Trump says he directed Pompeo not to let ISIS bride back in U.S.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he had directed the State Department not to allow the return of an Alabama woman who in 2014 joined the Islamic State terrorist group, days after the woman made public pleas to be let back into the U.S.

“I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!” the president tweeted.

Muthana joined ISIS in Syria when she was 19, becoming a bride for three fighters. She went on to call for the killing of Americans on Twitter.

In recent days, however, Muthana, who is now 24, said she regretted her actions and wanted to return to the U.S, according to The Guardian. She is reportedly being detained in a Kurdish refugee camp.

Pompeo on Wednesday said Muthana was not a U.S. citizen and had no “legal basis” to be brought back to the United States.

“Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States,” he said in a statement issued before Trump’s post on Twitter. “She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States. We continue to strongly advise all U.S. citizens not to travel to Syria.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to questions about Muthana’s citizenship status and whether Pompeo’s statement was in response to a request from Trump.

Hassan Shibly, a family representative for Muthana, disputed the secretary of state’s assertion, saying that Muthana was born in New Jersey in 1994.

“The Trump administration continues its attempts to wrongfully strip citizens of their citizenship,” Shibly tweeted. “Hoda Muthana had a valid US passport and is a citizen. She was born in Hackensack, NJ in October 1994, months after her father stopped being diplomat.”

Shibly later tweeted a what appeared to be Muthana’s birth certificate, adding that she was born “months after her father informed the US Government he was no longer a diplomat.”

It is unclear whether Muthana is an American citizen, since the children of diplomats in the U.S. are not entitled to birthright citizenship.

Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.

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Harris hires ex-Clinton aide Ruiz and several other women of color

Sen. Kamala Harris is adding several women of color to her presidential campaign team, an aide told POLITICO.

Emmy Ruiz, a political strategist who served as Hillary Clinton’s state director in Nevada and Colorado in 2016, will be a senior adviser to Harris. Ruiz will counsel the campaign on electoral, political and field strategy.

Ruiz was a field director for the Democratic National Committee in Texas and Nevada in 2012 before serving as President Barack Obama’s Nevada state director during the general election. Her experience includes serving as political director of Annie’s List in Texas and campaign manager for comprehensive immigration reform at Organizing for Action.

Missayr Boker and Julie Chávez Rodriguez will serve as co-national political directors. Boker was the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s campaign director in 2018, helping Senate Democrats’ campaign arm pick up seats in Nevada and Arizona. Boker has also served as assistant political director and PAC director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, where she managed issue advocacy campaigns and electoral strategy, and for an advocacy organization in Liberia that focused on reducing maternal mortality rates.

Rodriguez, the granddaughter of civil rights leader Cesar Chávez, is moving over from Harris’ Senate office, where she had worked as California state director since 2017. She was a special assistant to the president and senior deputy director for public engagement for Obama, overseeing the White House’s engagement with LGBT, Latino, veteran, youth, education, labor and progressive leaders.

Amanda Bailey, who raised money for now-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s finance director for the West, will be Harris’ deputy national finance director. Bailey previously served on finance teams for former Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and former Rep. Donna Edwards’ (D-Md.) Senate campaign.

Rosa Mendoza and Joyce Kazadi will serve as Harris analytics and advance directors, respectively. Mendoza was the DCCC’s head of analytics and senior strategist. Kazadi was Axios’ partner engagement director and events director for Axios360. Kazadi was also national advance lead on Clinton’s 2016 campaign, producing events and executing trips in more than 20 contested states in the primary and general elections.

These women are among more than a dozen women of color in senior roles in Harris’ campaign, including campaign chair Maya Harris, finance director Jalisa Washington-Price, senior adviser Laphonza Butler and deputy national press secretary Kirsten Allen.

The campaign said each woman will be involved in key decisions that are made throughout the race and that the hires reflect the California senator’s commitment to diversity.

“We value diverse backgrounds and experiences because they give our campaign vibrancy and fresh perspectives about the many challenges all Americans are facing,” said campaign manager Juan Rodriguez. “Senator Harris has a history of elevating and amplifying all voices to ensure that nothing is seen through only one narrow point of view.”

Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.

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Fed undecided on whether to raise rates in 2019

Federal Reserve officials haven’t decided whether they will need to raise interest rates again later in 2019, but the pause in its rate hike campaign might not continue indefinitely, according to minutes from the central bank’s January meeting.

The Fed at its January meeting left interest rates unchanged and signaled it was ready to stop steadily hiking rates, sending stocks surging, though Chairman Jerome Powell gave no indication as to whether that pause will end later this year. The summary of deliberations from the Fed’s rate-setting committee shows that central bank officials don’t know yet.

