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September 6, 2017

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett described disturbing mistreatment at the hands of the Las Vegas police in an open letter to the "world" that he posted to Twitter on Wednesday.

The incident reportedly occurred after the fight between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather last month. After hearing "what sounded like gun shots" on his way back to his hotel, Bennett claims he was targeted by officers "for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time." Bennett wrote that he was ordered to the ground, while one officer "placed his gun near by head and warned me that if I moved he would 'blow my f---ing head off."

The officers' excessive use of force was unbearable. I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground, handcuffed, facing the real-life threat of being killed. All I could think of was 'I'm going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat.' My life flashed before my eyes as I thought of my girls. Would I ever play with them again? Or watch them have kids? Or be able to kiss my wife again and tell her I love her? [Michael Bennett, via Twitter]

Eventually the police identified Bennett as "a famous professional football player," he said, and let him go. "This fact is unequivocally, without question, why before every game, I sit during the national anthem — because equality doesn't live in this country," Bennett wrote.

Read Bennett's full letter below. Jeva Lange

September 5, 2017

Former President Barack Obama responded at length to President Trump's decision Tuesday to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, writing on Facebook that "these DREAMers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper."

On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said DACA, which protects individuals known as DREAMers who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, was "unconstitutional" when it was implemented by Obama in 2012 via executive action. Sessions also said DACA had "denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans" by granting work authorization. Obama responded in his statement, writing that "because it made no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know solely because of the actions of their parents, my administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country."

Obama went on:

Let's be clear: The action taken today [by Trump] isn't required legally. It's a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn't threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid's softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won't lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone's taxes, or raise anybody's wages. [Barack Obama, via Facebook]

"Ultimately, this is about basic decency," Obama concluded. "This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we'd want our own kids to be treated. It's about who we are as a people — and who we want to be." Read Obama's full statement here. Jeva Lange

August 25, 2017

Scientists have been sounding the alarm since Hurricane Ike made landfall in 2008 that "Houston's perfect storm is coming — and it's not a matter of if, but when," ProPublica and The Texas Tribune wrote in a joint investigation last year. With Hurricane Harvey now brewing off the Texas coast, strengthening into the strongest storm to approach the U.S. mainland in a decade, the serious danger facing Texas' coastal communities — as well as how little has been done to prepare for it — is suddenly much more grave:

If a storm hits the region in the right spot, "it's going to kill America's economy," said Pete Olson, a Republican congressman from Sugar Land, a Houston suburb.

Such a storm would devastate the Houston Ship Channel, shuttering one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Flanked by 10 major refineries — including the nation's largest — and dozens of chemical manufacturing plants, the Ship Channel is a crucial transportation route for crude oil and other key products, such as plastics and pesticides. A shutdown could lead to a spike in gasoline prices and many consumer goods — everything from car tires to cell phone parts to prescription pills.

"It would affect supply chains across the U.S., it would probably affect factories and plants in every major metropolitan area in the U.S.," said Patrick Jankowski, vice president for research at the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston's chamber of commerce. [ProPublica/The Texas Tribune]

There are only a "few hours" left for Houston to prepare for Harvey. "Hopefully this is a wake-up call, but this could become an absolute horror," Rice University environmental engineer Jim Blackburn told CBS News. "If we reach those levels, we could see the worst environmental disaster in United States history. And we'd probably shut down and cause a major gap in gasoline and jet fuel and other types of critical products' availability." As ProPublica and the Tribune wrote: "If Houston's refineries closed, some experts envision something like $7­ per­ gallon gasoline across the country for an indefinite period of time."

Another Rice University engineering professor, Phil Bedient, warned in 2016: "We're sitting ducks. We've done nothing … We've done nothing to shore up the coastline, to add resiliency … to do anything." Read the full chilling investigation at ProPublica. Jeva Lange

August 23, 2017

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson likely broke a federal law Tuesday night when he was introduced by his government title before President Trump's rally in Phoenix, Arizona, The Washington Post reports.

The rally was, technically speaking, part of Trump's 2020 bid. Carson ran into trouble because of an odd little rule in the 1939 Hatch Act, "a measure meant to preserve the impartiality of public servants," the Post's Philip Bump writes.

Among the prohibitions included in the Hatch Act is one prohibiting Cabinet secretaries from leveraging their positions for a political cause. That means that the head of, say, the Department of Housing and Urban Development can't appear at a campaign rally in a way that implies he's doing so in an official capacity. Say, by being introduced with his official title. [The Washington Post]

"[Carson] should have told them in advance that they cannot use his title," said the senior director of the Campaign Legal Center, Larry Noble. “Once hearing the introduction, he should have made clear he was speaking in his personal capacity and not as secretary."

