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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    A day after Congress was told the Mueller investigation had not found evidence of coordination or conspiracy involving Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 elections, a leading GOP Senator vowed to fully investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, arguing that President Donald Trump may have been the victim of overzealous investigators inside the Justice Department. 'The double standard here has been striking and quite frankly disappointing,' said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who told reporters at the Capitol on Monday morning that it's time to find out more about how the investigation began during the 2016 campaign, how it meshed with the probe into Hillary Clinton's emails, and whether there had been bias inside the Justice Department and FBI against President Trump. While Graham said he would conduct oversight via the Senate Judiciary Committee, the South Carolina Republican also said he wants a more formal review by the Justice Department, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr. 'What I want to do is see if he'll appoint a Special Counsel,' Graham said, as he argued that President Trump had been unfairly targeted. Graham said he would look at the role of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch - who tried to step back from the Clinton email investigation, which led to the broader involvement of former FBI Director James Comey. 'What was the conflict that made Loretta Lynch so unable to preside over the Clinton email investigation?' Graham asked. While Graham ticked off the boxes of a series of questions which have dominated conservative talk radio over the past two years, the ally of the President made clear he agreed with the Mueller report findings on one very key issue - that the Russians were responsible for the hacking of the Democratic Party in 2016. “It was the Russians - it wasn’t some 300 pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere,” Graham said, making reference to a quote by President Trump, who at times has rejected assertions that Russian Intelligence was responsible for the hacking of emails from Clinton campaign and DNC officials. Graham said he also wanted answers on how the Obama Administration handled the initial developments in the Russia investigation - which came during the 2016 campaign. 'Nobody went to President Trump to tell him, there may be some people in your orbit that are connected to the Russians and working with the Russians,' Graham said at a news conference. At the White House, President Trump kept his comments limited about the Mueller report, saying he would not oppose the release of the details of the report, if that’s what Attorney General Barr wants to do. Asked during an event in the Oval Office whether the Special Counsel had done his job honorably, Mr. Trump responded: 'Yes, he did.' “I wish it could have gone a lot sooner, a lot quicker,” the President added.
  • A day after the outlines of the Special Counsel investigation were delivered to the Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court kept alive one part of the Russia probe, refusing to hear arguments in the so-called 'Mystery Case' involving an unknown foreign company owned by an unidentified foreign government, which is trying to get out of a subpoena for grand jury testimony involving the Mueller investigation. In a simple order issued by the Justices on Monday morning, the Court refused to allow arguments on efforts to block the grand jury subpoena, in a case which has proceeded with dramatic secrecy through the courts over the past few months. 'The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied,' the order stated, in the case officially known as 'In Re Grand Jury Subpoena.' The unidentified company has argued that federal laws don't allow foreign governments or businesses to be ensnared in criminal cases in the U.S. - while the involvement of prosecutors from the Special Counsel's office was finally revealed in recent weeks, it's still not clear what company, what country, or what information is at play in this grand jury subpoena fight. The lack of information about the case has left legal experts grasping for clues - and now with the Mueller investigation wrapping up its work - it’s not clear how long legal battles like this one over testimony will continue in the courts. The unknown company at the center of this dispute has been paying a fine of $50,000 for every day that it does not comply with the grand jury subpoena for information. It’s been estimated those legal penalties topped $2 million in late February, and would continue to mount with today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Armed with his Attorney General's summary of a lengthy report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, President Donald Trump was up early on Monday morning celebrating the findings of that probe, joining GOP lawmakers in Congress in declaring that his campaign had been cleared of any questions of wrongdoing. 'The Special Counsel did not find that the Trump Campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian Government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump Campaign,' the President tweeted early on Monday, quoting from a letter sent Sunday by Attorney General William Barr to Congress. The four page letter from Barr - summarizing the findings of the Mueller investigation - found no conspiracy existed between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, even as Russian intelligence hacked Democratic Party emails, and 'despite multiple. offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.' 'But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts,' the letter from Barr noted. In Congress, Republican lawmakers gleefully joined the President in heralding the findings, trying their best to undercut any ongoing efforts by Democrats to further dig into the details of the Mueller report - which the Attorney General said he would strive to make as much public as possible in the weeks and months ahead. 'There was NO collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump or his campaign,' said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). 'Facts trump the liberal circus, every time,' said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). 'Democrats in Congress should follow his lead and allow the President to govern as he was elected by the American people to do,' said Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL). 'After two years the case is closed.' As for Democrats, they quickly dug into the details of the Barr letter and focused on getting the details of the Mueller report made public, zeroing in on Barr's description that Mueller had made no conclusions about whether President Trump had obstructed during the Russia investigation. 'The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,'' Barr quoted the Mueller findings. 'There must be full transparency in what Special Counsel Mueller uncovered to not exonerate the President from wrongdoing,' said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the head of the House Judiciary Committee, who vowed to press for more documents and hearings about the Mueller investigation. 'Questions remain related to evidence of obstruction of the investigation into Russian election interference,' said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL). The findings - as related by the Attorney General on Sunday - clearly made any chance of impeachment proceedings against the President in Congress much less of a possibility, both easing the political pressure on Mr. Trump, and at the same time giving him a public boost which his campaign quickly jumped on for supporters. The President was already scheduled to take his message on the road for a campaign rally on Thursday in Michigan.
