Who Is Judge James L. Robart And Why Did He Block Trump's Immigration Order?

Patrick Wicklund, from Seattle, stands outside the U.S. District Court, Western Washington, on Feb. 3, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a state lawsuit challenging key sections of President Trump’s immigration Executive Order as illegal and unconstitutional. Karen Ducey/Getty Images hide caption

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Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Judge James L. Robart did not have to actually rule on the legality of President Donald Trump’s executive order barring people from seven countries from entering the United States.

In granting a temporary restraining order, the judge essentially had to decide that the plaintiffs (the states of Washington and Minnesota) were:

  1. likely to succeed at a later date
  2. that people in those states could suffer irreparable harm if the ban continued
  3. blocking the President’s order was in the public interest.

In other words, he decided there was more harm letting the ban continue than there was blocking it until the full case could be heard.

But Robart certainly tipped his hand on whether he thought the ban was justified.

He questioned Department of Justice lawyer Michelle Bennett, who was representing the Trump administration, asking, “How many arrests have there been of foreign nationals from those seven countries since 9/11”?

The Sept. 11 attack was one of the rationales behind the executive order, according to the Trump administration.

“I don’t know the specific details of attacks or planned attacks,” said Bennett, who is from the DOJ’s Civil Division.

“The answer to that is none, as best I can tell,” said the judge.

“The rationale was not only 9/11,” Bennett said. “It was to protect the United States from the potential for terrorism.”

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Congress gives the president wide latitude in foreign affairs, which includes granting visas.

“The court doesn’t get to look behind those determinations,” she added.

But the judge answered: “I’m also asked to look and determine if the executive order is rationally based. And rationally based, to some extent, means I have to find it grounded in fact instead of fiction.”

Temporary restraining orders generally last up to 14 days. They can be extended, but the idea is to hold a full hearing on an injunction instead. Of course, a higher court can overturn the restraining order in the meantime.

Who is the judge?

Robart has a history of saying what he thinks. He was nominated for the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2003. He was confirmed unanimously in a 99-0 vote by the Senate in June 2004.

Before that, he was a lawyer in private practice in Seattle. He has worked with at-risk youth in that city and, before becoming a judge, Robart represented refugees from Southeast Asia.

Last year, Robart presided over a case alleging excessive force by Seattle police brought be the Obama administration’s Justice Department. During a hearing, he used FBI statistics to note that police use of deadly force in cities in the U.S. involved 41 percent of black people, despite them being only 20 percent of the population living in those cities.

Robart took a breath and said, “black lives matter.”

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Washington Judge Rules To Halt Trump's Immigration Executive Order

A judge in Washington state recently ruled to halt President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. Washington Governor Jay Inslee talks about the judge’s decision.


Last night’s ruling that halted President Trump’s executive order on immigration came out of Washington state where the state’s attorney general said the immigration ban was causing, quote, “immediate and irreparable injury” to the state. Federal Judge James Robart agreed. President Trump tweeted this morning to say the judge’s ruling is ridiculous and will be overturned. We’re joined now by the governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee, who’s a Democrat. Governor, thanks for being with us.

JAY INSLEE: Good morning.

SIMON: What harm?

INSLEE: Well, the judge found that there is significant harm, not just to the individuals who had such trauma. I mean, I sat next to a crying American citizen whose husband flew from Vienna, had total approval and then couldn’t get six feet to embrace her, and they shipped him back to Vienna. So there was a lot of personal acute harm. I’m – we now have a, you know, an infant who is going to get heart surgery flying in from Iran. But beyond the personal harm, it was a very historic and significant decision because the court held that the state acts in a Latin term, parens patriae, which basically means the state is a protector for its citizens. And the court found that we had business harm that was of obvious dimension where we can’t send sales people around the world.

