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    The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday wades into one of the more controversial policy matters of the Trump Administration, as the Justices will hear arguments on the merits of the revised effort by President Donald Trump to block certain foreign nationals from traveling to the United States, what critics often deride as his “Muslim ban.” Before the Court is the third version of the Trump travel order, which began just a week into his Presidency, as an effort to stop travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries. After the first two versions were blocked by the courts – this third one would limit visits to the United States by people from Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Somalia, and slow down the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. “As President, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people,” Mr. Trump said as he issued the third version of the travel order in September of 2017. Lower courts have ruled against the Trump plan. The travel order is being challenged by the state of Hawaii, which has tried to use the President’s past statements and tweets about the threat of Islamic terrorism against the travel order, which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect while the case was being litigated. “The arguments against the travel ban come from every corner of our country,” says Neal Katyal, who will carry Hawaii’s case before the Justices. “It comes down to who we are as a nation,” Katyal wrote. THREAD 1. The backgrounds and perspectives of those articulating arguments against the travel ban in #TrumpvHawaii are remarkable in their breadth and diversity. Their chorus is deafening: the ban is unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary and un-American. — Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) April 24, 2018 Interest in the case has been strong, as the line for public seats began forming on Monday outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The arguments on the Trump travel order come as lower courts are still duking it out over efforts by the President to terminate the DACA program from the Obama Administration – that question is expected to reach the Justices in coming months. On Tuesday evening, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. became the third to block the President’s effort to end DACA, the program which allows younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers” to temporarily stay in the U.S. and avoid deportation proceedings. “DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” wrote Judge John Bates, though he gave the feds 90 days to better explain the decision. Judge Bates (DDC) finds DACA rescission unlawful (but note the different remedy than in prior cases; Judge Bates vacates the rescission, but stays it for 90 days to allow admin to offer a justification that might support the policy): https://t.co/ZfPkiBciYr — Leah Litman (@LeahLitman) April 24, 2018 As with the Trump travel order, the President’s effort on DACA could be on the docket next term for the Justices.
  • President Donald Trump’s decision to elevate the White House physician to lead the Veterans Administration was in peril on Tuesday, as top Senators in both parties announced that a confirmation hearing set this week for Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson would be ‘postponed until further notice,’ as the Senate requested all documents on “allegations or incidents” involving Jackson since 2006. “We take very seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the Chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, and Sen. John Tester (D-MT), the top Democrat on that panel. “We will continue looking into these serious allegations and have requested additional information from the White House to enable the committee to conduct a full review,” the two said in a joint statement. The move came amid reports from various news organizations that raised questions about Jackson’s stewardship of the White House Physician’s Office. The delay of the hearing was a major setback for the White House, again raising questions about vetting operations for nominees in the Trump Administration. Jackson was already facing questions about whether he was the right person to manage the sprawling VA, which has been beset by a series of troubles in recent years. President Trump fired his first VA chief, David Shulkin, in late March.
  • For the second time in a week, late decisions by a pair of GOP Senators provided the margin of victory for a nominee of President Donald Trump, as after fears of a rare confirmation rebuke, Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday got in line behind the nomination of Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State, setting up a vote later this week for his confirmation in the full Senate. The key votes were delivered by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – who last week made a late switch to help salvage the nomination of Mr. Trump’s choice to run NASA – and by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who had talked for weeks that he would never vote to shift the CIA Director over to the post of Secretary of State. But after a late lobbying effort by President Trump, Paul stuck with the White House on Pompeo. Per source w/ knowledge: @POTUS called @RandPaul multiple times today. This may be the clearest personal role @POTUS has had in changing the outcome of a vote. (Pompeo.) — Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) April 23, 2018 “I have changed my mind,” Paul said at a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Back in March when the President fired Rex Tillerson from the Secretary of State’s job, Paul had made clear he was not going to vote for Pompeo, worried the CIA chief was too set on excessively using U.S. military force around the world. Labeling Pompeo a “neocon,” Paul had said at the time that he would not vote for the CIA chief, worried that Pompeo was too much like the Republican Party that strongly backed with war in Iraq on Saddam Hussein. “I simply cannot support Pompeo’s nomination to be our chief diplomat,” the Kentucky Republican made clear. But after talks with Pompeo and the President, Paul gave in. The late changes saved the GOP from an embarrassing foreign policy setback for the President – at a time when he is hosting the French President, and will later in the week receive the German Chancellor. “He is extremely qualified for the position,” the President’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued for Pompeo, as she joined GOP Senators in reminding Democrats of the bipartisan votes for past Secretaries of State. “John Kerry was confirmed 94-3. Hillary Clinton was confirmed 94-2. Condoleezza Rice was confirmed 85-13. Colin Powell was confirmed unanimously by voice vote,” Sanders told reporters. The turn of events came hours after the President had blasted Democrats for delaying many of his nominees, by stretching out debate time on the Senate floor, leaving little time for work on legislation. Hard to believe Obstructionists May vote against Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State. The Dems will not approve hundreds of good people, including the Ambassador to Germany. They are maxing out the time on approval process for all, never happened before. Need more Republicans! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2018 While the President accurately nicked the Democrats for slow-walking many nominations on the Senate floor, certain high-profile choices like Pompeo, Jim Bridenstine for NASA, and Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell have been held up in the Senate not because of Democrats – but because of a lack of unity among Republicans. For example, Grenell’s nomination was sent to the Senate floor back on January 18. While Democrats did object to action in March, there has been no effort by Senate Republicans to hold a vote – which likely means there aren’t fifty votes for his nomination. When Monday began, that was in question for Pompeo as well, but the support of Paul, Flake, and a handful of Democrats, means the President will get his Secretary of State. “The President deserves to have a Secretary of State that agrees with him or her, in general, on a foreign policy direction,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), as he argued for Pompeo’s approval. There was a bit of irony, as Rubio last week had been one of the holdouts on the President choice to run NASA – a reminder, that with a 51-49 advantage in the Senate, and the absence of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Republicans can’t afford to lose more than one vote on anything in the U.S. Senate.
