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August 10, 2018

On Thursday night, Tennessee executed Billy Ray Irick, 59, for the 1985 rape and murder of 7-year-old Paula Dyer. He's the first death row inmate Tennessee executed since 2009 and the state's first one using a controversial lethal cocktail containing midazolam, a drug aimed at stopping pain before the inmate is injected with the paralytic drug vecuronium bromide and finally compounded potassium chloride, the lethal drug.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution, with Justice Elena Kagan's signature and Justice Sonia Sotomayor's scathing dissent. "Although the midazolam may temporarily render Irick unconscious, the onset of pain and suffocation will rouse him ... just as the paralysis sets in, too late for him to alert bystanders that his execution has gone horribly (if predictably) wrong," Sotomayor wrote. "In refusing to grant Irick a stay, the court today turns a blind eye to a proven likelihood that the State of Tennessee is on the verge of inflicting several minutes of torturous pain on an inmate in its custody." Previously, the Supreme Court has compared potassium chloride to "chemically burning at the stake."

States have turned to midazolam in recent years as supplies of other lethal-injection drugs have dried up, in large part because drugmakers are refusing to sell states products to kill people. Midazolam has failed several times, and when Tennessee administered the drugs to Irick, The Tennessean reports, "he was coughing, choking, and gasping for air. His face turned dark purple as the lethal drugs took over." Another concern in the case is that Irick was mentally ill, according to Robert Durham at the Death Penalty Information Center. Tennessee is considering a bill barring the execution of people with serious mental illnesses, Durham said, and "it's unseemly that Irick would be executed and then the case ultimately gets resolved in his favor." Tennessee has two more executions scheduled this year. Peter Weber

8:44 a.m.

Could President Trump's tax records end up dropping right at the height of the 2020 presidential election? That's looking increasingly possible.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Thursday decided to expedite its review into the president's request to block Congress' subpoena of his accounting firm for years of financial documents, as The Washington Post reports. The court called for oral arguments by July, and Democrats have agreed to suspend deadlines from the subpoena.

This new timeline, the Post writes, "could set up a decision from the Supreme Court that could land in the thick of the 2020 presidential campaign." After all, the report notes that experts expect the president's lawyers to immediately appeal to the Supreme Court should they lose in the D.C. Circuit.

This comes after several setbacks this week for Trump, as a New York judge previously refused to block subpoenas for Trump's financial records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One. Judge Amit Mehta with the District Court for the District of Columbia also upheld Democrats' subpoena for the financial records from his accounting firm, prompting Trump's lawyers to appeal. Democrats are also looking to have the IRS hand over years of Trump's tax returns, a fight that is expected to head to court after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rebuffed their subpoena.

With all of this in mind, Politico reports on Friday on the "decent chance the White House could lose the fight and be forced to hand over Trump's tax records before the election," as federal courts are "ruling quickly" on these other cases and the Supreme Court might not even take up the IRS case at all. If it doesn't, this might allow for a final decision from the lower courts in about a year — meaning in the end, as Politico writes, this could "leave the GOP wishing Trump had ripped off the tax-return Band-Aid sooner." Brendan Morrow

7:22 a.m.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the President Trump's aides and family "should stage an intervention for the good of the country" and suggested he wasn't in control of the White House on Thursday, she was deliberately trying to provoke an angry reaction from the president, people close to Pelosi tell The New York Times and The Washington Post. And provoke she did.

On Thursday afternoon, Trump lashed out at Pelosi, insisted he had been calm and angry when he walked out of a Wednesday meeting after three minutes, declared himself an "extremely stable genius," and had five aides — one of whom hadn't been in the room — attest that he had been "calm" during his brief time in the meeting.

Having aides describe him as calm during a press conference about a farm aid package is "vintage Trump," Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein write at The Daily Beast: "The policy push of the day overwhelmed by internal insecurities and grievances with press coverage bursting into public view. And it underscored the degree to which his warfare with Nancy Pelosi has gone from political to psychological." If Pelosi was looking for a soft spot, they add, she struck gold:

Few recurring characterizations bother President Trump more than the (largely accurate) narrative that he has a hair-trigger temper behind the scenes, and that he can easily and frequently be sent into vulgar, sometimes volcanic hissy fits when he doesn't get his way.

In the middle of last year, Trump once sat in the White House and angrily listed various words in headlines and cable-news chyrons he'd seen recently that described his mood — "fuming," "raged," "furious," and so forth — decrying them as inaccurate reporting, according to a source who was present for this. The president sounded increasingly irate as he rattled off headline after headline, the source said, noting the irony. [The Daily Beast]

Point, Pelosi. Peter Weber

5:29 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation as Conservative Party leader on Friday morning, effective June 7. She will stay on as prime minister until her party chooses a new leader. May said she was sorry she was unable, after three attempts, to get her Brexit plan thorough Parliament. She tried to get lawmakers to compromise on Britain's European Union divorce deal, but "sadly, I have not been able to do so," she said. It will be up to the next prime minister to solve Brexit, May said, and she defended her domestic accomplishments from her nearly three years in office.

The race for her successor is open to any Tory member of Parliament, but the frontrunners include former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. There are more than a dozen MPs who are considering a run.

