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March 25, 2014
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Half a decade after their erstwhile boss pleaded guilty to running a Ponzi scheme, five of Bernard Madoff's former aides were convicted on Monday of helping him cover it up. After a five-month trial, portfolio managers Annette Bongiorno and Joann Crupi, computer programmers Jerome O'Hara and George Perez, and back-office director Daniel Bonventre were all found guilty of securities fraud and conspiracy to defraud clients. "The scheme these defendants helped perpetrate cost innumerable investors their life savings," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "Now it likely will cost the defendants their freedom." Sentencing will take place in July. Catherine Garcia

10:31 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

A Republican Kentucky state lawmaker accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in 2012 died by probable suicide on Wednesday, authorities said.

Bullitt County Sheriff Donnie Tinnell said state Rep. Dan Johnson, 57, shot himself on a bridge in Mount Washington, Kentucky, his body discovered on the bank of the Salt River. Johnson, pastor of the Heart of Fire church in Louisville, was elected to the state legislature in 2016, despite his fellow Republicans calling on him to drop out of the race after racist posts he made on Facebook about the Obamas were unearthed. On Monday, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published the account of a woman who said on New Year's Eve 2012, when she was 17 years old, Johnson assaulted her in an apartment underneath his church's fellowship hall, kissing and groping her despite her pleas to stop.

The woman said she went to the police and an investigation was opened, but no charges were filed; in a press conference Tuesday, Johnson called the allegations "totally false." Johnson posted a message on Facebook Wednesday evening in which he stated that PTSD "is a sickness that will take my life, I cannot handle it any longer," The Associated Press reports, and asked his friends to look after his wife. Catherine Garcia

9:50 p.m. ET
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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was hospitalized on Wednesday for "normal side effects" of the treatments he's receiving for glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, his office announced in a statement.

McCain, 80, is at Walter Reed Hospital, and "as ever, he remains grateful to his physicians for their excellent care, and his friends and supporters for their encouragement and good wishes," his office said. "Sen. McCain looks forward to returning to work as soon as possible." He was diagnosed in July.

Earlier in the day, his daughter, Meghan McCain, spoke with former Vice President Joe Biden on The View about her father's condition. Biden's son Beau died in 2015 from the same cancer, and the former vice president told McCain "there is hope," and if "anybody can make it," it's her father. Catherine Garcia

9:18 p.m. ET
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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein praised Special Counsel Robert Mueller throughout his five-hour testimony Wednesday in front of the House Judiciary Committee, telling lawmakers that "based upon his reputation, his service, his patriotism, and his experience with the department and the FBI, I believe he was an ideal choice for this task."

Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any possible collusion between President Trump's campaign and the Russians, and Rosenstein pushed back against Republicans complaining about an FBI agent working on the investigation who was found to be exchanging text messages with an FBI lawyer that called Trump "an idiot" and "loathsome human." That agent, Peter Strzok, was removed from the team, and Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said on Wednesday he thinks they "clearly allowed their political opinions to cloud their judgment." Mueller did the right thing in removing Strzok, Rosenstein responded, and he "understands the importance of ensuring there is no bias reflected in the conduct of the investigation."

Rosenstein oversees Mueller's investigation, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after it was revealed that he met with Russians before the election despite saying otherwise during his confirmation hearing. Rosenstein said he knows what Mueller is doing, and "if I thought he was doing something inappropriate, I would take action." Catherine Garcia

7:43 p.m. ET
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PBS announced Wednesday it has "indefinitely suspended distribution" of the late-night talk show Tavis Smiley after the host was accused of sexual misconduct.

"PBS engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation immediately after leaning of troubling allegations regarding Mr. Smiley," the public broadcaster said in a statement. "This investigation included interviews with witnesses as well as with Mr. Smiley. The inquiry uncovered multiple credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS, and the totality of this information led to today's decision."

