TPM News

Hello again, readers! Prime member Dave Ricksicker’s third question in his series (first here, second here) was on Mississippi, which I always spell correctly even as I struggle with Pennsylvania. Keep the questions coming! Here’s what he wants to know:

3) Is there any chance [of a Democratic victory] in Mississippi Special?

There’s a chance — but not a great one, especially if the race proves to be the deciding factor for Senate control.

Democrats landed a strong candidate in former U.S. Agriculture Commissioner Mike Espy (D), who was the first black congressman from Mississippi since reconstruction. And establishment Republicans’ most-hated candidate, former state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), has a real opening against appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) given her recent past as a Democrat.

If McDaniel beats Hyde-Smith in the race’s all-party November election and faces Espy in the general election runoff a month later, Democrats have some hopes they can win the state given how toxic McDaniel is with the state’s huge population of African Americans and its few moderate voters.

But that’s a big if: Early polls suggest Hyde-Smith starts out with a big lead over McDaniel.

Even if McDaniel does manage to sneak by her, the runoff would occur after November. That means the election could be the pivotal one to decide Senate control, which would instantly nationalize the race, making it much more about which party controls the Senate rather than which candidate voters would prefer. Democrats admit that makes it even harder to win in the heavily Republican, deeply racially polarized state.

Remember, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) barely won his race against Roy Moore even with all of Moore’s horrific political baggage. While Mississippi is slightly less Republican and has a much larger percentage of African Americans than Alabama, its white voters are even less likely to be willing to back Democrats for federal office. Never say never — Jones is senator — but a Sen. Espy is highly unlikely to happen.



Have a question about the 2018 midterms you’d like our senior political correspondent Cameron Joseph to answer? Send it our way through email, or post it in the Hive.

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Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas, The Associated Press has learned.

Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday.

Since the White House announced its zero tolerance policy in early May, more than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, resulting in a new influx of young children requiring government care. The government has faced withering critiques over images of some of the children in cages inside U.S. Border Patrol processing stations.

Decades after the nation’s child welfare system ended the use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to children, the administration is standing up new institutions to hold Central American toddlers that the government separated from their parents.

“The thought that they are going to be putting such little kids in an institutional setting? I mean it is hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” said Kay Bellor, vice president for programs at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which provides foster care and other child welfare services to migrant children. “Toddlers are being detained.”

Bellor said shelters follow strict procedures surrounding who can gain access to the children in order to protect their safety, but that means information about their welfare can be limited.

By law, child migrants traveling alone must be sent to facilities run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services within three days of being detained. The agency then is responsible for placing the children in shelters or foster homes until they are united with a relative or sponsor in the community as they await immigration court hearings.

But U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement last month that the government would criminally prosecute everyone who crosses the U.S.-Mexico border illegally has led to the breakup of migrant families and sent a new group of hundreds of young children into the government’s care.

The United Nations, some Democratic and Republican lawmakers and religious groups have sharply criticized the policy, calling it inhumane.

Not so, said Steven Wagner, an official with the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We have specialized facilities that are devoted to providing care to children with special needs and tender age children as we define as under 13 would fall into that category,” he said. “They’re not government facilities per se, and they have very well-trained clinicians, and those facilities meet state licensing standards for child welfare agencies, and they’re staffed by people who know how to deal with the needs — particularly of the younger children.”

Until now, however, it’s been unknown where they are.

“In general we do not identify the locations of permanent unaccompanied alien children program facilities,” said agency spokesman Kenneth Wolfe.

The three centers — in Combes, Raymondville and Brownsville — have been rapidly repurposed to serve needs of children including some under 5. A fourth, planned for Houston, would house up to 240 children in a warehouse previously used for people displaced by Hurricane Harvey, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

Turner said he met with officials from Austin-based Southwest Key Programs, the contractor that operates some of the child shelters, to ask them to reconsider their plans. A spokeswoman for Southwest Key didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

“And so there comes a point in time we draw a line and for me, the line is with these children,” said Turner during a news conference Tuesday.

