×
November 10, 2018

Ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a final memo to limit federal oversight of police forces accused of abusive and unconstitutional conduct on his way out the door.

Signed Wednesday, Sessions' last day in office, and published by the Justice Department late Thursday, the memo expands the criteria under which the DOJ will enter court-enforced "consent decrees" with police departments to change their policies and break patterns of misconduct. It is no longer enough to establish the department has repeatedly engaged in unconstitutional behavior, and decrees which are approved will have a sunset provision of three years or less.

"This memo seals Sessions' legacy as an obstructionist when it comes to advancing justice, promoting reform, and protecting the rights of victims of discrimination," said Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Under the Obama administration, the DOJ entered consent decrees with police in places like Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of Michael Brown, and Baltimore, Maryland, after the death of Freddy Gray.

Sessions has a long record of opposing criminal justice reform efforts. As attorney general he pushed for longer prison sentences, increased civil asset forfeiture, and sought to do away with a policy implemented by the Obama administration that allowed states to legalize marijuana without significant oversight or interference by federal law enforcement. Bonnie Kristian

November 14, 2018

After being arrested Wednesday on suspicion of domestic violence, lawyer Michael Avenatti called the allegations "completely bogus."

Avenatti, who represents adult film star Stormy Daniels, has been a cable news mainstay for the last year. After being arrested in West Los Angeles, Avenatti was booked into jail and released on a $50,000 bond. In a statement, Avenatti thanked Los Angeles Police Department officers for "their professionalism," and denied the "completely bogus" allegations. "I have never been physically abusive in my life nor was I last night," he said. "Any accusations to the contrary are fabricated and meant to do harm to my reputation. I look forward to being fully exonerated."

Avenatti also spoke to reporters, saying he's "not going to be intimidated from stopping what I am doing. I am a father to two beautiful, smart daughters. I would never disrespect them by touching a woman inappropriately or striking a woman." When the news first broke about his arrest, TMZ reported that a law enforcement official said Avenatti's estranged wife, Lisa Storie-Avenatti, filed the report on Tuesday night. Storie-Avenatti's lawyer released a statement saying she was not the woman involved, and "states that there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and that she has never known Michael to be physically violent toward anyone." Catherine Garcia

November 14, 2018

"After eight years of impotence, the House Democrats are back in command," Trevor Noah said on Wednesday's Daily Show. "And it turns out that they won the election so hard last week, that they're still picking up seats. Every day we learn of a new seat that the Democrats have won. Basically the elections have turned from a one-day event into the credits of a Marvel movie — it just never ends."

"So now that the Democrats are back in control of the House," bolstered by a freshman class so diverse "it looks like a stock photo in a college brochure," they're "making some big plans for next year," Noah said. "The Democrats will have the power to investigate the Trump administration, and they're definitely planning to use that power," even coining the new phrase "subpoena cannon." "Poor Trump," he said. "For the next two years, he's gonna be in subpoena hell. There's gonna be subpoenas popping out at him from everywhere."

And the Democrats say they plan to investigate everything, though Trevor said he hoped "the plan isn't just to run around investigating all of Trump's farts. Because although there are many issues worth investigating, things like Space Force don't rise to that level. And Democrats need to be strategic about what they investigate, because Republicans have already come up with a response" — turning "government oversight" into "presidential harassment." Noah laughed at the idea that "the most powerful man in the world be the victim," then pretended to get serious.

"We joke around, but presidential harassment is a serious issue in America," Noah deadpanned. "Which is why, before the Democrats take power, they're going to have to watch this video." Michael Kosta narrates, and you can watch it below. Peter Weber

November 14, 2018

The Camp Fire in Northern California's Butte County, the deadliest blaze in state history, has killed at least 56 people, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials said on Wednesday evening.

The death toll is expected to grow even higher, as dozens of people remain missing and crews with cadaver dogs are looking in the rubble of destroyed homes for remains. The fire obliterated the town of Paradise, where most of the victims lived. Officials said 10,300 structures have burned and more than 138,000 acres were scorched. As of Wednesday night, the fire is 35 percent contained. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but about two dozen people who lost their homes have sued Pacific Gas & Electric Co., claiming the utility did not maintain or properly inspect power lines, and their negligence led to the fire.

