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September 14, 2018

Following President Trump's baseless assertion Thursday that the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was inflated by Democrats in order to make him look bad, White House aides are trying their best to ignore the outrage.

A new report from Politico on Friday notes that most White House officials have declined to provide on-the-record comments about the tweet. Aides are additionally hoping that news coverage of Hurricane Florence will overshadow what the president said, Politico reports.

The report notes that White House aides increasingly feel that it's pointless to try to prevent Trump from making bombastic Twitter statements, so the new strategy is to simply ignore them and hope the media moves on to the next story. The Washington Post also reports that Trump's advisers were "baffled" by the tweet.

Since Trump's statement, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley offered a slight defense, saying that while "every death from Hurricane Maria is a horror," the "liberal media" has attempted to exploit the tragedy with "a constant stream of misinformation and false accusations," per CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins.

But Gidley did not specifically affirm Trump's claim that the independent study, which concluded that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria, is wrong. Sam Stein, a reporter for The Daily Beast, said Thursday that he asked the White House three times to clarify whether they were disputing the findings of the study, but they would not provide a response. Brendan Morrow

11:01a.m.

When three-year-old Mikaila Bonaparte was found to have an unprecedentedly high level of lead in her blood, a health inspector quickly found the cause: Her mother's and grandmother's public housing units in Brooklyn were covered in lead paint.

The New York City Housing Authority's response? That can't be right.

In a massive investigation published Monday, The New York Times found that the authority re-tested Bonaparte's apartments with its own inspector and insisted there was no lead. But Bonaparte had still still somehow ingested enough lead to perhaps "cause irreversible brain damage," the Times writes. And her story is seemingly one of hundreds.

Because it's been shown to stunt brain development, lead paint was banned in New York City in 1960. Starting in 1989, the city sued lead paint companies and alleged "its public housing buildings were riddled with lead," the Times writes. But by 2004, the Housing Authority's position flipped, claiming only 95 of its 325 developments contained lead, likely because reported instances of lead poisoning had become uncommon.

The authority "was apparently wrong," the Times writes, seeing as the city's health department continued to find lead paint across New York's public housing developments. But from 2010 until this July, the authority challenged the health department on 95 percent of those findings. More often than not, the health department backed down, with a spokesman telling the Times the department was convinced of a false positive in 158 of those 211 cases.

After the Times inquired into the contestations in September, the housing authority's interim chairwoman said the authority was now "accepting whatever the finding of the health department is." New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to respond to the findings Monday. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:42a.m.

The man who shouted "Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!" from the balcony of a Baltimore Fiddler on the Roof performance has said he's sorry for his outburst, which he believes "came out wrong." He did not explain how yelling about Hitler during a play about Jewish people could ever not "come out wrong."

"I opened my mouth and it was so wrong. I know that now," said the shouter, identified as one Anthony M. Derlunas. "I don't know what I was thinking. I'm so ashamed."

Derlunas claims he is actually opposed to President Trump — "The thing that I can't stand is Trump spreading hatred, and what did I do? I spread hatred" — but that the story reminded him of the administration's immigration policies. Fiddler ends with the Jewish community in a Russian town being forced by the tsarist government to abandon their homes and emigrate abroad; several of the main characters decide they will join family who have already moved to the United States. Bonnie Kristian

9:25a.m.

Houthi rebels in Yemen's civil war indicated Monday they are willing to comply with a key Saudi condition for peace talks: They will stop firing rockets into Saudi Arabia.

This compliance with a long-time demand from Riyadh, which is leading a U.S.-supported coalition intervention against the rebel fighters, could help foster an enduring ceasefire in the tiny Mideast nation suffering the world's most acute humanitarian crisis.

"We are ready to freeze and stop military operations on all fronts in order to achieve peace," said rebel leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi in a Monday statement. He also critiqued the United States' role in Yemen's grueling internal conflict, calling Washington the chief culprit of international aggression against Yemen.

