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June 13, 2018
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State Department staffers are growing wary as their dedication to President Trump's agenda is scrutinized.

A top adviser in the State Department is reviewing social media pages, "making lists and gathering intel" on staffers to determine just how loyal they are to Trump, Foreign Policy reported Wednesday.

Mari Stull, who was appointed two months ago, is reportedly creating "chaos and dysfunction" at the State Department, after she quickly gained control and began vetting her fellow staffers. She has reportedly been investigating which officials approved Obama-era policies and has reached out to the World Health Organization and the United Nations to figure out which diplomats were hired by whom.

Stull has been eliminating all references to "international law" and "international order" from memos and official documents, all of which she demands to review before approving their release. She has also kept career officials out of some key meetings and declined to brief them afterward.

The State Department didn't respond to these claims from staffers, instead telling Foreign Policy that Stull is "committed to President Trump's vision of strong American leadership on the world stage" and emphasizing that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has thrown his "full support" behind career staff and leadership at the agency. Summer Meza

6:23 a.m. ET

"Everyone has been blaming President Trump for this week's border crisis, but it wasn't his idea alone," Trevor Noah said on Wednesday's Daily Show. "We can also thank Trump's senior policy adviser Stephen Miller." He brought out Michael Kosta and asked him how Miller, the architect of Trump's harshest immigration policies, could "support causing so much pain?" Kosta mocked him: "Calm down, snowflakes, okay? What you've got to understand is, riling up liberals is Stephen Miller's thing." And then in the guise of pointing out how Miller is impervious to insults from the "libs," they both spent the next few minutes absolutely wrecking Miller.

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert's interviewed him — or, rather, actor Peter Grosz doing his most dead-eyed Miller impersonation — about the "next draconian move" he's been planning, now that Trump is rolling back his family-separation policy. (Miller "actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border," a White House adviser told Vanity Fair, Colbert noted. "He's a twisted guy, the way he was picked on.") "What could be harsher than putting kids in a cage?" Colbert asked "Miller," who responded: "Well, putting one kid in many cages! I'm just joking of course, Stephen. Just like Seinfeld. What is the deal?!?" You can watch more of their stylized awkward banter below. Peter Weber

5:38 a.m. ET
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Voters are more enthusiastic than usual about voting in the 2018 midterm elections, and to an unprecedented degree, they have President Trump and partisan control of Congress in mind, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Wednesday. The numbers favor the Democrats, who have a 5-point advantage on the generic congressional ballot (48 percent to 43 percent) and voter enthusiasm (55 percent to 50 percent), but Republicans are almost as fired up, pointing to a close race. And Trump is a bigger factor than in any midterm since Pew first started asking during Ronald Reagan's first term — 34 percent of registered voters say they will essentially be voting against Trump while 26 percent will be voting for Trump, both historically high numbers.

"Trump is, on balance, a more negative than positive factor," said Carroll Doherty, Pew's director of political research. "But he is motivating about half of the voters in his own party." At the same time, Doherty said, "This is a different midterm than the ones in 2006, 2010, and 2014. In those midterms, you had one party that was more enthusiastic." This year, 51 percent of all voters are more enthusiastic than usual about casting their ballot, and 68 percent of registered voters say party control of Congress will be a factor for them this year, Pew's biggest recorded midterms number since 1998.

The poll shows that "the Democratic wave is building," Politico says, "but this year's Democratic wave may be crashing against a well-fortified GOP wall." The survey was conducted June 5-12 among 2,002 adults and 1,608 registered voters, with a margin of error of ±2.9 points for registered voters. You can find more demography and other data points at Pew. Peter Weber

4:26 a.m. ET

"Our long national nightmare is ... different," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show, "because after weeks of tearing families apart at the border, and then falsely insisting that only Congress could solve the problem," President Trump realized he didn't like how the policy made him feel and took a stab at ending it. He ribbed Trump for insisting this couldn't be done through an executive order, and then signing an executive order to do it. But "here's the thing," Colbert said. "Trump made it a big signing ceremony to make it look like he did something good instead of admitting he was just ending the evil thing he started."

Yes, Trump is "reuniting families — in prison," maybe, "but even if this was the perfect plan — and it's not," Colbert said, "none of these folks in the administration or anyone who defended them are off the moral meathook here. Because they didn't change this policy because they thought they were wrong — they changed it because it made 70 percent of Americans sick to their stomach. And make no mistake: Trump folded. He folded like an origami Trump casino." That's a first, he added, and the final straw was probably the "tender age" shelters for seized babies and toddlers. And caging babies "was hurting the most vulnerable," Colbert deadpanned: "Members of the Trump administration."

The Late Show imagined Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's interrupted Mexican dinner out as a very bad first date.

Colbert also spared a thought for Corey Lewandowsky, "hung out to dry by Trump's ethical backpedal" for going "all in on the evil" and attaching his name forever to mocking disabled children in cages with the sad-trombone sound. "For those of you keeping track of Trump's three campaign mangers," he said, "one was 'womp womp' right there, the other guy's in jail now, and the third is Steve Bannon, the nice one?" Watch below. Peter Weber

3:18 a.m. ET
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On Monday, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson struck down Kansas' voter registration ID requirement and ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to stop enforcing the law, which he had championed and personally defended in court, and take six hours of continuing legal education on "civil rules of procedure or evidence." In April, Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, had ruled Kobach in contempt of court for ignoring earlier decisions. And because of this "well-documented history of avoiding this court's orders," she wrote Monday, Kobach had to immediately tell county election officials to comply with her ruling.

