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June 25, 2014
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Chris McDaniel, the Tea Party–backed challenger for U.S. Senate in the Mississippi Republican primary, is not taking his loss all that well. Instead, he is now fully challenging the moral legitimacy — and perhaps even the legal legitimacy — of incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran's victory.

The Cochran campaign had reached out to African-American voters, who often vote Democratic, to vote in the Republican runoff in order to stop the more extreme McDaniel. Cochran has won the race with just under 51 percent of the vote.

"But there is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual, about a Republican primary that's decided by liberal Democrats," an outraged McDaniel told his supporters. "So much for bold colors, so much for principle. I guess they can take some consolation in the fact that they did something tonight — by once again compromising, by once again reaching across the aisle, by once again abandoning the conservative movement."

He later added: "And today, the conservative movement took a backseat to liberal Democrats in the state of Mississippi. In the most conservative state in the Republic, this happened. And if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. And that's why we will never stop fighting."

McDaniel also explained to the cheering crowd: "As you know, folks, there were literally dozens of irregularities reported all across this state. And you know why. You read the stories. You're familiar with the problems that we have. Now it's our job to make sure that the sanctity of the vote is upheld. Before this race ends, we have to be absolutely certain that the Republican primary was won by Republican voters. And so we will stand with courage, we will stand with judgment, we will stand with integrity, and we will stand with dedication."

To watch the speech, via C-Span, click here. Eric Kleefeld

2:46 p.m. ET

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio isn't backing down from his open disdain for the media outlets that cover him.

City Hall released a trove of more than 4,000 pages of de Blasio's emails on Thursday, and several addressed his complicated relationship with the local press.

The mayor called local papers like the New York Daily News and the New York Post "sad" and "pitiful," the Daily News reported. He accused The New York Times of bias against him, calling one article about his plan to help boost underperforming schools "disgusting" for its lack of balance. He emailed aides about "the sad state of media" over stories that focused on his politics rather than "real problems" affecting New Yorkers, reports Politico.

In an interview with WNYC on Friday, de Blasio stood by his comment calling the Post a "right-wing rag." No, said de Blasio, "I will not shed a tear if that newspaper is no longer here." He called for a "better civil discourse," saying that the Post is "not like everyone else," in that the publication is "harmful" to the city.

The mayor would prefer the discourse seen on the other side of the pond, he said. "I'm a big fan of alternative media and subscription-based media, like The Guardian," he told WNYC, describing the U.K. publication as less dependent on clicks for revenue.

De Blasio added that he never would have badmouthed the press via email if he had known the emails would one day become public. Summer Meza

2:36 p.m. ET
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Wealthy Chinese businesspeople are apparently gaining access to President Trump by paying middlemen to get them into political fundraisers, as a way of dodging U.S. election law, The Washington Post reports. It is illegal for anyone but U.S. citizens to contribute to a political campaign, such as an upcoming official Trump fundraiser in Dallas on May 31, although at least three Chinese companies are offering VIP trips to the events that cost thousands of dollars and promise a handshake and photo with the president.

"[T]he solicitations, if offering a legitimate service, raise questions about whether attendees are indirectly paying for their tickets through a U.S. donor, which would be illegal," writes the Post, which adds that foreigners may attend fundraisers only if "they do not pay their own entry."

One Republican Party official confirmed that a group of Chinese citizens attended a similar Trump fundraiser last December through one such company in the capacity "as guests of a U.S. citizen donor." Sun Changchun, the "the head of a Chinese cultural exchange company" who allegedly arranged that New York trip and is apparently working on the Dallas one, said he gives the ticket proceeds to the RNC, and that the RNC would donate them to charity.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation includes tracking if any foreign money flowed into the presidential campaigns. "What a regulator or prosecutor would be interested in is whether this is essentially the foreign national making a donation through a U.S. person," explained Matthew Sanderson, who served as a campaign finance lawyer for the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign. Read more about the sketchy scheme at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

1:50 p.m. ET
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President Trump delivered a commencement address at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, on Friday. He congratulated the graduates on their accomplishments, and congratulated himself on a job well done as commander in chief, touting renewed respect for the military thanks to his administration's policies.

"We are respected again, I can tell you that," said Trump, hailing the Navy's ability to vanquish all enemies. "In recent years and even decades, too many people have forgotten that truth," Trump said. "In recent years, the problem grew worse. A growing number used their platforms to ... weaken America's pride." But Trump said America has once again decided to speak the truth of our military's strength: "In case you have not noticed, we have become a lot stronger lately. A lot."

