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August 4, 2017
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday afternoon, as President Trump was heading to a rally in West Virginia, The Wall Street Journal reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington, D.C., to investigate possible criminal charges against Trump's campaign, business, or administration associates, perhaps even Trump himself, in Mueller's expanding Russia investigation. The grand jury, in place for a few weeks, has already issued subpoenas in connection with Donald Trump Jr.'s June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-backed lawyer, Reuters reports, and CNN says Mueller's investigation has veered into any financial ties Trump, his family, and his associates have to Russia.

The reports set off alarm bells in the White House, because of the increasing legal jeopardy but also out of concern that Trump could make things worse, The Daily Beast reports. In an interview with The New York Times last month, Trump agreed with the idea that Mueller digging into his family's finances would cross a "red line" and be a "violation." If the new reports are accurate, Mueller is well on the other side of that line. "The worry is what the president does now," one senior Trump official told The Daily Beast. "Just keep him off the Twitter and on the teleprompter."

Trump offered a relatively subdued denial at the West Virginia rally, calling the "Russia story" a "total fabrication." But the big concern is that he would order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller — a decision that would set off what one White House adviser called an "apocalyptic sh--storm." Two different bipartisan pairs of senators introduced legislation Thursday to shield Mueller from firing, and two White House officials told The Daily Beast that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly would strenuously oppose such a move.

But "people react really stupidly to these proceedings all the time," and "Trump and his team seem incapable, as a matter of character, to react ... in a prudent way or follow good advice or do the things you have to do to survive it," former federal prosecutor Ken White tells The Daily Beast. "They convince other people to lie for them, they destroy documents, they come up with lies they're going to tell themselves, they do all sorts of idiotic things — not realizing part of a fed prosecutor's point is often to drive them to do that." You can read more at The Daily Beast. Peter Weber

2:33 p.m. ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to discuss his conversations with President Trump at his Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Wednesday, citing executive privilege and frustrating Democrats. "I can neither assert executive privilege nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president," Sessions said, although Democrats have maintained that because Trump did not invoke the privilege himself, the attorney general is not required to adhere to it, The New York Times reports.

Sessions faced intense pressure from senators including Vermont's Patrick Leahy (D), who forced him to admit he has not yet been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation, and Minnesota's Al Franken (D), who challenged Sessions for "moving the goal posts" regarding his conversations with Russian agents during the presidential campaign.

"Not being able to recall what you discussed with him is very different than saying, 'I have not had communications with the Russians,'" Franken challenged Sessions over his inconsistent answers on what exactly happened. "The ambassador from Russia is Russian." Jeva Lange

2:32 p.m. ET

Even the least cuddly of cats at this Philadelphia shelter can find a home.

While they won't become a little kid's birthday present, unadoptable felines at Philadelphia's Animal Care and Control Team get a job chasing mice at a barn or even a brewery through the shelter's "Working Cats" program, The Associated Press reported.

ACCT started the program four years ago, and it's been a win-win ever since: Not-so-friendly cats get a home, and local businesses get rid of mice. The Working Cats program realizes that not all cats make perfect pets, and cats who'd rather scratch than snuggle get to use their natural hunting abilities to help humans.

As a bonus, when given an outlet for their energy, some of these cats have grown to love people and did become cuddly mascots at their new homes.

You can read more working cat success stories at The Associated Press. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:25 p.m. ET
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In March, City of Miami Police Lt. Javier Ortiz was stripped of his gun, temporarily suspended, and forced to do desk work after a county judge granted a restraining order against him by a woman he'd harassed on Facebook. Over the last few years, Ortiz had also posted racially inflammatory content on social media, allegedly written improper police reports, and received several use-of-force lawsuits.

On Wednesday, he was promoted to the role of captain, the Miami New Times reports.

Although Ortiz is the head of Miami's police union, he has been accused of racism by the the city's oldest black police organization, the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, and he is deeply unpopular even within the union he helms. A quick Google search on "Javier Ortiz Miami" yields almost exclusively bad press, which is a point of contention for officers who have anonymously complained to local media about the reputation Ortiz creates for the Miami Police Department.

