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March 22, 2019

Special Counsel Robert Mueller could wrap up his report any day now. Just ask a group of reporters who've been sitting outside his office for months.

As an investigation into possible connections between President Trump's campaign and Russian election interference waged on, journalists — namely the so-called #CNNStakeout team — have kept an eye on the secretive man at its helm. While they haven't reported any collusion conclusions, they've practically mapped out Mueller's daily schedule — and in the last few days, it's seemingly been out of whack.

Things started looking fishy last week when Andrew Weissmann, a top member of the Mueller squad, was reported to be headed to a new job. Weissmann even showed up wearing a tan suit, of all things, on Tuesday, while Mueller himself seemed to be dressing more casually, CNN's Evan Pérez said. The obsessive coverage ratcheted up even further on Thursday, when CNN brought an extra-large media crew to Mueller's door, per CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, and caught something big: Mueller didn't leave his office for lunch, as he usually does.

While reporters continued to gasp over those implications, CNN's Katelyn Polatz had a few more conclusive signs that something was afoot.

Even bigger news came on Friday: Mueller didn't seem to be in the office at all. Stay tuned to the stakeout feed to see if that means everything — or nothing at all. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:21 a.m.

Two ACLU lawyers wrote a letter to New Mexico authorities requesting an investigation of a right-wing militia group that has been detaining groups of migrant families at gunpoint before handing them over to Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Members of the group, the United Constitutional Patriots, this week posted video of about 200 migrants apparently stopped near the border. "We cannot allow racist and armed vigilantes to kidnap and detain people seeking asylum," the lawyers, María Martínez Sánchez and Kirsten Greer Love, said in the letter.

Hector Balderas, New Mexico's attorney general, said the group's members "should not attempt to exercise authority reserved for law enforcement." Jim Benvie, a spokesman for the group, said its actions were legal, like "a verbal citizen's arrest." Read more at The New York Times. Harold Maass

8:07 a.m.

The Kremlin announced Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a summit later this month.

The news marked the latest indication that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pivoted toward Russia since the February collapse of his second summit with President Trump without a deal on denuclearization and the lifting of U.S. sanctions. A day earlier, North Korea test-fired a new tactical guided weapon, the isolated Communist regime's first public weapon test since Kim's first summit with Trump last year.

Russia said Putin invited Kim. Russian media said Putin would meet Kim in Vladivostok on Russia's Pacific coast as Putin heads to a summit in Beijing. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Harold Maass

April 18, 2019

Sure, the Mueller report dropped today. And sure, it's a few hours before a holiday weekend. But Facebook has a bit of unfortunate news to share with you.

Remember last month, when Facebook said it stored a whole bunch of passwords in plain text when they should have been encrypted, potentially affecting "tens of thousands" of Instagram users? Yeah, it quietly updated that blog post Thursday to say it's more like "millions of Instagram users."

In the blog post first unveiled last month, Facebook said it would tell "hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users" and "tens of millions of other Facebook users" that their passwords were stored in an unencrypted database available to 20,000 Facebook employees. Now, a few more Instagram users get to join the fun. Facebook said it found "no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed the passwords," though given the site's very shaky past year, that's not too reassuring.

The news comes just a few hours after Facebook told Business Insider that it collected email contacts from 1.5 million users who signed up after May 2016 and "unintentionally uploaded" them to Facebook. The addresses were collected when users typed in their email passwords to verify the addresses they'd signed up with. Facebook didn't tell these users their email contacts would be imported into the site, but there was no way to opt out of the upload or cancel it once it began. Facebook said those contacts were "used to improve Facebook's ad targeting," Business Insider writes in yet another reassuring addition to Facebook's track record. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 18, 2019

It wasn't all about obstruction.

In the redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report released Thursday, there were also plenty of findings about what sparked this whole extravaganza: Russian election interference. Here are four of them, from the terrifying to the downright comical.

1. A previous Mueller indictment showed that when then-candidate Donald Trump called on Russia to find his opponent Hillary Clinton's "missing" emails in July 2016, they were listening. This full report shows that the GRU, Russia's foreign intelligence agency, took less than five hours to start targeting email accounts within Clinton's personal office after Trump asked Russia to "find those 30,000 emails."

2. Mueller took the time to spell out this whole dilemma, in which former White House staffer Hope Hicks was unsure of how to verify if an email actually came from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and in which Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner forgot the Russian ambassador's name and also how to use Google.

3. The GRU has a "bitcoin mining operation to secure bitcoins used to purchase computer infrastructure used in hacking operations," the report found — an idea the U.S. could perhaps borrow to cut the deficit.

4. A Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency deployed thousands of posts across social media in the U.S. It also did this pretty weird thing, per Mueller's report.

Find the whole report here, and another Russian tidbit about the infamous pee tapes here. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 18, 2019

If more compromising tapes of President Trump exist, it seems Special Counsel Robert Mueller wasn't able to find them.

Still, that doesn't mean Russians weren't very aware of the so-called "pee tapes" — seemingly nonexistent footage of Trump telling prostitutes to perform some rather disturbing acts rumored to exist in the Steele dossier. And that doesn't mean one Russian didn't game those purported recordings to his advantage.

The somewhat forgotten pee tapes actually got a mention in the redacted Mueller report released Thursday, though not in the way some Trump enemies would've hoped. In a footnote, Mueller said that Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen got a text from a Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze that said he "stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there's anything else." Rtskhiladze said a Russian real estate group that helped host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Russia had the tapes. Probably not coincidentally, Trump's alleged pee tape was said to have been made while he was in Russia for that pageant.

The tapes were fake, but Rtskhiladze didn't tell Cohen that, per Mueller's report. Cohen also said he talked to Trump "about the issue after receiving the texts," meaning this rumor could've gone all the way to the top.

There are plenty more details in the Mueller report, though none are quite this scintillating. Read it all here. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 18, 2019

It's a big day for President Trump, but it is an especially big day for the Democrats who hope to run against him in 2020.

Some candidates issued tweets accusing Attorney General William Barr of bias and unfair redactions:

Other candidates hit the president for putting his own interests ahead of the country's:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) expressed frustration with the number of redactions in the report:

Sen. Cory Booker's (N.J.) team released their own searchable version of the Mueller report:

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) issued a video calling for Mueller to testify:

Several candidates did not issue any statements at all at the time of publication, including Beto O'Rourke, Tulsi Gabbard, and Jay Inslee. Jeva Lange

April 18, 2019

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) doesn't feel any differently about impeachment in light of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.

Hoyer told CNN's Dana Bash on Thursday that "based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point." The top Democrat had in January called impeachment talk a "distraction" but said that "we'll have to see what the Mueller report says," per The Hill.

Now that the report is out, Hoyer still feels these issues should be litigated at the ballot box in 2020 rather than through the impeachment process, telling CNN, "Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgement." Hoyer previously made this argument in March and told Fox News that impeachment is an "extraordinarily all-consuming process."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has similarly said that impeaching Trump is "just not worth it," per The Washington Post, but she has yet to make a similar statement since the release of Mueller's report. Brendan Morrow

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