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April 16, 2018
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When President Trump lashed out at Special Counsel Robert Mueller after the FBI raided the office, residences, and bank deposit box of Trump's personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, commentators pointed out that the prosecutor who authorized the raid was Geoffrey Berman, Trump's personally selected U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. But soon after taking the job in January, The New York Times reports, "Berman notified Justice Department officials in Washington of a possible appearance of conflict of interest in the then-undisclosed Cohen investigation, and officials concluded that he should be recused, according to people briefed on the matter."

It is unclear why Berman recused himself, the Times said, and its reporters could only rule out reasons he had to hand control of the investigation to his handpicked deputy, Robert S. Khuzami. Berman, a registered Republican who donated to and volunteered for the Trump campaign, is not known to have any ties to Cohen, did not recuse himself because he was a law partner with Trump supporter Rudolph Giuliani, and did not step aside because of Trump's unusual decision to personally interview him for the job, the Times said.

The White House now reportedly considers the Cohen investigation, which has been secretly going on for months, a bigger existential threat to Trump's presidency than Mueller's Russia investigation, and people who have worked in or observed the Manhattan federal prosecutor's office — sometimes "jokingly referred to as the 'Sovereign District,'" the Times says — don't disagree with the White House assessment. "The office has been historically known for its independence of the Justice Department," John S. Martin Jr., a former U.S. attorney in Manhattan and former federal judge, tells the Times. "That's what makes it so powerful in this investigation, and such a danger to Donald Trump." You can read more about Khuzami and the other people running the Cohen investigation at The New York Times. Peter Weber

5:35 p.m. ET

Liz Cambage isn't just breaking records in the WNBA — she's standing beside the greatest players on the men's side too.

The Dallas Wings center scored 53 points against the New York Liberty on Tuesday, setting a new record for the most points scored by a WNBA player in a single game. The 6-foot-8 phenom toppled the record set by Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquana Williams in 2013, when she scored 51 points against the San Antonio Silver Stars while she was a member of the Tulsa Shock.

In helping the Wings to a 104-87 victory Tuesday, Cambage was clearly on point, going 17-22 from the field and 15-16 from the free throw line. She also nabbed 10 rebounds and blocked five shots. Bleacher Report's Natalie Weiner noted that the last basketball player to stuff the box score like Cambage did Tuesday was the one and only Michael Jordan.

Previously, Cambage's highest-scoring game was her 37-point performance against the Chicago Sky earlier this month. But with 44 seconds left in Tuesday's game against the Liberty, the Australian was able to sink a 3-pointer and secure her spot at the top. Watch Cambage make history below. Amari Pollard

5:30 p.m. ET
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Not everyone was buying it when President Trump said he simply misspoke during his Monday press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he said he didn't "see why it would be Russia" that interfered in American elections. On Tuesday, he told reporters that he simply meant to say that he didn't "see why it wouldn't be" Russia, adding, "I think that probably clarifies things."

Lucky for Trump, some conservative lawmakers were happy to accept his defense of Russian meddling in the 2016 election as a simple misunderstanding.

"I'm just glad he clarified it," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told NBC News. "I can't read his intentions or what he meant to say at the time, and suffice it to say that for me as a policy maker, what really matters is what we do moving forward."

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) concurred, telling Fox News that he took the president at his word when he explained his controversial comments as a botched double-negative. Portman on Monday called Trump's failure to side with the U.S. intelligence community "troubling."

While Rubio and Portman enjoyed a sigh of relief, not every conservative who condemned Trump's Monday comments has been so quick to move on. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), for example, didn't back down from his criticism, including when he said Monday that Trump gave Putin "a propaganda win." Instead, he told Fox News that Trump had been "weak" and delivered a "bad day for America." Summer Meza

3:52 p.m. ET
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Everyone predicts Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will face tough questions, especially about Roe v. Wade, when he eventually undergoes his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But two Democratic senators — Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.) — were there for Kavanaugh's last hearing. And they think Kavanaugh may have fudged a few answers.

In 2006, Kavanaugh faced the Senate committee after receiving a lifetime nomination to the D.C. Court of Appeals, The Atlantic reports. Kavanaugh had previously worked for former President George W. Bush, so Durbin and Leahy asked about his involvement in administration decisions during the war on terror. That included how detained terror subjects were treated in the early 2000s.

Kavanaugh denied knowing anything about the torture of detainees at the time, and he was confirmed. But two stories from The Washington Post and NPR soon reported that Kavanaugh discussed torture with White House lawyers in 2002, telling them that Justice Anthony Kennedy — whose impending retirement has spurred Kavanaugh's nomination to the bench — wouldn't support indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, per The Atlantic.

