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October 8, 2018

In news that Taylor Swift 100 percent does not care about, President Trump announced on Monday that he likes her music "about 25 percent less" after she endorsed two Tennessee Democratic candidates.

On Sunday night, Swift, a resident of Nashville, posted on Instagram that she was voting for Tennessee Democrats Phil Bredesen for Senate and Rep. Jim Cooper for the U.S. House. Bredesen is a former governor, and his opponent is Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn. Blackburn voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and says businesses have the right to refuse service to gay couples, and Swift said her record "appalls and terrifies me."

When asked about Swift's endorsements, Trump told reporters that Blackburn is "doing a very good job," and "I'm sure Taylor Swift has nothing, or doesn't know anything about her." While he's not quite ready to chuck his 1989 CD into the trash, Trump did add, "Let's say that I like Taylor's music about 25 percent less now, okay?" Catherine Garcia

5:31 a.m.

According to Attorney General's summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report, as well as previous Mueller court documents, Russia ran two sophisticated campaigns to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign on President Trump's behalf. But you wouldn't know that from the "gloating" that's "already begun in Moscow," says Nathan Hodge at CNN.

"In short, Russia did not elect Trump," Evgeny Popov, co-host of a pro-Kremlin political talk show, tweeted. "Mueller did not find evidence of collusion between Trump's team with Russia. The U.S. attorney general submitted a 4-page report on the special prosecutor's investigation report to Congress. D is for Disappointment." Alexey Pushkov, a high-profile Russian senator, called Democrats "conspiracy theory maniacs."

On CNN Sunday night, former counter-intelligence officer Steve Hall posited one reason for Russia to cheer the Mueller report. "The Russians are probably a bit surprised at how broad they can go, and next time they go against us in a hybrid-warfare type of fashion, at the very least in 2020, they’ll know that they can probably push a little bit further," he told Don Lemon. "What they’ve learned is due to our system of justice, due to our open society and how things work here, they actually have a lot more room to work with, and still people aren’t going to be thrown into jail — or, at least, the most important people aren't going to be accused of the worst things."

In fact, the danger Russia poses to America's democracy seems to be the one thing both parties — at least in Congress — can agree on from Mueller's report. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) welcomed Mueller's "contributions to our efforts to understand better" Russia's "dangerous and disturbing" and "ongoing efforts to interfere with our democracy." The No. 2 Senate Republican, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), said the Russians "have and always will try to create problems for democracies. We need to expose it and defeat it." Peter Weber

3:30 a.m.

The obvious highlight for President Trump from Attorney General William Barr's four-page summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is this sentence from Mueller's report: "[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities," expressly or tacitly. Translated by Trump and his circle, that reads: NO COLLUSION.

But "Trump's triumphant supporters notwithstanding, we don't yet know what that means," former federal prosecutor Ken White explains at The Atlantic:

When prosecutors say that an investigation "did not establish" something, that doesn't mean that they concluded it didn't happen, or even that they don't believe it happened. It means that the investigation didn't produce enough information to prove that it happened. Without seeing Mueller's full report, we don't know whether this is a firm conclusion about lack of coordination or a frank admission of insufficient evidence. [Ken White, The Atlantic]

Barr also cites only Mueller's lack of evidence that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with "Russia's government," William Saletan notes at Slate. This would appear to leave out several key interactions with Russians, like Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort secretly giving reams of polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, or Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner meeting in Trump Tower with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was purportedly offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Similarly, Barr limits the collusion exculpation to two specific Russian operations: the strategic, targeted manipulation social media and the hacking and dissemination of emails from Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Other apparent quid pro quo discussions "between Trump associates and Russians, such as Trump's Moscow tower project and Michael Flynn's secret talks about easing sanctions, have been set aside," Saletan argues. Barr's letter "doesn't show that Trump is innocent of collusion or obstruction. It shows that collusion and obstruction were defined to exclude what he did." Peter Weber

1:19 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a joint statement on Sunday, saying that the letter Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress giving his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report "raises as many questions as it answers."

According to Barr's letter, Mueller's report does not exonerate President Trump "on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice," and this "demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay," the Democratic leaders said. "Given Mr. Barr's public record of bias against the special counsel's inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report."