Expedia, I think, reported there were, like, a thousand reservations of people in the immediate future that were interfered with from these seven countries. The court found that – or at least heard – that we had substantial interference with our research in our educational institutions. We have 230 students at the University of Washington and Washington State University that will no longer be able to effectively travel to do their work and – including one – we have a fellow who’s a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington. He’s doing research on HIV prevention, which I think should be a bipartisan approach. But he was stranded and couldn’t get back to his research and studies at the University of Washington.

So this was a historic decision by the court that the states could act in this capacity. And the court importantly also found that there was a likelihood of success, a likelihood of success all the way through this system. And that’s significant because courts do not issue temporary restraining orders without making that finding. And I’m glad we have courts. Look, I was a little offended – I hope others are – that the president referred to this judge as a so-called judge. I will remind people the last time that he insulted a judge, it cost him $25 million for the privilege when he insulted a judge, said he couldn’t serve because he was Hispanic. So I’m glad we have a strong federal judiciary that will stand by the Constitution. This is checks and balances at its best in the country and protecting the most important values of our country.

SIMON: Governor, we’ve just got about a minute left. Microsoft, Amazon, of course, are there in Washington state. I wonder what you heard from them about this order and its implications.

INSLEE: Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia – they were all supportive. Two of them filed essentially affidavits in support of this issue, and they talked about the diminishment, the damage, to their operations because they – obviously, 90 percent of, you know, all of the consumers are outside the United States. And they want to sell to the world, and they are. We got the best software. We’ve got the best clean energy technology. We’ve got the best airplanes. And it’s very difficult to sell these products if you can’t travel outside of the country. So they filed affidavits showing that they would be materially harmed, and that’s why I’m glad that our state stood up both for the individuals who are so part of the fabric of our communities but also for the business and jobs for the working people that want to do their work. And you know, I’ve focused on jobs. I’ve focused on clean energy jobs and high tech, and we want to keep that ball rolling.

SIMON: Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state, thanks so much.

INSLEE: Thank you.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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WATCH: Want To Throw A Football More than 500,000 Yards? Just Head To Space

Matt Ryan is no slouch.

The Atlanta Falcons quarterback, who will be vying for Super Bowl LI on Sunday, drew plaudits all year for what many have called an MVP-caliber season. By the end of the season, Ryan racked up 4,944 passing yards.

Still, it took Ryan 16 games — and more than 500 throws — to get to that number.

Astronaut Tim Kopra just threw for 564,664 yards. And he did it on a single throw. Underhand.

Kind of.

In new video shot on the International Space Station, NASA posed the question: How far can you throw a football in a zero-G environment?

The answer, it turns out, is really, really far.

Factoring in the orbit of the ISS — which sets the station moving at a blistering 17,500 miles per hour, according to NASA — the space agency says that the football rotating slowly in the center of the frame is actually traveling 8,800 yards per second.

Sure, you may take issue with those caveats, but it’s tough to dispute the video puts Sunday’s action on the gridiron in a slightly different perspective.

But let’s also be frank here, NASA: It’s not a world record … because technically, the toss didn’t exactly happen on this world.

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Fact Checking This Week In The Trump Administration

President Trump speaks on the phone with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, during the first official phone talks in the Oval Office last Saturday. Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s only the second week of the Trump administration, but there has been a continued tension with facts. In his first week, the president boasted about his inaugural crowds and doubled down on false claims that there were millions of illegal voters who swayed the results of the popular vote.

This week, the White House pushed back on claims about the immigration and travel ban the president signed; an adviser used a Kentucky massacre that never occurred to make an argument; the press secretary thundered over (non-) “identical” National Security Councils; and the president referred to refugees as “illegal immigrants” and kept touting the size of his electoral win, including support from black voters and Latinos.


1. “It really is a massive success story in terms of implementation on every single level.” — senior administration official Sunday on the travel/immigration ban and its implementation.

Scenes at major international U.S. airports in the U.S. showed the implementation of the order rocky. There was confusion about whether it applied to green-card holders and U.S. legal residents. A 5-year-old boy was detained for hours. More than a dozen congressional Republicans broke ranks and criticized the rollout of the order, even Trump allies.

