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US judge sees problems in Harvard Asian-American bias case

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A federal judge weighing whether Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American applicants said on Wednesday both the Ivy League school and a non-profit suing it faced potential problems in proving their positions.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs in Boston gave the assessment while hearing a final round of arguments in the case, whose outcome could have implications for other U.S. colleges that consider race as a factor when selecting students.

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Burroughs asked why Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), which was founded by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum, called no students during a trial that ended in November who could claim Harvard rejected them because of their race.

She also asked Harvard’s lawyers what she should make of statistics SFFA presented showing Asian-Americans received a “penalty” compared with other groups on a subjective “personal” rating measuring an applicant’s likability and grit.

“They have the victim problem, but you guys have that personal rating,” Burroughs said.

Legal experts have said the case has the potential to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, giving the newly cemented five-member conservative majority a chance to bar the use of affirmative action to help minority applicants get into college.

In previous rulings on affirmative action, which aims to offset historic patterns of racial discrimination, the Supreme Court has allowed colleges to include race as one factor among others in assessing applicants.

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SFFA alleges Harvard went further than allowed by engaging in “racial balancing” and keeping Asian-American admissions in the years before SFFA sued in 2014 at or under 20 percent annually.

The U.S. Justice Department under Republican President Donald Trump has backed SFFA’s case, saying Harvard has not seriously considered race-neutral approaches to admissions. It has also opened a related investigation.

Adam Mortara, SFFA’s lawyer, argued that while Asian-Americans outperformed other groups on academic measures, they received low “personal” rating scores due to “racial stereotyping.”

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“The law and common sense tell us skin color has nothing to do with your personal qualities or likability,” he said.

Harvard’s lawyers denied the charge and said that while it does consider race as an admissions factor, it does so legally and not in the “personal” ratings.

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William Lee, a lawyer for Harvard, argued SFFA’s real goal was to “change the law” to bar any consideration of race, which would cause a “drastic” drop in black and Hispanic students on campus.

“That result would be wrong legally,” he said. “It would be wrong morally.”

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Peter Cooney

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The Republicans’ impeachment lawyer made 2 huge mistakes in questioning Gordon Sondland

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Ambassador Gordon Sondland delivered complex and convoluted impeachment testimony on Wednesday about his involvement in President Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. He gave detailed evidence recounting the president and the rest of the administration’s involvement in his effort to get Ukraine to launch investigations of Trump’s political opponents — including by leveraging a potential White House meeting and a hold on military aid.

But he also, to the Republicans’ delight, left some ambiguity about how much Trump had been involved in the effort to leverage the aid, saying that he had “presumed” Ukraine’s announcement of the investigations would release the hold. And he noted that, in one phone call the president — as the scheme was slowly being uncovered — Trump angrily denied there was a quid pro quo.

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Rick Santorum smacked down for claiming Sondland testimony helped Trump

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On Wednesday's edition of CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time," former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) tried to argue that the testimony of E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland actually helped President Donald Trump — and was promptly challenged.

"I think the Democrats had a good morning. I don't think they had a good afternoon," said Santorum. "I think what when the Republicans actually started questioning Sondland about the details, I think it fell apart a little bit."

"How so?" asked Chris Cuomo.

"He said the president never said any of these things to him," said Santorum. "In fact, what the president said, he quoted what the president said is, no, there's no quid pro quo. What he says is, well, I'm surmising, this is what I'm just sort of gathering. Did anything come from the president? No, it came from Rudy Giuliani."

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‘The cost of acquitting Donald Trump just went up’ for the Republicans: MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid

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MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid explained during the post-hearing wrap-up that things aren't looking good for Republican senators up for reelection in 2020.

In the wake of EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony, things are getting more difficult for Republicans faced with a vote on impeachment.

"Even if [the numbers] don't move, the problem is going to be a lot of these people have to run for re-election, letting the president off the hook when it's pretty clear what happened," Reid said. "This is pretty simple, and if I'm Cory Gardener (R-CO), I'm not feeling great."

Brian Williams noted that Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is one of the many Republicans "who's leaving town on a fast horse." If anyone could be pealed off by Democrats, Williams thinks it is Hurd.

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