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March 24, 2019

The Muslim community in Christchurch, New Zealand has reclaimed a place of worship. On Saturday, the restored Al-Noor mosque, one of the sites of the mass shootings that killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, was reopened.

It remains under heavy police detail, but small groups of worshippers are now allowed in for limited periods of time, reports RNZ National. Although the mosque has been completely restored following the damage, those who enter have been asked to refrain from taking photographs. Several survivors of the shootings, carried about by a 28-year-old Australian named Brenton Tarrant who expressed racist, anti-immigrant views, were among the first people to return to the mosque.

On Saturday, nearly 40,000 people turned out for a vigil in Christchurch on Saturday evening, as the country continues to mourn the attacks. Saturday’s vigil, which included speeches, music, and moments of silence, is the latest in a string of remembrance events that have and will continue to take place around New Zealand. Tim O'Donnell

9:39 p.m.

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn was cited 157 times in the Mueller report, more than any other witness, and that has Rudy Giuliani running scared.

In an interview Monday with The New York Times, Giuliani, a member of President Trump's legal team, admitted that he's worried Democrats could use the Mueller report to start impeachment proceedings against Trump, and he's now trying to chip away at McGahn's credibility, saying he has "no choice but to attack."

McGahn was still White House counsel when he first met with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team in November 2017. He was concerned that Trump would turn him into a scapegoat, the Times says, and now that the report is out and shows he discussed multiple incidents that could be viewed as obstruction, that's exactly what he's become.

Giuliani questioned McGahn's motives and memory and criticized the special counsel and how investigators interviewed McGahn, saying in one case it was a "cross-examination a law student could perform." McGahn was "hopelessly confused," Giuliani added, and disputed a section of the report that stated Trump demanded McGahn order the Department of Justice fire Mueller. The report, he concluded, is "a disgrace." McGahn's attorney, William Burck, defended his client, telling the Times the report "speaks for itself, and no amount of obfuscation by Mr. Giuliani is going to fool anyone."

Not everyone in the White House is onboard with Giuliani's tactics, two staffers told the Times, with many thinking Trump and his legal team should try a new strategy: remaining silent. Catherine Garcia

8:15 p.m.

The Supreme Court on Monday announced it has accepted three cases involving gay and transgender employees, and will deliver rulings on whether federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from firing workers due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The cases — Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC — will be decided during the court's term that will start in October. The justices will be tasked with deciding whether the protections granted by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and sex, also applies to people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda will be consolidated, as both involve employees who say they were fired for being gay. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC involves a transgender woman who was fired from a Michigan funeral home because of her gender identity. In Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, lower courts sided with the plaintiffs, NPR reports, but in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, it was decided that Gerald Bostock was not fired from his job as a child welfare service coordinator because he is gay. Catherine Garcia

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

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