“We all share a desire to protect the American people, but this executive order has been poorly implemented, especially with respect to green-card holders,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in a statement.

If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the “bad” would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad “dudes” out there!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017

Some agencies or officials who would be tasked with implementing it weren’t briefed with sufficient time before the order was signed.

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Trump defended that in a tweet saying he didn’t want to give bad dudes a heads up:

2. “These seven countries, what about the 46 majority Muslim countries that are not included. Right there, it totally undercuts this nonsense that this is a Muslim ban.” — White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Fox News Sunday.

It’s true that the words Muslim or Christian never appear in the executive order. And it’s true that it doesn’t ban all Muslims around the world. But the order does effectively ban Muslims from seven majority-Muslim countries and prioritizes Christians (and conceivably other religious minorities).

Trump himself in December 2015 called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Trump supporter and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Fox News on Sunday that Trump originally wanted a Muslim ban, but asked how to do it legally, so it became about dangerous countries instead of religion.

Maybe “majority Muslim” is wrong. It’s “almost all Muslim”:

Iran: 99.7
Yemen: 99
Iraq: 98.9
Somalia: 98.9
Sudan: 97
Libya: 96.6
Syria: 90

— Matt Viser (@mviser) January 31, 2017

“When he first announced it,” Giuliani said, “he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it — legally.'”

Trump himself stressed in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Christians would get special priority.

The countries on the list are not just majority-Muslim, they are all almost entirely Muslim, as the Boston Globe’s Matt Viser pointed out:

3. “My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.” — President Trump in a statement on Facebook defending his policy.

The Trump administration defended its choice of the seven countries by pointing out that the Obama administration had identified them as “countries of concern,” but unlike Trump’s order, Obama’s did not bar people from entering the U.S.

The Obama change stemmed from two Iraqis who were arrested in Kentucky (more on that later in the week). Their fingerprints were found in Iraq on an improvised explosive device targeting Americans. That caused the Obama administration to slow down the process of admitting Iraqis, but never stopped it.

4. “I mean New York Times has called me wrong from the beginning. They actually apologized to their readers. They lost a lot of subscriptions because — not because the readers even like me. They say ‘how inaccurate could you be?'” — President Trump in an interview to Christian Broadcasting Network on Sunday

Trump has made similar claims about the Times “apologizing” before, but such claims continue to not be true. As we recently wrote in a fact check about a Trump tweet:

“New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Executive Editor Dean Baquet did write a letter to readers after the surprising election conclusion examining the paper’s coverage. In the note, they acknowledged that ‘after such an erratic and unpredictable election there are inevitable questions: Did Donald Trump’s sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters?’ And a column from the paper’s public editor (or ombudsman), Liz Spayd, pointed out problems with its data/forecasting vertical that predicted that Hillary Clinton had an 80 percent chance of winning the election. She also argued that the paper’s reporters could have done a better job of tapping into ‘the sentiments of Trump supporters.'”

However, neither of those pieces constitutes an apology.

5. “And we did better with the Latino community… Better than Romney, better than just about for a long way.” — Trump to CBN, Sunday.

Trump received 28 percent of the Latino vote, according to 2016 exit poll data compiled by CNN. Romney received 27 percent of the Latino vote in 2012. The margin of error on each of those polls is plus or minus three percentage points, according to Edison Research, the organization that conducted the polls.

As far as performing better with Hispanics than past candidates, that’s not really true, either. John McCain received 31 percent of the Latino vote in 2008, and in 2004, George W. Bush received 44 percent of the Latino vote — a figure that is often pointed to as a high-water mark for Republicans with that demographic.

Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage,…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017

6. “And the Cuban-Americans, I got 84 percent of that vote. And they voted in big numbers.” — Trump to CBN, Sunday.

It’s not clear where Trump got this number. It’s true that Cuban-Americans tend to be more conservative than other Latino voters. But at least in the state with by far the most Cuban-Americans, the Trump share of the vote wasn’t nearly this high. According to the Pew Research Center, just over half (54 percent) of Cuban-Americans in Florida — home to two-thirds of all Cuban-American eligible voters — voted for Trump.

