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January 15, 2019

President Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, was grilled for hours on Capitol Hill — yet plenty of Congress' key questions remained without definitive answers.

With hedging language thrown around left and right, here are some of the most non-committal responses from Barr so far that leave how he might act as attorney general somewhat unclear.

1. Barr didn't offer much in the way of his interpretation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution and how it might relate to President Trump, saying that there's a "dispute as to what the emoluments clause relates to" and that he has "not personally researched the emoluments clause" and "couldn't even tell you what it says," per Vox.

2. When asked to commit that the Justice Department under his leadership wouldn't "jail reporters for doing their jobs," Barr avoided doing so, saying he "can conceive of situations" where reporters might be imprisoned as a "last resort," The Daily Beast reports.

3. Asked about his statement in 1992 that Roe v. Wade will "fall," Barr didn't quite say Tuesday whether he still believes the landmark abortion case had been wrongly decided, but he told senators that the department had "stopped as a routine matter asking that it be overruled" and said "I don't see that being resumed," per CNN.

4. Barr at numerous points during the testimony would not commit to recusing himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe if his ethics officials told him to, saying he will not "surrender the responsibility" of the job, says The Washington Post. He also didn't say how much of the report would be made public and didn't commit to explaining potential changes he might make to it, per Talking Points Memo.

5. When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Barr whether waterboarding is torture, he said that he would "have to look at the legal definition" but that "right now, it's prohibited," per Vox. Brendan Morrow

9:49 a.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) plans are finally starting to pay off.

Just a day ahead of her headlining spot in the first Democratic debate, Warren has topped a primary poll released Tuesday of members of the progressive group MoveOn. She has earned 37.8 percent support among MoveOn members, putting her 21 points above the second-place challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), NBC News reports.

With Sanders in the pool, Warren's rise is a bit surprising. The progressive MoveOn members chose Sanders over Hillary Clinton in 2016, and he came in third behind "undecided" and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke in a 2020 poll conducted in December. Now, just two percent of MoveOn members say they're undecided on their first choice for a Democratic contender.

While the MoveOn poll is bad news for Sanders, it's even worse for former Vice President Joe Biden. He got 14.9 percent support from MoveOn members — a far cry from his usual top billing. He'll face off against Sanders on Thursday night's NBC debate of 10 Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, Warren will be the undisputed leader in her Wednesday night appearance, with O'Rourke her closest competitor.

The online poll was emailed to MoveOn members, who responded from June 17 to 21. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:48 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is reportedly preparing for the first Democratic debate by boning up on old Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) clips.

Biden and Sanders, the top two candidates in most Democratic primary polls, have been placed together in the second night of primary debates this week, and CNN reports the former vice president has been "viewing some of Sanders' exchanges with Clinton in 2016" and "trying to acquaint himself with Sanders' style."

Numerous campaign advisers who spoke with CNN said they're cautioning the candidates against directly attacking their fellow Democrats, and Sanders told CNN that he expects the debate to be "friendly" while promising that they'll be "debating the real issues facing the American people" and not getting "into personal controversy and gossip."

That doesn't mean there will be no engagement between the candidates at all, though, as Sanders added that "we are going to be contrasting out views with other people." That should include Biden, who Sanders has in recent months gotten in some digs at, in April interview encouraging voters to "take a look at my record versus" the former vice president's. This possible confrontation between the race's two frontrunners is set for June 27. Brendan Morrow

8:50 a.m.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in an address on Tuesday criticized President Trump's newly-imposed sanctions as "outrageous and idiotic" — and that's not all.

Trump on Monday signed an executive order imposing what he called "hard-hitting" new sanctions on Iran following its shooting down of a U.S. drone, saying the sanctions would deny Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others "access to key financial resources and support."

On Tuesday, Rouhani responded by saying the White House has become "mentally crippled," The Washington Post reports, also saying the administration is "afflicted by mental retardation," The Associated Press reports. The sanctions, Rouhani said, represent the Trump administration's "certain failure," and he asked, "You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?"

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman additionally warned that the sanctions indicate "the permanent closure of the doors of diplomacy," the Post reports. White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, meanwhile, says that Trump has "held the door open to real negotiations" and that "all that Iran needs to do is walk through that door." Brendan Morrow

7:57 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden came under fire last week for his comments about working with segregationists, but likely Democratic primary voters don't seem to much care.

Biden at an event recently touted his past ability to work with segregationist senators with whom he disagreed like James Eastland, saying they were able to get things done and that back then, "at least there was some civility." Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) called on Biden to apologize, but Biden doubled down, saying Booker is the one who should offer an apology.

Now, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 41 percent of likely Democratic primary voters said Biden's comments about working with segregationists would make no difference in their vote. In fact, 29 percent said it would actually make them more likely to vote for him, compared to 18 percent who said it would make them less likely to do so.

