West Palm Beach, Florida (CNN)A government shutdown may force President Trump to spend Christmas in Washington — but in sunny South Florida, his Mar-a-Lago estate beckons.
It may all be for naught if Trump and lawmakers cannot reach a compromise on funding the government past midnight. The White House says Trump will not travel to Florida if the partial government shutdown takes effect.
After meeting Senate Republicans at the White House on Friday morning, Trump did not offer any new plan that might garner enough support for passage. That made a shutdown appear more likely.
But it did not stop preparations for Trump’s potential arrival in Florida.
The security perimeter that surrounds Mar-a-Lago when the President is in residence has already been established, with traffic diverted along Ocean Boulevard away from the resort. Dozens of Secret Service agents and officers are already on the grounds, using dogs to screen vehicles and guests entering the club.
The Secret Service falls under the Department of Homeland Security, which is among the nine agencies and departments whose funding will expire at midnight Friday. In contingency plans submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, the Secret Service said nearly 6,000 of its employees are considered essential, meaning they would still need to report to work in a shutdown.
But until Congress and Trump approve new spending, those employees would go unpaid.
Some White House staffers have also traveled down ahead of the President, but are increasingly doubtful he will arrive here on Friday — if at all.
House passes bill with border wall spending
At the White House, aides have protectively been preparing for a departure in case a deal can be struck. The President and first lady’s suitcases have been packed, according to a person familiar with the matter, and some of the staffers who were supposed to travel with Trump also arrived to the White House Friday prepared to fly in the afternoon, just in case.
At Palm Beach International Airport, preparations for Air Force One’s arrival had begun, including lining up dozens of yellow school buses to create a security barrier.
A billboard on the route from the airport to Mar-a-Lago has also been erected. From far away it looks like an official Trump sign, but when the words come into view, it becomes clear it’s not: “Impeachment Now: Make America America Again.” It’s paid for by the liberal Mad Dog PAC.
The black, red and gold Trump-branded Boeing 757 is parked on the tarmac, and some of Trump’s family is already here.
Donald Trump Jr. spoke on Thursday evening alongside his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle at Mar-a-Lago, which was hosting a gala event for Turning Point USA, the group for young conservatives. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and the activists Charlie Kirk and Candice Owens also spoke.
Mar-a-Lago employees have been told to prepare for any contingency, a person familiar with the instructions said. Planning had been underway for a Christmas Eve dinner followed by midnight mass at nearby Bethesda by the Sea church, along with Christmas dinner and a black tie New Year’s Eve party. On January 5, Trump has also been expected to attend the Policeman’s Ball at the club.
At Trump International Golf Course, across the bridge in West Palm Beach, police officers have already set up positions around the exterior where cameras have sometimes captured a glimpse of the President golfing. New signs have been posted along the fence warning “No Trespassing” in both English and Spanish.
Washington (CNN)2018 has been a tumultuous year in Washington we’ve seen unprecedented turnover in the White House, the passings of two political statesmen, and indictments of several Trump associates as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation (which still continues full speed ahead).
1. Michelle Obama and George W. Bush’s friendship
Michelle Obama, Bush share sweet moment
Since President Barack Obama took office, protocol has placed these two next to each other during official events. Former first lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush have been spotted hugging, joining hands and just seeming to enjoy one another’s company over the years, but their friendship went on full display earlier this year at the late Sen. John McCain’s funeral. The two shared a sweet moment (and social media virality) when Bush handed Obama a cough drop in their row of former presidents and first ladies. At his own father’s funeral later in the year, Bush repeated the gesture, handing Obama another small item from his pocket when he greeted her.
In an interview in November, Obama said that her friendship with 43 “reminds us that we can get there with the right leadership and with the right tone setting and with each of us giving one another the benefit of the doubt.”
“I’d love if we as a country could get back to the place where we didn’t demonize people who disagreed with us,” she added.
2. Tammy Duckworth’s baby on the Senate floor
Sen. Duckworth brings baby to vote in Senate
In April, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth gave birth to a baby girl, making her the first US senator ever to give birth while in office.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt worked together to change the longstanding rules to members to bring babies onto the Senate floor. Duckworth’s daughter, Maile Pearl, joined her for votes on the Senate floor, to applause — and cooing — from her mother’s colleagues.
“It feels great,” Duckworth told reporters. “It is about time, huh?”
3. Pete Davidson and Dan Crenshaw’s ‘SNL’ reconciliation
Crenshaw trolls ‘SNL’ comedian after controversy
After “Saturday Night Live” comedian Pete Davidson mocked incoming Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s eyepatch — a result of an injury he suffered while serving as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan — the two ultimately reconciled on the late-night comedy show.
Davidson offered an apology and said Crenshaw was a “war hero.”
“I mean this from the bottom of my heart. It was a poor choice of words. The man is a war hero, and he deserves all the respect in the world,” Davidson said. “And if any good came of this, maybe it was that for one day, the left and the right finally came together to agree on something.”
Crenshaw accepted the apology and also paid tribute to Davidson’s father, a firefighter who was killed on 9/11.
Weeks later, after Davidson shared a troubling Instagram post indicating he may have been feeling suicidal, Crenshaw reached out.
“I told him everyone had a purpose in this world,” Crenshaw said. “God put you here for a reason. It’s your job to find that purpose. And you should live that way.”
4. New pups on the block
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren may both throw their hats in the ring for 2020 — but what’s an adventure without a best friend?
Biden adopted Major, a German shepherd, in November from the Delaware Humane Association after fostering him. Biden has another German shepherd named Champ whom he picked up from a breeder in 2008. That same year, Biden was promised a post-election dog by his wife Jill, who would tape pictures of dogs to the seat in front of him on the campaign plane.
On Elizabeth Warren’s 38th wedding anniversary, her husband Bruce brought home a golden retriever named Bailey. Her previous golden retriever, Otis, died of cancer five days before she was elected to the Senate in 2012.
“A few weeks ago, Bruce said, ‘We’re getting a dog,'” the senator wrote on Instagram. “And now we have Bailey who chews, piddles, and makes my heart happy.”
Bailey has been featured cleaning off plates in the dishwasher, rooting for the Red Sox and dressing up for Halloween on Warren’s Instagram.
And in June, the late former President George H.W. Bush enlisted the help of a new family member in his final months — a yellow Labrador service dog named Sully. Sully was trained by the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs, a nonprofit that provides service dogs at no cost to veterans, active-duty service members and first responders with disabilities. Sully even got his own Instagram account.
When Bush died in early December, Jim McGrath, Bush’s spokesman, posted a photo of Sully sitting directly in front of Bush’s casket at a Texas funeral home.
Sully was set to go back into service to help other veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, according to a post on Instagram by former President George W. Bush.
