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May 6, 2019

President Trump really doesn't want Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress, and the White House may have one last trick up its sleeve to prevent that from happening.

Last week, White House lawyer Emmet Flood sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr advising him not to provide Congress with any more information regarding Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference. But the letter also hit on an important piece of information that skirted under the radar last week. Flood writes that Trump administration officials who interviewed with Mueller's team of investigators did not, in fact, waive executive privilege.

Instead, the letter argues that the officials and Mueller's office agreed to an understanding that information gleaned from the White House was "presumptively privileged" because it could have been the subject of a potential executive privilege claim.

It sounds like a stretch and there is not currently anything else that verifies this agreement between the two sides, but with Mueller tentatively set to appear before Congress on May 15, the White House could try to block the special counsel's testimony using "presumptive privilege" as a shield.

2:28 p.m.

For the first time in three decades, deaths from drug overdose look like they're going to fall instead of rising.

Back in 1990, drug overdoses claimed 8,400 lives in the U.S.; and for every year afterward, the number of deaths has risen, especially in recent years, when the epidemic of opioid addiction has taken a heavy toll on parts of the country. While the official total for overdose deaths in 2018 hasn't been confirmed yet, provisional data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention suggests that we might finally be in for a change. The CDC's data from November 2017 to November 2018 counted about 69,100 deaths from drug overdose, compared to 72,300 from November 2016 to November 2017.

But this isn't a sign that the worst is over, The Wall Street Journal explained. While health officials are eager to see any evidence that progress is being made in the fight against overdose deaths, "we shouldn't say oh, we've won," said Robert Anderson, a CDC official.

"The opioid crisis is in early remission, yet at high risk of relapse," said Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. But even if this doesn't mean we're out of the worst of the opioid epidemic, these numbers could be a sign that some of our methods for combating overdose deaths are working. In large part, broadened access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse the worse effects of overdose, has been shown to save lives that would otherwise be lost to drug overdose.

The picture is still bleak — overdose deaths are still much higher than "in the peak of the crack-cocaine crisis decades ago," The Wall Street Journal reports. But it's possible that our current methods will help to turn the tide. Shivani Ishwar

2:03 p.m.

President Trump went back to basics on Wednesday, delivering one of his freewheeling speeches before the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Here are three of the wildest moments:

Family Separation — Trump shifted some of the blame for the current situation at the southern border to former President Barack Obama. Trump claimed his administration has taken much better care of the children in detention facilities than his predecessors'.

John McCain — The president might have sneakily continued his feud with his old rival, the late Sen. John McCain. Trump alluded to a few senators who gave him trouble when it came to procuring legislative votes, adding that he's "happy they're gone now." Trump also implied that at least one of them is in an unpleasant place.

While it's possible Trump was not referring to McCain, the smart money says he was.

TiVo — While Trump spent some time criticizing his past political opponents, he made sure to praise one of his favorite inventions of all time — TiVo.

This is not the first time Trump has expressed his bountiful appreciation for the recording device, nor should we expect it to be the last. Tim O'Donnell

1:18 p.m.

Fox's Stuart Varney would like Megan Rapinoe to remove her arm band.

Rapinoe, a co-captain for the U.S. women's national soccer team, said she is "not going to the f--king White House," if the U.S. side wins the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup. This didn't sit well with Fox Business host, who said on Wednesday he'd love to see the U.S. team "fire" Rapinoe as co-captain over the remark.

Varney said Rapinoe's comments were "beneath contempt," and questioned her use of an obscenity in relation to the president and the White House. Varney's guest Susan Li questioned Rapinoe's patriotism, pondering if she should even be allowed to wear the American flag.

At the beginning of the conversation, Varney said Rapinoe "has now split the team," though, so far at least, there are no indications that Rapinoe's teammates have taken issue with her comments.

Shortly after Varney's segment aired, Mediaite reports, Trump posted a series of tweets criticizing Rapinoe — though he did extend an invitation to the team, win or lose. Tim O'Donnell

1:09 p.m.

Google employees are petitioning for the company to be booted from this year's San Francisco Pride parade due to its hate speech policies, Bloomberg reports.

Nearly 100 employees have signed a petition calling on the event's board of directors to kick out Google, which is an event sponsor. The letter cites Google-owned YouTube allowing "abuse and hate and discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons," saying that "Pride must not provide the company a platform that paints it in a rainbow veneer of support for those very persons."

This petition comes as YouTube faces criticism over its response to conservative commentator Steven Crowder making a series of homophobic remarks against Vox's Carlos Maza in his videos. Maza said that he has received harassment online as a resulted of Crowder's attacks, posting a video compiling Crowder's remarks and pointing out that he sells a T-shirt on his store with a homophobic slur on it.

