June 4, 2018

President Trump's "numerous legal scholars" apparently aren't on the same page as the Justice Department.

Trump took to Twitter on Monday to claim his "absolute right" to grant himself a presidential pardon, though he said it would be unnecessary as he has "done nothing wrong." He cited "numerous legal scholars" to back his claim.

However, as Bloomberg reporter Steven Dennis pointed out, that wasn't the case at the end of former President Richard Nixon's time in office. "Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself," the Department of Justice declared in 1974. The DOJ spelled it out just four days before Nixon resigned, explaining that the president's pardoning power "does not extend to the president himself."

Trump's claim echoed that of his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who also said without evidence that Trump "probably" has the power to pardon himself. When Nixon was facing impeachment, however, the DOJ decided that only Congress would be allowed to grant a president a pardon in certain cases. Summer Meza

11:30 a.m.

Empire actor Jussie Smollett has just had all of the charges against him dropped.

Smollett, who was hit with 16 felony counts after police said he staged a fake hate crime against himself, was called in for an emergency court appearance on Tuesday, and his lawyers subsequently confirmed that all of the criminal charges against him have been dropped, per BuzzFeed News. They also said that "his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him."

Police said last month that Smollett staged an attack against himself because he was dissatisfied with his salary on Empire. He allegedly wrote a $3,500 check to two brothers in exchange for them helping him carry out the supposed hate crime.

Smollett continued to maintain his innocence, though, and his lawyers said in a statement on Tuesday that he "was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgement." They also maintained that Smollett was "attacked by two people he was unable to identify on Jan. 29."

The details of what resulted in these charges being dropped have not yet been revealed, but the Cook County State's Attorney's Office said in a statement per The Hollywood Reporter that "after reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett's volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the city of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case." Smollett's family said in a statement per BuzzFeed that "we are grateful that the truth about Jussie has come to light." Brendan Morrow

This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout.

11:16 a.m.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new beard and a new mission.

On Tuesday, the former California governor took to Washington, D.C. as the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case regarding how two states drew their congressional districts. Schwarzenegger is very firmly in the anti-gerrymander camp, and, ignoring the possibility of a copyright violation, repeatedly declared Tuesday that we should "terminate gerrymandering."

The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday about congressional maps in North Carolina and Maryland, which plaintiffs argue were drawn to benefit the state legislatures' ruling parties. Gerrymandering has been a hallmark issue of Schwarzenegger's post-governator life, an absurdity that he acknowledged while speaking in front of the Supreme Court. When Schwarzenegger "came to this great country ... 50 years ago," he said he never imagined he'd be "standing in front of the Supreme Court" to "fight gerrymandering." And yet here he is, making a groan-worthy joke that somehow only got cheers.

Schwarzenegger dashed off before he could reference another action classic. But don't worry, he'll be back later on Tuesday, appearing at the National Press Club to talk more about redistricting. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:06 a.m.

President Trump's good week just keeps getting better.

Late Monday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said he'd let the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers use up to $1 billion of the military's budget to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The approval came in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, which specified that the money would go toward fencing, road improvements, and lighting near the border, CNN details.

In his letter, Shanahan specified that the $1 billion will fund 57 miles of "18-foot-high pedestrian fencing," per Bloomberg. It'll specifically be used "within the Yuma and El Paso Sectors of the border," and will also go toward "constructing and improving roads and installing lighting" in the area, Shanahan wrote. A league of Democratic senators quickly teamed up to write a response to Shanahan, saying he didn't ask congressional defense committees for approval before okaying the fund transfer.

Trump has long discussed using military money to build his border wall after Congress continually rejected his pleas for wall funding. Congress did give him $1.3 billion in the most recent budget, but Trump still declared a national emergency in an attempt to secure a few more billion dollars.

The Trump victory comes after Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not draw a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, and after Attorney General William Barr decided not to charge the president on that crime. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:00 a.m.

Fox News' biggest stars are going on the offensive.

Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson took to the airwaves on Monday evening, just a day after Attorney General William Barr briefed Congress on the principal conclusions drawn from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's conduct surrounding Russian election interference in 2016. But they were not in a celebratory mood, despite the fact that they both said Barr's summary vindicates Trump — and them.

