×
June 10, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) touts his ability to steer federal money to his home state. For example, after the city of Owensboro named a plaza for him in 2003, McConnell steered $40 million to the city in 2005, and Owensboro's support helped him survive a close 2008 election. That kind of patronage became harder after congressional Republicans banned earmarks — or "pork" — in 2011, but not impossible. Last year, Owensboro won an $11.5 million Transportation Department grant on its third try, with some help from McConnell's wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Politico reports, citing emails obtained though a public-records request.

Chao appointed a top aide in 2017 as special liaison to help McConnell "and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell," Politico reports, "paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for re-election." The aide, Todd Inman, lived in Owensboro from 1993 to 2017, worked on McConnell's 2008 and 2014 campaigns, and is now Chao's chief of staff. His intercession for Kentucky is "a privilege other states did not enjoy," Politico notes.

The Transportation Department insists "no state receives special treatment" and Owensboro won the grants through an open, competitive process. But McConnell and local officials publicly tout the key role McConnell, Chao, and Inman played in steering federal transportation grants to Owensboro, and a former career official involved in the grant review process told Politico that after the professional staff hand grant recommendations in to a Cabinet secretary's office, politics often determine the outcome, regardless of party.

"Where a Cabinet secretary is doing things that are going to help her husband get re-elected, that starts to rise to the level of feeling more like corruption to the average American," John Hudak, a Brookings Institution expert on political influence on grant-making, tells Politico. "I do think there are people who will see that as sort of 'swamp behavior,'" even if it isn't illegal. Read more at Politico. Peter Weber

12:32 a.m.

Catherine Kyle has always loved the Pittsburgh Pirates, and she was finally able to cheer her team on inside PNC Park Saturday night.

To surprise Kyle on her 99th birthday, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren organized a trip to see the Pirates face off against the Cincinnati Reds. Despite being a lifelong fan, Kyle had never been to one of their games, and her family knew this would be the ultimate birthday gift.

Wearing matching yellow shirts that said "Catherine's Crew," the family was out in full force, and Kyle told CBS Pittsburgh she was most looking forward to hearing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning. "They're a bunch of nice guys," she said of the team. Catherine Garcia

August 25, 2019

The Group of Seven meeting of world powers Biarritz, France, has had its ups and downs — surprise meetings, surprise guests, curious statements, a little tension, lots of trade talk — but everyone appeared to be getting along just fine on Sunday when the leaders and their plus-ones took photos together on the beach in front of the Biarritz lighthouse.

Embed from Getty Images

One photo, of American first lady Melania Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, reminded a lot of people of that stock photo-turned-overdone meme of the guy looking over his shoulder at another woman — you know the one — with some notable differences:

But of course that's silly — it's France, people kiss each other on the cheek.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Besides, what's not to smile about? Biarritz looks lovely this time of year. Peter Weber

August 25, 2019

Police in Hong Kong arrested 36 people, including a 12-year-old, on Sunday, following a violent protest.

They were detained for a variety of reasons, police said, including unlawful assembly, possession of an offensive weapon, and assault against a police officer. Demonstrators have been filling the streets for more than two months, calling for democratic elections and investigations into use of force by police. Tens of thousands of people marched peacefully earlier in the day, but at the end of the rally, some protesters broke away from the crowd at Tsuen Wan Park and started setting up traffic barriers in the road.

Police responded, putting up warning flags and then using tear gas to get the protesters to leave. In response, demonstrators threw bricks and gasoline bombs toward the officers, The Associated Press reports. After the remaining protesters, holding sticks and rods, started chasing officers down the street, police pulled their guns on the group, with one firing a warning shot. "The escalation you're seeing now is just a product of our government's indifference toward the people of Hong Kong," demonstrator Rory Wong told AP. Catherine Garcia

August 25, 2019

Joe Arpaio marked the anniversary of President Trump pardoning him by announcing he is once again running for sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona.

