. ___ 9:54 a.m. French President Emmanuel Macron is highlighting the close ties between his nation and the United States during his visit to the White House. Macron, standing alongside President Donald Trump Tuesday, said 'America represents endless possibilities for my country.' He also told Trump that 'France shares with your country an ideal of freedom and peace.' Macron touted how the French fought alongside George Washington during the American Revolution, which laid the blueprint for cooperation between the nations. The French president, who enjoys a closer relationship with Trump than many of his European peers, said that France works alongside the U.S. on challenges like terrorism, North Korea and Iran. He is expected to lobby Trump to maintain the Iran nuclear deal and reconsider the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. ___ 9:30 a.m. President Donald Trump is sending prayers to the Bush family and wishing former President George H.W. Bush a 'speedy recovery.' Trump is recognizing the former president as he greets French President Emmanuel Macron on the South Lawn of the White House. Bush has been hospitalized in Houston with an infection, just days after attending the funeral of his wife, Barbara Bush. Trump is also sending the nation's sympathies to the Canadian people following the 'horrendous tragedy' in Toronto. A driver plowed a rented van along a crowded sidewalk in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 15 others. Trump says the nation's hearts are with the grieving families in Canada. ___ 9:25 a.m. President Donald Trump says the 'wonderful friendship' he has developed with French President Emmanuel Macron is a testament to two nations' enduring alliance. Trump is thanking Macron for his 'steadfast partnership' in responding to the recent chemical attack in Syria. The president is speaking at an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. Trump and Macron are meeting Tuesday on a number of issues, including the future of the Iran nuclear deal and the crisis in Syria. The two leaders are holding a joint news conference later in the morning and then Macron will be honored with Trump's first state dinner. ___ 9 a.m. President Donald Trump is welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron to the White House in a formal arrival ceremony. The president and first lady are greeting Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, on rolled-out red carpet on the South Lawn. The arrival is heavy on pomp, with nearly 500 U.S. service-members from all five military branches participating in the ceremonial welcome, which includes a 'Review of the Troops.' Vice President Mike Pence and several members of Trump's Cabinet, lawmakers, and military families are in attendance. The audience includes students from the Maya Angelou French Immersion School in Temple Hills, Maryland. The two leaders are spending the morning in meetings and then will hold a joint news conference. On Tuesday night, Macron will be feted at Trump's first state dinner. ___ 12:50 a.m. A sit-down between President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron followed by a joint news conference highlight the business portion of the French leader's second day in Washington. The pageantry of Macron's official state visit, the first of the Trump presidency, comes Tuesday night with a lavish state dinner at the White House. About 150 guests are expected to dine on rack of lamb and nectarine tart and enjoy an after-dinner performance by the Washington National Opera. Monday night was more relaxed, featuring a helicopter tour of Washington landmarks and a trip to the Potomac River home of George Washington for dinner. Pomp and ceremony aside, Trump and Macron disagree on some fundamental issues. A prime dividing point is the multinational Iran nuclear deal, which Trump wants to abandon.
  • To the Trump administration, the recovered missile fragments were incontrovertible proof that Iran was illicitly arming Yemen's Houthi rebels. Yet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif brushed it off Tuesday as little more than cheese puffs. During a visit to New York, the Iranian diplomat accused U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley of displaying fabricated evidence that missiles lobbed by the Houthis at civilian areas in Saudi Arabia originated in Iran. Though Tehran supports the Shiite rebel group, it firmly denies giving them missiles. But Haley has invited journalists and U.N. Security Council diplomats to inspect missile parts recovered after strikes on Saudi Arabia, bearing what U.S. military officials said were Iranian markings and characteristics. Zarif, in an Associated Press interview, said that one such logo was from the Standard Institute of Iran, which he said regulates consumer goods — not weapons. 'It's a sign of quality,' Zarif said. 'When people want to buy it, they look at whether it's been tested by the Standard Institute of Iran that your cheese puffs are good, your cheese puffs will not give you a stomach ache.' He laughed and added, 'I mean, nobody will put the logo of the Standard Institute of Iran on a piece of missile.' Zarif also pointed to a truck-size section of a missile that the U.S. said was recovered in Saudi Arabia and was transferred to a military base near Washington, where it was on display behind Haley for a photo-op. Zarif noted that the missile had been supposedly shot down in mid-air. 'I'm not saying Ambassador Haley is fabricating, but somebody is fabricating the evidence she is showing,' Zarif said. Some of the fragments Haley presented, if authentic, would seem to implicate Iran's military industry more directly, including some with the logo of Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, an Iranian defense entity under U.S. sanctions. Haley said others had clear 'Iranian missile fingerprints,' such as short-range ballistic missiles that lacked large stabilizers — a feature she said only Iran's Qiam missiles have. 'Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK, or the airports in Paris, London or Berlin,' Haley told reporters late last year. 