January 25, 2016
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In an op-ed, President Obama said he is adopting recommendations from the Justice Department to reform the federal prison system, including banning solitary confinement for juveniles as a response to low-level infractions.

Other reforms include expanding treatment for the mentally ill and increasing the amount of time inmates in solitary confinement can spend outside of their cells. "These steps will affect some 10,000 federal prisoners held in solitary confinement — and hopefully serve as a model for state and local corrections systems," Obama wrote in The Washington Post. He explained that last summer, he asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Department of Justice to review the overuse of solitary confinement in the United States, and they found that "the practice should be limited, applied with constraints, and used only as a measure of last resort."

As many as 100,000 people are held in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, the president wrote, and research suggests there is a link between being in solitary and "depression, alienation, [and] withdrawal." Prisoners in solitary are more likely to commit suicide, and some studies show that it can make existing mental illnesses worse and trigger new ones. Obama wrote that his "most important job is to keep Americans safe," and overall crime rates have "decreased by more than 15 percent." However, "how can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people? It doesn't make us safer. It's an affront to our common humanity."

He also said members of Congress are working together to reform sentencing laws and expand reentry programs, and he hopes they will send him "legislation as soon as possible that makes our criminal justice system smarter, fairer, less expensive, and more effective." Catherine Garcia

9:51 p.m. ET
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After working without a contract for almost a year, an estimated 17,000 AT&T technicians in California and Nevada went on strike Wednesday.

The workers are union members affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, District 9, and say AT&T is cutting their sick time and disability benefits, making them pay more for health care, and continually ask them to perform the duties of higher-paid employees, the Los Angeles Times reports; the technicians usually install and maintain the U-Verse television service but have been told to also work on the cables and hardware for landline phone services.

"We are hoping to reach an agreement settlement with the company," Sheila Bordeaux, a member of the CWA Local 9003 executive board, told the Times. "They are unilaterally and continually changing the job duties of our premise technicians to do a higher-wage job at a lower rate of pay." A spokesman for AT&T said the company is "union friendly" and "currently negotiating with the union in a good-faith effort to reach a fair labor agreement covering wireline employees" in California and Nevada. The strike does not affect the company's wireless division. Catherine Garcia

8:56 p.m. ET
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The FBI is reviewing information that counterintelligence investigators believe may show coordination between associates of President Trump and Russian operatives to potentially release information to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign before the 2016 presidential election, U.S. officials told CNN Wednesday.

Agents are sifting through human intelligence, travel, business, and phone records, and accounts of in-person meetings, CNN reports, and the officials say this investigation is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he announced on Monday that the FBI is looking into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The officials stressed to CNN that while the information indicates possible coordination, it is not conclusive and the investigation is ongoing. Catherine Garcia

8:12 p.m. ET
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Before the sun came up on Wednesday, members of the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance were dropped off by U.S.-led coalition aircraft near a dam west of Raqqa, Syria, taking Islamic State fighters by surprise, the Pentagon said.

The area near the Tabqa dam is believed to be a base for foreign fighters, and where ISIS plots international attacks. In a statement, the SDF said fighters have seized four villages south of the Euphrates River and a highway that links Raqqa with Aleppo.

For the first time since December 2014, members of the 68-nation coalition also met Wednesday in Washington, D.C., where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. policy is to "demolish and destroy" ISIS. He told attendees that they should be heartened by the fact that over the past year, the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq to join ISIS is down by 90 percent, and since almost all of his deputies are dead, it's "only a matter of time" before ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is killed. Catherine Garcia

7:09 p.m. ET
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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Wednesday it is "deeply troubling" that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, briefed President Trump about his transition team's communications that may have been picked up during "normal foreign surveillance" before sharing the information with the committee.

"The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct, which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House," Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said at a news conference. "Because he cannot to both." Nunes was a member of the transition team, and said the information he saw came from an unidentified source. He did not reveal whose communications were intercepted or what they said.

Because Nunes kept the reports from the committee, it's "impossible" to evaluate the communications, Schiff said. It also makes it clearer than ever that there needs to be an independent commission into Russia's alleged meddling before the presidential election, he added. FBI Director James Comey has confirmed there is an investigation into Russia and the election, and there is no evidence to back up Trump's claims that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower before the election. Catherine Garcia

5:02 p.m. ET

The House Republican leadership is planning to forge ahead with a Thursday floor vote on the American Health Care Act, the party's proposed health-care bill to replace ObamaCare. As of Wednesday afternoon, the bill is facing long odds in the lower chamber, with more than two dozen GOP members — mostly from the far-right House Freedom Caucus — stating their intention to vote against the bill.

The White House has remained optimistic about the bill's passage, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying during Wednesday's press briefing that "member by member, we're seeing tremendous support flow in our direction." Despite the mounting defections, "the count keeps getting stronger for us," Spicer insisted.

Mere hours after Spicer's Wednesday briefing, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) tweeted this:

Republicans can only afford to lose 22 votes in the lower chamber if they want to push the American Health Care Act through. If the bill does pass the House on Thursday, it will move onto the Senate — where it also faces a steep uphill battle. Kimberly Alters

3:07 p.m. ET

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch is facing the Senate Judiciary Committee for a third day of confirmation hearings Wednesday. While he's been praised by Republicans for his strong conservative record and boasts a sterling academic pedigree, Democrats have pointed to the federal appellate judge's rulings on workers' rights and women's issues as points of concern. Some Democrats have also cited the unfair treatment of Judge Merrick Garland's nomination to the same seat by former President Barack Obama as reason to obstruct Gorsuch's nomination.

The Garland argument holds little weight at this point, as Obama has left office and President Trump has nominated Gorsuch to the seat, as is his constitutional right. But if Democrats cannot use the Garland argument or Gorsuch's own judicial record to delay the confirmation, it seems they have developed a third tactic: delegitimizing President Trump's right to nominate Gorsuch in the first place.

In light of FBI Director James Comey's disclosure Monday that the bureau is actively investigating whether the Trump campaign has any untoward ties with Russia, both Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have indicated they believe Gorsuch's nomination is illegitimate because of the ongoing probe:

Gorsuch enjoys unified support from Republicans, while no Democrats have yet said they would support him. His final day of Senate hearings is Thursday. Kimberly Alters

2:41 p.m. ET

Apparently Republicans haven't concocted a health-care back-up plan. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted Wednesday that the American Health Care Act — which is dangerously close to not having enough votes to pass the House in a scheduled floor vote Thursday — is the GOP's one and only bet for repealing and replacing ObamaCare. "There is no plan B," Spicer said at Wednesday's press briefing. "There's a plan A and plan A. We're going to get this done."

Republicans can only afford to lose 22 GOP votes and still get the health-care bill through the House, and at this point 25 members of the House Freedom Caucus have said they will oppose the bill. But when asked if Republicans were "100 percent confident" the bill was going to get through, Spicer insisted the GOP was "going to get it done." "That's it," he said. "Plain and simple."

Watch it below. Becca Stanek

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