FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
January 22, 2016
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Former Ben Carson campaign manager and longtime Republican strategist Barry Bennett has jumped ship to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, The Washington Post reports. Both Bennett and Trump's campaign manager have confirmed that Bennett is now serving as an informal and unpaid adviser to Trump's campaign. Bennett's role is "one of counselor and resource to Trump's top aides as they begin to prepare for a possible general-election campaign," The Post reports.

Bennett says he left Carson's campaign after "growing frustrated with the candidate." He finalized his current relationship with the Trump campaign last week following a private meeting at Trump Tower in which Bennett volunteered to help with planning.

"I believe Trump is going to win and it's important that his campaign is ready for everything that is coming," Bennett told The Washington Post, noting that his goal is not strategy but "to help them think through it."

"I'm here to do what is needed. I'm not being paid and I'm going to be mostly focused on getting my business back up and running." Becca Stanek

1:38 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump and some of his lawyers are actively looking at ways to undermine, discredit, or fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading a broad investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election, including compiling a list of potential conflicts of interest that might be used to force out Mueller or some of this investigators, The New York Times and The Washington Post report, both citing people familiar with the effort. That effort has apparently ramped up as Mueller begins digging into Trump's financial history.

"Trump has been fuming about the probe in recent weeks as he has been informed about the legal questions that he and his family could face," The Washington Post reports. "He has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns."

A conflict of interest is one potential reason an attorney general can use to remove a special counsel, and the Trump team is casting its net wide, including whether Mueller is close to fired FBI Director James Comey, an alleged dispute over membership fees between Mueller and Trump National Golf Course when Mueller resigned in 2011, and political contributions to Democrats by some of his team's prosecutors. "Prosecutors may not participate in investigations if they have 'a personal or political relationship' with the subject of the case," The New York Times explains. "Making campaign donations is not included on the list of things that would create a 'political relationship.'"

In a wide-ranging interview Wednesday with The New York Times, Trump also suggested that Mueller has a conflict of interest because he interviewed for the FBI director job before he was appointed special counsel, though he did not explain how that is a conflict of interest. Trump and his lawyers are also making the argument that Mueller could be sacked for exceeding what Trump sees as the scope of the Russia investigation. When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who would have to fire Mueller, appointed him, he gave Mueller broad authority to investigate any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government plus "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation" and any crime committed in response to the investigation. Peter Weber

12:42 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

As President Trump becomes increasingly concerned and angry about the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, which has reportedly expanded into Trump's financial transactions, he has been talking with aides and his legal team about the president's power to pardon aides, family members, and even himself, people familiar with the effort tell The Washington Post. One of those people described the discussion as mostly among Trump's lawyers, and two people familiar with the conversations said the discussions are purely theoretical at this point, largely to satisfy Trump's curiosity. "This is not in the context of, 'I can't wait to pardon myself,'" a close adviser told the Post.

Presidents have broad powers to pardon people for federal offenses, as laid out in the Constitution, but no president has tried to pardon himself — though Richard Nixon explored the question, CBS's John Dickerson points out — and it is unclear if that would be legally permissible. "This is a fiercely debated but unresolved legal question," Michigan State University constitutional law expert Brian C. Kalt tells the Post. "There is no predicting what would happen."

It would certainly spark a political firestorm, as would any pardon related to the Russia investigation. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned Trump in a statement Thursday night that "pardoning any individuals who may have been involved would be crossing a fundamental line." He called the possibility that Trump is "considering pardons at this early stage in these ongoing investigations ... extremely disturbing." You can read more about Trump's pardon deliberations at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

July 20, 2017
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump is preparing to name Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier and longtime supporter, as communications director, two sources "familiar with the planning" tell Jonathan Swan at Axios. Scaramucci has been in talks with the White House to join the communications team in some high-level role, Politico reports, and the communications director job has been open since Mike Dubke's short tenure came to an end in May. Scaramucci, who recently sold off his stake in SkyBridge Capital, his hedge fund, for a Trump administration position that fell through, has been working at the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Trump has been vocally unhappy with his communications team, and he appreciates how Scaramucci defends him in his frequent appearances on Fox News, Swan says. Trump "thinks he is really good at making the case for him," one White House official tells Politico. "He loves him on TV." Scaramucci, or "Mooch," is a longtime friend of Fox News host Sean Hannity, and, according to Maggie Haberman at The New York Times, he's close to Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump like him.

