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November 17, 2018

Democrat Andrew Gillum has officially ended his bid for Florida governor, conceding to former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) in a Saturday Facebook video.

The progressive Tallahassee mayor was expected to be the state's first black governor, seeing as he consistently polled ahead of the President Trump-backing DeSantis. Election Day results were far tighter, and Gillum actually conceded that night after DeSantis secured 49.9 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

But after reports showed votes in some Democratic strongholds, including the notorious Broward County, had not yet been counted, Gillum retracted his concession. A gap of just 34,000 votes, or 0.41 percent, between Gillum and DeSantis triggered a recount. DeSantis eventually finished with 49.6 percent of the vote to Gillum's 49.2 percent, per The New York Times.

Gillum reflected the protracted ballot-counting process in his concession video, calling for updates to Florida's voting system.

Gillum's concession comes after Trump tweeted congratulations to the Democrat for "running a tough race" Saturday morning. Florida's Senate race between current Gov. Rick Scott (R) and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is still undergoing a manual recount. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:15 a.m.

Last month, Empire actor Jussie Smollett "said he was attacked by racist Trump supporters who beat him up, tied a rope around his neck, and poured bleach on him," Trevor Noah recapped on Tuesday's Daily Show. "But now police have found two Nigerian brothers who claim Jussie paid them to stage the attack. Now, the police searched their house and they found bleach, they found masks, and they found rope, so this is like the shortest CSI episode ever. ... I'm surprised they didn't also find a book called Faking Hate Crimes for Dummies."

Noah ran through more details with correspondent Jaboukie Young-White, who as a gay black actor like Smollett was both "disappointed" and also eager to try out for the Lifetime movie, or maybe Smollett's spot on Empire. "We're still piecing together leaks from the Chicago Police Department and more reliable sources like TMZ, but you couldn't have written a crazier plot," Young-White said. "I mean, Trump supporters who watch Empire?" He got serious about "gay panic" laws in 47 states that allow men lighter sentences for beating or killing LGBTQ men by claiming they were hitting on them. "Imagine if women could use that defense?" he said. "There would be no men left." (There's NSFW language.)

Whether Smollett is lying or telling the truth, "right now the story just doesn't make sense," Noah told the audience between scenes. "Like, why are two Nigerian guys walking around in Chicago's freezing weather and then shouting 'This is MAGA country'? That's a weird thing to shout as a Nigerian person." Either way, "this is a home run" for President Trump, "because so many people jumped on board before they even waited to see what it was about," he said. "We live in a world where people are too enthusiastic at jumping at stories that confirm their biases, instead of just pausing and going: What do I make of the story?" Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

"Hello, I'm Bernie Sanders and I'm yelling for president of the United States," Jimmy Fallon said on Tuesday's Tonight Show, recreating Tuesday morning's presidential campaign announcement by the Vermont senator. "Dozens of my fellow Democrats have already announced that they are running, but ... I have the most experience — literally. I am older than all 20 of them combined." Fallon's Sanders explained he was "speaking in all-caps" because "we need change, and that's why I'm asking you to elect me, the guy who did this three years ago and lost."

"Bernie made his campaign announcement this morning in the most Bernie way possible, on Vermont Public Radio," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. "After that he made it official by posting a flier on his local co-op bulletin board." Sanders finished second in 2016, but the 2020 field is much bigger, and much more diverse. "Here's the point: Bernie's not young," Colbert said. "But he's right: The political landscape has changed; the majority of Democratic candidates this time around have joined his revolution. He's not just Bernie Sanders — he's Grey Guevara!"

Sanders "would become the oldest American president ever — yes, and I mean that literally: He was born a few months before George Washington," Trevor Noah joked at The Daily Show. "But don't let Bernie's age fool you; this guy is as feisty as ever." He cheered Sanders' verbal middle finger to Howard Schultz, laughing: "Yo, I've missed Bernie so much."

Noah quickly switched to a fond rundown of the "scandals" plaguing the rest of the Democratic field: Kirsten Gillibrand eating chicken "wrong," Kamala Harris listening to rap in the wrong decade, and most scandalous of all, Cory Booker being "a healthy eater." President Trump's "scandals are so massive and exhausting — it's like, sex with a porn star, conflicts of interest, corruption, his Cabinet — it's been refreshing to have old-school silly scandals again," he said. Still, he laughed "I feel so bad for people who take Fox News seriously — it's got to be so much work." Watch below. Peter Weber

1:30 a.m.

Scientists were thrilled to discover 10 rare burrowing owls earlier this month in an unexpected location: the edge of Los Angeles International Airport.

