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May 5, 2014
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The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that government meetings may begin with prayers so long as they do not discriminate against particular religions.

By a 5-4 ruling, the court sided with the town of Greece, New York, saying that prayer at town meetings "fits within the tradition" followed by Congress and state legislatures. Since the prayer is ceremonial and not related to policymaking, the court said, it is therefore not an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Moreover, the court found that overtly Christian prayer was permissible "so long as the town maintains a policy of nondiscrimination" toward other religions. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that "legislative bodies do not engage in imper­missible coercion merely by exposing constituents to prayer they would rather not hear and in which they need not participate."

In a blistering dissent, however, Justice Elena Kagan said Greece did discriminate against non-Christian faiths by inviting predominantly Christian clergy to deliver the prayer. "When the citizens of this country approach their government, they do so only as Americans," she wrote, adding, "they should not confront government-sponsored worship that divides them along religious lines." Jon Terbush

3:46 a.m. ET

On Monday, the U.S. State Department took down an article published earlier in April that read like promotional material for Mar-a-Lago, President Trump's private club in Florida. "The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the President has been hosting world leaders," said the State Department's ShareAmerica site, where the article was posted April 4 before making its way onto the official websites of American embassies abroad. The U.S. government seemingly promoting the president's private business did not sit well with Democrats, government ethicists, and many other Americans, but former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a Trump backer, found a way to blame former President Barack Obama on CNN Monday night.

Van Jones started things off, calling the post "outright kleptocracy, as far as I can tell." Conservatives should be outraged, he added. "This is an ad. I mean, you would pay a billion dollars for this ad, it's on the State Department's thing." Kingston said he was "outraged," too, adding, "I also want to point out, this is actually part of a $72 million clickbait campaign that the State Department had previous engaged in, it was not done under the Trump administration, and it's part of what they're trying to ferret out, the waste in government." Political analyst Ana Navarro pointed out how ridiculous he was sounding that the Mar-a-Lago post was clearly done under Trump, and Kingston replied: "You forced me into reminding you, this was left over from the Obama administration — I tried not to say that."

After pushback from CNN's Jake Tapper, Jones, Navarro, and political analysts Rebecca Berg and David Gergen, Kingston shifted to blaming a "low-level blogger" and the bureaucracy. "Look, I'm going to agree with Van — it sounded like a real estate ad, it was stupid, it was taken down immediately for that reason, I don't think it should be up, I'm in agreement with you on that," he said. "But I'm saying the bureaucracy does all kinds of silly and stupid things." Gergen shot that down.

2:47 a.m. ET
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Last August, former Fox News anchor Andrea Tantaros filed suit against her erstwhile employer, memorably alleging that despite Fox News' promotion of traditional family values on air, "behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny." That suit is in arbitration, but on Monday, Tantaros reached into popular culture again to allege in a new federal lawsuit that after she accused since-ousted Fox News chief Roger Ailes of sexually harassing her in 2015, the network hacked her personal laptop and cyberstalked her using "sock-puppet" social media accounts, like on an episode of Homeland.

Fox News sent operatives to install surveillance software on her computer, monitored her phone conversations, and then used the private information it gleaned about her to "intimidate, terrorize, and crush her career through an endless stream of lewd, offensive, and career-damaging social media posts, blog entries, and commentary," according to Tarantos' lawsuit. Her lawyer, Judd Burstein, said it amounted to "cyberstalking on steroids," with the network having "harassed her through sock-puppet social media accounts which conveyed the illegal fruits of their electronic surveillance of her. It was in essence two crimes committed at the same time."

Fox News, thorough its lawyers, said the network and its executives "flatly deny that they conducted any electronic surveillance of Ms. Tantaros" and "have no knowledge of the anonymous or pseudonymous tweets described in her complaint." Susan Estrich, a lawyer for Ailes, said the new suit has no merit and called it another "obvious attempt to get publicity." Burstein noted that News International, a news organization that, like Fox News, is owned by the Murdoch family, faced a damaging phone-hacking scandal in Britain in 2011. Alies and Fox News star Bill O'Reilly were both fired, with generous severance packages, following multiple sexual harassment allegations. Peter Weber

1:36 a.m. ET
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On Monday, President Trump told reporters from Breitbart News and other conservative outlets that his administration is slapping punitive tariffs of up to 24 percent on softwood lumber imports from Canada, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed the news, saying the Commerce Department has determined that such countervailing duties are necessary because Canada subsidizes its softwood lumber industry. The tariffs, ranging from 3 percent to 24.1 percent, will be retroactive for 90 days. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr jointly denounced what it called the "baseless and unfounded" subsidy accusations, and said Canada will take legal action against the "unfair and punitive duty."