"Trump's plans to appoint Scaramucci came as a surprise to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who found out after the plans had already been made," Swan says. It's an "open question whether Priebus tries to stop it," Haberman adds. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who has been acting communications director, is expected to stay on. Peter Weber

July 20, 2017
Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington was found dead Thursday morning at a private residence in Palos Verdes Estates, a suburb of Los Angeles. He was 41. TMZ reported Bennington's death was a suicide, but the case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

Bennington was married and had six children. During his more than two decades in the music industry, he also fronted for Stone Temple Pilots.

Variety noted Bennington was a close friend of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, who committed suicide in May. Thursday would have been Cornell's 53rd birthday.

"Shocked and heartbroken, but it's true," Bennington's Linkin Park bandmate Mike Shinoda tweeted. "An official statement will come out as soon as we have one." Becca Stanek

July 20, 2017
iStock

Cows have given humanity cheese, steak, and milk, and now the bovine species might help scientists develop a vaccine against HIV. A study published Thursday in the journal Nature explained that while cows can't contract HIV, they can produce antibodies to block infections like HIV, providing scientists a long sought-after opportunity to better understand how the immune system develops such antibodies.

One of the biggest conundrums for researchers working to develop an HIV vaccine is figuring out why people with HIV do not produce enough effective antibodies to battle the virus. Cows, scientists discovered after injecting four calves with HIV immunogens, produce powerful antibodies against HIV — and rapidly. Researchers were then able to isolate antibodies from the cows to study individual antibodies' effectiveness against HIV and investigate how they could trigger the production of such antibodies in the human body.

"As a scientist, this is really exciting," said study author Devin Sok. "To put it into perspective, the first broadly neutralizing antibodies were discovered in the 1990s. Since then, we've been trying to elicit these antibodies through immunization, and we've never been able to do it until now, until we have immunized a cow. This has given some information for how to do it so that hopefully we can apply that to humans."

John Mascola, director of vaccine research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted the study isn't a straight shot toward developing the vaccine for HIV. However, he said, "it does tell us how the virus evades the human immune response" — which is certainly a step in the right direction. Becca Stanek

July 20, 2017
Jason Bean-Pool/Getty Images

O.J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday. After a brief hearing, the Nevada Board of Parole commissioners voted unanimously in favor of Simpson's release, which could happen as soon as Oct. 1.

The 70-year-old former football star has served almost nine years of a 33-year sentence, the minimum requirement, for charges of kidnapping and armed robbery stemming from a 2007 confrontation with two sports memorabilia collectors. Simpson and five other men confronted the collectors at a Nevada hotel room.

Simpson said during his parole hearing that he did not know the men he was with were armed and that he regretted that "things turned out the way they did." "I had no intention to commit a crime," Simpson said, insisting that he's "spent a conflict-free life" and is a "good guy" who has had "problems with fidelity."

Simpson was granted parole based on his age and his compliance with prison rules. In 1995, Simpson was acquitted for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Becca Stanek

July 20, 2017

At his parole hearing Thursday, O.J. Simpson made the case for why he's a "good guy" who has just had some "problems with fidelity." The 70-year-old former football star has served nearly nine years of a 33-year sentence for kidnapping and armed robbery, stemming from an incident in which Simpson and five other men confronted two sports memorabilia collectors to allegedly reclaim stolen heirlooms. The incident happened in 2007, more than a decade after Simpson was acquitted in 1995 for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Simpson insisted during his hearing before the Nevada Board of Parole that he did not know that the men he was with were armed. He also claimed that "nobody's ever accused me of pulling any weapon on them." "I've always thought I've been pretty good with people. I basically have spent a conflict-free life," Simpson said, describing himself as a guy "that pretty much got along with everybody."

Catch a snippet of Simpson's statement below. Becca Stanek

See More Speed Reads