Instead, both hosts used the opportunity to lay into other networks, particularly CNN and MSNBC for peddling what they believe were lies — told deliberately to mislead audiences about the Mueller investigation, all in the name of conspiracy to increase viewership and profit. Hannity singled out a few publications like The Atlantic and The Huffington Post for writing headlines like "The Collusion with Russia Is in Plain Sight" and "Manafort indictment reveals Trump Russia Collusion," respectively. He expressed particular dismay that The New York Times and The Washington Post won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting on the investigation.

"I am pissed off and so should the rest of the country be over what has happened," Hannity said. "We were lied to over and over again." Hannity, who has been an ardent Trump supporter throughout the process, also said that he is going to "hold every liar, every propagandist, every conspiracy theorist accountable."

Carlson expressed similar sentiments of anger toward the media. But he had a secret weapon — a leftist. The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald appeared as a guest on Carlson's show. Greenwald is, to put it gently, not of the same political persuasion as Carlson. But he is also known for being at odds with Democrats and a large swath of the media and over its coverage of the Mueller investigation, and he had some choice words for MSNBC and Rachel Maddow in particular. Tim O'Donnell

9:49 a.m.

The first all-female spacewalk at the International Space Station was planned for March 29 with astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch, but it's now off because NASA doesn't have the proper spacesuit size available for McClain.

As NASA explains, McClain "learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso — essentially the shirt of the spacesuit — fits her best." Since Koch also wears a medium, and only one suit in that size will be ready by Friday, the mission will now consist of Koch and a male astronaut, Nick Hague. NASA says that McClain is "tentatively scheduled" for a spacewalk on April 8 with a male astronaut, David Saint-Jacques.

While it might sound odd that McClain would just now be finding out what the right size for her is, Engadget points out that "there is no way to simulate the extended effects of zero gravity" on the body beforehand, also observing that McClain said in early March she had grown by two inches since she launched. And there actually are two medium sizes on the station; it's just that only one is configured for a spacewalk, and the other won't be ready in time for Friday, The New York Times reports.

NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz told The Washington Post that despite this setback, the first all-female spacewalk is "inevitable." Brendan Morrow

8:42 a.m.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has revealed details of her proposal to give public school teachers a raise.

The 2020 Democrat is proposing an increase in federal spending with the goal of funding an average salary increase of $13,500 for public school teachers by the end of her first four years in office, CNN reports. The Harris campaign says this will cost $315 billion over 10 years, and she plans to pay for it with changes to estate tax, per NBC News.

Harris' proposal involves the federal government in the first year providing 10 percent of the funding to states to close what she has described as the salary gap between teachers and other college-educated graduates, Vox explains. States would receive incentives to contribute, and in subsequent years, the federal government would provide $3 for every $1 from the state.

Harris said during a recent speech per The Wall Street Journal that with this proposal, the question is "what's the return on the investment," and "on this, the investment will be our future." Brendan Morrow

7:42 a.m.

MMA fighter Conor McGregor just announced his retirement — for the second time.

McGregor, who earned himself a six-month suspension in January for his role in a post-fight brawl after UFC 229, announced early on Tuesday that he is retiring "from the sport formally known as 'Mixed Martial Art.'" He added that he wishes "all my old colleagues well going forward in competition" and now joins "my former partners on this venture, already in retirement."

But no one was sure whether to take McGregor's announcement at face value, especially because he previously said he was retiring in 2016. "I have decided to retire young," he tweeted at the time. McGregor took this back just two days later, but his retirement could be real this time, with the phrasing of his tweet suggesting he could continue his career in boxing or wrestling. It's a real boy-who-cried-wolf scenario.

McGregor's Tuesday announcement also came just hours after his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, during which he said he's "in talks" for his next UFC fight in July and that he's "ready" for it, although "we'll see what happens" because "there's a lot of politics." The timing led fans to speculate McGregor's retirement announcement is simply a negotiating tactic.

UFC President Dana White reacted to McGregor's news Tuesday by saying that "it totally makes sense" and that "if I was him, I would retire too," per MMA Junkie. It remains to be seen how real all of this is, but if this retirement announcement is anything like the previous one, we may only need to wait two days to find out. Brendan Morrow

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