“The ‘investigation’ conducted over the past five days is a stain on the process, on the FBI and on our American ideal of justice,” read the letter from attorneys Debra Katz, Lisa Banks and Michael Bromwich.
The letter said the FBI “failed to interview” Ford, who alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during their high school years. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation, and senators received the results of the FBI review into Kavanaugh on Thursday.
Ford appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week where she testified about her allegations against Kavanaugh after coming forward publicly earlier last month.
Mitch McConnell started the clock before the Kavanaugh vote. Here's what happens next.

The attorneys said the FBI also did not interview witnesses with information relevant to Ford’s allegations, and in their letter, they provided a series of suggested witnesses who they said were still available to speak with investigators.
The people in the letter include the former FBI agent who conducted Ford’s polygraph in August, Ford’s husband and friends of Ford’s who said Ford told them of an assault.
“None were contacted nor, to our knowledge, were more than a dozen other names we provided to the FBI whose interviews would have challenged the credibility of Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on September 27, 2018,” the letter read.
The FBI did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
The attorneys said they were “heartened” when the Senate pushed for the FBI investigation last week and that it would have been feasible for the FBI to speak with the witnesses they suggested within the one-week time limit imposed on the review.
On Friday, around 11 a.m. ET, the Senate plans to vote to end debate on the Kavanaugh nomination and set up a full floor vote (aka invoke cloture). That final vote on whether Kavanaugh makes the court should be on Saturday.
Between now and then, there’s going to be a WHOLE lot of spin about a) what’s in the report and b) what it means (or should mean) for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“This is now the 7th time the FBI has investigated Judge Kavanaugh,” President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. “If we made it 100, it would still not be good enough for the Obstructionist Democrats.” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday that he had been briefed on the supplemental FBI report and concluded “there’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know.”
“The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it,” said Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein, referring, presumably, to a lack of FBI investigation into Kavanaugh’s past drinking.
You should ignore all of this. Truly. Because, if we’re being honest, it doesn’t really matter what Trump or Grassley or Schumer or me or you think the report says or doesn’t say about Kavanaugh and whether he should be on the court. All that matters are the opinions of the five senators — three Republicans and two Democrats — who have yet to announce how they plan to vote on Kavanaugh.

THE POINT — NOW ON YOUTUBE!

In each episode of his weekly YouTube show, Chris Cillizza will delve a little deeper into the surreal world of politics. Click to subscribe!

Here’s a look at each of the undecideds — and some attempt to crawl into their brains to figure out what is factoring into their decisions. I’m going to start with the trio of Republicans because I think how they vote will tell us a lot about how the two Democrats make up their minds.

