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November 29, 2018

"You know, today's the first day I actually thought Donald Trump might not finish his term in office," CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told Anderson Cooper Thursday night, after a week of revelations about the Trump campaign and Russia. "Really?" Cooper asked. "I mean, I think this thing is enormous," Toobin said. He laid out a series of "preposterous" positions now being staked by President Trump, including that lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen negotiated Trump Organization deals in Russia for six months without telling Trump, that Trump and Roger Stone never discussed WikiLeaks, and that Don Jr. never talked to his father about the Trump Tower meeting with Kremlin-linked Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

"All of these are complementary to each other, and all of the stories that Trump is telling about them are preposterous," Toobin said. "And when you combine them all, the question becomes: When do Republicans start to turn on Trump? Because that's the only thing that's going to get Trump out of office, it's not going to be Democrats. And it's certainly not now, but there may be a point where it's too much."

Democratic strategist Paul Begala said he's "not there yet" on believing Trump won't finish out his term, because Trump needs to keep only 34 senators on his side and House Democrats say they won't impeach Trump unless Republicans ask them to. At the same time, he added, "I do worry, honestly, for our country that the president, this president, is too distracted, is too obsessed," and is "having a presidential panic attack" over Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. When he worked for Bill Clinton during the Whitewater investigation, Begala said, Clinton "found the work therapeutic, he would lose himself in the work."

Toobin also spells out the motive Cohen's plea deal reveals for Trump to make nice with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

7:23 p.m.

The leader of a New Mexico militia arrested on Saturday allegedly boasted that his organization, the United Constitutional Patriots, trained to assassinate former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros, a complaint filed over the weekend states.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, was arrested on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He is described as being the "commander" of the 20-member United Constitutional Patriots, a group that has been detaining migrant families crossing the southern border.

In the complaint, an FBI agent writes that someone called the agency's public tip line in October 2017, and said there was "alleged militia extremist activity" taking place in Hopkins' Flora Vista, New Mexico, home. This person also said Hopkins "allegedly made the statement that the United Constitutional Patriots were training to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama," claiming that they were supporting anti-fascist activists. Hopkins' attorney denies his client said this.

FBI agents visited Hopkins' house in November 2017, and saw 10 firearms. Hopkins showed them several other weapons, and said they belonged to his common law wife, Fay Sanders Murphy, the affidavit says. After this visit, FBI agents found out Hopkins had prior felony convictions, including being found guilty in 2006 of criminal impersonation of a peace officer. Hopkins remains in custody, pending a preliminary hearing April 29 in Albuquerque. Catherine Garcia

6:33 p.m.

The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to former White House Counsel Don McGahn on Monday, requesting he testify in front of the panel on May 21.

Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report "outlines substantial evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction and other abuses," and it's now up to Congress to "determine for itself the full scope of the misconduct and to decide what steps to take in the exercise of our duties of oversight, legislation, and constitutional accountability." McGahn, who spent 30 hours being interviewed by Mueller's team, was "a critical witness to many of the alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described in the Mueller report," Nadler said, and his testimony "will help shed further light" on Trump's "attacks on the rule of law, and his attempts to cover up those actions by lying to the American people and requesting others do the same."

The subpoena also gives McGahn until May 7 to hand over documents related to ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussing sanctions with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey; and possible pardons for Flynn, Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, and Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Catherine Garcia

5:38 p.m.

Herman Cain here.

Those rumors about why the 2012 GOP presidential candidate dropped out of the running to be President Trump's next Federal Reserve Board nominee? They're not true, and Cain is the "only source you need" to get the real story, he writes in an op-ed for the conservative Western Journal published Monday.

While Cain hadn't even been nominated for a Fed spot, Trump tweeted Monday that his "friend Herman Cain" had "asked me not to nominate him for a seat." It seemed reasonable, seeing as enough Senate Republicans had already said they'd vote against Cain to doom his nomination. There's also the fact that sexual misconduct allegations forced Cain out of the 2012 presidential race, though he has denied those allegations.

But amid these reasonable explanations surrounding Cain's withdrawal, Cain wants to assure you that "Twitter wasn't inside my mind over the course of the past weekend," he wrote in his op-ed. Cain was more worried about divesting from his business interests, cutting his radio show and Fox Business appearances, and taking sizable pay cut in the process, he said.

Of course, Cain "did like the idea of serving on the Fed," he enthusiastically continued. Yet he wondered if he'd "be giving up too much influence to get a little bit of policy impact," Cain wrote — he reaches "close to 4 million people a month" with his "current media activities," after all. And after thinking, praying, and even drafting a now-discarded op-ed about why he wanted to continue pursuing the nomination, Cain ultimately decided to withdraw.

