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April 21, 2020

The Senate Intelligence Committee has finally concluded what the rest of the intelligence community did years ago.

On Tuesday, the GOP-led committee released its report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. It confirms Kremlin-led interference in the election was aimed at helping President Trump, in contrast with what Trump has repeatedly brushed off as a "hoax."

The report released Tuesday is heavily redacted, but it's clear that it confirms the U.S. intelligence community's assessment made back in January 2017. It echoes conclusions made in the 2017 report, noting there was "specific intelligence reporting to support the assessment that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Russian government demonstrated a preference for candidate Trump." The committee also concluded there was evidence showing Putin had "approved and directed aspects" of that interference.

"The committee found no reason to dispute the intelligence community's conclusions," Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) confirmed in a statement. Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) added that there was "no reason to doubt that the Russians' success in 2016 is leading them to try again in 2020" — something former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and many other intelligence professionals have warned of for years. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 20, 2019

Antonio Brown is out of a job.

The wide receiver was released from the New England Patriots on Friday following an investigation into allegations of sexual assault. A woman has accused him of rape and sexual assault and sending threatening text messages, which Brown has denied through an attorney.

Earlier Friday, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick told a press conference of reporters that he wouldn't answer any questions about Brown. They asked anyway, and he abruptly ended the conference.

Brown has been at the center of several claims of wrongdoing, allegedly refusing to comply with NFL equipment policies and facing fines after an altercation with the general manager of the Oakland Raiders, in addition to allegedly failing to pay former assistants. He was released from the Raiders before the season began and picked up by the Patriots, playing one game with New England under a $15 million contract as the allegations became public. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 6, 2019

The originators of the modern LGBTQ rights movement are getting a long overdue apology.

New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill on Thursday apologized for "discriminatory and oppressive" actions the department took when raiding the Stonewall Inn 50 years ago. O'Neill previously and pointedly avoided making the apology, but on Thursday said he "vow[ed] to the LGBTQ community that this would never happen in the NYPD in 2019," The New York Times reports.

Around the time of the Stonewall uprising, raids on gay bars under the guise of other offenses were common. But patrons fought back that night and in the days after, resulting in dozens of arrests and injuries. Now, during Pride Month and as Stonewall's 50th anniversary approaches, O'Neill said he'd decided "it would be irresponsible" not to talk about and apologize for those events.

The announcement comes after City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay, on Wednesday called on the NYPD to apologize for the events half a century ago, telling radio station 1010 WINS he "would love for it happen this month." The NYPD has previously apologized for mishandled cases and to wrongfully convicted people. Yet when O'Neill was asked about apologizing for Stonewall two years ago, he declined and said he would "move forward" instead.

Critics have since pointed out that the NYPD and police in general have had a long history of raiding gay bars and spaces, and that continued law enforcement mistreatment of LGBTQ people, and specifically transgender people, continues today. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 29, 2019

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is finally headed for the door.

After months of hinting that he would be leaving the Justice Department, Rosenstein officially submitted his resignation letter to President Trump on Monday. He wrote that he'll depart May 11, and delivered a brief history lesson on the rule of law along the way.

Rosenstein started the Monday letter by highlighting the administration's achievements: "reducing violent crime, curtailing opioid abuse," and "protecting consumers," among other things. He then went on to deliver quote after historic quote about the value of an apolitical justice system, featuring highlights from several former attorneys general. And he closed with what seemed like a poignant reminder to Trump — that "credible evidence is not partisan, and truth is not determined by opinion polls." America, as Rosenstein put it, "is not governed by the news cycle."

Rosenstein had been expected to leave his post by mid-March, but hung on as it became clear that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report was going to wrap up. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 27, 2019

Facebook is finally banning white nationalism and white separatism, Motherboard reported on Wednesday.

White supremacy had already been banned on Facebook, but white nationalism and white separatism wasn't, as Motherboard previously reported. This drew criticism from experts who say these are all effectively the same thing. Facebook didn't initially see it that way, reportedly having previously told its moderators that white nationalism isn't always explicitly "associated with racism."