In fact, Cuban-American voters have grown less Republican over the years. According to Pew, nearly two-thirds of Cuban-Americans were Republican or Republican-leaning as of 2002. As of 2013, it was just 47 percent.

NPR has reached out to the White House for a source on this figure but did not receive a response.


7. The president tweeted blame at Delta Airlines on Monday.

But While Delta airlines did experience an outage that affected many flights on the ground, that problem was reported on Sunday night. Those delays began well after protests started breaking out at airports across the country on Saturday in response to Trump’s executive order on refugees, which was issued on Friday.

8. “The principals committee is merely the NSC minus the president. The idea is that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the DNI are being downgraded or removed is utter nonsense.” — Spicer on Monday

The principals committee under George W. Bush, whom Spicer referenced in his briefing, indeed did not specifically include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Director of National Intelligence (or, at the time, the Director of Central Intelligence, as the DNI did not exist yet). Rather, the principals committee said that the DCI and chairman would “attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise” were going to be discussed, as NPR’s Domenico Montanaro pointed out in a fact check this week.

However, the DNI and chairman were regular members under the Obama administration, according to one February 2009 memo. Here is the text of that list:

“The NSC Principals Committee (NSC/PC) will continue to be the senior interagency forum for consideration of policy issues affecting national security, as it has been since 1989 . The National Security Advisor shall serve as Chair, and its regular members will be the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, the Chief of Staff to the President, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

The latest action from the White House is clearly different, moving the DNI and chairman back to attendees only at certain meetings:

“The PC shall have as its regular attendees the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist, the National Security Advisor, and the Homeland Security Advisor. The Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed. The Counsel to the President, the Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget may attend all PC meetings.”

In addition, Stephen Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, is now a regular attendee of the principals committee. That is one big way in which Trump’s NSC really is not like Obama’s or Bush’s.

9. “He’s aware of what people have been saying. But I think, by and large, he’s been praised for it.” — Spicer at Monday’s press briefing, referring to White House Holocaust Remembrance Statement that left out any mention of the Jewish people.

Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017

Only white nationalists were celebrating the carefully parsed statement, with controversial alt-right leader Richard Spencer praising it as the “de-Judification of the Holocaust.” According to Politico, the White House even nixed a State Department statement which did mention Jewish victims.

White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks defended the wording of the original statement, noting that while 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, 5 million others were also killed “including “priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters.”

That is true, but the express purpose of the Holocaust was to exterminate the Jewish people, and minimizing that has been the goal of Holocaust deniers, white nationalists and neo-Nazis. The Holocaust Memorial Museum criticized the statement, noting that “Millions of other innocent civilians were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis, but the elimination of Jews was central to Nazi policy.” The Republican Jewish Coalition (which is heavily backed by GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson) also called out the wording, saying, “The lack of a direct statement about the suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust was an unfortunate omission. History unambiguously shows the purpose of the Nazi’s final solution was the extermination of the Jews of Europe. We hope, going forward, he conveys those feelings when speaking about the Holocaust.”


10. “It’s not a Muslim ban. It’s not a travel ban. It’s a vetting system to keep America safe.” — Press secretary Sean Spicer briefing Tuesday.

Several administration officials — including Spicer — called this a travel ban, as this CNN video shows. President Trump himself tweeted that it was a ban, though Spicer claimed that was because, “”he’s using he words that the media is using.” In a tweet one day after Spicer tried to make this factually inaccurate defense, Trump again called it a ban.


11. “If you remember I wasn’t going to do well with the African-American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and lots of other things, we ended up getting — and I won’t go into details — but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years.” — Trump remarks at an African American History Month listening session, Wednesday.