“With Trump likely to be on the ballot in 2020, don’t be surprised if that election also features high turnout,” CNN’s Harry Enten wrote about the high turnout. “Like for 2018, it’s not clear who high turnout might benefit in 2020. It’s really a matter of who turns out.”
(CNN)On September 1, 2016, police in Bordentown, New Jersey, got a call from the manager at a local Ramada Inn. The manager told the dispatcher two teenagers had used the pool without paying for a room. This rather mundane call set in motion a chain of events that led to the chief of police being charged with a federal hate crime, the first case of its kind in at least ten years.
When officers arrived, they located Timothy Stroye, 18, and a 16-year-old female. Stroye was still wet from the pool, clad in white shorts. A confrontation ensued, and the officers called for backup.
A shouting match escalated into a physical struggle. A lieutenant, who had a preexisting back problem, was injured. Stroye got pepper sprayed and handcuffed. The teenage girl’s aunt, who witnessed the encounter, screamed at the officers.
What happened next is hazy. As police walked Stroye out of the hotel, an officer allegedly slammed the teen’s head against a metal door jam. At the police station, Stroye told an EMS technician he was having an asthma attack, and he feared he had suffered a concussion. He chose not to go to the hospital, however, to avoid delays in processing his case.
According to federal prosecutors, the officer who hit Stroye was Bordentown Township police chief and business administrator, Frank Nucera Jr. They alleged the assault was driven by bias against African-Americans.
That’s a step federal prosecutors opted not to take in higher profile cases of people who were killed by law enforcement. The deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Freddie Gray in Baltimore sparked massive protests and riots in 2014 and 2015. The officers involved in those encounters were not charged in federal court.
It is difficult to bring criminal deprivation of rights indictments against law enforcement because police have wide latitude to use force if they believe an individual is threatening public safety, whether the person is armed or not. With Nucera, prosecutors felt they had sufficient proof to convince a jury the now-retired chief used unreasonable force and he was motivated by racial bias.
Nucera’s defense attorney, Rocco Cipparone Jr., said his client is innocent of the assault and one of the other officers caused the teen’s head injury.
Stroye himself said several officers struck him. He told the FBI he was handcuffed while lying on the ground. One officer pressed his knee against Stroye’s face and another pressed his knee against the teen’s back, according to notes from an FBI interview. After the police brought Stroye to his feet, he asked for their names. They did not respond although Stroye remembered one was referred to as “chief.” His vision was blurry from pepper spray.
While the precise details of the altercation may never be known, the chief’s reaction to Stroye’s arrest was captured in audio recordings. Sergeant Nathan Roohr had been secretly making tapes for months because he felt Nucera created a toxic work environment, and he found the chief’s remarks about minorities offensive. The FBI investigation revealed that at least nine other officers were using hidden recording devices, as they reportedly shared Roorh’s concerns.
Last Tuesday, a federal judge in Camden, New Jersey denied a defense motion to dismiss the indictment, clearing the way for the retired chief to go on trial.
“I’m tired of them, man”
The Nucera tapes contain profane rants against African-Americans, Hispanics and Muslims. Nucera repeatedly referred to Stroye using the N-word.
The chief complained the Ramada call was a waste of resources caused by “six unruly f—–g n—–s,” according to court documents.
He described the struggle to handcuff Stroye: ” F—–g little f—–g n—–. He was built pretty stocky though. When you put cocoa butter on that skin and come out of the pool, it’s like trying to hold down a f—–g snake.”
In another recording, Nucera said, “I’m f—–g tired of them, man. I’ll tell you what, it’s gonna get to the point where I could shoot one of these m—-rf—–s. And that n—-r b—h lady, she almost got it.”
Roohr gave the FBI 81 audio recordings of Nucera made between 2015 and 2016. Agents then provided the sergeant with devices to continue taping the chief.
He became a government witness, wired for sound and directed by the FBI to discuss Stroye’s arrest with the chief. Roohr repeatedly said he was worried about a potential civil lawsuit for excessive force in an effort to elicit a confession from the chief.
“He’s a nut”
Nucera’s comments in court records are peppered with references to President Donald Trump. The Ramada incident took place during the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.
One officer told the FBI Nucera predicted “they” (African-Americans) would be unhappy if Trump got elected because he would take away “free rides.”
In a recording made on the day of Stroye’s arrest, Nucera said, “Donald Trump is the last hope for white people, ’cause Hillary will give it to all the minorities to get a vote. That’s the truth! I’m telling you. I think about that more and more. He is, he’s the last hope for the f—–g white people cause she’s too (UI). All the seven mothers that were at the Democratic National Convention saying, ‘The police killed my kids.'”
Still, Nucera questioned Trump’s temperament.
“He’s a nut,” Nucera said, adding that he wasn’t planning to vote.
Nucera announced his retirement in January 2017. Less than a year after he stepped down, he was indicted with hate crime assault, deprivation of rights under color of law and making false statements.
The retired chief pleaded not guilty and was released on $500,000 bail. Cipparone, Nucera’s attorney, declined to answer a list of detailed questions submitted by CNN.
The Nucera case is unique because hate crimes are usually prosecuted by local authorities rather than the federal government, said Rebecca Sturtevant, a spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The retired chief appears to be the first cop in at least a decade to be charged with a federal hate crime in conjunction with his job as a law enforcement officer, according to a search of the Pacer case locator database and Justice Department sources.
Stroye pleaded guilty to third degree assault of a police officer in state court. The judge sentenced him to six months in county jail. He was released on probation on July 15, 2017, according to the Burlington County court clerk. Stroye is currently incarcerated at the Bucks County Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania, where he is being held pending trial on charges of writing a worthless check and access device fraud. This year, he has also pled guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia, public drunkenness and use of a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent. Calls to Stroye’s attorney, Nathan Criste, and the Bucks County Correctional Facility were not returned.
Rodney King remembers the L.A. riots in a 2012 interview.
As part of its mission to protect the rights of vulnerable populations, the Civil Rights Division prosecutes select cases involving hate crimes and/or police misconduct. The Division, which also files civil suits related to sexual harassment, voting rights, housing discrimination and religious liberty, has been described on Capitol Hill as the “nation’s moral compass.”
In one of the Division’s most prominent police violence cases, four LAPD officers were charged with deprivation of rights under color of law after beating motorist Rodney King during a traffic stop in 1991. Although a state trial ended with acquittals — leading to riots in Los Angeles — the officers were later indicted by the Justice Department. Two of them, Stacey C. Koon and Laurence M. Powell got convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison. The other two defendants, Timothy E. Wind, and Theodore J. Briseno were acquitted.
In messages obtained by prosecutors, one of the officers expressed an eagerness to engage in violent confrontations with demonstrators: “It’s gonna get IGNORANT tonight!! But it’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these s——-s once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!”