'That's what we're talking about here.' Tehran's denials aside, there's broad agreement among the United Nations, Western countries and the Persian Gulf's Arab leaders that Iran has armed the Houthis with ballistic missiles, even though U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibit it. With U.S. support, a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen's civil war has been bombing the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa and much of northern Yemen. Yet Iran's opponents have struggled to provide foolproof evidence to back up their claims, creating an opening for Iran to deny. After Haley's presentations at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, some national security experts raised questions, even drawing parallels to Secretary of State Colin Powell's 2003 speech to the U.N. making the case for the Iraq War. The fragments Haley presented were turned over to the U.S. by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — two of Iran's fiercest critics — and U.S. military officials had trouble tracing the fragments' chain of custody. Nor could they say when the weapons were transferred to the Houthis or in some cases precisely when they were launched.
  • A woman with multiple sclerosis says Delta Air Lines employees tied her to her wheelchair because she can’t sit up on her own and they didn’t have the chair she needed. >> Watch the news report here Maria Saliagas travels to Europe with her husband every year. When she was diagnosed with MS five years ago, she didn’t want to break her tradition of traveling with her husband. >> Southwest Airlines cancels dozens of flights amid inspections after deadly engine failure She said Delta normally accommodates her by making sure staff members have a proper wheelchair that has straps to help her sit up straight. When she flew out of Atlanta on April 1 and arrived in Amsterdam, Delta didn’t have a chair with straps, so employees tied her to a regular wheelchair with someone else’s blanket, said her son, Nathan Saliagas. >> Memorial service held for woman killed during Southwest Airlines flight “They took a dirty blanket and tied her forcefully with it, and she has bruise marks on part of her arm because it was so tight and she started crying. That’s when that picture was taken,” Saliagas said. A Delta representative sent WSB-TV a statement about the incident, saying:  “We regret the perception our service has left on these customers. We have reached out to them, not only to resolve their concerns, but also ensure that their return flight exceeds expectations.” >> Read more trending news  The family returns to Atlanta on April 30. When the family complained to Delta, they said the airline offered them 20,000 free SkyMiles, but they said that's not enough.  They want to see a policy change regarding how Delta handles passengers with disabilities.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday wades into one of the more controversial policy matters of the Trump Administration, as the Justices will hear arguments on the merits of the revised effort by President Donald Trump to block certain foreign nationals from traveling to the United States, what critics often deride as his “Muslim ban.” Before the Court is the third version of the Trump travel order, which began just a week into his Presidency, as an effort to stop travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries. After the first two versions were blocked by the courts – this third one would limit visits to the United States by people from Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Somalia, and slow down the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. “As President, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people,” Mr. Trump said as he issued the third version of the travel order in September of 2017. Lower courts have ruled against the Trump plan. The travel order is being challenged by the state of Hawaii, which has tried to use the President’s past statements and tweets about the threat of Islamic terrorism against the travel order, which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect while the case was being litigated. “The arguments against the travel ban come from every corner of our country,” says Neal Katyal, who will carry Hawaii’s case before the Justices. “It comes down to who we are as a nation,” Katyal wrote. THREAD 1. The backgrounds and perspectives of those articulating arguments against the travel ban in #TrumpvHawaii are remarkable in their breadth and diversity. Their chorus is deafening: the ban is unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary and un-American. — Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) April 24, 2018 Interest in the case has been strong, as the line for public seats began forming on Monday outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The arguments on the Trump travel order come as lower courts are still duking it out over efforts by the President to terminate the DACA program from the Obama Administration – that question is expected to reach the Justices in coming months. On Tuesday evening, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. became the third to block the President’s effort to end DACA, the program which allows younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers” to temporarily stay in the U.S. and avoid deportation proceedings. “DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” wrote Judge John Bates, though he gave the feds 90 days to better explain the decision. Judge Bates (DDC) finds DACA rescission unlawful (but note the different remedy than in prior cases; Judge Bates vacates the rescission, but stays it for 90 days to allow admin to offer a justification that might support the policy): https://t.co/ZfPkiBciYr — Leah Litman (@LeahLitman) April 24, 2018 As with the Trump travel order, the President’s effort on DACA could be on the docket next term for the Justices.