Many members of the committee “suggested that it was not yet clear” whether there will need to be “adjustments” to the central bank’s main borrowing rate later this year, the minutes say — using a term that could either refer to rate hikes or rate cuts. Several officials argued that more rate hikes “might prove necessary only if inflation outcomes were higher” than they’re currently projecting.

But several other Fed officials said if the U.S. economy continues in line with what they expect, they would “view it as appropriate” to raise rates later this year.

“In other words, if the economy remains in good shape, we haven’t necessarily seen the last of the interest rate hikes,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

Still, the document did have more specific good news for the stock market, suggesting the Fed will announce later this year a plan to stop reducing the massive stockpile of bonds that it bought in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to spur growth. The Fed’s balance sheet reduction also has the effect of tightening credit conditions, alongside its rate hikes.

“Almost all participants thought that it would be desirable to announce before too long a plan to stop reducing the Federal Reserve’s asset holdings later this year,” the minutes say. “Such an announcement would provide more certainty about the process for completing the normalization of the size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.”

The Fed’s decision to pause its rate hike campaign in January, after signaling in December that as many as two more increases could be coming in 2019, raised questions among market participants about whether the economic outlook had changed significantly in the intervening weeks beyond stock market volatility, which is not by itself a clear barometer of U.S. economic health.

The central bank minutes say that the outlook “had become more uncertain” since December, nodding to the fact that “financial market volatility had remained elevated over the intermeeting period.”

“In addition, the global economy had continued to record slower growth, and consumer and business sentiment had deteriorated,” the document says. “The government policy environment, including trade negotiations and the recent partial federal government shutdown, was also seen as a factor contributing to uncertainty about the economic outlook.”

The Fed is willing to be patient about further hikes as it waits to find out the effects of those things, as well as the central bank’s own interest rate hikes, on the broader economy.

“A patient approach would have the added benefit of giving policymakers an opportunity to judge the response of economic activity and inflation to the recent steps taken to normalize the stance of monetary policy,” the minutes say.

“Furthermore, a patient posture would allow time for a clearer picture of the international trade policy situation and the state of the global economy to emerge and, in particular, could allow policymakers to reach a firmer judgment about the extent and persistence of the economic slowdown in Europe and China,” they add.

The Fed also indicated worry that financial market participants misinterpreted its message in December as a lack of recognition of economic risks, with officials debating whether their aggregated projections of future rate hikes misleadingly suggested that “policy was on a preset course.”

“[M]arket participants appeared to interpret FOMC communications at the time of the December meeting as not fully appreciating the tightening of financial conditions and the associated downside risks to the U.S. economic outlook that had emerged since the fall.”

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Trump leaves timing of Mueller report release up to new attorney general

Even if special counsel Robert Mueller releases his report on the 2016 election as soon as next week, while President Donald Trump is over 8,000 miles away in Vietnam, the president doesn’t seem too concerned.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said Wednesday it would be at the discretion of his new attorney general, William Barr, to release the report whenever it is ready.

“That’ll be totally up to the new attorney general,” Trump said when asked whether the report should be released while he is away from the country. “He’s a tremendous man and tremendous person who really respects this country and respects the justice system. So that’ll be totally up to him.”

Speculation over when Mueller will finish his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election has increased as hints of an upcoming conclusion have surfaced recently. Late last month, the acting attorney general at the time, Matthew Whitaker, told reporters that the investigation was coming to a close soon. CNN reported Wednesday that the finished report could be announced as early as next week.

But once Mueller concludes his investigation, there’s no guarantee a final report will be made public. During his confirmation hearing, Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee he would receive the report as attorney general and make his own version of the report available to Congress and the public. He said he would make his version as thorough as possible under the law, but did not commit to sharing Mueller’s report in its entirety.

Trump’s deferential comments toward Barr on Wednesday come in stark contrast to his fierce torrent of disdain toward Mueller and his investigation, which he portrays as partisan character assassination.

Trump will be in Vietnam next week for a second summit with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

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Trump says he hasn’t thought about firing intel chief Coats

President Donald Trump denied Wednesday that he is considering firing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, despite several reports that the president is frustrated with the chief intelligence official.

“I haven’t even thought about it,” Trump told reporters while meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

The president’s comments came after reports that Trump was fuming and was “enraged” over Coats’ remarks during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee last month during which he broke with the president on several critical foreign policy fronts.