Read more about how Carson possibly broke the law at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

August 18, 2017

Mitt Romney issued a stirring plea on Facebook on Friday for President Trump to apologize over his comments earlier this week that apparently equivocated white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, with counter-protesters. "Whether [Trump] intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn," Romney wrote.

Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, added gravely that "our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America's ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished."

The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100 percent to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis — who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat — and the counter-protesters who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband, and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association. [Mitt Romney, via Facebook]

Many other Republicans have spoken up about Trump's approach to the Charlottesville violence. On Thursday, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R) said: "We're at a point where there needs to be radical changes that take place at the White House itself."

Read Mitt Romney's full comments on Facebook. Jeva Lange

August 15, 2017
Screenshot, MSNBC / YouTube / A.J. Delgado

Former Trump campaign spokeswoman A.J. Delgado has come forward with her side of the story about her relationship with fellow Trump campaign aide, Jason Miller, who is married, during the waning weeks of the presidential election.

Delgado recently gave birth to a son, William, who was fathered by Miller, but Delgado said her relationship with the former Trump spokesman has ended and she hasn't spoken with him since December. Delgado told The Atlantic, "[William] could someday ... think he was conceived in some Vegas nightclub bathroom, when it couldn't be further from the truth. He came out of what was a really nice, sweet relationship between two people who met on the campaign trail and liked each other a lot … I won't allow you to say he came out of a boorish, vulgar, scandalous night. It's a matter of defending my son."

Delgado also recounted the night she told Miller that she was pregnant:

After Trump's surprise victory in November, Delgado and Miller both joined the transition team, where she says their relationship continued. But just a couple of weeks after Election Day, Delgado discovered she was pregnant. She held off at first on sharing the news, unsure of how Miller would take it.

"I finally told him one night when we were in bed and I couldn't fall asleep," she said.

Miller reacted calmly, Delgado recalled, but came back with some complicating news of his own. "Well this is going to be extra awkward for me to handle," she remembers him saying, "because my wife is expecting."

Not comprehending at first, Delgado replied, "Expecting what?"

"Obviously that floored me," she told me. "It was a very rough thing to hear." [The Atlantic]

Read the full story at The Atlantic. Jeva Lange

August 14, 2017
Alex Wong/Getty Images

A 2014 report warned the Obama administration that Russia was assembling a massive campaign to disrupt western democracies, potentially including the U.S., but intelligence officials were unable to get "sign-offs" from the administration to respond, Politico reports. "The truth is, nobody wanted to piss off the Russians," said one intelligence official.

The 2014 report quoted a Russian source who warned American officials, "You have no idea how extensive these networks are in Europe ... and in the U.S., Russia has penetrated media organizations, lobbying firms, political parties, governments, and militaries in all of these places."

"[The Obama administration was] warned," said one current administration official. "They underestimated it until it was too late. They just didn't know how to deal with the bad guys."

Many intelligence officials had wanted to push back on Moscow, endorsing proposals to expel Russian diplomats, launch targeted counterintelligence campaigns, and close two Russian dachas suspected of being intelligence-gathering sites. National security agencies still hesitated: "Any of these actions risked a Russian reciprocation," said one former NSC official. "We were kind of caught in a catch-22." Read the full report at Politico. Jeva Lange

August 3, 2017

The Washington Post published transcripts of President Trump's Jan. 27 phone call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Jan. 28 phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday, revealing startling insight into the president's approach to negotiations.

In speaking with Peña Nieto, Trump repeatedly asked the Mexican president to stop saying that Mexico won't pay for the border wall. "You cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that, and I cannot live with that," Trump said, although he seemed to acknowledge that the funding would "work out in the formula somehow."

Trump additionally told Peña Nieto: "They are sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles, and to New York. Up in New Hampshire — I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den — is coming from the southern border. So we have a lot of problems with Mexico farther than the economic problem." But Trump also took a friendly tone with the Mexican president, telling him, "It is you and I against the world, Enrique, do not forget."

Trump's exchange with Turnbull was even more heated as Trump vented about an Obama-era agreement to take 1,250 refugees from Australia. "This is going to kill me," Trump said, deeming the conversation his "most unpleasant call all day."

Read the full transcripts here, and hear more of the quotes below. Jeva Lange

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