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March 16, 2018

As British investigators examine the theory that a deadly Soviet-developed nerve agent was put into the luggage of Yulia Skripal before she flew from Moscow to Britain on March 3 to visit her father, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, the aftermath of their March 4 poisoning is spreading throughout Russia and the West. The Skripals, father and daughter, were found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury, and 12 days later they are still in critical condition at a hospital. Britain blames the Kremlin for the brazen nerve agent attack.

On Thursday, the U.S., Germany, and France issued a rare joint statement condemning Russia for the attack, and on Friday, NATO and Australia said they stand with Britain, too. Russia responded Friday by threatening to expel British diplomats in retaliation for Britain's decision to kick out 23 Russian embassy employees it says are spies, and to add some number of Americans to its "black list" in reaction to the U.S. sanctioning 19 Russians and five companies for cyber-attacks. Britain also signaled it might hit Russian President Vladimir Putin's loyal allies where it hurts: their luxury "Londongrad" real estate.

Wealthy Russians started moving money into Britain in the mid-1990s, using murky shell companies to invest tens of billions of dollars in multimillion-dollar London mansions and other assets, like soccer teams and newspapers, The New York Times reports.

But on Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to "freeze Russian state assets" used to attack British citizens and crack down on "serious criminals and corrupt elites," adding, "There is no place for these people — or their money — in our country." Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson suggested Thursday that Britain might target Putin associates in a new anti-corruption drive. "If you start to take away Astons and Bentleys and huge apartments in Kensington, freezing those assets, people will care a lot more," Cliff Kupchan, chairman of Eurasia Group, tells the Times, and they'll let Putin know about it. Peter Weber

10:57 a.m.

The Muslim community in Christchurch, New Zealand has reclaimed a place of worship. On Saturday, the restored Al-Noor mosque, one of the sites of the mass shootings that killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, was reopened.

It remains under heavy police detail, but small groups of worshippers are now allowed in for limited periods of time, reports RNZ National. Although the mosque has been completely restored following the damage, those who enter have been asked to refrain from taking photographs. Several survivors of the shootings, carried about by a 28-year-old Australian named Brenton Tarrant who expressed racist, anti-immigrant views, were among the first people to return to the mosque.

On Saturday, nearly 40,000 people turned out for a vigil in Christchurch on Saturday evening, as the country continues to mourn the attacks. Saturday’s vigil, which included speeches, music, and moments of silence, is the latest in a string of remembrance events that have and will continue to take place around New Zealand. Tim O'Donnell

8:22 a.m.

Protests took place in Pittsburgh on Saturday after a jury acquitted a former East Pittsburgh police officer who was tried for the killing of Antwon Rose, an unarmed black 17-year-old, last June.

The officer, Michael Rosfield, who is white, shot Rose three times after the teenager ran from a traffic stop. Rosfield said that Rose was in a car that matched the description of one involved in a drive-by shooting 20 minutes prior to the traffic stop. Another person in the vehicle, 18-year-old Zaijuan Hester, pleaded guilty last week to the drive-by shooting. He said that he, not Rose, fired the shots.

Crowds gathered in protest over the jury's decision outside of the Allegheny County Courthouse on Friday evening and continued throughout the city on Saturday. Shots were reportedly fired at the window of one of Rosfield's attorney's offices on Saturday morning in what was an apparent retaliation. No one was hurt. But Rose's father urged people to refrain from violence, and Pittsburgh police described the protests as peaceful. Tim O'Donnell

7:47 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said earlier this week that she did not believe the British people supported a second Brexit referendum. A massive anti-Brexit demonstration held in London on Saturday poked some holes in that theory.

The Guardian reports that the protest's organizers estimate that 1 million people took to the streets for the "Put it to the People" march, which demanded that Parliament grant a second EU withdrawal referendum. It is being considered one of the biggest protests in British history, per BBC, although specific attendance numbers have not been confirmed. Protesters carried EU flags and donned blue and yellow garb to signify their support for remaining in the Union.

