In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) pushed back hard on the idea that keeping border-crossing children in chain-link cages was inhumane, defending the practice in two local radio shows on Wednesday.

Cramer, who’s running against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in a top-tier Senate race, called the facilities “humane” during a Wednesday appearance on KTGO, a local radio station that broadcasts in the Bakken Oil Fields.

“By the way, chain link fences are around playgrounds all over America, all over North Dakota. And chain link fences allow line-of-sight visual connectivity with children and families,” he said as he discussed reversing President Trump’s policy to let families stay together at the border. “You know, there’s nothing inhumane about a chain link fence. If it is, then every ballpark in America is inhumane.”

Cramer then went on to say he supported changing the law to allow families to stay together when they enter the country illegally, and supported House Republicans’ dueling pieces of immigration legislation that are expected to receive a vote this week that would address this issue.

The comments came before Trump announced he’d reverse his recently implemented strategy of separating children and parents at the border with an executive order, reversing his previously held false position that only Congress could act to stop it.

Cramer doubled down on his comments when asked about them later in the day on WDAY, another local radio station, calling the focus on the cages “hoopla.”

“I think [chain] linked fences is irrelevant to the crying of children. My commentary is on the chain-link fence,” he said when asked about the comments and whether he’d heard the audio of children wailing after being separated from their parents. “There’s all this hoopla, because I think there are people on the left that clearly want the country to fail at this. And they would like the chain-link fence, they called it ‘dog cages.’ Well, chain-link fences have been used to protect children from predators on playgrounds, baseball diamonds, all sorts of sports courts and what-not. To me it’s not the chain-link fence, that’s not the issue. That’s a ruse by some on the left to try to create an image that’s far worse in description than it is in reality,” he said.

“The actual value of the chain-link fence is you could see through it, that’s the value of the chain link. If they put up a sheet rock wall between the children and the workers, the people there to protect them, to me that would be far worse,” Cramer continued. “The chain link fence, let’s not use that as some sort of a weapon. There’s a broader conversation about the separation of families in general, but as I’ve said before, that happens throughout the country many times. Kris [his wife] and I have been foster parents. We know all about the separation of children from their parents who do the illegal things, it happens in every city of the country every day.”

Senate Republicans initially had opposed having Cramer, a close ally of Trump’s, as their candidate for Senate precisely because of his penchant for controversial comments. After failing to find a better alternative they circled back to him. Cramer initially said he wouldn’t run, but changed his mind after Trump pushed him to jump into the race.

Cramer has since stirred up some controversies, including comments that Trump wasn’t campaigning as hard against Heitkamp as some other vulnerable Senate Democrats because “she’s a woman,” and sought and received an endorsement from a virulently anti-gay group that compares transgender people to pedophiles.

This is the latest instance of a remark that may generate some backlash.

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After weeks of insisting that only Congress could change the administration’s policy of separating migrant children and their parents, President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday afternoon that would allow the government to detain families together as they await their immigration hearings. The administration will not, however, cease its policy of bringing criminal charges against immigrants who commit the civil violation of crossing the border unauthorized.

“We are keeping a very powerful border. And it continues to be a zero tolerance,” Trump said. “We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”

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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning to spend $80 million in the upcoming midterm elections, with most of it aimed at helping Democrats seize control of the House, a massive investment that could reshape the House battlefield this fall.

That type of investment from Bloomberg, a political independent who has long supported candidates of both parties, could put Democrats in a position to have spending parity with Republicans for the first time since the advent of super PACs nearly a decade ago.

That money, which a Bloomberg adviser confirmed to TPM, will help them compete with huge funds from GOP billionaires like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged $30 million to bolster House Republicans.

Bloomberg has gotten increasingly involved in national campaigns in recent years, but has backed candidates in both parties who agree with him on gun control, helping reelect Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) in 2016. He endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016.

