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The Latest Political Headlines

    It may be special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation report , but the spotlight Thursday belonged just as much to the attorney general who made it public. The report had not yet been released when William Barr, by turns testy and defensive, took the Justice Department podium to face questions about the now-concluded probe. He was there not only to detail the main conclusions of Mueller's investigation but also to explain his handling of the report following a reputation-bruising month that has fueled skepticism from Democrats about whether the attorney general is functioning as a Donald Trump loyalist. 'It seems puzzling for someone with a long career at the department,' said Arun Rao, a former federal prosecutor in Maryland who served under Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 'Particularly today, his behavior seems to be more of an advocate for a client rather than representing the department.' At his press conference, Barr stressed a half-dozen times that Mueller did not find evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, a point Trump has seized on to try to claim vindication. He acknowledged that Mueller closely scrutinized the president for obstruction of justice but said he and Rosenstein disagreed with some of Mueller's legal theories. He also praised the White House's cooperation with the investigation and appeared to justify the president's anger over it, saying Trump 'faced an unprecedented situation' and people must bear in mind the context. '(T)here is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks,' Barr said. He gave a terse 'no' when asked by a reporter if he was concerned that it might be improper to hold a news conference before the report was public. He brushed off questions about whether he was protecting the president, saying he wasn't sure what the basis was to say he was being generous to Trump. A Justice Department official familiar with Barr's thinking said Barr simply wanted to confront head-on questions that he knew were lingering, including about the redaction process and interactions about the report between the Justice Department and the White House. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions, said Barr was following through on his commitment at his January confirmation hearing to be as transparent as possible by releasing a lightly redacted version of the Mueller report even though the regulations don't require any such disclosure. Skepticism of Barr's approach to Mueller's investigation mounted last month when he condensed the 448-page report into a four-page summary letter that Democrats said glossed over the special counsel's more damning evidence against Trump. Last week, he echoed Trump's own rhetoric by saying he believed his presidential campaign had been spied on and that he would investigate the origins of the investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. His press conference on Thursday was held without Mueller or members of his team and, critics charged, enabled Barr to place his own spin on the report's main findings before the American public even got a chance to see the document. Those actions have escalated partisan anxiety about Barr's trustworthiness and taken a toll on the standing of a Justice Department veteran who won over some skeptical Democrats with a smooth confirmation hearing at which he pledged independence and transparency. Congressional Democrats have demanded to hear from Mueller himself, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer citing a disconnect Thursday between Mueller's obstruction findings and the way Barr portrayed them. Barr signaled his own skepticism of the investigation even before he took office with an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department in which he criticized Mueller's obstruction of justice inquiry. But his appointment nonetheless won bipartisan support, especially coming after the selection of Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general who was attacked by Democrats as an unqualified Trump insider. At his confirmation hearing, Barr defended Mueller as a longtime friend who would never involve himself in a 'witch hunt' like the president has said. But his tone toward the investigation shifted in recent weeks as he learned more and more about Mueller's findings. He raised eyebrows at a congressional hearing last week when he said he believed the president's campaign had been spied on, likely a reference to a secret surveillance warrant the FBI obtained to monitor the communications of a former Trump campaign associate. The person familiar with his thinking said that Barr, who early in his career worked for the CIA, did not mean the word in a pejorative sense and was referring to intelligence collection activities. He also changed his take on the 'witch hunt' question, saying it was all a matter of perspective and that someone who feels unfairly investigated would inevitably dislike the feeling. Frank Montoya, a former FBI supervisor, said he had given Barr the benefit of the doubt but was concerned by the ways in which Barr's thinking appeared to align with Trump's. 'He can't not know that we're in highly partisan times,' Montoya said of Barr. 'To throw fuel on the fire the way that he does, all that it does is reinforce the idea that Trump is right.' ____ Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP ___ For complete coverage of the Mueller report, go to https://www.apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations
  • Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Thursday announced endorsements from seven black lawmakers in the critical early voting state of South Carolina, a show of force in the first place where African American voters feature prominently in next year's primary elections. Sanders' 2020 campaign made the announcement just ahead of a Spartanburg town hall meeting with members of the state's Legislative Black Caucus. The backing represents the biggest number of black lawmakers to back a 2020 hopeful to date in this state, which holds the first primary in the South. The support is part of Sanders' attempt to turn things around in South Carolina, where his 47-point loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016 blunted the momentum generated in opening primary contests and exposed his weakness with black voters. Sensing the coming defeat, Sanders left South Carolina in the days leading up to the state's 2016 vote, campaigning instead in Midwestern states where he hoped to perform better. Sanders, a senator from Vermont, has taken a different approach this time, working to deepen ties with the black voters who comprise most of the Democratic primary electorate in the state and pledging to visit South Carolina much more frequently. Our Revolution, the organizing offshoot of Sanders' 2016 campaign, has an active branch in the state, holding regular meetings and conferences throughout the state. Sanders addressed the group last year. The campaign recently hired a state director and, according to adviser Jeff Weaver, is putting together a 'much stronger team on the ground, much earlier in the process.' Last month, Sanders made his first official 2020 campaign stop in this state, holding a rally at a black church in North Charleston. Attracting a mostly white crowd of more than 1,500 that night, Sanders recounted many of the efforts of his previous presidential campaign, noting that some of his ideas had since been adopted by the Democratic Party and supported by other candidates vying for the party's nomination. On Thursday, the pews of Mount Moriah Baptist Church were filled with a diverse crowd of several hundred as Sanders took to a lectern and addressed his ideas for criminal justice reform, issues that he said disproportionately affect the African American community. 'We understand that we are just denting the surface,' Sanders said, going on to discuss racial discrepancies in arrests for traffic violations and marijuana possession. 'I think a new day is coming.' Applauding Sanders' attention to the needs of the black community, Spartanburg Councilman Michael Brown reminded the crowd of Sanders' participation in the civil rights movement in the 1960s and encouraged him to stay the course in terms of his efforts to reach out to the black voters here. 'Thank you, sir. Keep the conversation going,' Brown said. 'Remain unapologetic in what you have to say because your message is resonating in our community and throughout this land.' The South Carolina lawmakers endorsing Sanders are state Reps. Wendell Gilliard, Cezar McKnight, Krystle Simmons, Ivory Thigpen and Shedron Williams. He's also being backed by state Reps. Terry Alexander and Justin Bamberg, both of whom backed Sanders in 2016 and served as national surrogates for his campaign. ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