Donald Trump received 8 percent of the African-American vote in 2016, compared to the 6 percent received by Mitt Romney in 2012 and the 4 percent received by McCain in 2008. So he registered better numbers with African-Americans than the past two Republican candidates. However, George W. Bush received the support of 11 percent of African-Americans in 2004 and 9 percent in 2000. So Trump isn’t right here. Given margins of error, Trump performed roughly as well as the last handful of Republican candidates with African-American voters — perhaps better than Obama’s opponents did, but nothing out of the ordinary.

12. Trump tweeted of “thousands of illegal immigrants” that the Obama administration agreed to take in from Australia.

But, as we explained over at our Tweet annotator, they are neither “thousands” nor “illegal immigrants.”

There are about 1,250 people, who are seeking asylum — refugees who have fled their home countries seeking safety — many of whom are children.

NPR’s Two Way blog has more.


13. “It’s hard to ever call something a complete success, when you have the loss of life or people injured, but I think when you look at the totality of what was gained to prevent the future loss of life … it is a successful operation by all standards.”White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Thursday.

That is starkly different than the way the New York Times described it the day before. “As it turned out,” Eric Schmitt and David Sanger wrote, “almost everything that could go wrong did.”

1/2: Honest mistakes abound. Last night, prominent editor of liberal site apologized for almost running a story re: tweet from fake account

— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) February 3, 2017

2/2: yet won’t name him, attack him, get the base 2 descend upon him. Same with MLKJr bust fake story. It’s called class, grace, deep breath

— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) February 3, 2017

Centcom said the U.S. recovered information helpful to counter-terrorism analysts. Spicer said the operation yielded valuable intelligence about al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. But NPR’s Alice Fordham and Tom Bowman reported that “local witnesses disputed that, saying the special operations troops never entered any buildings to take any computers or documents.”


“The U.S. military has opened an investigation, and U.S. military officials tell NPR that civilians were indeed among the victims. Taken together, claims and counterclaims from the U.S. military and local residents described a chaotic operation, one that drew sharp criticism from Yemeni officials who usually support the U.S. The aftermath of the raid shows the potential dangers if the U.S. military relaxes its current restrictions about using force and protecting civilians, which President Donald Trump has asked the Pentagon to review.”

The Times:

“The death of Chief Petty Officer William Owens came after a chain of mishaps and misjudgments that plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight that also left three others wounded and a $75 million aircraft deliberately destroyed. There are allegations — which the Pentagon acknowledged on Wednesday night are most likely correct — that the mission also killed several civilians, including some children. …

“[T]he mission’s casualties raise doubts about the months of detailed planning that went into the operation during the Obama administration and whether the right questions were raised before its approval. Typically, the president’s advisers lay out the risks, but Pentagon officials declined to characterize any discussions with Mr. Trump.”

14. “I bet, there was very little coverage — I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized — and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. I mean, most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”Conway on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Thursday.

There was no “Bowling Green massacre” at all, and Conway has acknowledged she misspoke. She asked for “grace” for the mistake.

Conway was referring to the two Iraqi refugees referenced in point 3. But neither had planned or executed an attack in Kentucky. Conway’s further assertion that President Obama had a six-month ban on Iraqi refugees is also false. The White House slowed down the approval process but did not halt it all together.

(In her tweet, she also notes something repeatedly used by Trump and others in the administration — a mistake a Time reporter made, reporting that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr., had been removed from the Oval Office. He quickly corrected the mistake.)

NPR’s Sarah McCammon and Domenico Montanaro contributed.

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Betsy DeVos' Graduation Rate Mistake

In her written responses to Senate Democrats, Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos used inflated graduation rate figures for virtual charter schools. Carolyn Kaster/AP hide caption

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Carolyn Kaster/AP

The latest, remarkable misstep of a Cabinet nominee who has misstepped plenty came in answer to a simple question:

“Why do you think their performance is so poor?” asked Senator Patty Murray, D-Wa., in a written question to Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Education Department.

