April 19, 2014

Noting diplomatic progress between Ukraine and Russia, Ukrainian officials decided to halt the country's "anti-terrorist operation" for the Easter holiday.

Pro-Russian militants are occupying various government buildings in eastern Ukraine. They remained behind their barricades, firm on their pledge not to concede unless Ukraine's "illegal" government steps down.

While the United States, Russia, the European Union, and Ukraine brokered an agreement on Thursday meant to de-escalate the conflict, pro-Russia activists in Ukraine said because they were not included in the talks at Geneva, they were under no obligation to suspend their activities.

"Why would we leave? Who told us to leave?" a man who gave his name as Alexander told The Washington Post. "Nobody in Geneva who signed this agreement gives a damn about us. They're interested in gas deals, in coal, in drilling. They don't care about us."

Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's assurances that he will go along with the deal, Washington was already skeptical as to whether Moscow would honor the agreement. The worries are in large part based on comments Putin made at a Russian press conference, where he described eastern Ukraine as "new Russia," and said he is prepared to use force — which the Russian Duma has authorized — if necessary in Ukraine.

Mounting tensions aside, some militants took advantage of the hiatus to go about traditional Easter weekend activities, such as receiving blessings from religious leaders who visited the barricaded areas. Hopefully those blessings come with a promise of peace. --Sarah Eberspacher

6:45 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump basically can't win the presidential race without Florida, so his campaign got some good news on Wednesday morning in a new Bloomberg Politics poll showing him beating Hillary Clinton by 2 percentage points in the state. In a four way race, Trump has 45 percent to Clinton's 43 percent, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 4 percent and the Green Party's Jill Stein at 2 percent. In a two-way race, Trump leads Clinton in Florida by 1 point, 46 percent to 45 percent. Trump's edge, says J. Ann Selzer, the pollster who conducted the survey, appears to be from his 2-point lead with independent voters in a head-to-head matchup. "This race may come down to the independent vote," she said. "Right now, they tilt for Trump. By a narrow margin, they opted for Obama over Romney in 2012."

The same poll shows Sen. Marco Rubio (R) with a 10-point lead over Democratic challenger Rep. Patrick Murphy, 51 percent to 41 percent, thanks again to a lead among independents. The poll of 953 likely voters was conducted Oct. 21-24, and has an overall margin of error of ±3.2 percentage points. It is also a bit of an outlier, so far. The RealClearPolitics average of polls has Clinton up 3.1 points in Florida, and FiveThirtyEight has Clinton with a 72 percent shot at winning the state, though neither average includes this new Bloomberg Politics poll. Peter Weber

6:08 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump's presidential campaign has "kind of wound down" its formal fundraising with the Trump Victory fund, a joint fundraising endeavor with the Republican National Committee that serves as a major source of campaign cash for the RNC and its ground game, Trump national campaign chairman Steven Mnunchin tells The Washington Post. The joint committee's last high-dollar fundraiser was on Oct. 19 in Las Vegas, and there are no more scheduled until election day.

The Trump campaign called the report "completely misleading," with Mnunchin telling NBC News, "we continue to do fundraising for Trump Victory." Lew Eisenberg, a top RNC fundraiser and chairman of Trump Victory, told The Washington Post he and Mnunchin have been working together "to raise money from major donors" over the phone. "We have no organized calendar of events for the next 14 days," he said, but "when the opportunity presents itself, we will have ad hoc fundraisers" with Trump or his running mate.

Mnunchin told The Post that "the online fundraising continues to be strong," and that the Trump campaign has "big media buys, we have a terrific ground game." Most of the online money Trump raises online goes to his campaign, not RNC, while the Trump Victory events, which can raise up to $449,000 a person, give a much bigger share to the RNC for down-ballot races and get-out-the-vote efforts. Hillary Clinton held her last big scheduled fundraiser on Tuesday night in Miami, though surrogates will appear at 41 events in the next two weeks. Her campaign has raised more than twice as much money as Trump's. Peter Weber

5:03 a.m. ET

The world is probably divided into two groups: people who would love sitting through a traffic jam with Lady Gaga riding shotgun and those who would find it even more torturous than the traffic itself. The latter group probably won't enjoy James Corden's latest "carpool karaoke," on Tuesday's Late Last Show, but Gaga fans have a lot to look forward to.

There is, obviously, a lot of singing, and whether or not you like her music, Lady Gaga can sing. Corden asked about the beginning of "Bad Romance," and learned what Gaga is actually singing. "This why these carpools are good for me, just to get this sort of lyrical insight," he said. Gaga just got her driver's license a few months ago, and so she took the wheel for a brief, terrifying few minutes. In the video you also get to hear her vocal warmup routine, watch her and Corden re-enact the call where she was asked to play the Super Bowl, learn she owns some 400 items of Michael Jackson's wardrobe, and that she often writes songs in 10 minutes; it becomes clear, too, that she looks much better in her famously outrageous outfits than Corden does. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:19 a.m. ET

The race for Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes is so intense that a group backing Donald Trump is trying to court the Amish vote, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, and he thought it was a good move. "This is the perfect demographic for Trump," he said. "They're the only voters left who haven't googled him." The pitch to the Amish includes that Trump is a builder, like them, and "the Amish like the fact that Trump has a family-owned business — whereas Hillary Clinton has a business-owned family," Colbert joked.