  • Across nearly 450 pages, blocks of black interrupt parts of Robert Mueller's careful, dry narrative recounting Russian election meddling and President Donald Trump's fear and ire. Most often, the Justice Department redactions mask a few words or paragraphs. In a few spots, they stretch for an entire page. Attorney General William Barr said the report released Thursday was marred only by 'limited redactions,' but that's true only for the part of the report dealing with possible obstruction by Trump. An Associated Press analysis of the full document shows that nearly two-thirds of the section dealing with Russia's meddling — 139 pages out of 199 —had some form of redaction. By comparison, only 24 out of 182 pages in the obstruction section were at least partially masked, the AP analysis shows. The disparity reflects concerns over disclosing intelligence and ongoing law enforcement matters related to Russian interference in the election and, to a lesser degree, exposing grand jury testimony. The AP analysis showed that nearly 40% of the report's entire 448 pages — including its two main sections, appendixes and even its table of contents — had redactions. The blacked-out passages leave factual holes that force readers to guess Mueller's intent. Even before the report's release, the redactions were at the core of a political battle pitting the Trump administration against skeptical Democratic lawmakers, who have insisted on the release of the full report. They are expected to wage a court fight over it, testing the limits of presidential authority. Barr has promised to provide congressional leaders with a version of the report containing fewer redactions, but it's not clear if this will satisfy Democrats. Barr said his department had to redact material related to grand jury proceedings, ongoing investigations, privacy issues and intelligence, but said the redactions were limited. 'Given the limited nature of the redactions, I believe that the publicly released report will allow every American to understand the results of the special counsel's investigation,' Barr said in a news conference shortly before the redacted report was released. Several blacked-out passages refer to efforts by the Trump campaign to keep apprised of WikiLeaks dumps of emails and other materials related to Hillary and her campaign. The passages refer to now-convicted former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and to other campaign aides and allies. Those references are likely related to the Mueller team's investigation into the activities of long-time Trump ally Roger Stone, who faces charges stemming from conversations he had during the campaign about WikiLeaks Some pages that are almost entirely blacked out appear to mask the Mueller team's narrative concerning efforts by a secretive Russian tech team known as the Internet Research Agency to interfere in the 2016 election on the side of the Trump campaign. In referencing Yevgeniy Prigozhin, an oligarch who funded that group, Justice officials blacked out details about his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin is under indictment, but is not in U.S. custody. 'Harm to Ongoing Matter,' the blacked out section noted. ___ For complete coverage of the Mueller report, go to https://www.apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations
  • At the moment two years ago when Donald Trump learned a special counsel had been appointed to investigate his campaign and Russia, the president responded with profane fury — and something resembling panic. He feared his presidency, then only a few months old, was over. He berated aides for not protecting him. His cocky assurance was nowhere in sight. The Oval Office scene that day is vividly reconstructed in special counsel Robert Mueller's report, released Thursday. Mueller traces how, at perilous turns in the Russia episode, aides took the brunt of Trump's rage yet acted to save the president from himself — at times by letting his orders go unheeded and, at least in one instance, declining an entreaty to lie on his behalf. On May 17, 2017, Trump was in the Oval Office with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, Sessions' chief of staff Jody Hunt and White House lawyer Don McGahn, conducting interviews for a new FBI director to replace James Comey, whom Trump had fired eight days earlier. Sessions left the room to take a call from his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, and returned to tell the president that Rosenstein had informed him of the special counsel appointment. 'The President slumped back in his chair,' Mueller wrote in his report, 'and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm f---ed. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.'' (Mueller quotes the full profanity.) 'The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, 'How could you let this happen, Jeff?'' The reconstruction was based primarily on accounts from Hunt, with Sessions also supplying detail to Mueller's team. Sessions said Trump asked for his resignation but when he brought him a letter of resignation the next day, the president had changed his mind. Trump adviser Hope Hicks, describing the aftermath of that meeting to Mueller's team, said she had only seen Trump that upset once before — when the 'Access Hollywood' tape came out in the campaign, revealing Trump's coarse comments about imposing himself on women. Sessions had stepped away from Russia matters because his work on the Trump campaign raised questions of conflict of interest. He withstood searing heat from Trump over that move and pressure, both public and private, to reverse his recusal until he was finally forced out late last year. Some other aides, too, refused to be compliant at major moments. The report states that in the days after Mueller's appointment, Trump opened an effort to discredit the special counsel, but ran into a wall from senior advisers such as McGahn, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, who was then chief of staff. 'The President told senior advisors that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest,' the report says, 'but they responded that those claims were 'ridiculous' and posed no obstacle to the Special Counsel's service.' Then, a month into Mueller's work, Trump moved to get him fired. The report says that on June 17, 2017, Trump called McGahn at home and directed him to contact Rosenstein and tell him the special counsel must be removed. 'You gotta do this,' Trump told McGahn, according to the lawyer's recollection to Mueller's team. 'McGahn was perturbed by the call and did not intend to act on the request,' the report says. Trump pressed the point with a follow-up call. 'Mueller has to go,' McGahn recalled Trump saying. Then: 'Call me back when you do it.' McGahn never did it. And when early 2018 came around, Trump wanted McGahn to issue a denial that he'd ever been asked to press for Mueller's removal in the first place. He summoned the lawyer to the Oval Office. Again, no luck. 'McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening,' the report says, 'and perceived the President to be testing his mettle.
  • Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is confirming that North Korea conducted a test launch on Wednesday, but he declined to provide any details. He is the first U.S. official to confirm the launch. He tells reporters at the Pentagon that North Korea conducted a test, but it didn't involve a ballistic weapon and didn't trigger any change in U.S. military operations. North Korea has said it test-fired a new type of tactical guided weapon. The test didn't appear to be of a banned mid- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle ongoing nuclear negotiations. Pyongyang also is demanding that Washington remove Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from nuclear negotiations. The State Department says it's aware of the report and the U.S. remains ready to engage North Korea in constructive negotiations.
  • President Donald Trump highlighted his efforts to build up the military as he welcomed wounded warriors for an annual White House visit. The 22 men and seven women were on the Washington segment of the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride, a multiday cycling event through Maryland and Virginia. The ride was created to inspire service members who are living with the physical and psychological wounds of war. Trump talked about the growing military budget, new Army uniforms and airplane purchases. He said the grueling ride is 'very, very special' and he joked that few people could do it, 'including me.' Trump welcomed the group just before the Justice Department made public a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
  • With the Mueller Report finally out Thursday, at least in redacted form, publishers are hurrying to release book editions. Two Mueller Report books already are in the top 100 on Amazon.com even though free pdfs are available online. The special prosecutor's findings, which run more than 400 pages, concluded that he could not find criminal evidence of conspiracy between the Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Russia's government but could not rule out the possibility that Trump may have obstructed justice after he won the 2016 election. Scribner, Melville House and Skyhorse Publishing are among those planning to have paperbacks out before the end of the month, with prices ranging from $15 for the Scribner book to $9.99 for the Melville House one, and e-books out by the end of the week. Barnes & Noble expects to have a free download for its Nook e-reader on Thursday. The Amazon-owned Audible Inc. plans a free audiobook. As of midday Thursday, some two hours after the report was made public, the Skyhorse and Scribner versions were in Amazon's top 100. Melville House ranked No. 324. Government reports have been a highly specialized niche in the book world for decades. They are public documents, often available for free and open for anyone to publish. But some releases are so intensely anticipated, among them the Warren Commission study of former President John F. Kennedy's assassination and the 9-11 Commission Report, they become best sellers. The 9-11 report was even nominated for a National Book Award. The Mueller report will likely have a substantial paying audience because of enormous public interest and because nonfiction works tend to sell predominantly in paper form. Scribner and Skyhorse also hope to attract readers with additional material, some of which they are hurrying to complete over the next couple of days. Skyhorse editorial director Mark Gompertz said that Alan Dershowitz, the attorney and frequent Trump defender, was 'the fastest reader and writer we have ever worked with' and was expected to finish an introduction for the Mueller book by Thursday night. The Scribner book, expected to exceed 700 pages, is being prepared in conjunction with The Washington Post. Some material, including a timeline of the investigation, has already been prepared. The Post is working on an introduction that will provide analysis of the report. 'We're going as fast as we can,' says Colin Harrison, Scribner's editor-in-chief. The industry suffered from printing shortages last fall and winter, with such works as David W. Blight's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography unavailable for weeks. But Harrison says that Scribner can easily meet its announced first printing of 350,000. 'The planning for this has been in the works for a long time,' he says. 'We're even prepared to go back to press, expeditiously, for more books. We have the paper. We're ready.
