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April 16, 2018

When President Trump lashed out at Special Counsel Robert Mueller after the FBI raided the office, residences, and bank deposit box of Trump's personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, commentators pointed out that the prosecutor who authorized the raid was Geoffrey Berman, Trump's personally selected U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. But soon after taking the job in January, The New York Times reports, "Berman notified Justice Department officials in Washington of a possible appearance of conflict of interest in the then-undisclosed Cohen investigation, and officials concluded that he should be recused, according to people briefed on the matter."

It is unclear why Berman recused himself, the Times said, and its reporters could only rule out reasons he had to hand control of the investigation to his handpicked deputy, Robert S. Khuzami. Berman, a registered Republican who donated to and volunteered for the Trump campaign, is not known to have any ties to Cohen, did not recuse himself because he was a law partner with Trump supporter Rudolph Giuliani, and did not step aside because of Trump's unusual decision to personally interview him for the job, the Times said.

The White House now reportedly considers the Cohen investigation, which has been secretly going on for months, a bigger existential threat to Trump's presidency than Mueller's Russia investigation, and people who have worked in or observed the Manhattan federal prosecutor's office — sometimes "jokingly referred to as the 'Sovereign District,'" the Times says — don't disagree with the White House assessment. "The office has been historically known for its independence of the Justice Department," John S. Martin Jr., a former U.S. attorney in Manhattan and former federal judge, tells the Times. "That's what makes it so powerful in this investigation, and such a danger to Donald Trump." You can read more about Khuzami and the other people running the Cohen investigation at The New York Times. Peter Weber

12:17 a.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was the first 2020 presidential candidate to call for the House to impeach President Trump after Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report was released Thursday. In a CNN town hall Monday night, she explained why impeachment is more important than politics, telling moderator Anderson Cooper, "There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution."

Warren read the entire redacted Mueller report right away, she said, and "three things just totally jump off the page. The first is that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election in order to help Donald Trump. ... Part 2, Donald Trump welcomed that help," and "Part 3 is when the federal government starts to investigate Part 1 and Part 2, Donald Trump took repeated steps, aggressively, to try to halt the investigation." If any other American "had done what's documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail," she said.

Mueller decided he couldn't charge Trump with a crime, saying "in effect, if there's going to be any accountability, that accountability has to come from the Congress," Warren said. "And the tool that we are given for that accountability is the impeachment process. This is not about politics; this is about principle."

"I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and so did everybody else in the Senate and in the House," Warren said. "If there are people in the House or the Senate who want to say that's what a president can do when the president is being investigated for his own wrongdoings or when a foreign government attacks our country, then they should have to take that vote and live with it for the rest of their lives."

Julian Castro has joined Warren in calling for impeachment and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said at her CNN town hall Monday that "Congress should take the steps toward impeachment," but other 2020 Democrats have been more cautious. Peter Weber

12:15 a.m.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) announced on Monday she plans to "get something done when it comes to student loans," but it doesn't involve eliminating debt or making four-year public colleges tuition-free.

During a CNN town hall in New Hampshire, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate told university students in the audience she wishes she could "staple a free college diploma under every one of your chairs," but that's impossible and she has to tell them "the truth."

Instead, Klobuchar said under her plan, Pell Grant programs would be expanded, community college would be free, and graduates would be able to refinance their student loans. "Everything that I have proposed to you, I have found ways to pay for it that I think makes sense, that we can actually get done," she said.

Earlier in the day, another Democratic presidential contender, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), revealed that she has a plan to get rid of student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans while making two-year and four-year public colleges tuition-free. Catherine Garcia

April 22, 2019

When asked during a CNN town hall on Monday if the Boston Marathon bomber, terrorists, murderers, and sex offenders should have the right to vote, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that since the United States is a democracy, he believes even "terrible people" should be able to cast ballots.

Sanders added that "once you start chipping away and you say, 'Well, that guy committed a terrible crime, not going to let him vote. Well, that person did that. Not going to let that person vote,' you're running down a slippery slope."