Coats told lawmakers that North Korea is “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.” Trump is meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next week in Vietnam, where the two will continue to discuss a path toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. intelligence chief also appeared to contradict the president’s stance on Iran and ISIS. Coats noted that Iran is not yet seeking a nuclear weapon, despite Trump consistently saying they are. In addition, Coats said that the Islamic State terrorist group remains a forceful presence in Iraq and Syria, even as the president is preparing to withdraw troops in the region.

Longtime Trump confidant Chris Ruddy on Monday said that although he hasn’t spoke to the president specifically about Coats, he believes there is a “general disappointment” with the U.S. intelligence chief.

“There’s just general disappointment of the president with Director Coats,” Ruddy said during an interview on CNN. “There’s a feeling that maybe there needs to be a change of leadership in that position coming up.”

Trump has often booted those in his administration who he believes aren’t fully on his side, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

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Maryland Gov. Hogan leaves the door open for primary challenge against Trump

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday did not rule out mounting a 2020 Republican primary challenge against President Donald Trump, further stoking speculation in a CBS interview about his plans for next year’s presidential race.

While he cautioned that he was sworn in for his second term as governor just a month ago, Hogan didn’t deny that he is being courted for a GOP primary run by critics of the president.

“I would say I’m being approached from a lot of different people, and I guess the best way to put it is I haven’t thrown them out of my office,” he told CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe in an interview that aired Wednesday morning.

He also predicted that more Republicans could primary Trump depending on what special counsel Robert Mueller reveals after the conclusion of the Russia investigation.

Hogan conceded that Trump is “unlikely” to be vulnerable to a primary challenge but warned that if Trump does secure the GOP nomination, “he’s pretty weak in the general election.”

Hogan was one of the most prominent elected Republicans in 2016 to decline to support the president, and he has not been shy about publicly disagreeing with Trump. Maryland was the only GOP-led state to join a lawsuit filed last week challenging Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and Hogan himself has been outspoken at times in breaking with the GOP in his criticisms of the president.

The blue-state Republican has enjoyed high approval ratings from Democrats and Republicans alike during his tenure in office, easily winning reelection last fall in reliably Democratic Maryland. He hasn’t discouraged talk of potentially challenging the president for the GOP nomination, and his potency as a possible challenger has drawn attention from Trump’s reelection team.

Hogan is one of a handful of Republicans rumored to be mulling a primary challenge, along with former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who also ran against Trump in the 2016 GOP primary. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, a Republican who was the Libertarian Party’s 2016 vice presidential nominee, announced last week that he would form an exploratory committee to consider a primary challenge to Trump.

In his interview with CBS, Hogan added later that he wouldn’t reveal whom he plans to support — or not support — so far ahead of the 2020 election, saying cryptically that “I don’t know who the nominees in either party are going to be.”

But, he said, “I don’t see how my position would change much from before, I haven’t become more supportive than I was four years ago.”

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Michael Cohen gets two-month delay on reporting to prison

A judge has granted President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen a two-month reprieve on reporting to prison while Cohen recovers from shoulder surgery and prepares to testify before three congressional committees.

U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley agreed Wednesday to a request from Cohen’s attorney to allow his client to report to prison as late as May 6, rather than on March 6 as Pauley originally ordered.

Last December, the Manhattan-based Pauley sentenced Cohen to three years in prison following his guilty plea to a variety of fraud charges as well as charges that he conspired to arrange illegal donations to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in the form of unreported payments to women claiming to have had sexual affairs with the candidate.

Pauley provided no detailed explanation for his order delaying Cohen’s reporting date, but the letter from Cohen’s attorney Michael Monico cited both health issues and looming Congressional testimony as grounds for the postponement.

“Defendant makes the request because he recently underwent a serious surgical procedure and he needs to undergo intensive post-surgical physical therapy and be monitored by his physician for recovery,” Monico wrote.

Cohen’s lawyers disclosed in the letter made public Wednesday that they submitted a more detailed explanation about the need for the delay to the judge last week. That submission has not been made public.

Prosecutors did not object to the 60-day extension, Monico wrote.

Monico’s letter also appeared to confirm that after cancellations of highly-anticipated congressional testimony in recent weeks, Cohen plans to go forward with those appearances before the end of February. The defense attorney didn’t say that testimony would preclude Cohen reporting to prison next month, but argued that it would disrupt his ability to prepare to go to jail

“Mr. Cohen also anticipates being called to testify before three (3) Congressional committees at the end of the month,” the defense lawyer said. “Doing so will require Mr. Cohen to spend substantial time in preparation that will limit the time he has to get his affairs in order and spend time with his family, especially given such a short period between the anticipated hearings and the present reporting date.”