Federal excessive force prosecutions are relatively rare because the government must prove an officer specifically set out to deprive a victim of his or her constitutional rights, per a 1945 Supreme Court decision known as Screws V. United States. In that case, the high court overturned the convictions of a Georgia sheriff and two deputies for the beating death of an African-American prisoner because the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury they must find the defendants acted “willfully,” with the purpose of violating the victim’s rights.
Proving Nucera committed a hate crime, in addition to willful deprivation of rights, is a tough task for prosecutors. The government is planning to play Roohr’s tapes in the courtroom to back its allegation that the chief hit Stroye out of hatred of African-Americans.
In an omnibus motion to dismiss the indictment, the defense questioned the FBI’s use of unauthorized cellphone recordings to build a case against the retired chief, arguing the investigation grew out of internal politics at the police department. During a hearing at the federal courthouse in Camden last Tuesday, the judge ruled that the issues raised by Nucera’s attorney did not warrant tossing the indictment.
The crossroads of New Jersey
Bordentown Township, population 12,202, is a Philadelphia suburb on the banks of the Delaware River where the median household income is about $86,000 and more than 75% of residents are white. Originally settled by Quakers, the township is the self-proclaimed “crossroads of the heart of New Jersey,” 45 miles upriver from Philadelphia and about 65 miles southwest of New York City. A two-mile stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike curves through the east side of Bordentown.
Nucera, 61, served with the Bordentown police for 34 years, working his way up to chief and administrator. He put in long hours and boasted of running the township “like a business.”
There was trouble beneath the surface. Roohr and his colleagues told the FBI that the chief was verbally abusive, but they didn’t report him in fear of retaliation. In a police department with a roster of 28 sworn officers, at least ten were surreptitiously recording their interactions with Nucera.
Nucera’s attorney doesn’t dispute that his client used racial slurs, but he argued in his court filing there’s a shortage of evidence to substantiate the charge that the chief hit Stroye.
Cipparone wanted two separate trials, with standalone proceedings for the hate crime assault charge so the jury could determine whether there’s proof beyond reasonable doubt Nucera pushed Stroye into the door. The judge denied this request at the hearing last Tuesday.
Tracking hate and excessive force
Every year, the FBI publishes the Uniform Crime Report, an overview based on stats from local police departments. It is an incomplete snapshot of crime in the United States, since participation is voluntary and law enforcement agencies can opt out of sharing info with the federal government.
The FBI does gather some lethal force data. The “killing of a felon” in the line of duty is called a “justifiable homicide” in the bureau’s annual crime report. According to the latest UCR, 429 individuals were killed by law enforcement in 2017. That is likely an undercount since local agencies are not required to share info with the FBI and the definition of a “justifiable homicide” is somewhat ambiguous. The Washington Post, which maintains its own database of fatal police shootings based on news reports, police websites and social media, estimated 985 people were killed by police in 2017.
A total of 65 individuals got charged with deprivation of civil rights under color of law during fiscal year 2018, according to the DOJ. Most defendants were law enforcement officers but color of law violations can also be committed by judges, prosecutors, government workers and private individuals aiding and abetting the police. Nucera is the only officer charged with deprivation of rights and hate crime assault, according to the DOJ.
The federal definition of a hate crime is: “An offense involving actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin. Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person.” Additionally, any offense committed against an individual because of actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability is also a hate crime.
So why did the FBI get involved in the Nucera case?
At some point in September or October of 2016, Roohr called an old friend, Jacob Archer, a special agent at the FBI’s Philadelphia office who started his career as a Bordentown city police officer. Roohr visited Archer at his home to tell him about the Ramada incident. Archer referred Roohr to a special agent from the FBI’s New Jersey office, Arthur Durrant, who was involved in a 2007 investigation of the chief. The bureau looked into allegations Nucera misused funds during his tenure as the township fire commissioner, according to the Burlington County Times. (The 2007 investigation ended without charges being filed.)
Separately, Captain Brian Pesce of the Bordentown Police Department’s internal affairs unit prepared a complaint about the chief’s conduct and scheduled a meeting with the Burlington County prosecutor’s office but canceled after the FBI told him to hold off. (Pesce is now Bordentown police chief.)
Right from the start, Roohr told the FBI he had deleted some of his recordings, claiming there was nothing relevant in those files. In the motion to dismiss, Nucera’s attorney said a sworn police officer should know destroying evidence is a serious breach that can derail an investigation.
Nucera’s attorney also criticized the FBI for failing to conduct a forensic search of Roohr’s computer to retrieve the recordings that had been erased. The bureau’s experts routinely recover deleted files from computers.
“Those people don’t like dogs”
The prosecution’s court filings paint a portrait of a police chief whose misconduct was unchecked because employees felt intimidated by him. Officers said Nucera tended to escalate tense situations and railed against “towel heads,” “spics” and “moulinyans.” Even staffers who praised the chief admitted he made jokes laced with racial slurs.
The chief could be compassionate — he once helped a fire victim pay for a hotel room — but he also had a vindictive side, officers told the FBI.
Nucera is accused of sending K-9 officers to the high school for basketball games when the visiting team was predominantly black. According to court documents, Nucera said words to the effect of, “We’re going to have dogs working that night because those people don’t like dogs.”
At an active shooter training drill, Nucera allegedly embarrassed an African-American officer. Before loaning the officer a GoPro camera to wear on his head, the chief warned him not to get grease on it.
In November 2015, squad members discovered one of the police vehicles had a flat tire in the station parking lot. Nucera said he suspected the tire had been slashed as an act of revenge by an African-American man who’d been arrested for disorderly conduct.
“I wish that n—– would come back from Trenton and give me a reason to put my hands on him, I’m tired of ’em,” Nucera said, according to court documents. “These n—-s are like ISIS, they have no value. They should line them all up and mow ’em down. I’d like to be on the firing squad. I could do it.”
An incestuous “witch hunt”
If everyone was troubled by the chief’s behavior, they should have spoken out sooner, Nucera’s attorney, Cipparone wrote in his motion to dismiss. For instance, the New Jersey attorney general’s office has strict guidelines for the deployment of police dogs. A chief who uses K-9 teams to intimidate minorities could be charged with deprivation of rights under New Jersey state law, according to Cipparone.
The defense described the FBI investigation as a “witch hunt” fueled by workplace grievances rather than concern about excessive force or intolerance.
Multiple officers told the FBI the chief was stingy with overtime assignments, and three cops claimed he docked their pay as a disciplinary measure. Many said Nucera was fixated on generating revenue for the township with traffic citations.
Nucera’s attorney wrote that his client was a tough, fiscally responsible boss overseeing resentful subordinates who leveraged personal relationships to make a federal case out of a botched arrest rife with misconduct by all involved.
The chief repeatedly denied hitting Stroye in the tapes obtained by prosecutors.
