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May 17, 2019

Attorney General William Barr on Friday dismissed allegations that he lied to Congress, speculating Democrats are accusing him of doing so to undermine his election review.

Barr spoke with Fox News in an interview that aired Friday morning and said that the charge from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and others that he lied to Congress is "laughable."

"I think it's largely being made to try to discredit me, partly because they may be concerned about the outcome of a review of what happened during the election," he said.

Barr is conducting a review into the origins of the Russia probe, which he told The Wall Street Journal could bring about rule changes. President Trump has repeatedly claimed that his 2016 campaign was improperly "spied on" and that this amounts to "treason," while FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that he has seen no evidence that illegal spying occurred.

Pelosi had previously accused Barr of lying to Congress, and Democrats took issue with his testimony that he was unaware of concerns from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team with his summary of their findings, even though he received a letter from Mueller expressing concern. Barr has argued his testimony was accurate because he only heard from Mueller himself and because he claims Mueller privately told him his summary didn't misrepresent the report's findings.

Barr during this Fox News interview also dismissed Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee voting in favor of holding him in contempt of Congress, The Hill reports, saying it's "part of the usual game" and calling it a "political circus" while adding, "I don't feel threatened." Brendan Morrow

1:18 p.m.

Jeffrey Epstein won't be released to the scene of his alleged crimes.

As the multimillionaire faces charges for allegedly running a sex ring involving dozens of minor girls, Epstein's lawyers proposed a bail package that would allow him to wait for his trial in his Manhattan townhouse. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman dismissed what he called an "irretrievably inadequate" package Thursday, saying he posed a "danger to the community" if he returned home, NBC News reports.

Epstein has been accused of sexual abusing girls both in his Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida properties, and currently faces sexual abuse charges that carry a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison. He recently pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his lawyers then proposed a $77 million bail package that would let Epstein stay in his townhouse guarded by private security. The package would also require he deregister his vehicles and private jet.

But on Thursday, Berman still decided that prosecutors displayed "clear and convincing evidence" that Epstein remained a flight risk, NBC News says. Berman also cited Epstein's failure to comply with a 1980 plea deal that required him to check in with NYPD officers, and mentioned that he "considered" the recent testimonies of two of Epstein's alleged victims in making his decision, per ABC News.

Epstein's lawyers had proposed a $77 million bail package that would let him wait for his trial in his Manhattan townhouse with privately funded security. U.S. District dismissed what he called an despite the bail package proposing his vehicles and private jet be deregistered. Epstein also posed a "danger" to the community and his alleged victims, Berman continued. Epstein has has pleaded not guilty to sexual abuse charges, and faces up to 45 years in prison. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:10 p.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both defended President Trump after a Wednesday rally in which his supporters chanted "send her back" about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), while Democrats warned about the danger of this rhetoric.

Graham on Thursday argued that chanting "send her back" about a minority congresswoman who came to the United States as a 12-year-old refugee from Somalia isn't racist and that this rhetoric is fine because Trump doesn't want to "send back" those who agree with him.

"A Somali refugee embracing Trump would not have been asked to go back," Graham said, per CNN's Manu Raju. "If you're a racist, you want everyone from Somalia to go back because they're black or they're Muslim." Graham also suggested that this means the rhetoric is "about the criticism and the critic," although he offered some light criticism by saying that "I don't like it" and "I'm not going around telling anybody to leave the country who's an American citizen," The Hill reports.

McConnell also came to Trump's defense Thursday on Fox Business, saying the president is "onto something" with his attacks on the four congresswomen, although McConnell did not reference the "send her back" chant and instead praised the president as being "right about 'the squad' wanting to turn us into a socialist country," Mediaite reports.

Democrats, meanwhile, slammed Trump after the Wednesday rally, with the Congressional Black Caucus' Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) saying Omar's "life is in imminent danger" as a result of his rhetoric, Politico reports, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) accusing Trump of "instilling fear." Omar herself said that "racism distracts, racism hurts, racism kills." Brendan Morrow

11:15 a.m.

Merriam-Webster has a bit of information it would just like to leave right here after President Trump's Wednesday rally.

After Trump supporters at the event chanted "send her back!" about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the dictionary company tweeted that its top search results that night included "racism," "fascism," "xenophobia," and "bigot," with "racism" topping the list.

"Socialism" also made the list at number two, as Trump labeled the Democratic congresswomen he has been attacking as socialists.