“Their” refers to virtual schools, of which DeVos has been an outspoken champion. The “poor” refers to a large body of research — study after study after study — that raises serious questions about the quality and efficacy of schools that attempt to educate full-time students through the computer, without traditional access to teachers or classrooms. In response, DeVos wrote:

“High quality virtual charter schools provide valuable options to families, particularly those who live in rural areas where brick-and-mortar schools might not have the capacity to provide the range of courses or other educational experiences for students. Because of this, we must be careful not to brand an entire category of schools as failing students.”

Then comes the misstep, first reported by Ben Herold of Education Week.

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“The following virtual academies have four-year cohort graduation rates at or above 90 percent,” DeVos wrote, listing some apparent success stories:

“Idaho Virtual Academy (IDV A): 90 percent

Nevada Virtual Academy (NVV A): 100 percent

Ohio Virtual Academy (OHV A): 92 percent

Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy (OVCA): 91 percent

Texas Virtual Academy (TXVA): 96 percent

Utah Virtual Academy (UTV A): 96 percent

Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIV A): 96 percent”

There’s just one problem with these numbers, Herold points out.

They’re wrong.

The Nevada Virtual Academy, for example. Its graduation rate for the class of 2015 wasn’t 100 percent. It was 63 percent, according to Nevada’s own school report card.

Ohio Virtual Academy’s 92 percent graduation rate? Try 53 percent.

Utah Virtual Academy’s 96 percent rate? Cut it in half.

You get the point.

Where did DeVos get these inflated numbers? Questions to the Trump administration went unanswered, but they appear to have been lifted verbatim from this report by K12 Inc., the for-profit company behind the online schools listed. DeVos herself was once an investor. It would not be the first of her answers to senators that appear to have been borrowed without citation.

K12 Inc. has already responded to the controversy, explaining that its numbers are “the graduation rate of continuously enrolled high school students – those who enrolled in ninth grade and remained enrolled until twelfth grade. This is not the federal graduation rate and our report makes that clear.”

If it’s not the federal graduation rate, as DeVos suggested it is, what is it?

“It’s a fictitious rate,” says Russell Rumberger, professor emeritus of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It ignores almost all of the students who transfer out or drop out.”

As K12 Inc. acknowledges, the rate it published only accounts for students who persisted, remaining enrolled for four years. The federal rate, on the other hand — known as the four-year cohort graduation rate — requires schools to account for all students who transfer or drop out.

In short, DeVos’ numbers implied that few students had dropped out of these virtual schools when the actual rates, reported by states, suggest otherwise.

“I think this was a mistake,” says Michael Petrilli, President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education think tank. “It’s impossible to argue that most online charter schools are high-performing because most are performing abysmally.”

Petrilli should know. He once worked for K12 Inc., and, under his leadership, Fordham has studied Ohio’s virtual charter schools extensively.

It’s not just Ohio, either. Herold was also part of a sweeping Education Week investigation of cyber charters nationwide titled “Rewarding Failure.”

K12 Inc. chooses not to use the so-called federal graduation rate because, the company argues, it isn’t an accurate measure of success for many virtual schools. “High numbers of credit-deficient students and high mobility rates adversely impact the four-year graduation cohort rate for online schools,” according to that 2016 K12 Inc. report.

That’s a reasonable argument and worth debating. Virtual schools often cater to vulnerable students — kids who transfer repeatedly or may not intend to stay for four years.

“I agree that the four-year cohort graduation rate is limited for schools that enroll high-risk kids,” says Rumberger. “Imagine students who walk in the door reading at a fourth-grade level. It’s much more challenging to get that student to graduate in four years, and I don’t think schools should have to.”

DeVos, however, did not make that argument in her written response to Sen. Murray’s question. She did something else entirely.

Instead, DeVos built an argument for virtual charter schools on language apparently taken — without citation — from a report written by a for-profit company with a huge stake in the industry. In the process, DeVos either knowingly or unwittingly mischaracterized the official graduation rates of virtual schools, making them look more successful than they are and making online learning, in general, look like a reliable pathway to student success when research suggests it is anything but.

