President Trump is angry at Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, due to his handling of the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, and has repeatedly brought up firing him, four people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times.
The whistleblower flagged a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rivals. The complaint was filed in August, and after Atkinson found it to be credible, he forwarded the report to Joseph Maguire, the government's top intelligence official. Under the law, Maguire was required to turn the complaint over to Congress, but he did not provide it right away.
Atkinson told lawmakers about the complaint, and amid pressure from Democrats, Maguire finally gave it to Congress. Maguire said the Justice Department told him Atkinson didn't have authority to deliver the complaint because Trump is not a member of the intelligence community. Trump appointed Atkinson in 2017, and now he thinks he is disloyal and conspiring with Democrats, the Times reports.
Recently, Trump has mentioned several times to aides that he wants to fire Atkinson, but two people familiar with the matter told the Times they believe he is just venting, not seriously contemplating getting rid of him. Inspectors general can be fired by the president, but only if they are deemed incompetent or there's a case of misconduct. Catherine Garcia
New legislation signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) earlier this week increases criminal penalties for crimes committed during protests. DeSantis called it "the strongest anti-looting, anti-rioting, pro-law-enforcement piece of legislation in the country," MSNBC reports, and it may be part of a trend in Republican-led states, The New York Times writes.
One of the most notable aspects of the law is that tearing down monuments, including Confederate ones, is now a second-degree felony offense, meaning anyone who is charged with doing so would face a maximum of 15 years in prison, the Times reports.
On the other hand, the legislation provides some extra protection for people who injure protesters by ramming into them with their car. If protesters block a road, MSNBC notes, Florida drivers who plow their vehicle into them can claim self-defense, giving them civil (as opposed to criminal) liability protection. That "all but [invites] people to commit vehicular homicide," Paul Waldman argued in The Washington Post. Read more about Florida's anti-protest law at MSNBC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell
Queen Elizabeth II is expressing her gratitude for the public's "support and kindness" as she turns 95 less than a week after her husband Prince Philip's funeral.
The queen in a statement on Wednesday, her 95th birthday, said "my family and I would like to thank you all for the support and kindness shown to us in recent days" after a small funeral for Philip was held over the weekend, per NBC News. Philip died earlier this month at the age of 99; he and Elizabeth had been married since 1947.
"While as a family we are in a period of great sadness, it has been a comfort to us all to see and to hear the tributes paid to my husband, from those within the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and around the world," the queen said, adding that "we have been deeply touched, and continue to be reminded that Philip had such an extraordinary impact on countless people throughout his life."
The queen also said that "I very much appreciate" the "many messages of good wishes" she has received on her birthday. According to Buckingham Palace, she will remain at Windsor Castle as the period of mourning for Philip continues, and NBC News reports there is "no public plan to mark her birthday" this year both due Philip's death and the pandemic.
Prince Harry, the queen's grandson, had returned to the U.K. for the first time since stepping back from the royal family for Philip's funeral, and there had been some reports that he might stay for the queen's birthday. But The Daily Mail reports Harry has now arrived back in California, as he wanted to get home to his wife, Meghan Markle, who was advised against traveling to the funeral due to her pregnancy. Brendan Morrow
Norfolk, Virginia has fired a veteran police officer who donated $25 to Kyle RIttenhouse, the Illinois teenager awaiting trial for killing two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August, The Virginian-Pilot reports. Lt. William K. Kelly III, the No. 2 officer in the Norfolk Police Department's internal affairs department, also used his official email address to praise Rittenhouse when giving him money through a Christian crowdfunding website, GiveSendGo, according to private records obtained by the group Distributed Denial of Secrets.
"God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You've done nothing wrong," Kelly wrote in his Sept. 3 donation note, The Guardian first reported, citing GiveSendGo's data breach. "Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don't be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership."
Kelly's "egregious" comments violated departmental policies and "erode the trust between the Norfolk Police Department and those they are sworn to serve," Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer said Tuesday afternoon. Clay Messick, president of the local police union, called the decision hasty, "disappointing," and lacking in transparency. Kelly is not a member of the union, Messick added, but "it is hard to call this fair." The city said Kelly can appeal his firing. Kelly did not respond to the Pilot's requests for comment.
An unidentified veteran Norfolk Police officer told the Pilot that Kelly was a "golden boy" and said what he is purported to have done is "absolutely crazy" and threatens to further exacerbate racial tensions inside the department. Kelly's claim that every officer supports Rittenhouse is also flat-out wrong, the officer said. "Many of us here are pissed off because he doesn't speak for us and those views are certainly not mine."
Rittenhouse raised $586,940 at GiveSendGo between Aug. 27 and Jan. 7, The Guardian reports, and among the other donors using their official accounts were a city official in Huntsville, Alabama; a paramedic in Utah; and an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. GiveSendGo has hosted crowdfunding campaigns for the Proud Boys and other groups banned from other platforms. Peter Weber
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) may be set to throw his hat in the 2024 ring — even if former President Donald Trump does, too.