“To me there was no indication that anybody was injured other than the normal amount of force to put somebody in custody,” Nucera said. “You know, it’s like Timoney said, ‘How do you arrest somebody nicely that doesn’t want to be arrested?'”
Washington (CNN)When Michelle Obama left the White House in January 2017, she did what most former first ladies often do — she ditched us for a while. But now she’s back, on a revolutionary, arena-filling book tour, and she’s got plenty to say.
After eight years of living in what she once called the “fishbowl,” Obama retreated and began to re-learn life in the real world, away from the 18-acre compound on Pennsylvania Avenue.
She and husband, former President Barack Obama, didn’t geographically go all that far. Their home, which they reportedly purchased for $8.1 million in 2017, is less than three miles from the White House. But for Michelle Obama, just being able to make toast and sit outside makes it feel much farther away.
“Here I am in my new home, just me and (our dogs) Bo and Sunny, and I do a simple thing. I go downstairs and open the cabinet in my own kitchen — which you don’t do in the White House because there’s always somebody there going, ‘Let me get that. What do you want?’ . . . and I made myself toast,” Obama told Oprah Winfrey in a recent interview in Elle magazine.
“And then I took my toast, and I walked out into my backyard. There were dogs barking in the distance, and I realized Bo and Sunny had really never heard neighbor dogs. They’re like, ‘What’s that?’ And I’m like, ‘Yep, we’re in the real world now, fellas,’ ” she said.
It’s mundane, really, making toast and hearing dogs bark. But it’s the normalcy of Michelle Obama’s life that she recognized people had been missing. She may have roared back onto the public stage this past week with the launch of her memoir, “Becoming,” but her return to the public eye reminds just how relatable Obama was and remains.
“It’s difficult to put your finger on what makes someone likable,” says Kate Andersen Brower, a CNN contributor and author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.” “I think it’s because she’s self-deprecating, and she has an easy smile. There are so many great photos of her in the White House, and on the road talking to young girls who came from lower-income homes like hers and hear the obvious joy she felt just simply being around them. That’s special, and it cannot be manufactured.”
Finding her new path
Michelle Obama starts book tour with Oprah
Obama has been a periphery presence since she left the White House. She made headlines in February for the book deal, not that she signed one, that was expected, but that she and Barack Obama scored a whopping payday, reportedly in the neighborhood of $60 million — $30 million each.
“Democracy doesn’t wait for you to be bothered,” said Obama at a Las Vegas speech in September. “It moves on as it rightly should, and therefore, the people who vote determine the direction of the country, determine the mood, the tone, and the people who stay out don’t get a say. And I want every American to feel the power of that choice.”
“What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls?” she wrote. “Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”
Obama’s feelings about Trump were perhaps not all that surprising, considering the divisiveness of the political dialogue during the presidential campaign, but it was her revelatory personal stories that served as a gentle reminder of just how open Obama was when she was first lady.
She wrote that she struggled with fertility, suffered a miscarriage and only got pregnant with her two daughters when she used in vitro fertilization. She said her marriage, while “phenomenal,” needed lots of care, including marriage counseling. She talked about needing to nurture her own feelings before she could fix anyone else’s and that she and Barack Obama were “finding each other again,” after the fast-pace of the White House.
She talked about being a young African-American woman in Chicago, and how she often felt like the odd-one-out, both in her family, and at Princeton University, the sense of isolation and loneliness sometimes overwhelming.
“I didn’t come into (being first lady) with a blank slate,” she said during a speaking engagement several weeks before the book came out. “I had big jobs. I went to Princeton. I went to Harvard. I am a lawyer. But as Barack’s ascent got faster and higher, I had to figure out and balance marriage and balance becoming a spouse. I’ve learned that you can have it all, but not all at the same time.”
Finding that balance was vital because the Obama tenure marked a historic turning point — having an African-American family in the White House.
“The line in her book about identifying more with ‘the struggles of Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King’ than with Eleanor Roosevelt says it all,” says Brower. “Michelle Obama is groundbreaking as the first African-American first lady. She was the ancestor of slaves.”
“It’s incredible to think that she lived in a house built by slaves — which she talked about. The African-American residence staff, especially the butlers, had tears in their eyes when the Obamas moved in. They never thought they would see the day when they would be serving an African-American first family. That is simply remarkable given this country’s history.”
Obama: Melania turned down my offer for help
It’s a stark contrast between Obama, the former first lady who’s comfortable with sharing a lot, and Melania Trump, the intensely private current first lady. Trump has barely shared anything about her personal life, beyond her biography.
As rumors and innuendoes swirled around her this year, on topics ranging from her husband’s alleged infidelities to her mysterious medical procedure, Trump stayed quiet, doubling-down on her stoicism.
“One of the things you learn as a former, it’s, like, I don’t judge what a current is doing, you know?” Obama said. “So, I’d prefer not to, you know, speak on what she’s doing versus what I did because I think every first lady approaches this job differently.”
“Mrs. Trump is a strong and independent woman who has been navigating her role as first lady in her own way,” Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s spokeswoman told CNN. “When she needs advice on any issue, she seeks it from her professional team within the White House.”
And that was that.
The rest of the story
Michelle Obama opens up on Trump’s inauguration
The “boring” stuff that Obama put in the book was interesting, too. Those strange details about what it was really like to live in the White House sound like the juiciest bits of gossip when Obama disclosed them this past week, during her myriad talk show appearances, interviews and book tour stops — like that the first family must pay for their own food in the White House, something Obama didn’t know until she got there.
“It’s crazy because you don’t know it, and most people don’t know what it’s like to live in the White House,” Obama told ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel during a recent appearance. “Rent is free, staff is free. We shouldn’t be mooching off of the taxpayers.”
And that she worked a few deals with her Secret Service detail from time to time just so she could get out and go to a mall, or a quick shopping trip for the pets.
“After Bo expertly disemboweled or shredded every last dog toy bought for him by the staff who did our regular shopping, I personally escorted him over to PetSmart in Alexandria one morning,” writes Obama in “Becoming.” “And for a short while, I enjoyed glorious anonymity while browsing for better chew toys as Bo — who was as delighted by the novelty of the outing as I was — loafed next to me on a leash.”
“Michelle became America’s mom. She really did. In a ‘I’ve got your back’ kind of way,” Alyssa Mastromonaco, who served as deputy chief of staff in the Obama administration, told CNN. “She wasn’t really partisan. She wanted all the children to be healthy and happy and wanted the White House, which she considered a very special place, to be open to all the children, and I think no matter what people got that about her.”
That Michelle Obama resonated with Americans — and that she seemed to not be bothered by her detractors — is what makes her book tour nostalgic. Obama might not pop up again for a while after her book becomes old news, and one place we will never see again will be the White House.
But politics appears out of the question.