It wasn't until Wednesday afternoon that Bryan Caskey, Kobach's elections director, instructed county clerks to stop asking for proof of citizenship and activate all voter registrations canceled or suspended under the law, affecting 25,175 voting records. On Tuesday, Caskey had told county election officials to keep enforcing the law, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports. As Kobach spokeswoman Danedri Herbert explained, "I think 'immediately' is kind of open to interpretation."

Caskey's emailed instructions Wednesday also told county officials to flag on registration records if a voter voluntarily submitted proof of citizenship, "for tracking purposes only," though he also noted the Kobach is appealing Robinson's ruling. Mark Johnson, an attorney in one of the two lawsuits against Kobach, protested that caveat, telling The Wichita Eagle: "They have no business maintaining that information. I don't like the idea that it will be used for tracking purposes only. Tracking what?"

"For Kobach, the trial should've been a moment of glory," Jessica Huseman writes at ProPublica. "He's been arguing for a decade that voter fraud is a national calamity. ... If anybody ever had time to marshal facts and arguments before a trial, it was Kobach." Instead, Robinson and his own witnesses dealt him "an unalloyed defeat." You can read Huseman's report on the trial and verdict at ProPublica. Peter Weber

1:27 a.m. ET

Martha Leach is turning 103 on July 6, but the celebration is already underway in Holly Springs, North Carolina.

On Wednesday, friends drove Leach to the town fire station, where she was given a tour and a helmet. She hopped aboard Fire Engine #1, and was driven around town. People lined the streets, holding up signs and balloons, while Leach activated the siren. "It's the good Lord's plan for me to be here," she told WNCN.

Firefighter Adam Godfrey drove Leach around, and asked her for some advice during the ride. "She said live a stress-free life, and enjoy your home and family," he said. "Always be loved by someone." Born in 1915 in Wagram, North Carolina, Leach moved to Holly Springs in 1948, and said she enjoys spending time relaxing on her front porch, just "sitting and looking." Catherine Garcia

1:22 a.m. ET

President Trump's policy of separating families at the border "has rightfully outraged almost every decent human being, and Ted Cruz," Trevor Noah joked on Wednesday's Daily Show, "and now it looks like even the man who made the policy is tired of the backlash." Noah wasn't completely impressed with Trump's executive band-aid, nor was he completely surprised Trump caved, given the increasingly bad headlines. "Sweet Lord, 'tender age' shelters?" he asked. "That's a helluva fancy way to pronounce 'baby jail.'" The widespread outrage only grew after Corey Lewandowski "headed south of the decency border" with a comment about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome separated from her mother and caged, Noah said. "Yeah, he did just say 'womp womp,' which is funny because that's what he's going to hear in the afterlife. 'Wait, I'm in hell?' 'Yes, you are. Womp womp.'"

It's a relief that Trump might be ending this, but we're still left with the horror that "people were trying to defend this practice," Noah said. Still, Trump's defenders were "just dusting off xenophobia" from earlier eras. "Look, today's situation isn't the same but the excuses sure sound familiar," he explained. "In fact, they're as old as America itself — which, unfortunately, makes them too old to be locked up in a tender-age shelter."

At The Opposition, Jordan Klepper said Trump was being "too humble" in giving credit to Congress for his policy of "caging children as a bargaining tool for passing anti-immigrant laws," and argued that Lewandowski "wasn't being dismissive" when he said "womp womp" about the caged disabled girl, "those are just two of the 10 words he knows." Kobi Libii took it a step further, saying Lewandowski set "a new high" for political discourse. "Debaters have long known it's very hard to win an argument when you are on the pro-children-in-cages side," he said. "But this new mocking-noises tactic changes the game." Watch him and Klepper demonstrate below. Peter Weber

12:45 a.m. ET

Rodney Smith Jr. is making a difference, one lawn at a time.

Smith, a 28-year-old native of Bermuda, had just earned his master's degree in social work when he spotted an elderly man in Huntsville, Alabama, having a hard time mowing his lawn. Smith stopped to help, and "that night, I decided to mow lawns for the elderly, disabled, single moms, and veterans," he told CNN. His first goal was to mow 40 lawns for free, then bumped it up to 100. He soon started the Raising Men Lawn Care Service, a foundation that finds people who need their lawns mowed and also inspires kids to give back. "This is what I believe my purpose is in life," he said.

Last summer, he set off on a journey across the U.S. and mowed lawns in all 50 states. He's doing it again this year, and has challenged kids to join him by mowing 50 lawns, free of charge, in their hometowns. So far, 12 kids have hit that goal. Smith, who wants to go to every continent next year, also teaches kids about lawn mower safety as he encourages them to engage in community service. "It's about letting them know that no matter how young they are, how old they are, they can make a difference, and it doesn't have to be with a lawnmower," he said. Catherine Garcia

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