  • For nearly two years, President Donald Trump and his allies sought to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, attacking investigators' credibility and playing down their findings. As a redacted version of Mueller's report was finally released Thursday, Trump resorted to bluster, broadsides and falsehoods to try, once more, to frame the moment as a political victory. It began even before the public glimpsed the two volumes covering 448 pages . The report included an account of how the president attempted to seize control of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and force out Mueller from leading the inquiry. But that didn't stop Trump from taking a public victory lap, declaring at a White House event that he was having 'a good day.' Twelve times Trump took to Twitter in the hours before Attorney General William Barr outlined the findings of the report. The president proclaimed his innocence and insisted that the investigation was politically motivated. As soon as Barr concluded his remarks, and more than an hour before Mueller's report was released, Trump tweeted a taunt over an image inspired by the HBO show 'Game of Thrones.' 'No Collusion. No Obstruction,' it said. 'For the haters and the radical left Democrats — Game Over.' But the report does recount how Trump repeatedly sought to intervene in a probe that has hovered over the first two years of his presidency. And it says Trump had been agitated by the investigation from the start, reporting that Trump reacted to Mueller's appointment by saying it was the 'end of his presidency.' At Justice Department headquarters, reporters buzzed around as they awaited Barr and then the Mueller report. A few blocks away, there was calm on one of the defining days of Trump's presidency. The news media were led into the White House East Room, just before the report came out, for Trump's appearance with wounded warriors. While newsrooms across the country digested the report, the White House guests, already seated while waiting for the president to arrive, were entertained by the U.S. Marine Band. Among the selections played: 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.' 'Knockout,' read a text message from Rudy Giuliani, one of the president's attorneys, to reporters after Barr finished speaking. A further statement from Giuliani and Trump's lawyers said 'the report itself is nothing more than an attempt to rehash old allegations' and insisted that 'the results of the investigation are a total victory for the president.' Current and former White House officials eagerly rushed through the report. They scanned for their names to see what Mueller had said about them and how he had characterized their testimony, and wondered how those depictions might sit with a mercurial president. Staffers had been told by the White House to cooperate fully with Mueller's team and answer their questions truthfully. But many were nervous about how Trump would react to their testimony and whether it would damage their relationships with him. Talking points went out to Trump allies while his supporters' phones buzzed with text messages from the campaign looking to raise money off Thursday's developments. 'Now the tables have turned, and it's time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever,' said Trump's re-election campaign manager, Brad Parscale. Donald Trump Jr, the president's eldest son, was featured prominently in the report for meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016. Though the report said 'the campaign anticipated receiving derogatory documents and information' from Russians that 'could assist Trump's electoral prospects,' it said 'the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt' that the participants at that meeting 'had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful.' Though a seemingly backhanded exoneration, the younger Trump tweeted a series of attacks on Democrats. 'Better luck next hoax!' he said. Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said that because the White House didn't interfere with Mueller's work, that 'should make people feel good about democracy.' 'We're accepting apologies today, too,' Conway told reporters, adding that Trump watched Barr, talked to his lawyers and was in 'a great mood.' The president, who normally talks to reporters on his way out of the White House, declined to speak as he left to spend the Easter weekend in Florida. But from Air Force One, he tweeted: 'I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted. I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted. I chose not to. I had the RIGHT to use Executive Privilege. I didn't!' Appearing relaxed earlier Friday at military event, Trump said a statue he'd been presented with as a memento would have a permanent home 'at least for six years, in the Oval Office.' As the audience applauded and laughed, Trump said he was going to joke and say 'at least for 10 or 14 years, but we would cause bedlam if I said that.' ___ Lemire reported from New York. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire , Colvin at http://twitter.com/@colvinj and Superville at http://twitter.com/@dsupervilleap ___ For complete coverage of the Mueller report, go to: https://www.apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations
  • President Donald Trump took to Twitter shortly after Attorney General William Barr held a press conference ahead of the public release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.  >> The Mueller report: What is in it, when will it be released, what will happen next? Update 10:06 a.m. EDT April 18: Moments after the press conference ended Trump posted an image, playing off of the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” using the show’s font to declare “Game Over.” Previously he had posted a series of edited video clips, saying “No Collusion - No Obstruction!” Original report: 'The Greatest Political Hoax of all time! Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats,' Trump tweeted just before 8 a.m. Minutes later, Trump added in a second tweet: 'PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!' >> See the tweets here The Justice Department said the redacted report will be released to Congress on Thursday morning and later published on the special counsel’s website.  Attorney General William Barr, who wrote a controversial summary of the report last month, plans to hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. EDT ahead of the report’s release. >> Read more trending news  Early Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted Barr's move and urged Mueller to testify publicly about his report. “Attorney General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning – hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it – have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality,” the statement read. >> Mueller report: Pelosi, Schumer call on Mueller to publicly testify “We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible. The American people deserve to hear the truth.” >> Read the statement here