Canada and the U.S. have been sparring over lumber imports since the 1800s, and the current dispute dates back to the early 1980s. The current Commerce Department review was started under the Obama administration, after a truce negotiated under the George W. Bush administration expired. The Trump administration has been hampered in its negotiations for a new deal with Canada by its lack of a chief trade negotiator. Ross said his department had decided to levy tariffs on the merits, but also because of Trump's new interest in Canadian trade disputes, specifically citing Trump being moved by complaints from Wisconsin dairy farmers he met last week. "What we are doing is dealing with another bad act on the part of the Canadians," Ross told The Washington Post.

The preliminary tariffs are subject to approval from the independent U.S. International Trade Commission, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection can start collecting the subsidies immediately. Softwood lumber is Canada's fourth-largest export to the U.S., accounting for $5.8 billion in sales last year, and among those opposed to the punitive duties is the U.S. homebuilding industry. Last year, the National Association of Home Builders said that a 15 percent tariff would raise the price of U.S. homes by 4.2 percent, costing 4,666 full-time jobs. The U.S. lumber industry says Canadian timber harvest prices cost U.S. jobs, too. Peter Weber

1:35 a.m. ET
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Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News host who left cable for network television and a gig at NBC, will be back on the air this June with a Sunday night program.

Kelly made the switch to NBC in January, but long exit negotiations with Fox News prevented her from debuting her show earlier. The program does not have a title yet, but it is being touted as a newsmagazine; it will air the same night as CBS's powerhouse 60 Minutes. Kelly will also have a morning show that is expected to replace an hour of Today, slated to launch this fall, The New York Times reports. Catherine Garcia

12:43 a.m. ET
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With their union contract scheduled to expire on May 1, Writers Guild of America members voted on Monday to authorize a strike.

The guild said that 67.5 percent of eligible members voted, and 96.3 percent were in favor of the measure. On Tuesday, the union is expected to pick up negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the major Hollywood studios and broadcast networks. The writers are asking for pay increases, larger residuals for shows on streaming services like Netflix, and bigger employer contributions to the health plan.

The guild says that over the last two years, the average salary for a television writer-producer is down 23 percent, the Los Angeles Times reports. If negotiations fail and a strike is called, it will have a major impact on the television and film industry, cutting seasons short and affecting the fall season and possibly beyond; during the last strike in 2007, which lasted 100 days, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers says writers lost more than $287 million in compensation and the walkout "hurt everyone." Catherine Garcia

12:24 a.m. ET

"President Trump has been scrambling for literally any kind of positive achievement as he nears the end of his first 100 days in office," Seth Meyers said on Monday's Late Show. The 100-day mark, of course, "is traditionally when presidents get their first big report card on their performance so far, and this will shock you, most people think he's not doing great," Meyer said. None of Trump's promised actions by Day 100 are done. "If this were a movie, it would be called 100 Dayz and Confused," he said. And yet, "like every terrible student, Trump is trying to turn an F into an A."

Trump is kind of right that "the 100 Day report card is an arbitrary, meaningless political milestone that most people don't actually care about," Meyers said, but Trump obviously does, having pitched a laundry list of things he would accomplish by Day 100. He's accomplished none of them, leaving him to brag about TV ratings and his electoral victory. "How could things get any worse?" Meyers asked. A government shutdown, of course. But Meyers was concerned if the government does shut down, nobody would even notice: "Under Trump our federal government is staffed as well as a Duane Reade on a Sunday morning."

Still, whether or not the government is open come Saturday rests on whether Trump will veto a spending bill without funding for his border wall. Wasn't Mexico going to pay for that wall? On Twitter, Trump said it still will, somehow, at some point in the future. "Trump's tweets are starting to sound like the fine print on a contest to win a free cruise," Meyers said. And how much will the wall cost? "Even the biggest sucker at the used car lot" would walk away, given Trump's delightfully obtuse answer to The Associated Press.

Meyers actually gets a lot of mileage out of Trump's freewheeling AP interview, but his parting shot came from Trump's glowing platitudes about his first 100 days delivered on camera last week. "That's the president of the United States saying 'government is coming along really well,'" Meyer said. "That's like going home to your wife and saying, 'Hello, wife, our marriage is coming along really well.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

12:06 a.m. ET
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On Monday, Arkansas put to death two prisoners, Marcel Williams and Jack Jones, the first time a state has carried out a double execution in 17 years.

Jones, convicted of raping and murdering Mary Phillips in 1995, was put to death shortly after 7 p.m., and Williams' attorneys then asked for a stay, saying that Williams' obesity would make it too difficult for an IV to be placed and questioning if Jones' execution went according to plan. A judge temporarily blocked Williams' execution, but lifted the stay an hour later.

Williams was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m., 17 minutes after the procedure began. He was convicted of the 1994 rape and murder of Stacy Errickson, a 22-year-old woman he kidnapped from a gas station. Arkansas is ramping up its executions, scheduling eight over 11 days, because its supply of one lethal injection drug will expire at the end of the month. At least three of the eight executions have been stayed by court order. Catherine Garcia

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