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December 14, 2017

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, is expected to approve Pai's proposal to rescind 2015 open internet rules adopted under former President Barack Obama, with Pai and his two fellow Republicans, Michael O'Rielly and Brendan Carr, voting in favor and Democratic commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel strongly opposed.

The new rules will allow broadband internet providers like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T to block or throttle access to certain websites, or provide special "fast lanes" for sites, apps, or customers who pay extra. They also scrap consumer protections, prevent states from enacting rules that contradict the FCC's, and shift a good deal of the FCC's internet oversight powers to the Federal Trade Commission, which may or may not have the legal authority to regulate large broadband ISPs.

Pai's proposal is broadly unpopular — in a new poll, 83 percent of voters, including 75 percent of Republicans, favored keeping the current net neutrality rules after being presented with vetted arguments from proponents and opponents of Pai's changes by the University of Maryland's Program for Public Consultation. Librarians warn it will cost taxpayers or hurt library users. Critics of the plan are already planning legal challenges, and Congress could also step in.

The proposal dismantles "virtually all of the important tenets of net neutrality itself," telecom and media analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson write in a note to investors. "These changes will likely be so immensely unpopular that it would be shocking if they are allowed to stand for long." Pai argues that broadband giants will use their newfound powers for good, lowering prices and creating new services, and the broadband industry group USTelecom says the fears are unfounded and overblown. Broadband companies unsuccessfully sued to overturn the 2015 net neutrality rules and lobbied hard for Pai's proposal. Peter Weber

1:19 p.m.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's sentencing has been delayed.

In court Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan told Flynn that his crimes were "very serious" and that "arguably, you sold your country out," warning him that he can't guarantee he won't receive prison time, CNN reports. Flynn in December 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. This was part of a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who later recommended Flynn receive a light sentence or no prison time due to his cooperation.

Flynn chose not to withdraw his guilty plea Tuesday, saying he was "aware" that lying to the FBI was illegal, that he was not "entrapped," and that he accepts responsibility for making false statements. This is despite Flynn's attorneys having objected to the way federal investigators treated him, namely that he was not warned that lying to them would be a crime, per The Washington Post.

But at the conclusion of a hearing in which Sullivan seemed to be signaling than Flynn may not avoid jail time, Flynn's lawyers agreed to delay sentencing so that he can continue to cooperate with prosecutors, something the judge had offered them. Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack had said that it "remains a possibility" that Flynn will continue to cooperate with the special counsel's office, per CNN's Jake Tapper. Both sides of the case will need to provide the judge with an update in March. Brendan Morrow

1:04 p.m.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan really spoke his mind during the sentencing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Tuesday. Flynn was going to be sentenced, but after his attorneys requested a delay, Sullivan agreed to wait until March to allow Flynn to continue cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Sullivan in court said that Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, was an "unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States," which "undermines everything this flag over here stands for" and means that "arguably, you sold your country out," per CNN's Josh Campbell. The judge added that he couldn't hide "my disgust, my disdain" for what Flynn did, CNN's Evan Perez reports, noting that Flynn's lawyers seemed "stunned" by this.

What Flynn did is a "very serious offense," Sullivan also concluded, and he asked the special counsel's office whether they considered charging Flynn with treason, per CNN's David Gelles. When the prosecutor said this was not considered, Sullivan asked again if he could have been hit with that charge.

Sullivan warned Flynn that he can not guarantee he won't receive prison time, despite Mueller's recommendation that he remain free due to his "substantial assistance" to federal prosecutors. After a recess, the judge backtracked on some of his earlier statements, saying what he said about Flynn being an "unregistered foreign agent" was incorrect because Flynn's lobbying ended before he began serving in the Trump administration, per CNN's Dianne Gallagher. Brendan Morrow

12:29 p.m.

The Trump administration is implementing a ban on bump stocks.

Under a regulation announced by the Department of Justice Tuesday, those who own bump stock devices will have 90 days to either destroy them or turn them into authorities, CNN reports. Bump stocks can be attached to semiautomatic guns, allowing them to fire at a much faster rate, and President Trump's administration has concluded that they therefore fall under the existing federal law banning machine guns.

