September 11, 2019

The U.S. reportedly will not grant temporary protected status to people from the Bahamas displaced by Hurricane Dorian. A Trump administration official told NBC News about the decision Wednesday, two days after acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said the White House was considering whether to do so.

The status would have allowed Bahamians to work and live in the United States until it was considered safe for them to return home. "If the history shows that it's taken a lengthy time to get the Bahamas back to where these people can turn to, I'm sure that that will be a discussion that we'd be having," Morgan said Monday about the possibility of extending the status. President Trump also said Monday he was considering extending it, but, at the same time, he expressed wariness about immigration from the Caribbean nation, suggesting that some people would exploit the situation.

The decision has already received criticism, on both moral and practical grounds.

Bahamians reportedly can still come to the U.S. temporarily, provided they are carrying the correct travel documents, but they will reportedly not be granted work permits. Read more at NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

1:43 a.m.

President Trump granted a full pardon to former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik on Tuesday, clearing him of his eight counts of tax fraud, lying to federal investigators, and other crimes that accompanied his downfall. Kerik had already served his three years in prison for his crimes, but the pardon wipes out more than his criminal record, the New York Daily News reports. "The pardon cancels out $103,300 in restitution that Kerik still owed the Internal Revenue Service as part of his sentence, according to a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan."

The White House credited Kerik's friend former boss in New York City, Rudy Giuliani — now Trump's personal lawyer and Ukraine fixer — for helping persuade Trump to pardon Kerik. Another friend of both Kerik and Trump, Newsmax chief executive Christopher Ruddy, told the Daily News that Trump's pardon was "a just decision" in light of Kerik's "minor stuff" crimes.

One of Kerik's former colleagues in the Giuliani administration, NYC Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, recalled Kerik's multifaceted downfall from heroic 9/11 figure to flamed-out reject for Homeland Security secretary slightly differently back in late 2004, The New Yorker recounted: "Officials have gotten into trouble for sexual misconduct, abusing their authority, personal bankruptcy, failure to file documents, waste of public funds, receiving substantial unrecorded gifts, and association with organized crime figures. It is rare for anyone to be under fire on all seven of the above issues." Peter Weber

1:32 a.m.

He could have congratulated the state for its strong economy, or even remarked on its gorgeous weather, but instead, White House aide Joe Grogan decided on Tuesday to refer to California as "occupied territory."

Grogan is director of the Domestic Policy Council, and he accompanied Trump on his trip to the West Coast. While in California, Trump will attend fundraisers in Beverly Hills and Rancho Mirage, but instead of focusing on that, Grogan decided to insult nearly 40 million people. "Just landed in California," he tweeted. "POTUS power swing through occupied territory."

His words were quickly condemned, not just by California taxpayers who pay his salary, but also Trump fans like Fox News host Laura Ingraham. "Actually, it's America," she tweeted in response. "And he's president of all the people — even the ones who didn't vote for him." In California, that's a lot of people — voters in the Golden State overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, with Clinton receiving 4,269,978 more votes than Trump. Catherine Garcia

12:32 a.m.

President Trump issued seven pardons and four commutations on Tuesday, and most of the highest-profile acts of clemency have one thing in common: Fox News, Justin Baragona and Asawin Suebsaeng report at The Daily Beast. Trump himself said he commuted the sentence of forever Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) — jailed 14 years for trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat and extorting a children's hospital — because he "watched his wife" on Fox News.

"Junk Bond King" Michael Milken's pardon was championed by Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, and former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and convicted stolen car ring participant Angela Stanton both praised Trump themselves on Fox News and had their clemency pleas pushed by high-profile Fox News personalities close to Trump.

"For those who didn't receive the Fox News treatment, it appears that in at least one case, cold hard cash did the talking," Baragona and Suebsaeng report. "Paul Pogue, a construction company owner who pleaded guilty to underpaying his taxes by $473,000 and received three years probation, was issued a full pardon and clemency by the president" after his son, Ben Pogue, and Ben's wife, Ashleigh, contributed more than $200,000 to the Trump Victory Committee since last August, plus more to the Republican National Committee and Donald Trump for President Inc. One advocate for Pogue's pardon, CNN contributor and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), also received a rare $5,700 campaign contribution from Ben and Ashleigh Pogue in 2016.

CNN's Jake Tapper runs through some of the crimes Trump moved to erase by Blagojevich and Kerik, and noted the widespread perception that Trump is using these acts of clemency to tee up pardons of his own convicted friends and allies, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn.

