February 16, 2017
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Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, must hand over thousands of emails related to his communication with representatives of the gas, oil, and coal industry, an Oklahoma judge ruled Thursday.

The Center for Media and Democracy filed a lawsuit after Pruitt refused to release the emails under public records laws. The judge gave Pruitt's office until Tuesday to turn over the records, but the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on his confirmation Friday. "A rushed Senate vote to confirm Pruitt as EPA Administrator right now would be a travesty," Elizabeth Thompson, president of climate and political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement. "The documents in question are related to Pruitt's fitness to serve as head of EPA. Senators should exercise due diligence when confirming nominees, and they can't do that when they've been denied access to relevant information."

Pruitt sued the EPA several times during the Obama administration, and received more than $300,000 from oil and gas companies during his campaigns. In 2014, The New York Times reported that a letter supposedly written by Pruitt, claiming that the EPA overestimated air pollution from natural gas drilling, was really written by lawyers at one of Oklahoma's largest oil and gas companies, Devon Energy. Catherine Garcia

10:44 a.m. ET

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 in 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

10:24 a.m. ET
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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 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

10:19 a.m. ET
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

10:12 a.m. ET

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

9:57 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort have reached an agreement with the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify behind closed doors about their 2016 meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Lawyers for both men confirmed the deal to ABC News.

Committee chair Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had threatened the pair with subpoenas if they did not testify voluntarily for the Senate investigation of Russian election meddling running in parallel with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe. "I'm not concerned," Feinstein said of the situation Thursday, "because if they don't [testify] they will be subpoenaed."

President Trump's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was also at the meeting, will testify before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees for their Russia inquiries this coming week. Bonnie Kristian

9:46 a.m. ET
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Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau resigned from her post Friday at the request of the city's mayor, Betsy Hodges.

The Minneapolis Police Department has come under heavy criticism after an officer fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman, Justine Damond, who called 911 to report a suspected crime near her home. Though the officers involved were wearing body cameras, they were turned off at the time of Damond's death.

Hodges said in a statement it is "clear [Harteau] has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis" after multiple high-profile cases of police violence in Minnesota's Twin Cities since 2015, including the death of black motorist Philando Castile at the hands of an officer from another local police department.

"Last Saturday's tragedy, as well as some other incidents, have caused me to engage in deep reflection," said Harteau. "The recent incidents do not reflect the training and procedures we've developed as a department. I've decided I am willing to step aside to let a fresh set of leadership eyes see what more can be done for the MPD to be the very best it can be."
Bonnie Kristian

8:16 a.m. ET

President Trump was up and tweeting early Saturday, offering his thoughts on a range of topics centrally including his desire to see Hillary Clinton under federal investigation instead of his own team.

Trump began by objecting to The Washington Post's Friday night report that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did discuss campaign matters with the Russian ambassador last year, contrary to Sessions' account. After a detour to discuss his plans for the day and blame The New York Times for Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi still being alive, the president got back to the subject of investigations:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating alleged Trump campaign involvement in Russian election meddling, and Sessions has recused himself from that probe. Bonnie Kristian

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