When this rule goes into effect in 90 days, weapons with bump stocks will be "considered a machine gun," and will be illegal, the Justice Department said, per BuzzFeed News.

President Trump had previously instructed the Justice Department to take a look at the regulations around bump stocks after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February, per The New York Times. Though that instance did not involve a bump stock, they received increased scrutiny after one was used in the October 2017 shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people. Trump made clear his desire to get rid of the devices, writing on Twitter in March, "we will BAN all devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns." The administration's final regulation is set to formally publish on Friday. Brendan Morrow

11:47 a.m.

President Trump's charity is shutting down.

Amid a lawsuit alleging the president used the Trump Foundation for personal and political gain, the charity agreed to "dissolve" and donate its "remaining assets" to approved charities, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced Tuesday. Trump tried to get the state lawsuit thrown out as recently as last month, but a judge ruled it could proceed. The suit effectively claims that "persistently illegal conduct" turned the charity into Trump's personal piggy bank.

Per a document filed in a Manhattan court Tuesday, the Trump Foundation will "dissolve under judicial supervision." The foundation's most recent tax return says it has about $1.7 million in assets, reports CNN. Those funds will go to charities chosen after "review and approval by the attorney general," the release says.

The lawsuit was filed by Underwood in June, and alleges "a shocking pattern of illegality ... including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign," per the release. Essentially, Underwood says the Trump Foundation served as Trump's personal "checkbook."

Tuesday's agreement is just one of three "outcomes" the attorney general was hoping for, CNN notes. The lawsuit "also seeks millions in restitution and penalties and a bar on President Trump and his three eldest children from serving on the boards of other New York charities," the attorney general's statement, so it'll continue to be fought in court. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:32 a.m.

The White House may be ready to accept that Democrats are unwilling to agree to $5 billion in federal spending for President Trump's proposed border wall, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday, per The Washington Post.

"We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion," she said. "At the end of the day we don't want to shut down the government, we want to shut down the border." Trump was demanding the sum in a federal spending bill for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but Democrats said they were only willing to spend $1.6 billion on general border security. Without an agreement on federal spending, the government will shut down after Friday, which Trump said he'd be "proud" to do over the issue.

Sanders said the White House had "identified" different funding sources, "that we can couple with money that would be given through congressional appropriations," to find the $5 billion elsewhere. She said negotiations between the two parties are ongoing.

Read more at The Washington Post, and read more about the familiarity of the imminent shutdown here at The Week. Summer Meza

11:16 a.m.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is sending a failed candidate to the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who narrowly lost her midterm Senate bid to Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), will now fill the seat vacated by late Sen. John McCain, Ducey announced Tuesday. Arizona had never sent a woman to the Senate before this year, and now it'll be represented by two.

After McCain's death in August, former Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) rejoined the chamber, only promising to serve until the end of the year. Kyl formally announced his resignation last week, leaving Ducey to appoint another replacement. McSally will now serve until a special election can be held in 2020.

McCain's wife Cindy McCain, who'd been loosely mentioned as a possible replacement, had a muted reaction to the announcement. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:12 a.m.

A federal judge has ruled neither the Broward County Sheriff's Office nor the local school district had a constitutional duty to protect students during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, this past February.

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom dismissed a suit brought by 15 students against the school district, the sheriff's office, school deputy Scot Peterson, and campus monitor Andrew Medina. Bloom held that because the students were not in custody — prison, for example — state agencies have no legal obligation to protect them.

"The claim arises from the actions of [shooter Nikolas] Cruz, a third party, and not a state actor," Bloom wrote in her ruling. "Thus, the critical question the Court analyzes is whether defendants had a constitutional duty to protect plaintiffs from the actions of Cruz," she said, concluding that "for such a duty to exist on the part of defendants, plaintiffs would have to be considered to be in custody."

Bloom's ruling is in line with the Supreme Court's 7-2 decision in Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales (2005), which held police do not have a constitutional duty to protect people from harm. In that case, SCOTUS determined the obligation does not exist even when police have been repeatedly notified of violation of a restraining order which is supposed to trigger a mandatory arrest. Bonnie Kristian

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