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May 19, 2019

Robert F. Smith gave a commencement speech on Sunday that won't ever be forgotten by Morehouse College's Class of 2019.

The billionaire founder of investment firm Vista Equity Partners announced that he is creating a grant that will cover the cost of every single student loan held by all 396 graduating seniors. "On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we're going to put a little fuel in your bus," he said.

The graduates erupted in cheers and gave Smith a standing ovation. Morehouse President David A. Thomas told CNN Smith's "liberation gift" will cover about $40 million worth of loans. "When you have to service debt, the choices about what you can go do in the world are constrained," he said, adding that Smith's generosity "gives them the liberty to follow their dreams, their passions." Smith encouraged the graduates to pay it forward, so other students can benefit and "have all the opportunities of the American dream."

After commencement, students — and their parents — were still in a daze. Graduate Elijah Nesly Dormeus is the first of nine siblings to graduate from college, and he told CNN that after his dad died when he was a kid, his mother sacrificed and worked hard to provide for her family. He has $90,000 in student loans, and his mother also took out a loan to help him. Smith's gift benefits both tremendously, and "all of her serving, all her giving was not in vain," Dormeus said. Catherine Garcia

10:12 p.m.

President Trump has directed two of his former aides to ignore subpoenas and skip a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Democrats on the committee are seeking information on an incident described in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, when Trump allegedly attempted to coerce then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions into redirecting the Russia investigation away from Trump's presidential campaign, Reuters reports.

The committee sent subpoenas to former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn and former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, but in a letter sent to House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said they will not appear, as the Department of Justice has decided they "are absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony with respect to matters related to their service as senior advisers to the president."

Nadler called Trump's order a "shocking and dangerous assertion of executive privilege and absolute immunity." Another former Trump aide, Corey Lewandowski, also received a subpoena to appear Tuesday, and Cipollone said he can testify, just not about any conversations he had with Trump after his election or with any of Trump's senior advisers. Catherine Garcia

9:28 p.m.

The Islamic State released a 30-minute audio recording on Monday, purportedly made by its elusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

SITE Intelligence, a monitoring group, said Baghdadi uses the recording to encourage fighters to free ISIS detainees and their families being held in detention camps. Their efforts "must be redoubled," he directed the militants, and they should attack judges and interrogators questioning ISIS members. Baghdadi also brought up the United States, saying the country is "drowning in a quagmire" and losing troops in conflicts around the world.

It's unclear when the recording was made, but SITE says Baghdadi refers to events that took place in August. There is a $25 million reward for Baghdadi's capture, and Iraqi intelligence officials believe he is hiding somewhere along the border between Iraq and Syria. In April, video footage of Baghdadi was released, the first time he was seen on film in nearly five years.

ISIS is no longer in control of large portions of Syria and Iraq, but is still carrying out attacks in the countries, and has money and fighters to spare, authorities warn. The Pentagon's Office of Inspector General sent a report to Congress in August, saying the group's resurgence is linked to the Trump administration taking troops out of Syria and removing diplomats from Iraq, The Wall Street Journal reports. Catherine Garcia

8:13 p.m.

Last October, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) sent FBI Director Christopher Wray a letter stating that he had relevant information regarding the allegations of sexual assault made against President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, but the FBI appears to have ignored him, The New York Times reports.

The Times obtained a copy of this letter, which states that Coons heard from multiple people who said they had information on Kavanaugh. He told Wray that he "cannot speak to the relevance or veracity of the information that many of these individuals seek to provide, and I have encouraged them to use the FBI tip portal or contact a regional FBI field office. However, there is one individual whom I would like to specifically refer to you for appropriate follow-up."

Coons was asking the FBI to contact one of Kavanaugh's former Yale classmates, Max Stier, Coons' spokesman Sean Coit confirmed. Over the weekend, the Times reported that during Kavanaugh's freshman year, Stier saw Kavanaugh with his pants down, and his friends pushed his penis into a female student's hand. Stier notified senators and the FBI about the incident, the Times says. The incident has similarities to an allegation made by a former classmate named Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a party at Yale their freshman year.

Several Democratic presidential candidates have called for Kavanaugh's impeachment, while Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) on Monday said there should be a "full, fair investigation, as was never done at the time. It was a sham, as we said then, and there should be a full inquiry now." Catherine Garcia

7:14 p.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was greeted by the sound of protesters booing him when he arrived in Luxembourg on Monday, and the reception he received from the country's top leaders wasn't much friendlier.