  • Attorney General William Barr told Congress on Sunday that a sweeping investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of coordination between Russian Intelligence and the Trump Campaign in 2016, as Barr said there was not enough evidence to pursue allegations of obstruction of justice against President Donald Trump, though Mueller left open that question in his report. In a four page letter summarizing the major findings of the Mueller investigation, the Attorney General said, 'the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.' On the question of whether the President obstructed justice by impeding the investigation into the underlying matter, Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had concluded from the Mueller findings that, 'the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.' Republicans said the Barr summary showed the investigation had found nothing which could lead to the President's prosecution or impeachment. 'No collusion and no obstruction,' said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 'The cloud hanging over President Trump has been removed by this report.' The White House immediately declared victory as well. “The Special Counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction,” said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement.  “Attorney General Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein further determined there was no obstruction. The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States,” Sanders told reporters. While the letter was immediately hailed by Republicans as the end of the investigation, it also left Democrats with some tantalizing tidbits which they are sure to pursue on the obstruction issue, specifically one line cited by the Attorney General in his Sunday letter to the Congress. 'The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,'' the Attorney General wrote, in quoting the Mueller report’s section about the issue of obstruction of justice. 'Special Counsel Mueller clearly and explicitly is not exonerating the President, and we must hear from AG Barr about his decision making and see all the underlying evidence for the American people to know all the facts,' said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Other Democrats also made clear they want more than just the four page summary written by the Attorney General, as Nadler vowed to bring Attorney General Barr in for hearings. You can read the full four page letter from Attorney General Barr at this link. As for the possibility of the Mueller report being made public, Barr told Congress in his letter that he would still try to err on the side of transparency. “I am mindful of the public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel's report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies,” Barr wrote.
  • As Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted a report to the U.S. Attorney General on Friday concerning the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, many questions remain unanswered about what Mueller had uncovered, what legal actions still must take place related to the investigation, and just how much of the report that lawmakers in Congress will be able to review in coming months. Even before the contents of the Mueller report - initially described as 'comprehensive' - were known, there were certainly metrics for the Special Counsel investigation, which netted a series of guilty pleas, and one trial conviction, that of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on charges of tax and bank fraud. Court filings by the Special Counsel's office demonstrated a sweeping effort by Russian Intelligence agents to hack emails and other documents from Democratic Party officials in the U.S., and showed how a number of people with ties to the President lied to Mueller's investigators when asked about their links to certain Russians under scrutiny by the feds. 1. Will the Congress actually get to see the Mueller report? This is not as simple as it might seem, as the Special Counsel law does not guarantee that the Congress will get the details of the Russia findings. The decision on how much is shared with the Congress - and whether it can be shared with the public - is first up to the Attorney General William Barr. Under the law, Barr is supposed to review the report, and then send a summary to lawmakers, something he may do as soon as this weekend. But that's not the Mueller report. And it's clear that members of both parties want to read it. 2. What about the Mystery Case? Even while the Special Counsel is closing down his work, it doesn't mean the loose ends are just going to vanish into thin air. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court was considering on Friday - just hours before the Mueller report was submitted - whether or not to grant a hearing on a case involving an unknown foreign company owned by an unidentified foreign country which has been subpoenaed for the Mueller investigation. If the trial for Roger Stone is going to continue, then why wouldn't the legal wrangling over 'Country A' go on as well? Just one of the many unknowns at this point. 3. What about other federal prosecutors? As we have seen during the Mueller investigation, the Special Counsel at times farmed out certain cases to U.S. Attorneys in the Southern District of New York, or the Eastern District of Virginia. Could those matters - emerging from the Mueller investigation - still continue even after the Special Counsel is playing golf in coming weeks? That's also a big unknown. Certainly, it's always been a fervent hope of Democrats that something happens along those lines - but there's definitely no guarantee. 