Several decades ago, the airport bought a development called Surfridge and demolished all of the houses. The empty land became the 302-acre LAX Dunes Preserve, which is now home to 900 plant and animal species, many of them endangered. Scientists say that the owls — the most seen there in 40 years — are a sign that a restoration project that began in the 1990s is a success. "This is very exciting — a real stunner," biologist Pete Bloom told the Los Angeles Times.

Planes roar over the fenced-in preserve, which is not open to the public. Volunteers coordinate with the airport to come in and clean up invasive weeds, helping make the preserve a place where different species can settle. In addition to the burrowing owls, researchers have recently spotted El Segundo blue butterflies, as well as California gnatcatchers, Blainville's horned lizards, and six legless lizards. They were overjoyed by that discovery, as legless lizards are hard to find and haven't been studied much. Catherine Garcia

12:37 a.m.

CNN has hired Sarah Isgur, a longtime Republican political operative and recent Justice Department spokeswoman, as a political editor helping to steer the network's 2020 campaign coverage. The hire, first reported by Politico, caught CNN's editorial staff by surprise, not just because her résumé is full of partisan advocacy but also because it contains no experience in journalism or managing a TV news operation. She has also publicly disparaged the news media, including CNN. "It's extremely demoralizing for everyone here," one CNN editorial staffer told The Daily Beast.

CNN officials said Isgur will be one of several editors directing coverage of the Democratic primary and President Trump's re-election campaign at the network, reporting to political director David Chalian, and she'll also occasionally offer analysis on air. She will apparently not be involved in coverage of the Justice Department. TV networks often hire political operatives and politicians as analysts and program hosts, but it is very rare to bring them on to direct political news coverage.

Before joining the Trump administration as the top spokeswoman for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Isgur served as a political adviser to Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney, was deputy communications director at the Republican National Committee, and served as deputy campaign manager for Carly Fiorina's presidential campaign. Thanks to comments she made about Trump while working for Fiorina, she had to personally pledge loyalty to Trump before he would allow Sessions to hire her, The Washington Post reported in April 2018. Peter Weber

12:33 a.m.

After denying it for years, the federal government admitted that it shares the Terrorist Screening Database — better known as the terrorist watch list — with private entities, The Associated Press reports.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit on behalf of several Muslims who say that because their names are wrongfully on the list, they have had to deal with harassment at airports and scrutiny from law enforcement. In September, a government lawyer said during a pre-trial hearing that the Terrorist Screening Center "does not work with private partners" and the list is "considered law enforcement sensitive information and is not shared with the public."

Earlier this month, Terrorist Screening Center Deputy Director of Operations Timothy Groh admitted in a written statement that 1,441 private groups have been granted access to the watchlist. Groh said that in order to receive permission, an organization must be somehow connected to the criminal justice system, AP reports. The government will not reveal how many people are on the list, but has said there are hundreds of thousands of names added every year, and names are regularly removed.

While the list is supposed to only include the names of known or suspected terrorists, critics say people are routinely added that have no ties to terrorism, and this hurts them. A lawyer for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Gadeir Abbas, has asked that the government explain in court which groups have access to the list, and what they are doing with it. "We've always suspected that there was private-sector dissemination of the terror watchlist, but we had no idea the breadth of the dissemination would be so large," he told AP. Catherine Garcia

February 19, 2019

Don Newcombe, a star pitcher for the Dodgers, died Tuesday, following a long illness. He was 92.

Dodgers president Stan Kasten said in a statement that Newcombe's "presence and life established him as a role model for major leaguers across the country. He was a constant presence at Dodger Stadium and players always gravitated toward him for his endless advice and friendship." Sandy Koufax said Newcombe was "a mentor at first, a friend at the end. He will be missed by anyone who got to know him."

After getting his start in the Negro Leagues, Newcombe broke barriers as one of the first black pitchers in Major League Baseball. Newcombe played for 10 seasons, starting with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949, and in 1956 he won the inaugural Cy Young Award and National League MVP. Following his retirement, Newcombe disclosed that he had a drinking problem, and after becoming sober in the 1960s, he raised awareness about alcohol abuse. He later worked with the Dodgers as director of community affairs and later special adviser to the team's chairman. Catherine Garcia

February 19, 2019

President Trump is nominating Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general, the White House announced Tuesday night.

Rosen, the deputy transportation secretary, served in the George W. Bush administration. Last week, William Barr was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in as attorney general, and people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News that Barr picked Rosen; both worked at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. In a statement, Barr said Rosen's "years of outstanding legal and management experience make him an excellent choice to succeed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has served the Department of Justice over many years with dedication and distinction."

Rosenstein is reportedly expected to leave the Justice Department in mid-March. After Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Rosenstein appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017. Catherine Garcia

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