To seal the deal, the Trump PAC put up a billboard in Amish country declaring: "Vote Trump: Hard Working, Pro-Life, Family Dedicated... Just Like You." Yes, Colbert said, "in fact, Trump is so dedicated to family, he can't stop starting them." To find out if this courtship is working, he interviewed "Zachariah Miller," an Amish Trump backer played by Will Forte, and he does in fact like that Trump is a builder.

"What about Hillary Clinton? Do the Amish like her?" Colbert asked. "Oh no, we hate her." Miller said. "Why?" Colbert asked. "The emails!" Forte's Miller replied. "Wait, you're mad she deleted them?" Colbert asked. "Oh no, we're mad she uses emails at all," he said. "They're the Devil's thank you notes. Plus she wears no bonnet, the temptress, unlike Mr. Trump, who humbly covers his head with plenty of hay for his horses." If you're wondering at this point why an Amish farmer could even appear on TV, Forte had an answer: Rumspringa. And that also explains the increasingly bizarre turn the interview takes, and its twist ending. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:47 a.m. ET

Donald Trump's campaign launched a new nightly program on Facebook Monday called Trump Tower Live, Jimmy Kimmel noted on Tuesday's Kimmel Live, and some people think this is the precursor to a new Trump-branded media empire, Trump TV, "which is great news — finally we get a chance to see Donald Trump on TV," Kimmel joked. "But if you're wondering what Trump TV might possibly look like, they are already pushing their first scripted series, based on a popular conspiracy theory." He showed a preview, and it combines The Walking Dead and Hillary Clinton supporters. "I think it's going to be a hit," Kimmel said. And were it real, he could be right. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:14 a.m. ET

On Tuesday's Kelly File, Megyn Kelly had former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on to make the case for Donald Trump, and retired Marine Gen. John Allen — former head of U.S. Central Command — on to discuss why he's supporting Hillary Clinton. If you get to choose between the two as your public advocate, go with Allen.

"I want to ask you, because it is extraordinary to see a general like you come out and get political, what made you do it?" Kelly asked, after playing part of a new Clinton campaign ad starring Allen. The four-star general said he felt it necessary to express his "very clear support for the person I believe utterly should be the next commander in chief." Let's talk about that, Kelly said. Clinton "does have a foreign policy record — unlike Trump," she added, "and it's not... it's far from perfect, let's put it that way."

Clinton supported the Libya intervention, the Iran nuclear deal, "and certainly she underestimated the security threat in Benghazi," Kelly said. "So how can you, as a general serving in the positions you have, support her for commander in chief?" Allen said Clinton "has responded to many of those concerns, particularly Benghazi," and from his many interactions with her in Afghanistan and the Situation Room, "she's calm, she understands international relations, she understands that the influence of America is best exerted through our relationships overseas and through our alliances and parterships."

"But what about Trump and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin?" Kelly asked. "You know, he says he understands that too." Putin is watching this election "very, very closely, Megyn," Allen said, "and when one of the two principal candidates for the president of the United States in fact cheerleads the dissolution of the EU or would talk about not being willing to honor Article 5 of the NATO charter, we've got some real reason for Putin to want to see a particular individual in the Oval Office."

Kelly asked if Putin, a "former KGB guy" is studying Clinton and Trump, and Allen said "there's no question about that. They've got the voice prints, they can tell when someone is agitated, they can tell when someone is angry, they can tell when someone is telling the truth or not telling the truth, and all of this is to ensure that in a crisis, they can push the buttons they think they need to for that crisis to go their way." Peter Weber

2:09 a.m. ET
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Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who has garnered national attention for his hardline approach to dealing with undocumented immigrants, was officially charged on Tuesday with criminal contempt of court.

The Justice Department said two weeks ago that Arpaio, 84, would be charged, but the misdemeanor count was not officially filed until Tuesday. Arpaio is serving his fifth term as sheriff, and is up for re-election in two weeks; if convicted, he could face up to six months in jail. In December 2011, a judge issued a court order that banned Arpaio's deputies from detaining people based only on the suspicion they were an undocumented immigrant and without cause to believe they committed a crime, The Arizona Republic reports. The judge determined two years later that Arpaio's office had racially profiled Latinos, with officers continuing to detain undocumented immigrants for more than a year after the original court order. Arpaio has said he unintentionally defied the order. The trial is set to begin on Dec. 6.

Arpaio's opponent in the sheriff's race, Paul Penzone, called the charge "another example of the sheriff putting his own personal objectives ahead of the best interest of the community at our expense." Arpaio's lawyer, Mel McDonald, said his client will plead not guilty, and they "believe that when the final chapter is written, he will be vindicated." Arpaio has been investigated before, including four years ago when it was alleged he retaliated against two police officers and a judge by accusing them of corruption. So far, Maricopa County taxpayers have had to pay $48 million to defend Arpaio in the racial profiling case, and that number is expected to balloon up to $72 million by next summer, The Associated Press reports. Catherine Garcia

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