This isn't the first time Merriam-Webster has weighed in on the controversy over Trump's tweets telling minority Democratic congresswomen to "go back" to where they came from. When Fox News' Brit Hume earlier this week claimed that Trump's comments don't "meet the standard definition of racist," linking to Merriam-Webster's definition, Merriam-Webster seemed to respond by gently pointing to an entry noting that its definitions are "not always well suited for settling disputes." Brendan Morrow

10:26 a.m.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg's resume in politics is deeper than he lets on.

The 2020 candidate has broken barriers as the first openly gay man to make a presidential debate stage, while his folksy yet progressive charm have earned him comparisons to former President Barack Obama. And yet he also has a less public history of working for Democratic presidential campaigns and in political strategy, giving him "more in common with Bill Clinton than Obama," Mark Leibovich reports for The New York Times Magazine.

The 37-year-old Buttigieg has brushed off questions regarding his age and distance from national politics, touting that he has more "executive experience" than all the senators and congressmembers in the Democratic field. Yet that inexperience is also some of the appeal of his campaign, and Buttigieg embraces it, broadly promising Leibovich that he'll fashion a "completely different" response to the outrage against President Trump that's encompassed this presidential cycle. But as Leibovich writes, Buttigieg is still "at heart, a fairly conventional political animal:"

Buttigieg is steeped in campaign life, having worked for John Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008, and he tends to talk, more than most candidates, like an operative. In 2017, he ran unsuccessfully to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee — a position that is essentially that of a glorified fund-raiser, talking head and political strategist rolled into one. His early ambitions, his methodical climb up the accomplishment ladder and his youthful attention to networking have more in common with Bill Clinton than Obama.

Read more about Buttigieg's political history at The New York Times Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:42 a.m.

President Trump's former director of communications, Anthony Scaramucci, is downright begging him to knock it off with the racist attacks on minority congresswomen.

Scaramucci, who served in the White House for just 10 days in 2017, spoke to CNN's New Day on Thursday morning after previously denouncing Trump's tweets telling four minority congresswomen to "go back" to where they came from as "racist and unacceptable." At a rally on Wednesday, Trump supporters chanted "send her back" about one of the women he attacked, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

During the interview, Scaramucci implored elected Republicans to "pick up the phone and say, 'Hey, you should really knock this off'" to Trump, per Mediaite. He also predicted that if the president "continues on that path" with this apparent new strategy that is "against the idealistic values of America," a "glacier of support is going to break off and float away from him in a way that he doesn't fully understand." Asked if he will personally still support Trump in this scenario, Scaramucci responded, "No."

Recent polling has suggested Trump actually increased his support among Republicans in the immediate aftermath of his weekend tweets, with one poll showing that 57 percent of Republicans agreed with him.

At the same time, Scaramucci suggested he'll have to weigh who Trump's opponent is when making the decision to abandon him over what he considers to be blatant racism, telling CNN, "You also have to compare it to what you're going up against." At some point, though, Scaramucci said this will become a "moral question." Brendan Morrow

9:17 a.m.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) didn't even dignify President Trump's rally attack with her own words.

At a Wednesday night presidential rally, Trump called out Omar by name and accused her of "launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds" during her time in office. That launched the crowd into chants of "send her back," echoing Trump's racist tweets against Omar and other Democrats earlier in the week. But instead of brashly fighting back, Omar responded to the rally attack with a bold quote from Maya Angelou.

The rally attack came after Trump on Sunday directed racist tweets at Omar and three other Democratic congresswomen, calling on them to "go back" to the countries they came from. Only Omar was not born in the U.S., but she became a citizen as a teenager. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:53 a.m.

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, is pushing back — though only slightly — after President Trump's rally crowd chanted "send her back!" about a minority congresswoman.

Walker on Thursday tweeted that "I struggled with" the chant at Trump's Wednesday night rally, which came as the president repeated his attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), one of the four minority congresswomen he told to "go back" to where she came from in a weekend tweet. Omar fled to the United States as a refugee from Somalia at a young age.

This language at the rally, Walker suggested, is "painful to our friends in the minority communities." At the same time, Walker didn't veer too far from Trump's talking points because in the same tweet he attacked Omar as someone who has "great disdain" for the United States.

Trump's weekend tweets drew some pushback from elected Republicans, while GOP leaders like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defended him and argued he is not racist. On Thursday, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) joined Walker in criticizing the chant by saying "there is no place for that" while defending Trump as someone who "does not have a racist bone in his body," reports Time's Alana Abramson.

Outside of elected officials, Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, also called the chants "wrong" and "vile," adding that they "don't reflect who we are as Americans," while conservative Trump critic Bill Kristol tweeted that "'send her back' conservatism is not a conservatism worth defending." Brendan Morrow

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