Amid full-throated patriotism, Trump squeezed in a few asides about his effort to launch "the great rebuilding" of the military. He applauded his push for the "largest-ever" military budget, which he said would lead to "the strongest military that we have ever had. And when did we need it more than now?" He also patted himself on the back for giving troops pay raises "for the first time in over 10 years," even though the military receives pay raises every year. "I fought for you," said Trump of the raises. "That was the hardest one to get. But you never had a chance of losing. I represented you well. I represented you well."

"The best way to prevent war is to be fully prepared for war," said Trump, hoping that the grads would never have to use their "beautiful, new, powerful equipment." The president promised to shake the hands of every Naval Academy graduate following his speech. "America is back," he said.

Read the full transcript of his commencement address at The Atlantic. Summer Meza

1:41 p.m. ET

Lawmakers are forbidden from using their congressional staff for anything other than official political duties, which means running personal errands is definitely a no-no. That apparently didn't stop Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) and his wife, Flanna, whose former staffers told Politico they had to do everything from unload groceries to fetch Garrett's daughters from Scottsdale, a three-hour drive away.

The congressional staffers were even asked to take care of the Garretts' dog Sophie, a Jack Russell-Pomeranian mix that IJR says "comes to the D.C. office every other day."

Staffers were expected to watch the dog during office hours, and one aide did so over a weekend. Several aides said the couple would sometimes seem to forget the dog was in the office. When that happened, at the end of the day, aides were responsible for transporting it back to Garrett's Washington apartment.

One source said the dog occasionally defecated on the floor and aides had to clean up the mess. [Politico]

The Garretts denied their ex-staffers' claims, telling Politico: "It is easy to spread untruths and even easier to exaggerate and imply wrongdoing when none exists." Jeva Lange

11:09 a.m. ET

Disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who entered a not guilty plea on Friday to first- and third-degree rape and a first-degree criminal sex act, was seen carrying a biography of director Elia Kazan when he surrendered himself to New York police, The Hollywood Reporter tweeted.

Kazan, the director of classic films like On the Waterfront and East of Eden, was famously an informant during the Red Scare, supplying the names of some 11 former colleagues to the blacklist. "Kazan's reputation as a formidable Hollywood artist weathered political and personal scandals," The Guardian writes, although journalist Yashar Ali tweeted that the more threatening symbolism did not go unnoticed:

Dozens of women have accused Weinstein of inappropriate or criminal behavior, ranging from rape to sexual harassment and coercion. Jeva Lange

10:52 a.m. ET

Women who have accused former movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse and harassment reacted strongly to his surrender to New York police on Friday. A few of the more than 50 women who have alleged misconduct took to social media to address his arrest.

Rose McGowan, who alleges that Weinstein raped her in 1997, appeared on Megyn Kelly Today and Good Morning America and described how his criminal charges made her feel. "We got you," she said in a message to Weinstein. "I have to admit I didn't think I would see the day that he would have handcuffs on him. I have a visceral need for him to have handcuffs on."

Asia Argento, an actress who also alleges that Weinstein raped her in 1997, tweeted that Weinstein was taking "his first step on his inevitable descent to hell," additionally asking what took so long. In response to a photo of Weinstein smiling as he walked out of the NYPD station in handcuffs, Argento wrote, "wipe that smile off your face you f--king monster."

Mira Sorvino, who alleges that Weinstein sexually harassed her and tried to pressure her into sex, had a simple message for the former mogul ahead of his criminal charges: "#Justice" Summer Meza

10:37 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Less than two weeks before the inauguration, President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with a Russian oligarch to discuss strengthening relations between Washington and Moscow, The New York Times reports. Viktor Vekselberg, who has ties to the Kremlin, met with Cohen three separate times, including on the day of the inauguration.

Just days afterwards, the private equity firm of Andrew Intrater, who is Vekselberg's cousin and client, awarded Cohen a $1 million contract. Intrater spoke to the Times, saying he did nothing wrong and made the decision independently.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Cohen was separately paid at least $400,000 to arrange a talk between Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Cohen also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from businesses like AT&T and Novartis to provide access and insight into the Trump administration.

The Times writes that the Vekselberg meeting "sheds additional light on the intersection between Mr. Trump's inner-circle and Russians with ties to the Kremlin." Read more about the meetings at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

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