YouTube initially said Crowder's videos did not violate its policies, saying that "opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don’t violate our policies, they’ll remain on our site." The platform later suspended monetization on Crowder's account, citing a "pattern of egregious actions" that "has harmed the broader community." Amid the firestorm, YouTube promised to take a "hard look" its harassment policies with "an aim to update them."

But the employees calling for Google to be kicked out of the Pride event don't seem to be buying this, in their petition writing that they are "never given a commitment to improve" from the company but that "there is no time to waste, and we have waited too long, already." Google had previously told employees that protesting the company while officially marching with it in the parade would violate its policies, The Verge reports. Maza commended the Google employees who signed this petition on Wednesday, writing on Twitter, "That's some serious courage." Brendan Morrow

12:15 p.m.

The House Oversight Committee has voted to subpoena White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for testimony over her alleged Hatch Act violations after she refused to provide it on Wednesday.

In a 25-16 vote, the panel voted to subpoena Conway, CNN reports, as Democrats had threatened to do should Conway skip its hearing. The House's hearing took place after the Office of Special Counsel recommended Conway be fired for "repeatedly" violating the Hatch Act, which limits the political speech White House officials can engage in as part of their official duties. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who has advocated for the impeachment of President Trump, voted with Democrats to authorize the subpoena.

The White House had directed Conway not to testify before the House panel. "The precedent for members of the White House staff to decline invitations to testify before congressional committees has been consistently adhered to by administrations of both political parties," White House counsel Pat Cipollone said. As directed, Conway did not testify on Wednesday.

Conway has contended she never violated the Hatch Act and in a Monday interview said that "they want to silence me." Henry Kerner, head of the Office of Special Counsel, testified on Wednesday and said in an opening statement that Conway's alleged Hatch Act violations were "unacceptable from any federal employee, let alone one in such a prominent position" and that her conduct "reflects not a misunderstanding of the law, but rather a disregard for it." Brendan Morrow

11:43 a.m.

The Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch will soon have a new streaming home thanks to a deal reportedly to the tune of half a billion dollars.

Netflix on Tuesday announced that The Office is set to leave its platform in January 2021, giving subscribers just about a year-and-a-half more to stream the wildly popular sitcom. While the company only releases limited viewing figures, NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt told Vulture last year he believes The Office is Netflix's most popular acquired show.

But now, it's headed to NBCUniversal's upcoming ad-supported streaming service, which launches next year. The Hollywood Reporter reports that Universal Television held an auction for streaming rights to The Office, which Netflix participated in. NBCUniversal offered $100 million a year for five years, the report says, which beat Netflix's bid.

So will NBC's bet that The Office will bolster its streaming platform pay off? The Verge reporter Julia Alexander suggests not, speculating on Twitter, "Office is great, but not a show that leads subscriptions. People will just pirate or buy a boxset for $60." Alexander goes on to write that "The Office and Friends were never primary reasons to get Netflix; but we enjoyed it all being packaged in ... NBCU and WarnerMedia are going to need big pulls, which they don't really have, to compete."

WarnerMedia is soon launching a streaming service as well, which is expected to eventually be the exclusive streaming home of Friends, although Netflix recently paid $100 million to keep streaming it for another year.

But Netflix is hoping its slate of original content will make up the loss of shows like The Office, and it just so happens it has a show in the works from the co-creator of The Office starring Steve Carell called Space Force. Shortly after the Office announcement on Tuesday, Netflix re-upped the trailer for Space Force on Twitter, writing, "just leaving this here for totally no reason." Brendan Morrow

11:42 a.m.

Some folks on the right — especially those who identify with libertarianism — were skeptical of Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) line of questioning during a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on tech companies' use of algorithms and how they influence the public, part of a larger movement in Congress on both sides of the aisle to address rising concerns over the tech industry. Cruz grilled Google UX Director Maggie Stanphill about Project Veritas' recent investigation into whether Google is attempting to stifle conservatives.

Cruz was very concerned by the perception that Google doesn't seem to employ many Republican voters — he pointed out to Stanphill that Google employees gave Hillary Clinton a lot of money during the 2016 presidential election, while President Trump received nothing from the tech giant. Cruz kept asking Stanphill if she knew any Google senior executives who voted for Trump, to which Stanphill replied that she doesn't talk politics with her coworkers.

But Cruz, a conservative, didn't just get flak from his opponents on the left. Libertarians were not thrilled that a Republican senator was prying into a private business the way Cruz did.

Reason writes that Cruz's questioning revealed the "self-serving, corrupt, and authoritarian nature" of his and his allies' proposals, arguing that a past version of Cruz would be quite disappointed with his current-day self. Read more at Reason. Tim O'Donnell

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