The Republicans

1. Susan Collins, R-Maine: Collins is the lynchpin of this whole thing, to my mind. She’s emerged over the past five-ish years as the face of the fading group of centrists within the Senate. This has been — as I noted on Wednesday — a very good thing for her political career.
But this decision could be the toughest one of her 20-plus-year Senate career, and the one with the most potentially serious political implications, too. The anti-Kavanaugh forces have been all over Collins — protesting outside her office and raising better than $1 million for her eventual 2020 Democratic challenger if she votes for the judge. The senator herself has revealed little of her thinking; at the end of last month, CNN reported that Collins had major concerns about the spate of allegations from women against Kavanaugh.
And remember this; Collins’ initial resistance to Kavanaugh was concern over whether he might help make abortion illegal. After meeting with him for more than two hours in August, the Maine Republican emerged to tell reporters that Kavanaugh “said that he agreed with what Justice Roberts said at his nomination hearing, in which he said it was settled law.”
Coming out of the reading the FBI report, Collins praised the probe as “a very thorough investigation” — which suggests she may be leaning in favor of voting for Kavanaugh.
2. Jeff Flake: The retiring Arizona senator is the reason the FBI supplemental investigation happened at all. His second thoughts as the vote on Kavanaugh neared in the Senate Judiciary Committee wound up forging a deal whereby the FBI would look into claims made by Ford and Ramirez.
Flake, who has been on a media binge since he delayed the Kavanaugh vote, has made clear that if any of the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh are true, then he won’t be voting for him. Which, duh. Flake has also said that if it can be proven that Kavanaugh didn’t tell the truth during his Judiciary Committee testimony that would also disqualify the judge for the nation’s highest court.
Presumably, the flip side is also true: If neither corroboration on the sexual assault allegations nor proof that Kavanaugh lied under oath are proved by the FBI report, Flake would, presumably, vote for Kavanaugh.
“We’ve seen no additional corroborating information,” Flake said Thursday, a strong signal that he will be a “yes.”
One X-factor: Flake clearly has his eye on the possibility of a third-party presidential bid in 2020, casting himself as a problem-solving Republican fed up with the most Trumpy wing of the party. What better way to show separation than to vote against Trump’s SCOTUS pick?
3. Lisa Murkowski: The politics of Murkowski’s home state all point to a “yes” vote from her. Alaska went strongly for Trump in 2016 and Murkowski has already had a big brush with the conservative GOP wing in her party in the Last Frontier: She lost the Republican primary in 2010 to a tea party conservative named Joe Miller — only to win the seat as a write-in candidate in the fall.
That victory, however, appears to have convinced Murkowski that she is more able than the average Republican to buck the wishes and demands of her national party. She has established one of the most centrist voting records in the Senate since that race and seems unafraid of standing up to party leaders when the moment demands it.
All that said, it’s hard to imagine Collins and Murkowski going different ways on this vote. And if Collins is leaning in Kavanaugh’s favor, then so is Murkowski.

The Democrats

4. Heidi Heitkamp: When the Republican president wins your state by more than 35 points and then nominates his pick to the Supreme Court, it’s probably good politics to vote for Kavanaugh. That goes double for when polling suggests you are behind your Republican challenger with less than five weeks left in the 2018 campaign.
That all comes with one major caveat: It’s very hard for me to imagine that Heitkamp (or Manchin) is the 50th vote for Kavanaugh. In other words, no Democrat — not even a conservative one like Heitkamp — is going to be the deciding vote that installs a Republican president’s pick for the Supreme Court.
Now, if Republicans already have the 50 votes they need, it’s hard for me to see Heitkamp voting against Kavanaugh just because.
5. Joe Manchin: Despite West Virginia’s very clear Republican lean, Manchin appears to be in pretty strong shape to beat state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) in November.
Given his positioning, lots of Republicans are privately acknowledging that if Manchin votes for Kavanaugh, he’s probably sealing his victory in 33 days’ time.
That said, like Heitkamp, I can’t imagine Manchin being the deciding vote to confirm Kavanaugh. But, if Republicans already have the numbers, why would Manchin vote against Kavanaugh and hand Morrisey a lifeline in a race where he’s clearly drowning?
