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March 13, 2017

President Trump can (and did) make Preet Bharara vacate his office as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York — firing him on Saturday after Bharara refused to resign. But he can't make him go quietly.

The Moreland Commission was set up by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in July 2013 to investigate corruption in state politics — then abruptly disbanded by Cuomo in March 2014 after, The New York Times reports, "Cuomo had hobbled its work, intervening when it focused on groups with ties to the governor or on issues that might reflect poorly on him." Bharara — who successfully prosecuted more than two dozen New York politicians of both parties for corruption, including the leaders of the state Assembly and state Senate — looked into Cuomo's handling of the Moreland Commission but ultimately concluded there was not enough evidence to prove a federal crime.

So Bharara's tweet on Sunday suggests that he was fired while he was investigating either Trump or his allies. On Sunday's This Week, House Government Oversight Committee ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) touched on that possibility:

Without clarification from Bharara, there's only speculation as to what he meant. Bharara had a lot of enemies and critics: on Wall Street, in government, abroad — the leaders of Russia and Turkey had targeted him — and at Fox News, which Bharara was reportedly investigating, along with its former chief, Roger Ailes. The top name floated to replace Bharara is Marc Mukasey, a white-collar defense lawyer who once worked as a prosecutor in the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office; he's also the son of former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and a member of Ailes' legal team.

CNN's Jeffrey Toobin also noted on Saturday night that Bharara "has been involved in a lot of investigations that are at least peripherally related to Donald Trump," apparently including "some investigations that involve the Trump Organization and Russia." The ongoing investigations in Bharara's office are expected to continue with minimal interruption under career prosecutors, at least for now.

A White House aide criticized Bharara's refusal to resign, telling The Wall Street Journal that all 46 sacked U.S. attorneys were treated in the same way and "45 of the 46 behaved in a manner befitting the office," while "Preet wants everything to be about Preet." Reached for comment, Bharara responded: "It was my understanding that the president himself has said anonymous sources are not to be believed." Peter Weber

3:42 p.m. ET

On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) returned to the Senate floor for the first time since he was diagnosed with brain cancer, and he was greeted by a bipartisan standing ovation. McCain came back to Washington just in time to to cast his yes vote on Senate Republicans' motion to proceed on debating the House-passed health-care bill.

Though Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on the health-care issue — no Democrats voted in favor of the motion to proceed, while all but two Republicans supported it — Politico's Dan Diamond reported that a "parade" of Democrats went over to hug McCain.

After the voting wrapped up and the motion to proceed passed, however, McCain took the floor for a general speech that betrayed his simple "aye" vote on the bill. Though McCain voted in favor of the motion to proceed, he made clear that he would "not vote for the bill as it is today." "It's a shell of a bill right now, we all know that," McCain said, adding that it "seems likely" that "this process ends in failure." He scolded his party for "getting nothing done" because "we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle."

McCain's critical speech also extended to President Trump. "Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president's subordinates," McCain said. "We are his equal." Catch a snippet of McCain's speech below, and read it in full here. Becca Stanek

3:09 p.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Senate voted in favor of a motion to proceed to debating the House-passed health-care bill. The motion passed 50-50, with Vice President Mike Pence stepping in to break the tie.

Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) were the only Republicans to vote against the measure. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer, returned to Washington to cast his yes vote amid a round of applause. No Democrats voted in favor.

Lawmakers will now move to voting on the Senate's Better Care bill, along with a straight repeal bill favored by conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). A "skinny repeal" plan, which was introduced just hours before Tuesday's vote and would center around eliminating ObamaCare's individual mandate, the employer mandate, and a few of the health-care law's taxes, would come into play as a third option. Becca Stanek

2:48 p.m. ET

Protesters' shouts cut through the quiet of the Senate floor Tuesday as lawmakers convened to vote on a motion to proceed to debating the House-passed health-care bill. "Kill the bill! Don't kill us!" protesters chanted as senators began to cast their votes.

The gavel was pounded in an attempt to restore order. "Shame! Shame!" the protesters carried on.

If the motion to proceed passes, the Senate will move on to voting on Senate Republicans' Better Care bill, along with a straight repeal bill. A third option would be the "skinny repeal" plan, a pared-down ObamaCare repeal focused specifically on eliminating the individual mandate. Becca Stanek

2:37 p.m. ET

As the Senate convened Tuesday to vote on a motion to proceed to debating the House-passed health-care bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) fired off a caustic criticism of Senate Republicans' hasty and secretive process. As Sanders underscored in a retweet of Vox's Dylan Scott, the vote Tuesday happened in spite of the fact there was "no final text," " no final CBO score," and "no public hearings."

Sanders deemed the process not just "insulting" — but "undemocratic":

Just as the vote began Tuesday, several uncertain Republican senators came out in support of the motion to proceed. Becca Stanek

1:48 p.m. ET
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Of the 111 brains of deceased NFL players examined in a study published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, all but one of the brains showed signs of the neurodegenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The disease, found in 110 of 111 NFL players' brains donated for scientific research, is "linked to repeated blows to the head," The New York Times reported. Symptoms of CTE, which can only be diagnosed with an autopsy, include memory loss, confusion, and depression.

The players whose brains were examined spanned every position, from quarterbacks to running backs to linemen. Some players, such as Hall of Famer Ken Stabler, were particularly famous, while others were lesser known. In addition, high school and college players' brains were examined; CTE was found in three of 14 high school players' brains and 48 of 53 college players'.

Neuropathologist Ann McKee warned that there's "a tremendous selection bias" in the study's sampling of brains because the families that donated the brains oftentimes did so because they suspected symptoms of CTE. However, McKee noted the "fact that we were able to gather this many cases" in just the past eight years suggests the disease is "much more common than we previously realized."

McKee acknowledged that it's still not clear "what the incidence is in the general population or in the general population of football players," but she said one thing is clear: "It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football — there is a problem." Becca Stanek

12:15 p.m. ET

A hot mic captured Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and an unidentified male senator talking smack about Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) as a subcommittee hearing wrapped up Tuesday. In an interview last week with a local Texas radio station, Farenthold blamed female GOP senators like Collins for the health-care impasse and suggested he'd "settle this Aaron Burr-style" if they were men.

"Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?" Collins says. "You could beat the sh-- out of him," the man responds.

At another point, Collins calls Farenthold "huge " and "so unattractive, it's unbelievable." She also mentions an old photo of Farenthold wearing rubber duckie pajamas and standing next to a woman in lingerie. "Did you see the picture of him in the pajamas?" she says.

Listen below. Becca Stanek

11:28 a.m. ET

President Trump's public shaming of Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn't going over well with Republican lawmakers. After Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to accuse Sessions of taking "a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes," a handful of Republicans fired off some criticisms of their own.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) suggested that Trump "maybe just try a meeting" instead of publicly calling out his own Cabinet members:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) released a statement declaring that Trump's suggestion that Sessions "pursue prosecution of a former political rival is highly inappropriate." "Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation," Graham said. He also defended Sessions as "one of the most decent people I've ever met in my political life."

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) also posted a defense of Sessions' character. He called Sessions "a man of integrity, loyalty, and extraordinary character" and pledged his "deep respect and unwavering support":

Trump is reportedly seriously considering replacing Sessions, as he's upset Sessions recused himself from the investigation into the Trump team's alleged collusion with Russia. Becca Stanek

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