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Politics

Political news from North Texas, across the state and beyond.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Laura Bush, the former first lady of the U.S. and of Texas, called the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy of separating immigrant children from their parents "cruel" in an op-ed published in the Washington Post Sunday evening. 

"It breaks my heart," she wrote. 

Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET

The Trump administration's decision to separate children from their families as a way to curb illegal immigration is adding fuel to an already fiery debate over immigration.

A group of House Democrats converged on an immigration detention facility in New Jersey on Sunday, days before a planned vote by House Republicans next week. Meanwhile, Trump administration officials alternately took credit and sought to distance the administration from the family separation policy.

The Department of Homeland Security says 1,995 minors were separated from their "alleged adult guardians" at the southern border in just over a monthlong period.

A DHS spokesman said the separations occurred between April 19 and the end of May under the administration's relatively new "zero tolerance" policy, in which parents have also been arrested.

Political party conventions are always about the future – the next election, to be specific, but also the five- and 10-year plan for growth.

The last couple of decades for Texas Republicans have been pretty rock solid. In 2014, Gov. Greg Abbott won the election by 20 points. And in the 2018 primaries, Republicans set records for voter turnout in an off-year election.

Texas' top Republican lawmakers spent the morning Friday revving up the crowd at their convention in San Antonio. Now the heavy lifting of this biennial event begins.

The delegates vote on a party chairman and then begin debate on the state party platform. The (currently) 38-page document lists the party's priorities, plans and ideals.

Updated at 5:43 p.m. ET

President Trump took Capitol Hill by surprise on Friday morning when he said that he would not sign a House GOP immigration bill — only to reverse course later in the day.

"I'm looking at both of them. I certainly wouldn't sign the more moderate one," Trump told Fox News in a previously unannounced interview on the White House lawn.

Updated at 12:31 p.m. ET

A federal judge ordered Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, to jail on Friday following allegations by prosecutors that he tampered with witnesses in his case.

"You've abused the trust placed in you six months ago," said Judge Amy Berman Jackson. "I thought about this long and hard, Mr. Manafort. I have no appetite for this."

But Berman Jackson said she could not turn a blind eye to the charges that Manafort had attempted to contact witnesses in his case after he was on bail.

Thousands of Republicans are in San Antonio this week for the state convention. They'll bring plenty of red, white and blue clothing – along with elephant hats. But in the midst of the spectacle, there's work getting done by party officials and delegates. Here's a little checklist of what to watch for over the next three days.

House Speaker Paul Ryan's office announced late Tuesday a vote on two immigration bills next week to address the legal status of people brought to the U.S. as children.

Specific details of the two bills will be released Wednesday morning. They are aimed at appeasing the ideological wings of the House GOP. One is expected to be a more conservative measure preferred by the House Freedom Caucus, and the other a more moderate one supported by more centrist Republicans.

President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Tuesday in Singapore. The two signed a joint statement committing to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

After the summit, Trump spoke to reporters about the meeting and took questions. Following is a transcript of the press conference, provided by the White House, annotated by NPR reporters.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Bob Daemmrich / The Texas Tribune

Several thousand Texans will descend on San Antonio and Fort Worth for the biennial Republican and Democratic conventions to hear from the state’s most prominent politicians, adopt new platforms and elect party leaders.

Veteran diplomats say it could take years to assess the results of this week's nuclear summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump doesn't expect to wait that long.

"I think within the first minute, I'll know," whether Kim is serious about giving up his nuclear weapons, the president told reporters Saturday. "Just my touch. My feel. That's what I do."

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon and Martin do Nascimento / KUT News

The U.S. Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke got personal this week when the incumbent attacked the challenger over a tax fraud case involving his mother.

Updated at 12:23 p.m. ET

House Republicans huddled for hours Thursday morning in another attempt to find party unity on an issue that divides the GOP like no other: immigration.

The meeting concluded with little tangible progress toward a final bill, but Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters there was agreement within the House GOP that they would continue to work on a bill that addressed "four pillars" of immigration policy outlined earlier this year by the White House. Ryan said that is "the most optimistic, plausible chance of getting [a bill] into law."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Tuesday he is canceling the annual August recess to deal with a legislative backlog he blamed on the chamber's Democratic minority.

"Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president's nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled," McConnell said in a statement that made official a decision that had been anticipated for weeks.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, already battling roughly a dozen ethics investigations, allegedly asked a top aide to obtain a used mattress from President Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel.

Millan Hupp, Pruitt's director of scheduling and advance, told House investigators last month that she couldn't track down the mattress, and didn't know if Pruitt ultimately got one.

A spokeswoman for the Trump International Hotel had no comment on any aspect of the story.

lev radin / Shutterstock

President Donald Trump began a trip to Texas on Thursday by meeting privately with families of some of the 10 people killed in a school shooting this month.

Laura Skelding: O'Rourke/Douglas Young: Cruz

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has some breathing space from U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, according to a new poll released by Quinnipiac University on Wednesday. 

Doug Young: O'Rourke/Michael Stravato: Cruz

EDINBURG — Flanked by a nine-piece mariachi band, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez leaned on Beto O'Rourke’s roots while introducing his congressional colleague to a crowd of Rio Grande Valley residents at a recent campaign event.

CHRISTOPHER CONNELLY / KERA NEWS

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez owes $12,000-plus in overdue property taxes on seven properties, a previously unreported shortfall that could prove embarrassing as she tries to unseat Republican Greg Abbott in November.

From Texas Standard.

If you didn’t vote in this week’s primary runoff elections, you’re hardly alone. In fact, you are in the vast majority. According to the Texas Election Source, fewer than 1 million ballots were cast in both parties’ primary runoffs. For the Democrats, it was the lowest primary runoff turnout with a governor’s race on the ballot in almost a century. The Texas Election Source reports the Republicans actually had one of the highest turnouts for a runoff election year, but the percentage of voter participation was still just around 3 percent.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Gov. Greg Abbott officially has a challenger for the midterm elections. Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez has won the Democratic gubernatorial runoff against Houston businessman Andrew White. She is the first openly gay and Latina nominee for Texas governor. 

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

On Tuesday night, Lupe Valdez became the first openly gay and the first Latina candidate to win a major party nomination for Texas governor.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

Texas Democrats will choose their nominee to run for governor in Tuesday's runoff election. None of the nine Democratic gubernatorial candidates who ran in the March primary won more than 50 percent of the vote. So the top two vote-getters are now facing off: Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, won 43 percent of the vote, and Andrew White, from Houston, got 27 percent.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT News

The March primary elections knocked out dozens of Democratic and Republican candidates in crowded races across North Texas.

But not every race had a clear winner. If a single candidate did not win a majority of the votes in the primary, the two candidates who earned the most votes head into a runoff election. 

Facebook campaign pages

PLANO – Since 1991, U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson has represented a section of Texas north of Dallas. The 87-year-old Vietnam War veteran last year announced his plans to retire.

From Texas Standard.

Sunday will mark the second presidential debate for candidates vying to be the next political leader of Mexico. The debate will be televised and take place in the border city of Tijuana.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

When Rep. Jeb Hensarling announced he’d be stepping down as the congressman from Texas’ 5th District, eight Republicans scrambled to replace the staunch conservative. Now the top two vote-getters from the March primary face off in Tuesday’s runoff election: Hensarling’s former campaign manager Bunni Pounds and state Rep. Lance Gooden of Terrell.

The Koch brothers are going rogue.

For years the political network funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch funded politicians on the right, laying the foundation for the libertarian causes the two support. Their support has gone almost exclusively to Republican candidates, with rare exception.

But in the era of Trump, what it means to be on the "right" is changing, and the Koch network's tactics are changing to reflect new realities.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

The 32nd Congressional District in Texas is on the radar for national Democrats. They think they can win the seat and give Republican Congressman Pete Sessions the boot after more than 20 years in office. But they still don’t have a candidate yet for this district that covers a chunk of North Dallas and suburbs like Garland and Richardson. Now, the two Democratic hopefuls are competing in the May 22 runoff.

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