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March 31, 2017

During the 2016 election, Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign tried to counter a steady drip of damaging leaks by pointing out that hacking and leaking emails (as WikiLeaks was doing) is illegal. Republicans and the Trump White House have been turning to the same winning strategy, trying to focus on the leakers instead of the material about Russia being leaked, and their latest target is Evelyn Farkas, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia until September 2015.

On Tuesday, an edited version of a March 2 interview Farkas did on MSNBC about a March 1 New York Times article started spreading online, and Fox News host Sean Hannity focused on Farkas Wednesday and Thursday nights, accusing her of leaking classified intelligence and portraying her interview as proof that former President Obama surveilled President Trump's transition team — a claim Trump tweeted out on March 4, two days after the Farkas interview. On Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that senior White House staff was huddling to discuss Farkas, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer mentioned Farkas by name in Thursday's press briefing. CNN wrapped all that video up on Thursday night, plus Farkas' incredulous reaction:

CNN contributor and vocal Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord reached out to Farkas, a fellow alumnus of Franklin and Marshall College, offering to let her tell her side of the story. She did, writing in The American Spectator that the edited video was "a wild misinterpretation of comments I made on the air." She is, she noted, "out of government, I didn't have any classified information, or any knowledge of 'tapping' or leaking or the NYT article before it came out. But I knew well from my time in government how the Russians operated and ... I wanted to make sure that the standard procedure of White House briefing the Congress was taking place so that Congress knew everything the White House knew about what the Russians had done." Farkas did say that, "at the end of the interview," she said the phrase Spicer quoted — "that's why they leaked" — explaining that she "got cut off. If I'd had time I would have explained that leaking is illegal and I would never condone it." Read her version of events at The American Spectator. Peter Weber

10:59 p.m. ET
Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump heaped praise on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh Monday night on Twitter, while blasting Democrats for their "False Acquisitions" that are keeping him from the bench.

"The Democrats are working hard to destroy a wonderful man, and a man who has the potential to be one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices ever, with an array of False Acquisitions the likes of which have never been seen before!" Trump tweeted. He followed up with a simple message: "REMEMBER THE MIDTERMS!"

Trump either noticed or was told that "Acquisitions" is not how you spell "accusations," as he later posted his first message again — this time with the right word, albeit still unnecessarily capitalized. Catherine Garcia

9:53 p.m. ET
iStock

Researchers have found that after only 10 minutes of light exercise, there is enhanced communication between the regions of the brain that store and recall memories.

Scientists from the University of California, Irvine, had 36 healthy volunteers in their early 20s exercise for 10 minutes, doing light activity like yoga or walking. The volunteers then took a memory test, which was repeated later without exercise. The researchers asked 16 of the volunteers to take the test again, with some exercising first and others resting. While studying their brain activity, it was discovered that those who exercised had increased activity between the hippocampus and cortical brain regions, which are all associated with memory.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with the researchers writing that volunteers who exercised had an easier time distinguishing between different memories. Michael Yassa, a neuroscientist at UCI and project co-leader, told The Guardian that the amount of exercise is dependent on a person's age, mobility level, and other lifestyle factors, and for many, taking a leisurely stroll is enough. Catherine Garcia

8:55 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has been working overtime defending Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh against allegations of sexual assault, and on Monday called the latest accusation "phony."

Earlier this month, Christine Blasey Ford went public with her accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers, and on Sunday night, The New Yorker published the account of Deborah Ramirez, who said when they were freshman at Yale University, Kavanaugh exposed himself during a party and thrust his penis in her face.

Hatch, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters Monday that he is sure Ramirez is "sincere" in believing Kavanaugh exposed himself to her, but "I also think she's sincerely wrong." He also said it's "amazing to me that these allegations come out of nowhere at the last minute and they weren't brought up earlier in this process and it's not untypical for our friends on the other side to pull that kind of crap."

Hatch, who has also called Ford "mixed-up," released a lengthy statement earlier in the day where he claimed to believe that "every accuser deserves to be heard." His statement included a long paragraph where he tried to discredit The New Yorker article, and accused Democrats of conducting "a smear campaign" against Kavanaugh.

He's also supporting Kavanaugh online — the Twitter page run by Hatch's office resembles a shrine to the judge, with a photo of the senator, Kavanaugh, and girls on the basketball team Kavanaugh coaches as the header. The account's tweets from the last week are all devoted to Kavanaugh, with some praising him and others slamming Hatch's Democratic colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Catherine Garcia

7:33 p.m. ET

During an interview with Fox News on Monday, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said multiple times that he has never sexually assaulted anyone, and is "looking for a fair process, a process where I can defend my integrity and clear my name."