4. Will we ever hear from Robert Mueller? Unlike Watergate, unlike the Monica Lewinsky investigation, Robert Mueller has not made any public comments or held press conferences. It has probably driven both the White House and Democrats absolutely batty to see him be so quiet. Some Democrats have already suggested that Mueller be called before the Congress to testify on what he found, just like Independent Counsel Ken Starr was given the chance to outline his findings before the House Judiciary Committee against President Clinton in 1998. 5. There still is a lot going on in the 'Mueller' probe. I don't want to belabor this point, but even with Mueller on the golf course, lots of legal wrangling will have to continue on an array of fronts. A judge must still give former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn his sentence. Roger Stone's trial doesn't start until November. Paul Manafort's aide Rick Gates is still cooperating with the feds and has not been sentenced as yet. Andrew Miller - an associate of Roger Stone - is still being asked to testify before a federal grand jury. So, even with Mueller's report now filed - and even before we know the details - the impact of the Mueller investigation isn't 'over' - so to speak. 6. Waiting on the details. We still don't know what's in the Mueller report. And yet, everyone on the news is talking about it. I've been counseling for months about this investigation that one should wait to see actual documents before marching off to any conclusions. The same can be said of the Mueller probe. Has Mueller delivered total exoneration for the President? We really don't know. While Mueller's office won't be delivering more indictments, could more be in the pipeline? We don't know. Will this report recommend impeachment, or be silent on that issue? We don't know. If this was like the Starr Report, we would have all of the information. Instead, we have to wait.
  • Democrats on Friday quickly called for the release of details in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and any ties to the campaign of President Donald Trump, as U.S. Attorney General William Barr told key lawmakers he could release some of the findings to Congress as soon as this weekend. 'Now that Special Counsel Mueller has submitted his report to the Attorney General, it is imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer in a joint statement. 'The Special Counsel's report must be provided to Congress immediately, and the Attorney General should swiftly prepare a declassified version of the report for the public,' said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.  'Nothing short of that will suffice,' Warner added, as Democrats quickly piled on to join that point of view. “The Attorney General should make the report public and let the American people learn the facts Mueller uncovered,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL).
  • The Treasury Department reported Friday that the federal government ran a budget deficit of almost $234 billion in the month of February, the highest monthly deficit ever recorded by the U.S., pushing the 2019 deficit to over $544 billion after five months of the fiscal year, over $150 billion more than the same point a year ago. In its budget report, the Treasury Department took the unusual step of adding a 'highlight' explanation on the latest batch of red ink for Uncle Sam. 'February has been a deficit month 53 times out of 65 fiscal years as February is the first full month of the annual individual tax filing season and generally contains elevated individual tax refund levels, while also not containing a major corporate or individual tax due date,' the report stated. Revenues were up in February 2019 by almost $12 billion from February of 2018 - that marked only the fourth month since the GOP tax cut went into effect that revenues had been up on a year-to-year basis. So far in Fiscal Year 2019, revenues coming in to Uncle Sam are down $8 billion. Spending in February was $401.2 billion, up from $371 billion a year earlier. Overall spending in 2019 is up about $145 billion in total from the same period of 2018. The surging deficit is no surprise to those on Capitol Hill or in the Trump Administration, as earlier this month, the White House predicted in the President’s own budget proposal that the deficit would remain over $1 trillion each of the next four years. These are the White House yearly deficit projections: 2019 - $1.092 trillion 2020 - $1.101 trillion 2021 - $1.068 trillion 2022 - $1.049 trillion The deficit in 2018 was $779 billion. In terms of interest being paid on the public debt, that was at $28 billion in February of 2019, up from $23 billion in the same month a year ago. Trump Administration officials continue to argue that continued economic growth will change the dynamic on the deficit. “An extra one percent of GDP growth per year means trillions of dollars of additional economic activity and more revenue to the government,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress earlier this month. But so far, the extra GDP growth - at just under 3 percent for 2018 - has not triggered a revenue windfall for Uncle Sam, as revenues are slightly down so far in 2019.