If you look at the various competing interests and beliefs of these five senators, you get a clear sense that Kavanaugh is more likely than not to be confirmed. Things can — and have — changed before. But that’s the state of play right now.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Thursday that the FBI probe into allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate sexual behavior against Kavanaugh seems to be “very thorough” and said she would read the findings in full later in the day.
“It appears to be a very thorough investigation,” Collins, who has not yet indicated how she plans to vote on the nomination, told reporters in the Capitol.
Collins is among a handful of senators whose votes could decide the fate of the nomination. The Maine Republican — along with Republican Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — are under intense scrutiny for clues as to how they may vote on the nomination as Senate Republicans push for a final vote, which could happen as early as Saturday.
Flake said later Thursday morning that he agreed with Collins’ pronouncement that the investigation was thorough.
When asked by CNN if he was more inclined to support Kavanaugh after leaving the staff briefing on the report, Flake responded, “we’ve seen no additional corroborating information” to the claims against Kavanaugh, and added he needs to finish reviewing the material.
Flake pushed for the FBI probe last Friday following a day full of highly-charged testimony from Kavanaugh and the woman who accused him of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford. Flake agreed to vote Kavanaugh’s nomination out of committee with a favorable recommendation on the condition that the FBI further investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh, a push that Collins and Murkowski publicly supported.
Senate Republicans need a simple majority to clear a procedural hurdle on Friday to end debate on the nomination and advance to a confirmation vote as early as the following day.
Kavanaugh has denied all allegations against him.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Thursday that the FBI probe into allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate sexual behavior against Kavanaugh seems to be “very thorough” and said she would read the findings in full later in the day.
“It appears to be a very thorough investigation,” Collins, who has not yet indicated how she plans to vote on the nomination, told reporters in the Capitol.
Collins is among a handful of senators whose votes could decide the fate of the nomination. The Maine Republican — along with Republican Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — are under intense scrutiny for clues as to how they may vote on the nomination as Senate Republicans push for a final vote, which could happen as early as Saturday.
Flake said later Thursday morning that he agreed with Collins’ pronouncement that the investigation was thorough.
When asked by CNN if he was more inclined to support Kavanaugh after leaving the staff briefing on the report, Flake responded, “we’ve seen no additional corroborating information” to the claims against Kavanaugh, and added he needs to finish reviewing the material.
Flake pushed for the FBI probe last Friday following a day full of highly-charged testimony from Kavanaugh and the woman who accused him of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford. Flake agreed to vote Kavanaugh’s nomination out of committee with a favorable recommendation on the condition that the FBI further investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh, a push that Collins and Murkowski publicly supported.
Senate Republicans need a simple majority to clear a procedural hurdle on Friday to end debate on the nomination and advance to a confirmation vote as early as the following day.
Kavanaugh has denied all allegations against him.
On Friday, around 11 a.m. ET, the Senate plans to vote to end debate on the Kavanaugh nomination and set up a full floor vote (aka invoke cloture). That final vote on whether Kavanaugh makes the court should be on Saturday.
Between now and then, there’s going to be a WHOLE lot of spin about a) what’s in the report and b) what it means (or should mean) for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“This is now the 7th time the FBI has investigated Judge Kavanaugh,” President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. “If we made it 100, it would still not be good enough for the Obstructionist Democrats.” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday that he had been briefed on the supplemental FBI report and concluded “there’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know.”
“The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it,” said Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein, referring, presumably, to a lack of FBI investigation into Kavanaugh’s past drinking.
You should ignore all of this. Truly. Because, if we’re being honest, it doesn’t really matter what Trump or Grassley or Schumer or me or you think the report says or doesn’t say about Kavanaugh and whether he should be on the court. All that matters are the opinions of the five senators — three Republicans and two Democrats — who have yet to announce how they plan to vote on Kavanaugh.