  • Ending almost fourteen months of temporary leadership at NASA, Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma was sworn in Monday afternoon as the new leader of the space agency, as Trump Administration officials vow that Bridenstine will help revive manned space exploration efforts by the United States. After taking the oath – with his wife and three children at his side – Bridenstine told NASA employees that he was committed to seeing that the U.S. remains the world’s leader in space. “I will do my best to serve our storied agency to the utmost of my abilities, as we reach for new heights, as we reveal the unknown for the benefit for human kind,” Bridenstine said. “NASA represents what is best about the United States of America,” Bridenstine added. “We lead, we discover, we pioneer and we inspire. I look forward to our journey together.” “It’s an important moment in the life of this agency,” said Vice President Mike Pence, who trekked over to NASA Headquarters for the swearing-in, again saying that President Trump is strongly behind a forward-looking NASA. “We will send American astronauts back to the moon,” Pence said,’ vowing that the Trump Administration will lay the groundwork for travels to Mars. “And NASA will lead the way,” the Vice President said to applause. Bridenstine’s nomination was bitterly opposed by many Democrats in the Congress, who bristled at his conservative political views, and questioned his lack of space expertise, which also gave a handful of GOP Senators second thoughts. But after months of delay, the White House was able to convince Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to vote for Bridenstine, pushing him over the top to a bare majority confirmation vote of 50-49 last week. Bridenstine inherits an agency which just saw a big boost in its budget courtesy of a recent spending deal in the Congress, as NASA for the first time now has a yearly budget of over $20 billion. . @Space_Station #Expedition55 crew talking to NASA's new Administrator, James Bridenstine; . @VP saying 'thank you for your service in space you have our prayers and gratitude. ' pic.twitter.com/RsaTDF76fm — Gene J. Mikulka (@genejm29) April 23, 2018 “He will be an excellent leader,” said Rep. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was one of a handful of lawmakers there for the ceremony. After the swearing-in and Bridenstine’s remarks, NASA then checked in by video relay with several astronauts aboard the International Space Station. “I thank you for being part of the vanguard in space,” said the Vice President.
  • The legal fight over the 2016 elections expanded further on Friday, as the Democratic National Committee filed a wide-ranging lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s campaign, top aides, one of Mr. Trump’s sons, his son-in-law, the Russian government, and others caught up in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 race for the White House. The 66 page lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, where an FBI raid recently took place on the President’s personal lawyer, alleges a broad conspiracy involving Russia, its intelligence service, and members of the Trump inner circle, like former campaign manager Paul Manafort. “No one is above the law,” the lawsuit begins. “In the Trump Campaign, Russia found a willing and active partner in this effort.” DNC lawsuit accuses Trump campaign, Russia of a conspiracy that 'constituted an act of previously unimaginable treachery.' — Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) April 20, 2018 The charges cover everything from racketeering, conspiracy, computer fraud, trespass, and more, claiming the hacking effort was a coordinated effort with the Trump Campaign, designed to damage the bid of Hillary Clinton for the White House. Along with the Russian government and intelligence service known as the GRU, the Democratic lawsuit names Julian Assange and Wikileaks, the Trump Campaign, Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner, and two campaign aides who have already agreed to help the Russia investigation, George Papadopoulos and Richard Gates. The document did not seem to make public any brand new details about how the hacking occurred at the DNC or with members of the Clinton campaign. In the lawsuit, Democrats charge “Russia’s cyberattack on the DNC began only weeks after Trump announced his candidacy for President,” in June 2015. “In April 2016, another set of Russian intelligence agents successfully hacked into the DNC, saying that “massive amounts of data” were taken from DNC servers. The lawsuit makes no mention of the FBI warning to the DNC that it was being hacked, and how that was ignored for weeks by officials at DNC headquarters in Washington. If the lawsuit actually goes forward, it would not only involve evidence being gathered from those being challenged by the Democrats – but some made clear it could open the DNC hacking response to a further review as well in terms of discovery.
