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April 15, 2014
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ProPublica doesn't have a smoking gun, but the journalism advocacy organization has pretty solid circumstantial evidence that Intuit, the maker of popular tax filing software TurboTax, is behind a seemingly grassroots effort to thwart a proposal for the IRS to offer pre-filed tax returns, or return-free filing.

The idea behind return-free filing is that the IRS would basically do your taxes for you, filling in the blanks based on information it already has from banks and employers. Taxpayers would get the pre-filed documents and either correct any errors and return them, use the information to file their own tax returns, or just ignore the pre-filed return and go about their normal business. Depending on how you feel about the IRS, this is either creepy or a godsend.

ProPublica is on the godsend side: "Return-free filing might allow tens of millions of Americans to file their taxes for free and in minutes," says ProPublica's Liz Day. Intuit, not surprisingly, is against the idea, since — as it explained in a filing with the SEC — free, easy tax-filing options "may cause us to lose customers and revenue."

Intuit has every right to make that case — and it spent $2.6 million on lobbying in 2013, including against return-free filing proposals in Congress, to make it. But the methods it is employing, according to ProPublica, look pretty shady: Hiring PR firms, either directly or through the trade group the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), to urge community leaders and nonprofits to put their moral authority to work in service of stopping return-free filing.

ProPublica spoke with several such community leaders, including a rabbi and a state NAACP president, who wrote public letters against the proposals after receiving misleading form letters from acquaintances they either didn't realize were lobbyists or didn't know were representing Intuit.

Day also spoke with an Oregon nonprofit director, Angela Martin, who asked enough questions to intuit who was behind the push, researched return-free filing, then wrote in support of the proposal. "You get one or two prominent nonprofits to use their name, and busy advocates will extend trust and say sure, us too," Martin explained to ProPublica. If you aren't too exhausted after filing your tax returns by today's deadline — or, especially, if you are exhausted — read the entire article at ProPublica. Peter Weber

9:06 p.m. ET
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A Democratic Missouri state senator who posted, then quickly deleted, a comment on her personal Facebook page saying she hoped President Trump would be assassinated is ignoring calls from her colleagues to resign.

State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal told the Kansas City Star she posted a statement saying, "I really hate Trump. He's causing trauma and nightmares." Several of her friends left comments, and in response to one, she wrote, "I hope Trump is assassinated!" "It was wrong of me to do that," she said. "But I am not going to shy away from the damage this president is causing." Her page is not visible to the public, and the post was first reported by a conservative St. Louis radio host.

Chappelle-Nadal said she disagrees with Trump's response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last weekend, and that by saying "both sides" were to blame for the violence, Trump "made it easier for racists to be racists. As long as I have a voice, I'm going to talk about the damage [Trump] is creating in this nation." Democrats in her state are not supporting her, with Sen. Claire McCaskill releasing a statement on the comment saying, "I condemn it. It's outrageous. And she should resign." Stephen Webber, chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party, said her words were "indefensible," and State Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh said Chappelle-Nadal "should be ashamed of herself.

Chappelle-Nadal told the Kansas City Star she has no plans to step down, since "legislators cheat on their wives or smoke marijuana and are not asked to resign. I'm not resigning over a simple mistake." The Secret Service said it is "looking into the comments." Catherine Garcia

8:47 p.m. ET
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Police in Spain announced early Friday that they shot and killed four people during a counter-terrorism raid in the coastal city of Cambrils.

One additional suspect was injured. The city is south of Barcelona, and it has not been confirmed if the suspects were linked to the van attack that killed at least 13 people Thursday in the Las Ramblas area. Two people were arrested Thursday in connection with the Barcelona attack, but police said neither detainee is suspected of being the van's driver. Catherine Garcia

7:18 p.m. ET
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At the same time WikiLeaks was publishing thousands of documents from the Democratic National Committee, potentially damaging for Hillaru Clinton and believed to have been stolen by Kremlin-backed hackers, it rejected at least 68 gigabytes of data from inside the Russian Interior Ministry, Foreign Policy reports.