THE POINT — NOW ON YOUTUBE!

In each episode of his weekly YouTube show, Chris Cillizza will delve a little deeper into the surreal world of politics. Click to subscribe!

Here’s a look at each of the undecideds — and some attempt to crawl into their brains to figure out what is factoring into their decisions. I’m going to start with the trio of Republicans because I think how they vote will tell us a lot about how the two Democrats make up their minds.

The Republicans

1. Susan Collins, R-Maine: Collins is the lynchpin of this whole thing, to my mind. She’s emerged over the past five-ish years as the face of the fading group of centrists within the Senate. This has been — as I noted on Wednesday — a very good thing for her political career.
But this decision could be the toughest one of her 20-plus-year Senate career, and the one with the most potentially serious political implications, too. The anti-Kavanaugh forces have been all over Collins — protesting outside her office and raising better than $1 million for her eventual 2020 Democratic challenger if she votes for the judge. The senator herself has revealed little of her thinking; at the end of last month, CNN reported that Collins had major concerns about the spate of allegations from women against Kavanaugh.
And remember this; Collins’ initial resistance to Kavanaugh was concern over whether he might help make abortion illegal. After meeting with him for more than two hours in August, the Maine Republican emerged to tell reporters that Kavanaugh “said that he agreed with what Justice Roberts said at his nomination hearing, in which he said it was settled law.”
Coming out of the reading the FBI report, Collins praised the probe as “a very thorough investigation” — which suggests she may be leaning in favor of voting for Kavanaugh.
2. Jeff Flake: The retiring Arizona senator is the reason the FBI supplemental investigation happened at all. His second thoughts as the vote on Kavanaugh neared in the Senate Judiciary Committee wound up forging a deal whereby the FBI would look into claims made by Ford and Ramirez.
Flake, who has been on a media binge since he delayed the Kavanaugh vote, has made clear that if any of the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh are true, then he won’t be voting for him. Which, duh. Flake has also said that if it can be proven that Kavanaugh didn’t tell the truth during his Judiciary Committee testimony that would also disqualify the judge for the nation’s highest court.
Presumably, the flip side is also true: If neither corroboration on the sexual assault allegations nor proof that Kavanaugh lied under oath are proved by the FBI report, Flake would, presumably, vote for Kavanaugh.
“We’ve seen no additional corroborating information,” Flake said Thursday, a strong signal that he will be a “yes.”
One X-factor: Flake clearly has his eye on the possibility of a third-party presidential bid in 2020, casting himself as a problem-solving Republican fed up with the most Trumpy wing of the party. What better way to show separation than to vote against Trump’s SCOTUS pick?
3. Lisa Murkowski: The politics of Murkowski’s home state all point to a “yes” vote from her. Alaska went strongly for Trump in 2016 and Murkowski has already had a big brush with the conservative GOP wing in her party in the Last Frontier: She lost the Republican primary in 2010 to a tea party conservative named Joe Miller — only to win the seat as a write-in candidate in the fall.
That victory, however, appears to have convinced Murkowski that she is more able than the average Republican to buck the wishes and demands of her national party. She has established one of the most centrist voting records in the Senate since that race and seems unafraid of standing up to party leaders when the moment demands it.
All that said, it’s hard to imagine Collins and Murkowski going different ways on this vote. And if Collins is leaning in Kavanaugh’s favor, then so is Murkowski.

The Democrats

4. Heidi Heitkamp: When the Republican president wins your state by more than 35 points and then nominates his pick to the Supreme Court, it’s probably good politics to vote for Kavanaugh. That goes double for when polling suggests you are behind your Republican challenger with less than five weeks left in the 2018 campaign.
That all comes with one major caveat: It’s very hard for me to imagine that Heitkamp (or Manchin) is the 50th vote for Kavanaugh. In other words, no Democrat — not even a conservative one like Heitkamp — is going to be the deciding vote that installs a Republican president’s pick for the Supreme Court.
Now, if Republicans already have the 50 votes they need, it’s hard for me to see Heitkamp voting against Kavanaugh just because.
5. Joe Manchin: Despite West Virginia’s very clear Republican lean, Manchin appears to be in pretty strong shape to beat state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) in November.
Given his positioning, lots of Republicans are privately acknowledging that if Manchin votes for Kavanaugh, he’s probably sealing his victory in 33 days’ time.
That said, like Heitkamp, I can’t imagine Manchin being the deciding vote to confirm Kavanaugh. But, if Republicans already have the numbers, why would Manchin vote against Kavanaugh and hand Morrisey a lifeline in a race where he’s clearly drowning?
If you look at the various competing interests and beliefs of these five senators, you get a clear sense that Kavanaugh is more likely than not to be confirmed. Things can — and have — changed before. But that’s the state of play right now.
According to a release from the Women’s March and the Center for Popular Democracy, thousands of women and their allies are expected to protest in Washington as US senators and key staff review the FBI’s supplemental report on Kavanaugh and allegations of sexual misconduct made against him.
Demonstrators will gather Thursday afternoon at the Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse and march to the Supreme Court, where they’ll hold a rally, organizers said. A couple hours later, on the East Steps of the Capitol, survivors of sexual violence will participate in a “speakout.”
“Sexual assault and violence against women are and should be disqualifying for a position on the Supreme Court,” said Women’s March Co-Chair Tamika Mallory in the statement. “We won’t be silent while the GOP works to put an abuser on the Supreme Court.”
Senate reviewing FBI report on Kavanaugh