The Tories will start voting on the new prime minister in the week after May steps down on June 7. MPs will narrow the pool down to two potential leaders, and Conservative Party voters will select between those two finalists. Peter Weber

4:44 a.m.

"Yesterday, President Trump had a meeting with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi," Trevor Noah said on Thursday's Daily Show. It was supposed to be about infrastructure, "but instead of building bridges in this meeting, Trump decided to burn them down."

What really happened? "According to Chuck and Nancy, Trump came into that meeting, completely acted the fool," Noah said. "But according to Trump's very calm Twitter rant this morning, he was very chilled for the whole three minutes, and then when he stormed out, it was in a relaxed and graceful fashion. Now obviously, most people didn't believe Trump, so today he interrupted a press conference with farmers to basically ask his very objective employees to tell us all how Zen he is." He showed that spectacle.

"Say what you want about Trump, but he is truly the king of political theater," Noah said, laughing. This was so obviously planned, like "you'll see in Africa all the time. Like, some dictator will be accused of war crimes, and then he'll bring his own soldiers out as his defense." He acted that out.

So Trump "denies having a temper tantrum by having a temper tantrum," Jimmy Kimmel recapped, playing more of Trump's performance. "He's an 'extremely stable genius' — why can't people understand that? He's not a maniac. Ask his 10 terrified underlings! ... This is exactly what would have happened if we had a President Charlie Sheen."

Donald Trump Jr. is writing a book, Kimmel noted, and he had some ideas for a title: "For instance, Are You There Dad? It's Me, the Dumb One."

At The Late Show, Stephen Colbert suggested "The Art of the Douche" as the "working title" for Don Jr.'s book. He also noted that Trump is officially launching his re-election campaign on June 16, Fathers Day: "Evidently, he thinks he's America's father, which explains why he only loves a third of us." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:06 a.m.

President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are in a public spat, following Wednesday's very short infrastructure meeting that Pelosi called a Trump "temper tantrum" on Thursday and Trump insisted wasn't, asking five totally objective aides to vouch for him. Trump called Pelosi a "mess" and "crazy," saying she's "not the same person" while he's an "extremely stable genius." Pelosi responded:

But Trump's suggestion that Pelosi, 79 — six years older than himself — is getting too old for her job seems part of a larger campaign. It was a main theme Thursday night on Laura Ingraham's Fox News program and Lou Dobbs' show on Fox Business — Trump tweeted a Dobbs clip featuring selectively edited video of Pelosi, plus GOP strategist Ed Rollins saying Pelosi appears addled by age. Trump loyalist Corey Lewandowski was also on Dobbs, alluding to a different, doctored video of Pelosi spreading around the internet. Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani tweeted, then deleted, that video Thursday night, with the comment: "What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Her speech pattern is bizarre."

It isn't clear who originally manipulated the Pelosi video, now widely viewed and shared on social media, but The Washington Post and outside researchers determined the video was slowed to about 75 percent of its original speed, then edited so Pelosi's voice is roughly the right pitch.

"The altered video's dissemination highlights the subtle way that viral misinformation could shape public perceptions in the run-up to the 2020 election," the Post warns. "Even simple, crude manipulations can be used to undermine an opponent or score political points."

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler said Trump sharing such "obviously manipulated video" of Pelosi is "yet more evidence she really got under his skin." CNN's Don Lemon agreed. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:06 a.m.

To the delight of everyone at the Washington Nationals' Youth Baseball Academy's after-school program, former President Barack Obama came out to play on Wednesday afternoon.

During his surprise visit, Obama tossed a football around with the children and participated in a baseball game, getting in a solid hit. He also shared some words of encouragement, telling the kids to "work hard in school, listen to your coaches. You guys are going to do great things. I'm going to be on the lookout for you, because I think you're going to do something important. You guys are going to make a real difference."

The Nationals' Youth Baseball Academy says it uses "baseball and after-school enrichment to foster character development, academic achievement, and improved health among underserved youth in D.C." Catherine Garcia

1:37 a.m.

Over the years, the people on Floyd Martin's mail route came to be like family.

He spent almost 35 years delivering letters, cards, bills, and catalogues to residents of one Marietta, Georgia, neighborhood. Last summer, he decided it was time to retire, and Thursday was his last day. Jennifer Brett accompanied him for one final trek through the neighborhood, documenting it all on Twitter.

People waited for Martin outside their homes, shaking his hand and offering their well-wishes, and several decorated their mailboxes with balloons, banners, ribbons, and photos. Lorraine Wascher told Brett that Martin has delivered her mail for more than 20 years, and "always had a smile, always had a wave." Martin was known for passing out treats to dogs and lollipops to kids, including Mae Bullington, who dressed up like him for her school's career day. "I was so flattered," he said. "It touched my heart."

Martin lives in Atlanta with his dog, Gigi, and told Brett that one of his retirement goals is to take a trip to Hawaii. He was surprised to see how many people stopped to say goodbye to him along his route, but was stunned at the end of the day when he realized they were holding a giant block party in his honor. More than 300 people attended, and Martin was invited back to judge the neighborhood's annual Halloween parade. "You were there when I needed you, even if you didn't know it," he told the crowd. "Continue to take care of each other, and smile when you think of me." Catherine Garcia

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