  • As Congress and the public await the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have issued a statement urging Mueller to testify before Congress. >> Read more trending news  “Attorney General [William] Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning – hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it – have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality,” the Democratic leaders said in the statement Thursday morning. >> Mueller report: Attorney General William Barr plans 9:30 a.m. EDT news conference “We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible. The American people deserve to hear the truth.” >> Read the statement here >> The Mueller report: What is in it, when will it be released, what will happen next? The Justice Department said the redacted report, which details Mueller’s findings following his investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, will be released sometime Thursday morning. Barr, who wrote a controversial summary of the report last month, plans to hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. EDT ahead of the report’s release.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Thursday released a redacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. >> Read more trending news The report was released around 11 a.m., weeks after Mueller completed his investigation. President Donald Trump hailed the report as a victory over his critics. >> Mueller Report: Read the report Barr just released Update 6:45 p.m. EDT April 18: The Justice Department said it will provide Congress with a second version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that has fewer redactions in the coming two weeks. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said in a letter to lawmakers Thursday that the Justice Department will make the report available to House and Senate leaders, as well as the top Republicans and Democrats on the judiciary and intelligence committees. Each lawmaker can also have a staff member present. Boyd said the report will be provided in a secure reading room at the Justice Department next week and in a secure room in the Capitol the week of April 29. The unredacted material will include classified information and material involving private citizens who were not charged. It won’t include secret grand jury information. Update 3:45 p.m. EDT April 18: Mueller’s report shows the Russian-based Internet Research Agency worked not only in Trump’s favor but also in favor of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who ran for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination before losing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The company’s attempt to boost Sanders’ candidacy first surfaced last year, after authorities charged more than a dozen people and three companies with interfering in the election, The Washington Post reported. According to the newspaper, IRA operators were instructed not to harm Sanders’ reputation. “Main idea: Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them),” Mueller quoted IRA operators as saying. Update 2:55 p.m. EDT April 18: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler said Thursday that he will issue a subpoena to get the full Mueller report and the underlying materials from Barr after the attorney general released a redacted version of the report. “Contrary to public reports, I have not heard from the Department (of Justice) about receiving a less-redacted version of the report,” he said Thursday in a statement. “Because Congress requires this material in order to perform our constitutionally-mandated responsibilities, I will issue a subpoena for the full report and the underlying materials.” Barr is scheduled to testify before the committee May 2. Update 2:25 p.m. EDT April 18: Kellyanne Conway, who serves as counselor to the president, told reporters Thursday that Mueller’s report was inaccurate in its description of Trump’s reaction to the special counsel’s appointment. >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupre: Mueller: Trump obstruction failed because aides refused orders to undermine Russia probe According to Mueller, the president 'slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm (expletive).’' However, Conway said she was in the room when Trump learned about the appointment and that she “was very surprised to see” Mueller’s report on it, CNN reported. “That was not the reaction of the president that day,” she said. Update 2 p.m. EDT April 18: Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement Thursday that the special counsel’s report showed “no collusion, no obstruction.” “While many Democrats will cling to discredited allegations, the American people can be confident President Trump and I will continue to focus where we always have, on advancing an agenda that’s making our nation stronger, safer and more secure.” Despite the vice president’s claims, Mueller declined to answer the question of whether Trump obstructed justice in his actions related to the Russia probe. “Now that the Special Counsel investigation is completed, the American people have a right to know whether the initial investigation was in keeping with long-standing Justice Department standards -- or even lawful at all,” Pence said. “We must never allow our justice system to be exploited in pursuit of a political agenda.” Update 1:45 p.m. EDT April 18: In a joint statement released Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Barr and Mueller reached conflicting conclusions on the question of whether the president obstructed justice. “The differences are stark between  what Attorney General Barr said on obstruction and what Special Counsel Mueller said on obstruction,” the statement said. “As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller’s report appears to undercut that finding.” In his report, Mueller declined to answer questions surrounding whether Trump obstructed justice in his efforts to tamp down on the Russia probe, which authorities said he saw as a direct challenge to his presidency. Update 1:40 p.m. EDT April 18: In the report released Thursday, Mueller said his team’s investigation was sometimes hampered by the use of applications that “feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records” and the deletion of communications relevant to the probe. “In such cases, the Office (of the Special Counsel) was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts,” the report said. “Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given  these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast a new light)the events described in the report.” Update 1:20 p.m. EDT April 18: Mueller said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted in an interview that her comments to the news media after the firing of former FBI Director James Comey were “not founded on anything.” In response to a reporter’s question about FBI support for Comey after his May 2017 dismissal, Huckabee Sanders said at news briefing that, “We’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.” 'The evidence does not support those claims,' according to the Mueller report. Update 1:15 p.m. EDT April 18: The House Intelligence Committee invited Mueller to testify next month after Barr released a redacted version of his 448-page report Thursday. “To discharge its distinct constitutional and statutory responsibility, the Committee must be kept ‘fully and currently informed’ of the intelligence and counterintelligence findings, evidence, and implications of your investigation,” committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff said in a letter to Mueller dated Thursday. “This requires that the Committee receive comprehensive testimony from you about the investigation’s full scope and areas of inquiry, its findings and underlying evidence, all of the intelligence and counterintelligence information gathered in the course of the investigation.” The House Judiciary Committee has also asked Mueller to testify. In a letter sent Thursday, committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler asked Mueller to appear before the panel by May 23. Update 12:45 p.m. EDT April 18: Brad Parscale, manager of the 2020 Trump presidential campaign, hailed the release of Mueller’s report Thursday and repeated the president’s calls for an investigation into the investigators. “President Trump has been fully and completely exonerated yet again,” Parscale said in a statement. “Now the tables have turned, and it’s time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever.” In the report released Thursday, Mueller said the FBI launched an investigation into whether Trump campaign officials were coordinating with the Russian government in July 2016. The investigation came after authorities said then-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that “the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.” Update 12:35 p.m. EDT April 18: Mueller said Trump attempted to influence the investigation into Russian election meddling. Mueller said his efforts “were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede his request.” Mueller’s report details instances by several officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, former White House counsel Don McGahn and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, ignoring or refusing Trump’s requests to interfere in the investigation. Update 12:15 p.m. EDT April 18: When then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump in May 2017 that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate Russian election meddling, the president 'slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm (expletive).'  