Thursday’s rallies come after anti-Kavanaugh protests were held around the country on Wednesday. Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, shared images on Twitter of street protests in Anchorage, Alaska; Charleston, West Virginia; and other cities.
Protesters also gathered in the shadow of the Capitol and the Supreme Court last week as Kavanaugh’s accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and the judge himself addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee in a high-stakes hearing.
Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has set in motion a process designed to lead to a procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday that would possibly lead to a final vote as early as the following day.
On Thursday, activists like Elizabeth Kennedy — who hoped to put pressure on a small group of key senators who remain undecided on Kavanaugh’s nomination — boarded buses in New York before sunrise Thursday morning to make the journey to Washington.
When asked about President Donald Trump’s comments earlier this week that this is a “very scary time for young men in America,” Kennedy suggested survivors needed to have support and should be believed.
“I think it’s deeply problematic and concerning,” Kennedy told CNN’s Athena Jones, “because it’s sending a message that it’s not just about believing survivors, it’s about the fact that we don’t care about their experiences … It’s important to remind us that we need to value those voices.”
Lawmakers are currently on track to take a key procedural vote on Friday, which could be a make-or-break moment for the nomination, with a final confirmation vote possible on Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the process in motion last night by filing cloture on the nomination, but the exact timing of votes may hinge on what happens over the next 24 or so hours as Republicans and Democrats review the findings of an FBI investigation into allegations against the nominee.
Five key senators — Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine and Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — have not yet indicated how they will vote on the nomination and have said they were awaiting the results of the FBI inquiry before making up their minds. Some or all of those senators could announce how they plan to vote Thursday or they may wait until Friday’s initial vote to show their hand.
Senate Republicans only need a simple majority — or 50 votes if all 100 senators vote and Vice President Mike Pence breaks a tie — to successfully clear the procedural hurdle set up by Friday’s initial vote and move forward to a final vote.
The final confirmation vote must meet the same threshold to be successful after the GOP invoked the so-called “nuclear option” to allow for a simple majority vote to break filibusters on a Supreme Court nominee rather than the standard 60-vote threshold. That move helped Republicans confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch and marked another step in a years-long partisan fight over judicial confirmation rules.
If Republicans have enough votes during Friday’s initial vote to move forward to a final confirmation vote on Saturday that may mean enough votes are locked in to confirm Kavanaugh. As a result, Friday’s vote will be viewed as a critical test of whether the nomination can succeed.
Still, there could be uncertainty over the final outcome until the very last minute.
Even if the Senate clears Friday’s procedural hurdle, it doesn’t necessarily mean Kavanaugh will win confirmation since a senator could vote to move forward, but ultimately decide not to support the nomination during the final vote.
Whatever happens, it looks like the contentious battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination will soon be over, even as Democrats continue to protest the way Senate Republicans handled the confirmation proceedings and the investigation into allegations against the nominee.
The FBI began its investigation into allegations facing Kavanaugh last week after Flake called for the inquiry with the backing of Collins and Murkowski. Lawmakers are now reviewing the findings of the inquiry, and key Republicans are already pressing ahead to a final vote.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, reaffirmed his support for Kavanaugh on Thursday after reviewing the results of the investigation and called for the Senate to vote.
“I’ve now received a committee staff briefing on the FBI’s supplement to Judge Kavanaugh’s background investigation file. There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know,” he said, adding: “It’s time to vote.”
It’s how he reaches northern Jordan, where his loved ones are struggling to make ends meet, how he hears their voices, how he checks in on his ailing father-in-law.
When he first arrived in America 19 months ago with his wife and kids, Mazen would show photos on his phone to his two young children, reminding them about the uncles and grandparents they thought would soon be joining them.
But now, Mazen says his children are asking heartbreaking questions when he flicks through photos of family members who used to be familiar faces.
“After almost two years,” he says, “they ask me, ‘Who’s that? Where are they?'”
And time and again, Mazen says, the children ask a question that he struggles to answer: When will they join us?
Mazen and his wife Salam — who asked to be identified only by their first names to protect their family — arrived in the United States just before President Trump took office. The Syrian refugees thought their other family members were just a few weeks away.
Now they’re not sure they’ll ever make it, as the US continues efforts to step up screenings and decrease the number of refugees the country lets in.
Mazen and Salam say they don’t know why their family members haven’t made it to the US yet. But they fear new refugee policies are to blame. Officials, they say, have only told them that security screenings are still pending.
The United States recently announced plans to dramatically lower the number of refugees the country can admit in fiscal year 2019 to 30,000, a figure that government officials say reflects the government’s capacity to process refugees under new, stricter security screenings.
Refugee advocates and immigrant rights groups argue the new cap is the latest in a series of xenophobic efforts by the administration to scale back immigration and demonize foreigners to score political points.
And the US just reached a new milestone: in the 2018 fiscal year, which ended Sunday, the country admitted just 22,491 refugees — the lowest number since the refugee resettlement program began in 1980.
Critics claim the United States is turning its back on the world’s most vulnerable people at a time when global refugee numbers are at a historic high.
Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back against the Trump administration’s detractors saying, “We are and continue to be the most generous nation in the world.”
Meanwhile, Mazen and Salam say their lives in the United States are in limbo until the rest of their family arrives.