Variety reports PBS received several complaints of misconduct by Smiley, and its investigation found credible allegations that Smiley had sexual relationships with several subordinates, with many saying he also created a verbally abusive and threatening workplace environment. Catherine Garcia

6:58 p.m. ET
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With a win under their belt, Democratic leaders on Wednesday called on Republicans to slow down their attempt to push through their tax bill and wait to hold the vote until Doug Jones, the newly elected senator from Alabama, is seated.

Republicans say they have reached a deal on a $1.5 trillion tax plan, which lowers the corporate tax rate down to 21 percent and the top individual tax rate from 39.6 to 37 percent. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned Republicans that if a bill that heavily favors the wealthiest Americans goes through, "there will be many more Alabamas in 2018. Many more. The suburbs are swinging back to us."

Republicans, who want the House and Senate to vote on a bill by the end of next week, said they are not slowing down. "We are moving ahead as we always have been on the same timeline we've been talking about for months," Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. It's not clear when Jones will arrive in Washington; Alabama's secretary of state said the soonest the election will be certified is Dec. 26 or 27, and if the Senate goes on break as scheduled on Dec. 22, they're not expected back until Jan. 3. Once Jones is officially seated, he will cut the GOP majority down from two to one. Catherine Garcia

5:44 p.m. ET
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The chief technology officer of the Federal Communications Commission apparently has some serious doubts about his agency’s plan to repeal net neutrality, Politico reported Wednesday. The FCC is expected to vote to repeal the equal-opportunity laws Thursday.

Net neutrality rules, instituted by former President Barack Obama, banned internet service providers from blocking or degrading online content, as well as forbade these services from taking money to create "fast lanes" for lawful material. Fans of the guidelines say repealing them would allow ISPs to block certain content — even if it is legal — or create tiered pricing for online content, thus undermining the idea that "all internet traffic is created equal."

FCC CTO Eric Burger wrote in an email Wednesday to his fellow commissioners that removing these guidelines would let ISPs essentially dictate which online content get priority, while also allowing the agency to block lawful content. "Allowing such blocking is not in the public interest," Burger wrote.

Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has disputed claims that scrapping net neutrality would result in ISPs dictating web traffic, telling Marketplace on Wednesday that repeal "means better, faster, cheaper internet access." In response to Politico's story, an anonymous FCC official said that Burger's worries had been "fully addressed" in the hours since he sent his email.

The FCC's plan to repeal net neutrality is deeply unpopular. On Wednesday, 18 state attorneys general wrote a letter to Pai asking him to delay Thursday's vote to allow time to investigate complaints about the FCC's public comment process on net neutrality repeal; during the comment period, more than 2 million online comments were reportedly made using stolen or fake identities, most in favor of repeal. Kelly O'Meara Morales

3:56 p.m. ET

A forged 13-page document accusing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of sexual harassment apparently copied language from a legitimate complaint filed against recently ousted Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), The Daily Beast reports.

Axios wrote Tuesday that the fake document that was circulated to several major media companies looked like a lawsuit that had been filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It named a former Schumer staffer, who worked in his office from 2009 to 2012; when approached by Axios, the woman said that she had never seen the document before and that the claims are "completely false, my signature is forged, and even basic facts about me are wrong."

Right-wing personalities Charles Johnson and Mike Cernovich had "boasted" about the documents earlier this week, The Daily Beast writes, with Johnson posting on Facebook that "Michael Cernovich & I are going to end the career of a U.S. Senator." But upon closer inspection, there were several telltale signs that the documents had been forged:

The Conyers complaint references "House Rule 23" and a "mediation" process between Conyers and his accuser. The fake Schumer complaint also describes allegations as falling under "House Rule 23," which of course does not exist in the Senate. The "mediation" process in the Schumer document was never mentioned again. [The Daily Beast]

Cernovich now claims he was the victim of a "sophisticated forgery." Read the full scoop at The Daily Beast. Jeva Lange

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