September 24, 2018

Conflicting reports emerged Monday about whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had resigned from his post or was on the cusp of being fired. While it's still not entirely clear which is the truth, there's a significant difference between the two.

As Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake explained on Twitter, President Trump has the legal authority to nominate a replacement for Rosenstein if Rosenstein resigns — but his ability to hand-pick a successor is less clear if he fires Rosenstein. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act gives the president the ability to temporarily replace an official if the person in office "dies, resigns, or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office," per Politico. Legal experts note that the case of a firing is conspicuously absent from the law.

As Politico noted earlier this year, a similar situation arose when former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin left the administration. Shulkin himself said he was fired, creating a bit of a stir over whether Trump legitimately had the authority to nominate Robert Wilkie as acting secretary as he did, CNN reported at the time.

Several outlets, including CNN, are reporting that Rosenstein has not resigned and is instead heading to the White House expecting to be fired. Per Justice Department hierarchy, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco would be next in line to assume Rosenstein's role— and would take over Rosenstein's crucial responsibility of overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference. Brendan Morrow

4:26 p.m.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will release three women from the nondisclosure agreements he'd signed with them "to address complaints about comments they said I had made," his campaign announced Friday.

In a statement, Bloomberg said his company "identified 3 NDAs that we signed over the past 30-plus years with women," and that "if any of them want to be released from their NDA so that they can talk about those allegations, they should contact the company." And after "a lot of reflecting," Bloomberg pledged to no longer "offer confidentiality agreements to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct" while he was still running his company.

Bloomberg's choice is in no doubt influenced by Wednesday night's Democratic primary debate, where Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Bloomberg release women from their NDAs. Bloomberg said those women didn't "accuse me of doing anything; maybe they didn't like the joke I told."

Warren followed up by writing her own contract that Bloomberg could use to invalidate the NDAs and sharing it publicly on Thursday. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:13 p.m.

The jury in the Harvey Weinstein rape trial has indicated it's facing a potential deadlock on the most serious charges against him.

During the fourth day of deliberations on Friday, jurors in the Weinstein rape trial asked what they should do if they can't reach a verdict on the two predatory sexual assault charges, but can on the other three, Variety reports.

Weinstein is facing sexual assault and rape charges stemming from the allegations of Mimi Haleyi, who alleges Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006, and Jessica Mann, who alleges Weinstein raped her in 2013. But among the other accusers who testified was Annabella Sciorra, who alleges Weinstein raped her in 1993 or 1994.

Sciorra testified to support the two charges of predatory sexual assault, and it's her testimony that jurors have appeared to be focused on in recent days. On Friday, they revisited her cross-examination, and earlier in the week, they asked the judge to clarify why it is Weinstein didn't face charges specifically stemming from Sciorra's allegation. Her case is too old to prosecute, but the first count of predatory sexual assault relates to the allegations of Haleyi and Sciorra, while the second count relates to the allegations of Mann and Sciorra, The Wrap reports. Weinstein is also facing charges of criminal sexual act in the first degree, rape in the first-degree, and rape in the third-degree.

The prosecution on Friday said they wouldn't accept a "partial verdict," and the judge instructed jurors to continue deliberations, per The Hollywood Reporter. Not long after, the jury was dismissed for the day, with deliberations set to pick back up on Monday. Brendan Morrow

2:19 p.m.

Will another caucus catastrophe unfold this weekend in Nevada?

Democrats sure hope not, with a Nevada Democratic Party spokesperson telling NBC News that
"we have been working around the clock to ensure that what happened in Iowa will not happen here," also saying the party will be "taking no chances when it comes to reporting."

To that end, Nevada Democrats, NBC reports, have hired a call center with 200 paid operators to take in results on Saturday, with the party spokesperson saying steps like these should "ensure that our precinct chairs and site leads will be able to successfully report results on caucus day." In Iowa, problems arose both due to technical issues with an app and due to clogged phone lines that made it difficult to report results.

In a memo distributed to the 2020 campaigns, the Nevada state party's executive director said that a dedicated phone hotline will be the "primary source of the precinct caucus results," The New York Times reports. Precinct chairs, the memo said, will "call a hotline to securely report their results to a trained operator, will submit via text a photo of their caucus reporting sheet to state party staff through an established MMS reporting hub, and then they will return their caucus reporting sheet and other materials to their Site Lead."