Johnson was in Luxembourg for his first face-to-face meeting with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, The Associated Press reports. With Britain scheduled to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, the two are trying to come up with a divorce agreement, but the European Commission said in a statement the meeting ended with no plan in place. Johnson has not offered any "legally operational" solutions to the so-called "backstop," which would guarantee that goods and people are able to freely cross the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland.

Johnson was scheduled to attend a news conference with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, but refused to attend due to the rowdy anti-Brexit protesters. Bettel met with him privately, and said Johnson needs to "stop speaking and act," adding, "You can't hold their future hostage for party political gains." A no-deal Brexit could have catastrophic economic repercussions, but Johnson is adamant that Britain will leave the EU by Halloween, with or without a deal.

An EU summit will be held in mid-October, and hopes are high that a deal will be reached then. Johnson suspended Parliament until Oct. 14, in order to give himself distance from lawmakers who are trying to block a no-deal Brexit, and on Tuesday, Britain's Supreme Court will mull whether that decision was lawful. Catherine Garcia

5:30 p.m.

Some Asian Americans laughed when entrepreneur Andrew Yang's said on the debate stage Thursday night in Houston that he knew a lot of doctors because he's Asian. But others find that that the presidential candidate's supposedly self-deprecating humor — which has also included jokes about being good at math and loving to work — too often reinforces racial stereotypes, The Washington Post reports.

"I found this part galling, because here he is sort of obtusely reinforcing the model-minority myth and model-minority stereotypes," Jenn Fang, who runs the blog Reappropriate, told the Post, referring to the debate line. Fang added that, in making a comment like that, Yang also "implicitly suggests that the Asian American experience is only represented by his specific middle-to-wealthy-upper-class East Asian American experience," which in the process "completely flattens all of the other ways people are Asian American and don't have access to health care and access to higher education."

Yang, though, has defended himself. In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper over the weekend, the candidate said the "Asian American American community is very diverse, and certainly I would never claim that my individual experience would speak to the depth and breadth of our community." In fact, Yang argues, by "poking fun" at the myth surrounding Asian Americans, he's "making Americans reflect more on it."

Janelle Wong, a professor of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland, said it's "certainly dangerous" for Yang to "deploy stereotypes," but he is also "breaking stereotypes by seeking the presidential nomination." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

5:23 p.m.

John Bolton might be ready to drop a (thankfully metaphorical) bombshell.

President Trump fired/accepted the resignation of his national security adviser last Tuesday amid reports that Bolton was fighting with just about everyone in the White House. Bolton eerily left his position with a promise that he would "have my say in due course," and less than a week later, The Daily Beast is reporting that "due course" could be sooner than expected.

Bolton is already talking with literary agents in hopes of writing a memoir of his time working for Trump, two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Daily Beast. "He has a lot to dish," one of the sources said, though both what was on the menu and when it will be served have yet to be revealed. Bolton would join a long line of former Trumpers to give an inside scoop on their White House tenures, and judging by the rocky way Bolton went out, it wouldn't be the softball former Press Secretary Sean Spicer tossed out there.

When asked about a possible book deal, Bolton only told The Daily Beast he had "no comment." Read more at The Daily Beast. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:40 p.m.

President Trump still doesn't want to go to war with Iran, he said, but the U.S. is prepared for it nonetheless.

Saudi Arabia announced Monday that its initial investigation into the drone strikes against two of the country's major oil production facilities revealed that Iranian weapons were used in the attack. The kingdom will now reportedly invite United Nations and other international "experts" to further investigate the situation.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels initially claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the U.S. has accused Iran of orchestrating them. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have alleged that Tehran supplies the Houthis with arms in Yemen's civil, however, so — even if the weapons are Iranian — it will likely remain unclear exactly what Iran's role was.

Trump, meanwhile, said there are "some very strong studies" being conducted on the attacks and that it looks like Iran is behind them. The president, when asked if the U.S. is ready for war, said the country is more prepared for a conflict than anyone in "any history."

He said the attack on Saudi Arabia could be "met with an attack many, many times larger" by the U.S. Tim O'Donnell

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