“Let me very clear: It will never happen,” Valerie Jarrett told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Monday. “She has committed her life to public service. And she’s going to use her incredible platform to be a force for good, but not in politics.”
(CNN)House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s detractors are plotting their next steps to knock her off from her perch as leader of House Democrats, but a major question remains: Who will run against her for speaker, if anyone?
No challenger has yet emerged, and the Ohio Democrat who did run against her in 2016 — Rep. Tim Ryan — told CNN he hasn’t ruled it out, but he isn’t considering challenging her at the moment, either.
“I don’t have any intention of doing it,” Ryan said when asked Tuesday night.
But Ryan added: “There are lot of conversations happening with a lot of people from a lot of different caucuses that we have that are thinking about it. A lot of people will be surprised about who is thinking about doing something.”
He said the next 24-48 hours would determine the direction the Pelosi detractors take based on conversations with the new members to see “who would put them in the best position to succeed.”
According to CNN tallies, 12 incumbents who had already pledged to vote against Pelosi were re-elected Tuesday night, along with at least seven new candidates.
Rep. Filemon Vela, a Texas Democrat who is pushing for new leadership, said Pelosi’s bid is “in real peril” if Democrats only have a majority of about dozen seats.
A senior Democratic aide pushed back on Vela, disputing the congressman’s math and arguing Pelosi would have enough votes to get elected speaker.
Pelosi allies said that the sweeping Democratic victory would silence many of her critics — particularly from those who were concerned the party couldn’t win with her as its leader. Her powerful fundraising and ability to dole out key committee assignments also would win over some skeptics, her allies predict.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Democrat of Texas, said he was open to seeing the top three leaders remaining in the House Democratic majority.
“If you have to bet, bet on her,” Cuellar said.
Added Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico: “I believe in Nancy Pelosi, I support Nancy Pelosi and I believe she will be our next speaker.”
“People want change,” Ryan said when asked about her pitch. “This is getting bigger than any one person. This would be taking the first step of building a long-term sustainable coalition that can actually govern the country and get it back on track.”
Ryan’s comments reflect an appetite among some for a full ticket of new names, including for the No. 2 and No. 3 spot in the caucus, currently held by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn.
“Regardless of how much we win by, if Democrats win the House, it’s a sign that American people want change, and we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot if we elect the same leaders again,” said one Democratic aide who is aligned with Pelosi critics.
Some Pelosi detractors are open to other members often mentioned as rising stars and potential top leaders in the caucus, including Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Cheri Bustos of Illinois, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Karen Bass of California and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico.
But so far it appears highly unlikely these members would launch a challenge against Pelosi, given their close ties with the minority leader. Bustos and Cicilline are currently running for the Assistant Democratic Leader position, which will be the No. 4 post under a majority.
Rep. Kurt Schrader, a Democrat from Oregon who hasn’t been shy in his thoughts about Pelosi, argued no one has stepped forward to challenge her because they’re “afraid of her.”
“Which is pretty pathetic,” he told CNN in an interview two weeks ago. “If your leadership is based on fear, that’s terrible. That’s what Donald Trump does for god sakes, based on fear. I think what we want in a leader is someone that’s empowering.”
Schrader, Ryan and Vela were three of 11 members who signed on to a proposal this fall that would make it difficult for anyone, including Pelosi, to get the caucus nomination for speaker in this month’s leadership elections. Traditionally, it only takes a majority of the caucus to win the nomination, but this proposal would raise the threshold to 218 — the same number of votes needed to win the speaker in the final vote on the House floor.
The proposal was withdrawn shortly before members left for their October recess, but it’s expected to be brought up again. Supporters of the idea want the caucus to be united behind their nominee before going to the floor in January.
Their concerns come as some members have already pledged to vote against Pelosi for speaker on the House floor, potentially threatening her chances for speaker during the final vote. Pelosi could survive that scenario if some of those members vote “present” instead of voting for another name, as it would reduce the threshold needed for a majority and members could still say they didn’t vote for Pelosi.
But the contingency of members wanting to take Pelosi down will urge anti-Pelosi candidates to say a different name, rather than vote “present,” according to one Democratic aide who’s aligned with Pelosi critics.
Her allies point to her deep relationships across the caucus, her massive fundraising numbers for the party, and the fact that Democrats won the House despite Republicans spending nearly $90 million on attack ads against Pelosi.
Cueller said there needed to be “new faces” as part of the broader leadership team — including Blue Dogs — because the seats won Tuesday were “not liberal seats” and will now be occupied by moderate Democrats in conservative districts. He said he has spoken with her about the matter.
Though it’s (generally) been a bad time for the United States, it’s also been a golden age for New Yorker covers.
The magazine’s November 19 cover, however, celebrates one recent, joyous victory: the more than 100 women who were elected to Congress on Tuesday. Instead of letting Trump dominate the cover yet again, women, specifically women of color, take center stage.
The cover, illustrated by longtime New Yorker illustrator Barry Blitt, highlights the women who will join the Capitol Hill club once dominated by white men.
More women, including many women of color, were elected to Congress during Tuesday’s midterm elections than ever before. The U.S. elected its first Muslim-American congresswomen and its first Native-American congresswomen, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Trump will continue a presidential tradition by holding a post-midterm election news conference at 11:30 a.m., ET.
Aides say he will claim victory for Republican gains in the Senate and key races for governor. He is expected to give remarks about his role in the midterms before taking questions.
“He feels vindicated,” a Trump confidant said.
The President’s mood is upbeat, aides say, largely because he is able to point to major victories in races where he campaigned, particularly in Florida, Indiana, Missouri and others. He will likely downplay — or ignore — disappointments, particularly losses in governor’s races.
But the voters’ split verdict will eventually force Trump to reckon with a changed political reality as he quickly turns toward his own re-election.
The newly powerful Democrats will not only limit Trump’s legislative ambitions. Subpoena powers mean a raft of new probes could distract and occupy the White House as Trump fights for a second term. While Democratic leaders have downplayed the chances they will seek to impeach him, the possibility now looms in a way it did not when Republicans were in control.
Trump is mindful of Democratic investigations to come, but a presidential confidant said most allies do not believe the President understands the full weight of what’s ahead and how things will change for him during the second half of his first term.
The anticipated Democratic probes come on top of the existing investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, which is expected to scale up now that the elections have concluded. Trump and his lawyers will have to determine in the next weeks whether to comply with Mueller’s request for an interview, or at least provide written answers to his questions.
White House officials are bracing for developments in Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Room for reflection?
Sarah Sanders: Why would Trump call Pelosi?
In the midterms’ waning hours, Trump mused of a desire to dial back his rhetoric and unite the country like a “beautiful puzzle.”
“I would like to have a much softer tone. I feel, to a certain extent, I have no choice,” he told the administration-friendly Sinclair Broadcast Group in an interview. “But maybe I do.”