  • The morning after memos written by former FBI Director James Comey were delivered to Congress – and then immediately leaked to the news media – President Donald Trump blasted both Comey and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, denying that he had done anything wrong, and defending a top aide who had been caught up in the probe. “So General Michael Flynn’s life can be totally destroyed while Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book,” the President thundered on Twitter from his Florida retreat in Mar-a-Lago, delivering a new nickname to the former FBI chief, and defending his former National Security Adviser, who has already plead guilty to lying to investigators about his post-election contacts with the Russian Ambassador. Early Friday morning, Mr. Trump again denied that he, his aides, or his campaign played any role in coordinating activities with Russia during the 2016 campaign, though the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller , as Republicans in Congress joined in arguing that the Comey memos only helped the President’s cause. Here is some of what the President found in the memos – as well as the reaction of GOP supporters in the Congress: 1. Trump again makes clear he did nothing wrong. The sun wasn’t even up yet at Mar-a-Lago, and President Trump was out with a familiar refrain on Twitter, saying there was “NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION.” Various press reports this week had said that aides had scheduled the President to be at his Florida retreat all week, ostensibly to be away from some of the furor over the new book by the former FBI Director. Mr. Trump has called Comey a ‘slimeball’ and more – and one might think there will be more Twitter daggers aimed at Comey after today. James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue? — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018 2. Trump defends ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. One subject which gets a lot of attention in the Comey memos is how the President – and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus – paid special attention to the investigation into Flynn, who had been a close campaign aide and adviser to Mr. Trump. Priebus specifically asked Comey in a meeting if there was a FISA warrant on Flynn – Comey did not answer. And Comey also detailed how he felt the President had asked him to go easy on Flynn, who has already plead guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. 3. Republicans say memos prove Trump’s innocence. As the full Comey memos leaked to the press, GOP lawmakers were quickly ready with their own read on what the memos proved, and what they did not. “Former Director Comey’s memos show the President made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated,” said Reps. Goodlatte, Gowdy and Nunes, three key GOP lawmakers in the House. “The memos also show former Director Comey never wrote that he felt obstructed or threatened,” as they wrote that the memos would actually help the President in any criminal proceeding. 4. GOP calls for Comey to be prosecuted over memo leaks. Some of the information in the memos is redacted and noted as classified, which was seized upon immediately by GOP lawmakers, who argue that Comey should be charged with a crime. It immediately brought back comparisons to Hillary Clinton, and how details in her emails were seen as classified after the fact. “Intentionally leaking classified information is a big no no,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Here is an example of one Comey memo that was considered classified – from his dinner meeting with the President in January 2017. But when you go through the details, what was redacted had to do with a subject that was not leaked, that being the President’s anger with Flynn over a call by a foreign leader soon after the inaugural. It has been reported that the phone call was from Russian leader Vladimir Putin. 5. Conservative media quickly echoes GOP, Trump. The release of Comey’s book, and his subsequent book tour, have been a unique thing to watch from the sidelines, as supporters of the President have spent the week taking shots at the former FBI Director, trying to poke holes in his story, accusing him of double standards, and questioning whether he was trying to set up the President. Look for that to continue in the weeks and months ahead. . @Comey’s memos exonerate Trump, reaffirm what a poor writer Comey is, and prove that he’s petty and out for self. https://t.co/FeIumzfoeJ — John Cardillo (@johncardillo) April 20, 2018 6. In Congress, GOP lawmakers brush off Comey details. Echoing the President, Republicans delved into the details of what Comey wrote and found little to worry about, and more to bolster their argument that the President did no wrong. “If anything, this impugns the judgment of Director Comey,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), who had joined in demanding the release of the memos by the Justice Department. “There’s nothing in here even approaching ‘obstruction of justice,'” Meadows wrote on Twitter. These Comey memos were supposed to implicate President Trump? Really? On page 13 POTUS appears to instruct Director Comey to investigate and find the truth about whether his campaign team did anything wrong. There's nothing in here even approaching 'obstruction of justice.' — Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) April 20, 2018 7. GOP zeroes in on Comey line that he doesn’t leak. As both parties cherry-picked items from the Comey memos to buttress their arguments for and against the Russia investigation, there was a juicy one for Republicans, when Comey said he told the President that he was not a leaker. “I said I don’t do sneaky things,” Comey wrote about their late January 2017 dinner. “I don’t leak. I don’t do weasel moves.” Obviously, after Comey was fired in May, he did leak portions of these memos, through a friend of his, who gave them to the New York Times. This tweet is from a Republican who is on the House Intelligence Committee. Actual quote from James Comey's own classified memos, 4 of which he leaked to @nytimes to trigger a Special Counsel investigation: 'I said I don't do sneaky things, I don't leak, I don't do weasel moves.' — Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) April 20, 2018 8. Leaks, leaks and more leaks. Republicans also raised questions about the initial briefing of the President at Trump Tower by Comey and other top intelligence officials. At that time, Comey first warned the President about the existence of the Steele Dossier, and also said the FBI was keeping a very tight lid on the details, because CNN and other news organizations were waiting to run stories about it. “I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook,” Comey recounts himself telling the President-Elect. But the details did soon leak when the dossier was published by BuzzFeed news ( though the President’s private lawyer, Michael Cohen, has now dropped a $100 million defamation lawsuit related to that publication). 9. Reportedly, Mueller did not object to release of memos. While the Justice Department had resisted Republican demands for the release of the Comey memos, immediate news reports on Thursday night indicated that the Special Counsel’s office did not see a reason to prevent the material from going public. As with most things in Washington, the memos seemed to leak instantly. But it also prompted speculation that the GOP may have hoped that the feds would resist, and not release the memos, sparking a fight with Republicans in Congress. If demanding that DOJ turn over the #ComeyMemos was a bluff on House Republicans’ part (to create an excuse to fire Rosenstein), it may have backfired spectacularly. (Unless their goal was to dramatically bolster Comey’s credibility.) — Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) April 20, 2018 10. Release of Comey memos also generate other headlines. While the President and GOP lawmakers focused on items in the Comey memos which they say showed Mr. Trump committed no obstruction of justice, the memos also did something Republicans probably didn’t want – and that was to focus attention on some of the more salacious items in the Steele Dossier. Comey’s memos have repeated references to the President denying involvement with hookers, and even a quote from Russian leader Vladimir Putin about the quality of Russia prostitutes.  