Read Cain's whole blog post — and answer his question of "Did Herman do the right thing?" — at The Western Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:34 p.m.

Sri Lanka's military now has "sweeping" new powers following a series of bombings on Sunday that targeted luxury hotels and churches during Easter services, killing almost 300 people, The Associated Press reports. Officials are blaming a radical Islamist group for the attacks.

Sri Lanka's president, Maithripala Sirisena, granted the military a wider berth to arrest and detain suspects, per AP. The powers were reportedly in place during Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war, but were stripped away after the conflicted ended 10 years ago.

The decision is in line with the government's choice to enact a curfew and block some social media sites, including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, though the latter reportedly did little to "reassure residents and visitors that the danger had passed."

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would "vest all necessary powers with the defense forces" to prevent instability and act against those responsible.

A nationwide state of emergency began on Tuesday, along with a national day of mourning. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

4:48 p.m.

An alarming number of young e-cigarette users don't realize just how much nicotine they're exposed to when vaping, a new study has shown.

Published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics, new research revealed that adolescents were getting a high amount of nicotine even when they thought the products they were using were nicotine-free. The study surveyed more than 500 adolescents, and then performed urine tests on 284 of those, and eventually found that about 40 percent of teens who thought they were using nicotine-free products still tested positive.

While e-cigarettes are thought by some to be healthier than traditional cigarettes, nicotine is no less addictive in a Juul than in a Marlboro. And in many cases, vapers were found to be taking in similar levels of nicotine in their e-cigarettes compared to traditional cigarettes.

The addictive powers of nicotine are causing concern that the lack of awareness around e-cigarettes may lead to a "generation of addicted young people" who will vape for years to come, or even switch to more harmful traditional cigarettes, NBC News reported. "This may be a pathway into nicotine addiction" that nobody saw coming, explained Andrew Stokes, a professor of global health at Boston University.

Read more about this study's troubling conclusions at NBC News. Shivani Ishwar

4:47 p.m.

Trump's chief policy adviser Stephen Miller is well-known for his hawkish stance on immigration. But a new report from Politico highlights just how personal the matter is to him — to the point where he will reportedly take time to focus on a single migrant detainee's deportation.

Three current and former Department of Homeland Security officials told Politico Miller began calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement shortly after President Trump took office in 2017. He would reportedly insist that the agency include more details, including full names and pending criminal charges, in press releases about immigrants ICE apprehend.

Officials reportedly said nothing of the sort had ever been done before: unless the individuals had been convicted or charged, releasing such information would constitute a breach of personal privacy. But in 2017, an executive order issued by Trump concerning public safety contained a provision which excluded non-U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents from such privacy protections.

Administration officials largely resisted acting on the provision, per Politico. "We tried to protect as many people from Miller and his requests as possible," said a former DHS official. “When he started going lower and calling random career officials, we would have to go and say, 'If Stephen calls you, elevate it immediately and do not answer.'"

It all highlights Miller's "granular interest in the people crossing the U.S. border, and the unprecedented steps" the 31-year-old has taken to bring their personal information to light. Read the full report at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

4:28 p.m.

Marvel has been planting the seeds of its grand finale, Avengers: Endgame, for nearly a decade now — and there's no better example than a prescient scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The looming threat of Thanos hung over Joss Whedon's 2015 sequel, when Tony Stark was haunted by the fallout of the Chitauri alien invasion from the original Avengers. The man behind that invasion was none other than Thanos, who even then was seeking to obtain the six Infinity Stones and wipe out half the universe.

Tony's desire to protect the Earth from returning alien invaders is what inspires him to secretly build Ultron, an artificial intelligence program that goes awry. In a brief scene that sets up the primary conflict of Endgame years in advance and could easily inspire a callback, Tony defends his thinking.

"A hostile alien army came charging through a hole in space — we're standing 300 feet below it," Tony says. "We're the Avengers. We can bust arms dealers all the livelong day but that up there? That's the endgame. How were you guys planning on beating that?"

Steve Rogers responds, "Together." Tony retorts, "We'll lose," to which Steve says, "Then we'll do that together, too."

Earlier, Tony saw a vision of his fellow Avengers dying, apparently at the hands of this alien threat. He explains that the worst part of this nightmare wasn't that his friends were killed, but that he wasn't.

Four years later, the endgame Tony foresaw has arrived, and just as he feared, half of the Avengers were murdered in Infinity War while he survived. In Endgame, which derives its name partially from this scene, the Avengers will seek out a rematch against Thanos. Although they failed last time because they were split apart, this time, they may able to beat him just like Steve said: together. Brendan Morrow

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