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July 11, 2018

There were tears of joy and tears of anguish as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reunited 34 of the 102 children under 5 it had been ordered to return to their parents by Tuesday. (Four other kids had been returned to their parents before Tuesday.) And the federal judge who set the deadline, Dana Sabraw, was not amused. "These are firm deadlines, they're not aspirational goals," he told government lawyers. He asked an ACLU lawyer to propose punishments if the government missed the Tuesday deadline for at least 63 children and the July 26 deadline to reunite parents with the roughly 3,000 older children U.S. border agents forcibly separated under President Trump's "zero tolerance" policy.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which provided the 34-returned-children number, blamed safety concerns for the delay, saying it found parents with criminal backgrounds and five adults who DNA tests showed were not the child's parent. In a court filing Tuesday, the Justice Department gave other extenuating circumstances, including one young child who can't be returned because the whereabouts of his parents are unknown and "records show the parent and child might be U.S. citizens." Judge Sabraw wasn't swayed, conceding only that it would take more time to reunite the 20 children whose parents had already been deported.

Tuesday's secretive reunification effort was full of the "chaos, confusion, and legal wrangling" that has accompanied Trump's zero tolerance policy, the Los Angeles Times notes. Some reunions were happy, like a handful of Central American fathers reunited with their young kids in Texas and Michigan; they were "just holding them and hugging them and telling them that everything was fine and that they were never going to be separated again," immigration lawyer Abril Valdes said of three dads in Michigan. In Arizona, on the other hand, a few mothers were met with rejection from toddlers who appeared not to recognize them after months of separation, The New York Times reports. Peter Weber

9:01 a.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is running ... away from the possibility of a 2020 Senate bid.

In an interview with Today on Thursday, Pompeo was asked about speculation that he'll run for Senate in Kansas next year. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has announced he will not seek another term in 2020, and Politico reported last month that Pompeo was meeting with a Republican strategist to discuss possibly running for the open seat. The Washington Post had previously reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has "personally courted" Pompeo to run.

When asked about this speculation Thursday, Pompeo at first simply said that he loves Kansas and that he would serve as secretary of state as long as "President Trump gives me the opportunity." When asked if that means he has no interest in being a senator, Pompeo said, "I love doing what I'm doing."

None of this seemed to be a definitive no, so when Today's Craig Melvin observed, "Sounds like you're not ruling it out," Pompeo finally said, "It's ruled out. I'm here. I'm loving it." Watch the clip below. Brendan Morrow

8:25 a.m.

Two polls Wednesday found that a plurality of Virginia voters don't think Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should resign over his revelation that he dressed in blackface once in 1984, after a photo of a man in blackface standing next to a man in a KKK robe was found on his 1984 medical school yearbook page. In Quinnipiac's poll, 56 percent of black voters opposed Northam's resignation. There are several possible explanations for Northam's apparent political survival, but one of them is that blatantly racist yearbook photos were shockingly common in the 1970s and 1980s, USA Today found.

In a review of 900 yearbooks from 120 universities and colleges in 25 states in the '70s and '80s, USA Today found "students saluting in Nazi uniforms on Halloween or wearing orange paint and a headdress to depict a stereotype of a Native American on game day," a swastika banner, and photos of "'slave sale' fundraisers that auctioned off young women, 'plantation parties,' and a 'sharecroppers ball,'" the newspaper said. "But the vast majority of the offensive material show racist imagery, such as students in blackface or KKK robes," sometimes including nooses and mock lynchings.

"The volume of shocking imagery found in the examination, which was not comprehensive, suggests that there are likely more yearbooks that recorded racism on campuses nationwide — and countless more acts never captured on camera or submitted for publication," USA Today notes. Experts called this a systemwide failure at universities, and Andre M. Perry at the Brookings Institute had a theory. "The way to fit in, sadly, is to make fun of black people," he told USA Today. "It's a unifying act. It's sad but racism pulls people, particularly white people, together." You can read more at USA Today. Peter Weber

8:25 a.m.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is apologizing for a recently leaked expletive-laden rant, but not for the sentiment behind it.

Carlson on his show Wednesday responded to a viral video showing an unaired interview he conducted with historian Rutger Bregman, which went south when Bregman suggested Carlson's opinions were being influenced by Fox News executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and that he is a "millionaire funded by billionaires." This prompted Carlson to call him a "tiny brain" and a "moron" and telling him to "go f--k yourself."