  • Bowing to demands from Republicans in the House, the Justice Department on Thursday night gave lawmakers memos written by former FBI Director James Comey after meetings and phone calls with President Donald Trump, with the resulting leaks only amplifying Comey’s story that Mr. Trump had pressed him repeatedly about the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. And in classic Washington fashion – the memos were leaked almost immediately to news organizations. You can read the set of memos from Comey – written soon after meetings directly with the President, or after phone calls with Mr. Trump. There had been concerns that sharing the memos with Congress might cause problems for the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller – but press reports on Thursday night indicated otherwise, and a reading of the materials did not reveal a new treasure trove of information. And more than anything, they only seemed to bring the focus more on President Trump. It's almost like the House GOP wanted the Comey memos released to embarrass their party leader. — Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) April 20, 2018 Here are ten things we learned from the memos written by the former FBI Director. 1. Trump praises Comey at first meeting at Trump Tower. Before the former FBI Director could get to the subject of the Steele Dossier, the two men had some chit chat one-on-one. Comey said the President-Elect complimented the FBI chief on how he had handled the difficult situation involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation. “He said I was repeatedly put in impossible positions,” Comey recounted, quoting Trump as saying, “they hated you for what you did later, but what choice did you have?” Comey said the President-Elect said ‘he hoped I planned to stay on.’ 2. Comey moves into the Steele Dossier. With other top officials out of the room at Trump Tower, Comey then described briefing the President-Elect on the contents of the Steele Dossier, expressing concerns that it could soon leak in the media. “I said, the Russians allegedly had tapes of him and prostitutes,” Comey wrote, saying that Mr. Trump said, “there were no prostitutes.” Comey said he told the President-Elect that the FBI was not investigating these stories, but that “our job was to protect the President from efforts to coerce him.” 3. The late January “loyalty” dinner. After President Trump had been sworn into office, he invited Comey to the White House for dinner – just the two of them – telling Comey that even Chief of Staff Reince Priebus did not know of their sit down. Comey said he told Trump, “I was not on anybody’s side politically.” After a detailed discussion of the impact of the Clinton email investigation on the campaign – in which they disagreed on whether there was a case against Hillary Clinton, Comey said the President made a clear point. “He replied that he needed loyalty and expected loyalty.” 4. Comey relates Trump displeasure with Flynn. One interesting side story from the late January dinner was when Comey related how the President had been angry with his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for evidently not informing the President that another world leader had called after the inauguration. “In telling the story, the President pointed his fingers at his head and said “the guy has serious judgment issues.”” Comey then notes that he never gave Mr. Trump any indication of the FBI interest in Flynn – or the fact that agents had interviewed Flynn just a day before about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. 5. A meeting with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. One memo from Comey detailed a meeting with the President’s Chief of Staff, who asked the FBI Director if there was an investigation going on into the President’s National Security Adviser. “Do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn?” Comey quoted Priebus as asking. Later, their conversation went over the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and Comey’s late announcement which roiled the campaign. “At some point I added that it also wasn’t my fault that Huma Abedin forwarded emails to Anthony Weiner.” 6. Golden showers, hookers, and Putin. After meeting with Priebus, Comey was taken by the Oval Office for a quick visit with the President. There, Mr. Trump complained about leaks of his phone calls with foreign leaders, and again vented his frustration about details from the Steele Dossier. “The President brought up the “Golden Showers thing” and said it really bothered him,” Comey recounted. “The President said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense but that Putin had told ‘we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.'” 7. Trump presses Comey on Michael Flynn. In portions of the memos which had already been leaked, Comey describes how a broader meeting on homeland security ended, and then others left him one-on-one with Mr. Trump. “He began by saying he wanted to ‘talk about Mike Flynn,'” Comey recounts, adding later that the President said he had ‘other concerns’ about Flynn, but was aggravated about the leaks concerning his former National Security Adviser. But the President then returned to Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” was how Comey remembered what the President had said in this February 14, 2017 meeting. 8. Trump urges Comey to ‘lift the cloud.’ Again, these details had been leaked previously, as Comey recounted a phone conversation in which the President complained about the Russia investigation, saying at one point that he would have won a health care vote in the House if not for the controversy over the Trump-Russia probe about the 2016 elections. Comey noted the President again returned to an issue that clearly aggravated him – “can you imagine me, hookers?” Comey’s memo also seems to say that the President was going to file a lawsuit against former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who had assembled the dossier. No such suit was ever filed. 9. More about loyalty to the President. In an April 2017 phone call, Comey says the President pressed him to publicly confirm that he (Mr. Trump) is not under investigation related to Russian interference in the 2016 election. “He spoke for a bit about why it was so important,” Comey recounted, saying the President feared it was overshadowing the work of his new administration. “They keep bringing up the Russia thing as an excuse for losing the election,” Comey wrote. Then Comey said the President pressed him again. “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing you know,” Comey quoted Mr. Trump. In a footnote to his own memo, Comey seems perplexed as to what the President was referring to. 10. The release may on spur more questions. Republicans in the House had been pressing for the release of these memos from Comey for months, convinced that they would show wrongdoing by the former FBI Director. Instead, the full memos added more context to what was going on during the first few months of the Trump Administration with regards to the Russia investigation, and seemed to give more hints about what the FBI knew of the Steele Dossier, and how Trump officials were worried about who was being investigated. Comey appears to have told Reince Preibus on Feb 8/17 that parts of the dossier had already been corroborated by the intellgence community. pic.twitter.com/GJivuaKAh5 — Dafna Linzer (@DafnaLinzer) April 20, 2018  
  • After operating for almost fourteen months with acting leadership, NASA finally has a new Administrator, as the U.S. Senate voted Thursday to confirm Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) as the new head of the space agency, overcoming reluctance among some Republicans, and strong opposition from Democrats who said Bridenstine who too political for the job. “Jim Bridenstine has been very passionate for trying to get NASA back on focus with a big vision and a big mission,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). “I’ve known Congressman Bridenstine for a long time, and I know he is just the man for this important undertaking,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). But among Republicans, there were clearly reservations, even as the vote took place. “I was not enthused by the nomination,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on the Senate floor, as he acknowledged that continuing with temporary leadership at the space agency was not a good answer. Rubio on the floor explaining his turnaround to support Bridenstine for NASA chief 'We give great deference to the president … and the more important the job, the more discretion the president deserves' — Erica Werner (@ericawerner) April 19, 2018 “There’s no way NASA can go two years and x-number of months without a permanent Administration,” Rubio added, his tone and body language sending the message that he would still have someone other than Bridenstine leading the space agency. For Democrats, Bridenstine’s more conservative political views – especially on climate change – overrode his military experience as a pilot in the Air Force. “Just because you know how to fly a plane does not mean you have the skills and experience to lead the federal government’s space agency,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). Remember the part in the astronaut movie when the unqualified former member of Congress running NASA saves the day by making the right decision regarding a launch? Me neither. — Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 19, 2018 “In short, NASA needs an Administrator who will be driven by science and not by politics,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI). But as with most issues in the Congress right now, Democrats are don’t have enough votes to derail a nominee of President Trump – unless some Republicans break ranks to join them.