Overall, Biden's position at the top of the newest Morning Consult tracking poll has not changed at all since last week. In the survey taken from June 17 through June 23, he's still leading the pack with 38 percent support, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in second place with 19 percent. Biden's segregationist comments were made on June 19. Morning Consult for the poll spoke online with 16,188 registered voters who say they may vote in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Biden's comments have also not had much of an effect on black voters, according to the Politico/Morning Consult poll, as 30 percent said they'd be more likely to vote for him now, while 27 percent said it didn't make a difference and 20 percent said they're less likely to vote for him. Noting Biden's unchanged status in the race after a controversy-filled week, pollster Nate Silver observed, "you'll rarely go wrong by discounting how much the media controversy of the week will move the numbers." Brendan Morrow

7:40 a.m.

The New York Post, the conservative New York tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., published an article Friday on longtime New York-based columnist E. Jean Carroll's allegations that President Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room 23 years ago — and then it vanished Friday afternoon, as did an Associated Press article on Carroll's assault allegation. It turns out, CNN Business reported Monday night, the Post's former editor-in-chief, Col Allen, ordered the articles scrubbed.

Allen, a longtime Murdoch lieutenant and professed Trump supporter, rejoined the Post as an adviser earlier this year. As of Tuesday morning, there are no articles on Carroll's allegations on the Post's site — though the dead link to Friday's article still appears on Google and is drawing considerable traffic to what's now a 404 page, CNN Business reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

"A spokeswoman for the Post declined to comment," CNN Business reports. "The spokeswoman did not dispute the account of events CNN Business provided to her, nor did she provide an explanation for the removal of the stories about Carroll's accusations." It's widely suspected inside the Post that Murdoch brought Allen back to steer the tabloid in a more pro-Trump direction, CNN Business reports, and one of the people who said the yanked Carroll article has prompted significant chatter among Post staffers also said there's no real debate as to why it was removed: "Nobody needs to explain why. We already know."

The Wall Street Journal and Fox News' website, also owned by News Corp., both have articles about Carroll's assault accusation. Peter Weber

6:32 a.m.

Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang's "Yang Gang" was in full force in Stephen Colbert's Late Show audience on Monday, but Colbert had Yang give his elevator pitch to everyone in America who doesn't know Andrew Yang from Adam — or many of the other two dozen Democrats running for president in 2020. "I'm running for president to solve the problems that got Donald Trump into the White House in 2016," he said, primarily job loss to automation. His primary solution is $1,000 a month for every American adult. Yang explained how his "freedom dividend," or universal basic income, works, and why he thinks America needs it in a world of artifical intelligence.

Colbert noted that Yang is in the second Democratic presidential mega-debate, on Thursday night. "What does a win look like for you?" he asked. "What do you want to get out of this debate?" Most Americans are only now paying attention to the 2020 race, Yang said. "And so a win for me is that Americans tune in, they say 'Who's the Asian man standing next to Joe Biden,' and then they look me up." They ran through some of Yang's other policy positions, including fair pay for MMA fighters, free marriage counseling, and abolishing the penny. "You realize you just lost Illinois," Colbert joked. Yang insisted his anti-circumcision tweet was just a suggestion. Watch below. Peter Weber

5:43 a.m.

"Here's something you did not see discussed on TV a lot this weekend: The president of the United States was accused of sexual assault — again," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. President "Trump is really repeating his 2016 strategy." The accusations from writer E. Jean Carroll, unveiled Friday, "are specific, they are credible, and they are terrible," he said, "and they make Carroll the 22nd woman to step forward — 22 women! That should raise alarms."

"Let me put it this way," Colbert said: "If one person in your life accused you of pooping in their kitchen sink, I could be persuaded to believe that that is a lie. But if over the course of the 73 years of your life, 22 separate people came forward with detailed accounts of times you had pooped in their kitchen sinks, I'm going to start thinking you're a sink pooper."

CNN's Chris Cuomo said he and his staff were similarly confused: "This prominent journalist accuses the sitting president of rape — this is the most extreme accusation we've had against this president — and it has had almost no impact, really, on our dialogue." He read Carroll's allegations. "This is rape, period," he said. "Carroll doesn't like using the word, and that is her right." Cuomo said CNN didn't report the allegation until it got corroboration, and it has.

Carroll said Monday, "Think how many women have come forward, and nothing happens." But Trump's response to the rape allegations really "shows how perverse this current dynamic is," Cuomo said, reading Trump's now-familiar "she's not my type" dismissal. "Look, this is not a smart answer to the question of whether you would rape someone," he said. "Sexual assault is about power and violence, not just sex. More troubling to me in understanding where we are, more vexing," Cuomo added, is "why is this not front page news everywhere?" Watch him grapple with that question below. Peter Weber

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