On a practical level, the zero tolerance policy has overwhelmed the federal agency charged with caring for the new influx of children who tend to be much younger than teens who typically have been traveling to the U.S. alone. Indeed some recent detainees are infants, taken from their mothers.

Doctors and lawyers who have visited the shelters said the facilities were fine, clean and safe, but the kids — who have no idea where their parents are — were hysterical, crying and acting out.

“The shelters aren’t the problem, it’s taking kids from their parents that’s the problem,” said South Texas pediatrician Marsha Griffin who has visited many.
Alicia Lieberman, who runs the Early Trauma Treatment Network at University of California, San Francisco, said decades of study show early separations can cause permanent emotional damage.

“Children are biologically programmed to grow best in the care of a parent figure. When that bond is broken through long and unexpected separations with no set timeline for reunion, children respond at the deepest physiological and emotional levels,” she said. “Their fear triggers a flood of stress hormones that disrupt neural circuits in the brain, create high levels of anxiety, make them more susceptible to physical and emotional illness, and damage their capacity to manage their emotions, trust people, and focus their attention on age-appropriate activities.”

Days after Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy, the government issued a call for proposals from shelter and foster care providers to provide services for the new influx of children taken from their families after journeying from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.

As children are separated from their families, law enforcement agents reclassify them from members of family units to “unaccompanied alien children.” Federal officials said Tuesday that since May, they have separated 2,342 children from their families, rendering them unaccompanied minors in the government’s care.

While Mexico is still the most common country of origin for families arrested at the border, in the last eight months Honduras has become the fastest-growing category as compared to fiscal year 2017.

During a press briefing Tuesday, reporters repeatedly asked for an age breakdown of the children who have been taken. Officials from both law enforcement and Health and Human Services said they didn’t know how many children were under 5, under 2, or even so little they’re non-verbal.

“The facilities that they have for the most part are not licensed for tender age children,” said Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, who met with a 4-year-old girl in diapers in a McAllen warehouse where Border Patrol temporarily holds migrant families. “There is no model for how you house tons of little children in cots institutionally in our country. We don’t do orphanages, our child welfare has recognized that is an inappropriate setting for little children.”
So now, the government has to try to hire more caregivers.

The recent call for proposals by the federal government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement said it was seeking applicants who can provide services for a diverse population “of all ages and genders, as well as pregnant and parenting teens.”

Even the policy surrounding what age to take away a baby is inconsistent. Customs and Border Protection field chiefs over all nine southwest border districts can use their discretion over how young is too young, officials said. And while Health and Human Services defines “tender age” typically as 12 and under, Customs and Border Protection has at times defined it as 5 and under.

For 30 years, Los Fresnos, Texas-based International Education Services ran emergency shelters and foster care programs for younger children and pregnant teens who arrived in the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. At least one resident sued for the right to have an abortion in a high-profile case last March.

For reasons the agency did not explain, three months ago the government’s refugee resettlement office said it was ending their funding to the program and transferred all children to other facilities. This came weeks before the administration began its “zero tolerance” policy, prompting a surge in “tender age” migrant children needing shelter.
In recent days, members of Congress have been visiting the shelters and processing centers, or watching news report about them, bearing witness to the growing chaos. In a letter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, a dozen Republican senators said separating families isn’t consistent with American values and ordinary human decency.

On Tuesday, a Guatemalan mother who hasn’t seen her 7-year-old son since he was taken from her a month ago sued the Trump administration. Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia was released from custody while her asylum case is pending and thinks her son, Darwin, might be in a shelter in Arizona.

“I only got to talk to him once and he sounded so sad. My son never used to sound like that, he was such a dynamic boy,” Mejia-Mejia said as she wept. “I call and call and no one will tell me where he is.”
Colleen Long contributed from New York.

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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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White House deputy chief of staff for operations Joe Hagin is stepping down from that role and exiting the government for the private sector, the White House said Tuesday.

Hagin played a central role in organizing President Donald Trump’s recent summit with North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un in Singapore, and prior to serving in the Trump administration was a part of the Regan administration and both Bush administrations.

Reports emerged before the Singapore summit that Hagin was looking to leave the White House and become deputy CIA director, rather than leave government entirely.