FP spoke with the person who said they provided WikiLeaks with the Russia documents last summer, and was shown chat messages between the person and WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks said at the time that "as far as we recall, these are already public," and told FP when reached via Twitter that it "rejects all submissions that it cannot verify" but "has never rejected a submission due to its country of origin." The Twitter account is believed to be run by Assange, but FP was told by the account it's operated by a staff.

The person who provided the messages to WikiLeaks told FP the documents "would have exposed Russian activities and shown WikiLeaks was not controlled by Russian security services" and because "many WikiLeaks staff and volunteers or their families suffered at the hands of Russian corruption and cruelty, we were sure WikiLeaks would release it. Assange gave excuse after excuse." The cache was published online elsewhere, to little fanfare. Assange, who in 2012 had his own show on the Kremlin-backed RT network, has been accused of being too close to Russia, and came under fire when WikiLeaks failed to publish major documents out of the country, including paperwork showing a transaction worth 2 billion Euros between a government-owned bank and the Syrian regime, FP reports. Catherine Garcia

5:31 p.m. ET
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A day after President Trump shuttered two of his business councils, he announced he was giving up on a third. "The President's Advisory Council on Infrastructure, which was still being formed, will not move forward," a White House official confirmed Thursday. The council would have offered Trump advice on his visions for improving the nation's roads and bridges.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he'd decided to disband his American Manufacturing Council and his Strategic and Policy Forum — though their demise may have happened with or without his blessing. Members of the Strategic and Policy Forum had already announced the council was breaking up because of the president's response to the weekend's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump's American Manufacturing Council had been rapidly losing members as well, with seven business leaders quitting the council by Wednesday over Trump's response to the Charlottesville protests. Becca Stanek

5:16 p.m. ET
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The Dow Jones closed Thursday afternoon down more than 274 points as investors were rattled by the chaos engulfing the Trump White House in addition to a deadly terrorist attack in Barcelona. The 1.2 percent drop in the Dow made for the index's biggest drop in three months and its second-worst day of the entire year. The Nasdaq Composite also posted a 1.9 percent slide, while the S&P 500 plunged 1.5 percent.

The market was particularly spooked by the idea that former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn could resign from President Trump's National Economic Council, Barron's reports, given Cohn is in charge of the administration's tax reform efforts. Cohn was reportedly "disgusted" by Trump's tepid response to the white nationalist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, which resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Kimberly Alters

4:56 p.m. ET

A van jumped the curb and plowed into a crowd in the center of Barcelona on Thursday. Thirteen people were killed and at least 100 were injured, Catalonian authorities said. Police have confirmed that the incident was a terrorist attack. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency.

The driver of the van reportedly fled on foot after plowing into pedestrians in the city's historic Las Ramblas district, a popular tourist destination. Two suspects have been arrested. Local authorities in the Catalonian town of Vic — almost due north of Barcelona — have said they identified a second van linked to the attack in Las Ramblas, The Guardian reports.

Police have dismissed earlier reports that two armed men were hiding out in a bar following the attack. Becca Stanek

This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout.

4:48 p.m. ET

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) thinks it's about time for President Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon to leave the White House. "I think it's important for the president to fire Steve Bannon. He should go," King, an ardent Trump supporter, said Thursday in an interview with WABC.

The tipping point for King was Bannon's latest interviews, in which he relished in the fact that the left is making the debate over Confederate monuments a discussion about race, contradicted Trump on North Korea, and openly talked about his fights with colleagues. "The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it's all racist. Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can't get enough of it," Bannon told The New York Times in the aftermath of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

For King, a man who once held hugely controversial hearings on the alleged radicalization of American Muslims, Bannon's comments went too far. "I mean, what he said the other day, where he was saying that he hopes the Democrats use race as an issue because that's a win for Republicans, that to me is exploiting a racial issue," King said. "That can't be allowed."

Watch it below. Becca Stanek

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