And while Bloomberg said he plans to support some GOP gubernatorial candidates, this massive investment is as partisan as he’s been since he left the GOP more than a decade ago — driven by what he sees is an “absolutely feckless” attitude towards Trump from House GOP leadership.

“Republicans in Congress have had almost two years to prove they could govern responsibly. They failed. As we approach the 2018 midterms, it’s critical that we elect people who will lead in ways that this Congress won’t – both by seeking to legislate in a bipartisan way, and by upholding the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers set up to safeguard ethics, prevent the abuse of power, and preserve the rule of law,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “And so this fall, I’m going to support Democrats in their efforts to win control of the House.”

The New York Times first reported the investment.

Bloomberg plans to mostly target suburban House races where his vocal gun rights support and New York City links won’t backfire on the candidates he’s supporting — the type of expensive districts in major media markets that House Democrats have been outspent in recent cycles.

Democrats have at least a 50-50 shot at retaking the House, according to strategists in both parties. This major investment could further bolster their prospects.

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Senate Republicans calling for an end to the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant parents from their children are pushing legislation that would roll back due process, anti-trafficking and human rights protections — something the administration has long sought to accomplish — allowing for faster deportations of asylum-seekers and the indefinite detention of minors.

House Republicans, meanwhile, are pushing bills that would do all that, slash legal immigration and allocate tens of billions of dollars for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

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President Trump visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with anxious Republicans who hoped he’d help them put out the firestorm he started with his decision to separate parents and children. Instead, he delivered a vintage meandering and bullying speech that offered little concrete guidance to desperate House Republicans about what to do on immigration.

Trump spent 45 minutes ranting to House Republicans on everything from taxes to his pending lawsuits Tuesday evening, according to members in the meeting, while offering barely any info about whether he’d support the specifics of a pair of bills that closely follow the President’s own policy goals on immigration.

The President did not specifically endorse compromise legislation crafted by Republicans in the House or spend much time laying out his directives on what he needs to end his self-created crisis of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, he delivered a rambling and, according to some members, barely coherent tirade that was short on specifics, even as he said he was “one thousand percent” behind the House GOP efforts on immigration.

“He said a lot of things. He said he supported the bill, I guess. It was very rambling, he talked about everything from the lawsuit to tax bills,” said Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). “It was kind of hard to follow everything he says — it was like a bouncing ball.”

The president even took aim at Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), who just lost a primary largely due to his past criticism of the president. After asking if Sanford was in the room, according to multiple members, Trump called him “nasty.”

“He was very ugly,” said Jones.

Republican members have been whipsawed by the President’s latest tantrum-driven policies on immigration and were hoping he’d give them more specific policy guidance — especially those facing tough re-election who are panicked at the backlash against his newfound policy of tearing children from their asylum-seeking parents. Yet the classic rambling stem-winder delivered by Trump left members grasping for a clear sense of whether he supports both of the GOP immigration bills they plan to vote on later this week.

“No. He did say he supported ‘the bill.’ He just doesn’t — he’s not specific, you know, he does things his own way,” retiring Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) said with a laugh when TPM asked if he’d explicitly endorsed the compromise bill hammered out by House GOP moderates and conservatives.

That left members grasping for a happy message of unity afterwards — especially since Trump has been known to change his mind and publicly attack congressional Republicans over legislation.

“He alluded to both [bills] at the beginning. But it was unambiguous, his support was we need to move this compromise bill,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) said.

“We finally have a president willing to work with Congress to solve this, and that’s what this bill does,” said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said.

House Republicans, like those in the Senate, say they’re hoping to end the policy of tearing apart families — “It is not good for anyone when children get separated from their parents,” moderate Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) said.

One of the bills offers an eventual pathway to citizenship for the approximately 1.8 million undocumented immigrants brought here as children, and House Republicans are trying to hammer out legislative language to end Trump’s current policy of separating families. The second, more conservative bill, is much more onerous for immigrants who want to stay legally in the U.S.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), a leading pro-immigration Republican, told TPM that House members were “still massaging” the legislative language to end family separation.