Trump blamed Sessions for the appointment, according to Mueller. 'Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,' Trump said, according to the report released Thursday. 'It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.' Speaking Thursday at an event at the White House, Trump said, “this should never happen to another president again.” Update 11:45 a.m. EDT April 18: In the report released Thursday, Mueller said his team considered Trump’s written responses to questions in the Russia probe to be inadequate, but they decided against subpoenaing the president because of the delay such a move would cause to the investigation. Other revelations from the report include: Mueller said Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn in June 2017 to call the acting attorney general and say that Mueller must be ousted because he had conflicts of interest. Trump previously denounced reports of the call as “fake news.”  Members of Trump’s staff might have saved him from more dire legal consequences by refusing to carry out orders they thought were legally risky, according to The Washington Post.  Mueller made clear in the report that “Russia wanted to help the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign was willing to take” the help, the Post reported. However, investigators were unable to establish that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government. Update 11:30 a.m. EDT April 18: In his report, Mueller shared the reasoning behind his decision not to answer the question of whether the might have president obstructed justice. Mueller’s team scrutinized 10 episodes in which Trump sought to seize control of the Russia probe, including his firing of FBI Director James Comey, his directive to subordinates to have Mueller fired and efforts to encourage witnesses not to cooperate.  The president’s lawyers have said Trump’s conduct fell within his constitutional powers, but Mueller’s team deemed the episodes were deserving of scrutiny to determine whether crimes were committed. Update 11:25 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he was “having a good day” following the release of the Mueller report. “This should’ve never happened,” Trump told a crowd gathered at a Wounded Warriors event at the White House, according to CNN. “I say this in front of my friends — this should never happen to another president again. This hoax — it should never happen again.' Trump’s attorneys hailed the report as “a total victory for the president” in a statement released to CNN. “The report underscores what we have argued from the very beginning - there was no collusion - there was no obstruction,” the statement said. “This vindication of the President is an important step forward for the country and a strong reminder that this type of abuse must never be permitted to occur again.” >> The Mueller report: What is in it, when will it be released, what will happen next? Update 11 a.m. EDT April 18: Barr has released a redacted version of the Mueller report, which is 448 pages long. >> Mueller report: Read the transcript of William Barr's remarks Update 10:55 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump was expected to deliver remarks Thursday morning at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride as lawmakers and the public await the release of Mueller’s report. However, by 10:55 a.m., Trump had yet to appear for the event. Update 10:30 a.m. EDT April 18: In a letter sent Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler asked Mueller to testify before the panel no later than May 23. Nadler released his letter to Mueller minutes after Barr spoke with reporters about the report, which is expected to be released Thursday. Barr told reporters he had “no objection to Bob Mueller testifying.” “It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” Nadler said. Update 10:20 a.m. EDT April 18: Barr said he plans to release a less-redacted version of Mueller’s report to several congressional committees on Thursday “in an effort to accommodate congressional requests” for Mueller’s full report. “These members of Congress will be able to see all of the redacted materials for themselves -- with the limited exception of that which, by law, cannot be shared,” Barr said Thursday morning at a news conference. “I believe that this accommodation, together with my upcoming testimony before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, will satisfy any need Congress has for information regarding the special counsel’s investigation.”    Update 10:05 a.m. EDT April 18: At a news conference Thursday morning, Barr said it will be important to view President Donald Trump’s actions in context. “President Trump faced an unprecedented situation,” Barr said. “As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.” Barr said the Office of the White House Counsel has reviewed the redacted version of Mueller’s report but that Trump declined to assert privilege over it. Trump took to Twitter after Barr spoke to highlight that there was 'No collusion. No obstruction.' Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 18: Mueller’s report details two main efforts sponsored by Russian government officials to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, Barr said Thursday morning at a news conference ahead of the report’s release. The report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with ties to the Russian government, to “sow social discord among American votes through disinformation and social media operations,” Barr said. It also details efforts by Russian military officials connected to the GRU, “to hack into computers and steal documents and emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party.” “The special counsel found no evidence that any Americans -- including anyone associated with the Trump campaign -- conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme,” Barr said. Update 9:15 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump called the Mueller investigation 'The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!' in a series of tweets posted Thursday ahead of the release of the report. >> Mueller report: Trump tweets 'presidential harassment' ahead of redacted report's release “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” he wrote in a subsequent tweet. Trump has frequently criticized the Mueller investigation, framing the probe as a political “witch hunt” aimed at harming his presidency. Original report: Barr is expected to release a redacted version of Mueller’s report to Congress between 11 a.m. and noon Thursday before sharing the report on the special counsel’s website, Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree reported. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Battle lines clear as D.C. awaits redacted Mueller report Mueller completed his investigation late last month, 22 months after he launched his probe at the direction of the Justice Department. The investigation was frequently lambasted by President Donald Trump as a “witch hunt” aimed at undermining his presidency. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Florida Senator Rick Scott joined CNBC’s “Squawk Box”  Wednesday  to discuss the United States’ trade negotiations with China and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and it's socialist policies.  Senator Scott also discussed why residents are fleeing high-tax states like New York and Massachusetts for better opportunities in low-tax Florida. To see video in APP click here 