"Watch out world!" the 87-year-old said in a statement. "We are back!" Arpaio served six terms as sheriff, and his jails were known for their harsh conditions, with immigrants housed in tents outside during extreme heat; inmates fed twice a day with food served at other institutions as a form of punishment; and prisoners forced to wear pink underwear. As a result, several civil rights lawsuits were filed against Arpaio, NBC News reports, and a federal judge ruled twice that his jails violated the constitutional rights of inmates because of poor medical care.

Arpaio was handily defeated in November 2016, and convicted in July 2017 of contempt of court after he disregarded a federal judge's order to stop arresting immigrants based on suspicion that they were undocumented. One of Trump's earliest supporters, he was pardoned by the president in August 2017. In his statement, Arpaio said he's been urged by "thousands" to run again, and "the last four years have proven to be a time of lost opportunities to continue the kind of tough policing this country needs." Catherine Garcia

August 25, 2019

There's about to be more Mickey Mouse, Frozen, and Marvel inside Target stores across the United States.

Disney and Target announced on Sunday they are partnering to open permanent Disney stores inside select Target locations, with 25 launching on Oct. 4. By October 2020, the plan is to open 40 more stores within the store. The designated Disney areas will cover about 750 square feet adjacent to the children's clothing and toy section, with at least 450 items, including apparel, games, and some collectible merchandise.

The first Disney stores will open in several major cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, and Denver. Catherine Garcia

August 25, 2019

President Trump, on more than one occasion, asked Homeland Security and national security officials to consider the following: What if the United States dropped a nuclear bomb inside the eye of a hurricane, disrupting it before it could reach land?

Several people who heard Trump's suggestions, and others who read about it in a National Security Council memo, told Axios on Sunday that Trump wanted officials to start exploring his hypothesis. During one meeting at the White House, Trump's idea stunned his briefer, who was "knocked back on his heels," an attendee told Axios. "You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting. People were astonished. After the meeting ended, we thought, 'What the f—k? What do we do with this?'"

Trump discussed the idea early in his presidency — and at one point also suggested using regular bombs as opposed to nuclear — and hasn't said anything since John Bolton became his national security adviser, Axios reports. This idea has actually been bandied about before, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it won't work because the explosives would need to have an exorbitant amount of energy to modify the hurricanes, plus radioactive fallout would spread with the trade winds, harming people and the environment.

While Trump's idea caught several people off guard, a senior administration official told Axios they didn't think it was strange at all that the president of the United States thought it would be wise to drop a nuclear bomb into the eye of a hurricane. "His goal — to keep a catastrophic hurricane from hitting the mainland — is not bad," the person said. "What people near the president do is they say 'I love a president who asks questions like that, who’s willing to ask tough questions.' ... It takes strong people to respond to him in the right way when stuff like this comes up." Catherine Garcia

August 25, 2019

The Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, received a surprise visitor on Sunday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in the French resort town for an unannounced visit to the gathering of world leaders. A senior French official said that, upon arrival, Zarif went straight into a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who invited his Iranian counterpart to attend the summit where the leaders of other invited countries are discussing how to handle Iran's nuclear ambitions.

American officials in Biarritz will reportedly not meet with Zarif. One French official said that France operates on its own terms when asked about Washington's knowledge of Zarif's attendance prior to his arrival.

Tensions, of course, are running high between Tehran and Washington, as they have been ever since the Trump administration last year pulled out of the 2015 nuclear pact orchestrated by the Obama administration. French President Emmanuel Macron has since taken the lead in negotiations to preserve the pact for its remaining signatories, including France, Germany, and the U.K., all countries that are in attendance at the G-7 summit.

The White House was reportedly caught a bit off guard by Zarif's sudden appearance. Earlier on Sunday, before Zarif showed up, Trump reportedly said while he was content with Paris reaching out to Tehran, he would continue to approach the situation with Iran independently and as he saw fit. Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads