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National News

    President Donald Trump says that 'nobody' disobeys his orders, a reference to the Mueller report, which paints a deeply unflattering picture of his presidency. Trump made the comments Monday during the annual Easter Egg roll when asked by reporters about special counsel Robert Mueller's portrayal of a White House in which staffers often ignore the president's orders. The report suggested that some of those refusals helped protect the president from himself. But Trump insisted Monday that: 'Nobody disobeys my orders.' Trump was also asked whether he was worried about impeachment, a talking point among some liberal Democrats. His reply? 'Not even a little bit.
  • Two people riding a motorcycle in south-central Kansas were killed when a vulture came out of a ditch and hit the driver’s head, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.  >> Read more trending news  The accident occurred Saturday afternoon in Barber County, according to the Highway Patrol report. Killed were Brandon Husband, 42, and his passenger, Jennifer Husband, 43, according to the report. Brandon Husband died at the scene, while Jennifer Husband died at an area hospital seven hours later, according to the Highway Patrol report. Neither person was wearing a helmet, the Highway Patrol said. According to the report, the vulture came out of the ditch and struck Brandon Husband in the head. The impact caused the motorcycle to veer off the road, hit a barbed-wire fence and overturn, according to the Highway Patrol.
  • Jury selection has begun in the trial of an aspiring agent and a former amateur coach charged with bribing big-school coaches to boost their business relationship with amateur basketball players. The trial of business manager Christian Dawkins and ex-amateur league director Merl Code began Monday in Manhattan federal court. Testimony in a trial projected to last two weeks will surround bribes paid to an assistant coach at the University of South Carolina and later Oklahoma State University, an assistant coach at the University of Arizona and an assistant coach at the University of Southern California. Those now ex-coaches have pleaded guilty to charges and await sentencing. Judge Edgardo Ramos told prospective jurors that the scandal also affected Creighton University and Texas Christian University. Code and Dawkins have pleaded not guilty.
  • Twin brothers were charged with driving under the influence after the car they were driving crashed, injuring deputies already on the scene of a fatal accident. >> Read more trending news  Deputies were investigating an accident between a commercial truck and car that killed a 19-year-old woman when the two vehicles failed to stop and crashed at the scene, according to Harris County Constable’s Office. Deputy Troy Brinkley and K9 Evo were in their vehicle when it was hit, KHOU reported. Brinkley suffered neck and back pain. Evo was evaluated for injuries and was OK. Deputy Matthew Self was directing traffic and suffered a sprained ankle when he jumped out of the way to avoid being hit. Both deputies were taken to a hospital and are expected to be OK, officials said. The drivers, brothers James and Joseph Bramlet, failed field sobriety tests, KHOU reported. Both were charged with driving under the influence. James Bramlet was also charged with unlawful carry of a weapon, KHOU reported.
  • An Arizona man is accused of trespassing after Phoenix homeowners allegedly discovered him in their attic, KNXV reported. >> Read more trending news  Adriel Luna Rodriguez, 18, was charged with criminal damage and trespassing, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. According to court records, the homeowners called police around 11 a.m. April 13 after allegedly hearing noises coming from their attic. Police discovered Rodriguez in the attic after his legs went through the ceiling drywall, KNXV reported. According to court documents, officers shot pepper balls into the attic to get Rodriguez out, but he did not cooperate, KTVK reported. 'It just kept dragging on and dragging on and dragging on ... and he wouldn't come out,' one of the homeowners told the television station. Police were finally able to extricate Rodriguez from the home and arrested him, KTVK reported. Police said there was about $4,000 worth of damage to the home’s roof, attic, and ceiling, KNXV reported.
  • The financial condition of the government's bedrock retirement programs for middle- and working-class Americans remains shaky, with Medicare pointed toward insolvency by 2026, according to a report Monday by the government's overseers of Medicare and Social Security. It paints a sobering picture of the programs, though it's relatively unchanged from last year's update. Social Security would become insolvent in 2035, one year later than previously estimated. Both programs will need to eventually be addressed to avert automatic cuts should their trust funds run dry. Neither President Donald Trump nor Capitol Hill's warring factions has put political perilous cost curbs on their to-do list. The report is the latest update of the government's troubled fiscal picture. It lands in a capital that has proven chronically unable to address it. Trump has declared benefit cuts to the nation's signature retirement programs off limits and many Democratic presidential candidates are calling for expanding Medicare benefits rather than addressing the program's worsening finances. Many on both sides actually agree that it would be better for Washington to act sooner rather than later to shore up the programs rather than wait until they are on the brink of insolvency and have to weigh more drastic steps. But potential cuts such as curbing inflationary increases for Social Security, hiking payroll taxes, or raising the Medicare retirement age are so politically freighted and toxic that Washington's power players are mostly ignoring the problem. Later this year, Social Security is expected to declare a 1.8% cost-of-living increase for 2020 based on current trends, program officials say. Monday's report by three Cabinet heads and Social Security's acting commissioner, urges lawmakers to 'take action sooner rather than later to address these shortfalls, so that a broader range of solutions can be considered and more time will be available to phase in changes while giving the public adequate time to prepare.' If Congress doesn't act, both programs would eventually be unable to cover the full cost of promised benefits. With Social Security that could mean automatic benefit cuts for most retirees, many of whom depend on the program to cover basic living costs. 'We remain committed to further bolstering the programs' finances, which will benefit from the long-term growth we will see as a result of the Administration's economic policies,' said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. For Medicare, it could mean that hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical providers would be paid only part of their agreed-upon fees. As an indication of Medicare's woes, it would take a payroll tax increase of 0.91 percentage points to fully address its shortfall or a 19% cut in spending. Medicare's problems are considered more difficult to solve, as health care costs regularly outpace inflation and economic growth. Social Security is the government's largest program, costing $853 billion last year, with another $147 billion for disability benefits. Medicare's hospital, outpatient care, and prescription drug benefits totaled about $740 billion. Taken together, the two programs combined for 45% of the federal budget, excluding interest payments on the national debt.
  • Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania is lobbying for a presidential primary debate in his home state, which is a projected battleground in the 2020 presidential election. Casey's letter Monday to Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez says holding a primary debate in Pennsylvania would benefit the party in a state that holds great electoral importance to Democrats. Casey said Democrats can't afford to lose Pennsylvania if they hope to beat President Donald Trump, after Trump in 2016 became the first Republican to win Pennsylvania since 1988. Casey described Trump's victory as a 'wake-up call' and said a debate in the politically divided state would help Democrats. The DNC is planning a dozen debates, and has announced two locations — starting with Miami this June and Detroit in July.
  • SpaceX has suffered a serious setback in its effort to launch NASA astronauts into orbit this year, with the fiery loss of its first crew capsule. Over the weekend, the Dragon crew capsule that flew to the International Space Station last month was engulfed in smoke and flames on an engine test stand. SpaceX was testing the Dragon's abort thrusters at Cape Canaveral, Florida, when Saturday's accident occurred. The company said the test area was clear and no one was injured. This Dragon was supposed to be reused in a launch abort test in June, with another capsule making the first flight with a crew of two as early as July. The SuperDraco abort thrusters are crucial to protect astronauts in flight; they're designed to fire in an emergency and pull the capsule safely away from the rocket. NASA said Monday it's too early to revise the target launch dates, given that the accident is still so fresh. 'This is why we test,' NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement over the weekend. 'We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with our commercial crew program.' The University of Southern California's Garrett Reisman, a former NASA astronaut who directed space operations for SpaceX until last year, said it was a 'tough day ... not good' for SpaceX. 'But thankfully no one got hurt and with everything we learn from this anomaly Crew Dragon will be a safer vehicle for all her future crews,' he tweeted. Until Saturday, SpaceX was on a roll to resume crew launches from Florida. The March test flight, to the space station and back, went smoothly. The SuperDraco thrusters embedded in the sides of the capsule, however, were not used during the demo. SpaceX said it will make sure, through the accident investigation, that the Dragon is one of the safest spacecraft ever built for astronauts. The California-based company released few details, though, on the accident itself and how it might impact future flights. Former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, now with Syracuse University, said via email Monday that it's 'too early to tell what the implications may be.' NASA astronauts have not launched from Cape Canaveral since the last shuttle flight in 2011, instead hitching rides on Russian rockets at steep prices. The space agency turned the job over to two private companies — SpaceX and Boeing — to build new capsules to ferry astronauts to and from the space station. Earlier this month, NASA announced major delays for test flights of Boeing's Starliner crew capsule. The initial trip to the space station, without astronauts, is targeted for August, with the first Starliner crew potentially flying by year's end. NASA stressed that next week's launch of a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule remains on track. The supply ship is set to blast off from Cape Canaveral on April 30. SpaceX has been making deliveries to the space station since 2012. The crew Dragon is a much-enhanced version of the cargo version. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • Indiana State Police on Monday will release 'very significant information' about the 2017 deaths of two teenage girls who were killed during a hiking trip, an agency spokesman said. No arrest warrants have been issued and no arrests have been made in the killings of 14-year-old Liberty German and 13-year-old Abigail Williams, Sgt. Kim Riley said. But he said the agency would release new information about the investigation into the unsolved slayings during a news conference in Delphi, the city near where the girls were found dead in February 2017. State Police Superintendent Doug Carter will discuss how the investigation had gone in a 'new direction,' according to police. Carter will be joined by a State Police captain but they won't take questions, Riley said. The teenagers' bodies were found in a rugged, wooded area one day after they went hiking near their hometown of Delphi, a community of about 3,000 people roughly 60 miles (95 kilometers) northwest of Indianapolis. Within days of the killings, investigators released two grainy photos of a suspect walking on the abandoned railroad bridge the girls had visited, and an audio recording of a man believed to be the suspect saying 'down the hill.' That evidence came from German's cellphone, and police have hailed the girl as a hero for recording potentially crucial evidence. Investigators have reviewed thousands of leads looking for the man. Police also have released a composite sketch from eyewitnesses who believe they saw the man in Delphi. ___ For the latest developments in this case: https://apnews.com/099ee1da042941dfb96d90377e08dde4
