October 29, 2018

The Trump administration is sending even more troops to the U.S.-Mexico border than previously expected, Bloomberg reported Monday.

While Secretary of Defense James Mattis was reportedly ready to deploy about 800 troops to help prevent migrants from unlawfully crossing the border, General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, head of the Northern Command, said in a press briefing Monday that the number would be closer to 5,200.

The military presence will support border patrol officers, he said, providing logistical and medical help. That would mean members of the military will outnumber the estimated 3,500 Central American migrants who are weeks away from reaching the U.S. by foot. "We will not allow a large group to enter the United States in an unsafe and unlawful manner," said Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. The group of 800 troops previously reported has already been deployed, heading to Texas to "harden" the state's southern border.

The 5,200 will include members of the Army Corps of Engineers, reports The Washington Post, along with troops who specialize in aviation and who can pilot the helicopters that will aid in night-vision tracking of the border. The troops will be deployed by the end of the week. Read more at Bloomberg. Summer Meza

1:51 p.m.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway is finally speaking out about the feud between President Trump and her husband — and it sounds like she's on Trump's side.

Conway spoke with Politico on Wednesday after Trump went after her husband, George Conway, on Twitter for the second day in a row, calling him a "stone cold loser." The president's tweets came after Conway, who has long been an outspoken critic of the president, spent days suggesting that Trump has a personality disorder and that Americans should be concerned about his "mental condition and psychological state."

Kellyanne Conway told Politico that Trump is a "counterpuncher" and that he "left it alone for months out of respect for me." She asked, "you think he shouldn’t respond when somebody, a non-medical professional accuses him of having a mental disorder? You think he should just take that sitting down?" Conway said Trump is "obviously defending me" and offered some criticism of her husband by saying that he shouldn't "play psychiatrist."

Conway didn't answer a question about whether she wants Trump to stop tweeting about her husband, but she did say that this drama has not affected her job, saying, "Hasn't everybody tried to push me out already and here I am, stronger than ever."

Around the same time this Politico interview was published, Trump went after Conway once again, telling reporters per The Hill's Jordan Fabian that he's a "whack job" who is "doing a tremendous disservice to a wonderful wife." Brendan Morrow

1:44 p.m.

President Trump is embarking on a supremely roundabout quest to build the wall.

In November, French bank Societe Generale admitted that it spent years breaking American sanctions with the U.S. and Cuba. It had to pay $1.3 billion back to the U.S., and now Trump is hoping to siphon a chunk of it for his border wall, CNBC reports.

From asking Mexico nicely to cramming funds into the national budget, Trump has tried a slew of crafty solutions to fund his promised border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. His current national emergency declaration is still standing, but the $8 billion Trump is hoping to get from that actually stems from a variety of sources. About $3.6 billion comes from military construction already authorized this year, $2.5 billion comes from seized drug profits, and $1.3 billion is from what Democrats gave Trump in the budget. The remaining $601 million, Trump reportedly hopes, will come from the Treasury Department's "asset forfeiture fund," NBC News noted.

There's just one problem: Only $242 million of the largely off-limits forfeiture fund is available for government use right now, the administration has said. The rest — $301 billion — is from "future anticipated forfeitures," namely the Societe General deal that is still pending in court, two officials tell CNBC. Yet another source says the bank has already paid its fines, and the money has already been divvied up to other recipients, complicating Trump's reported plan.

Read more about Trump's backup border fund at CNBC. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:07 p.m.

More and more 2020 Democrats are coming out in favor of eliminating the Electoral College.

The latest is former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who jumped into the 2020 race back in January. He told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that the U.S. should "do away with" the Electoral College.

Castro's comments came after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) backed the idea during a town hall event on Monday, prompting some of her fellow Democrats to voice their agreement — or at least start entertaining the idea. Former congressman Beto O'Rourke said on Tuesday that there's "a lot of wisdom" in the idea of abolishing the Electoral College, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said that she is "open to the discussion," per The Hill.

This is the latest example of a policy proposal sweeping through the 2020 Democratic field and creating a sort of Domino effect, with one previous example being reparations for black Americans, which Harris came out in support of in February. This was followed by similar statements of support from Warren and Castro. Warren wasn't the first of the 2020 Democrats to call for ditching the Electoral College, though, with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg having backed the idea in January, telling CBS This Morning the system "needs to go."

President Trump, who was elected thanks to the Electoral College system, spoke in favor of it on Tuesday, saying that "I used to like the idea of the popular vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A." Brendan Morrow

12:56 p.m.

Hold on to your hats for this one: social media may be making teenagers unhappier than ever.

Increased social media usage correlates with a decrease in adolescents' overall happiness, according to the recently released World Happiness Report. The report does not determine that social media is a direct cause of unhappiness, but does draw a correlation between the rising rate of unhappiness in teens and the overall increase in technology usage.

There has been a "fundamental shift" in how adolescents spend their free time, the report claims, with time being taken away from other non-technology activities that are linked to higher levels of happiness, such as sleeping and in-person interaction.

Between 1991 and 2011, happiness and life satisfaction among teens increased in the U.S., per the report. But it began to decline in 2012, and by 2017 both adults and adolescents were significantly less happy than in the 2000s.

The study focuses on the effect of media on adolescents, but adults' happiness could also be affected by an increase in technology use, reports Fast Company. Marianne Dodson

12:44 p.m.

The week of John McCain continues, as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) subtly weighed into the kerfuffle over the late Republican senator's legacy on Wednesday.

Schumer was not a politcal ally of McCain. But the senator still tweeted that he is trying to make McCain's name a permanent fixture in Washington.

Schumer didn't mention President Trump in his tweet, but there's little doubt the bill doubles as both a way to honor McCain, who died last August, and as a dig at the president.

Trump picked up his long-running feud with McCain over the weekend, when he tweeted that McCain's involvement in the spread of a compromising dossier that tied Trump and his campaign staff to Moscow, was a "dark stain" on McCain's legacy and chastised his decision to vote against repealing Obamacare. McCain's daughter Meghan followed that up by telling Trump that people will never "love him like they loved my father."

Then, while meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday, Trump told a reporter that he was never a fan of McCain and never will be.

Schumer wasn't the only senator to comment on the matter on Wednesday. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) criticized Trump's insults and said he also plans to give a speech on the situation. Tim O'Donnell

12:40 p.m.

The Trump administration's drilling dreams may have just burst.

Late on Tuesday, a judge in Washington, D.C.'s U.S. District Court ruled that the Interior Department broke the law when selling off federal land for oil and gas drilling. It's a defeat for the Wyoming plan involved in the case, but also could spell trouble for President Trump's drill-happy Bureau of Land Management, The Washington Post suggests.

Two environmental advocacy groups first sued the BLM for leasing and selling federal lands for drilling under former President Barack Obama's watch, saying the department ignored the threat of climate change when making the decision. Additional moves by the Trump administration to increase drilling offshore and in Alaska later boosted the case's implications, the two groups later said. That's because even though Obama's Interior Department started considering climate change more heavily as his administration waned, Trump officials completely reversed those considerations. And when the D.C. judge ruled that the Obama BLM broke the law because it "did not sufficiently consider climate change," Trump's looser standards were almost certainly lumped into that decision.

The Tuesday decision temporarily stops companies from drilling on the 300,000 acres of Wyoming land the BLM sold under Obama, the Post says. It also could force the BLM to rethink what it considers before authorizing future drilling projects, seeing as current standards "deprive the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land," the judge wrote in his decision. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:20 p.m.

Pesticides on your produce? It's more likely than you think.

A study by the Environmental Working Group found that around 70 percent of U.S. produce still has pesticide residue even after customers wash it, reports The Hill.

Strawberries, spinach and kale ranked highest in residue, and avocados, pineapples and sweet corn had the least. Coming in third, this is kale's highest ranking in recent memory and its first appearance within the top 12 since 2009, per CNN.

Nearly 60 percent of kale's samples tested positive for a possible carcinogens, coming as a surprise to some people working on the survey, reports The Hill.

"Fruits and vegetables are an important part of everyone's diet, and when it comes to some conventionally grown produce items, such as kale, choosing organic may be a better option," EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin said in a statement, per The Hill. Marianne Dodson

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