There is scant evidence in the President’s short political career of self-reflection or message refinement. Instead, officials and confidants said Trump is more likely to muddle through the changed political landscape with the mixture of bombast and deal-making that propelled him into office in the first place.
“We’ll just have to work a little bit differently,” the President said Monday on an airport tarmac in Indiana, his second of three stops on a final barnstorm through red states. “It’ll all work out.”
Trump spent Election Day behind closed doors, having mailed in his own absentee ballot weeks ago. He phoned congressional leaders and Republican political advisers from his third-floor residence and visited a “war room” in the White House East Wing for updates on critical races.
Family members and friends, including ex-campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, and informal advisers like Blackstone chief Stephen Schwarzman, joined him in the evening for a viewing party, snacking on pizza and tiny hot dogs as they watched results come in on television.
He phoned both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to congratulate them on their victories, even though his spokeswoman suggested earlier that a call to Pelosi wasn’t necessary since she wouldn’t automatically become the presumptive speaker of the 116th Congress.
Trump is poised to shuffle his Cabinet, hoping to replace officials he’s deemed disloyal or ineffective, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with more pliant replacements. Other administration aides, both in the West Wing and at agencies, are expected to exit, wary of being implicated in the wash of investigations that could soon descend.
Officials said Trump is unlikely to take much of a break from the stump. He’ll soon begin holding rallies explicitly for his re-election, events that boost his mood and allow him to escape Washington.
“This fall made him realize how much he loves rallies and how much he missed them,” one Trump confidant said.
But for the immediate future, Trump will turn to foreign policy, an area with wide executive leeway that past presidents have used as a refuge during moments of political chastening. He joins European leaders this weekend in Paris for a ceremony commemorating the World War I armistice, and meets in Buenos Aires at the end of the month with Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia.
The new landscape
Pelosi: Tomorrow will be a new day in America
Trump will return from his pair of upcoming foreign trips forced to confront an unfriendly House of Representatives, with the legislative promises he made over the course of the past several months trimmed. The 10-percent tax cut Trump promised middle-class Americans — a loose objective to begin with — seems in doubt. Democrats ardently oppose funding for a border wall, the signature promise of Trump’s first presidential campaign.
The President plans to show areas of potential — and limited — cooperation with Democrats, largely on infrastructure. The White House legislative affairs team has been talking to Democratic and Republican House leaders about this for several weeks.
And there are some areas Democrats and Trump appear poised to cooperate. The NAFTA re-write Trump forged with Canada and Mexico could gain approval if some of its labor and enforceability provisions are strengthened. Drug pricing and criminal justice reform legislation have both gained bipartisan support. A long-awaited infrastructure overhaul is a stated priority of Democrats and Republicans.
“At the end of the day, the President’s going to work with whoever comes into office. We have a lot of things on our agenda and we look forward to getting them all done,” press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on a darkened White House driveway Tuesday. “The President’s agenda isn’t going to change regardless of whose party is there.”
Even before Democrats take power, the two sides will have to come to an agreement in the lame duck Congress on government funding or face a December shutdown.
With the Senate still in Republican hands, Trump’s push to appoint conservative federal judges will likely continue apace. Should he need it, Trump still has the power to veto legislation he dislikes, a prerogative he has yet to exercise.
But the legislative hurdles represent only a fraction of the challenges that a divided Congress will pose in the coming year. When they assume control in January, Democrats will have the power to launch investigations into all manner of Trump dealings, from his ties to Russia to his business practices. A prime target appeared to be his tax returns, which he’s refused to release to the public.
Democrats themselves have been somewhat divided on the issue, wary of appearing blindly political in their newfound leadership roles. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, has said she will focus on Democrats’ legislative agenda, not on impeaching the President. But even lesser proceedings have a way of distracting White House lawyers and aides.
Kellyanne Conway, the President’s counselor, shrugged off the notion of Democrats using new investigative powers in the new Congress.
“I guess they can try, but he’s going to continue trying to work with them on the agenda because he’s a policy guy and he’s — they’re talking about investigations and subpoenas and he’s talking about issues and substance so it’s quite a contrast,” she said.
Past as precedent
CNN projects Democrats gain control of House
As Trump finds himself politically weakened, he can at least take solace in the experiences of his three most recent predecessors.
Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all lost control of the House during their presidencies. Two of those presidents, Clinton and Obama, went on to win re-election two years later, partly by running against the opposition Congress.
In the aftermath of their losses, those men acknowledged their own culpability.
“I accept my share of the responsibility in the result of the elections,” Clinton told reporters in 1994 after Republicans seized control of the House for the first time in decades.
“I share a large part of the responsibility,” Bush echoed in 2006 when he described a “thumping” for Republicans. Obama uttered the phrase “take responsibility” six times during his news conference in 2010 after what he deemed a Republican “shellacking” in the House.
Whether Trump accepts the same responsibility for losing the House on Wednesday remains to be seen. But if his past actions offer any guidance, the answer is doubtful.
(CNN)As Congress braces for the midterm elections, “Blue Dogs” — a nickname for the most moderate Democrats on Capitol Hill — are hoping to make a comeback.
While some Democrats are finding success in leaning into using their campaigns as a referendum on President Donald Trump, Oregon Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader, who serves as the chief candidate recruiter for the coalition, said that that strategy doesn’t work for districts with prospective Blue Dogs.
“We’re trying to recruit candidates that can get us into the majority. And there’s an understanding, for the first time in 10 years, that the path to the majority is through the Blue Dog-type districts we need to win,” Schrader told CNN. “There are no more liberal districts to win. And that requires a candidate that can relate to the red in their state, not just the blue.”
Blue Dogs’ push to elect more moderates to Congress bucks the current trend associated with midterm elections — that each party is working to energize their voters with candidates appealing to their base. On the left, there are some high-profile liberals running who could also help shape a possible Democratic majority, including New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. These potential members could find themselves at odds with Blue Dogs — particularly on issues like defense and federal spending. Still, it’s unclear where these new members will fall on the issue of potentially selecting House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as House speaker should Democrats retake the chamber.
Supporters of the Blue Dogs have argued they could be the key deciding group determining what legislation comes up to the House floor for a vote if Democrats obtain the chamber’s majority.
Kristin Hawn, a Democratic strategist working with the Blue Dog PAC, said she expects that if Democrats do win, the dynamic between party members will be different than it was when Democrats led by large majorities.
“Having a slim majority will be very different from a 30-something seat majority in the House. It’s not something I’ve ever lived through personally, but it’ll be really interesting. It’ll be good for the country … how the House is run, because you have to have people actually come together,” Hawn told CNN. “Suddenly, the Freedom Caucus — they don’t have the balance of power anymore.”