  • Sri Lankan officials said Monday that they believe a little-known Islamic group called the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) is likely responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks on hotels and Christian churches that killed nearly 300 in the nation’s capital. >> Read more trendin>> Read more trending news g news  Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said Monday that there had been 'several warnings from foreign intelligence agencies about the impending attacks' and that the NTJ had been mentioned in those warnings. >> Sri Lanka attack: Danish billionaire loses three of his four children in bombings While the NTJ is based in Sri Lanka, officials there say they believe the group had help from outside of the country. 'We don't see that only a small organization in this country can do all that,' Senaratne said. 'We are now investigating the international support for them, and their other links, how they produced the suicide bombers here and how they produced bombs like this.' Who is NTJ and where did they come from? Here’s what we know about the organization now. Who are they?   The group is believed to have broken off from the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath, an Islamist group in the country. The SLTJ is known for inciting hatred against Buddhists. The secretary of the group - Abdul Razik – was arrested in 2016 for insulting religion and “angering a religious devotee.” Razik later apologized for what he said about Buddhists. What does Thowheed Jamath mean? The name roughly translates as National Monotheism Organization, according to the Washington Post. Who is the group’s leader? The alleged leader is Mohamed Zaharan, according to Indian intelligence agencies. Is there a large Islamic presence in the nation? No, Muslims make up on 9.7 percent of Sri Lanka’s population, according to the CIA World Fact Book. Were they on authorities radar for possible terror activities? The NTJ was mainly known for vandalizing Buddhist statues, prior to Sunday’s attack. However, a little more than a week ago, police issued a three-page intelligence report to security officials in the country that radical Islamic groups, including NTJ, planned to attack Catholic Churches. Senaratne called for the resignation of the police inspector general, Pujith Jayasundara, for failing to stop the attacks. Where is Sri Lanka? Sri Lanka is an island off the southern tip of India.
  • Two decades have passed since the Columbine High School shootings -- a tragedy that left 12 students and one teacher dead, and changed the national conversation on school violence. On April 20, 1999, two Columbine seniors arrived at the school, armed with guns, knives and homemade explosives. The pair went on a shooting rampage before taking their own lives, according to a timeline of events. In the end, 12 students (not including the shooters) and one teacher perished. Twenty-three others were wounded, some of whom were paralyzed. Many of those who weren’t physically injured suffered emotional wounds. The shooting rocked the normally sleepy community of Littleton, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, then-Columbine High School Principal Frank DeAngelis. The tragedy ranks as one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history as well as one of the deadliest episodes of school violence. 'At times, it seems like it was just yesterday, and then other times, it seems like it was in a far distance,' DeAngelis told KUSA-TV. Friday evening, hundreds of mourners gathered at the Columbine Memorial, which stands in a park near the school, to honor those who lost their lives, KMGH-TV reported. Survivors and victims’ families have spoken to local and national media about the lasting impact the shootings have had on their lives. One of those survivors is Patrick Ireland. Now a 37-year-old father of three, Ireland was a 17-year-old student at the time of the shooting, KUSA-TV reported. He was shot and badly wounded in the school’s library. Ireland recalled to the news station the support he received after the shooting. “So many of my strong bonds and relationships were formed from everything that we went through at Columbine,” he said. “There was no playbook written for how a community should respond to this. People just opened up their hearts and their homes and were able to create that sense of belonging that really bonded the community together.” Cori Sanders lost her father, teacher Dave Sanders, in the shooting. Dave Sanders is credited with saving the lives of dozens of students as he put himself between them and the gunmen, according to KUSA-TV. 'My older daughter for many, many years would say Grandpa was in the wrong place at the wrong time,' Sanders said. 'Ten years ago, without prompting, she said he was at the right place at the right time, and I think that was really an important shift for our entire family.' DeAngelis recalled to CNN the “enormous burden” he felt to rebuild the Columbine community in the wake of the shooting. 'I tried to do everything to protect what I call the Columbine family,' he said. 'But when I would come home, I just wanted to be left alone … It cost me my marriage. My wife was saying, 'You're not the same person I married. You've changed.' And I did. I felt so much guilt.' Today, DeAngelis works with the Principal Recovery Network to provide support to school administrators and staff who have experienced gun violence on the job. He said he remains in contact with the “Columbine family.” He said years of therapy have helped him in the two decades since the shooting. 'He (the therapist) made me realize that Columbine is not going to define me. And that helped a lot,' DeAngelis said. 'I've just got to get it in my mind that it's OK.
  • Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed legislation establishing guidelines for producing commercial hemp in the state on Thursday.  The bill authorizes the state Department of Agriculture to develop and manage a hemp production program under the 2018 federal farm bill.  The measure received bipartisan support in the state House and Senate. State leaders expect rules to be in place to allow for planting of industrial hemp in the 2020 crop year. 
  • When Roger and Marcia Altis’ family business didn’t quite work out as planned — especially after Roger’s first heart attack — they decided to file for bankruptcy. Medical and other bills had piled up. The Internal Revenue Service came calling, demanding tax money. So the Eureka couple hired a Wichita attorney who they thought would help shepherd them through the financial mess. Instead, that attorney, Christopher O’Brien, made it worse — by stealing money meant to pay down the Altises’ debt. O’Brien, 69, last month pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement in the case — and agreed to pay nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in restitution to the Altises and two other clients who accused him of thievery. He’s set for sentencing at the federal courthouse in Wichita on June 3, according to court records. What’s already been a horrible ordeal for the Altises has taken another difficult turn. The couple is now at risk of losing their home over unpaid property tax they thought the estate would handle, the Wichita Eagle reported. In March, they received notice that they had only a short period of time to come up with more than $24,000 to pay to Greenwood County — or what’s left of their land, where their house and garden sit, will be sold to the highest bidder at a sheriff’s auction.
  • A large fire broke out at a midtown Tulsa apartment complex Friday, damaging or destroying more than a dozen units. It happened at the Cobblestone Apartments, west of 51st Street and Memorial Road, about 9:30 a.m. No one was hurt in the fire, as management acted quickly to notify residents they needed to evacuate.  Fire investigators say early on, it appears a smouldering cigarette or cigar left on a balcony was the source of ignition. KRMG spoke with a resident at the scene who was visibly upset because her pet was missing.  “The manager, Andy, knocked on the door and said to get out because the building was on fire,” Elizabeth told KRMG, “and I couldn’t find my cat.”  “I just want my baby!” she sobbed, as a friend tried to offer encouragement.  Firefighters did pull other pets from the building safely.  TFD spokesman Andy Little said the department’s response included five engines and four ladder trucks.  “It’s under control right now,” he said about 10:00 a.m., “but we still  have a lot of work to do.”  He said when firefighters arrived, “fire was coming out of the balcony and up onto the roof. Within minutes, it was through the roof so it was going pretty good when we got here.” The Red Cross responded to the scene to help residents.
  • Two hit sitcoms from the 1970s are coming back for a live, one-night-only event. Archie, Edith, George and Weezy from “All in the Family,” and its spin-off “The Jeffersons” will air next month on ABC for a prime-time special, The Associated Press reported. Woody Harrelson will play Archie Bunker, Marisa Tomei will portray his wife Edith. Jamie Foxx will play Archie’s former neighbor George Jefferson and Wanda Sykes will play his wife Louise. >> Read more trending news  Ellie Kemper, Justina Machado and Will Ferrell will also star in the event with more stars expected to be announced later, the AP reported. But why bring back such classic shows, ones that hit many hot button topics like racism and women’s rights head on? Norman Lear, who created both programs said in a statement, people say “These two shows were meant for the ‘70s and would not work today. We disagree with them and are here to prove, with two great casts depicting ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons,’ the timelessness of human nature.” The show, “Live in front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All In The Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons’” will air May 22, 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET, Deadline reported.

Washington Insider

  • As reporters, politicians, legal experts, and members of both political parties spent the weekend going over the impact of the 448 page redacted version of the Mueller Report, it was obvious from the political and legal reactions that the fight over what Russia did in the 2016 elections - and how the Trump Campaign and President Donald Trump dealt with that - was not going to be ending anytime soon. 'There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians,” President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN's 'State of the Union' on Sunday, as Republicans continue to press the case that the Mueller Report absolves the President of any and all wrongdoing. 'We need to go back and look at how this fake “Russia Collusion” narrative started,' said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), as Republicans looked to move on from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and to focus on investigating the investigators. Meanwhile, Democrats were mulling over their own options, which certainly seem to include more hearings in Congress on what was revealed by the Mueller Report, tugging the story in the exact opposite direction. Democrats pointed to comments from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who said the Mueller Report showed a 'pervasiveness of dishonesty' inside the Trump White House. Here's some things which may get some attention in the weeks and months ahead: 1. GOP still wants answers on the Steele Dossier. If you were looking for the Special Counsel's office to detail how the Steele Dossier had factored into the Russia investigation, there was precious little in the Mueller Report. The dossier was directly mentioned 14 times, but there was no mention of it contributing anything directly to the findings of the report. The Special Counsel report says nothing about the dossier as the reason for starting a counter-intelligence investigation, instead making clear that it was information from Trump Campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos which was the genesis. 'On July 31, 2016, based on the foreign government rep01ting, the FBI opened an investigation into potential coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign,' the report states on page 14. But the Mueller Report does not address one key question - was the Steele Dossier just another effort by Moscow to disrupt the 2016 elections? This is where Republicans say they want answers - they can hold hearings in the U.S. Senate, if they wish. 2. Michael Cohen again demands retraction over Prague story. One item in the Steele Dossier which has often caused a media furor is over the assertion that President Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen went to the Czech Republic on some sort of mission for the President during the 2016 campaign. Cohen has always denied it, and repeated that in testimony before Congress earlier this year. 