But it seems they've now changed their tune, making the decision Tuesday to ban all three. Brian Fishman, Facebook's policy director of counterterrorism, told Motherboard that "the overlap between white nationalism, [white] separatism, and white supremacy is so extensive we really can't make a meaningful distinction between them." A member of Facebook's policy team said the company has concluded that white nationalism and white separatism are "inherently hateful."

Posts containing phrases like "I am a proud white nationalist" will now be banned, and Fishman told Motherboard that those who try to post white nationalism or white separatism will be directed to a non-profit organization called Life After Hate, which strives to help people leave hate groups. This ban won't apply to less explicit white nationalism, though, since Facebook says that's more difficult to detect.

This ban will reportedly be be rolled out next week, and The Washington Post reports it will apply to Instagram as well. Brendan Morrow

January 31, 2019

Mass shootings have become an everyday reality — and that's not an exaggeration. But take a look at Congress' schedule, and you wouldn't know it.

The Senate has only held a small handful of gun violence hearings since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, and the House hasn't had one. Now, that seems like it's about to change.

On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced he'd scheduled a gun violence prevention hearing for next Wednesday. Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chair Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) rightly pointed out that something like this hadn't happened for eight years, saying he "implored" the previous Republican majority to hold one of these hearings but was "denied."

Since the last hearing in 2011, 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Another 58 were killed at a Las Vegas music festival, and some of the survivors of that shooting were killed at a bar just over a year later. Shootings have also rocked nightclubs, churches, movie theaters, and every other aspect of life.

The chamber tried to have a hearing on gun violence in mid-2017, but it was canceled after the shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice. But now, after a slate of gun control activists poured money into the 2018 midterm elections, and gun control advocates like Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) were elected, that issue seems to be back on the table. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 19, 2018

Senators on Wednesday unanimously voted to approve a bill making lynching a federal crime.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said the Senate had previously failed nearly 200 times to make lynching a "federal civil rights crime." The bill, if approved by the House and signed by President Trump, would make lynching punishable by life in prison, reports The Washington Times.

"This is a very meaningful moment for this body," said Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). "Even though it cannot reverse irrevocable harm that lynching was used as a terror of suppression, the passage of this bill is a recognition of that dark past." Senators reportedly said that more than 4,700 people were lynched in the U.S. from 1882 to 1968, most of them black, and most perpetrators left unpunished. Harris, Booker, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introduced the bill.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), who faced criticism after saying last month she would attend a "public hanging," presided over the bill's debate on the Senate floor.

The Senate apologized in 2005 for its failures to stop lynching in its heyday, citing "powerful Southern senators, such as Richard B. Russell Jr. (D-Ga.)" for shutting down legislation. A Senate office building is still named after Russell, and a proposal to rename it after the late Sen. John McCain has stalled amid Sen. David Purdue (R-Ga.)'s opposition. Read more at The Washington Times. Summer Meza

December 12, 2018

The House and Senate are finally tackling a big problem happening in their own halls.

The two chambers on Wednesday agreed on a bill to better handle sexual harassment in Congress, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a co-sponsor of the Senate's version of the bill, tells Politico. Other congressional staffers confirmed the news to The Washington Post and CNN.

Following the #MeToo movement's rise late last year, members of Congress started looking inward at the harassment aides and lawmakers had long faced. The reality became particularly clear after former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) allegedly used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, and after he and other lawmakers stepped down after their own sexual harassment scandals.

The House passed its harassment-fighting bill in February, under which lawmakers would be held "personally liable for harassment and discrimination settlements," per Politico. The Senate's latest version only made legislators pay for harassment settlements. Wednesday's compromise agrees on barring legislators from using taxpayer money to settle "harassment and retaliation for harassment claims, but not discrimination," staffers tell Politico.

Opponents of the Senate bill worried accused congressmembers would settle harassment claims as "sex discrimination," per CNN. So Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) say they'll craft a new bill to address discrimination, per Politico. The two chambers hope to pass the still-unfinalized bill within the next few days after working out a few more specifics, Blunt says. Kathryn Krawczyk

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