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April 8, 2014
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On Monday, The Smoking Gun reported that MSNBC host and civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton secretly informed on the mob for the FBI in the 1980s. According to the site, hundreds of pages of FBI affidavits revealed that Sharpton recorded the conversations of members of the Genovese crime family for a joint NYPD/FBI team, amassing intel that ultimately helped secure several convictions.

Yet while admitting that he did in fact record mob conversations for law enforcement agencies, Sharpton on Tuesday pushed back against the "rat" characterization, instead framing his spying as noble.

"Rats are usually people that were with other rats," he said, in remarks flagged by the New York Observer. "I was not and am not a rat, because I wasn't with the rats. I'm a cat. I chase rats."

"It is interesting to me, as we deal with the whole criminalization of many in our community, that the premise of a lot of this media is that I should have been with the mob rather than with the government," he added. Jon Terbush

4:04 p.m. ET

President Obama has commuted the sentences of 58 federal prisoners, the White House announced Thursday. Eighteen of the 58 were serving life sentences, mostly for nonviolent drug-related charges. The majority of the prisoners are set to be freed on Sept. 2, though some will be released early next year.

The latest round of commutations marks Obama's second batch this year. He cut short the sentences of 61 inmates in March, and with this latest round of commutations brings his total to 306 — more than double the total commutations of the last six presidents combined. Becca Stanek

3:15 p.m. ET

Things Cinco de Mayo is not:

  • Mexican Independence Day
  • A beloved Mexican holiday
  • An opportunity to tell the world you "love Hispanics!"

Donald Trump might have missed the memo on that last one:

As if that wasn't cringe-worthy enough, the plot thickens even further:

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo respectfully, folks! Jeva Lange

3:02 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images,Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Never before in the past 10 presidential elections has a candidate even come close to arousing the levels of dislike that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have evoked in the American people — and especially not this late in the election cycle. Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight crunched the numbers and found that Clinton's unfavorable rating tops the previous record for Republican and Democratic nominees between 1980 and 2012 by a solid 5 percentage points; Trump, meanwhile, smashes the record with an unfavorable rating that's a whopping 20 points higher than the previous record.

Moreover, there's a big difference between the disdain voters felt for the previously most disliked candidate, 1988 Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis, and what they feel now for Trump and Clinton. Most Americans didn't feel that strongly one way or another about Dukakis, but voters now have very strong feelings about Trump and Clinton; while some people may really love them, more people really don't. Even when Clinton and Trump's "strongly unfavorable" ratings are subtracted from their "strongly favorable" ratings, the results are still well into the negatives.

Read the full rundown on the numbers — including some pretty damning graphs — over at FiveThirtyEight. Becca Stanek

2:02 p.m. ET
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President Obama landed in Flint, Michigan, on Wednesday for his first visit to the stricken city since its water was contaminated with dangerous levels of lead after the local government changed water sources. In addition to delivering a speech and meeting with city officials and leaders, on Obama's agenda was a meeting with 8-year-old Flint resident Mari Copeny, who had written a letter to the president in March asking to meet with him and his wife during her trip to Washington, D.C to watch Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's congressional hearings. While Obama did not see Copeny, known as "Little Miss Flint," in Washington, he did meet her Wednesday in Michigan — and it was adorable. Watch below. Kimberly Alters

1:18 p.m. ET
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The last Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, plans to skip his party's national convention in Cleveland this summer and avoid watching the official nomination of Donald Trump, The Washington Post reports. An aide confirmed for the paper on Thursday that "Gov. Romney has no plans to attend."

Romney has spent the past several months firmly situating himself in opposition to Trump, going as far as to rip into him during a formal address in March. In addition, two former Republican presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, both announced Wednesday through their spokesmen that they would not be endorsing a candidate this year. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, also plans to skip the Cleveland convention.

For his part, Donald Trump doesn't seem too bothered by Romney's likely absence. "I don't care," Trump said. "He can be there if he wants." Jeva Lange

12:20 p.m. ET
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for City Harvest

Donald Trump's campaign announced Thursday that Steven Mnuchin, chairman and CEO of private investment firm Dune Capital Management LP, will serve as Trump's national finance chairman for the general election. Instead of self-funding his general election campaign as he did his primary run, Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, has revealed that he will be creating a "world-class finance organization" to actively raise funds to compete with Hillary Clinton's fundraising powerhouse.

Trump's campaign says that Mnuchin, also formerly a partner at Goldman Sachs, will bring the necessary financial experience to what's expected to be a $1 billion campaign. Becca Stanek

11:00 a.m. ET
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is about to start regulating electronic cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, and pipe tobacco just as it does tobacco products. The Obama administration announced the new rules Thursday, which will take effect in 90 days and prohibit teens under the age of 18 from purchasing e-cigarettes. Those purchasing the products will have to show photo identification, and both free samples and sales of the products in vending machines accessible to minors will no longer be allowed.

The rule change will also require manufacturers whose products hit the market after Feb. 15, 2007, to provide the FDA with a list of product ingredients and get approval from the agency for continued sales. Health warnings will now be required on packaging and in advertisements.

Prior to these regulations, the $3-billion e-cigarette industry faced little to no federal oversight or consumer protections. Becca Stanek

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