October 29, 2016

FBI Director James Comey diverged from Justice Department protocol when he decided to send a letter to Congress announcing the bureau had found emails "pertinent" to its previous investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server and that it would be reviewing the messages. The New Yorker reported early Saturday that Attorney General Loretta Lynch had advised Comey to maintain the department's "longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise."

Comey insisted he had promised members of Congress he would keep them updated, and said that the upcoming election made it all the more important to inform the public. However, in a letter to Congress, Comey admitted the FBI did not "know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails," and noted he did not "want to create a misleading impression." At a press conference in July, Comey announced he would not recommend criminal charges in connection to Clinton's email investigation.

As an employee of the Justice Department, Comey's announcement appears to contradict a memo sent by former Attorney General Eric Holder in March 2012 advising department employees to be "particularly sensitive" about investigations happening "near the time of a primary or general election."

A former senior Justice Department official told The New Yorker, "you don't do this" because it "impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there's no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment." "It's aberrational," the former official said. "It violates decades of practice." Becca Stanek

10:34 p.m.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is calling President Trump's threat to send the military to major cities "just another zig and zag deflection from the administration."

On Monday, Trump warned that if governors and mayors didn't do enough to quell protests, he would send "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officials" to cities. Newsom brushed aside the threat, telling reporters on Wednesday, "It won't happen. It's not going to happen. We would reject it. We would push back against that."

Following requests from mayors like Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Newsom has deployed 2,600 California National Guard troops to some parts of the state. Catherine Garcia

9:14 p.m.

AMC, the largest theater chain in the United States, said on Wednesday it may not be able to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

AMC theaters were shut down in March, and the chain said in a regulatory filing that it has enough cash to reopen all of them in the summer, but if that can't happen, it will need more money.

The company has several concerns, including whether customers are even going to want to return to theaters during the pandemic. Since March, some new movies have been released to streaming platforms for at-home viewing, and AMC and other theater chains are worried this practice will continue in the future. Because Hollywood has stopped production on movies, it will also take time before there are full slates of new films.

Due to all of this, AMC has "substantial doubt" of its "ability to continue" for an extended period of time. The company has 1,000 theaters in the United States and Europe. Catherine Garcia

7:53 p.m.

In a stinging rebuke, Former Defense Secretary James Mattis criticized President Trump's response to peaceful protests, saying he is "the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership."

Mattis, a retired Marine general, resigned in 2018 in response to Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from eastern Syria. He broke his silence on Trump's behavior Wednesday, telling The Atlantic in a statement that watching protesters get tear gassed in Lafayette Square and hearing Trump threaten to use the military to crush demonstrations left him "angry and appalled."

The protests are "defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values — our values as people and our values as a nation," he said. The forceful removal of demonstrators in Lafayette Square for Trump's "bizarre" photo op in front of St. John's Church was an "abuse of executive authority," he said, and "we must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution."

The country can still come together without Trump, "drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society," Mattis said. It won't be easy, "but we owe it to our fellow citizens, to past generations that bled to defend our promise, and to our children." Read more at The Atlantic. Catherine Garcia

6:50 p.m.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) will announce on Thursday plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Monument Avenue in Richmond, an administration official told The Washington Post.

The statue, erected in 1890, will be put into storage. There are several monuments to the Confederacy along the avenue, and all have been spray painted during this week's demonstrations against racism and police brutality. Only the Lee statue is under state control, but Virginia's General Assembly passed a bill earlier this year that gives localities the authority to choose what happens to Confederate monuments on their property, and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney on Wednesday said his administration will introduce an ordinance on July 1 to remove all such statues on Monument Avenue.

"Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy," Stoney said in a statement. "It is filled with diversity and love for all — and we need to demonstrate that." Other Confederate statues have already been removed in Alexandria, Virginia, and Birmingham, Alabama. Catherine Garcia

5:37 p.m.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper had a topsy-turvy Wednesday.

Early in the day, he said he didn't didn't think nationwide protests against police brutality warranted invoking the Insurrection Act, which contrasted with President Trump's apparent willingness to deploy active-duty military to aid city police forces. The Pentagon was also prepared to send about 200 troops deployed to, and on standby in, the Washington, D.C., area back to their home bases Wednesday, with the remaining forces ready to head home in the next few days if things remained calm. But it seems like the secretary's comments and the department's decision to send even a portion of the troops home apparently angered the White House.

After a meeting at the White House, Esper reversed the decision, so the troops will stick around the capital. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said it remains "our intent at this point not to bring in active forces, we don't think we need them at this point," but he added that it's "prudent to have the reserve capability in the queue, on a short string."

It's unclear if Esper met directly with Trump before he reversed the decision, The Associated Press reports. Tim O'Donnell

5:35 p.m.

The White House just tried and failed to pin violence on its enemy of choice.

In its latest attempt to build a case against anti-fascist protesters, or antifa, the White House alleged they and "professional anarchists" were "staging bricks and weapons to instigate violence" in a Wednesday tweet. It paired that allegation with a video of what looked like a cage of bricks on the side of a street — an example that was proven days ago to be purely misinformation.

What the White House tweeted was actually video of a security measure outside the Chabad of Sherman Oaks in California. The cages are filled with bricks to prevent anti-Semitic car ramming attacks, but the bricks have since been removed "to alleviate people's concern that they may be vandalized and used by rioters," the Chabad house said in a Monday Facebook post. The White House quickly deleted its tweet.

A similar story happened Wednesday morning in New York City. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea tweeted a video of an officer clearing up some plastic bins of rocks that were left on a street corner. Then New York City councilmember Mark Treyger chimed in: He represents the far-flung area of Brooklyn where the bricks were left, a solid 7 miles from the center of the ongoing protests, and reported "no evidence of organized looting" in the area. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:14 p.m.

Despite reports and footage suggesting otherwise, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that police "peaceably" cleared protesters Monday from Lafayette Square before President Trump passed through the area so he could pose for photos in front of nearby St. John's Church.

In response to a question from CNN's Jim Acosta about whether the White House would take a do-over on the methods of crowd dispersement, McEnany said officers acted appropriately, noting that there were no fatalities or serious injuries. She also claimed officers had a right to defend themselves because they were under threat from demonstrators hurling bricks and frozen water bottles at them, alongside reports of caches of various potential weapons like baseball bats and glass bottles "hidden along the streets."

But video from Monday shows officers forcibly moving both protesters — most of whom reporters described as peaceful — and media out of the way, indicating that McEnany may have set a pretty low bar for what she considers peaceable. Tim O'Donnell

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