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September 19, 2017
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A copy of an Adolf Hitler speech was found in the home of a man accused of killing two black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last week in what authorities now suspect were racially motivated attacks, The Associated Press reports.

Donald Smart, 49, a dishwasher, and Bruce Cofield, 59, who was homeless, were at first thought to have been killed randomly two days apart. Police have since charged Kenneth Gleason, 23, who is white, with two counts of second-degree murder as well as for allegedly shooting into the home of a black family in an incident where no one was injured. Gleason's DNA was found on shell casings in his car that matched ammo used in the attacks, The Advocate reports.

If Gleason had not been arrested last week, "he could have potentially created a tear in the fabric that holds this community together," said Baton Rouge Interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam on Tuesday.

District Attorney Hillar Moore said that if Gleason is convicted, his case "would qualify for the death penalty."

"It appears to be cold, calculated, planned [against] people who were unarmed and defenseless," Moore said. "We don't need to prove motive. There are a lot of things that are unanswered." Read more about the case at The Advocate. Jeva Lange

12:09 p.m. ET
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Cursing in public has been banned in the state of Virginia since before the Civil War. Even today, public profanity in Old Dominion is a misdemeanor that can cost you $250.

If you think that's some bullshirt, you're not alone, The Washington Post reports: Virginia House Delegate Michael Webert (R) wants to overturn this unusual law in the name of free speech. But Webert's plan could face some opposition in the state legislature, the Post explains, because "legislators who vote for repeal could stand accused of promoting profanity."

The profanity ban was actually ruled unconstitutional decades ago, but Webert has already failed to overturn it twice. Del. David Albo (R), a Webert ally in the battle over cursing, said the quest is difficult because people won't look at the issue in context. He compared profanity to flag burning — bans on which have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court but still exist in Virginia state law — predicting that some politicians would use the issue to smear their opponents. "They're not going to explain the whole thing. For most people it's not worth it," Albo told the Post.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union's Virginia affiliate, explained to the Post that although public cursing is only a misdemeanor, police "often" use it as an excuse to detain a subject, conduct a search, and then "arrest the person on another charge."

Webert has a more old-school way to punish foul-mouthed Virginians. "When I cursed, my mother told me not to and handed me a bar of soap," he said. "You shouldn't get hit with a Class 4 misdemeanor." Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:22 a.m. ET

President Trump spoke at the FBI National Academy Graduation Ceremony on Friday, just hours after the White House claimed there is an "extreme bias" against the president among FBI officials. Trump himself had said earlier Friday that "when you look at what's going on with the FBI and the Justice Department, people are very, very angry."

On stage, though, the president told the law enforcement graduates, "You rarely get the recognition you deserve. With me as your president, America's police will have a true friend and loyal champion in the White House, more loyal than anyone else can be." Trump additionally disparaged conditions in Chicago — "what the hell is going on in Chicago?" he asked the audience — and said "we believe criminals who kill police officers should get the death penalty."

Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute noted that the graduates Trump was addressing are "high level, strong performing state and local law enforcement officers from around the country," rather than FBI agents — "i.e. Trump's base." Watch a portion of Trump's comments below. Jeva Lange

10:20 a.m. ET

President Trump left open an awful lot of room for speculation Friday when he refused to talk about a potential pardon for his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Earlier this month, Flynn pleaded guilty to making "willfully" false statements to the FBI about his contact with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

"I don't want to talk about pardons with Michael Flynn yet, we'll see what happens, let's see," Trump told reporters. "I can say this, when you look at what's going on with the FBI and the Justice Department, people are very, very angry."

There was one particular word that stuck out to listeners:

Watch Trump's comments below. Jeva Lange

10:14 a.m. ET

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) made the most of his five minutes of questioning Thursday during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for President Trump's judicial nominees — much to the detriment of Matthew Spencer Petersen, a nominee for the U.S. District Court judgeship for the District of Columbia.