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Super Bowl Ads 2017: What Works, What Doesn't and What Gets Political

In today’s hyper-fast media climate, who has time to wait for the Super Bowl to actually see the commercials?

There are a few advertisers who will make us wait until the Big Game to see their wares – Snickers plans a live commercial with Adam Driver which will be Must See TV whether it works or not. Weeks ago, many advertisers started posting online teasers, previews and actual commercials airing in Sunday’s game. (Beermaker Anheuser-Busch reportedly held a “media briefing” on its ads strategy with journalists last month).

Makes sense. These companies are paying up to $5 million for 30 seconds of advertising time to the Fox network for space in a game that is often the most-watched TV event of the year. With that much at stake, a media strategy that doesn’t include some pre-game day viewing seems like a missed opportunity.

Just like with TV shows, ads that move audiences can tell us a lot about what values inspire or alarm us. And those notions can change on a dime – I’m betting Anheuser-Busch never expected its inspiring story about the immigration struggles of founder Adolphus Busch to be seen as a dig at President Donald Trump.


But it’s tough to watch scenes in its ad titled “Born the Hard Way,” where Busch initially faces angry Americans telling him, “you’re not wanted here… go back home,” without thinking of Trump’s executive order on immigration and the fiery debate it has kicked off.

Here’s a look at some of the most interesting Super Bowl commercials coming Sunday – including a few that are compelling for reasons their creators likely never intended.

Bud Light: Ghost Spuds. The Weird But Kinda Works award goes to Budweiser for its ad featuring the ghost of its former Bud Light mascot, the party dog Spuds MacKenzie, voiced by actor Carl Weathers. At first, it’s odd to be reminded that the dog which actually played the original Spuds in late 1980s ads is no longer with us. But watching the “ghost” lead a schlubby guy to realize the value of friendship through beer is kinda entertaining – and pretty much the spirit of a lot of Super Bowl revelry.


Audi: Daughter. As the father of three daughters, I was all in for this ad featuring a young girl beating several boys to win a downhill cart race while her dad voices fears about how sexism will affect her, asking, “do I tell her… she will automatically be valued as less than every man she meets?” By the time the screen announces “Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work,” I’m drying my eyes and thinking about a vehicle upgrade.


Ford: Go Further. Complaints about commercialism may seem quaint these days. But it’s still jarring to see Ford use Nina Simone’s rendition of the civil rights anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” to illustrate scenes where people are frustrated by being stuck in traffic or locked out of the house. When Simone sang about wanting to “break all the chains holding me,” I don’t think she meant sidestepping traffic tie-ups.


Mercedes-Benz USA: Easy Driver. One notch down the commercialism disappointment scale, we find the Mercedes-Benz ad featuring Peter Fonda. Stories about Baby Boomers selling out are nothing new. But it’s still odd to see a guy who once embodied ’60s counter culture in Easy Rider star in a commercial with hordes of bikers acting like knuckleheads until they are struck dumb by the sight of a relatively clean-cut Fonda, peeling out of a parking lot in a $350,000 AMG-GT Roadster. Insult to injury: the commercial was directed by Fargo‘s Oscar-winning filmmakers, Joel and Ethan Coen.


Honda: Yearbooks. Lots of celebrities are doing lots of interesting ads (it seems like New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski pops up in every other commercial). But my award for Best Use of a Big Name goes to this ad, which animates old, mostly embarrassing high school yearbook photos of celebrities like Robert Redford, Amy Adams and Viola Davis to tell viewers dreams really do come true. Even for guys geeky enough to try rocking the pornstar moustache Steve Carrell sports in his photo (“You think any of these folks believed that I’d make it?” he asks. Surely not.)


Squarespace: Who is JohnMalkovich.com? I’m always telling journalism students to get ownership of their name as a URL for their websites soon as possible. So it was a tickle to see John Malkovich in this ad begging a fisherman to let him have his own name back. Extra points to Malkovich for always being willing to poke fun at his own eccentric image.