  • Embroiled in a new legal dispute after an FBI raid earlier this month, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has dropped a $100 million defamation lawsuit filed against BuzzFeed news, and the head of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which spearheaded the development of the Steele Dossier, paid for by Democrats in 2016, which made accusations of ties between Russia and President Donald Trump. “Michael Cohen hereby voluntarily dismissed the above-entitled action as to all named Defendants without costs to any party as against the other,” Cohen’s lawyers stated in a one page filing with a federal court in New York. Democrats in Congress quickly pounced. “Bullies wilt when their bluff is called,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA). “Buzzfeed should demand legal fees for Cohen’s frivolous suit.” Let’s review what Cohen charged, what issues he is no longer pursuing in this lawsuit, and why some of it may still be a focus of discussion in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. 1. The general questions about the Steele Dossier. The main charge made by Cohen – and many supporters of President Donald Trump – is that the dossier is filled with false stories and accusations against Mr. Trump and his associates. “This action arises from the immensely damaging and defamatory statements,” Cohen’s lawyers wrote in their original complaint against BuzzFeed news and Glenn Simpson, the head of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which assembled the dossier through the work of ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. The Cohen defamation lawsuit was simple – the statements about Cohen in the dossier were false, and he wanted millions of dollars in damages. Now, that lawsuit has been dropped. 2. The very first charge – the Prague trip. In Cohen’s lawsuit, the first specific item that is challenged is the report in the Steele Dossier that Cohen went to the Czech Republic in August of 2016, possibly to meet with people linked to Russia. “I have never in my life been to Prague or anywhere in the Czech Republic,” Cohen has said. Hours after the dossier was released, Cohen tweeted a denial, with a picture of his passport. “No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague,” Cohen tweeted just last week. If this lawsuit had proceeded, there would have been legal discovery about Cohen’s allegations.  Now, that won’t take place in the context of this proceeding. 3. Does the Special Counsel have different evidence? A story last week from McClatchy Newspapers said exactly that – that Cohen was in Prague. But it is notable that the details of that have not been matched by any other news organizations. And as with most questions about the Trump-Russia investigation, we can only go off the verified documents in the public square – and at this point, there is nothing to contradict Cohen’s denial. But if there is more to this story, it certainly could be a central part of the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office.  No one knows the answer to that right now, other than Mueller’s team. Bad reporting, bad information and bad story by same reporter Peter Stone @McClatchyDC. No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague. I was in LA with my son. Proven! https://t.co/ra7nwjUA0X — Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) April 14, 2018 4. Cohen’s testimony to Congress remains secret. In late October of 2017, Cohen went before the House and Senate Intelligence committees to testify about the Russia investigation, and was evidently asked about the allegation in the dossier – the basis for his lawsuit – that he met in the Czech Republic with a Russian intelligence operative. That testimony has not been released, but lawmakers sparred about it in another transcript which was made public by the House committee.  This exchange is between Rep. Peter King (R-NY), and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). 5. Cohen’s legal focus now on FBI raid. What’s next for Cohen is waiting to see what the feds do with the materials seized in the April 9 raids executed against him under a federal magistrate’s approval. Federal Judge Kimba Wood could either allow a special FBI “taint team” to continue to go through that material to look for any attorney-client privilege items related to President Donald Trump. Or, a special master could be appointed to oversee the process. No matter the choice, Cohen faces a tangled legal situation involving what was seized by the feds.

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  • Jurors in the Tex McIver murder trial told Channel 2 Action News it took a lot of compromise to reach a verdict. The 12-person panel deliberated for four days before finally reaching a verdict Monday afternoon. They found the Atlanta attorney guilty of murdering his wife, Diane, as they rode in their SUV in September 2016. They also found him guilty of trying to influence a witness, Dani Jo Carter, who was driving the SUV at the time of the shooting. Earlier Monday it appeared that a verdict might never come when jurors told the judge they were deadlocked and couldn’t come to a unanimous decision on four of the five counts. The judge sent them back, telling them they needed to keep deliberating and continue to try for a verdict. RELATED STORIES: 5 things to know about Diane McIver Juror breakdown for the Tex McIver murder trial Tex McIver found guilty of murdering his wife A breakdown of the verdict in the Tex McIver trial After the trial ended, Channel 2 Action News spoke with some of the jurors outside the courthouse.  'It definitely took a lot of compromise on both sides of where we were with our deliberations,' juror Aubrey Gray said. 'There was definitely a point where we did not think we were going to get to guilt or innocence.” He said after the judge read them the Allen charge Monday afternoon, telling them they needed to keep deliberating and try to reach a verdict, they re-examined their positions and were able to come to a unanimous decision. “(We were able to) specifically look at the evidence, take away any emotion that we had, and that’s how we came up with our guilty verdict on four of the five counts,” Gray said. Gray said he was back and forth for much of deliberations. “I was in both camps for a while, flip-flopping sides, trying to come to a rational decision,” he said. Gray said there were several “gun experts” on the jury, who helped them talk through many of the questions. [SPECIAL SECTION: Tex McIver Trial] “That was one of our contingents the entire time, why was his hand, particularly his finger, on the trigger. And one of the key things for us, we had to look back at his statements to police when he said the gun just went off, and we finally decided that a gun just doesn’t go off,” Gray said. “It was not an accident. His hand was on the trigger. Guns just don’t go off.” Another juror, Lakeisha Boyd, said the deciding factor for her was also the finger on the trigger, and holding the gun inside the car. “We went back down to the vehicle. We were able to take the firearm to the vehicle and were able to test it out ourselves,” she said. Boyd said, at the end of the day, they did their job. “Justice was served,” she said.
