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July 16, 2019

The New York Police Department officer accused of strangling Eric Garner will not face federal charges.

NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo will not be charged in the chokehold death of Garner, whose repeated last words of "I can't breathe" became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, the Justice Department announced Tuesday. That decision reportedly comes after the DOJ's civil rights division recommended charges, but Attorney General William Barr overruled that suggestion, a senior DOJ official tells ABC News' Alex Mallin.

Garner's July 17, 2014 death was caught on camera after NYPD officers stopped him for allegedly selling cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner. Federal prosecutors then had five years to press charges against Pantaleo, who appeared to use an illegal chokehold on Garner to restrain him and could've been accused of violating Garner's civil rights. But with the statute of limitations on Garner's death expiring Wednesday, prosecutors declined to press charges.

That decision, officials tell ABC News and NBC News, comes against the wishes of lawyers in the DOJ's civil rights division. But it's in line with what the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York recommended, those officials continued.

Pantaleo did face disciplinary action from the NYPD and has been on desk duty without a gun since Garner's death, The New York Times notes. The NYPD also wrapped a disciplinary trial against Pantaleo in June to determine if he should face further punishment. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 12, 2019

The House of Representatives has just passed its defense bill with an amendment requiring President Trump to receive approval from Congress before launching a military strike against Iran, The New York Times reports.

With a 251-170 vote, the amendment was added onto the House's defense bill, which subsequently passed; the measure received support from most Democrats as well as 27 Republicans, including Trump-ally Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). The amendment has a self-defense exception, The Washington Post reports.

The House's vote comes weeks after Trump said he ordered a strike on Iran following the downing of a U.S. drone but called it off with 10 minutes to spare after deciding that this response would not be "proportionate." Trump has asserted that he does not need the approval from Congress to strike Iran, telling The Hill last month, "I do like keeping them abreast, but I don't have to do it legally."

Although this amendment was approved for the House's version of the defense bill on Friday, the Times writes that the Senate will likely be looking to remove this provision after a similar amendment failed in the Republican-controlled chamber last month. "The president made it absolutely clear that he is not interested in starting a war with Iran," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as that measure failed, per the Times. "Everybody ought to take a deep breath." Trump earlier this week threatened to veto the House's defense bill. Brendan Morrow

July 12, 2019

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is out.

Acosta will step down by the end of next week, President Trump announced Friday. Trump and Acosta, who spoke with reporters about the exit, said it was Acosta's decision; Acosta said "I do not think it is right or fair" to draw focus to himself amid the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein, reports Bloomberg. "I thought the right thing was to step aside."

The Labor Secretary has drawn scrutiny for his handling of Epstein's plea deal over a decade ago — Epstein was convicted of sexually abusing underage girls, and critics say Acosta played a major role as a Florida prosecutor in giving him a relatively light sentence for the crime. At a press conference this week, Acosta defended his handling of the case, including his decision to negotiate a non-prosecution agreement without keeping the victims informed, which a federal judge said was a violation of the law. Over the weekend, Epstein was arrested on new sex trafficking charges.

Though Acosta said earlier this week that he believes he handled the case appropriately, Trump was reportedly not pleased with his performance in the press conference and lost faith in his ability to move past the controversy.

While his resignation may be a surprise to some, at least Fox News' Andrew Napolitano can say "I told you so." Summer Meza

July 11, 2019

President Trump and Attorney General William Barr on Thursday announced that the White House would no longer pursue the effort to have a citizenship question added to the 2020 census, instead instructing the Commerce Department to seek the information through other means.

"We are not backing down," said Trump, who had promised to continue the fight to have the question added and was reportedly weighing a potential executive order. Trump emphasized his belief that the information is of monumental importance, saying, "We must have a reliable count of how many citizens, non-citizens and illegal aliens are in our country," and accusing Democrats of working to "conceal the number of illegal aliens in our midst," per Bloomberg. Critics argued the question would depress representation and funding appropriation in urban areas.

The Supreme Court last month ruled that the administration could not add the citizenship question to the census for now, a decision the White House criticized. Barr said the issue with adding the question was logistical, not legal, reports The Washington Post, as the printing and distribution of the 2020 census would need to be delayed to accommodate any changes. Trump said he would instruct every federal agency "to provide the Department of Commerce with all requested records regarding the number of citizens and non-citizens in our country." Summer Meza

July 2, 2019

The Trump administration's plans for a census citizenship question are no longer.

