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February 14, 2017
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Vice President Mike Pence wasn't told of the Justice Department's warning about now-former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn until Feb. 9, a full two weeks after White House officials were notified, an aide to Pence told The Washington Post Tuesday.

President Trump and the White House were warned weeks ago that Flynn's conversation with a Russian ambassador about U.S. sanctions could make him susceptible to blackmail, but it wasn't until Thursday — just days before Flynn's resignation late Monday — that Pence was filled in. "What I would tell you is that the vice president became aware of incomplete information that he had received on Feb. 9, last Thursday night, based on media accounts," Pence spokesman Marc Lotter said. "He did an inquiry based on those media accounts."

NBC News editor Bradd Jaffy noted that this was right around the time The Washington Post reported that Flynn had discussed the sanctions imposed on Russia. Flynn had previously denied to Pence and other officials that he'd spoken about the sanctions, only to later admit that he had. The decision to leave Pence in the dark about the Justice Department's warning is particularly notable because of the public role Pence played in the Flynn debacle, NBC News reporter Hallie Jackson pointed out. "Why was the vice president — who frankly was the sort of public face of this, right? going on television, defending Mike Flynn very publicly — why wasn't he informed 11 days prior when President Trump knew?" Jackson asked in a televised conversation Tuesday.

In his resignation letter, Flynn said he had inadvertently briefed Pence with "incomplete information" and has since apologized.

This post is on a developing story, and has been updated throughout. Becca Stanek

July 22, 2017
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A witness who observed and filmed at least part of the death of an unarmed Australian woman, Justine Damond, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has come forward, Minnesota state investigators told the Star Tribune. Any footage would be particularly valuable in this case because the officers involved, who were at Damond's house because she called 911 to report a suspected crime, were wearing body cameras that were not turned on during the incident.

The witness was reportedly bicycling near the alley where Damond was fatally shot and watched her receiving CPR before she died. How much of the interaction the witness saw or caught on camera is not yet known, but the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) said in a statement the witness "has been cooperative and provided an interview today."

Minneapolis officer Matthew Harrity, who was driving the squad car from which the shooting took place, already gave investigators a four-hour interview, but officer Mohamed Noor, who fatally shot Damond in the abdomen while still seated in the car, has yet to be interviewed by the BCA, which cannot legally compel his testimony. Noor's attorney "has not provided any update about when, if ever, an interview would be possible," the BCA statement said.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau resigned Friday in response to uproar over Damond's death and other recent police violence cases in the Twin Cities. Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017

Actor John Heard, best known for his roles in Home Alone and The Sopranos, died Friday in Palo Alto, California. He was 72.

Heard was staying in a hotel room and recovering from minor back surgery at the time of his death, which has been confirmed by the Santa Clara Medical Examiner’s office.

Heard came to fame in the 1970s and 1980s with roles in movies including Tom Hanks' Big, Martin Scorsese's After Hours, and Bette Midler's Beaches. Today, however, he is best remembered for playing Kevin McAllister's dad in the first two Home Alone films. "At the time, we didn't know the movie was funny," he later said of the role. "We were playing the parents who lost their kid, so we didn't how funny-stupid we could be."

Heard is survived by three children and continued acting through this year. Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017
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President Trump spoke at a ceremony Saturday commissioning the USS Gerald R. Ford, the newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy fleet. His speech warned that the "sea holds many challenges and threats" and called the ship an "incredible work of art [that] becomes the pride of the U.S. Navy and symbol of American pride and prestige no matter where in the world you go."

Trump also used the occasion to address his plans to increase military spending. "It's been a very, very bad period of time for our military, that is why we reached a deal to secure additional $20 billion for defense this year and it's going up and why I ask Congress for another $54 billion for next year," he said. "Now we need Congress to do its job and pass the budget that provides for higher stable and predictable funding levels for our military needs that our fighting men and women deserve, and you will get, believe me."

As in past discussions of the spending bump, Trump connected more money to more winning. "We will win, win win; we will never lose," he said at the commissioning in Norfolk, Virginia. "When it comes to battle we don't want a fair fight," he added. "We demand victory and we will have total victory, believe me." Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017

A Friday Washington Post story reported President Trump has been exploring the option of exercising his broad constitutional pardon power on behalf of himself or members of his campaign team or family. Trump set tongues wagging Saturday morning with a tweet apparently reserving the right to do exactly that:

Legal experts and commentators are divided over whether the presidential pardon power can be used this way, but the troubling implications of such a move are much less controversial.

"The Constitution doesn't specify whether the president can pardon himself, and no court has ever ruled on the issue, because no president has ever been brazen enough to try it," explains University of Michigan Law School professor Richard Primus at Politico. "Among constitutional lawyers, the dominant (though not unanimous) answer is 'no,' in part because letting any person exempt himself from criminal liability would be a fundamental affront to America's basic rule-of-law values."

Conservative columnist Rod Dreher similarly highlighted rule-of-law issues in a post on the subject for The American Conservative, arguing that what such a pardon "would reveal about how respect for the rule of law and basic republican order in the United States had decayed would be staggering."

Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet also focused on impropriety over illegality. "A self-pardon might well be outrageously improper (unless there was the prospect of charges brought by a rogue prosecutor, whom, for some reason, the president could not control by firing him or her)," he told Vox, "but the response the Constitution creates for such misconduct is impeachment, a political rather than criminal remedy." Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017
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Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and White House adviser, disclosed 77 previously unreported assets in paperwork released Friday.

Kushner's attorneys said these assets were "inadvertently omitted" in previous disclosures to the Office of Government Ethics, which certified the new disclosures as part of the "ordinary review process." The assets are valued between $10 million and $50 million, depending on where each item falls in the valuation ranges on the federal forms.

Kushner's wife, Ivanka Trump, also a presidential adviser, reported assets valued around $66 million and $13.5 million in 2016 income in additional disclosures filed Friday. Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017
FBI/Associated Press

A U.S. soldier was indicted on terrorism charges by a federal grand jury in Hawaii Friday. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang is accused of attempting to provide material aid to the Islamic State, including leaked U.S. military documents, as well as planning a mass shooting after pledging his allegiance to ISIS. He was arrested by the FBI earlier this month and is held without bail.

Kang's court-appointed attorney, Birney Bervar, is pursuing a mental health defense, arguing Kang may suffer from known mental illness which the military did not appropriately address. Bervar said he expected the indictment. Bonnie Kristian

July 22, 2017

President Trump presented Senate Republicans with a to-do list on Twitter Saturday and also offered some thoughts on congressional Democrats:

In a rambling interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, the president seemed to share a different view, conceding that at most 50 GOP senators would support the most recent iteration of the plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Given that "very tough standard," Trump said, "let's not vote on repeal. Let's just vote on this. So first, they vote on the vote. ... And then they’ll vote on this, and we'll see." Bonnie Kristian

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