Kavanaugh has been accused by two women of sexual assault, and he told Martha MacCallum he has "always treated women with dignity and respect." Kavanaugh's wife, Ashley, joined him for the interview, and said the confirmation process is "incredibly difficult, harder than we imagined, and we imagined it might be hard. At the end of the day, our faith is strong and we know that we're on the right path. We're just gonna stick to it." She called the allegations "really hard to believe" because her husband is "decent, he's kind, he's good. This is not consistent with Brett."

Kavanaugh said he does not remember being at a high school party with one of the accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, and they did not travel in the same social circles. The other accuser, Deborah Ramirez, knew Kavanaugh at Yale University, and he claimed if he had exposed himself as she has alleged, "it would have been the talk of campus." As part of his defense, Kavanaugh revealed that he "did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to it in high school and many years thereafter," and never drank so much he blacked out or couldn't remember what happened the night before. "I'm telling the truth," he said. "I know my lifelong record. I'm not going to let false accusations drive me out of this process." Catherine Garcia

6:52 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Two of Judge Brett Kavanaugh's former classmates asked The New Yorker to remove their names from a statement they signed in support of the Supreme Court nominee.

On Sunday night, The New Yorker published an article by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow about a woman, Deborah Ramirez, who said while she was at Yale University, her classmate, Kavanaugh, exposed himself to her at a party. Mayer and Farrow spoke to former classmates who said they remembered hearing about such an incident, others who believed Ramirez's word, and some who said Kavanaugh would never expose himself.

The article included a statement, prepared by Kavanaugh's attorneys, signed by two of the male classmates Ramirez said were at the party, the wife of a third male student Ramirez said was involved in the incident, and additional classmates. They said they were "the people closest to Brett Kavanaugh during his first year at Yale" and could declare "with confidence that if the incident Debbie alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it — and we did not. The behavior she describes would be completely out of character for Brett."

On Monday evening, The New Yorker updated the article to reflect that two classmates who originally signed the statement, Louisa Garry and Dino Ewing, approached the magazine after the article was published and asked that their names be removed. Garry said she "never saw or heard anything like this. But I cannot dispute Ramirez's allegations, as I was not present." Ewing said he did not have direct knowledge of the incident and did not think it sounded like Kavanaugh, but "I also was not present and therefore am not in a position to directly dispute Ramirez's account." Catherine Garcia

5:14 p.m. ET
Kaufman County Sheriff's Office via AP

A Dallas police officer who killed a black man after wrongly entering his apartment was fired Monday, ABC News reports.

Officer Amber Guyger, 30, shot and killed her neighbor Botham Jean, 26, in his Dallas apartment earlier this month and is now being charged with manslaughter. Guyger said she shot Jean when she entered the apartment and, believing it was her own, thought Jean was a burglar, NPR reports. Jean lived directly above Guyger.

Dallas Police Chief Reneé Hall said she made the decision to fire Guyger after an internal affairs investigation wrapped Sept. 9, per ABC News. Hall released a statement last week saying she was waiting to take employment action against Guyger because she didn't want to "interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation."

Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Jean family, called the firing an "initial victory." Merritt said his office is conducting their own investigation and is hoping to file a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Guyger and the city of Dallas, ABC News reports. Marianne Dodson

5:07 p.m. ET
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Her heart may go on, but will ours?

Céline Dion announced Monday that she will be ending her Las Vegas residency after eight years. She is set to perform 28 shows at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace before officially ending her run June 8, Rolling Stone reports.

The pop icon revealed her "mixed emotions" about her final stint in Vegas in a Facebook statement. "Las Vegas has become my home and performing at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace has been a big part of my life for the past two decades," said Dion. "It's been an amazing experience, and I'm so grateful to all the fans who have come to see us throughout the years."

Dion has performed 1,089 shows at Caesars Palace. Her first residency, A New Day ... , began in 2003 and was a massive hit, helping to launch what Forbes once called the "residency boom," as performers flocked to Sin City to follow Dion's example and take over the strip for years at a time. The Canadian icon isn't the only diva now exiting the Las Vegas Strip — Britney Spears ended her five-year residency at Planet Hollywood last year, while Jennifer Lopez is gearing up to end hers after over two years.

Dion recently released a new song called "Ashes" for the Deadpool 2 soundtrack. But for drowning your sorrows over this news, your best bet is to cue up "My Heart Will Go On." Read more about Dion's final Vegas shows at Rolling Stone. Amari Pollard

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