BuzzFeed News noted, however, that the resignation came a day after the outlet reported on an unusual client Hagin’s consulting firm took on during the Obama administration, when Hagin had entered the private sector as a cofounder of Command Consulting Group.

The client, a power-hungry Libyan exile named Basit Igtet, was “deeply involved” in a “sex cult” known as NXIVM, BuzzFeed News reported. NXIVM’s leadership was charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy in AprilIgtet’s wife, Sara Bronfman, provided the group tens of millions of dollars, according to the report. “I have nothing to do with the group,” Hagin told BuzzFeed News.

Igtet also reportedly met in 2013, while working with CCG, with the suspected ringleader of the 2012 Benghazi attack. An unnamed White House official told BuzzFeed that Hagin “was not aware of any meetings Igtet had had with Abu Khattala,” the publication said. Ahmed Abu Khattala was found guilty last year of four out of 18 counts related to the attack.

CNN reported prior to the Singapore summit that Hagin had in the past “kept sensitive logistical details from Trump” out of fear that the President would tweet about them, according to two unnamed officials.

“Joe Hagin has been a huge asset to my administration,” Trump said in a statement. “He planned and executed the longest and one of the most historic foreign trips ever made by a President, and he did it all perfectly. We will miss him in the office and even more on the road. I am thankful for his remarkable service to our great country.”

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The FBI agent who has become a target of President Trump and his allies for the anti-Trump texts he sent while working on the Russia probe was escorted from the bureau’s “building as part of the ongoing internal proceedings,” his attorney said in a statement to reporters Tuesday.

CNN was first to report that Peter Strzok, who also worked on the Hillary Clinton email investigate, was escorted out of the building on Friday. He remains an FBI employee, his lawyer said in the statement.

“Pete has complied with every FBI procedure,” his attorney Aitan Goelman said, calling it, nonetheless, a “highly questionable process.”

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States announced Tuesday it was leaving the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, with Ambassador Nikki Haley calling it “an organization that is not worthy of its name.” It was the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution.

Haley, Trump’s envoy to the U.N., said the U.S. had given the human rights body “opportunity after opportunity” to make changes. She lambasted the council for “its chronic bias against Israel” and lamented the fact that its membership includes accused human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights,” Haley said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appearing alongside Haley at the State Department, said there was no doubt that the council once had a “noble vision.”

But today we need to be honest,” Pompeo said. “The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights.”

The announcement came just a day after the U.N. human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, denounced the Trump administration for separating migrant children from their parents. But Haley, cited longstanding U.S. complaints that the 47-member council is biased against Israel. She had been threatening the pull-out since last year unless the council made changes advocated by the U.S.

“Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” Haley said.

Still, she suggested the decision need not be permanent, adding that if the council did adopt reforms, “we would be happy to rejoin it.” She said the withdrawal notwithstanding, the U.S. would continue to defend human rights at the United Nations.

The move extends a broader Trump administration pattern of stepping back from international agreements and forums under the president’s “America First” policy. Although numerous officials have said repeatedly that “America First does not mean America Alone,” the administration has retreated from multiple multilateral accords and consensuses since it took office.

Since January 2017, it has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, left the U.N. educational and cultural organization and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. Other contentious moves have included slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum against key trading partners, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Opposition to the decision from human rights advocates was swift. A group of 12 organizations including Save the Children, Freedom House and the United Nations Association – USA said there were “legitimate concerns” about the council’s shortcomings but that none of them warranted a U.S. exit.

“This decision is counterproductive to American national security and foreign policy interests and will make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world,” the organizations said in a joint statement.

Added Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch: “All Trump seems to care about is defending Israel.”

But the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank close to the Trump administration, defended the move, calling the council “notably incurious about the human rights situations in some of the world’s most oppressive countries.” Brett Schaefer, a senior fellow, pointed out that Trump could have withdrawn immediately after taking office but instead gave the council 18 months to make changes.

Haley has been the driving force behind withdrawing from the human rights body, unprecedented in the 12-year history of the council. No country has ever dropped out voluntarily. Libya was kicked out seven years ago.