The United Nations sponsored peace talks between the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government in September, but fighting has continued in the months since. The U.N. is pushing for a new round of diplomacy by the end of this month. Bonnie Kristian

9:12a.m.

Americans' opinions on the impact social media is having on the country have shifted quite a bit in the past year.

A SurveyMonkey/Axios poll found that when asked if social media is helping promote democracy and free speech or doing more to hurt it, 57 percent of Americans said it hurts more than it helps, a dramatic spike from last year when only 43 percent said the same thing. In November 2017's survey, 53 percent of Americans said social media helps more than it hurts.

This shift in opinion has affected voters of both parties, although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to call social media harmful. Among Republicans, 69 percent now think social media does more harm than good to democracy and free speech compared to 52 percent in 2017; among Democrats, 48 percent say the same, up from 37 percent in 2017.

Additionally, 55 percent of Americans are concerned that the federal government won't do enough to regulate big technology companies, a 15-point increase from when that question was asked last year. The last version of the survey was conducted before it was reported that a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, had accessed users' private Facebook data. Despite all this, 63 percent of Americans still said that social media has a positive impact on their life, with more Democrats saying that than Republicans.

This poll was conducted by speaking to 3,622 adults online from Nov. 9-13. The margin of error is 2.5 percentage points. Read more at Axios. Brendan Morrow

9:11a.m.

A federal judge in California will hear arguments Monday for blocking President Trump's November executive order restricting asylum applications to migrants who enter the U.S. legally.

Civil rights groups aim to persuade U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar the order violates current immigration law, as the Immigration and Nationality Act says anyone who arrives in the U.S. "whether or not at a designated port of arrival" may apply for asylum. They also argue the administration made a procedural error by failing to provide adequate time for public comment on the new rule.

The Trump administration has claimed via a statement by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that Trump holds "broad authority to suspend or restrict" immigration if he believes it is in U.S. national interest to do so.

Should Tigar, appointed by former President Barack Obama, decide against the Trump administration Monday, it will likely be a temporary ruling restoring the previous guidelines while further litigation proceeds. Bonnie Kristian

8:50a.m.

The White House giveth and the White House taketh away.

The White House has informed CNN that reporter Jim Acosta's press pass will be suspended again after a temporary restraining order preventing the suspension expires, CNN reports. Judge Timothy J. Kelly on Friday ruled that the White House needed to restore Acosta's access, and issued a 14-day restraining order, but that order expires next week.

The restraining order came as part of a lawsuit filed by CNN against members of the Trump administration, which suspended Acosta's press pass after a particularly contentious press conference exchange during which he would not give up the microphone in his attempt to ask a follow-up question. In its suit, CNN argues the White House is violating Acosta's First and Fifth Amendment rights. Judge Kelly has not yet ruled on the actual case, and while he agreed that the White House had suspended Acosta's pass without due process, he suggested it could try to revoke the pass again if it were to provide that due process in the second attempt, CNN reports.

The White House says it plans to "further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future." CNN's Brian Stelter writes in his Reliable Sources newsletter that the White House is trying to "establish a paper trail that will empower the administration to boot Acosta again at the end of the month." Per The Washington Post, the judge in the case can extend the current restraining order, or even consider a permanent order. Brendan Morrow

8:50a.m.

Nissan said Monday it was taking steps to remove its chairman, Carlos Ghosn, for allegedly violating Japanese financial law, CNBC reports. The Japanese auto maker said Ghosn and board director Greg Kelly had been under-reporting compensation amounts to the Tokyo Stock Exchange securities report for years. Nissan said "numerous other significant acts" by Ghosn had been uncovered, "such as personal use of company assets."

Trading of Nissan shares had already ended by the time the news broke, but shares of French auto maker Renault, also led by Ghosn, dropped by 13 percent, hitting their lowest level in three years. Japanese media reported Monday that Ghosn had been arrested. Harold Maass

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