  • In an interview aired Friday morning by the Fox Business network, President Donald Trump again voiced his public displeasure about actions of the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), at one point admonishing TV host Maria Bartiromo for pressing him several times about why he was criticizing someone who is dead, suggesting that the subject wasn't supposed to be part of the exclusive White House interview. 'Now, I could say I have no comment, but that's not me,' the President told Bartiromo, who had just questioned how Mr. Trump could unite the country at the same time he was blasting a dead U.S. Senator. 'You shouldn't have brought it up,' the President told Bartiromo after she asked about McCain. 'Actually, I thought you weren't supposed to bring it up. But that's okay, fake news.' 'No, it's not fake news,' Bartiromo countered, as the President again criticized McCain for giving the Steele Dossier to the FBI some two months after the law enforcement agency had already received the materials alleging ties between Russia and officials tied to the Trump campaign. 'He handed something to the FBI on me - he knew it was a fake,' Mr. Trump said. “I’m not a fan,” the President said. Bartiromo later said there had been no conditions at all on the subject of Sen. McCain. “My thanks to President Trump for joining us and for the record, there were no conditions or stipulations agreed to ahead of that interview,” Bartiromo said on Friday. During the interview, Bartiromo questioned why the President would continue to tangle with McCain, saying, “Mr. President, he's dead. He can't punch back. I know you punch back, but he's dead.” 'It was a fraud,' Mr. Trump said of the Steele Dossier, as he said McCain had given the documents to 'the FBI for very evil purposes.' In Congress, most Republicans remained fairly silent about the President's public blasts at McCain, with a few lone voices urging him to move on to something else, like freshmen Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). In the Fox Business interview, President Trump again complained about the Mueller probe into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 elections. As the President left the White House on Friday morning for his Florida retreat, Mr. Trump said he knew nothing about the status of the Mueller investigation. “I have no idea about the Mueller report,” Mr. Trump said as he walked up to reporters gathered on the South Lawn on the White House. The President also criticized Democrats in Congress over their investigations into various White House and Trump Administration matters, saying it was just an extension of the Mueller probe. 'This is a continuation of the same witch hunt,' Mr. Trump said, in a familiar refrain.
  • A man who was charged with sending explosive devices to a series of critics of President Donald Trump pleaded guilty on Thursday to the crimes, as federal prosecutors say Cesar Sayoc could spend the rest of his life in prison for mailing 16 improvised explosive devices to former President Obama, former Vice President Biden, as well as sitting Democratic lawmakers in Congress. 'For five days in October 2018, Cesar Sayoc rained terror across the country,' said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. 'Thankfully no one was hurt by these dangerous devices, but his actions left an air of fear and divisiveness in their wake.  'Sayoc has taken responsibility for his crimes, and will soon be sentenced to significant time in prison,' Berman added in a statement, as prosecutors labeled Sayoc's effort 'domestic terrorism.' 'Sayoc’s crimes were intended to incite fear among his targets and uncertainty among the general public,' said FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney. Sayoc is scheduled for sentencing on September 12. In a statement issued by prosecutors, the feds said Sayoc pleaded guilty to 65 separate felony counts brought against him for his mail bomb flurry, which involved 16 identical looking padded envelopes sent from south Florida. 'Sayoc packed each IED with explosive material and glass shards that would function as shrapnel if the IED exploded,' the feds stated. 'Sayoc also attached to the outside of each IED a picture of the intended victim marked with a red 'X.'' Sayoc’s mail bombs were sent to former Vice President Joseph Biden, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CNN, actor Robert De Niro, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), former Attorney General Eric Holder, former President Barack Obama, George Soros, Thomas Steyer, and Rep. Maxine Walters (D-CA).   When Sayoc was arrested, authorities found his van, which was plastered in pro-Trump and anti-Democratic Party stickers and placards.