What Trump is really after with these pardons and commutations "is the normalization of corruption," Paul Waldman argues at The Washington Post. "Trump would never argue that Republicans are clean and Democrats are dirty; he wants to convince you that everyone is dirty. In fact, it's a key part of his reelection strategy." Peter Weber

12:32 a.m.

President Trump went from berating former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for his lack of Harry Potter knowledge to commuting his prison sentence.

In 2011, Blagojevich was convicted of wire fraud, attempted extortion, soliciting bribes, conspiracy to commit extortion, and conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes, and sentenced to 14 years in prison. The year before, he appeared on The Apprentice, where he bombed a Harry Potter-related task. Trump admonished him for sharing "inaccurate" facts about the boy wizard, and once Blagojevich began blathering about "Slithering and Hufflepuff and Ravencloth," it was all over.

On Tuesday, Trump announced he had commuted Blagojevich's sentence, but didn't mention anything about once firing him from his reality show. "He served eight years in jail, a long time," Trump said. "He seems like a very nice person — don't know him."

Reporters spotted Blagojevich on Tuesday night, as he prepared to board a flight from Denver to Chicago. Blagojevich shared that while in prison, he thought a lot about the "broken and unfair criminal justice system" and how there are "too many people who have too much power who don't have any accountability." He expressed his "most profound and everlasting gratitude to President Trump," adding that "he's a Republican president, I was a Democratic governor. My fellow Democrats have not been very kind to him — in fact, they've been very unkind to him. If you're asking me what my party affiliation is, I'm a Trumpocrat."

Blagojevich will hold a press conference at his home in Chicago on Wednesday, where he's expected to answer hard-hitting questions, like "Did you finally get around to reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?" Catherine Garcia

February 18, 2020

Attorney General William Barr has let people close to President Trump know that he is contemplating stepping down in the wake of Trump's tweets about Justice Department criminal investigations, three administration officials told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

Barr has spoken with people inside and out of the White House, and has privately and publicly asked Trump to stop commenting on Justice Department matters, the officials said; Trump has ignored him. Last week, Trump tweeted about his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering. Trump said the sentence recommendation was too severe, and on Tuesday, he suggested Stone should receive a new trial.

Last week, Barr told ABC News that Trump's tweets "make it impossible for me to do my job." Barr hopes that by telling Trump's advisers he might quit, Trump will get the memo, officials told the Post. "He has his limits," said one person familiar with the matter, without elaborating on what line Trump would have to cross to get Barr to step down. Catherine Garcia

February 18, 2020

If Mike Bloomberg is elected president this November, he would sell his financial information business, a campaign official told NBC News on Tuesday.

Bloomberg, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and the former Republican mayor of New York, founded Bloomberg L.P. in 1981; the company has an estimated annual revenue of roughly $10 billion, and could be worth $40 billion, CNBC reports. The official said Bloomberg L.P. would be put into a blind trust for "eventual sale," but did not give an estimated timeline. Because the company would be in a blind trust, Bloomberg would have "no involvement" in its sale. Bloomberg L.P. employs an estimated 20,000 people.

Tim O'Brien, a senior adviser to the campaign, told CNN Bloomberg will "release his taxes" and there will be "no confusion about any of his financial holdings, blurring the line between public service and personal profiteering. We will be 180 degrees away from where Donald Trump is on these issues because Donald Trump is a walking conflict of interest." President Trump did not put his Trump Organization into a blind trust, and it is being run by his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. Catherine Garcia

February 18, 2020

Sasha Olsen is on a mission to clean up the world's oceans and beaches, and hopes other kids will join her.

Olsen, 10, lives in Bal Harbour, Florida. Last summer, her family went on a trip to Vietnam and Japan, and she was upset by the polluted water. "I wanted to know why things were this way, but couldn't find an answer," she told the Miami Herald. When she returned home, Olsen learned there were problems in her backyard, as several South Florida beaches closed because there was too much bacteria in the water.

Olsen decided it was time to do something, and joined forces with her cousin Narmina Aliyev, a recent college graduate with a degree in business. They started a nonprofit called Iwantmyoceanback, and hold beach cleanups and fundraisers to help organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and Sea Turtle Conservancy. At events, kids learn about how to stop pollution and create art out of micro plastics found during beach cleanups.

Iwantmyoceanback is spreading the word online, too, through its YouTube channel, Studio IWMOB. During her Table Talks interviews, Olsen chats with guests about the ocean and how to protect the world's water. Together, they create a painting, which is signed by the guest and then auctioned off as a fundraiser. Olsen's first guest was singer Jencarlos Canela, who has 3.4 million Instagram followers. He praised Olsen, telling fans that "at 10 years old" she is "more conscious and aware than most adults I know." Catherine Garcia

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