  • The Latest on the White House visit of French President Emmanuel Macron (all times local): 1:20 p.m. President Donald Trump says U.S. troops will come home from Syria, but he wants to leave a 'strong and lasting footprint' in the region. Trump's comment signaled a softening in tone. Trump was insisting just a few weeks ago that he wanted to pull out U.S. troops and leave the job of rebuilding Syria to others in the region. Asked about his timeline for bringing the troops home, Trump reiterated his desire to exit Syria. But he also said that he and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed that neither of them wants to give Iran more of an opening in the region. Trump said 'we'll see what happens but we're going to be coming home relatively soon.' He commented during a White House news conference Tuesday with Macron, who is on a state visit to the U.S. ___ 1:15 p.m. French President Emmanuel Macron says he's confident about the future of his country's trading relationship with the U.S. He says it's good when allies work together. Macron says in a joint news conference with President Donald Trump that trade is balanced between the two countries and he's suggesting all nations follow the rules of the World Trade Organization. The French president has been critical of Trump's protectionist moves on trade in recent weeks and has called upon the U.S. to exempt European nations from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. ___ 1 p.m. President Donald Trump is thanking French President Emmanuel Macron for his partnership on the recent missile strikes against chemical weapons in Syria and the fight against terrorism. Trump says at a joint White House news conference that he will soon be meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He says the U.S. won't 'repeat the mistakes of past administrations' and will pressure the North Korean regime. Macron is pointing to the need for the Iran nuclear deal. He says he wants to work on a new deal in the weeks and months ahead. Macron says any new agreement would need to block any nuclear activity in Iran through 2025, cease any uranium activity and put an end to the country's ballistic missiles program. ___ 12:16 p.m. A pair of designers is responsible for Melania Trump's white skirt suit and matching hat. The first lady's office says Michael Kors designed the two-piece suit that Mrs. Trump wore for Tuesday's White House arrival ceremony for President Emmanuel Macron of France and his wife, Brigitte. Mrs. Trump also wore the suit on an outing to the National Gallery of Art in Washington with Mrs. Macron. The first lady topped her outfit with a broad-brimmed white hat designed by Herve Pierre. Pierre designed the first lady's inaugural ball gown. The white hat quickly became the talk of the town, as well as on Twitter. Mrs. Trump typically doesn't wear hats. Still to come is Tuesday night's piece de resistance: the first lady's state dinner gown. ___ 10:40 a.m. President Donald Trump is warning that if Iran restarts its nuclear program it 'will have bigger problems than they have ever had before.' Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron will be discussing the Iran nuclear deal Tuesday during their meetings at the White House. Macron wants Trump to maintain the deal. Trump is undecided but has called it 'a terrible deal.' Though Trump has warmly welcomed Macron to Washington, the two have disagreements to sort through, including Trump's decision to leave the multinational Paris climate change agreement. While with Macron, Trump refused to answer a reporter's question as to whether he is considering a pardon for his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, whose office was raided by the FBI. Trump called it 'a stupid question.' Cohen has not been charged. ___ 9:54 a.m. French President Emmanuel Macron is highlighting the close ties between his nation and the United States during his visit to the White House. Macron, standing alongside President Donald Trump Tuesday, said 'America represents endless possibilities for my country.' He also told Trump that 'France shares with your country an ideal of freedom and peace.' Macron touted how the French fought alongside George Washington during the American Revolution, which laid the blueprint for cooperation between the nations. The French president, who enjoys a closer relationship with Trump than many of his European peers, said that France works alongside the U.S. on challenges like terrorism, North Korea and Iran. He is expected to lobby Trump to maintain the Iran nuclear deal and reconsider the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. ___ 9:30 a.m. President Donald Trump is sending prayers to the Bush family and wishing former President George H.W. Bush a 'speedy recovery.' Trump is recognizing the former president as he greets French President Emmanuel Macron on the South Lawn of the White House. Bush has been hospitalized in Houston with an infection, just days after attending the funeral of his wife, Barbara Bush. Trump is also sending the nation's sympathies to the Canadian people following the 'horrendous tragedy' in Toronto. A driver plowed a rented van along a crowded sidewalk in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 15 others. Trump says the nation's hearts are with the grieving families in Canada. ___ 9:25 a.m. President Donald Trump says the 'wonderful friendship' he has developed with French President Emmanuel Macron is a testament to two nations' enduring alliance. Trump is thanking Macron for his 'steadfast partnership' in responding to the recent chemical attack in Syria. The president is speaking at an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. Trump and Macron are meeting Tuesday on a number of issues, including the future of the Iran nuclear deal and the crisis in Syria. The two leaders are holding a joint news conference later in the morning and then Macron will be honored with Trump's first state dinner. ___ 9 a.m. President Donald Trump is welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron to the White House in a formal arrival ceremony. The president and first lady are greeting Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, on rolled-out red carpet on the South Lawn. The arrival is heavy on pomp, with nearly 500 U.S. service-members from all five military branches participating in the ceremonial welcome, which includes a 'Review of the Troops.' Vice President Mike Pence and several members of Trump's Cabinet, lawmakers, and military families are in attendance. The audience includes students from the Maya Angelou French Immersion School in Temple Hills, Maryland. The two leaders are spending the morning in meetings and then will hold a joint news conference. On Tuesday night, Macron will be feted at Trump's first state dinner. ___ 12:50 a.m. A sit-down between President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron followed by a joint news conference highlight the business portion of the French leader's second day in Washington. The pageantry of Macron's official state visit, the first of the Trump presidency, comes Tuesday night with a lavish state dinner at the White House. About 150 guests are expected to dine on rack of lamb and nectarine tart and enjoy an after-dinner performance by the Washington National Opera. Monday night was more relaxed, featuring a helicopter tour of Washington landmarks and a trip to the Potomac River home of George Washington for dinner. Pomp and ceremony aside, Trump and Macron disagree on some fundamental issues. A prime dividing point is the multinational Iran nuclear deal, which Trump wants to abandon.