The White House claimed that Trump offered his clear support of their plans.

“The President spoke to the House Republican conference on a range of issues. In his remarks, he endorsed both House immigration bills that build the wall, close legal loopholes, cancel the visa lottery, curb chain migration, and solve the border crisis and family separation issue by allowing for family detention and removal. He told the members, ‘I’m with you 100 percent,'” White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said.

But he wasn’t that clear. And that isn’t a good sign for what Diaz-Balart called the “last shot” for Congress to improve the current immigration system before this fall’s elections.

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Only he can fix it.

President Trump dropped a mess into Congress’s lap with his new policy separating families at the border. While Republicans are promising a quick fix to the policy — which many concede was cruelly conceived and poorly executed — they emerged from early talks on Tuesday with no clear path forward to resolving this latest manufactured crisis.

Senate Republicans say they will move on immigration legislation as early as this week, but prospects for an agreement are dim. They GOP caucus is deeply divided on whether Trump should temporarily halt the family separations until they can work out a long-term legislative fix. They aren’t yet rallying around a single bill to address the situation. And the president poured cold water on the one Senate GOP proposal that had any momentum.

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The top Republican on the House subcommittee responsible for funding the Department of Homeland Security demanded that the Trump administration end its forced separation of parents and children at the U.S. border, going further than many of his congressional colleagues in his demands.

Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for him to end the controversial policy.

“I ask that you take immediate action to end the practice of separating children from families at the border,” Yoder says in the letter. “Separating children from their parents should not be used as a deterrent.”

The letter is the latest but far from the only plea from congressional Republicans for President Trump and his administration to end this policy, which by the Department of Homeland Security’s own numbers say have separated 2,000 families in recent weeks.

But while Yoder highlights areas of agreement with Trump about other immigration concerns, his language is less mealy-mouthed blaming both sides than other rank-and-file Republicans’ (like this from Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)).

The letter comes just hours after a Quinnipiac University poll found that fully 66 percent of voters oppose the policy, with just 27 percent in favor, though a majority of Republicans supported the policy in the survey.

Notably, Yoder is facing a tough reelection fight in his swingy suburban Kansas City district.

And he’s not the only campaign-minded Republican who bucked Trump on the policy Monday: National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers (R-OH) also called on the administration to “stop needlessly separating” families on Thursday:

Trump’s deeply controversial plan has earned criticism from other Republicans as well — but most of the elected officials until Monday afternoon had been the Republicans who’d already shown a willingness to criticize Trump in the past, like Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), or those out of office, like former First Lady Laura Bush.

That’s begun to change, as Yoder’s letter indicates. And others are beginning to split off as well, like Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), another member facing a tough reelection fight, who called the policy “ugly and inhumane” in a statement. And even some rank-and-file Republicans who aren’t facing a tough reelection began to speak out:

While DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen continued to falsely insist the new policy was not new policy on Monday afternoon, Republicans increasingly sounded increasingly skeptical of her misleading claims.

It remains to be seen whether enough Republicans break with the administration to actually force change, however, as they don’t yet appear to have a serious legislative response even as they ready a House vote on other immigration measures later this week.

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Voting rights advocates did not get the Supreme Court decisions they were looking for on Monday, when the court punted on partisan gerrymandering cases coming out of Wisconsin and Maryland. But they didn’t get the door shut on them, either.

“I am disappointed, but not devastated in any way,” said Michael Li, a senior counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, which filed briefs supporting the challengers in both cases.

“These are important decisions that actually move the ball forward and the court isn’t walking away from the issue. It didn’t make the issue messier than it was. They clarified the issue—that’s a big step forward,” Li told TPM.

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Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Monday that his office received a referral from the FBI about the disclosure of memos written by former FBI Director Jim Comey to the press.

He was asked about the memos — and particularly whether there was an investigation into whether their release transmitted classified information inappropriately — by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) during a committee hearing.

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