Also in the news this Wednesday: falling rocks kill teen at national park, and Trump seems to back away from Blagojevich commutation.
'Give me your tired, your poor' about Europeans, Trump official claims
A top Trump administration official says that the famous inscription on the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants into the country is about "people coming from Europe" and that America is looking to receive migrants "who can stand on their own two feet."
The comments on Tuesday from Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, came a day after the Trump administration announced it would seek to deny green cards to migrants who seek Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance. The move, and Cuccinelli's defense, prompted an outcry from Democrats and immigration advocates who said the policy would favor wealthier immigrants and disadvantage those from poorer countries in Latin America and Africa.
"This administration finally admitted what we've known all along: They think the Statue of Liberty only applies to white people," tweeted former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a Democratic presidential candidate.
The administration's proposed policy shift comes as President Donald Trump is leaning more heavily into the restrictive immigration policies that have energized his core supporters and were central to his 2016 victory. He has also spoken disparagingly about immigration from majority black and Hispanic countries, including calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals when he launched his 2016 campaign. Last year, he privately branded Central American and African nations as "shithole" countries and he suggested the U.S. take in more immigrants from European countries like predominantly white Norway.
Cuccinelli said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday night that the Emma Lazarus poem emblazoned on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty referred to "people coming from Europe where they had class based societies where people were considered wretched if they weren't in the right class."
Lazarus' poem, written in 1883 to raise money to construct the Statue of Liberty's pedestal and cast in bronze beneath the monument in 1903, served as a beacon to millions of immigrants who crossed past as they first entered the U.S. in New York Harbor. It reads, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore."
Cuccinelli was asked earlier Tuesday on NPR whether the words "give me your tired, your poor" were part of the American ethos. Cuccinelli responded: "They certainly are. Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."
A hard-line conservative from Virginia, Cuccinelli was a failed Republican candidate for governor in 2013 after serving as the state's attorney general. He backed Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for president in 2016 and for a time was a harsh critic of Trump.
Trump, asked Tuesday about Cuccinelli's comments on NPR, appeared to back him up.
"I don't think it's fair to have the American taxpayer paying for people to come into the United States," Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One for Pennsylvania. "I think we're doing it right."
Protesters apologize, flights resume at Hong Kong airport
Flights resumed at Hong Kong's airport Wednesday after two days of disruptions marked by outbursts of violence that highlight the hardening positions of pro-democracy protesters and the authorities in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
About three dozen protesters remained camped in the airport's arrivals area a day after a mass demonstration and frenzied mob violence forced more than 100 flight cancelations. Additional identification checks were in place, but check-in counters were open and flights appeared to be operating normally.
Protesters spread pamphlets and posters across the floor in a section of the terminal but were not impeding travelers. Online, they also circulated letters and promotional materials apologizing to travelers and the general public for inconveniences during the past five days of airport occupations.
"It is not our intention to cause delays to your travels and we do not want to cause inconvenience to you," said an emailed statement from a group of protesters. "We ask for your understanding and forgiveness as young people in Hong Kong continue to fight for freedom and democracy."
The airport's management said it had obtained "an interim injunction to restrain persons from unlawfully and willfully obstructing or interfering" with airport operations. It said an area of the airport had been set aside for demonstrations, but no protests would be allowed outside the designated area.
The airport had closed check-in for remaining flights late Tuesday afternoon as protesters swarmed the terminal and blocked access to immigration for departing passengers. Those cancelations were in addition to 200 flights canceled on Monday.
Hong Kong police said they arrested five people during clashes with pro-democracy protesters at the airport Tuesday night.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Operations Mak Chin-ho said the men, aged between 17 and 28, were arrested for illegal assembly. Two were also charged with assaulting a police officer and possessing offensive weapons as riot police sought to clear the terminal.
More than 700 protesters have been arrested in total since early June, mostly men in their 20s and 30s, but also including women, teenagers and septuagenarians.
Mak gave no further details, but said additional suspects were expected to be arrested, including those who assaulted an officer after stripping him of his baton and pepper spray, prompting him to draw his gun to fend them off.
Hong Kong law permits life imprisonment for those who commit violent acts or acts that might interfere with flight safety at an airport.
More than 7 million travelers pass through Hong Kong's airport each year, making it "not an appropriate place of protest," Mak said.
"Hong Kong police have always facilitated peaceful and orderly protests over the years, but the extremely radical and violent acts have certainly crossed the line and are to be most severely condemned," he said. "The police pledge to all citizens of Hong Kong that we will take steps to bring all culprits to justice."
Teen killed, 4 hurt by falling rocks at Glacier National Park
A 14-year-old girl was killed and four others injured when falling rocks hit their car at the Glacier National Park in Montana.
The rocks hit the top of the car Monday night and shattered the rear windshield. In addition to killing the girl, rocks also injured her parents and two other children in the vehicle, the park said in a statement.
It estimated the rocks were between fist-sized and 12 inches in diameter along with enough debris from the rockfall to fill the bed of a pickup truck. The incident happened near the East Tunnel on the popular and mountainous Going-to-the-Sun Road.
An ambulance that responded could not airlift the girl because of her unstable condition, the park said.
Flight paramedics traveled with her using ground ambulance to Kalispell, Montana. She died while being transported to a local hospital, the park said.