The march took place just days after the EU agreed to an extension of Article 50, which will now trigger the U.K.'s exodus from the EU on April 12 — with or without a deal. May, who has so far been unable to secure a withdrawal agreement, has faced renewed calls for her resignation. Tim O'Donnell

March 23, 2019

Attorney General William Barr is reviewing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on whether President Trump's campaign colluded with Russian election interference, a source familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Saturday. Barr is expected to reveal the principle conclusions of the report soon. Meanwhile, per AP, House Democrats have scheduled a conference call for Saturday to strategize over how they will proceed. As everything winds down, here are three pressing questions that remain about the Mueller investigation.

How much will Barr reveal? To state the obvious, it remains unclear just how much information the attorney general will make available to the public. Barr is under no obligation to provide any aspect of the report, but there are also no laws that prevent him from doing so. Earlier in March, Congress voted unanimously to make the report public.

Will Mueller testify? Congressional investigations into the Trump administration will continue regardless of the Mueller report's conclusions. But how much will Congress rely on Mueller going forward? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee chair, said on Friday that his committee could call on Mueller to testify before them if the report is not made fully available to Congress.

Is this really the last major legal threat to Trump's presidency? The White House was reportedly feeling very confident about the conclusion of Mueller's investigation. But an undisclosed number of federal and state investigations grew out of Mueller's work that will continue to lurk behind the Trump presidency. These include the prosecution of Trump political adviser Roger Stone, as well as inquiries into the business dealings of close Trump associates like Elliott Broidy and Thomas J. Barrack. No matter how it shakes out, it is therefore unlikely that Trump will be fully in the clear. Tim O'Donnell

March 23, 2019

Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to Congress on Friday, informing lawmakers that the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller had reached its conclusion and the final report is now under Barr's review.

The letter did not divulge much — indeed, Barr announced that he would brief Congress more thoroughly "as soon as this weekend." But one of the key pieces information about the process came to light precisely because it was not mentioned in the letter. Per special counsel investigation regulations, The Washington Post reports, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were required to, first and foremost, alert Congress when the investigation was complete. Beyond that, the only requirement is to "provide a description and explanation" of any action by the special counsel that the Attorney General deemed "inappropriate or unwarranted."

Barr's initial letter, therefore, would indicate that the Department of Justice did not, over the course of the last two years, block Mueller and his team from investigating anyone. In other words, there does not appear to have been any executive interference.

"There were no such instances during the Special Counsel's Investigation," Barr wrote in the letter. Read the full analysis at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

March 23, 2019

The king will get some extra rest this year.

For the first time since 2005, the NBA playoffs will not feature LeBron James, whose teams had appeared in 13 straight postseasons, including eight straight trips to the NBA Finals.

James' Los Angeles Lakers were officially eliminated from contention following Friday evening's 111-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Los Angeles dropped to 31-41 overall with 10 games remaining in the regular season.

It's the sixth year in a row that the Lakers, who signed James during the offseason, have missed the postseason. Before the current streak of futility, the storied franchise missed the playoffs only five times during its first 65 seasons in the league, Per ESPN.

Despite the lack of team success and having to deal with a mid-season injury, James still put up his usual prolific numbers, averaging 27.4 points, 8.1 assists, and 8.5 rebounds per game on the year.

"I'm probably going to have a conversation with the coaching staff and my trainer and go from there," James said. "But I love to hoop. S---, I'm going to have five months and not play the game." Tim O'Donnell

March 23, 2019

The Mueller report is now in the hands of Attorney General William Barr and the early reaction both inside the White House and from analysts is that things are looking good for the Trump administration — especially because Special Counsel Robert Mueller is not recommending any further indictments as a result of the nearly two-year investigation.

CNN legal expert Jeffrey Toobin said the lack of indictments is "unambiguously good news" for the White House.

MSNBC's Chris Matthews, meanwhile, expressed incredulity that the investigation concluded without Mueller directly interviewing Trump, though NBC News reporter Ken Dilanian explained that Trump likely would have invoked the Fifth Amendment regardless.

CBS News' Major Garrett reported that Trump's attorneys also are expecting the investigation to end in the president's favor.

"The special counsel's office is essentially shuttered and they believe not only legally, but importantly politically, the president will be found to be largely, if not completely in the clear," Garret said.

CNN's Jim Acosta likewise reported that the White House was celebrating the news "quietly," but "with a fair amount of glee." Acosta said a Trump campaign adviser told him, "This was a great day for America and we won." Tim O'Donnell

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