  • To the Trump administration, the recovered missile fragments were incontrovertible proof that Iran was illicitly arming Yemen's Houthi rebels. Yet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif brushed it off Tuesday as little more than cheese puffs. During a visit to New York, the Iranian diplomat accused U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley of displaying fabricated evidence that missiles lobbed by the Houthis at civilian areas in Saudi Arabia originated in Iran. Though Tehran supports the Shiite rebel group, it firmly denies giving them missiles. But Haley has invited journalists and U.N. Security Council diplomats to inspect missile parts recovered after strikes on Saudi Arabia, bearing what U.S. military officials said were Iranian markings and characteristics. Zarif, in an Associated Press interview, said that one such logo was from the Standard Institute of Iran, which he said regulates consumer goods — not weapons. 'It's a sign of quality,' Zarif said. 'When people want to buy it, they look at whether it's been tested by the Standard Institute of Iran that your cheese puffs are good, your cheese puffs will not give you a stomach ache.' He laughed and added, 'I mean, nobody will put the logo of the Standard Institute of Iran on a piece of missile.' Zarif also pointed to a truck-size section of a missile that the U.S. said was recovered in Saudi Arabia and was transferred to a military base near Washington, where it was on display behind Haley for a photo-op. Zarif noted that the missile had been supposedly shot down in mid-air. 'I'm not saying Ambassador Haley is fabricating, but somebody is fabricating the evidence she is showing,' Zarif said. Some of the fragments Haley presented, if authentic, would seem to implicate Iran's military industry more directly, including some with the logo of Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, an Iranian defense entity under U.S. sanctions. Haley said others had clear 'Iranian missile fingerprints,' such as short-range ballistic missiles that lacked large stabilizers — a feature she said only Iran's Qiam missiles have. 'Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK, or the airports in Paris, London or Berlin,' Haley told reporters late last year. 'That's what we're talking about here.' Tehran's denials aside, there's broad agreement among the United Nations, Western countries and the Persian Gulf's Arab leaders that Iran has armed the Houthis with ballistic missiles, even though U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibit it. With U.S. support, a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen's civil war has been bombing the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa and much of northern Yemen. Yet Iran's opponents have struggled to provide foolproof evidence to back up their claims, creating an opening for Iran to deny. After Haley's presentations at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, some national security experts raised questions, even drawing parallels to Secretary of State Colin Powell's 2003 speech to the U.N. making the case for the Iraq War. The fragments Haley presented were turned over to the U.S. by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — two of Iran's fiercest critics — and U.S. military officials had trouble tracing the fragments' chain of custody. Nor could they say when the weapons were transferred to the Houthis or in some cases precisely when they were launched.