Cohen was scheduled to testify publicly before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee earlier this month in what was expected to be a riveting television event skewering the sitting president.

But he pulled out of that appearance late last month, citing ongoing threats against his family. His complaint followed tweets in which Trump referred to Cohen’s father.

A similar appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee was also postponed.

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‘Give these brown babies a shot’: UNC defends its use of race in admissions

A legal battle that’s engulfed the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill offers a rare window into how admissions staffers at an elite public university discuss applicants — and the extent to which race plays into those exchanges.

“Can we get excited for this brown … boy who’s being raised by his grandfather, wants to become a surgeon, #2 in his class?” an admissions officer wrote in one online chat unearthed by opponents of affirmative action. “Yes! Admit w/ merit!”

This chat and others were entered as evidence last month in a federal court case in the Middle District of North Carolina, filed by a group that wants to undermine affirmative action.

In another chat, an employee wrote: “Give these brown babies a shot at these merit $$.”

“If its brown and above a 1300 put them in for merit/Excel,” read a third chat, referring to financial aid at the university.

The frank back-and-forth among unidentified UNC staffers, dating from 2014, is part of a slew of chats and emails figuring in a lawsuit over how UNC considers race in admissions. Roughly a third of U.S. universities consider the race of applicants when they reach decisions about which students receive highly coveted acceptance letters and which are denied.

The five-year-old legal fight comes at the same time that debates over race, privilege and discrimination are roiling higher education and the nation, most recently over whether Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam used blackface while in medical school. The North Carolina case is one of two over affirmative action that potentially could reach the Supreme Court.

Colleges have argued it’s imperative they enroll a diverse student body, in part because of incidents like in Virginia. The Supreme Court, which has repeatedly approved the use of race in admitting college students, has agreed— noting that creating a diverse student body “promotes cross-racial understanding, helps to break down racial stereotypes, and enables students to better understand persons of different races.

But the group suing UNC, Students For Fair Admissions, contends the chats and emails show that UNC has gone too far.

Students for Fair Admissions alleges that UNC admissions officials closely monitor the racial makeup of an incoming class, which SFFA has said is tantamount to racial balancing. And it claims that non-minority UNC students have “far stronger academic qualifications” than minority students, that UNC “gives substantial preferences” to minorities and that UNC “uses race in a mechanical, formulaic way.”

“Readers are keenly focused on the applicant’s race,” attorneys for SFFA wrote in court filings. The suit has not yet gone to trial, and the latest step was a filing of motions for summary judgment last month.

UNC Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions Steve Farmer said in a statement that the online exchanges don’t “reflect Carolina’s values or our admissions process.”

“We only consider race or ethnicity as one of a multitude of factors, if a student chooses to share that information on the standard Common Application, as is consistent with the law,” Farmer said. “Our admissions staff receive rigorous training on how to read and discuss applications and follow written guidelines.”

The university noted that the conversations cited in the suit were “cherry picked from the 380,000 pages of documents and information about 200,000 applicants that we provided.”

UNC’s attorneys say the school has “closely adhered” to Supreme Court precedent, including considering race in admissions in a narrowly tailored manner. They say the lawsuit is just one of the group’s “attempts to rewrite the law and dictate University policy.” SFFA wants the court to “impose a new constitutional standard” on UNC, the lawyers say.

SFFA is also suing Harvard University, in a closely watched challenge to the Ivy League school’s admissions policies, which SFFA contends discriminate against Asian-American applicants.

SFFA is led by Edward Blum, a longtime opponent of affirmative action who was also the architect of a legal challenge against the University of Texas at Austin. The case ended up before the Supreme Court, which sided with UT Austin.

With President Donald Trump constructing a more conservative high court, the Harvard case is widely believed to be the next best shot at ending affirmative action. But the UNC case is waiting in the wings should that effort fail.

In the chats and emails included as evidence, which mostly appear to be from the early stages of an admissions process, UNC officials often referred to applicants’ race, and experts say that’s not unusual.

“A lot of what happens during the reading and review process is, there is kind of a give-and-take — horse trading, as you will — to talk about applicants as they relate to other applicants, as they relate to admissions criteria,” said David Hawkins, executive director for educational content and policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

He said language in the 2014 chats isn’t “ideal,” but they seem like early conversations about applicants, and don’t seem to indicate any final decisions — so it’s impossible to tell how much race actually ended up mattering. These readers are only making recommendations that will later be considered by other admissions officials and a full committee.