'Have you ever been to Prague?' Cohen was asked. 'I've never been to Prague,' Cohen responded without missing a beat. 'I've never been to the Czech Republic.' The Mueller Report was clear that Cohen was believed over Steele. 'Cohen had never traveled to Prague and was not concerned about those allegations, which he believed were provably false,' the report says on page 351. On Friday, Cohen again said he was still waiting for a retraction by McClatchy Newspapers. 3. Why did Donald Trump Jr. not answer questions from Mueller? While President Trump's son has steadfastly defended his father throughout the Mueller investigation, and testified to the Congress about the Russia probe, the Special Counsel report notes that Trump Jr. did not directly aid the Mueller investigation, specifically on the infamous Trump Tower meeting. 'The Office spoke to every participant except Veselnitskaya (a Russian lawyer) and Trump, Jr., the latter of whom declined to be interviewed by the Office' - then, the next two sentences are redacted, with the explanation on page 125 that grand jury information is responsible for the redacation. In a later discussion of how President Trump handled publicity about the Trump Tower meeting, there is a redaction which involves Trump Jr. on grand jury grounds - does it indicate again that Trump Jr. did not answer questions? It's not clear because of the blacked out material - but the President's son never seemingly answered questions from Mueller's team or a federal grand jury. 4. A Trump tweet that was redacted in the Mueller Report. This seems sort of crazy, but it's true. On page 363 of the report, Mueller discusses President Trump denouncing Michael Cohen, when his former personal attorney had moved to plead guilty and cooperate with the feds. 'He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion serve a full and complete sentence,' the President tweeted. Then there is a section which is blacked out under, 'Harm to Ongoing Matter.' But if you look at the footnote, it refers to a tweet by Mr. Trump, at 10:48 am on December 3, 2018. It's not hard to figure out which tweet that was, as it was one in which the President talks about Roger Stone not flipping and cooperating with the feds. I'm not a lawyer, so it makes no sense to me that printing that tweet could interfere with an ongoing case, but that's one of the redactions made by the Justice Department. 5. When will Robert Mueller talk in public? Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have already sent a letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller asking him to testify before Congress on his report. Last week, the Attorney General said he would have no opposition to Mueller testifying. Mueller operated in a much different way than previous high-profile independent prosecutors - go back to Watergate and you will see news conferences by Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski; Ken Starr spoke to the press during the Whitewater investigation. But Robert Mueller has been totally silent, ignoring questions on his few visits to Capitol Hill, doing no interviews and saying nothing in public. An effort to get some remarks from him on Sunday after church netted only a 'no comment' - which is pretty much the most we have heard from Mueller during his almost 22 months as Special Counsel.
  • The newly released report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections rejected the claims of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that he received leaked emails from a young employee at the Democratic National Committee, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Assange used the murder of DNC worker Seth Rich in an effort to cover up the fact that Russian Intelligence had hacked the DNC emails, and transferred them to WikiLeaks. 'As reports attributing the DNC and DCCC hacks to the Russian government emerged, WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing,' the Mueller report stated, referring to Assange's claim that Rich was involved. 'The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails,' the report added on page 56 of the 448 page document released on Thursday by the Justice Department. The redacted version of the Mueller Report reiterated what had been alleged in a previous indictment of a group of Russian Intelligence agents, that they had hacked into a DNC email server starting in May 2016, and posing as 'Guccifer 2.0,' sent an encrypted attachment, 'wk dnc link1.txt.gpg' to WikiLeaks. For the Rich family, it was confirmation that Assange's claim - which had readily been embraced by familiar Republican voices, Fox News, and conservative talk radio - was indeed false, and had created 'unimaginable pain.' The Mueller report said WikiLeaks did not receive the hacked DNC emails and documents from GRU officers until July 14 - four days after Rich had been murdered. 'The file-transfer evidence described above and other information uncovered during the investigation discredit WikiLeaks's claims about the source of material that it posted,' the Mueller report stated. During the campaign, in an August 25, 2016 interview with Fox News cited by Mueller, Assange asserted that Rich - who was murdered on July 10, 2016 - was a 'potential' source of emails from inside the Democratic National Committee. WikiLeaks stuck to that story, even as U.S. investigators began to focus more and more on the ties between Assange and Russian GRU hackers, as WikiLeaks increased the reward for clues to Rich's murder to $130,000 the day before President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January of 2017. Not only did WikiLeaks push the Seth Rich angle - along with Fox News, Infowars, and various conservative talk radio hosts - but so too did the Russians; this tweet was from the Russian Embassy in London in May of 2017. Two days after that tweet from the Russian government, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich used an appearance on 'Fox and Friends' to further spread the theory that Rich had been murdered after giving WikiLeaks thousands of hacked documents from the DNC, as the matter quickly gained the attention of talk radio and conservative commentators. Soon after that Gingrich interview in May of 2017, Fox News retracted the network's original report tying Rich to the leak of materials to WikiLeaks. In the end, investigators concluded all signs pointed to Moscow and Assange, as the Mueller Report said the mentions of Rich were 'designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing,' that being the Russians. Like the Pizzagate conspiracy theory - which claimed that a supporter of Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a neighborhood pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. - no evidence was ever offered up by Assange and WikiLeaks to support the Rich claim.