  • A woman with multiple sclerosis says Delta Air Lines employees tied her to her wheelchair because she can’t sit up on her own and they didn’t have the chair she needed. >> Watch the news report here Maria Saliagas travels to Europe with her husband every year. When she was diagnosed with MS five years ago, she didn’t want to break her tradition of traveling with her husband. >> Southwest Airlines cancels dozens of flights amid inspections after deadly engine failure She said Delta normally accommodates her by making sure staff members have a proper wheelchair that has straps to help her sit up straight. When she flew out of Atlanta on April 1 and arrived in Amsterdam, Delta didn’t have a chair with straps, so employees tied her to a regular wheelchair with someone else’s blanket, said her son, Nathan Saliagas. >> Memorial service held for woman killed during Southwest Airlines flight “They took a dirty blanket and tied her forcefully with it, and she has bruise marks on part of her arm because it was so tight and she started crying. That’s when that picture was taken,” Saliagas said. A Delta representative sent WSB-TV a statement about the incident, saying:  “We regret the perception our service has left on these customers. We have reached out to them, not only to resolve their concerns, but also ensure that their return flight exceeds expectations.” >> Read more trending news  The family returns to Atlanta on April 30. When the family complained to Delta, they said the airline offered them 20,000 free SkyMiles, but they said that's not enough.  They want to see a policy change regarding how Delta handles passengers with disabilities.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday wades into one of the more controversial policy matters of the Trump Administration, as the Justices will hear arguments on the merits of the revised effort by President Donald Trump to block certain foreign nationals from traveling to the United States, what critics often deride as his “Muslim ban.” Before the Court is the third version of the Trump travel order, which began just a week into his Presidency, as an effort to stop travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries. After the first two versions were blocked by the courts – this third one would limit visits to the United States by people from Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Somalia, and slow down the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. “As President, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people,” Mr. Trump said as he issued the third version of the travel order in September of 2017. Lower courts have ruled against the Trump plan. The travel order is being challenged by the state of Hawaii, which has tried to use the President’s past statements and tweets about the threat of Islamic terrorism against the travel order, which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect while the case was being litigated. “The arguments against the travel ban come from every corner of our country,” says Neal Katyal, who will carry Hawaii’s case before the Justices. “It comes down to who we are as a nation,” Katyal wrote. THREAD 1. The backgrounds and perspectives of those articulating arguments against the travel ban in #TrumpvHawaii are remarkable in their breadth and diversity. Their chorus is deafening: the ban is unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary and un-American. — Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) April 24, 2018 Interest in the case has been strong, as the line for public seats began forming on Monday outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The arguments on the Trump travel order come as lower courts are still duking it out over efforts by the President to terminate the DACA program from the Obama Administration – that question is expected to reach the Justices in coming months. On Tuesday evening, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. became the third to block the President’s effort to end DACA, the program which allows younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers” to temporarily stay in the U.S. and avoid deportation proceedings. “DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” wrote Judge John Bates, though he gave the feds 90 days to better explain the decision. Judge Bates (DDC) finds DACA rescission unlawful (but note the different remedy than in prior cases; Judge Bates vacates the rescission, but stays it for 90 days to allow admin to offer a justification that might support the policy): https://t.co/ZfPkiBciYr — Leah Litman (@LeahLitman) April 24, 2018 As with the Trump travel order, the President’s effort on DACA could be on the docket next term for the Justices.
  • It took a big money push from the Republican Party, tweets by the president and the support of the state's current and former governors, but the GOP held onto an Arizona U.S. House seat they would have never considered endangered in any other year. Tuesday's narrow victory by Republican Debbie Lesko over a Democratic political newcomer sends a big message to Republicans nationwide: Even the reddest of districts in a red state can be in play this year. Early returns show Lesko winning by about 5 percentage points in Arizona's 8th Congressional District where Donald Trump won by 21 percentage points. The former state senator defeated Hiral Tipirneni, a former emergency room physician who had hoped to replicate surprising Democratic wins in Pennsylvania, Alabama and other states in a year where opposition to President Trump's policies have boosted the party's chances in Republican strongholds. Republican political consultant Chuck Coughlin called Tuesday's special election margin 'not good' for national Republicans looking at their chances in November. 'They should clean house in this election,' said Coughlin, longtime adviser to former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. 'There's a drag on the midterms for Republican candidates that's being created by the national narrative. And it would be very hard to buck that trend if you're in swing districts, much less close districts, if you can't change that narrative between now and November.' Lesko replaces former Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican who resigned in December amid sexual misconduct allegations. A former aide told The Associated Press that he pressed her to carry his child as a surrogate and offered her $5 million. The district sprawls across western Phoenix suburbs, covering some of the most conservative areas of the red state, including the retirement community of Sun City. At a victory party in her Glendale neighborhood, Lesko greeted supporters and looked back in wonder. 'I've really come a long way and this is really quite overwhelming, it's very surreal,' she said. 'Twenty-five years ago I left an abusive husband and I sure as heck never would have dreamt in a million years that I would be running for Congress to be a congresswoman.' Brewer, who backed Lesko and was at her victory party, also warned that Republicans need to make changes if they want to hold the district and other seats in November elections. 'I think all Republicans need to wake up and listen to what the public wants,' she said. 'Before November, we're going to have to work very hard. We're going to have to listen to our constituents.' Tipirneni worked the district hard, making inroads rarely seen in an area that hadn't elected a Democrat since the early 1980s. She was seen as a fresh Democratic face with relatively moderate views that could get support in the district. Making a push for older voters, she had said Lesko would vote to go after entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts that mainly benefit the wealthy. She's pushed a plan to allow some people to buy into Medicare. Tipirneni said she plans to run in November's general election and told supporters not to give up the cause. She said that despite the big Republican advantage in the district, the results show people were ready for a change. 'We have a very short amount of time, and clearly Ms. Lesko she had the registration numbers a little bit in her favor and she also had the name recognition,' Tipirneni said. 'But given more time I know we can get more folks on our side.' The Associated Press called the race for Lesko after state officials released tallies of more than 155,000 mail-in ballots, which represent about 75 percent of the votes expected. National Republican groups spent big to back Lesko, pouring in more than $500,000 in the suburban Phoenix district for television and mail ads and phone calls to voters. On Election Day, Trump and current Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey urged Republicans to go to the polls and vote for Lesko. National Democratic groups, meanwhile, didn't commit money to the race, a sign they didn't believe the seat was in play. Several Republican voters who spoke with AP said they backed Lesko primarily because she supported Trump's border security plans. David Hunt, a 64-year-old retired construction and warehouse worker from Glendale, said he cast his vote Tuesday for Lesko because he believed that immigrants in the country illegally are creating unfair competition for jobs for recent high school students in Arizona. 'She's the best candidate to deal with the porous border,' Hunt said. His views were echoed by Larry Bettis, a retiree from Glendale. 'Immigration - the fence,' Bettis said. 'That's all I really care about.' Democrats said they wanted to send a message to Trump and supported Democratic health care plans. 'I don't like the president and felt it was time to take a stand,' said Nikole Allen, a 45-year-old medical assistant from New York now living in Glendale. 'It's time for us to vote the Republicans out.