Durbin told NPR that the revelation made him feel "perilously close to being lied to." He wrote Kavanaugh to ask for clarification, and tweeted the same letter the day after Kavanaugh's SCOTUS nomination. Apparently, Kavanaugh never responded. Leahy wrote to the U.S. attorney general, but was denied a criminal investigation, The Atlantic says. He "still has questions about how truthful" Kavanaugh was last time around, per his statement after Kavanaugh's July 9 nomination.

Now, Kavanaugh is set to appear once again before the Senate, and Durbin and Leahy are still on the committee. And judging by Durbin's and Leahy's tweets, they haven't gotten over that one question. Read more at The Atlantic. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:34 p.m. ET
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Dogs across the country better lawyer up — the government is feeling litigious.

The United States on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against "APPROXIMATELY 30 PIT BULL-TYPE DOGS," a legal tracking Twitter account reported. The lawsuit, filed in North Carolina, alleges that the dogs were involved in an animal fighting operation, and seeks to require their owners to pay up.

Among the defendants: "a brown male, pit bull-type dog;" "a black and white, female pit bull-type dog;" and "an underweight black, male pit bull-type dog." The dogs are suspected of being involved in a fighting ring "for purposes of sport, wagering, or entertainment."

Of course, it's the humans who will ultimately be accused of violating the Animal Welfare Act, the lawsuit explains, but the poor dogs are the ones who were seized by officials and are named in the legal documents. "They are currently in the custody of the United States Marshals Service and being cared for by the Humane Society of the United States," reads the lawsuit. While the "pit bull-type" dogs were seized more than a month ago, the owners apparently still haven't paid to cover the cost of their care and veterinary treatment while in government custody.

For the record, the government's "approximate" guess was spot-on. It's unclear how much longer the exactly-30 dogs will remain in government care. Summer Meza

3:23 p.m. ET

Queen fans, get ready to belt your hearts out: Bohemian Rhapsody is just a few months away.

20th Century Fox released a new trailer Tuesday for the Freddie Mercury biopic, calling it "a foot-stomping celebration" of "one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet."

Framed by some of the band's most famous hits, including "We Will Rock You," "We Are The Champions," and of course the titular "Bohemian Rhapsody," the trailer gives us a look at the very beginnings of Queen and their unexpected rise to stardom. We also get brief glimpses of Mercury as he wrestles with his bisexuality and his struggle with his AIDS diagnosis, despite speculation that those parts of the story would be left untold.

Starring Emmy award-winning actor Rami Malek as Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody is expected to be released on Nov. 2, 2018. Watch the full trailer below. Shivani Ishwar

3:18 p.m. ET
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President Trump on Tuesday appeared to walk back many of his controversial comments from his joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, held Monday in Finland.

Trump faced widespread backlash for failing to side with the U.S. intelligence community over Putin during Monday's summit. On Tuesday, the president addressed the controversy and sought to correct the record. "I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place" he said. "Could be other people also. A lot of people out there."

He also reversed one of his most-criticized comments, when he said he didn't "see why it would be" Russia that interfered in the election. "In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't,'" Trump explained. "The sentence should have been, 'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.' Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things."

As critics pointed out, this was one of several instances in which Trump was forced to backpedal a statement after receiving fierce backlash. But Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser noted that Trump claiming he misspoke — and doing so more than 24 hours after the initial remarks — doesn't quite align with his post-press conference tweets and interview with Fox News, in which he fully stood by his comments on Russia's purported innocence.

Trump added that has "full faith" in intelligence officials, and pledged that his administration "will repel any effort to interfere in our elections" going forward. Summer Meza

2:14 p.m. ET

The White House has tried to squeeze every positive ounce out of President Trump's Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But there may not be much there.

Congressional Republicans received their daily set of talking points from the White House on Tuesday, which are meant to help the party and the president keep a united front. But half of Tuesday's list was just a backstory of the U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki, Finland. The other half includes four bulleted times Trump acknowledged Russian meddling or said he trusted American intelligence — four times within the full 18 months of his presidency.

Those bullet points attempt to contradict nearly everyone's criticism of Trump's post-summit press conference with Putin on Monday: that the president questioned Russia's involvement in the 2016 election instead of condemning it. But Republicans aren't taking the bait and using the points, notes NBC News' Peter Alexander — perhaps because most of them already saw the whole press conference and ripped it to shreds. Kathryn Krawczyk

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