Sanders supports letting people who are currently incarcerated vote, he explained, because they are paying their price to society and the government "should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy." Catherine Garcia

April 22, 2019

A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that the practice of using tire-chalking to mark how long a car has been parked is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit decided this violates the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable searches," and is a form of trespass requiring a warrant, The Washington Post reports. Parking enforcement officers use tire-chalking to track how long a car has been parked; once it's determined the car is in violation of time limits, a ticket is issued, bringing in revenue for the city.

The appeals court based its decision on a 2012 Supreme Court ruling, which found that police must get a warrant before attaching a GPS device to a suspect's vehicle.

Attorney Philip Ellison of Saginaw, Michigan, brought the case after his law partner received a ticket while sitting in his car, which had been chalked. Ellison wrote about this on Facebook, and a friend, Alison Taylor, commented that she had received 15 tickets due to tire-chalking. Ellison filed a civil rights lawsuit against Saginaw on Taylor's behalf; the case was first thrown out by a district court, before being reversed by the appeals court. Catherine Garcia

April 22, 2019

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn was cited 157 times in the Mueller report, more than any other witness, and that has Rudy Giuliani running scared.

In an interview Monday with The New York Times, Giuliani, a member of President Trump's legal team, admitted that he's worried Democrats could use the Mueller report to start impeachment proceedings against Trump, and he's now trying to chip away at McGahn's credibility, saying he has "no choice but to attack."

McGahn was still White House counsel when he first met with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team in November 2017. He was concerned that Trump would turn him into a scapegoat, the Times says, and now that the report is out and shows he discussed multiple incidents that could be viewed as obstruction, that's exactly what he's become.

Giuliani questioned McGahn's motives and memory and criticized the special counsel and how investigators interviewed McGahn, saying in one case it was a "cross-examination a law student could perform." McGahn was "hopelessly confused," Giuliani added, and disputed a section of the report that stated Trump demanded McGahn order the Department of Justice fire Mueller. The report, he concluded, is "a disgrace." McGahn's attorney, William Burck, defended his client, telling the Times the report "speaks for itself, and no amount of obfuscation by Mr. Giuliani is going to fool anyone."

Not everyone in the White House is onboard with Giuliani's tactics, two staffers told the Times, with many thinking Trump and his legal team should try a new strategy: remaining silent. Catherine Garcia

April 22, 2019

The Supreme Court on Monday announced it has accepted three cases involving gay and transgender employees, and will deliver rulings on whether federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from firing workers due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The cases — Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC — will be decided during the court's term that will start in October. The justices will be tasked with deciding whether the protections granted by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and sex, also applies to people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda will be consolidated, as both involve employees who say they were fired for being gay. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC involves a transgender woman who was fired from a Michigan funeral home because of her gender identity. In Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, lower courts sided with the plaintiffs, NPR reports, but in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, it was decided that Gerald Bostock was not fired from his job as a child welfare service coordinator because he is gay. Catherine Garcia

April 22, 2019

The leader of a New Mexico militia arrested on Saturday allegedly boasted that his organization, the United Constitutional Patriots, trained to assassinate former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros, a complaint filed over the weekend states.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, was arrested on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He is described as being the "commander" of the 20-member United Constitutional Patriots, a group that has been detaining migrant families crossing the southern border.

In the complaint, an FBI agent writes that someone called the agency's public tip line in October 2017, and said there was "alleged militia extremist activity" taking place in Hopkins' Flora Vista, New Mexico, home. This person also said Hopkins "allegedly made the statement that the United Constitutional Patriots were training to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama," claiming that they were supporting anti-fascist activists. Hopkins' attorney denies his client said this.

FBI agents visited Hopkins' house in November 2017, and saw 10 firearms. Hopkins showed them several other weapons, and said they belonged to his common law wife, Fay Sanders Murphy, the affidavit says. After this visit, FBI agents found out Hopkins had prior felony convictions, including being found guilty in 2006 of criminal impersonation of a peace officer. Hopkins remains in custody, pending a preliminary hearing April 29 in Albuquerque. Catherine Garcia

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