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10 things you need to know today: April 19, 2019

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Harold Maass
Robert Mueller.
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1.

DOJ releases Mueller's long-awaited report, with redactions

The Justice Department on Thursday released a long-awaited, redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russia's election meddling. Mueller concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in a "sweeping and systematic fashion." Mueller said Trump and his campaign did not criminally conspire with Moscow, but he neither charged nor exonerated Trump on obstruction of justice. He cited 10 instances of suspicious behavior, including Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey and attempt to oust Mueller. Mueller said Trump tried to "influence" the investigation but was "mostly unsuccessful" because aides "declined to carry out orders." One dramatic passage described Trump's reaction to Mueller's appointment in May 2017, when Trump said: "This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm f---ed." [The Associated Press, CBS News]

2.

Barr emphasizes that Mueller found 'no collusion' with Russia

Attorney General William Barr held a press conference on Thursday to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, repeatedly stressing that Mueller had found "no collusion" between President Trump's campaign and Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 election. Barr, noting that Mueller had not concluded that Trump obstructed justice, forcefully defended Trump's actions, saying he was justifiably frustrated by "relentless speculation" about his ties to Russia. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said there was a "stark" difference between Barr's characterization and Mueller's actual findings. Several Democratic presidential candidates criticized Barr for holding the news conference shortly before releasing a redacted version of Mueller's report. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Barr was "acting as if he's the personal attorney and publicist for the president." [The Washington Post, The New York Times]

3.

Democrats cool to impeachment talk but ask Mueller to testify

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Thursday dismissed the prospect of impeaching President Trump following the release of a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which found no clear evidence that Trump's campaign illegally conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election but cited actions by Trump to undermine the investigation. "Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point," Hoyer told CNN. "There is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgement." Some Democrats disagreed. "The report squarely puts this on our doorstep," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) formally asked Mueller to testify before his committee "to better understand his findings." [CNN, Politico]

4.

ACLU complains of armed vigilantes detaining migrants at border

Two ACLU lawyers wrote a letter to New Mexico authorities requesting an investigation of a right-wing militia group that has been detaining groups of migrant families at gunpoint before handing them over to Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico border. Members of the group, the United Constitutional Patriots, this week posted video of about 200 migrants apparently stopped near the border. "We cannot allow racist and armed vigilantes to kidnap and detain people seeking asylum," the lawyers, María Martínez Sánchez and Kirsten Greer Love, said in the letter. Hector Balderas, New Mexico's attorney general, said the group's members "should not attempt to exercise authority reserved for law enforcement." Jim Benvie, a spokesman for the group, said its actions were legal, like "a verbal citizen's arrest."

5.

Kremlin announces plan for Putin summit with North Korean leader

The Kremlin announced Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a summit later this month. The news marked the latest indication that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pivoted toward Russia since the February collapse of his second summit with President Trump without a deal on denuclearization and the lifting of U.S. sanctions. A day earlier, North Korea test-fired a new tactical guided weapon, the isolated Communist regime's first public weapon test since Kim's first summit with Trump last year. Russia said Putin invited Kim. Russian media said Putin would meet Kim in Vladivostok on Russia's Pacific coast as Putin heads to a summit in Beijing.

6.

Man accused of attempted arson at New York City cathedral

A man has been charged with attempted arson after entering New York City's St. Patrick's Cathedral with two full two-gallon cans of gasoline, lighter fluid, and lighters, authorities said Thursday. The suspect, 37-year-old Marc Lamparello, also was charged with reckless endangerment and trespassing. He reportedly bought a one-way ticket to Italy hours before going to the New York City landmark. Lamparello had been arrested on Monday after refusing to leave the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey, at closing time. The incidents came days after an apparently accidental fire devastated Paris' famous Notre Dame Cathedral. Investigators said there did not appear to be any "terrorist-related intent" in the New York incident. [NBC News]

7.

Police: Notre Dame fire likely caused by electrical short circuit

The fire that devastated Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral earlier this week was probably started by an electrical short circuit, a Paris police official said on Thursday. Initially, suspicion focused on renovation work that had been underway on scaffolding around the part of the roof where the flames erupted. The blaze destroyed most of the 850-year-old Gothic landmark's roof, its spire, and much of its interior. Important artifacts, including the Crown of Thorns and Rose Windows, were salvaged. The cathedral's rector has proposed building a small, temporary church on the plaza in front of the building for worshippers while the 12th-century structure undergoes what is expected to be a lengthy and costly restoration. [The Associated Press]

8.

Facebook exposed millions more passwords than initially reported

Facebook stored the passwords of "millions of Instagram users" in plain text when they should have been encrypted, the social media company acknowledged Thursday. Last month in a blog post, Facebook said the issue had potentially affected "tens of thousands" of users. Facebook, which owns Instagram, said their passwords were stored in an unencrypted database available to 20,000 Facebook employees. The company updated the blog post to admit the problem was more widespread than previously stated. Earlier Thursday, Facebook said it collected email contacts from 1.5 million users who signed up after May 2016 and "unintentionally uploaded" them to Facebook, importing the information "to improve Facebook's ad targeting." Facebook said it had no evidence the data was "internally abused or improperly accessed." [Facebook, Business Insider]

9.

Brooklyn judge upholds New York City measles vaccination mandate

Brooklyn Judge Lawrence Knipel on Thursday upheld New York City health officials' mandatory measles vaccination order, dismissing a lawsuit by parents who called the policy an abuse of authority and sought to have the order lifted. "A fireman need not obtain the informed consent of the owner before extinguishing a house fire," Knipel wrote in his ruling, as quoted by Gothamist. "Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion." The city imposed the order last week to stem a measles outbreak that has infected 359 people since October, centered in a part of Brooklyn with large ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. Also on Thursday, the city announced it was closing four more schools, and had cited three parents for failing to comply with the vaccination mandate. [NPR, Gothamist]

10.

Hudson News chief buying National Enquirer

Hudson News CEO James Cohen has reached a deal to buy the National Enquirer, the tabloid's publisher, American Media Inc., announced Thursday. The Washington Post reported that Cohen would pay $100 million for the Enquirer and sister publications the Globe and the National Examiner. American Media's principal owner, the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, pressured publisher David Pecker, a longtime friend of President Trump, to jettison the money-losing title after it was accused of trying to blackmail Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos and burying the story of an alleged mistress of Trump, former Playboy model Karen McDougal. As part of a non-prosecution agreement with federal investigators, AMI admitted making hush money payments to McDougal to "influence the election" in 2016. [The Washington Post, Bloomberg]