September 14, 2014

The White House is vehemently pushing back against a report that it threatened to prosecute the families of two slain American journalists if they ponied up ransom money to ISIS.

"We didn't threaten anybody, but we made clear what the law is," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said on Fox News Sunday. "That's our responsibility, to make sure we explain the law and uphold the law."

The White House "took every effort" to rescue both men, McDonough added.

The families of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, the two journalists beheaded by ISIS, claim the Obama administration threatened to prosecute them if they tried to free the men on their own. ISIS had demanded ransom money in exchange for their kidnapped victims, though such payments are illegal as they are considered to be material support for terrorism. Jon Terbush

1:06 a.m.

After spending more than three weeks in custody, an 18-year-old U.S. citizen was finally released from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Pearsall, Texas, on Tuesday night.

Born in Dallas, Francisco Erwin Galicia was detained on June 27, after his car was stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint. Galicia's attorney, Claudia Galan, told The Associated Press she believes Galicia was "absolutely" racially profiled, as everyone in the car was Latino. Galicia had his Texas state ID with him, but was still detained on suspicion of being in the United States illegally.

Legally, the Border Patrol is only supposed to hold people for up to 72 hours, yet Galicia was in their facility for three weeks, Galan said. On Saturday, he was transferred to ICE, and only then was he able to make collect calls to his mother. The Dallas Morning News published an article about Galicia's plight on Monday, and by Tuesday night, he was released. "I'm so thankful Francisco is free and he can sleep at home tonight and see his mom," Galan told AP. ICE has not commented on Galicia's case. Catherine Garcia

12:18 a.m.

On Wednesday morning, "a quiet, retired public servant will go before a pair of House committees to talk about a 448-page document," though perhaps only former Special Counsel Robert Mueller would prefer his high-profile testimony be described that way, Anderson Cooper said on CNN Tuesday night. "House Democrats who will be questioning him tomorrow spent the day prepping for it. The president's Republican defenders circulated talking points, which CNN has now obtained. The president has been tweeting and talking about it — no surprise — and this is, whether he thinks it ought to be or not, a key moment in his presidency and a critical one for the country."

Even if Mueller stays within the confines of his report on Russian election interference and Trump obstruction of justice, his testimony "is still tremendously important," because "most people have not" read his report, and "so many, including the president — especially the president — have been mischaracterizing what the report actually says," Cooper said. So he read some key parts of the report, including its opening and closing lines, and sections in which Mueller suggests he would have charged Trump with obstruction of justice if he thought he could.

"By the way, one of the Republican talking points ... says: 'The president never interfered with anyone or any part of the investigation and was committed to transparency throughout the entire process,'" Cooper said. "I mean that, that's a talking point. It's clearly not true, according to the Mueller report. ... As for another talking point, that the report did not establish that the campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election interference, that is true. What's not true is the talking point claiming the report confirmed there was no collusion, which it didn't."

"Just to repeat Robert Mueller's first words, 'The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,'" Cooper said. "As for his last words on the subject, stay tuned til tomorrow." Peter Weber

12:04 a.m.

While working to cut ties with Jeffrey Epstein earlier this year, Deutsche Bank officials discovered that the disgraced financier not only had dozens of accounts, but he had also made several suspicious transactions involving moving money out of the United States, three people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.

The bank decided to drop Epstein late last year, after the Miami Herald published a report on sexual abuse allegations against Epstein from teenage girls; earlier this month, he was arrested and charged with sex trafficking. He opened his first accounts with Deutsche Bank in 2013, five years after he was accused of sexual abuse but pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution in exchange for a lenient sentence.

Even before the Miami Herald report, Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering compliance officers sounded the alarm, notifying executives that it wouldn't reflect well on the bank if the public learned Epstein was a client, the Times reports. The compliance officers also noted potentially illegal activity tied to Epstein moving his money outside the U.S., and filled out a suspicious activity report; it's unclear if that was filed with the Treasury Department's financial-crimes division, the Times says.

Deutsche Bank is under scrutiny for its relationship with President Trump, having given him $2 billion in loans over two decades when other major banks refused to do business with him. When asked about the Times report Tuesday night, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell she believes it is "exactly on-brand for Deutsche Bank. They seem to be the lender of last resort for unsavory characters." Catherine Garcia

July 23, 2019

The Justice Department announced Tuesday it will open a broad antitrust review into tech giants and how they acquired so much power.

The DOJ said in a statement the review will "consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online." The Federal Trade Commission and Congress have both already started similar inquiries, and several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have called for the breakup of these massive companies.

The DOJ said the goal of the review is to identify antitrust issues so they can be fixed, The Wall Street Journal reports. In after-hours trading on Tuesday, shares for Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, and Facebook were all down. Catherine Garcia

July 23, 2019

A businessman who remembers what it was like to rely on free lunches as a child approached the Wyoming Valley West School District in Pennsylvania with an offer he didn't think they would refuse.

Todd Carmichael, CEO and co-founder of La Colombe Coffee, said he told the school board president, Joseph Mazur, that he wanted to give the district $22,000 to wipe out all student lunch debt. Carmichael proposed the gift after learning that the district was sending letters to parents warning them that if they didn't pay the lunch money owned, they could be "sent to dependency court for neglecting your child's right to food," possibly leading to children being removed from their homes and put in foster care.

Mazur rejected his offer, Carmichael's spokesman Aren Platt told The Associated Press, saying the money is owed by parents who can afford to pay up. "The position of Mr. Carmichael is, irrespective of affluence, irrespective of need, he just wants to wipe away this debt," Platt said. Mazur did not return AP's phone calls.

A lawyer for the school board said he doesn't know what they plan on doing regarding lunch debt; previously, there had been talk of placing liens on properties and filing complaints in a district court. As for the foster care threat, Luzerne County child welfare agency officials said it's false to claim that parents who don't pay lunch debt could be sent to court, AP reports, and the school district needs to stop making this threat. Catherine Garcia

July 23, 2019

Climate change activists glued themselves to the doorways of tunnels that connect the Cannon House Office Building to the Capitol Building on Tuesday, demanding that lawmakers do something about the climate emergency.

The activists are part of the group Extinction Rebellion, which made headlines earlier this year after members in London glued themselves to windows, barricaded the entrance of the London Stock Exchange, held a massive protest at the Natural History Museum, and blocked the city's streets. The group doesn't think politicians are taking climate change seriously or doing enough to curtail carbon emissions. Extinction Rebellion has affiliates in more than 50 countries, BuzzFeed reports, and there are 38 chapters in the United States.

In Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, peaceful protesters held up signs saying "Declare Climate Emergency" and sang songs together. On Twitter, Extinction Rebellion of Washington, D.C., said the group was "sorry for the inconvenience, but we're not going back to business as usual until we declare a climate emergency and get climate justice for everyone, everywhere." So far, 13 protesters have been arrested. Catherine Garcia

July 23, 2019

Special Counsel Robert Mueller will appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday with one of his longtime aides, Aaron Zebley, by his side, people familiar with the matter told The New York Times on Tuesday.

At the last minute, Mueller requested Zebley be sworn in as a witness, but instead, he will be there as Mueller's counsel, offering guidance on how to answer questions about the two-year investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and obstruction of justice.

Zebley was a deputy special counsel with "day-to-day oversight of the investigations conducted by the office," Mueller spokesman Jim Popkin said. Zebley was also Mueller's chief of staff when he served as FBI director. Mueller is also appearing before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, but it's unclear if he made the same request to the panel. Catherine Garcia

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