Christie is "seriously considering" running for president in 2024, Axios reported on Wednesday, citing three people familiar with his thinking. The former New Jersey governor previously ran for president during the 2016 Republican primaries, but he ended his bid in February 2016 and backed Trump.
The former governor, according to the report, has been talking up his 2024 potential to friends, telling them he would be the only person in the Republican field with both executive experience and who has previously run for president — in what Axios describes as a "clear shot" at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who's also seen as a serious 2024 contender.
A source also told Axios that Christie "could run on a reputation for toughness that appeals to Trump's base minus the former president's recklessness."
Among the other Republicans who may enter the 2024 primaries include former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Of course, there's also the question of whether Trump himself will run again, a possibility the former president says he is "beyond considering."
But Axios reports Christie has been telling associates that whether Trump does seek a second term wouldn't affect his decision. Indeed, the former governor said in an interview in December that he wouldn't rule out the possibility of once again running against Trump. Brendan Morrow
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it will extend emergency school meal waivers through the 2021-22 school year, not Sept. 30, the previous cutoff date. The child nutrition program waivers give schools more flexibility to offer free meals to all students, but especially the estimated 12 million children and teenagers experiencing food insecurity during disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"States and districts wanted waivers extended to plan for safe reopening in the fall." Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. "This action also increases the reimbursement rate to school meal operators so they can serve healthy foods to our kids. It's a win-win for kids, parents, and schools."
The waivers allow school districts more options to get meals to students, including offering free meals outside regular meal times, home delivery to distance learners, and curbside pickup of meals for multiple days at a time. Peter Weber
European soccer was shaken by Sunday night's formation of a breakaway Super League of 12 elite soccer clubs, threatening the more-or-less egalitarian nature of the continent's favorite sport. On Tuesday, six of the teams — all from the English Premier League — pulled out of the potentially lucrative project, bowing to pushback from fans, Britain's government, and soccer's governing authorities.
Chelsea and Manchester City were the first teams to say they were quitting the $4 billion enterprise, and Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham soon joined them. The six remaining teams — Spain's Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, and Barcelona, and Italy's Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter Milan — said in a statement Tuesday night that "given the current circumstances, we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project."
The idea of a U.S.-style European soccer league, with a set number of teams splitting a huge pot of money, has been discussed for at least 20 years. What elite soccer teams "saw in the NFL was a model for making money from modern sports, complete with glitz, lionized dynasties, and lavish television contracts," The Wall Street Journal explains. "The odd crummy season wouldn't matter — the Super League could have its own New York Jets and that club would still make money."
At least half of the 12 Super League teams are owned by foreign investors, including four American-owned franchises: Arsenal (L.A. Rams owner Stan Kroenke), Liverpool (Boston Red Sox investment group), Manchester United (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Glazer family), and AC Milan (Elliott Management Corp.). The Glazers were one of the key drivers of the Super League plan, the Journal reports, but Real Madrid President Florentino Perez is the public face. Peter Weber
"Today was a very tense day," and "if you're looking for a way to take the edge off, may I remind you, it is 4/20," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "For those of you not in the know, 4/20 is the one day a year weed smokers celebrate smoking weed every other day of the year. And this April 20 is the big one, because today 4/20 turned 50."
But thanks to the big push for legalization, pot smoking looks much different now than in 1971, and 4 in 10 pot smokers say even it should be a national holiday, Colbert said. "Okay, that's insane. I mean, there's no holiday for drinking — other than St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, New Year's Eve, the day before Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, and the whatever day this is."
Yes, "40 percent of people who smoke think 4/20 should be a national holiday, while the rest skipped work today because they thought it was a national holiday," Jimmy Fallon joked at The Tonight Show. "Right now there's so much smoke in New York City, every apartment looks like it elected a new pope. Even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer acknowledged the day's significance from the Senate floor," he said, which felt "exactly like the moment everyone's parents joined Facebook."
It's true, 4/20 is "not really as edgy, is it, as it used to be," James Corden said at The Late Late Show. "Now that marijuana's legal in California, you know, it sort of feels like the equivalent of, like, white wine day. ... I hope we don't get caught up in the commercialism of 4/20 and forget the real meaning of 4/20." Willie Nelson is pushing President Biden to make 4/20 a national holiday, he said, "and he's even gone so far as to propose that 4/20 through to his birthday on 4/29 be recognized as the high holidays."
"Today is a special holiday, because it's the first 4/20 since marijuana has been legalized in New York City," Late Night's Seth Meyers said. He tried to celebrate by eating a weed gummy on air.
"According to polls, most Americans are more interested in trying edibles than any other type of cannabis product," Meyers said. "Wow, America is the only country that starts with the munchies." But Tuesday wasn't just weed day, he said. It was also "Lima Bean Respect Day. In that case, you taste like ass, good sir." Watch below. Peter Weber