Kennedy's first question seemed pretty innocuous: "Have any of you not tried a case to verdict in a courtroom?" Petersen was the only one of the five nominees to raise his hand, thus inviting 10 seconds of brutal, rapid-fire questioning from Kennedy, as the Louisiana senator confirmed that Petersen had not tried a case in any of the following instances: a jury trial, a civil trial, a criminal trial, a bench trial, a state court, or a federal court.

After pleading his ignorance toward several legal terms, Petersen gave a rambling non-answer about his litigation experience in response to a question from Kennedy about his familiarity with "a motion in limine," which is a request made to exclude certain evidence from a trial. The motions are filed without a jury present and are decided by judges. "Just for the record, do you know what a motion in limine is?" Kennedy asked again. Petersen replied, "I would probably not be able to give you a good definition right here at the table."

If confirmed, Petersen would be charged with trying federal and civil cases in the District of Columbia's federal court, as well as evaluating issues of legality in proceedings. Watch him squirm under Kennedy's relentless questioning — if you can do so without cringing — below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

8:23 a.m. ET
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Former FBI Director James Comey evidently walked back what was initially planned to be a much harsher condemnation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, The Associated Press reports, prompting the White House to claim Friday there is an "extreme bias" in the bureau against President Trump.

Comey's draft of his highly-scrutinized remarks on July 5, 2016 — obtained by the Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — used language such as calling Clinton and her aides "grossly negligent." That phrasing was later changed to the now-famous declaration that Clinton was "extremely careless" with her emails, a shift in tone that eliminated "language also contained in the relevant criminal statute," AP writes.

In another case, Comey changed phrasing claiming that it was "reasonably likely" that a hostile entity had gained access to Clinton's server to "possible," and deleted a phrase about the "sheer volume" of classified information shared on the server. The Senate Homeland Security chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), said Comey's draft shows that he appeared to edit "the tone and substance" of his remarks. Johnson additionally requested FBI Director Chris Wray name the official who suggested the changes to Comey.

Separately, the Justice Department turned over to the House Intelligence Committee some 375 text messages on Tuesday between two FBI officials that referred to Trump as an "idiot" between Aug. 16, 2015, and Dec. 1, 2016. One of the officials, senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia over the summer, immediately after such messages were discovered. The other, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, had already returned to the FBI.

On Friday, the White House commented on the Comey draft and the text messages, claiming there is an "extreme bias" against Trump among the FBI. Trump, meanwhile, is due to attend an FBI National Academy graduation service later Friday morning. Jeva Lange

7:50 a.m. ET
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Disney and Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Last Jedi brought in a near-record $45 million in Thursday previews ahead of its official open on Friday, according to early estimates. The latest installment in the Star Wars franchise earlier in the week topped Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which was released in March, to become the year's biggest ticket pre-seller on Fandango. The Last Jedi is the online movie-ticket site's top seller in advance sales since 2015's The Force Awakens, which made $57 million in previews and went on to make a record $248 million on its opening weekend. The Last Jedi, the Star Wars series' eighth installment, is on track to bring in roughly $200 million over its opening weekend. Harold Maass

7:22 a.m. ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin does not think too highly of the U.S. Congress, The New York Times reports. During his annual national news conference on Thursday, Putin openly mocked American "spy hysteria" and the hypocrisy of wanting Moscow's help on issues like North Korea while simultaneously treating the Kremlin like the enemy.

Putin's comments followed a brief Thursday phone call with Trump. The White House said the pair talked about "how they can work together to resolve the situation involving North Korea's nuclear program," Politico writes.

"You are interesting guys," [Putin] said with a smirk. American lawmakers appear to be good-looking, well dressed, and smart, he said, but they "are placing us on the same shelf with D.P.R.K. and Iran while simultaneously pushing Trump toward solving the North Korean and Iran nuclear problems through joint efforts with us. Are you normal at all?" [The New York Times ]

The American public might wonder the same: In an average of polls between Nov. 29 and Dec. 12, RealClearPolitics found just 14 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. Jeva Lange

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