An unprecedented drop in admissions

By any measure, the number of refugees admitted to the US in 2018 was historically low.
The US welcomed less than half of the 45,000 refugees that it could have under this year’s admissions cap.
The 22,491 refugees admitted in 2018 also represents a steep drop from recent years: more than 53,000 were admitted in 2017 and nearly 85,000 came in 2016.
This year’s admissions are even lower than the 27,000 admitted in 2002, in the aftermath of 9/11, when virtually all paths of entry into the US were under intense scrutiny.
In response to a question about why this year’s admissions were so low, a State Department representative said that new screening and vetting procedures required by an executive order meant that the department did not have the resources to process more applications.
That executive order — the second iteration of the administration’s so-called “travel ban” — was issued by President Trump in March 2017 and set restrictions on refugee admissions.
A later memo from President Trump implemented “enhanced vetting” for refugees from 11 countries — including Syria — deemed high risk by the secretaries of state and homeland security.
At the time, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen released a statement justifying the new procedures saying, “These additional security measures will make it harder for bad actors to exploit our refugee program, and they will ensure we take a more risk-based approach to protecting the homeland.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced plans to lower the number of refugees the US can admit in fiscal year 2019 at a press conference last month.

Refugee advocates say the slowdown is due to these new security hurdles being introduced.
“They’ve vastly increased the paperwork and data points that they collect on individuals, and at the same time, the administration really cut the capacity to process refugees,” said Nazanin Ash, vice president for policy and advocacy at the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
Administration officials acknowledge that the new vetting measures take longer, but say they’re necessary to make the refugee program more secure.
The State Department representative described the screenings as “critical.” And L. Francis Cissna, head of US Citizenship and Immigration Services said at a conference in Washington this week that “this administration recognizes that nothing’s more important than protecting our national security.”
For refugees coming from Syria — like Mazen and Salam’s family — and other countries identified as high risk by the US government, admissions slowed to a trickle in 2018.
Year over year, refugees coming to the US from Syria fell 99%, from 6,557 in 2017 to only 62 in 2018. The Syrian civil war has been raging since 2011, and has killed an estimated 400,000 people and forced 5.6 million people to flee fighting in the country.
Countries like Iraq and Somalia also saw precipitous drops, with admissions from those countries falling 98% and 96% respectively.
The US role in resettling refugees was a point of debate before President Trump took office, with American attitudes toward refugees mostly split down partisan lines. A 2016 Pew Research Center survey showed 54% of voters polled did not think the US had a responsibility to accept Syrian refugees. Reaction to Trump’s travel ban was similarly split.
And lengthy screening processes that can last for years are also nothing new.
But the IRC’s Nazanin Ash and other refugee advocates say the Trump administration’s policies have made the process even more cumbersome for those in the pipeline, and forced the lives of qualified families seeking refuge into limbo.
For instance, refugees seeking to resettle in the US must clear a host of medical, security and background checks. But Ash says each of these comes with an expiration date.
According to the IRC, thousands of refugees seeking resettlement are seeing clearances expire — primarily their medical ones — due to the long wait times to pass the US’ new security screenings.
“You get trapped in a merry-go-round of screening procedures,” Ash said.
Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan was established in 2012 and is now home to nearly 80,000 refugees.

