Day 658: Above the law.
1/ Robert Mueller’s team has begun writing its final report. Trump and his lawyers, meanwhile, have been reviewing his written answers to questions from the special counsel. Mueller is required to produce a “confidential report” at the end of his investigation, which includes “the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.” With Jeff Sessions being replaced with Matt Whitaker, who has been openly critical of Mueller, it is not clear whether the report will release it at all, or in what form. (CNN)
Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow claimed there will be “no effect day-to-day” on Mueller’s investigation. Whitaker has taken responsibility for supervising Mueller’s probe even though he has written critically about the special counsel’s work and publicly criticized it. (Bloomberg)
Whitaker will not recuse himself from overseeing Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. It’s also unlikely that Whitaker would approve any subpoena of Trump as part of the investigation. (Washington Post)
Kellyanne Conway’s husband argued that Trump’s pick of Whitaker was unconstitutional and that he should to be subject to Senate confirmation before serving. (New York Times / Washington Post)
Trump is considering former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to replace Sessions. (CNN / CNBC)
Progressive groups are calling for nationwide protests today at 5 p.m. local time to demand protection for Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. The protests will be held under the banner, “Nobody is Above the Law,” and will be led by the activist group MoveOn. The protests were triggered by Trump’s decision to fire Jeff Sessions and replace him with Matthew Whitaker, who will now have authority over the Russia investigation. Sessions recused himself after he was first appointed in 2016, giving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein oversight of the probe. Whitaker has publicly called for Mueller’s probe to be reigned in. (Reuters)
2/ Trump hasn’t decided whether he’ll answer any of Mueller’s questions, according to Rudy Giuliani. If Trump declines to answer the questions, Mueller would be forced to make a decision about whether to subpoena the sitting president and force a historic legal fight. (Politico)
3/ Trump suspended the White House press credentials of CNN’s Jim Acosta after a heated exchange at a press conference yesterday. Acosta refused to give up the microphone and challenged Trump on his characterization that the Central American migrant caravan was “an invasion.” Acosta was later refused access when he tried to re-enter the White House and was asked to hand over his “hard pass,” which gives journalists access to the premises. Sarah Huckabee Sanders falsely claimed that Acosta had placed “his hands on a young woman” who was responsible for giving the microphone to reporters asking questions. (New York Times / Washington Post)
4/ Sanders tweeted a doctored video to support her accusation that Acosta was aggressive toward a White House aide. While the edited video makes it look like Acosta swiftly chopped down on the arm of the aide, the original video shows Acosta’s arm move only as a response to the aide grabbing for the microphone. In the original video, Acosta says, “Pardon me, ma’am,” when she grabs for the mic. Acosta’s statement is not included in the video Sanders shared. The White House Correspondents’ Association called the White House’s reaction “out of line to the purported offense” and urged that Acosta’s press pass be restored. Trump called Acosta a “a rude, terrible person.” The video was posted by the editor-at-large for fake news site Infowars. (Washington Post / NBC News / HuffPost)
5/ A federal appeals court ruled that the Trump administration can’t end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The ruling from a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a federal district judge’s decision in January that Trump lacked the authority to eliminate the program. (Reuters / USA Today / CNN)
6/ A gunman killed a dozen people inside a crowded country-music bar in Southern California while firing seemingly at random. The gunman was identified as Ian David Long, a 28-year-old Marine veteran who earlier this year was cleared by a mental-health specialist after an encounter with police. He was found dead inside after apparently killing himself. (Washington Post / NBC News / The Guardian)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fell and fractured three ribs. She was admitted to the hospital for treatment and observation. (CNBC / CNN / New York Times / NPR)
Christine Blasey Ford continues to be the “target of constant harassment and death threats” after accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when the two were in high school. Ford has moved four times, hire a private security detail, and hasn’t been able to return to her job as a professor at Palo Alto University. (NPR)
Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for Georgia governor, resigned as secretary of state to begin his transition to governor despite the race being too close to call. Kemp holds a narrowing 50.3% to 48.7% lead over his opponent Stacey Abrams. In his role as secretary of state, Kemp oversaw Georgia’s elections – an inherent conflict of interest. (ABC News / Axios / CNN / NBC News)
The EPA removed more than 80 climate change websites. Since April 2017, the EPA’s climate change site said it was being updated to reflect the views of the Trump administration. In October 2018, the EPA removed the “updating” mention as well as links to the outgoing Obama administration’s climate change website archive. (Mashable)
The Trump administration issued a pair of federal rules that allow some employers to deny insurance coverage for contraception to their employees on religious or moral grounds. The rules provide exceptions to the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide essential health benefits at no charge to consumers, including birth control. (Washington Post)
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