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March 7, 2018
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As Russian agents were working to influence the 2016 presidential election, they were also quietly harvesting data about ordinary Americans and small businesses, The Wall Street Journal reports. Using fake Facebook and Instagram accounts associated with activist or interest groups like the Black Lives Matter movement or "Southern heritage," Russian "trolls" collected names, phone numbers, email addresses, websites, and even videos of Americans who believed they were simply joining databases or earning free promotion.

"Russian intelligence services … can sit back and collect from thousands of miles away," explained Leo Taddeo, the chief information security officer of the cybersecurity firm Cyxtera Technologies. "The more they know about us, and what we care about, the better they can sharpen their influence campaigns."

Only, it isn't precisely clear what exactly the Russians plan to use the information for. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe has suggested "Russian operators used stolen American identities to open bank and PayPal accounts, create fake driver's licenses, post messages online, and buy political advertisements before the 2016 election," The Wall Street Journal writes, adding that "the operators allegedly kept a list of more than 100 Americans and their political views to 'monitor recruitment efforts.'"

In one particularly startling case, an Orlando-based fitness instructor was paid $700 by the puppet group Black4Black to teach self-defense lessons and turn over videos, phone numbers, and email addresses of the people who showed up. The instructor said he turned over photos and videos but didn't pass on contact information, and he eventually cut ties with Black4Black when it pushed him to teach more "aggressive" lessons, like offensive combat. Read more about the efforts to gather Americans' personal data at The Wall Street Journal. Jeva Lange

1:16 p.m. ET
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A communications aide working with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process has resigned in connection to a past sexual harassment allegation, a committee representative confirmed Saturday.

The aide, Garrett Ventry, denied all "allegations of misconduct," but a committee statement said despite the denial "he decided to resign to avoid causing any distraction." Ventry was in a temporary position on leave of absence from a public relations company; he resigned from that role as well.

Politico reports, citing an unnamed source, that Ventry also resigned in 2017 from a role with North Carolina House Majority Leader John Bell for allegedly misrepresenting his work with the 2016 presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Two former Rubio staffers told Politico Ventry was also accused of harassment while on the campaign. Ventry denied these allegations as well.

This comes as the committee grapples with the sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh himself, a development that has stalled the confirmation. Bonnie Kristian

11:50 a.m. ET
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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will sit for a deposition on a question about U.S. citizenship that has been added to 2020 census forms, a federal judge ruled Friday evening.

"Applying well-established principles to the unusual facts of these cases, the court concludes that the question is not a close one," wrote U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in his decision. "Secretary Ross must sit for a deposition because, among other things, his intent and credibility are directly at issue in these cases."

The deposition is part of a suit brought by New York, as well as other cities, states, and counties, seeking to exclude the new question. Critics have argued the citizenship question will distort census results because some immigrants may choose not to participate in the survey.

Ross is the first Cabinet-level official in two decades to be deposed in a civil case. The Department of Justice argued that to "demand for a Cabinet secretary's deposition is extraordinary, unnecessary, and unsupported." Bonnie Kristian

11:33 a.m. ET

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his challenger, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), wrangled at a contentious debate in Dallas Friday night. And the fatal shooting of Botham Jean — the black man killed in his apartment by a white Dallas police officer who says she mistook it for her own home — was a key issue of division between the candidates.

The evening of the debate, Cruz's Twitter account shared a video of O'Rourke speaking to wild cheers in a majority-black church. The clip shows an impassioned O'Rourke arguing Jean's case has yet to see justice. "How can we continue to lose the lives of unarmed black men in the United States of America at the hands of white police officers?" he asks.

The tweet's caption suggests the Cruz campaign sees this plea for better police accountability and a transparent public investigation into Jean's killing as self-evidently damning.

At the debate itself, Cruz argued his opponent consistently "sides against the police," claiming O'Rourke has "described law enforcement as modern day Jim Crow." O'Rourke's actual comment, made Wednesday, referenced the book The New Jim Crow to note black Americans are subject to demonstrable discrimination in the U.S. justice system.

"With the tragic shooting death of Botham Jean, you have another unarmed black man killed in this country by law enforcement," O'Rourke said at the debate. "Now, no member of law enforcement wants that; no member of this community wants that; but we've got to do something better than what we've been doing so far."

The latest polls show Cruz and O'Rourke are in a dead heat. Watch their full debate below; the discussion of policing begins around the seven-minute mark and continues through minute 16 with a discussion of NFL players' pre-game protests of police brutality. Bonnie Kristian

10:53 a.m. ET
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Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long will not be fired for his inappropriate use of cars owned by the government, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Friday.

Long used federal vehicles and personnel for his weekend commutes from Washington, D.C., to North Carolina. He had a driver take him home, and reportedly brought aides with him, housing them in hotels using taxpayer money. He was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.

Nielsen said Long, who will repay the government an undisclosed amount, was acting in line with a longstanding but unofficial FEMA practice intended to keep the administrator accessible in case of crisis. That practice has now been discontinued.

"We had a productive conversation where we discussed my expectations regarding the agency's use of government vehicles going forward," Nielsen's statement said. "The administrator acknowledged that mistakes were made, and he took personal responsibility." Bonnie Kristian

10:45 a.m. ET
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China on Friday canceled scheduled trade negotiations with the United States, citing the Trump administration's tariff escalations. President Trump announced a new round of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports Monday and is expected to target another $257 billion in products this coming week.

"Nothing the U.S. has done has given any impression of sincerity and goodwill," said Chinese Foreign Ministry representative Geng Shuang. "We hope that the U.S. side will take measures to correct its mistakes."

China also slammed new U.S. sanctions punishing Beijing for purchasing weapons from Russia. "The U.S. approach is a blatant violation of the basic norms of international relations, a full manifestation of hegemony, and a serious breach of the relations between the two countries and their two militaries," said a Chinese Defense Ministry statement promising "consequences." Bonnie Kristian

10:28 a.m. ET

President Trump seemed to respond Friday night at a rally in Missouri to the day's report that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein considered invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from the Oval Office.

"Just look at what is now being exposed in our Department of Justice and the FBI. Look at what's going on," Trump said, never mentioning Rosenstein by name. "And I want to tell you, we have great people in the Department of Justice. We have great people. These are people, I really believe, you take a poll, I gotta be at 95 percent. But you got some real bad ones. You've seen what's happened at the FBI. They're all gone. They're all gone. They're all gone. But there's a lingering stench, and we're going to get rid of that too."

Trump also again weighed in on the sexual assault allegation against his Supreme Court nominee. Brett Kavanaugh is a "fantastic man" who was "born for the U.S. Supreme Court," the president said, promising his audience the confirmation would go through. "We have to fight for him, not worry about the other side," Trump said. "And by the way, women are for that more than anybody would understand."

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll published Thursday found a plurality of Americans now oppose Kavanaugh's nomination, and his rising unpopularity is significantly due to shifting attitudes among women since the allegation came to light. Bonnie Kristian

8:28 a.m. ET
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At least 24 people were killed and more than 50 injured Saturday when gunmen opened fire on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, state media reported. Civilians, including children and members of the press, were reportedly among the dead.

"Terrorists began shooting from a long distance while inside the park, at the armed forces as well as civilians watching the parade," said Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarch. Three of the attackers were killed and one was arrested, and the attack was claimed by the Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement, a separatist organization.

Officials said the shooters were disguised as military members and accused Saudi Arabia of connection to the attack. "Terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime have attacked Ahvaz. Children and journos among casualties," tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. "Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks." Saudi Arabia has not responded to the allegation. Bonnie Kristian

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