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September 20, 2020

A woman suspected of sending a letter last week to the White House containing the poison ricin was arrested on Sunday at the New York-Canada border, law enforcement officials told CNN and The Associated Press.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers took the woman into custody at the Peace Bridge border crossing near Buffalo. One official told CNN the woman was carrying a gun when she was arrested. She is expected to face federal charges.

The letter, which appeared to have originated in Canada, was intercepted at an offsite facility that screens mail sent to the White House, AP reports. During a preliminary investigation, the envelope tested positive for ricin. Catherine Garcia

September 17, 2020

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was criticized for releasing guidance saying it wasn't necessary to test people without coronavirus symptoms who had been in close contact with an infected person for more than 15 minutes. Several people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times this recommendation was not written by CDC scientists and was posted online over their strenuous objections.

A federal official told the Times "that was a doc that came from the top down," referring to the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Coronavirus Task Force. "That policy does not reflect what many people at the CDC feel should be the policy." The document was "dropped" into the CDC's public website, bypassing the agency's scientific review process, and contained several "elementary errors," one official said.

The Trump administration's testing coordinator, Adm. Brett Giroir, told the Times on Thursday the original draft was written by the CDC, but over the course of about a month, it was read and commented on by multiple people, including CDC Director Robert Redfield and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Giroir said he doesn't know why the guidance didn't go through the CDC's typical scientific review, adding that this "certainly was not any direction from me whatsoever."

A federal official with knowledge of the matter told the Times a new version of the testing guidance is expected to go up on the CDC's website on Friday, but this also hasn't undergone the agency's typical internal review for scientific documents, and Health and Human Services officials are now revising it. All of this comes as the CDC faces scrutiny over whether it is maintaining its independence amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 200,000 Americans. Read more at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

September 16, 2020

During a phone call last week with federal prosecutors, Attorney General William Barr said they should consider charging anyone who committed a violent crime during recent protests with sedition, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times on Wednesday.

This was a very unusual suggestion, as the federal sedition law is rarely invoked, and his proposal startled some people on the call, the Times reports. Federal prosecutors have so far charged more than 200 people with violent crimes related to the protests, with most accused of arson or assaulting federal officers.

Research by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project shows that more than 93 percent of the anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests over the summer were peaceful, the Times reports. FBI officials have said most people who committed violent acts during the demonstrations took advantage of the situation, using the protests as an opportunity to get aggressive, and police departments reported far-right and far-left fringe groups were involved. Barr, meanwhile, has insisted most of the violence was caused by left-wing agitators.

Two people briefed on the matter told the Times Barr has also asked members of the Justice Department's civil rights division to look into whether any criminal charges can be filed against Jenny Durkan, the Democratic mayor of Seattle, for allowing citizens to set up a police-free protest zone near downtown. Durkan and President Trump repeatedly clashed on the best way to handle the situation. Catherine Garcia

September 15, 2020

A State Department aide testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in August that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's wife, Susan Pompeo, asked staff to help send the family's personal Christmas cards, making her request via her private email account, McClatchy and CNN report.

The email exchange was discovered during an investigation by the State Department Inspector General's Office into potential misuse of taxpayer money, a person with knowledge of the matter told CNN. The aide, Toni Porter, testified as part of a probe launched by congressional Democrats into the firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick in May; Mike Pompeo has admitted he asked Trump to oust Linick, but denies it was in retaliation for an investigation.

Transcripts released on Friday show Porter testified that she managed projects "of special interest" to Mike Pompeo, and "there are times that Mrs. Pompeo relays that work to me." When asked if she ever felt "uncomfortable" with any of the tasks, Porter said yes, during two occasions when she "assisted with personal Christmas cards." She said she felt uneasy because "I was at the State Department."

In June, Linick testified before lawmakers that his office was investigating five possible incidents of wrongdoing in the State Department, including the potential misuse of taxpayer money. In addition to looking into Linick's ouster, congressional Democrats are also investigating taxpayer-funded "Madison Dinners" held at the State Department. Critics say Pompeo is holding these dinners not to discuss foreign policy but rather to expand his network as he prepares for a possible Senate run in Kansas or other higher elected office.