The move could reinforce the perception that the Trump administration is seeking to advance Israel’s agenda on the world stage, just as it prepares to unveil its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan despite Palestinian outrage over the embassy relocation. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is visiting the Middle East this week as the White House works to lay the groundwork for unveiling the plan.

Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every council session, under “Item 7” on the agenda. Item 7 on “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories” has been part of the council’s regular business almost as long as it has existed.

The United States’ current term on the council ends next year. It was not immediately clear if the U.S. would remain a non-voting observer on the council. A full pullout by the U.S. would leave the council without one of its traditional defenders of human rights. In recent months, the United States has participated in attempts to pinpoint rights violations in places like South Sudan, Congo and Cambodia.

Either way, the U.S. pullout was bound to have ripple effects for at least two countries at the council: China and Israel. The U.S., as at other U.N. organizations, is Israel’s biggest defender. At the rights council, the United States has recently been the most unabashed critic of rights abuses in China — whose growing economic and diplomatic clout has chastened some other would-be critics, rights advocates say.

There are 47 countries in the Human Rights Council, elected by the U.N.’s General Assembly with a specific number of seats allocated for each region of the globe. Members serve for three-year terms and can serve only two terms in a row.

The United States has opted to stay out of the Human Rights Council before: The George W. Bush administration opted against seeking membership when the council was created in 2006. The U.S. joined the body only in 2009 under President Barack Obama.

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In a speech to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a conservative lobbying organization, today, President Donald Trump gave his assessment of the forces that have contributed to the current border crisis. By his estimation, here’s who is responsible.

Democrats in Congress, who are excited to win the MS-13 vote

“Democrats love open borders. Let the whole world come in. Let the whole world. MS-13 gang members from all over the place, come on in — we have open borders. And they view that possibly intelligently, except that it’s destroying our country. They view that as potential voters. Someday they’re going to vote for Democrats.”

The fake news media, which hopes to distract from congressional hearings on the Department of Justice Inspector General’s probe

“The fake news media back there doesn’t talk about that. (Laughter and applause.) They’re fake. They are helping — they are helping these smugglers and these traffickers like nobody would believe. They know it. They know exactly what they’re doing and it should be stopped — because what’s going on is very unfair to the people of our country. And they violate the law. People that come in violate the law. They endanger their children in the process. And frankly, they endanger all of our children. And you ought to see the hearings that are right now on television but that folks are being — you know, they’re going on to the mainstream, fake news media. They want to focus on immigration because they want to keep the cameras away from the hearings because those hearings are not good for them.”

Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton, who were helpless in the face of partisanship

“Whether it was President Bush, President Obama, President Clinton — same policies. They can’t get them changed because both sides are always fighting.”

Mexico, which is not sending its best

“They come up through Mexico. Mexico does nothing for us. You hear it here: They do nothing for us. They could stop it. They have very, very strong laws. Try staying in Mexico for a couple of days. See how long that lasts. Okay?”

Corrupt immigration judges, who are on the take

“They said, ‘Sir, we’d like to hire about five or six-thousand more judges.’ Five or six-thousand? Now, can you imagine the graft that must take place? You’re all small business owners, so I know you can imagine a thing like that would happen. But here’s a guy — they say, ‘Could you please be a judge? Come on, get it.’ They line up to be a judge. It’s horrible.”

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s family is involved in a land deal in his Montana hometown with the head of an energy services giant that does business with the Interior Department, according to records and interviews Tuesday.

The Zinkes’ dealings with Halliburton chairman David Lesar, which were first reported by Politico, raise questions of the appearance of a conflict of interest between Zinke and Halliburton, critics said.

A charitable foundation created by Zinke and now run by his wife Lola is allowing a company co-owned by Lesar and his family to use a portion of its land for the development, according to a letter of intent signed by Lola Zinke.

The land was donated by BNSF Railway in 2008 to Zinke’s Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation to create a park for children to sled and skate in the winter. Immediately adjacent to the park is an abandoned mill that is the site of Lesar’s planned hotel, microbrewery, art gallery and office space.