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan was established in 2012 and is now home to nearly 80,000 refugees.

But beyond an individual family’s experience, Ash is concerned about the consequences.
“There are foreign policy, national security and regional security implications of the administration’s refugee policy,” she said, “because other countries are saying, ‘If the US isn’t going to take refugees, why are they leaning on us to do it?'”

Waiting, with no end in sight

When he was young, Mazen dreamed of going to the US, of learning English, of getting a degree.
But while he waits and hopes that his family can join them in Atlanta, his dreams seem as far out of reach as they’ve ever been.
Six days a week, Mazen works long hours at a Mediterranean restaurant an hour from his home, leaving little time for him to master a new language — which he believes is the key to bettering his family’s situation in America.
“I’m a very ambitious guy,” he said. “But when I arrived here, I faced a lot of closed doors because I have to work so much to support my family here and our family in Jordan.”
What little money he has left over after paying the bills, he sends to family in Jordan — $100 to Salam’s family and $100 to his own.
“It’s nothing, but at least I feel like I’m supporting them,” he said.
Life in Atlanta has not been easy for Salam either.
As the oldest of six children, she worries constantly about her family in Jordan. She says her father’s health took a turn for the worse because of the stress of their delayed admission, and now he is no longer able to work. And her younger sister, who she says was an excellent student, had to drop out during her senior year of high school to help the family make ends meet.
For Salam, life has turned into a seemingly endless cycle of waiting.
Waiting for her husband to get home from work. Waiting for the day when she can take time away from caring for their children to learn English. And waiting for that call — the one that tells her that her family is on the way.
“I feel I am alone here with no support,” Salam said. “My life has stopped until they arrive.”
If there’s a “Gang” formed in the Senate, Collins is on it. If there’s a bipartisan huddle to be had, Collins is in it. If there is a “small group of undecided senators who could make all the difference,” Collins is part of it.
That status as the center of the center of the Senate has been remarkably beneficial to Collins’ political life. Elected first in 1996, she spent years in the shadow of her fellow Mainer Olympia Snowe. But since Snowe’s retirement from the Senate in 2012, Collins has emerged as a major political force in both Washington and Maine.
As such, she was heavily courted by Maine Republicans to run for the open governor’s mansion in 2018. She decided against that race last October and, in her announcement explaining why, she cited an unnamed Senate colleague who told her “the institution would suffer in your absence.” Added Collins: “As I thought about the senator’s words, I realized how much needs to be done in a divided, troubled Washington, if we are to serve the people that we represent effectively. I have demonstrated the ability to work across the aisle to build coalitions and to listen to the concerns of the people of my state, my country and my colleagues.”
Reading between the lines, what Collins was saying was this: I’m in a position — the middle — of real power in a closely divided Senate. Being one of the few senators who don’t automatically line up with their respective political tribe gives me influence and sway well beyond just a single senator from a Northeastern states.
Which, again, has generally been true. Collins has been a critical linchpin in deals on everything from then President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package to helping make a deal on long-term unemployment benefits. Her role in these situations — and lots of others like them — has generally followed a very clear blueprint: She makes clear she is unhappy with the current state of the proposal, suggests she would be open to compromise and works to gather a group of like-minded folks to improve her power via numbers.

THE POINT — NOW ON YOUTUBE!

In each episode of his weekly YouTube show, Chris Cillizza will delve a little deeper into the surreal world of politics. Click to subscribe!