In Southern California, the Woolsey Fire continues to burn in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, but the Santa Ana winds are not as strong as they were, which has helped firefighters. The cause of that fire, which has destroyed 482 structures, remains under investigation. About 98,362 acres — roughly the size of Denver — have burned, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Despite a flare-up early in the morning, the fire is 52 percent contained. The death toll from the Woolsey Fire now stands at three. Catherine Garcia

November 14, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators are looking into whether Republican operative Roger Stone, one of President Trump's longtime advisers, attempted to intimidate a witness, people who have spoken with Mueller's team told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

Stone has said radio host Randy Credico was his link to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Credico, who appeared before Mueller's grand jury in September, denies this. Before the 2016 presidential election, WikiLeaks released emails stolen from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta. Mueller's probe is trying to determine if Stone was in contact with WikiLeaks and knew this was going to happen ahead of time. During the campaign, Stone said multiple times the emails were coming, but now says he was exaggerating and knew things because of Credico.

Witnesses told the Journal they were asked by the Mueller team about allegedly threatening messages Stone sent to Credico, telling him he was going to "sue the f—k" out of him and calling him a "loser a liar and a rat." One of the witnesses, businessman Bill Samuels, told the Journal Credico was rattled by the messages, and almost had a nervous breakdown. Credico, who interviewed Assange in the summer of 2016, said he told some people he was a "back channel" to Assange at the urging of Stone, and now, his former friend his having his associates "slime" him. Read more about the bad blood between Stone and Credico and the questions Mueller asked witnesses about them at The Wall Street Journal. Catherine Garcia

November 14, 2018

One day after first lady Melania Trump's office called for her to get the boot, Mira Ricardel is no longer the deputy national security adviser.

"Mira Ricardel will continue to support the president as she departs the White House to transition to a new role within the administration," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Wednesday evening. "The president is grateful for Ms. Ricardel's continued service to the American people and her steadfast pursuit of his national security priorities."

On Tuesday, the first lady's communications director, Stephanie Grisham, released a statement blasting Ricardel, saying she "no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House." Sanders, White House chief of staff John Kelly, and other administration officials were all shocked by the statement, CNN reports.

A person familiar with the situation said during Melania Trump's trip to Africa in October, Ricardel fought with her staff over several things, including who would sit where on the plane. Ricardel was a key ally of National Security Adviser John Bolton, but often clashed with Kelly and his deputy, Zach Fuentes, as well as Defense Secretary James Mattis. CNN reports that Kelly and Fuentes believe Ricardel leaked negative stories about them, and she angered Mattis by blocking some of his choices to fill Pentagon positions, because they were former Obama administration officials. Catherine Garcia

November 14, 2018

Lisa Storie-Avenatti, the wife of Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti, is refuting reports that she was involved in a domestic dispute that led to Avenatti's arrest Wednesday in Los Angeles.

TMZ first reported Avenatti's arrest on suspicion of domestic violence Wednesday afternoon, saying his estranged wife was injured and filed a report against him on Tuesday. Storie-Avenatti's lawyer quickly released a statement to BuzzFeed News, saying that the TMZ article "is not true as it pertains to my client." Storie-Avenatti "was not subject to any such incident on Tuesday night," the attorney said. "Further, she was not at Mr. Avenatti's apartment on the date that this alleged incident occurred. My client states that there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and that she has never know Michael to be physically violent toward anyone."

In an update to the original article, TMZ says initially a law enforcement official told the outlet the "alleged victim was Avenatti's estranged wife. We now know it was not. The incident involved a different woman." Avenatti filed for divorce last November. Catherine Garcia

November 14, 2018

President Trump on Wednesday announced he is in favor of a bipartisan proposal to rewrite the country's prison and sentencing laws.

"It's the right thing to do," he said during an event at the White House. Called the First Step Act, this tentative legislative package adds to a prison overhaul bill the House passed earlier this year. It includes shortening mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug offenses and changes the "three strikes" penalty from life in prison to 25 years, The New York Times reports. It will also roll back some of the federal policies from the 1980s and 1990s that disproportionately affect blacks and fund anti-recidivism programs.

Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is the biggest proponent of the package in the administration, and presented the deal to Trump on Tuesday. Trump urged Congress to agree to a final bill quickly so he can sign it. There are 2.2 million prisoners in the United States. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads