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June 11, 2015

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania finds that Philadelphia law enforcement use civil asset forfeiture to confiscate millions annually in cash and property from citizens, many of whom are never convicted of any crime. For those who lose their money, cars, and even homes but don't undergo criminal trials, reclaiming their property requires Philadelphians to "wage complicated and time-consuming legal battles in civil court without the help of counsel or other safeguards."

About $2.2 million of the seized money goes to the Philadelphia district attorney's office, providing 7.3 percent of its budget. Not coincidentally, the same office supervises the asset forfeiture program.

While civil asset forfeiture was introduced as a way for police to take on high-rolling drug kingpins, the median seizure in Philly has a value of less than $200, and only 10 percent of seizures are worth more than $1,000. "The current system does not do a good job of distinguishing between drug dealers and the innocent people in the neighborhoods being destroyed by drug dealers," said Molly Tack-Hooper of the ACLU. In one particularly shocking case the report mentions, a woman's home was seized after police found a small quantity of drug paraphernalia belonging to her son in her house. Bonnie Kristian

1:29 a.m.

The latest blow in the oversight fight between President Trump and Congress was former White House Counsel Don McGahn ignoring a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee, Stephen Colbert explained on Tuesday's Late Show. "They wanted to ask McGahn about the section of the Mueller report where McGahn says Trump tried to obstruct justice — and it's a large section — but last night the White House blocked McGahn from testifying to Congress. So, they don't get to ask about obstruction, because the alleged obstructer obstructed the witness to his obstructing."

House Democrats, who scolded McGahn's empty chair on Tuesday, are not happy. "But there's some good news on the obstruction front," Colbert said. On Monday, a federal judge upheld a different House subpoena for Trump's financial records from his accounting firm. "That's huge — we are finally getting his financial records, and I have a strong feeling that we're going to find out that the whole time, Eric was just a shell corporation," he joked. Trump criticized the ruling and the judge, and Colbert recapped in Trump voice: "You can't trust an Obama-appointed judge. Take it from me, a Putin-appointed president."

"Trump promised to appeal this decision — and now comes the fun part," Colbert said. "Because the case is going to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is headed by .... drumroll please ... Judge Merrick Garland." In case you forgot, he said, "Merrick Garland is the judge Obama nominated to the Supreme Court in 2016, only to have his appointment shot down by Mitch McConnell. Now that guy's court gets to rule on Trump's financial records." Ha, "payback's a Mitch," Colbert said, adding, quietly and probably correctly, "I'm sure he'll be evenhanded."

"Thankfully, one member of the Trump administration actually did show up in Congress today," Colbert said, and what we learned from HUD Secretary Ben Carson "is that in two years, he has learned nothing about this own agency." Peter Weber

1:03 a.m.

Kami Rita Sherpa makes climbing Mount Everest look easy.

The 49-year-old reached the top of the world's tallest mountain for a record 24th time on Tuesday, less than a week after he last successfully conquered the peak on May 15. Kami Rita climbed Mount Everest for the first time in 1994, and told BBC News he "actually never knew that you could make a record. Had I known, I would have made a lot more summits earlier."

Sherpas not only guide people up the mountain, but also prepare everything, from setting the route to creating ladder-bridges to fixing ropes to delivering oxygen and supplies. "In every mountain, there is a goddess," Kami Rita told BBC News. "It's our responsibility to keep the goddess happy. Months before I start an ascent I start worshiping and ask for forgiveness because I will have to put my feet on her body." He doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon, saying he wants to "keep going until I am 60 years old. With oxygen, it's no big deal." Catherine Garcia

12:13 a.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has a plan. Well, lots of plans — for breaking up big tech companies, erasing student loan debt, fighting presidential corruption, fixing military housing, making the military carbon-neutral, jailing lawbreaking corporate executives, and just about every other topic you might or might not think about. Over the weekend, comedian and Full Frontal writer Ashley Nicole Black wondered if Warren might have a plan to fix her love life. And, well...

Warren wasn't making any promises she couldn't keep, apparently.

It's not clear what kind of shape Black's love life was in, but if Warren can set it in order while doing her day job of being a U.S. senator and also running for president on the side, fixing military housing should be a snap. Peter Weber

May 21, 2019

After serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence, John Walker Lindh, the American captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and convicted of providing support to the Taliban, is set to be released from an Indiana federal prison on Thursday.

Lindh was 20 when he was arrested. After converting from Catholicism to Islam at 16, he left the U.S. to study Arabic in Yemen at 17. He made his way to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he was a Taliban volunteer at an al-Qaeda training camp. Because he is an American citizen, Lindh was tried in federal court, and at his sentencing decried acts of terrorism and said he was wrong to join the Taliban.

Two leaked documents show that the government questions whether Lindh has shed his extremist views, The New York Times reports. A May 2016 memo said Lindh "continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts," and a 2017 Federal Bureau of Prisons intelligence assessment states he made positive comments about the Islamic State.

Under his terms of release, Lindh will not be allowed to go online or own a device that can access the internet without permission from his probation officer, the Times reports. He also can't travel internationally or communicate with "any known extremist," and must go through mental health counseling.

Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University's program on extremism, told the Times the government doesn't have a system in place to deal with people like Lindh, and the best move would be to "team him up with a mentor, somebody who perhaps had the same experiences as he may have had and came out on the other side better off because of it." Catherine Garcia

May 21, 2019

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has constructed just 1.7 miles of fencing along the southern border with the $1.57 billion Congress appropriated last year for the project, a lawyer for the House of Representatives told a federal judge on Tuesday.

In a court filing, House General Counsel Douglas Letter told Judge Haywood Gilliam that this information is current as of April 30, Bloomberg reports. Letter also said this was three-quarters of a mile more than had been reported to Congress in February.

Gilliam is the judge in a lawsuit brought by 20 Democratic state attorneys general and the Sierra Club; they are trying to block Trump from using unauthorized money from the Treasury and Defense departments to fund his border wall. Gilliam requested the information during a hearing on May 17. Catherine Garcia

May 21, 2019

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) revealed on Tuesday that U.S. fighter jets intercepted six Russian warplanes off the coast of Alaska on Monday.

The four bombers and two fighter planes were intercepted by F-22 jets after they entered an area known as the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, NBC News reports. In a statement, NORAD said the Russian planes "remained in international airspace and at no time did the aircraft enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace," and the U.S. jets kept an eye on the Russian planes until they left the region.

Russia's Ministry of Defense said the planes were conducting planned exercises, which took place "over the neutral waters of the Chukotka, Bering, and Okhotsk Seas, as well as along the western coast of Alaska and the northern coast of the Aleutian Islands." Catherine Garcia

May 21, 2019

A confidential draft Internal Revenue Service memo directly contradicts Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's reason for not turning over to Congress President Trump's tax returns, The Washington Post reports.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) formally requested Trump's tax returns last month; under a 1924 law, he is one of a handful of top lawmakers with the authority to do so. Mnuchin has refused to give Neal the returns, claiming Congress does not have a "legitimate legislative purpose" to request the documents.

The memo, obtained by the Post, states otherwise, asserting that it is "mandatory" the returns are disclosed, as the law "does not allow the Secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met." The only way the IRS can refuse to comply with a Congressional subpoena "would be the invocation of the doctrine of executive privilege," the memo states, which has not happened.

The IRS told the Post the draft was prepared in the fall by a lawyer in the Office of Chief Counsel, and does not represent the "official position" of the agency. Trump has not released his tax returns on his own, first claiming that he can't do so because he is under audit, and later saying no one could understand his complex filings anyway. Catherine Garcia

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