“There’s likely to be a much deeper conversation about how the student fits in at all and whether they can succeed,” Hawkins said.

Still, for schools that consider race in admissions “it wouldn’t be uncommon to talk about an applicant as a brown student or a Native American student or a white student.”

UNC staffers in the chats, along with race, also touted applicants’ academic credentials — perfect SAT scores and high marks on Advanced Placement tests — and stress how much hardship the applicants have overcome.

One applicant, they wrote, “works 35 hours/week,” was a first generation college student and an underrepresented minority. “Single mom, unemployed,” they wrote.

In some cases, officials questioned whether other readers were fairly considering an applicant’s full background — whether they attended a school that didn’t offer as many advanced courses or extracurricular opportunities as other applicants, for instance, but did as much as they could.

In December 2015, one admissions official wrote to another that some other readers “are missing the school context.”

“They’re penalizing students for modest programs but missing the fact that the school only offers a few APs, so in context, the student is actually exhausting or nearly exhausting the rigor that’s available to them,” they wrote.

UNC attorneys stressed in court filings that the university doesn’t have racial quotas and readers are never given targets or numerical goals for shaping the incoming class. Caroline Hoxby, an economist UNC hired to study admissions data for the case, concluded race explains very little of UNC’s admissions decisions — between 0.8 and 5.6 percent, depending on the model.

But the chat messages and emails show how race comes up.

In a March 2014 email, an admissions official wrote another colleague asking whether an applicant who lived in North Carolina with his mother, but whose father lived in Texas, might be considered an in-state applicant, even though he marked on his application that he was not a North Carolina resident.

“I’m going through this trouble because this is a bi-racial (black/white) male,” the official wrote. “I would definitely admit for NC.”

In May, an academic adviser in the university’s College of Arts & Science wrote two admissions officials about an applicant.

“We know this is late admission but we would like to see [REDACTED] have a shot,” she wrote. “She is an Hispanic minority and good background to have this opportunity.”

In November 2013, one official wrote to another with questions about “an AA female, with solid everything that adds up to an admit for me.”

In the 2014 chat exchange where admissions officials wrote about giving “brown babies a shot at these merit $$,” one official wrote: “I don’t think I can admit or defer this brown girl … Testing, ECs and performance are too low for me to even make an argument.”

“Yep. gotta let her go,” another replied.

In another exchange, one official wrote about an applicant with “perfect 2400 SAT All 5 on AP one B in 11th.”

“Brown?!” another responded.

“Heck no,” the first wrote back. “Asian.”

“Of course,” the other wrote. “Still impressive.”

Overall, the conversations show a “racial awareness” in UNC’s admissions office, said Liliana Garces, an associate professor of education at the University of Texas at Austin and an affiliate faculty member at UT’s School of Law.

“That to me is necessary in order to make an informed decision that’s really considering all the various factors that make up an applicant,” said Garces, who was the counsel of record in an amicus brief filed on behalf of hundreds of social scientists supporting UT Austin when the Supreme Court considered its use of race in admissions in 2016.

“Because of how it matters in our society in that very structural way, it can shape our experiences, our life chances, the ways in which, the opportunities you have before you,” Garces said. “We don’t want it to matter, but it does for a lot of students.”

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Trump rails against the press following NYT report

President Donald Trump on Wednesday labeled the New York Times “the enemy of the people” in a Tweet, attacking the newspaper over a report in which it spelled out the president’s alleged efforts to influence ongoing investigations into his campaign and allies.

“The New York Times reporting is false,” the president wrote online Wednesday morning. “They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

Trump did not refute any specific parts of the Times report in the Tweet, though he responded on Tuesday to a reporter’s question about the piece regarding former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

The Times reported the president asked if Whitaker could put Geoffrey Berman, a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, in charge of an investigation into pre-election hush payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. The Times reported that Whitaker told the president that he could not ask Berman to oversee the investigation because the U.S. attorney had already recused himself from it.

“No, not at all, I don’t know who gave you that,” Trump told reporters Tuesday when asked about the Times’ reporting. “That’s more fake news. There’s a lot of fake news out there.”

The president also railed against the press on Twitter earlier Wednesday, saying it has “never been more dishonest.”

“The writers don’t even call asking for verification,” Trump tweeted. “They are totally out of control. Sadly, I kept many of them in business. In six years, they all go BUST!”

Maggie Haberman, one of the Times reporters who authored the piece, said Wednesday on CNN that the Times reached out to the White House multiple times before publishing the report.

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