All of that brings us to the current moment in which Collins as well as Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Arizona) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) are seen as the three people who can and will make or break Kavanaugh’s chance at the nation’s highest court. And the very clear reality that Collins isn’t having all that much fun at the moment.
Her office is flooded with activists, most of them insisting that she vote against Kavanaugh. A crowd-funded effort organized by liberals raised more than $1 million that could be transferred to her 2020 Democratic opponent’s campaign account if she votes for Kavanaugh. (In a sign of how bothered Collins was by the effort, her spokeswoman described the move as “bribery” and “extortion” in a statement.) Reporters have clashed with Capitol Police over whether they are allowed to stake out Collins’ personal and committee offices.
All of that mishigas points to a simple reality for Collins: This Kavanaugh vote — and she finds herself on it — is very, very different than your run-of-the-mill centrists-strike-compromise thing. The truth is that most of the times the Senate forms a working group or a “Gang” of some sort, a deal gets worked out an accepted by the party leadership long before there is a floor vote. Politicians don’t like to see blood on the floor — especially when it’s their own. So they tend to handle these things behind the scenes. The likes of Collins and Murkowski can take credit for making the deal happen without having to cast a deciding vote on much of anything.
In fact, the fight over President Donald Trump’s effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is the exception to how this compromise process works. Collins and a few other senators including Arizona’s John McCain made clear they were uncomfortable with the deal proposed by Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But no deal was worked out in advance. McConnell just put the measure on the floor and rolled the dice. McCain’s “no” vote, which Trump still brings up regularly on the campaign trail (including Tuesday night in Mississippi) was the rare instance in which a swing-vote senator is put on the spot, with bad political consequences everywhere you look. (McCain was already in the throes of his battle with brain cancer, of course, and, therefore was less concerned about the political reverberations of his move. He died from the disease in August.)
Unfortunately for Collins, the way the repeal and replace fight played out has eerie similarities to how the Kavanaugh vote debate is coming down. Partisans on both sides are absolutely rabid. Republicans argue that putting Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that Democrats are playing politics with — and in the process destroying a good man. Democrats view Kavanaugh as, at best, someone who didn’t tell the truth about his life while under oath and, at worst, someone who did what Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez accuse him of. There’s almost no ground for a moderate to stand on.
And while Collins, Flake and Murkowski have bought themselves some time by forcing the White House (and McConnell) to delay a final vote on Kavanaugh until the FBI can complete a supplementary background investigation into the nominee, it is VERY likely that the eventual report will be something well short of conclusive about the allegations.
Which will put Collins in a very tight spot. There will be no brokered compromise here. McConnell and the White House are dead-set on holding the confirmation vote before the week is over. Democrats are dead-set on keeping Kavanaugh off the bench. This is coming to a head — quickly — and with zero good political options.
This is not the crucial center that Collins envisioned holding when she decided to pass on a run for governor. This is a vise, that is squeezing ever tighter by the moment, and Collins is caught in it with no easy way out.

Written by Tara John, CNNLondon

A rare bottle of single-malt Scotch was bought for more than $1.1 million in Edinburgh, Scotland, making it the world’s most expensive bottle of whisky to be sold at auction.

The winning bid for the 60-year old Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 was made by a private collector from Asia over the phone, auctioneer Bonhams told CNN.

The sale broke a previous record set by Bonhams in May when another bottle of that same single-malt was sold for a little over $1 million in Hong Kong.

‘Holy Grail’ of whiskies

The whisky was in a vat for 60 years before being bottled in 1986. It has been described by experts as the “Holy Grail” of whiskies because of its quality, artwork and vintage.

The whisky sat in a vat for 60 years after being made in the 1920s.

The whisky sat in a vat for 60 years after being made in the 1920s. Credit: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images

“The world’s most serious whisky collectors will wait patiently for many years for a bottle to come onto the market,” Bonhams whisky specialist in Edinburgh, Martin Green, said in a statement.

Wednesday’s bottle was sold in a specially commissioned cabinet, known as a tantalus, and its previous owner bought it from the Macallan distillery for an undisclosed sum in 1994, Bonhams said.

The bottle is part of a limited edition of 24 bottles that Macallan had two pop artists, Valerio Adami and Peter Blake, design labels for.

The bottle's artwork was conceived by Italian artist Valerio Adami.

The bottle’s artwork was conceived by Italian artist Valerio Adami. Credit: Bonhams

Its price point might also be explained by Bonhams admitting that it doesn’t know how many of the 12 bottles — with labels designed by Adami — still exist.

One is thought to have been destroyed in the 2011 earthquake in Japan and at least another has been “opened and drunk,” Bonhams wrote.