Carlson said Wednesday that it was "too much" when Bregman suggested his "corporate masters tell me what to say." So, Carlson said, he "did what I try never to do on this show: I was rude." At the same time, Carlson argued what he said was "entirely accurate" and that the only reason the interview didn't air was that he cursed during it. He even encouraged viewers to go watch the clip.

"There is some profanity, and I apologize for that," he said. "On the other hand, it was genuinely heartfelt. I meant it with total sincerity." Watch Carlson's response below. Brendan Morrow

8:15 a.m.

Director Jason Reitman says some recent comments of his, which set off a firestorm Wednesday, simply came out the wrong way.

Reitman said in a podcast interview that his upcoming reboot of Ghostbusters will "hand the movie back to the fans." This drew instant derision on Twitter, as his statement made it sound like the 2016 all-female reboot had taken the series away from devotees, or that the misogynistic trolls who were so violently opposed to it were the true fans.

The director has now taken to Twitter to clarify that he has "nothing but admiration" for the 2016 reboot.

Reitman's "back to the fans" comment came as he was discussing ways of recreating the style of the original film, such as using the 1984 movie's score and logo for the recent teaser. He said the 2020 version will be a "love letter" to the original.

This upcoming Ghostbusterswill ignore the 2016 version, as it takes place in the universe of the first two films. Reitman previously expressed his admiration for the 2016 reboot and explained that it won't be factored into his movie simply because he wants it to be a sequel to the originals. But the decision has sparked criticism, including from actress Leslie Jones, who has called the movie "so insulting" and "like something Trump would do."

Reitman's Ghostbusters hits theaters on July 10, 2020. Brendan Morrow

6:14 a.m.

The Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has gotten a lot of blowback and mockery from conservatives, and Kermit the Frog was puzzled by one bizarre critique on Wednesday's Late Show. "It's not easy being green," he sang. "People think you want to outlaw cows and other things." Kermit got in a little dig at President Trump — "So from one puppet to another, please give green a chance" — before things turned a little dark at the end. Watch below. Peter Weber

5:51 a.m.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that constitutional protections against "excessive fines" extend to states through the 14th Amendment, placing limits on the ability of state and local police to seize and keep cars, cash, houses, and other assets used in the commission of crimes, even from people not accused of crimes. The practice, known as civil asset forfeiture, is a common and lucrative source of revenue for states and local governments, and it is frequently abused. The unanimous decision in the case, Timbs v. Indiana, won't end the practice but will allow people whose property was seized to argue in court that the amount taken was disproportionate to the crime.

"The historical and logical case for concluding that the 14th Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is overwhelming," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the eight-justice majority. (Justice Clarence Thomas wrote his own opinion.) "For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties" and "can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies."

In the case at hand, Indiana ordered small-time drug offender Tyson Timbs to pay $1,200 in fines and fees after pleading guilty to selling $225 of heroin, but they also seized his $42,000 Land Rover, arguing that even though he bought it with money from his father's life-insurance policy, he used it to commit crimes. "People are still going to lose their property without being convicted of a crime, they're still going to have their property seized," Wesley Hottot, a lawyer for Timbs, told The New York Times. "The new thing is that they can now say at the end of it all, whether I'm guilty or not, I can argue that it was excessive." Peter Weber

2:27 a.m.

On Wednesday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told congressional Democrats and Republicans that the House will "move swiftly" to pass a resolution to terminate President Trump's emergency declaration, and she urged all members of Congress to cosponsor it. "The president's decision to go outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process violates the Constitution and must be terminated," Pelosi wrote, according to Politico. "We have a solemn responsibility to uphold the Constitution, and defend our system of checks and balances against the president's assault."

Democrats are expected to file the resolution, sponsored by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), on Friday, after Trump's emergency declaration is recorded in the federal register. But no vote is likely until mid-March, The Associated Press reports. The resolution is expected to pass easily in the Democratic-controlled House, and when the Senate votes no more than 18 days later, it's plausible at least four Republicans will join Democrats to pass it in that chamber. On Wednesday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) became the first Senate Republican to publicly say she will vote for the resolution. There are probably not enough votes to overcome Trump's expected veto. Peter Weber

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