  • “You told me to.” Those were the dying words of a North Carolina man who was shot by police as he followed orders to drop the gun he had in his pocket, body camera footage shows. Footage of the March 25 death of Danquirs Napoleon Franklin, 27, was released Friday by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. The video was released on the order of Mecklenburg County Superior Judge Donnie Hoover, who was responding to a petition by local media.  >> Read more trending news Prosecutors and the attorney representing Officer Wende Kerl objected to the release. Assistant District Attorney Bill Bunting argued the release could impact the ongoing criminal investigation into the shooting, WSOC in Charlotte reported. Defense attorney Jeremy Smith cited concerns for Kerl’s safety.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officials said dispatchers received two 911 calls around 9 a.m. the morning of the shooting, the calls coming within two minutes of one another. The calls came from a Burger King located on Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte.  “The first caller frantically said she needed police quickly because the individual entered the store, walked behind the counter with a gun and was pointing it at an employee,” a police department statement said. “The second caller frantically said she needed police because an individual had approached her vehicle while she was waiting for food in the parking lot of the business and pulled out a gun.” Listen to the 911 call from inside Burger King, courtesy of WSOC.  Kerl and another officer, Larry Deal, responded to the scene, where they saw Franklin squatting next to the open front passenger door of a burgundy Honda Accord parked outside the fast food restaurant.  “A short time later, Officer Kerl perceived an imminent, deadly threat and subsequently fired her department issued firearm two times, striking Mr. Franklin,” police officials said. “He was transported to Atrium Health where he was pronounced deceased a short time later.” Kerl’s own body camera footage shows Franklin never pointed the weapon at anyone during the fatal confrontation. He appeared to be following the officers’ orders to put his weapon on the ground.  The 2-minute, 20-second video begins with footage of Kerl driving up to the Burger King. She does not get out of her car until the midpoint of the recording. Watch the entirety of the body camera footage below. Warning: The footage is graphic and shows Danquirs Franklin’s final moments. Viewer discretion is advised. As soon as she is out of the car, she joins Deal in ordering Franklin to show his hands. Franklin is not yet visible on the camera footage. After screaming for Franklin to let them see his hands several times, Kerl begins to move in front of Deal. “I’m crossing. I’m crossing,” Kerl says, letting Deal know she’s entering his line of fire.  At this point, Kerl is about a car length away from Franklin, who squats by the open car door. Another man sits inside the car.  “Put the gun down now!” Kerl and Deal shout at Franklin, who is approached by a Burger King employee.  “He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun,” Kerl says.  Watch Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney discuss body worn cameras below.  The officers order the female employee to get out of the way. They continue to scream at Franklin, ordering him to drop the weapon.  “I heard you the first (unintelligible) time,” Franklin appears to say calmly.  The gun is still not visible on the body camera footage.  “Put it on the ground!” Kerl shouts one last time. Franklin’s right hand appears to go into his pocket. He pulls out a handgun by its barrel and lowers it to the ground. As soon as the handgun is visible, Kerl fires her service weapon twice into Franklin’s body. He turns his face toward the officer.  “You told me to put it …,” Franklin says, the rest of his words swallowed by the officers’ continued screams for him to drop the gun.  At that point, the weapon can be seen already on the pavement.  A shocked-looking Franklin, grimacing in pain, glances into the car once more before slumping against the open car door.  “Shots fired. Shots fired,” Kerl says into her body-worn radio. Deal can be heard radioing the need for medical assistance as someone screams from somewhere near the restaurant.  Kerl and Deal approach Franklin, who has slumped onto the pavement. They order the man sitting in the car, who tells them he’s the “GM,” or general manager, to put his hands on the dashboard as Kerl picks up Franklin’s gun from near his still body.  That’s when the publicly released footage ends.  Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles urged calm in the community in advance of the release of the police footage, according to WSOC.  “It’s another really sad moment and (a) reminder that the responsibilities of law enforcement are, and will always be, immense,” Mayor Lyles said. “In the blink of an eye, their jobs require an instantaneous decision, and that’s something none of us should take lightly.” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said his department expected there would be protests, but that he expected they would be peaceful. “We expect this to be people voicing their opinion,” Putney said.  When asked about his own reaction to watching the video, he described it as being “like a punch to the gut.” “It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to see. Because a life has been lost,” Putney said, according to WSOC. “I hope you’ll do what we’re doing and pray for Miss Franklin and her family. Pray for our officers, whose lives have been destroyed as well. Come together as a community and be heard. But be lawful.” Peaceful protests did pop up around Charlotte in the aftermath of the video’s release, including one hosted by the NAACP’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg branch and UNC Charlotte that NAACP officials said was “in memory of Danquirs Franklin and every stolen life.” During that event, Corine Mack, the president of the local NAACP chapter, said that priorities must change.  “I think that Chief Putney is a good and decent human being,” Mack said. “But I also know that one man can’t change the hearts and minds of 1,800 officers. Especially those who’ve been reared in the root of hate in this country. “All cops are not bad cops. But if you’re a solid cop, you are now accountable for that bad cop’s actions. We’re asking for folks to be honest and forthright, to come forward when they see wrong. To speak out when they see wrong. To ensure that the lives that we’re talking about get the same fair treatment as anyone else.” At another protest, Mack told the crowd the video made her “sick to her stomach,” WSOC reported.  “When I saw that video, I wanted to hurt somebody,” Mack said. “If I felt that way, imagine how the family felt.” Franklin’s cousin, James Barnett, spoke to the news station about watching the video.  Up until this point we’ve been silent and only wanted the truth to come out, but we also wanted to see it because it was the last moments of his life,” Barnett said.  Scott MacLatchie, a police attorney with experience in officer-involved shootings, told WSOC a key factor was the amount of time officers gave Franklin prior to firing a gun. He pointed out that it took more than 40 seconds for Franklin to follow the officers’ orders.  “He wasn’t cooperating for a long time,” Franklin said.  Kerl, who has been a police officer in Charlotte since April 1995, was placed on administrative leave while the investigation is conducted. According to police officials, an internal investigation is being done parallel to the criminal investigation into the officer’s actions.  All findings of the criminal investigation will be turned over to the district attorney for review, authorities said. 