Schrader said one issue is that even in his district the President’s popularity has only increased since the 2016 election.
“They’ve been able to localize the race, not take on Donald Trump, not take on you know — well, not take on Donald Trump, frankly,” Schrader said about the candidates the PAC has endorsed.
Instead, Schrader has encouraged candidates to come out against Pelosi, who plans to run for the House speakership should Democrats take control of the House.
“You know, I told all our candidates at the beginning of this year that you don’t want to be coming out against Donald Trump. Let’s not run against him,” he said. “You want to come out against Nancy Pelosi because you are running against her. That’ll be the first question you’ll get asked. If you don’t answer that question right, you won’t have an opportunity to talk about anything else. They’ll just write you off.”
Pelosi’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on Schrader’s push, but Pelosi has previously said she is not offended by Democrats who oppose her leadership.
“I’m OK. Just win, baby,” Pelosi said in May. “I think many of them are saying we need … new leadership, yeah. I don’t take offense at that.”
Still, Pelosi is a heavy favorite to win the speakership, and if Democrats win by a big majority, she may not even need some of these candidates to get to 218 votes. She also has leverage in her corner to help sway some of these candidates to support her in the end, such as committee assignments and PAC money.
Of 26 Democrats in toss-up races, 11 have said they would oppose Pelosi as speaker, while an additional 19 Democrats who are in districts that lean Democratic or are solidly in their party’s favor said they would oppose her, according to a CNN tally. Those numbers grow among Democrats in districts that lean Republican.
Salt Lake County mayor Ben McAdams, a Blue Dog-endorsed candidate attempting to unseat Utah Republican Rep. Mia Love, is among the majority Blue Dog PAC-endorsed candidates opposing Pelosi’s speakership run.
And though Trump’s favorability polling is “under water” in his district, McAdams said he’s chosen not to focus on the President during his campaign.
“I’ve made a conscious decision in this race — I think my candidacy is about my reputation as the mayor of Salt Lake County, somebody who works across party lines and gets stuff done by bringing together Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “And that’s the campaign I’ve tried to run. I don’t think that message blends very well with an anti-anything message.”
McAdams also said that if he wins, he hopes to work with Republicans on a transportation infrastructure package and on a fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a policy Trump has sought to end but has been in legal limbo for months.
Schrader said that during the last Democratic majority, he felt that Blue Dogs “were shunned.”
He said he anticipates that “it’s going to be tough negotiating out what legislation we put forward and how we word it.”
But compared to the last time Democrats had a majority, “fast forward to 10 years later and suddenly my progressive colleagues are like ‘Well I don’t agree with a number of your votes but you sound honest and you’re representing your district,'” he said.
As for how Trump will work with a Democratic majority — Schrader isn’t so concerned. He said he thinks the President is “a pliable guy.”
“I think he’d be fine. The President, he’s totally amoral. He has no values. He’d be easy to work with,” he said. “Whatever we decide, he’d get in front of at the end of the day and make sure everyone knew it was his idea. I think we’re in good shape.”
Washington (CNN)The women say they were treated like dogs and told that their children would be given up for adoption. They lied awake at night, wondering if their kids were safe.
Their anguish is conveyed in a collection of letters written from one of the few immigrant family detention centers in the country, where some moms and children who were separated at the border this summer are now being held together while they await their fate. The mothers’ writings reflect a mix of despair, bewilderment and hope as they remain in government custody and legal limbo, weeks after they were reunited.
“My children were far from me and I didn’t know if they were okay, if they were eating or sleeping. I have suffered a lot,” wrote a mother identified as Elena. “ICE harmed us a lot psychologically. We can’t sleep well because my little girl thinks they are going to separate us again. … I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone.”
The letters reflect the scars inflicted at the height of family separations this summer, when thousands of families were broken up at the border and kept apart for weeks to months at a time. They also reflect the ongoing uncertainty and emotional recovery for the families that are still detained.
The letters were collected at the Dilley detention center in Texas. They were provided via the Dilley Pro Bono Project by the Immigration Justice Campaign, a joint effort by leading immigrant advocacy and legal groups to provide access to legal support in immigrant detention centers.
The mothers speak with the Dilley Pro Bono staff in visitation trailers in the evenings and had expressed a desire to tell their stories to the public. The staff suggested writing them down, and the mothers agreed to write the letters, translated from Spanish, under pseudonyms.
None of the allegations of harsh treatment in the letters are specific enough to be attributed to a particular official, facility or agency. “We treat those in our custody with dignity and respect, and take all allegations seriously, and we investigate all formal complaints,” a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said, pointing to internal standards. CBP takes custody of undocumented immigrants if they are caught at the border and holds them short-term until they can be transferred to longer-term custody.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement houses immigrant adults and families in long-term detention. ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez told CNN that the agency was unable to respond to the allegations without more specific information.
Mothers describe trauma of being separated
The letters detail the mothers’ vivid memories of the moments they were separated from their kids.
“They started to call children’s names and also the name of my son; he was asleep on the floor,” wrote a mother identified as Elba. “I woke him up and told him, ‘Son, you are going, maybe for only a week.’ We both cried when we said goodbye. We didn’t know it was for 75 days.”
“What hurts me the most is that my daughter got her period for the first time when we arrived at the icebox and I was unable to help her. It was the first time and it tormented me. She yelled to me from against the chain-linked fence that her pants were filled with blood and I was unable to help her,” wrote “Isabella.” Immigrants refer to temporary border facilities that are kept at low temperatures as the “icebox.”
“We have suffered a lot. What the president did to us cannot be described,” wrote a mother named as Camila. “What will he gain from making so many people suffer in this way? What would he do if they took his child and didn’t tell him where they have him and made him a prisoner and gave him dog food like they gave us in Port Isabel jail? … Thank God now we are together and (my daughter) is now recuperating.”
“The moment when they separated me from my son I felt destroyed. I didn’t know what was going to happen to my life because the officials told me that I would never see my son and that he was going to be given up for adoption,” wrote “Sandra.”
“For me those months were so desperate. I didn’t even eat or sleep. I felt traumatized and the worst was when I looked at them and asked for my child the first thing they said was that he had been given up for adoption. I just cried and cried.”
“We left our country to protect our children and to offer them a better future, not so that they would separate us from them and not for them to treat us like criminals,” wrote Maria. “The mark left on each of us the mothers and children from having lived this torment is one of the saddest things in our lives. I thank God for giving me the strength, hope, and will to keep fighting for God. There is no more beautiful miracle than knowing that outside there are people who are supporting us and that we are not alone.”
The CBP spokesperson said CBP “strongly disagrees” with the characterizations in the letters, saying “the alleged incidents do not equate to what we know to be common practice at our facilities.” The spokesperson also said it was impossible to respond to nonspecific allegations.