The plan was originally for the Nevada caucus to use an app developed by the same company behind the disastrous Iowa app, but those plans, obviously, were ditched. Still, DNC Chair Tom Perez, who NBC reports will actually be on the ground for the caucus this time, earlier this week couldn't commit to the same-day release of the results, telling The Associated Press, "We're going to do our best to release results as soon as possible, but our North Star, again, is accuracy." Brendan Morrow

12:51 p.m.

The new horror sequel Brahms: The Boy II is, according to critics, pretty bad — and you can apparently thank Jared Kushner memes for its existence.

Director William Brent Bell in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Friday explained that the creepy doll sequel, a follow-up to his 2016 film The Boy, got off the ground specifically because there were so many memes comparing the doll to Kushner.

"That's when Lakeshore called me and said, you know, 'this is really taking on a life of its own now in the zeitgeist of pop culture," Bell explained. "You want to think about an idea for a sequel?'"

Bell further explained to UPI that producer Gary Lucchesi called him "after about six months" of The Boy-related Kushner memes proliferating online, as this proved that "the doll is still hanging around, so we have something that interested people." It was, evidently, memes first, sequel idea second.

Given the follow-up's dismal 8 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, there may be a lesson to be learned here: be careful when you meme. You may just inadvertently spawn a terrible horror movie. Brendan Morrow

11:50 a.m.

Attorney Gloria Allred would like Prince Andrew to give the FBI a ring.

Allred, who represents some of late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein's accusers, has reportedly paid to have a bus drive around London with an ad putting Prince Andrew on blast after prosecutors said he hasn't been cooperating with their Epstein investigation.

"If you see this man please ask him to call the FBI to answer their questions," an ad reads on the bus, which was seen driving near Buckingham Palace not long after Prince Andrew's birthday, The Wrap reports.

Last month, Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Prince Andrew has provided "zero cooperation" as they continue to investigate Epstein's co-conspirators. Virginia Roberts Giuffre has claimed Epstein forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17, a claim he has denied. He stepped back from public duties after his ties to Epstein came under scrutiny and after a widely-panned interview in which he said Epstein "conducted himself in a manner unbecoming."

When he decided to step back in November, Prince Andrew said he was "willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required." Allred in a press conference on Friday urged him to do just that, per The Guardian, saying, "I implore you, Prince Andrew. You must do the right thing and stop shaming your family — the Queen, your children. If you have done nothing wrong then just talk to the FBI."

11:32 a.m.

It's not that unusual to find bears wandering around towns and cities across the U.S., especially when those cities are right next to the hills where those bears live. But one not-so-unusually lumbering around Monrovia, California, on Thursday and Friday has sparked some atypical curiosity in the bear-friendly city.

The large, nameless bear has been spotted slowly making his way through yards and blocking traffic since Thursday night, not doing much besides sniffing out trash.

Nothing fazed the bear — not even a man getting way too close with his cell phone or some barking dogs behind a fence.

The bear eventually fell asleep in someone's backyard, reporter for local station KNX1070 Craig Fiegener learned from the California Fish and Wildlife Department. Officials from the department were planning to sneak into the yard, extend the bear's nap with a tranquilizer dart, and then return him to the woods where he belongs. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:26 a.m.

The search is on for a rebellious White House official — even though President Trump insists he knows who that person is.

Since an anonymous senior administration official first wrote a New York Times op-ed detailing an internal resistance in the White House, Trump's closest advisers — and Trump himself — have been trying to find out his or her identity. Top trade adviser Peter Navarro — for some reason — is now apparently leading the charge in blaming Deputy National Security Adviser Victoria Coates, but wouldn't confirm that reporting in a Friday interview with CNN.

The idea that Coates is Anonymous has been swirling in and out of the White House for weeks now as their book nears publication, Politico reports. Navarro wouldn't say he believed Coates was Anonymous when talking to CNN on Friday, but suggested "suspects are everywhere" before attacking the "so-called senior administration officials" apparently opposing Trump's agenda. Coates received a promotion from National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien back in November to become the deputy she is now.

It's unclear why a trade adviser is engaging in such political counter-espionage. It's also unclear why there needs to be a hunt at all, seeing as just on Tuesday, Trump said he knew who Anonymous was but "can't tell you" their identity. Kathryn Krawczyk

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