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January 20, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence on Fox News Sunday slammed congressional Democrats' rejection of the immigration policy package President Trump proposed Saturday as a deal to re-open the federal government from its partial shutdown.

"Well, there's a legislative process that is going to begin on Tuesday in the United States Senate" based on Trump's pitch, Pence said, "and it was disappointing to see [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)] reject the offer before the president gave his speech. I mean, look, the president is offering a solution, and what we have from Democrat [sic] leadership so far is just soundbites."

There were multiple points of overlap between Trump's plan and the statement Pelosi released shortly before Trump's Saturday remarks, though Pelosi panned Trump's deal as "a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people's lives."

Pence also pushed back on claims from immigration hardliners that Trump's offer of "three years of legislative relief" for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status (TPS) recipients amounts to amnesty. "This is not amnesty," he said. "There's no pathway to citizenship there's no permanent status here at all, which is what amnesty contemplates."

In a Sunday morning tweet, Trump also said the three-year extension is not amnesty, but he suggested he could accept amnesty in a future immigration deal.

Watch Pence's full interview below, or read a transcript here. Bonnie Kristian

10:53 a.m.

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a case challenging the Trump administration's decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman blocked the addition with a ruling in January, calling it unlawful "for a multitude of independent reasons." At the administration's request, the Supreme Court will consider the issue in April without requiring the case to go through the normal appeals process. A ruling is expected by the end of June. The matter is time-sensitive because census forms must be printed soon.

Citizenship status has not been part of the census questionnaire for more than half a century, and its inclusion has been challenged by 18 states. Several civil rights organizations and 15 cities are also pushing back against the addition.

Opponents consider the citizenship question to be a ruse by the Trump administration to intimidate immigrant communities and "diminish the electoral representation of Democratic-leaning communities in Congress," Reuters notes. The administration has dismissed that idea, arguing the data the question gathers will help protect Americans' voting rights by better informing House district allocations. Tim O'Donnell

10:36 a.m.

Nigeria's election commission postponed the country's presidential election early Saturday morning, announcing the delay only hours before polls were set to open. The vote has been rescheduled for next Saturday, Feb. 23.

Both Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and the leading opposition candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, urged the public to remain calm about the delay, though Abubakar also accused Buhari of orchestrating the postponement to disenfranchise opposition voters.

Election officials attributed the wait to difficulty transporting ballots to all polling locations in time for voting to begin. "This was a difficult decision to take but necessary for successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of our democracy," said the election commission's chair, Mahmood Yakubu, who will explain the postponement further in an afternoon press conference. Bonnie Kristian

10:21 a.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team in a court filing Friday recommended between 19 and 25 years in prison for Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chair, who was convicted last year of eight counts of financial fraud, including tax evasion.

"Manafort did not commit these crimes out of necessity or hardship," the sentencing memo said. "He was well-educated, professionally successful, and financially well off. He nonetheless cheated the United States Treasury and the public out of more than $6 million in taxes at a time when he had substantial resources."

If the court accepts Mueller's recommendation, Manafort, 69, could spend the rest of his life in prison. This is the lengthiest proposed prison sentence on the table in Mueller's investigation to date, and Friday's memo argues it "reflect[s] the seriousness of these crimes" and serves as a deterrent for both Manafort and anyone else considering "engaging in such conduct." Bonnie Kristian

8:36 a.m.

Pope Francis made what has been described as an "almost revolutionary" decision, the Vatican announced Saturday, expelling Theodore McCarrick from the priesthood. The decision came after an expedited Vatican trial found the former cardinal and archbishop of Washington guilty of sexually abusing three minors and harassing adult seminarians and priests.

This is believed to be the first time the church has defrocked a U.S. cardinal. McCarrick is also the highest-ranking church official to be dismissed for sexual abuse. "Bishops and cardinals are no longer immune to punishment," Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, told the The New York Times.

Allegations against McCarrick reached church officials as early as 2000, CNN reports, just months before he became a cardinal. After the accusations became public in 2017, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals but denied he had any recollection of the incidents. Francis ordered a Vatican investigation into the matter, as did the Archdiocese of New York, where several of the alleged incidents occurred. The probes found the accusations to be "credible and substantiated."

The news comes just ahead of this week's meeting of top Catholic officials from around the world, who will gather in Rome to discuss the church's sex abuse crisis. The summit is the first of its kind. Tim O'Donnell

8:26 a.m.

Six people were killed, including a shooting suspect identified by authorities as a man named Gary Martin, in a workplace shooting at a manufacturing plant in Aurora, Illinois, on Friday afternoon.

Martin was a 15-year employee of the Henry Pratt Company and was scheduled to be let go from his job Friday. In addition to fatally shooting five people, he wounded six police officers, all of whom are in stable condition. Though initial reports said the suspect was taken into custody, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said he was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police.

Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin (D) and Tammy Duckworth (D) both tweeted their thanks to first responders and said they were monitoring the situation. "My heart hurts for the victims, their families, the brave first responders, Aurora, and all of Illinois right now," Duckworth wrote in a follow-up post. "Our nation's epidemic of deadly gun violence is a real national emergency." Bonnie Kristian

7:53 a.m.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, Sanders said in a statement Friday.

"The president urged me, like he has everyone in the administration, to fully cooperate with the special counsel," Sanders said. "I was happy to voluntarily sit down with them." Sanders did not comment on the content of the conversation, and CNN reports, citing unnamed sources, the White House did not immediately accede to Mueller's request for the interview.

Sanders' interview took place in the fall of 2018, around the time Mueller's investigators spoke with other current and former senior administration figures, including then-Chief of Staff John Kelly, former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, and former Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Mueller is investigating alleged Trump campaign involvement in Russian meddling with the 2016 election. Read The Week's Ryan Cooper on the probe's recent progress here. Bonnie Kristian

February 15, 2019

Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac may have just taken their last steps in a larger world.

Director J.J. Abrams on Friday announced that Star Wars: Episode IX, which is being billed as the conclusion of the franchise's Skywalker saga, has officially wrapped production. "There is no adequate way to thank this truly magical crew and cast," Abrams wrote, posting a photo of the film's main three stars hugging on set. "I'm forever indebted to you all."

Boyega wrote that this is "the end to a chapter of my life that I couldn't be more thankful for," also thanking Abrams for "making my dreams come true."

The photo is only the second glimpse of Episode IX, following a picture taken in the Millennium Falcon that Abrams tweeted when production began in August. The photo posted Friday reveals that Episode IX will feature scenes on a desert planet, perhaps Luke Skywalker's home, Tatooine, or Rey's home, Jakku. The photo also shows Rey and Finn sporting new hairdos, while Poe seems to be rocking some suspenders.

With 10 months to go until Episode IX is released, Lucasfilm still hasn't yet revealed the film's official title, but that announcement could be imminent. The title of The Force Awakens, after all, was announced shortly after production wrapped in 2014. Then again, the title of The Last Jedi wasn't announced until four months after production wrapped.

In addition to the returning cast, Episode IX will feature Billy Dee Williams reprising his role of Lando Calrissian, as well as a posthumous appearance by Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa using footage shot for The Force Awakens. The film hits theaters on Dec. 20. Brendan Morrow

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