"The two adults suffered significant bruises and were transported to area hospitals. The two other children in the vehicle had minor injuries and also went by ambulance to the hospital," the park said.
The victims were visiting from Utah, and authorities will release their names once family notifications are complete. Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed briefly Monday night while crew cleared the rocks and a tow truck removed the vehicle.
The last fatal injury from rockfall on the Going-to-the-Sun Road was in 1996 when a vehicle was struck, according to the park.
Man accused of force-feeding meth to his cat
A New Mexico man has been charged with a felony after police say his cat tested positive for methamphetamines.
Aaron Spaulding, 39, was initially arrested on June 4 and accused of battering his girlfriend and holding her against her will, the Las Cruces Police Department said in a statement.
While police were responding to the incident at Spaulding's home, they learned he may have been neglecting his dog and a domestic shorthair cat, police said.
Authorities said he strangled and force-fed drugs to the cat, and announced Tuesday that they'd upgraded his animal cruelty counts to a felony after tests found the cat had methamphetamines in its system.
Information on his attorney was not immediately available.
He was originally charged with false imprisonment, two counts of battery against a household member, interference with communication and two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, according to court records.
Authorities said a veterinarian reported signs of neurological deficits in the cat, who was treated and adopted into another home.
'Chrisley Knows Best' reality TV stars charged with tax evasion
A federal grand jury in Atlanta on Tuesday indicted reality television stars Todd and Julie Chrisley on charges including tax evasion, alleging among other things that they tried to hide their income from "Chrisley Knows Best" from the IRS.
The 12-count indictment also accuses the pair of conspiracy, bank fraud and wire fraud.
"The allegations contained in the indictment are based on complete falsehoods. The Chrisleys are innocent of all charges," Chrisley attorneys Bruce H. Morris and Stephen Friedberg said in an emailed statement.
Accountant Peter Tarantino, 56, was charged in the indictment with conspiracy to defraud the United States and aiding the filing of a false tax return. A woman who answered the phone at his office outside Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon said he was with a client and would have no comment.
"Chrisley Knows Best" follows the tight-knit, boisterous family living in the Nashville area. Much of the series emphasizes Todd Chrisley's obsessive yet comedic efforts to keep tabs on three of his kids, two of whom are in their 20s, and his mother.
The series has aired on USA for seven seasons and recently premiered a spinoff called "Growing Up Chrisley," featuring his kids Chase and Savannah, who move to Los Angeles. Todd Chrisley also briefly hosted a talk show, "According to Chrisley," for the network. Todd, 51, and Julie Chrisley, 46, also have a podcast called "Chrisley Confessions."
A representative for NBCUniversal, which owns USA, declined to comment.
The family moved to Tennessee a few years ago, but the criminal charges stem from when they lived in Atlanta's northern suburbs, U.S. Attorney Byung J. BJay Pak said.
Todd Chrisley denied any wrongdoing in a lengthy Instagram post Monday. He said he was aware that he and his wife were going to be named in a federal indictment for tax evasion "and probably a bunch of other financial crimes as well."
In his post, Chrisley said the charges stem from a dispute with an unidentified former employee who he said was fired after the Chrisleys discovered in 2012 that he was stealing from them. The former employee then retaliated by bringing phony documents to the U.S. attorney's office and told prosecutors the Chrisleys had committed financial crimes, Chrisley wrote.
Pak said at a news conference Tuesday that he was aware of Chrisley's post and that the former employee is identified in the indictment as "Co-conspirator A." Pak said Chrisley "directed the falsifying or creation of false documents and directed Co-conspirator A to submit them" to banks.
The scheme, which lasted from 2007 to 2012, involved submitting fake bank and financial statements to financial institutions to get loans worth millions, "much of which they used for their own personal benefit," the indictment says.
"Just because you're rich and on a TV show doesn't mean that the law is not going to come get you when you commit a federal crime," Pak said, adding that his office intends to seek prison time for the Chrisleys.
Bad news for Blago as Trump backs away from commutation
So much for freedom, for now, for imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
After President Donald Trump hinted last week that he was on the cusp of commuting Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence for corruption, Trump got plenty of pushback from Republicans in Illininois' congressional delegation.
Sources told CNN that several of them called Trump's chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and the White House counsel to oppose such a move.
At least two of them, Reps. Darin LaHood and Mike Bost, made their case directly to the President on Thursday night, urging him not to go forward. They laid out the litany of crimes Blagojevich committed while in office and argued it would send the wrong message to voters about corruption by public officials.
Trump's response: "I wish I had the perspective before," according to Bost, who served on the Illinois House's impeachment committee to remove Blagojevich from office in 2009.
"Those charges were so outrageously bad," Bost said.
That same evening, LaHood -- a former federal and state prosecutor -- called Trump as well and laid out in detail the brazen charges against Blagojevich, including allegations he threatened to cancel millions in state dollars for a children's hospital if its CEO did not write him a $25,000 campaign check. Among the charges was that Blagojevich attempted to sell former President Barack Obama's Senate seat that he resigned in order to become president.
Trump also was told that Blagojevich, who once appeared on Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" show, had shown no remorse for his crimes, sources told CNN.
A White House official downplayed the idea anything had changed, insisting there is "no pumping the brakes" on Blagojevich and that Trump is still looking at a handful of possible pardons and commutations. The New York Times first reported that Trump was having second thoughts about commuting Blagojevich's sentence.