  • It took a big money push from the Republican Party, tweets by the president and the support of the state's current and former governors, but the GOP held onto an Arizona U.S. House seat they would have never considered endangered in any other year. Tuesday's narrow victory by Republican Debbie Lesko over a Democratic political newcomer sends a big message to Republicans nationwide: Even the reddest of districts in a red state can be in play this year. Early returns show Lesko winning by about 5 percentage points in Arizona's 8th Congressional District where Donald Trump won by 21 percentage points. The former state senator defeated Hiral Tipirneni, a former emergency room physician who had hoped to replicate surprising Democratic wins in Pennsylvania, Alabama and other states in a year where opposition to President Trump's policies have boosted the party's chances in Republican strongholds. Republican political consultant Chuck Coughlin called Tuesday's special election margin 'not good' for national Republicans looking at their chances in November. 'They should clean house in this election,' said Coughlin, longtime adviser to former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. 'There's a drag on the midterms for Republican candidates that's being created by the national narrative. And it would be very hard to buck that trend if you're in swing districts, much less close districts, if you can't change that narrative between now and November.' Lesko replaces former Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican who resigned in December amid sexual misconduct allegations. A former aide told The Associated Press that he pressed her to carry his child as a surrogate and offered her $5 million. The district sprawls across western Phoenix suburbs, covering some of the most conservative areas of the red state, including the retirement community of Sun City. At a victory party in her Glendale neighborhood, Lesko greeted supporters and looked back in wonder. 'I've really come a long way and this is really quite overwhelming, it's very surreal,' she said. 'Twenty-five years ago I left an abusive husband and I sure as heck never would have dreamt in a million years that I would be running for Congress to be a congresswoman.' Brewer, who backed Lesko and was at her victory party, also warned that Republicans need to make changes if they want to hold the district and other seats in November elections. 'I think all Republicans need to wake up and listen to what the public wants,' she said. 'Before November, we're going to have to work very hard. We're going to have to listen to our constituents.' Tipirneni worked the district hard, making inroads rarely seen in an area that hadn't elected a Democrat since the early 1980s. She was seen as a fresh Democratic face with relatively moderate views that could get support in the district. Making a push for older voters, she had said Lesko would vote to go after entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts that mainly benefit the wealthy. She's pushed a plan to allow some people to buy into Medicare. Tipirneni said she plans to run in November's general election and told supporters not to give up the cause. She said that despite the big Republican advantage in the district, the results show people were ready for a change. 'We have a very short amount of time, and clearly Ms. Lesko she had the registration numbers a little bit in her favor and she also had the name recognition,' Tipirneni said. 'But given more time I know we can get more folks on our side.' The Associated Press called the race for Lesko after state officials released tallies of more than 155,000 mail-in ballots, which represent about 75 percent of the votes expected. National Republican groups spent big to back Lesko, pouring in more than $500,000 in the suburban Phoenix district for television and mail ads and phone calls to voters. On Election Day, Trump and current Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey urged Republicans to go to the polls and vote for Lesko. National Democratic groups, meanwhile, didn't commit money to the race, a sign they didn't believe the seat was in play. Several Republican voters who spoke with AP said they backed Lesko primarily because she supported Trump's border security plans. David Hunt, a 64-year-old retired construction and warehouse worker from Glendale, said he cast his vote Tuesday for Lesko because he believed that immigrants in the country illegally are creating unfair competition for jobs for recent high school students in Arizona. 'She's the best candidate to deal with the porous border,' Hunt said. His views were echoed by Larry Bettis, a retiree from Glendale. 'Immigration - the fence,' Bettis said. 'That's all I really care about.' Democrats said they wanted to send a message to Trump and supported Democratic health care plans. 'I don't like the president and felt it was time to take a stand,' said Nikole Allen, a 45-year-old medical assistant from New York now living in Glendale. 'It's time for us to vote the Republicans out.