  • Thursday's release of a 448 page redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections certainly did not end the questions about the investigation, as President Donald Trump labeled it, 'PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!' and Democrats demanded even more answers about what was in the report. First, you can find a link to the report on the website of the Department of Justice. The report is divided into two parts. The first deals with questions of collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia - the Special Counsel found evidence of 'numerous' contacts between them, but not enough to merit charges for any illegal activity. The second part of the report deals with questions about obstruction of justice. In that portion, investigators found that top aides, advisers, and friends of the President routinely ignored his orders to fire people like the Special Counsel and more. Here's more from the fine print of the Mueller report: 1. The first part of the collusion statement used by Barr. The release of the Mueller report allowed a full review of a sentence fragment employed by Attorney General William Barr in his late March letter, which (accurately) said, 'the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities. Many reporters had wondered what was in the first part of that statement and why it was not included in Barr's letter. And, starting on page nine, it seemed clear. 'The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,' the Mueller report concluded. Then adding the start of the sentence used by Barr: 'Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benfeit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts...' 2. It wasn't just Comey writing memos after talks with Trump. After getting fired as FBI Director, James Comey made public memos which he had written after various talks with President Trump. It's also been reported that former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe did the same thing. Now the Mueller report shows others did, too. Deputy National Security Director K.T. McFarland saved a contemporaneous memo after a discussion with the President in which the Mr. Trump asked McFarland to 'write an internal email denying that the President had directed Flynn to discuss sanctions' with the Russian Ambassador, when McFarland knew the real answer was that Mr. Trump had done exactly that. Then there were top officials at the National Security Agency, who were so alarmed by a phone call with Mr. Trump - they wrote a memo and put it in an NSA safe - with the deputy NSA chief saying it was 'the most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service.' 3. Aides, advisers, friends, regularly ignore Trump requests. Whether it was on big items like firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, forcing out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or sending messages to top officials, the Mueller report is chock full of examples where the President tells people to do something - and they refuse to do it - worried it's the wrong move. White House Counsel Don McGahn refused to fire Mueller. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus wouldn't tell Sessions he should leave. Corey Lewandowski wouldn't send a message for the President to Sessions, and even tried to get a White House aide to do it - but he also refused. Then there was this tidbit from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had lunch with President Trump, and was told to send along a message to James Comey. This was the same day that Mr. Trump told Comey - after clearing the Oval Office of other officials - that he wanted the feds to 'let this go' when it came to legal issues for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. 4. Rosenstein threatened to 'tell the truth' on Comey firing. After using a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as a pretext to fire FBI Director James Comey - the White House pressed Rosenstein to further explain why Comey had been fired, 'to put out a statement saying that it was Rosenstein's idea to fire Comey.' Rosenstein said that was a 'false story,' and after President Trump called on the phone to ask the Deputy A.G. to do a press conference about the Comey firing, the report says Rosenstein said he would 'tell the truth that Comey's firing was not his idea.' The Mueller report goes along with testimony released by Republicans in recent weeks which depicted Rosenstein as furious with the White House over the Comey firing, convinced that he was 'used' to get rid of the FBI Director. 5. Sarah Huckabee Sanders comments 'not founded on anything.' After President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May of 2017, the White House repeatedly defended the move by saying that ousting Comey was supported by 'countless members of the FBI,' though the White House produced no evidence to reporters back up that assertion. Fast forward a bit over a year to July of 2018, when Sanders was interviewed by investigators, she admitted there was no truth to her assertion from the podium. 'Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from 'countless members of the FBI' was a 'slip of the tongue,'' the report stated. Asked about a comment in another press interview about how FBI agents had supposedly lost confidence in Comey, 'Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything.'  6. A series of unknown Mueller cases are still active. While Attorney General William Barr told Congress last month that the Mueller report 'does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public,' the details show a slightly different story. At the end of the report, there are lists of cases transferred to other prosecutors, and information on other matters - uncovered by Mueller - but referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. In those two lists, a series of cases were redacted - two cases transferred by Mueller - and 12 other cases in which referrals were made. All of them were redacted for the reason that publicity could damage ongoing investigations, what was officially known as, 'Harm to Ongoing Matter.' Maybe they are cases which have nothing to do with the Russia investigation or with President Trump. But one of the referrals which was not redacted involved Mr. Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Technically, these aren't Mueller cases - but they're also still secret. 