April 15, 2019

New Zealand is taking an active approach to ensure video of the deadly mass shootings that took place at two mosques in Christchurch in March remains banned.

The Associated Press reports six people appeared before a New Zealand court on Monday on charges that they illegally redistributed the livestreamed video originally shared by the alleged gunman, Brenton Tarrant, who faces 50 murder charges. Two of the six people have been in custody since March.

Philip Arps, a 44-year-old who runs an insulation firm, reportedly smiled and winked at members of the public while appearing before the court, per RNZ National. He was denied bail. The same is true for an unnamed 18-year-old suspect who reportedly shared Tarrant's video and a still image of one of the mosques with the caption "target acquired."

New Zealand's chief censor has banned both the video and Tarrant's racist, anti-immigrant manifesto which was posted online before the shootings took place. Redistributing either is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment. Tim O'Donnell

2:29 p.m.

Peggy Noonan, who served as a speechwriter for former President Ronald Reagan, is forecasting possible trouble ahead in President Trump's impeachment trial.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer in a new Wall Street Journal op-ed observes that Trump's acquittal in the Senate "is likely but not fated," seeing a "mood shift" on impeachment and writing that there are reasons to believe "the situation is more fluid than we realize."

She cites as one reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently saying the Senate's probable impeachment trial could be fairly lengthy at between six and eight weeks; for comparison, the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton was five weeks.

"His decision also gives room for the unexpected — big and serious charges that sweep public opinion and change senators' votes," Noonan says. "...Serious and dramatic hearings would move the needle on public opinion, tripping it into seriously negative territory for the president. And if the needle moves, the Senate will move in the same direction."

Noonan does think that Trump pushing for Ukraine to conduct investigations that might benefit him politically "probably isn't enough," but what may be is "serious and sincere professionals who testify believably that the administration is corrupt and its corruption has harmed the country." And, she notes, it doesn't help that Trump continues to "let his inner crazy flourish daily and dramatically." Read the full op-ed at The Wall Street Journal. Brendan Morrow

2:24 p.m.

President Trump's newest threat isn't much of a threat.

In a letter to CNN sent Friday, Trump lawyer Charles Harder threatened to sue the network for apparently launching "unfair, unfounded, unethical and unlawful attacks" on Trump, especially in the era of impeachment. Trump is seeking monetary damages under the Lanham Act because CNN allegedly "misrepresented" the "trademark" that is Trump's name, and at least one lawyer seems to think it's ridiculous.

In the letter, Trump's legal team takes aim at CNN's claim that its reporters are "truth seekers" and outlines other times when CNN basically said it's relaying facts. But a recently published video from the right-wing group Project Veritas seems to show CNN employees claiming company president Jeff Zucker has a vendetta against Trump, thus "constituting misrepresentations" of Trump, Trump's team claims.

Neal Katyal, the Obama-era solicitor general who wrote the special counsel regulations, has already suggested CNN will have no problem dealing with Trump's threat. In fact, he said in a tweet that "CNN will want him to sue and have a court decide this one," perhaps giving them a legal answer to Trump's ongoing fake news claims.

While it's unclear if it would actually welcome a lawsuit, CNN did dismiss the suit as a "desperate PR stunt" that "doesn't merit a response" in a statement. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:35 p.m.

If it's Friday, it must mean Jane Fonda is getting arrested in Washington, D.C. — and this week, she recruited a costar to join her.

Fonda has vowed to "get arrested every Friday" for 14 weeks in climate change protests at the U.S. Capitol in what she's calling Fire Drill Fridays. After first getting arrested protesting last week, she was arrested in another demonstration Friday, as was her Grace and Frankie costar Sam Waterston, Deadline reports.

The 78-year-old actor, who advocated for the Green New Deal during the protest, said this was his first time being arrested, reports NBC News' Frank Thorp.

Fonda in an interview with The Los Angeles Times previously said that some of her costars, including Waterston and Lilly Tomlin, would be joining her for the protests, and she added she might ask Martin Sheen to join as well. The protests will continue, potentially with rotating celebrity guests, for four months. Brendan Morrow

12:28 p.m.

At least 62 people have died and more than 100 others were injured in explosions at a mosque in eastern Afghanistan.