Febreeze: Halftime #BathroomBreak. We all know what happens in bathrooms across the country between the halftime whistle and halftime show. Do we really need a TV commercial to remind us some air freshener may be needed?


84 Lumber: The Journey Begins. This 90-second ad features a Spanish-speaking mother and her young daughter enduring loads of hardships – jumping on trains, walking long distances, crossing rushing streams – to reach their destination. The company has said Fox rejected the original version of the ad, which included images of a border wall similar to the one President Trump has promised to erect between Mexico and the U.S. Now 84 Lumber’s website promises it will feature the full ad at halftime, with “content deemed too controversial for TV.” The wall-less version which will air on Fox Sunday certainly humanizes people who are too often reduced to stereotypes in today’s immigration debates. I don’t know how much lumber this ad will sell, but it will surely earn loads of attention.

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Immigration Ban Halted By Federal Judge

A federal judge has temporarily halted President Trump’s executive order that bars citizens of seven Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. NPR’s Scott Horsley has the latest.

Lufthansa airplanes parked in front of an airport in Munich, Germany, in November 2016. Lufthansa is among the airlines that have announced they will resume boarding travelers affected by President Trump’s executive order. Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

On Friday night, a federal judge in Seattle temporarily halted the enforcement of President Trump’s executive order that bans travelers and immigrants from seven largely Muslim countries. By Saturday morning, some airlines had already begun acting on that judge’s ruling, saying they would resume boarding travelers covered under the ban.

Qatar Airways, which services many of the predominantly Middle Eastern countries barred by Trump, announced that it had been directed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to board nationals with valid documents from Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

The airline also noted:

“All refugees seeking admission presenting a valid, unexpired U.S. visa or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) card (Green Card) will be permitted to travel to the United States and will be processed accordingly upon arrival.”

But Qatar Airways wasn’t the only airline to release such an announcement Saturday. Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline, announced that on the basis of the federal court ruling it would also permit the affected travelers to fly to the U.S.

“However,” Lufthansa was careful to note, “short notice changes to the immigration regulations may occur at any time. The final decision regarding immigration lies with the US authorities.”

In Cairo, airport authorities received a notification Saturday from U.S. officials that they should also halt the enforcement of Trump’s travel ban. And Reuters reports that Emirates and Etihad Airways said Saturday they would do so, as well.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., multiple media outlets report that CBP spoke with U.S. airlines on a conference call Friday, informing them that after the federal judge’s ruling that it was “back to business as usual.”

CNN adds: “The government was in the process of reinstating visas, the [airline] executive said, adding that airlines would start removing travel alerts from their websites and getting messages out to customers to notify them of the change.”

Trump, for his part, tweeted a broadside Saturday morning against Judge James Robart’s decision, which suspends enforcement of Trump’s order while a case brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota is heard in court.

“When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security – big trouble!” Trump tweeted.

When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security – big trouble!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017

In a subsequent tweet, Trump derided Robart as a “so-called judge,” whose decision “is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Robart, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, is the federal judge presiding over the U.S. District Court in western Washington state.

In a statement released Friday, the White House also called Robart’s stay an “outrageous order.” Later, as NPR’s Rebecca Hersher noted, the statement was soon changed to remove the word “outrageous.”

But the thrust of the message remained the same: The White House said the Justice Department will challenge the judge’s decision.

Rebecca also reported that travelers blocked from their flights weren’t the only ones to be affected by Trump’s travel freeze:

“The State Department said [Friday] ‘roughly 60,000 individuals’ visas were provisionally revoked’ as a result of Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order barring refugees from seven countries.

“That number is considerably lower than the number given by a Justice Department attorney, who said today in federal court in Virginia that 100,000 visas were revoked as a result of the order, as Carmel Delshad of NPR station WAMU reported.”

Beyond the case brought by the states of Minnesota and Washington, three other states — Massachusetts, New York and Virginia — have also sued the federal government over Trump’s executive order.

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