7. Mueller discredits Wikileaks claim of Seth Rich DNC leak. Along with Pizzagate, the claim by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange that a former DNC staffer was the source of leaked Democratic Party emails was one of the biggest conspiracy theories to emerge from the 2016 campaign. In the report, Mueller's team says file transfer evidence linking Wikileaks to Russian Intelligence lays waste to the claim that Seth Rich had leaked materials to Assange - and may have been murdered as a result. Assange has repeatedly denied any ties to Russian agents, but U.S. Intelligence has long regarded Wikileaks as a 'fence' for Russian Intelligence, and that the two tied themselves together to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. 8. Mueller says witnesses deleted potential evidence. In laying out the evidence put forward in the report, the Special Counsel's office made clear that the Russia probe was hampered because of information which could not be obtained - making it clear that some people under investigation had deleted texts and other electronic communications, 'including some associated with the Trump Campaign.' One example was between former White House aide Steve Bannon and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who were questioned about a secretive meeting in the Seychelles, which involved Russian figures. Bannon and Prince told different stories - but investigators couldn't see their text messages, because they had simply disappeared from their phones, as both men denied deleting the messages. 'Prince's phone contained no text messages prior to March 2017, though provider records indicate that he and Bannon exchanged dozens of messages,' the report stated. 9. Mueller Report redactions - 'lightly redacted' or more? The evening before the release of the report, officials told a variety of news organizations that the report was 'lightly redacted.' One group looked at it and found redactions of over 170 pages, as there were examples where entire pages were blacked out. The very first redactions in the document came in the Table of Contents - and had to do wtih the 'Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Materials,' dealing with stolen Democratic Party emails and Wikileaks. Some items were redacted for grand jury information, investigative techniques, harm to ongoing matters, and third person privacy concerns. 10. Trump's answers to Mueller questions. At the end of the Mueller report, you can read the President's answers to a series of written questions posed by the Special Counsel's office, after they were unable to get the President to sit for an interview, in person. Critics of the President noted derisively that there was a theme in many of his answers. 'I don't recall,' or 'I don't remember,' were phrases found. 'I have no recollection,' and 'I do not remember.' 'I do not recall being aware during the campaign' of any contacts with Wikileaks, the President testified. 'I have no recollection' that any foreign government or entity wanted to support the campaign, Mr. Trump said. 'I have no recollection of being told during the campaign that Vladimir Putin' supported my bid for the White House, the President added.
  • 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.
  • Official Washington is focused primarily today on the release of a redacted version of a report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed almost two years ago by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 elections, a probe which has generated fierce criticism since the outset by President Donald Trump and many of his political allies. First, this is the link to the 448 page Mueller report. There are two parts to the report - Volume 1 covers questions about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  Volume 2 covers matters related to possible obstruction of justice by the President on the Russia probe. Here's where we stand: + 1:20 pm - The Mueller report raises the specter that associates of the Trump campaign and/or allies of the President may have deleted emails and other electronic evidence, which impeded the Mueller investigation. + 1:10 pm - While the Special Counsel was never able to get an in-person interview with the President, this report does include his written answers to questions submitted by the Mueller legal team. + 1:00 pm - The report goes into a lot of detail about the interactions between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey, which ultimately resulted in Comey's firing in May of 2017.   + 12:50 pm - While Attorney General Barr talked earlier today of all the cooperation that the White House had provided in the investigation, the Mueller reports paints a different picture, especially when it comes to the question of getting testimony from President Trump.  The Special Counsel's office determined that an effort to subpoena the President would require an enormous amount of legal effort and time, even though simple written responses from President Trump were viewed as insufficient.  “We viewed the written answers to be inadequate,” the report stated. + 12:30 pm - The report details a number of contacts and calls made by the President to top intelligence officials, asking for their help in refuting the Trump-Russia story.  Top officials at the National Security Agency were so alarmed that they immediately wrote out a memo after the conversation, and put it in a safe.   Like White House aides, intelligence officials basically ignored the President's demand for help. + 12:10 pm - The Mueller report basically says that because top aides to the President consistently refused to carry out his orders to rein in - or even terminate - the Russia investigation, they saved the President from committing illegal acts, and obstruction of justice. + 12:00 pm - As mentioned earlier, President Trump had ordered his White House Counsel to fire Robert Mueller.  Don McGahn had refused.  Months later, the issue surfaced in the press, and the Mueller report says the President then demanded that McGahn deny the reports.  McGahn refused. + 11:55 am - The Mueller report says President Trump personally intervened to change a statement from his son, Donald Trump, Jr., about the infamous Trump Tower meeting, deleting a reference to how the meeting was to offer information about Hillary Clinton, and instead saying the meeting was about adoption policies.  + 11:50 am - After telling the White House Counsel to fire Mueller in June of 2017, President Trump kept pressing aides to help limit the Russia probe.  He asked Corey Lewandowski to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to publicly declare the Russia probe, “very unfair.”  Lewandowski said he would do that, but refused - and tried to get another aide to do the same thing, who also refused. + 11:40 am - As the Mueller report was being released, President Trump was making comments about it during a White House event with wounded warriors.  + 11:35 am - In testimony from White House Counsel Don McGahn, the Mueller report spells out how President Trump ordered his top lawyer to fire the Special Counsel in 2017, once stories emerged that the President was under investigation for possible obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation. + 11:30 am - A reminder in the report from the Special Counsel that a number of people connected to the Trump campaign lied about their contacts during and after the election when questioned by the feds. + 11:25 am - Here is the conclusion of Special Counsel Mueller when it comes to whether President Trump should have been charged with Obstruction of Justice: + 11:20 am - While there were indications the report was 'lightly redacted,' that's not the case in some areas, where entire pages were blacked out. + 11:10 am - The redactions give us little new information on links between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks. + 11:06 am - The first redaction is in the table of contents, dealing with materials linked to Wikileaks and the Trump Campaign. + 11:05 am - The Mueller report has been released.  It is 448 pages. + 11:00 am - Don't forget, this report is not just about President Trump.  It also will spill into the race among Democrats to try to replace him. + 10:55 am - My ten year old kid asks me, “Have they released the Mueller report yet?”  Soon, I tell him. + 10:50 am - President Trump's scheduled 10:30 am event with Wounder Warriors at the White House still has not started.  With the Mueller report scheduled to be delivered to Congress at 11 am, it will be interesting to see if the President is speaking at that moment.  A President has the power to dominate the airwaves in a way that no other person can in the United States. + 10:45 am - As we await the exact details of the Mueller report, it is a good time to remember how important actual documents are in any investigation, and how politicians deal with public discussion of that material.  This from one House Democrat from Florida: + 10:40 am - Donald Trump Jr. did not mention his initial reaction to the offer of 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton, which he welcomed.  + 10:35 am - President Trump's son is echoing the declarations of his father as the Mueller report is released. + 10:30 am - Democrats are furious about the news conference of Attorney General Barr, claiming it was nothing more than Barr acting like President Trump's defense lawyer. + 10:25 am - Not long after the Attorney General said he had no opposition to the idea, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are now officially asking for public testimony from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. + 10:20 am - Here is how the Barr news conference ended. + 10:15 am - The Trump White House is ready for today.  This was tweeted out soon after the end of the Barr news conference. + 10:10 am - Even on Fox News, there were not universally good reviews for the Attorney General. + 10:05 am - Here's some of the Attorney General's news conference. + 10:00 am - The news conference ends on a somewhat testy note, as the Attorney General sparred with reporters over how he characterized the impact of the investigation on President Trump, labeling the probe an 'unprecedented situation.' + 9:55 am - Barr says he has no opposition to the idea of Special Counsel Mueller testifying before Congress. + 9:50 am - Barr confirms that the President's legal team was allowed to see the Mueller report before Congress. + 9:45 am - Here is a link to Barr's statement he is giving to reporters. + 9:40 am - In his news conference, the Attorney General keeps repeating a main theme over and over again - that there was no collusion or coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.  “The Special Counsel did not find any conspiracy,” Barr says. “So, that's the bottom line.” + 9:35 am - Attorney General William Barr says the redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be delivered to Congress at 11 am, and then it will be posted on line for the public to read. + 9:25 am - As we wait for the news conference of Attorney General William Barr, Democrats are denouncing Barr, ridiculing his decision to hold this session with reporters before the report is even released. + 9:20 am - President Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is making his own noise today, saying he's ready to fill in any of the blanks left by redactions in the Mueller report.  Cohen's lawyer - Lanny Davis - was emphasizing the same as well. + 9:10 am - A quick reminder of what we know so far about the Russia investigation.  We know the basics already from the charges brought - or not brought by the Special Counsel.  Russian intelligence agents hacked Democratic Party emails and documents, and gave them to Wikileaks during the campaign. There were numerous contacts between Russians and people affiliated with the Trump campaign, both before and after the elections. But we also know that no indictments were ever returned for any Trump-Russia conspiracy, or collusion.  + 9:05 am - Congress is not in session this week, but the miracle of social media will make it very easy for lawmakers to weigh in on today's events as they transpire.  Republicans are backing the President, while Democrats are raising questions about the actions of Attorney General William Barr, who is scheduled to hold a news conference at 9:30, before the release of the report. + 9:00 am - It's been a busy morning on Twitter for President Trump, who has been again voicing his displeasure with the Mueller investigation, and re-tweeting items related to Hillary Clinton and the investigation of her emails from her time as Secretary of State.