  • Frustrated by opposition on some college campuses to conservative speakers, President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order which threatens to take away federal research grant money from colleges and universities, if those schools don't guarantee First Amendment protections for those who want to speak on campus. 'We're dealing with billions and billions and billions of dollars,' President Trump said in a White House ceremony on Thursday. Flanked by conservative activists who have run afoul of protests at college and university campuses, Mr. Trump made clear that he wants new opportunities for their voices to be heard. 'Universities that want taxpayer dollars should promote free speech,' the President added. 'This order is part of the Trump Administration’s administrative and legislative efforts to support a focus on student outcomes and improve transparency, accountability, and affordability in postsecondary education,' the White House said in a statement. The President had raised this matter earlier in the month, during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference just outside Washington, D.C. It was not immediately clear how the Thursday signing would change the current landscape governing money being sent to schools by the feds, as there are already requirements to uphold the First Amendment. In a morning conference call with reporters, a senior administration official refused to give any hints about how the requirement would be enforced differently going forward. 'I won't get into implementation details,' the official said, repeatedly deflecting questions in a Thursday conference call with reporters about how the plan would work.  'But schools are already supposed to be following these rules,' as the official said 'the goal of the order is to promote free speech more broadly across college campuses.' The plan drew immediate fire from the President's critics. 'President Trump’s concept of free speech is speech that he agrees with, which is, in fact, the antithesis of what the First Amendment seeks to protect,' said Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers union.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • A widely shared Facebook post shows a lone prayer closet remaining on the site of a home where an EF4 tornado ripped through in Alabama. Earlier in March, a tornado carved a path across Lee County, Alabama destroying homes and ripping up trees.  Only a few buildings and homes were able to make it, including a local grandmother’s prayer closet. According to 11 Alive, Chaplain Jason Smith was out with Billy Graham’s Rapid Response Team and noticed the prayer closet.   In his Facebook post, he reports the entire family who lived there survived. “Listen to me please,” he wrote in the post.  “I just left a family who survived the tornado in this house and the only left standing is this closet.  It’s the grandmother’s prayer closet, and the whole family survived.  Are you kiddin me!!! My God is awesome!!! Shout somebody! --Jason--” As of this article, the two-week old post has been shared over 96 thousand times and garnered more than 62 thousand likes.
  • Federal prosecutors in New York and California announced charges Monday in separate cases against attorney Michael Avenatti. >> Read more trending news Authorities in New York arrested Avenatti on Monday to face allegations out of the Southern District of New York that he attempted to extort Nike and charges of bank and wire fraud out of the Central District of California. >> Read the complaint against Avenatti filed in New York Update 3:20 p.m. EDT March 25: In a statement obtained by CNBC, a Nike spokesperson said the company “has been cooperating with the government’s investigation into NCAA basketball for over a year.” “When Nike became aware of this matter, Nike immediately reported it to federal prosecutors,” the statement said. “When Mr. Avenatti attempted to extort Nike over this matter, Nike with the assistance of outside counsel at Boies Schiller Flexner, aided the investigation.” Authorities said Avenatti and an unnamed co-conspirator attempted to extort Nike of more than $20 million by threatening “to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.” Citing a pair of unidentified sources, The Wall Street Journal reported the unnamed co-conspirator allegedly involved in the case was attorney Mark Geragos. Update 3:05 p.m. EDT March 25: Investigators with the IRS launched a probe into Aveantti more than a year ago, after an official noticed “irregularities” while attempting to collect payroll taxes from Avenatti, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Nick Hanna said. The bank and wire fraud “allegations ... paint an ugly picture of lawless conduct and greed,” Hanna said, calling Avenatti “a corrupt lawyer who ... fights for his own selfish interests by misappropriating close to $1 million that rightfully belonged to one of his clients.” Hanna said Avenatti negotiated a settlement for one of his clients in December 2017 as part of an intellectual property dispute. Under the settlement, Avenatti’s client was expected to get $1.6 million in January 2018. However, Hanna said Avenatti presented his client with a false settlement agreement that listed March 2018 at the date by which the payment was due. The payment was made to an account controlled by Avenatti on Jan. 5, 2018. “Mr. Avenatti then used his client’s money to pay expenses for his own coffee business, Global Baristas LLC which did business as Tully’s coffee as well as to pay his own expenses,” Hanna said. Avenatti was arrested Monday in New York to face federal charges on both the east and west coasts. Avenatti is facing a maximum of 50 years in prison if he’s convicted of the bank and wire fraud charges in California. Federal prosecutors in New York also charged Avenatti in a separate case in which he was accused of attempting to extort Nike. Update 2:35 p.m. EDT March 25: Authorities in New York are providing more details Monday in the case against Avenatti. Update 2:20 p.m. EDT March 25: Authorities in California are providing more details Monday in the case against Avenatti. Update 2:15 p.m. EDT March 25: Avenatti’s former client, Stormy Daniels, said in a statement Monday that she was “saddened but not shocked by news reports that he has been criminally charged.” “I made the decision more than a month ago to terminate Michael’s services after discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly,” Daniels said. Avenatti represented Daniels in her court battle to throw out a non-disclosure agreement she had signed before the 2016 presidential election. The agreement barred her from talking about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump years before the election. Original report: Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York said Avenatti attempted “to extract more than $20 million in payments from a public traded company by threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.” The company was identified in a criminal complaint as Nike. Earlier Monday, Avenatti had announced plans to hold a press conference Tuesday “to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike.” Authorities said in a complaint filled in court that Avenatti and another person threatened to release damaging information about Nike unless the company “did not agree to make multi-million dollar payments” to Avenatti and an unnamed co-conspirator. Avenatti “threatened to hold a press conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and the start of the annual (NCAA) tournament at which he would announce allegations of misconduct by employees of Nike,” prosecutors said.  “Avenatti stated that he would refrain from holding the press conference and harming Nike only if Nike made a payment of $1.5 million to a client of Avenatti’s in possession of information damaging to Nike... and agreed to ‘retain’ Avenatti and (the unnamed co-conspirator) to conduct an ‘internal investigation’ -- an investigation that Nike did not request.” Authorities said Avenatti told Nike’s attorneys in a phone call on Wednesday that, “I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap ... I’m not (expletive) around.” Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles announced Monday they were charging Avenatti with wire and bank fraud in a separate case. Authorities plan to detail charges against him at a news conference scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT. Check back for updates to this developing story.
  • An Italian couple is under investigation after authorities say they performed a home circumcision on their 5-month-old son, causing the boy’s death.  The boy, whose parents are of Ghanian origin, was in critical condition when he was taken Friday night to a hospital in Scandiano in the province of Reggio Emilia, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported. He died overnight. >> Read more trending news This weekend’s death is not the first of a child who underwent an illegal circumcision in Italy. The BBC reported that a 2-year-old boy bled to death in December after undergoing a failed circumcision at a migrant center in the Roman suburb of Monterotondo.  The boy’s twin brother underwent the same surgery but survived after a stint in the intensive care unit.  In the December case, a 66-year-old man was charged with murder in the toddler’s death, the BBC reported.  The 2-year-old and his brother were born in Italy, but their parents were from Nigeria, according to the BBC. The man charged with killing the boy is an American of Libyan heritage.  The BBC reported that circumcision is unavailable in public health institutions. Italy’s Roman Catholic majority does not practice circumcision, but many of the country’s Muslim immigrants do.  Private clinics will perform the procedure, but the surgery can be costly. There are people willing to circumcise children for a fraction of the cost, the news agency reported.  In the December case, the procedure was performed at a refugee center run by the Monterotondo council and nonprofit group Arci. Arci officials condemned the incident in a Facebook post, in which they said in 2018, there should be “no sorcerers and midwives.” “The Monterotondo tragedy leaves the whole of Arci, starting with our Arci workers in Rome, sorrowful and upset,” the post read, as translated from Italian. One commenter argued for a near-complete ban on circumcision.   “Circumcision should be considered a sexual mutilation, apart from the few cases in which it is appropriate for medical reasons, and therefore prohibited and punished if practiced,” the woman, Claudia Lanzi, wrote.  Another woman, Barbara Pilati, asked how it is mutilation if it causes no damage. “It is made to children who cannot express their opinion,” Lanzi responded.  ANSA reported that between 4,000 and 5,000 immigrant children undergo circumcisions in Italy each year. About 35 percent of those procedures are done illegally.  Yassine Lafram, who heads the Bologna area’s Islamic community, condemned the fatal procedure on the infant Monday. “We learn of the terrible news of the death of a 5-month-old baby following an illegal circumcision with dismay,” Lafram told ANSA. “It’s a death that could certainly have been avoided and pains us deeply.”