The government has maintained throughout the process that immigrants are well treated in detention centers and that the separations were justified as a consequence of a decision to prosecute all adults who cross the border illegally, including parents.
But on June 20, the President signed an executive order reversing course and ordering families be held together. Less than a week later, a judge ordered the families that had been separated be reunited, barring a specific reason to keep them apart.
Living in a legal limbo
Earlier this summer, the federal judge that ordered the government put the families they separated back together also then paused any deportations of those reunited families. Lawyers representing the immigrants successfully argued that the families needed time with lawyers to weigh their options, and that the children had their own rights to seek status in the US.
Most of the families who were separated have since been reunited, save mainly for parents deemed unsafe or who were deported. And of the reunited families, the majority were released from custody, pending further immigration proceedings.
But dozens of families remain in detention centers, many with pending deportation orders. Those families are wait in a legal limbo, unsure if they will be released or deported — all the while, still trying to recover from the trauma they describe experiencing while separated.
It’s unclear how much longer they will have to wait.
The government and immigrants’ lawyers are nearing an agreement that would give many of those parents a second chance to stay in the US, acknowledging the duress of separation may have impacted their ability to make their case.
“It has not been easy to be separated from my son. Now that we are together I hope that soon we will get out and this will only be a bad memory,” wrote a mother identified as Anna.
“You will see that what we lived was a horror,” wrote Gabriela. “I wouldn’t wish it even on my worst enemy.”
To commemorate Nike’s 30th anniversary of its iconic “Just do it” campaign, the sportswear goliath on Monday released a series of striking black-and-white ads featuring tennis champion Serena Williams, pro-skateboarder Lacey Baker, and NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Its most controversial placard, though, was a close-up image of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick overlaid with the message: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Then, two days later, it released an ad expounding on that sentiment, with Kaepernick narrating a montage of athletes who had overcome daunting odds to achieve success.
From the outset, the reaction to Kaepernick’s involvement with the campaign was explosive and unifying in all the ways that have come to define the parameters of reaction culture, online and off. Fissures split along ideological lines: there were people rightly fired up that a major corporation took a stand, however faintly, on such a palpably political issue. The hashtags #ImWithNike and #ImWithKap (or #ImWithKaep) expressed justifiable savor many supporters found in the brand’s devotion to Kaepernick’s crusade; celebrities like Ava DuVernay, Diddy, and Michael Kelly offered vocal shows of encouragement. Fueled by a kind of obtuse logic, there was also a noticeable mix of veterans and conservatives who called for a boycott of Nike apparel or posted videos of burning shoes. (Twitter being Twitter, these posts immediately set off a wave of comicre-enactments.)
Outspoken athletes have long been central to Nike’s corporate DNA. In its decades-long lifestylization of sports, they’ve teamed with controversy-courters like Andre Agassi and Michael Jordan—each of whom flouted their sport’s dress codes, with Nike’s help—firebrands like John McEnroe, and anchored their future to politically active and increasingly candid athletes such as LeBron James, who has readily shared his distaste for the president and who, this summer, opened a public school for underprivileged kids in his hometown of Akron. (It provides free meals and bicycles to students and guarantees a free tuition to the University of Akron for all graduates, among other stipulations.)
Nike’s teaming with Kaepernick, however, is of a new order; it translates as a strategic gamble—yesterday’s 3 percent dip in share prices will likely pale in comparison to the historic gains—but also as a patently unsafe one for a company that often hews toward universally safe moves (Even Nike’s beautifully-executed “Equality” campaign had a bit of an #AllLivesMatter veneer to it). Ours is a time of violent partisan disunity—and major brands electing to take a position feels like a natural, if necessary evolution.
There's little mystery that social awareness has become a form of cultural capital for companies. Where once we ridiculed brands for saying "bae," now we interrogate their ideological stances to divine whether they're proof of evolved thinking or cynical, performative gestures. Being “woke” is itself a kind of currency, and often, to outsiders, a creed worth buying into. Not to say that Nike’s intentions were carried out in bad faith, but the house that Phil Knight built is, if nothing else, a savvy corporate empire. However, even if the message itself doesn’t get into specifics— “Believe in something” could mean anything—Kaepernick’s face alone conjures the paradox of the American promise that he fought to bring into the light.
Of course, there’s a complicated gravity to all of this. According to ESPN, Nike first signed Kaepernick to its endorsement roster in 2011, an agreement which never ended. Meanwhile, in March, the brand extended its deal with the NFL to remain the league’s official partner until 2028. The two poles seem to have no twain: The NFL, in response to player dissent last season and for the first time in its complicated history, instituted a mandate in May that now requires players to stand for the anthem or otherwise stay in the locker room. This knotting of sports culture, politics, and business is not unusual for our time, but it offers an important lesson if we choose to see it for what it is: moral centering in a time of moral decentering.
The country’s false narrative of progress was as evident as it was disgraceful in the view of Kaepernick, his teammate Eric Reid, and the players who joined along in silent condemnation during the 2016 season, triggering a wave of on-field protests. Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem, he told reporters at the time, was in response to the fang of American racism—particularly incidents of increasing police brutality against black citizens, which were being recorded and distributed with routine outcry and a routine lack of reprimand.
For decades, the NFL excised politics from the game to protect the piety of its brand, but Kaepernick proved to be the ultimate antidote. Though he was later shunned from the league—for which he has taken team owners to arbitration, accusing them with collusion—it could now no longer afford to avoid the conversation. Amid the fury of yesterday’s news cycle, the NFL issued a statement, a portion of which read: “The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
It’s easy to be distrustful of Nike’s partnership with Kaepernick, with what can feel like an abrupt pivot to political advertising. What’s harder is to hope, even believe, that Nike really understands the matters at hand. That perhaps, even as the company is sullied by negligent labor practices and ongoing accusations of gender discrimination—issues one would expect Kaepernick to be privy to, and concerned about—the company is not attempting to co-opt cool or capitalize on a larger trend toward social justice awareness, but simply trying to be better than it has been in the past.
It’s the choice of integrity over prestige. Of character over championships. It’s less a matter of exploiting our growing divisions and instead about aligning with virtue over political correctness, over civility. Kaepernick—like Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe before him, who used their platforms to bring attention to black civil rights issues at a grave cost to their own professional success—represents an evolution in the business of sports, a shift in the discourse for Fortune 500 companies that can sustain real impact, nationally and globally, even as Nike, far from perfect, grapples with its own internal reckoning.
Times continue to change, and so must the role of the athlete and the companies that back them. It can no longer just be about how much one wins; it must too be about what someone like Colin Kaepernick or LeBron James or Serena Williams believes in beyond the game. Nike recognizes that, even if they didn’t generate the sentiment. Sports, we’re told, are about transcendence. About representing an ideal bigger than one single player, team, or city. Perhaps with Kaepernick that can finally be true.