The flag flies triumphantly above the building, gently fluttering in the wind, alerting people far and wide that a person of great honor and distinction is inside. No, it's not the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace — it's Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has a staffer climb up to the roof of his department's Washington headquarters and hoist up a special secretarial flag to signal that he's shown up to work for the day.
When Zinke leaves the office or travels, another employee makes the trek up to the roof to take down the flag, which features the agency's bison seal. If Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt is in while Zinke is gone, he has his own special banner that goes up. Asked by The Washington Post what the point was of all this exactly, spokeswoman Heather Swift said it was "a major sign of transparency," adding that Zinke is "restoring honor and tradition to the department, whether it's flying the flag when he is in garrison or restoring traditional access to public lands."
While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has a personal flag flying next to the U.S. flag at State Department headquarters at all times, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Zinke is the first interior secretary to do it, the Post reports, and not even the White House flies the presidential flag when President Trump is inside. Zinke might be a trailblazer, and others in the administration could soon emulate him — be on the lookout for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's banner, emblazoned with smoke stacks and oil-covered birds. Catherine Garcia
President Trump has signed an executive order reversing his administration's own policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. "We're going to have a lot of happy people," said Trump, who in the past week doubled-down on his false claims that there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"We're going to have a lot of happy people," Trump says, attempting to make his reversing his own policy that separated thousands of migrant children sound like he is generously fixing the problem. (There's still no plan to reunite the parents & children btw). pic.twitter.com/slHWvI4aHF
— David Mack (@davidmackau) June 20, 2018
The executive order is titled "Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation," despite the family separation policy not being a law; it was introduced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May. The executive order states: "It is ... the policy of this administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources." The New York Times more critically described the order as allowing authorities to detain "families together indefinitely."
Trump's executive order has to contend with the 1997 Flores settlement, which prohibits the government from holding minors in immigration detention for more than 20 days, regardless of whether they are with a parent or not. The order appears to declare a challenge to the settlement: "The Attorney General shall promptly file a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores v. Sessions ... in a manner that would permit the [homeland security secretary], under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings." Read the full order here. Jeva Lange
Three major airlines have told the Trump administration not to use their planes to separate migrant families
American Airlines, United Airlines, and Frontier Airlines on Wednesday all asked the federal government not to use their aircrafts to transfer migrant children who have been separated from their families at the border.
United said it wants "no part" of the Trump administration's zero tolerance immigration policies, reports The Hill. "Based on our serious concerns about this policy and how it's in deep conflict with our company's values, we have contacted federal officials to inform them that they should not transport immigrant children on United aircraft who have been separated from their parents," said United CEO Oscar Munoz.
American issued a statement explaining that the airline had requested that the government "refrain" from using their services. "We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it," the company wrote. In a tweet, Frontier said it would "not knowingly allow our flights to be used to transport migrant children away from their families."
All three airlines said they weren't completely sure whether or not the government had used their planes to transport migrant children to shelters or foster families, but emphasized that they wanted their stance to be clear regardless. The Department of Homeland Security responded by calling the requests "unfortunate," lamenting the fact that the airlines didn't want to "partner with the brave men and women of DHS to protect the traveling public." Summer Meza
Michael Bloomberg wants the Democrats back on top.
The former New York mayor and businessman will infuse $80 million into the 2018 election, mostly helping Democratic congressional campaigns, The New York Times reports. While Bloomberg is politically independent, he has vocally opposed Republicans during the Trump presidency and will likely support candidates who lean the other way.
"Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, have done little to reach across the aisle to craft bipartisan solutions — not only on guns and climate change, but also on jobs, immigration, health care, and infrastructure," Bloomberg said in a statement Wednesday. "As a result, Congress has accomplished very little."
While helping Democrats pick up 23 seats and win the majority is Bloomberg's main focus in the House, Bloomberg also explicitly said he'll support gubernatorial candidates on both sides of the aisle. And he's only here for moderate candidates — aka, no one who wants to impeach the president, per Bloomberg's statement.
Republicans in small congressional races usually land stronger financial support than Democrats, but Bloomberg could upset that dynamic, the Times suggests. Bloomberg-funded ads could tip moderate suburban districts to the left — and tip the House as well. Kathryn Krawczyk
Attorney Michael Cohen is stepping back from politics and the current administration.
President Trump's former fixer stepped down from his position as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee's Finance Committee, ABC News reported Wednesday.
In a rare move, Cohen diverged from Trump in the announcement, condemning his former boss' policies that have been separating immigrant families at the border. "As the son of a Polish Holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy [are] heart-wrenching," Cohen wrote. "While I strongly support measures that will secure our porous borders, children should never be used as bargaining chips."
Cohen is entangled in the ongoing investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that is probing the Trump campaign's role in Russia's meddling in the presidential election. He said that his legal troubles were one reason he decided to leave his role at the RNC, which he had held since April 2017. "This important role requires the full-time attention and dedication of each member," wrote Cohen. "Given the ongoing Mueller and [Southern District of New York] investigations, that simply is impossible for me to do." Read more at ABC News. Summer Meza
In West Virginia's 3rd District, which President Trump won by 49.3 points in the 2016 election, Democratic candidate Richard Ojeda holds a sliver of a lead over Republican Carol Miller, the latest Monmouth University poll, released Wednesday, found. Forty-three percent of voters said they were with Ojeda, while Miller held onto 41 percent.
Curiously, Trump is still popular in the district: He has a 66 percent approval rating, with 49 percent of voters strongly approving of him. "Unlike other hotly contested House races in the country where dislike of the president is giving Democrats a boost, this West Virginia district seems to be competitive because the Democratic candidate has his own populist persona," observed the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, Patrick Murray. Despite running as a Democrat, Ojeda has said he voted for Trump in 2016.
David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report responded to the poll by tweeting that he will be moving the district from "likely Republican" to "lean Republican." The poll reached 428 voters in West Virginia's 3rd District between June 14 and 19, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent for the full sample. Read the full results here, Jeva Lange
Watch Trump repeatedly insist he can't stop family separations before announcing that he plans to stop family separations
President Trump has continually emphasized that he was powerless to end his administration's policy of separating immigrant families at the border, blaming Democrats for laws that required the practice even though the separations began after Trump began his "zero tolerance" immigration policy last month and no law exists that mandates parents be separated from their children.
Now, Trump is reportedly poised to sign an executive order that would halt the separations. Many of his critics, Democrats and Republicans alike, have been pointing out that Trump could have reversed his own policy any time, or that he could have told Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to stop the practice. An executive order would cast doubt on all his previous statements when he claimed that only Congress could pass legislation to fix the problem, The Washington Post reports.
Watch some of the instances when Trump and Nielsen claimed their hands were tied below, via The Washington Post. Summer Meza
The San Francisco Police Department has identified a suspect in the murder of at least five gay men in the late 1970s, CNN reports. The killer, who was known as "the Doodler" because he would sketch strangers in bars, could have killed as many as 14 different people. "I'm looking at five murders," said Inspector Dan Cunningham. "But I'd be a fool to say he didn't do more."
While police repeatedly questioned one man in connection to the murders in the 1970s, they never caught the Doodler — who would leave bars with the men he sketched, then stab his victims to death. A drawing of the Doodler was released in 1975 based on three men who were assaulted by a person that detectives at the time believed was their killer. "We have a suspect in the assault that spawned the sketch," explained Cunningham.
After the recent arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer, investigators are hoping they might be able to get usable DNA samples from blood samples taken at two Doodler crime scenes as well. The Doodler today would be in his early 60s, if he is still alive; the police have updated their sketch of him to look as he would now. Jeva Lange