Pelosi and Schumer are referring to a memo Barr wrote last year and sent to senior Justice Department officials in June. Barr, at the time a private citizen, wrote that he thought Mueller's investigation into obstruction of justice was "fatally misconceived." Trump nominated Barr after firing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in November.

After the letter was released, Trump erroneously stated that the Mueller report "completely exonerated" him, and Pelosi and Schumer said Trump's statement "is not to be taken with any degree of credibility. Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise. The American people have a right to know." Catherine Garcia

12:28 a.m.

America's sharp polarization over President Trump has, fairly or unfairly, become incarnate in the marriage of George and Kellyanne Conway — a conservative lawyer who uses Twitter to vent about his disappointments with Trump and concerns about the president's mental health, on one hand, and Trump's senior counselor and most steadfast defender on cable news. The Conways had predictably different takeaways from Attorney General Robert Barr's four-page summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and any wrongdoing by the Trump campaign.

George Conway focused on the part of Barr's report that quotes Mueller as explicitly saying his report "does not exonerate" Trump of criminal obstruction of justice, suggesting that maybe America should have a higher bar for the presidency.

Kellyanne Conway ignored the part of the letter that explicitly did not exonerate Trump and focused instead on Mueller finding insufficient evidence to conclude Trump or his campaign colluded or conspired with the Russian government. In that sense, Mueller's unreleased report was "a gift for the 2020 election," Conway wrote, under a photo of Trump with his arm around her waist.

Former FBI Director James Comey, who appears to be living his best life, is focusing on nature and reserving judgment about Mueller's report.

Hopefully, the Conways get opportunities to set work aside for a salubrious walk in the woods, too. Peter Weber

12:28 a.m.

Jordan Peele's sophomore film, the horror flick Us, had a stunning opening weekend, bringing in an estimated $70.3 million in North American ticket sales.

The movie, which cost $20 million to make, soared above debut weekend forecasts of $38 to $45 million. Us had not only the largest debut for an original horror movie, but also one of the biggest openings for a live-action original film since Avatar came out in 2009.

Peele's directorial debut, 2017's Get Out, brought in $33.4 million in its domestic opening weekend. Captain Marvel, having spent the last two weeks at the top of the box office, fell to second place, with $35 million in ticket sales. Catherine Garcia

March 24, 2019

An election researcher in Florida found that 15 percent of mail-in ballots sent in for the midterm election by Parkland residents between the ages of 18 and 21 were not counted, exceeding the statewide average, The Washington Post reports.

A shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February 2018 killed 17 people, and students there quickly organized, calling for stricter gun laws and holding the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C.

Daniel A. Smith, chairman of the political science department at the University of Florida, looked at Florida's open-source voting file, and determined that about 1 in 7 mail-in ballots submitted by college-age voters in Parkland were not counted, because they either didn't arrive in time or were rejected for reasons like not having a signature that exactly matched voting records. Looking at all Florida voters between 18 and 21, Smith found about 5.4 percent of mail-in ballots went uncounted. For all ages, the statewide average of rejected or uncounted mail-in ballots was 1.2 percent, Smith told the Post.

"If you are voting in Florida, and you are young in Florida, you have a good chance of your ballot not being accepted," Smith said. "Imagine going to the ATM and every 10 times you go, instead of spitting out your money, they take it or they lose it." From February 2018 to Election Day, about 250 Parkland residents between the ages of 18 and 21 registered to vote, Smith said, and more than half voted in November, which is an unusually strong turnout of young voters during a midterm election, he told the Post. For more about Florida's highly scrutinized electoral system and the Parkland students upset that their votes weren't counted, visit The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

March 24, 2019

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL on Sunday, saying on Instagram he's "so grateful" for the time he spent on the team.

Gronkowski, 29, played nine seasons with the Patriots, and he thanked his teammates, fans, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Coach Bill Belichick for their support. "Now it's time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will truly be a part of my heart for [the] rest of my life," he said. A person with knowledge of the matter told ESPN that Gronkowski told Kraft about his decision in a phone call Sunday.

Quarterback Tom Brady praised Gronkowski on Instagram, calling it an "honor and privilege" to play with him. "You accomplished so much and our team was almost unbeatable when you were on the field!" he said. Gronkowski played 115 regular season games, with 521 receptions for 17,861 yards, and 16 playoff games, with 81 receptions for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns, records for a tight end. Catherine Garcia

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