The 2020 census questionnaire is officially on the printing presses, and there's no question of citizenship on its pages, an attorney for the Department of Justice told lawyers fighting the question on Tuesday. The official reveal comes after successive courts flip-flopped over whether the question was constitutional, and after the Supreme Court ruled against its inclusion last week.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the question's inclusion early last year, launching a bevvy of court challenges to it. But even though the Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration's explanation for adding the question was insufficient, President Trump suggested he'd try to delay the census to leave room for further review. Now, an email from the DOJ confirms that won't happen.

Advocates claimed asking about citizenship would deter noncitizens from taking the census, depressing responses in traditionally Democratic areas and therefore reducing those regions' congressional representation. Evidence later surfaced showing a deceased GOP operative had found that including the question "would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites," and that he had shown his research to Trump officials. Still, the Trump administration argued it would help them enforce the Voting Rights Act — reasoning the Supreme Court said "appeared to be contrived" in its Thursday ruling. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 28, 2019

The white supremacist who killed a woman and injured dozens of others after driving his car into a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville has received a life sentence on federal hate crime charges.

James Alex Fields Jr. was sentenced to life in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to 29 hate crime charges in the attack that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured 35 people who were protesting a white supremacist rally in August 2017, NBC News reports. Fields pleaded guilty as part of a deal to avoid the death penalty.

In court on Friday, Fields said that "I apologize for the hurt and loss I've caused" and that "every day I think about how things could have gone differently and how I regret my actions," The Associated Press reports. He was previously convicted on first-degree murder charges, with the jury recommending he receive a life sentence.

Fields' attorneys had asked for less than life in prison, saying, "the essential property of mercy is that it applies to the undeserving," The New York Times reports. But prosecutor Christopher Kavanaugh asked the judge to impose a life sentence, writing per The Washington Post that Fields "has demonstrated that he feels no remorse for his actions and continues to espouse his hateful ideology." Brendan Morrow

June 21, 2019

Advice columnist and author E. Jean Carroll has just accused President Trump of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s.

In an essay published by New York Magazine's The Cut on Friday, Carroll writes that she encountered Trump at a Bergdorf Goodman's store in New York in 1995 or 1996 and that he took her to the lingerie section, where they went into a dressing room together. Once inside, Carroll alleges that Trump pushed her against the wall twice and put his mouth against her lips, pinning her as he removed her tights.

"The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I'm not certain — inside me," she writes.

Carroll says that she struggled to push Trump off and finally was able to do so and run out of the dressing room after about three minutes. She writes that she didn't go to the police at the time but did tell two friends, one of whom recommended she "tell no one" because "he has 200 lawyers" and "he'll buy you." Both friends confirmed this account.

The White House on Thursday denied Caroll's accusation, saying in a statement, "This is a completely false and unrealistic story surfacing 25 years after allegedly taking place and was created simply to make the President look bad." Trump previously faced allegations of sexual assault from multiple women during the 2016 presidential election, which he denied. Brendan Morrow

June 20, 2019

A bipartisan swath of senators on Thursday voted to block President Trump's emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

In the first of three resolutions, all Democrats and seven Republicans joined for a 53-45 vote to express their disapproval of Trump's planned arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The remaining two resolutions are expected to pass as well, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) leading the charge, The Washington Post reports.

Last month, Trump announced he'd use his emergency powers to let American companies sell $8.1 billion worth of munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Much of Congress had loudly opposed the arms sales, particularly following Saudi Arabia's alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That prompted Graham to join Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in co-sponsoring 22 separate resolutions blocking the sales, though they later condensed the number to three in a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), per The New York Times. The deal will also force the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to consider a bill limiting a president's authority on using emergency powers for arms sales.

At least four Senate Republicans, including Graham, are expected to block the remaining two resolutions, the Post says. Still, it's unlikely the resolutions will get the 67 votes they'd need to avoid Trump's inevitable veto. The Democratic-held House is also expected to have no problem passing the bills. Kathryn Krawczyk

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