Miami police chief Rodolfo Llanes, who technically retired in 2016 but still collects both a salary and pension, did not respond to a message from the Miami New Times asking about Ortiz's promotion. Kelly O'Meara Morales

1:46 p.m. ET

The Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles used to claim it had contributed $5 million to charity. Then NPR started asking questions.

Just a few months ago, a philanthropy page on the Southern California club's website listed about 200 nonprofit groups, saying it had given them a total of about $5 million. Now, that page has been stripped of all those claims.

The redaction came soon after NPR started questioning the club's charitable giving. So far, NPR has only been able account for $800,000 of the supposed $5 million in donations, and 17 of the listed charities had no record of contributions from the club at all.

A producer from NPR's Embedded podcast discussed the team's findings on Wednesday's Morning Edition program:

The Embedded team cross-referenced the list on the golf club's website with a publicly-available list the Trump campaign put out detailing donations it had made over the years. Several organizations on the website weren't on the campaign's list, and upon calling these organizations, NPR found they had no record of Trump National donations on the books.

Need a little more proof of Trump National's backtracking? You can still see the $5 million claim if you hover over the "About" tab on its website. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:34 p.m. ET
David McNew/Getty Images

Starting Wednesday, Kohl's department stores in 10 locations across Los Angeles and Chicago will sell Amazon smart home products. The brick-and-mortar stores will also accept returns for Amazon online purchases.

Kohl's and Amazon have been working on this retail partnership since the spring. “I really do think it's an example of two companies that can leverage each other's strengths,” said Michelle Gass, Kohl's chief merchandising and customer officer.

More than 70 Kohl's locations will eventually accept Amazon returns, which will be handled by Kohl's employees, but the kiosks selling Amazon products within the department stores will be operated by Amazon. Kohl's joins Sears and Best Buy as prominent retailers who have entered into some type of partnership with Amazon.

Although Kohl's rejected speculation that it may get purchased by Amazon, the retailer's stock rallied 7.7 percent from announcement of their partnership until the end of September. Some traders are reportedly wagering on a stock price increase resulting from the company's potential sale. Amazon recently purchased the grocery chain Whole Foods and now sells Amazon smart home products in the high-end supermarkets. Kelly O'Meara Morales

1:26 p.m. ET

There were probably important things said at the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, but the highlight was almost certainly a sheepish Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) apologizing for spilling his Dr Pepper on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas):

"Sorry to have added to the drama and distracted you for a minute," Sasse told Sessions. "I was paying enough attention there that I dumped a Dr Pepper on Sen. Cruz." Suuuure.

There is unfortunately not yet any footage of Cruz actually getting showered in soda (we will post an immediate update if one becomes available), but there are plenty of jokes:

Cruz promptly retaliated — by cutting off Sasse's supply. Jeva Lange

12:59 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Monday, the FBI released a document containing 50 redacted pages that indicated that former FBI Director James Comey had decided not to charge Hillary Clinton with any crime related to her email server before even interviewing her.

In late August, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced that they had received partial transcripts showing that Comey had drafted a statement rejecting criminal charges for Clinton months before she was even interviewed in the FBI probe, and President Trump took Monday's reveal as validation of Grassley and Graham's claim. Early Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted, “Wow, FBI confirms reports that James Comey drafted letter exonerating Crooked Hillary Clinton long before investigation was complete."

In May, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote a letter to Trump recommending he fire Comey, in which he criticized the former director's July 2016 press conference rejecting charges for Clinton. "We do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation," Rosenstein wrote.

On Wednesday morning, Trump seemed decidedly less concerned about Comey's release of "derogatory information" about Clinton. He tweeted: "As it turns out, James Comey lied and leaked and totally protected Hillary Clinton. He was the best thing that ever happened to her!" Kelly O'Meara Morales

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