The Whitefish City Council approved a zoning change for Lesar’s project in January, with one of the conditions that the developers sign an agreement with the foundation to build a parking lot that will benefit both the park and the commercial development.

The agreement, which was included in the Whitefish City Council’s December meeting packet, gives Lesar foundation land for a parking lot and a separate easement to access the property.

Critics say the land deal gives the appearance of an inappropriate relationship between the secretary and an energy company that stands to benefit from the Trump administration’s push to increase drilling on public lands.

They point out that Zinke also owns a home nearby that he wants to turn into a bed and breakfast, and that the development would increase the value of his property.

The Western Values Project, a Whitefish-based conservation group, called for an investigation of Zinke using donated land to help a private developer, and for Zinke to stay out of any future dealings between Halliburton and the Interior Department.

“The sad fact is that this is just the latest example of Zinke attempting to personally benefit from a resource that should benefit the public,” said Chris Saeger, executive director of Western Values Project.

Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift said the land deal between the foundation and Lesar’s company “is not a departmental matter.” She did not respond to further inquiries.

Halliburton spokeswoman Emily Mir said Lesar’s personal investment in Montana has nothing to do with the company.

“The company is confident that any actions of the Interior Department will not be influenced by Mr. Lesar’s personal investment,” Mir said in a statement. “Neither Secretary Zinke nor the Foundation that he established have any ownership or investment in the land or the proposed development in which Mr. Lesar has invested.”

The Montana Secretary of State’s office listed Zinke as a director and an officer of the foundation, but that was changed Tuesday after Whitefish attorney Sean Frampton wrote that Zinke resigned from the foundation last year.

Zinke’s wife is still listed as the foundation’s president and his daughter, Jennifer Detlefesen, is a director.

Whitefish city planner Dave Taylor said Tuesday the project has been vetted and received a lot of support, though some residents expressed concerns about increased traffic.

Lesar’s plans pre-date Zinke becoming Interior Secretary early last year and that the project wouldn’t be able to proceed without the developers coming to an agreement with Zinke’s foundation, Taylor said.

“He’s the main representative of that peace park and they had to talk to him about that property,” Taylor said of Zinke. “He’s been working on that peace park for years.”

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Over the last few days I’ve noted that senior FBI officials said a key reason James Comey publicly criticized Hillary Clinton in harsh terms when he declined to recommend charges against her was to assuage the feelings of FBI agents who had expressed sentiments like “[Y]ou guys are finally going to get that bitch.” Top FBI executives held conference calls with retired agents who had complained about “why we let her off the hook, and why she should have been prosecuted.” They did so to reassure them and calm them down. All of Comey’s advisors agreed that fear of leaks about the laptop emails from the New York field office was a key driver of Comey’s decision to send his October 28th letter. And Comey himself told Loretta Lynch that “that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton.”

Over the last few days I’ve had a number of readers write in to say, “Okay, I get it: There were people in New York and elsewhere in the FBI who really had it in for Hillary. But why? Why were they so against her? What did she do?”

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When iRobot introduced its first Roomba in the early 2000’s, it was a smashing success — who wouldn’t want a little robot buddy to vacuum up your messes for you? The Roomba has continued to dominate the robotic vacuum market for almost 20 years, but they’re no longer the only option. ECOVACS has two stellar models, the Slim2 and DR96, that are excellent alternatives.

The Slim2 is a budget-friendly vacuum that has the lowest height on the market, so it can clean under low-profile furniture with ease. It’s built for hardwood floors, so you can kiss your broom and dustpan goodbye, and anti-drop, anti-collision technology keep your new vacuum scooting instead of stopping.


The DEEBOT DR96 model is like the Slim2 on steroids: its charging station comes with a handheld canister vacuums for pesky spots that robot vacuums can’t reach, and SMART NAVI technology scans and maps the environment for the most effective vacuuming route. The DR96 can also talk and keep you updated on its progress, so you’ll know exactly where it is on its path to a pet hair-free household.

Both of ECOVACS robotic vacuums are on sale right now, so give the one that strikes your fancy a shot. The Slim2 is available for $140 and the feature-packed DR96 can be yours for $549.


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