  • Police opened an investigation Monday into a deadly officer-involved shooting in north Charlotte. >> Read more trending news Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Kerr Putney told WSOC-TV that officers responded just after 9 a.m. to the Burger King on Beatties Ford Road, near Interstate 85.  Dozens of police cruisers could be seen surrounding the fast-food restaurant, which was roped off with crime scene tape. Putney said officers responded to a call about an armed man at the business. The man gave employees an uneasy feeling, Putney said, so they called police. When officers arrived, they spotted the man outside the Burger King, according to Putney. Authorities said the man was still armed when officers arrived, and they repeatedly ordered him to drop the weapon. Putney said an officer felt there was a lethal threat and shot the man at least once. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His name has not been released. A witness told WSOC-TV the armed man had gotten into an argument with an employee inside the restaurant and that another man intervened and was assaulted by the suspect. Police have not confirmed that witness's account. Police said no officers were hurt. The shooting remains under investigation, and no other details have been released.
  • ORLANDO, Fla. - The trailer for the new movie, Lucy in the Sky,  portrays Natalie Portman as an astronaut struggling to readjust to life on Earth after seeing 'the whole universe.' The film is loosely based on real-life astronaut Lisa Nowak, who became embroiled in an affair with fellow astronaut Bill Oefelein. But when they broke up, and he began to date U.S. Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, Nowak became enraged. She made national headlines when she drove 900 miles from Houston to Orlando and packed a trench coat, black wig, pepper spray, a BB gun, rope, trash bags and an 8-inch knife in an attempt to kidnap Shipman. Nowak was discharged from NASA and the Navy.

Washington Insider

  • A day after Congress was told the Mueller investigation had not found evidence of coordination or conspiracy involving Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 elections, a leading GOP Senator vowed to fully investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, arguing that President Donald Trump may have been the victim of overzealous investigators inside the Justice Department. 'The double standard here has been striking and quite frankly disappointing,' said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who told reporters at the Capitol on Monday morning that it's time to find out more about how the investigation began during the 2016 campaign, how it meshed with the probe into Hillary Clinton's emails, and whether there had been bias inside the Justice Department and FBI against President Trump. While Graham said he would conduct oversight via the Senate Judiciary Committee, the South Carolina Republican also said he wants a more formal review by the Justice Department, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr. 'What I want to do is see if he'll appoint a Special Counsel,' Graham said, as he argued that President Trump had been unfairly targeted. Graham said he would look at the role of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch - who tried to step back from the Clinton email investigation, which led to the broader involvement of former FBI Director James Comey. 'What was the conflict that made Loretta Lynch so unable to preside over the Clinton email investigation?' Graham asked. While Graham ticked off the boxes of a series of questions which have dominated conservative talk radio over the past two years, the ally of the President made clear he agreed with the Mueller report findings on one very key issue - that the Russians were responsible for the hacking of the Democratic Party in 2016. “It was the Russians - it wasn’t some 300 pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere,” Graham said, making reference to a quote by President Trump, who at times has rejected assertions that Russian Intelligence was responsible for the hacking of emails from Clinton campaign and DNC officials. Graham said he also wanted answers on how the Obama Administration handled the initial developments in the Russia investigation - which came during the 2016 campaign. 'Nobody went to President Trump to tell him, there may be some people in your orbit that are connected to the Russians and working with the Russians,' Graham said at a news conference. At the White House, President Trump kept his comments limited about the Mueller report, saying he would not oppose the release of the details of the report, if that’s what Attorney General Barr wants to do. Asked during an event in the Oval Office whether the Special Counsel had done his job honorably, Mr. Trump responded: 'Yes, he did.' “I wish it could have gone a lot sooner, a lot quicker,” the President added.