  • The City of Edgewood has appointed former City Council President John Dowless as the new Mayor. The decision came in a unanimous vote by City Council at Edgewood City Council’s monthly meeting on April 16th, 2019. Mayor Dowless has served on Edgewood’s City Council since 2011. He will complete the term of the late Mayor Raymond Bagshaw. In a statement, Dowless said, “There are many residents, including Edgewood’s City Council members who are more than qualified and equally passionate about our city. I am humbled by their vote of confidence and will endeavor to make them and the residents of Edgewood proud.” Dowless also mentioned redeveloping Orange Avenue and preserving City Hall and the Police Department as some of his main priorities.
  • Another bullet point to add in the ever-ongoing argument between cat and dog people - a study has found that dog owners tend to get more exercise than cat owners. Of course, that’s because you have to walk dogs and not, necessarily, cats. But just how much more exercise dog lovers get is what may be surprising. The study out of the UK finds that those with a pup are four times more likely to reach recommended workout goals. In fact, some people get two and a half hours of moderate exercise each week just by walking their dog.  For what it’s worth, they also found that dog owners are more likely to be runners and joggers as opposed to taking part in yoga or Pilates. Guess that’s for cat people. Mobile users, see dog video here.

Washington Insider

  • In a redacted 448 page report delivered to Congress Thursday by Attorney General William Barr, Special Counsel Robert Mueller detailed a series of actions by President Donald Trump to rein in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, clearly stating that while Mr. Trump tried to undermine the Russia investigation, his efforts were stymied mainly because top aides and other government officials ignored his demands for action. Prime among them was White House Counsel Don McGahn, who told investigators that the President ordered him to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in June of 2017, soon after press reports emerged that the President was under investigation for possible obstruction of justice. 'McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre,' referring to the  episode in the Watergate investigation where President Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Later, when press reports emerged stating that the President has ordered McGahn to fire Mueller, the report says the President then 'directed White House officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the Special Counsel removed.' McGahn again refused to follow the President's order - defying him in an Oval Office meeting. 'McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle,' the report concluded. There were other stories of top aides similarly ignoring the President, such as Corey Lewandowski, who was told by Mr. Trump to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to publicly state that the Russia investigation was 'very unfair' to Mr. Trump. First in June of 2017, then again a month later, Mr. Trump used a private meeting to press Lewandowski - an outside adviser - to get Sessions 'to limit the Special Counsel investigation to future election interference.' But like the White House Counsel, Lewandowski balked, and refused to follow the President's request, going so far as to ask a senior White House official - Rich Dearborn - to do the dirty work for him. 'Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through,' the report stated. The report also details how the President tried to lobby senior leaders of the U.S. Intelligence Community to help him limit the Russia probe, as Mr. Trump complained to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, his daily intelligence briefers, and top officials at the National Security Agency. In late March of 2017, the President complained directly to DNI Coats, who counseled that it would be best to allow the investigations to 'run their course,' and not interfere with the work of FBI Director James Comey. While Coats did not tell investigators that he felt directly pressured to act, his top aides told a different story, that 'Coats was upset because the President has asked him to contact Comey to convince him there was nothing to the Russia investigation.' Mr. Trump also called the head of the National Security Agency, Admiral Mike Rogers, to weigh in on the Russia investigation - a conversation that so alarmed Rogers and a top deputy that they immediately drafted a memo, and placed it in an NSA safe to memorialize the communications with the President, much as Comey had done after his own meetings with Mr. Trump. Intelligence officials also said the President complained about the Russia investigation during his daily briefings, and asking for messages of support in the news media. 'On at least two occasions, the President began Presidential Daily Briefings by stating that there was no collusion with Russia and he hoped a press statement to that effect could be issued,' the report said. NSA chief Rogers recalled a private talk with Mr. Trump where the President vented his frustration, 'and said something like the 'Russia thing has got to go away.'' In another example from July of 2017, President Trump was ready to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but encountered resistance from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. 'Even though Priebus did not intend to carry out the President's directive, he told the President he would get Sessions to resign,' the report stated. Priebus later told the President that Sessions could not be ousted, because other top officials - including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand would also resign - setting off a Saturday Night Massacre type of situation for President Trump. In the end, the Mueller investigation found that top aides to the President had saved Mr. Trump from possible legal jeopardy, mainly by ignoring his demands on the Russia investigation. 'The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,' the Mueller report concluded. Top Democrats in Congress immediately made clear they want more information about the obstruction matters. 'As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller's report appears to undercut that finding,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. Not surprisingly, the White House saw things differently, as the redacted version of the Mueller report was issued. On the issue of collusion, the Mueller report stated the investigation 'identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign' - but that there was no evidence that the campaign had 'conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.' Mueller seems likely to be asked directly about his investigation in May, as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said he would ask Mueller to testify next month. Attorney General Barr is already scheduled for two days of testimony before the House and Senate on May 1 and May 2.