Multiple bombings caused the roof of a mosque in the Nangarhar province to collapse during Friday prayers, Reuters reports. Rescuers are still excavating the site and pulling survivors and bodies out of the destroyed mosque, a member of Nangarhar's provincial council said.

Explosives were put "under a podium in the main atrium of the mosque where people were praying before they exploded," a spokesperson for Nangarhar's governor tells The New York Times. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the Deh Bala district does border rural ISIS-held areas. Afghanistan's government has so far blamed the Taliban for the attack, but the Taliban has denied involvement, per Reuters.

The attack comes as the United Nations declares violence against civilians has reached "extreme levels" in Afghanistan, CNN notes. At least 1,174 civilians died in the months of July-September, the largest quarterly total in a decade. The rising conflict largely stems from fighting between rival political groups. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:48 a.m.

Hillary Clinton has directly labeled 2016 Green Party nominee Jill Stein a "Russian asset," and indirectly suggested the same is true of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate during an appearance on the Campaign HQ podcast Thursday said she believes Russia in 2020 is going to "do third-party again," meaning push a third party candidate to help President Trump, The Washington Post reports. The previous time she's referring to is Stein's 2016 campaign.

"She's a Russian asset," Clinton said of Stein. "I mean, totally."

A report prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2018 concluded Russia's Internet Research Agency troll farm in 2016 pushed "pro-Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein content," The Hill reports.

This comment came after Clinton suggested there's an unnamed candidate in the field who Russians are grooming to run third party, clearly talking about Gabbard. Earlier this week, The New York Times wrote in reference to Gabbard that some "worry about supportive signs from online bot activity and the Russian news media."

"I'm not making any predictions, but I think they've got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary," Clinton said, with the "they" being the Russians. "And they're grooming her to be the third party candidate. She's the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far."

Gabbard has slammed such accusations at this week's Democratic debate, referring to the Times article as being full of "smears." In regards to Stein, the Post noted that "exit polls showed most of her voters wouldn't have supported either Clinton or Trump if Stein weren't running." Brendan Morrow

11:16 a.m.

Even former President Richard Nixon may have been better off than President Trump is now.

As evidence of Watergate wrongdoing started to catch up with Nixon, he still had one important asset: a loyal inner circle. But Trump is losing his aides left and right, leaving Trump in a situation that's "just cascading at this point," Nixon prosecutor Nick Akerman tells The Washington Post.

Like Trump, Nixon initially claimed he had no role in his Watergate scandal. But in Nixon's case, prosecutors had a hard time figuring out just how closely the president was tied to criminal activity because his devoted aides wouldn't give up the gun. In Trump's case, though, "you'll have that in spades," Akerman tells the Post. "All these individuals, all testifying that this is what happened. ... It's just cascading at this point," he continued.

There's a reason Trump's officials are so willing to spill the beans. Since Trump couldn't speak Ukrainian and Russian and isn't too politically experienced, he had to use a lot of foreign service officials to accomplish his goals that allegedly involved wrongdoing. They're largely "career people, extremely smart people who certainly don’t want their reputations smeared," so they're loyal "to the U.S. government and Constitution and not to [Trump]," Akerman said. And each time another one testifies, Akerman says it reveals "you've got Trump clearly involved."

Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:15 a.m.

One state department official reportedly saw this whole Biden mess coming.

Back in 2015, career State Department official George Kent warned that Hunter Biden's spot on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma was sending the wrong message to the corruption-riddled Ukraine, three people say Kent told Congress on Tuesday. But when he raised those concerns to a staffer for then-Vice President Joe Biden, Kent says they shut him down, The Washington Post reports.

While the Bidens have claimed there was nothing ethically wrong with Hunter Biden's Burisma work, they've also said it was a mistake for him to take the role. That's the essence of what Kent reportedly told Congress during his testimony in President Trump's impeachment inquiry on Tuesday. Kent largely feared Hunter Biden's job "would complicate efforts by U.S. diplomats to convey to Ukrainian officials the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest," per the Post. Ukraine, the Post continues, might "view Hunter Biden as a conduit for currying influence with his father," Kent reportedly continued.

Kent reportedly said he told an unnamed Biden staffer about his fears, but "was told the then-vice president didn't have the 'bandwidth' to deal with" it because his other son Beau Biden was fighting cancer, the Post writes. The Post previously reported Biden staffers briefly discussed the possibility of Hunter Biden's work being seen as a conflict of interest. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

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