Pompeo complained on Fox News Monday night that "they're picking on my wife, who has done yeoman's work as a volunteer to try to make life better for every officer at the State Department, I find pathetic and sad." Catherine Garcia

September 14, 2020

The Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General has launched an investigation into Roger Stone's sentencing recommendation, two people familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of President Trump, was convicted last year of witness tampering and lying to investigators. Prosecutors working on the case said they were told to push for a lighter sentence than the seven to nine years they were considering, and this is what the watchdog is looking into, NBC News reports. Before the sentencing, Attorney General William Barr intervened, and Stone was ultimately sentenced to 40 months in prison. In July, Trump commuted his sentence.

In response to Barr's intervention, all four of the Stone prosecutors quit, including Aaron Zelinsky, who testified before Congress in June. He said he was told by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to endorse a lighter sentence for Stone, due to his relationship with Trump. One person with knowledge of the matter told NBC News Zelinsky's testimony is what prompted the Inspector General's Office to start the investigation. Catherine Garcia

September 1, 2020

Federal prosecutors are getting close to charging Elliott Broidy, a prominent Republican fundraiser, in connection with attempts to influence the U.S. government on behalf of foreign interests, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

Broidy, who was appointed national deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee after President Trump's election, allegedly tried to coax Trump, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and other administration officials into stopping an investigation into Malaysian government corruption, the Post reports.

Several people with knowledge of the situation told the Post Broidy also allegedly pushed for the extradition of Chinese dissident Guo Wengui on behalf of a Chinese government official and a Malaysian billionaire. When Stephen Bannon, a former adviser to Trump, was arrested last month on charges of defrauding donors who thought their money was going to build a border wall, he was on Guo's yacht off the coast of Connecticut.

On Monday, one of Broidy's business associates, Nickie Mali Lum Davis, pleaded guilty for her role in facilitating an unregistered lobbying campaign in exchange for millions of dollars. The charging document in her case states that she admitted to aiding and abetting the efforts of two other people involved in influence campaigns, identified as Person A and Person B. People familiar with the matter told the Post that Person A is former Fugees rapper Pras Michel and Person B is Broidy.

Broidy, who resigned from his RNC post in April 2018 after it was reported that he paid a Playboy model $1.6 million to keep silent about their sexual relationship, declined to comment to the Post. Several people with knowledge of the matter told the Post he has been holding discussions with the Justice Department, and could reach a plea deal. Catherine Garcia

August 26, 2020

About two weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, President Trump told then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House staffers that "extreme action" was needed to keep migrants from entering the United States at the southern border, and later that day, a shocking suggestion was made, two former officials told The New York Times.

During a meeting with top leaders of the Department of Homeland Security, officials from Customs and Border Protection suggested deploying the Active Denial System, a microwave weapon known as a "heat ray" that was designed by the military to disperse crowds. When its invisible beams hit a person's skin, it feels like it is being burned. The Times notes that the heat ray is rarely used now questions about its effectiveness and whether it's moral to deploy.

The former officials told the Times people in the room were shocked by the suggestion, and after the meeting, Nielsen told an aide she would not authorize use of such a device and it must never be mentioned in her presence again. It's unclear if Trump knew about the proposal. A Homeland Security spokesman told the Times on Wednesday the suggestion was "never considered."

Most of the Trump administration's policies have been slammed by immigration advocates, including the separation of migrant children from their parents, the lowering of the annual cap for refugees, and the travel bans on predominantly Muslim countries. Catherine Garcia

August 24, 2020

While most Trump campaign officials are remarkably optimistic about President Trump's re-election chances, one person reportedly isn't feeling so cheery: his son, Donald Trump Jr.

A prominent conservative activist who is in regular contact with Trump Jr. and campaign officials told The New York Times that he is "the only person who thinks they're going to lose. He's like, 'We're losing, dude, and we're going to get really hurt when we lose.'"

Trump Jr.'s biggest concern appears to be that if his father doesn't win in November, various prosecutors investigating the Trump Organization will be waiting to charge them, the activist told the Times. Trump Jr. also shared with the activist that he does not believe there could be a "peaceful transition" between the Trump and Biden administrations, and they plan to "shoot the prisoners."

Andy Surabian, a spokesman for Trump Jr., told the Times this is "100 percent false. Don does not have these concerns." Catherine Garcia

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