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April 24, 2017

Former President Barack Obama announced in December that the Iranian-born prisoners released under the Iran nuclear agreement were "civilians" who were "not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses." But a Politico report published Monday revealed that might not have been the case:

In reality, some of them were accused by Obama's own Justice Department of posing threats to national security. Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware. As part of the deal, U.S. officials even dropped their demand for $10 million that a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Tehran. [Politico]

The prisoners were released in exchange for the freedom of five Americans. In addition to the seven men who were released, court filings reveal the Justice Department also "dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men, all of them fugitives," Politico reported. Three were charged with trying to lease a Boeing aircraft for an Iranian airline that allegedly supports Hezbollah; another was accused of attempting to buy and import thousands of assault rifles into Iran; and another was believed to have helped a network in "providing Iran with high-tech components for an especially deadly type of IED." But "the biggest fish," Politico reported, was Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, who was charged with getting "thousands of parts with nuclear applications for Iran via China," including "hundreds of U.S.-made sensors for the uranium enrichment centrifuges in Iran."

Experts contend the Obama administration went ahead because it was so concerned with the success of the Iran deal. "There was always a broader conceptual problem with the administration not wanting to upset the balance of the deal or the perceived rapprochement with the Iranian regime," said former Bush administration deputy national security adviser Juan Zarate. "The deal was sacrosanct, and the Iranians knew it from the start and took full advantage when we had — and continue to maintain — enormous leverage."

Read more at Politico. Becca Stanek

10:14 a.m.

The White House revealed on Friday that President Trump spoke with Libya's Gen. Khalifa Haftar via phone call on Monday.

Trump reportedly praised Haftar, who is leading a rebel assault on the country's capital Tripoli, as he and his Libyan National Army try to wrest control from the incumbent United Nations-backed government. The two discussed Haftar's "significant role" in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources, as well as their "shared vision" for Libya's future.

Trump's praise of Haftar is seen as a reversal of United States policy in Libya — Secretary of State Michael Pompeo demanded a halt to Haftar's assault earlier this month.

The news of the phone call reportedly led to thousands of Libyans taking to the streets in protest. "The call has no meaning, but we will respond to it," a protester told Reuters.

It is unclear why the White House waited several days to announce the phone call. Tim O'Donnell

8:20 a.m.

Police arrested two men in connection with the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry, Northern Ireland on Saturday.

McKee, 29, was shot and killed amid a riot in Derry on Thursday as she was watching Irish nationalist youths clash with police during a riot. Police reportedly said McKee was not the gunman's intended target, but was hit by a bullet fired in the direction of the police officers.

Police described the shooting as a "terrorist incident." The Irish News reports that they believe the suspects in the murder are linked to the dissident republican group the New Irish Republican Army, an offshoot of the Irish Republican Army which remains opposed to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the fragile ceasefire in Northern Ireland. McKee's murder follows the explosion of a large car bomb in Derry in January, which was also blamed on the New IRA.

There are fears that militant groups are trying to exploit political tensions caused by the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union, Reuters reports.

Northern Ireland's political leaders — nationalists and unionists alike — urged for calm following the violence.

A vigil was held for McKee in Derry. Tim O'Donnell

7:43 a.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Friday called on the House to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Warren said her reasoning is based on the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which Attorney General William Barr made available — with redactions — to Congress and the public on Thursday.

In an appearance on CNN's The Rachel Maddow Show on Friday evening, Warren added that "the report is absolutely clear that a foreign government attacked our electoral system to help Donald Trump."

Warren is the first 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to openly call for impeachment, per NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

April 19, 2019

Count Fox News host Chris Wallace among those who think Attorney General William Barr is going too far in playing defense for President Trump in the face of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's findings.

Wallace said on Friday that Barr's press conference about Mueller's report on seemed "to go against the grain of what Robert Mueller was suggesting in his own report," especially on the topic of obstruction of justice. While Mueller's report said the investigation had not definitively ruled on whether Trump obstructed justice in his effort to influence and shut down the probe into Russian election interference, Barr characterized the conclusions as too vague to merit further scrutiny.

Barr's insistence that Trump deserves to be let off the hook "seems even more troubling, and perhaps even more politically charged when you read the report," said Wallace.

"The reason that Robert Mueller didn't make a finding on obstruction wasn't because he didn't feel capable of doing it, but because he thought in direct contradiction to what Bill Barr said yesterday," that further action should be left to Congress, Wallace continued.

Watch Wallace's comments below, via Fox News. Summer Meza

April 19, 2019

Despite House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) trying to shut the door on impeachment this week, some Democrats are still trying to keep it open.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) is the latest Congressional Democrat to advocate for the impeachment of President Trump, appearing on MSNBC on Friday and making it clear he disagrees with Hoyer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"I believe impeachable offenses have been committed," Cohen told MSNBC's Hallie Jackson. "And I believe it's worthwhile to put in history's files what this man has done, and impeach him. But I don't think it's going to happen politically."

Cohen also expressed little faith that the Department of Justice will comply with Democrats' subpoena for the full Mueller report: "[I'm about] as confident as I am that the sun's gonna stop shining."

He also suggested considering a censure, which he said would at least put a "historical note" to Trump's conduct.

Cohen's Democratic colleague Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, echoed his concerns over the report on MSNBC, "begging" voters to pay attention to Mueller's findings.

"I often say that people are going to look back at this time 200 years from now and ask the question, 'What did you do to reverse this?'" Cummings said.

Watch Cohen's MSNBC appearance on Mediaite, and watch Cummings below. Marianne Dodson

April 19, 2019

This year's flu season is shaping up to be record-breaking in duration, despite a sharp decrease in the number of flu-related deaths from last year, reports The Associated Press.

A surprise second wave has drawn this year's season out to 21 weeks and counting, making it the longest in a decade and one of the longest seasons since the government started tracking seasons 20 years ago.

Despite the longer season, the number of deaths has significantly dipped from last year. An estimated 35,000-50,000 Americans have died from issues related to the disease in 2018-19, compared to 80,000 in 2017-18, per AP. Last year's season lasted 19 weeks and was the deadliest in 40 years.

Although an unpredictable virus, representative for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Lynnette Brammer says this year's flu season should be nearing its end, per AP. Marianne Dodson

April 19, 2019

A federal judge ruled on Friday that residents of Flint, Michigan, can move forward with a lawsuit against the federal government regarding the city's lack of clean drinking water, reports The Associated Press.

The government is not immune from legal action, ruled Judge Linda Parker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. She didn't rule that the government was negligent in 2014 when Flint's drinking water first became contaminated with lead, but said the Environmental Protection Agency could be sued by residents who have criticized the slow response to the crisis.

EPA employees knew lead was leaching from old pipes, said Parker, per The Hill, and the "lies went on for months while the people of Flint continued to be poisoned." Summer Meza

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