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May 20, 2018

Venezuela's electoral council declared President Nicolas Maduro the winner Sunday night of a presidential election boycotted by many opponents and marred by claims of irregularities. With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Maduro had 68 percent of the vote versus 21 percent for the main opposition candidate allowed to run, Henri Falcon. Turnout was just over 46 percent, despite extended polling hours, electoral authorities said; The Associated Press estimated that about 40 percent of voters participated, while the opposition put the figure at closer to 30 percent. The U.S. said earlier Sunday that it won't accept the results of the election.

Falcon, a former governor who defected from Maduro's Socialist Party in 2010, blamed the opposition boycott for his low numbers but also rejected the results, saying Maduro's victory "without any doubt lacks legitimacy and we categorically refuse to recognize this process." He specifically pointed to the 13,000 pro-government "red spots" set up near voting stations where poor Venezuelans were encouraged to scan their "fatherland cards" — which entitle them to government benefits — for a chance to to win a "prize." A third candidate, evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci, also slammed voting irregularities and, like Falcon and the opposition coalition, urged a new election.

Maduro declared victory, embarking on a second six-year term. Oil-rich Venezuela is five years into a brutal recession with annual inflation of 19,000 percent and rampant shortages of food and medicine. Maduro has stacked the Supreme Court and replaced the opposition-controlled National Assembly with a second legislature made up of supporters. That National Constituent Assembly had pushed up the presidential election, originally scheduled for December. The two most popular opposition candidates were barred from running and other potential candidates fled Venezuela. Peter Weber

9:26 a.m.

President Trump is already satisfied with the Mueller report he got three weeks ago. Maybe he shouldn't be.

When Attorney General William Barr delivered his initial findings from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe in late March, Trump was quick to spin it as "total and complete exoneration." Yet Trump's conclusion — which isn't true, by the way — didn't really change how Americans felt about him.

After a low point during the government shutdown, Trump's approval ratings have hovered around 42 percent, per FiveThirtyEight's ongoing conglomeration of several polls. In fact, Trump saw a 42.1 percent approval rating on March 24, the day Barr released his infamous report findings. But instead of convincing the public of no collusion like Trump had hoped, it seems Barr's findings did absolutely nothing. On Thursday, as Congress is scheduled to receive the whole redacted Mueller report, Trump is at a solid 42 percent.

FiveThirtyEight compiles dozens of polls into its approval rating matrix, "accounting for each poll's quality, recency, sample size and partisan lean," it says. Check out the rest of Trump's unchanging approval numbers here. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:22 a.m.

President Trump braced for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Thursday with a dramatic video montage in which he declares "no collusion" over and over again.

Trump on his Twitter account released an edited video compiling instances in which he dismissed Mueller's investigation by declaring "no collusion," doing so in this video 10 times within the span of 24 seconds. Clearly, the montage is far from complete, with The Washington Post having previously tracked down at least 231 instances of Trump using that phrase.

The video then cuts to a highlight reel of media coverage after Attorney General William Barr's summary of the Mueller report, which said that Mueller did not establish that Trump's campaign conspired with Russia.

The video doesn't reference the second aspect of Mueller's report, with Barr having said that Mueller did not conclude whether the president obstructed justice but did not exonerate him. It's this obstruction of justice question that the redacted report may be able to provide more clarity on, and which could potentially include some details damaging to the administration. Trump did, however, write "no obstruction" in his tweet.

The whole video is set to dramatic music as if it's a movie trailer, although this time, the White House did wisely avoid using the score from The Dark Knight Rises without permission. Watch Trump's video below. Brendan Morrow

9:15 a.m.

As of Thursday morning, no one knows how much of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report will be redacted — or even how long it is — but that hasn't stopped the publishing industry from going hog wild over getting it into print as fast as possible.

On Amazon, you can already take your pick of six versions of the Mueller Report, from Skyhorse's edition (with an introduction by Alan Dershowitz), The Washington Post's edition (which includes analysis by staff reporters), an audiobook version (available "only from Audible"), Melville House's edition (which has an initial print run of an impressive 50,000 copies), Brown Books Publishing Group's Kindle edition (with lawmakers co-writing a bipartisan introduction), and a plain Kindle version ("free of additional commentary").

That's not even to include Muller Report-adjacent publications that have already come out, including The Mueller Report by humorist Jason O. Gilbert, A Comprehensive Review of the Lies in the Mueller Report: Exhaustive Analysis of Each and Every Specific Lie by Nate Roberts (all the pages are blank — get it?), and The Mueller Meme Report: Winners Aren't Losers - A Coloring Book Meme Guide to All the Russian Collusion Found After 657 Days of Investigating, self-published by "Trumpy McTrumpface."

Of course, the Mueller Report will also be available online on Thursday for free via the Department of Justice. Jeva Lange

9:07 a.m.

After the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, Michael Cohen will be ready to chat.

President Trump's former lawyer, who previously testified before Congress, on Thursday tweeted that he will soon "be ready to address the American people again" and "tell it all" after the redacted version of the Mueller report drops later in the day.

The New York Times' Maggie Haberman notes that the Mueller report is likely to include information that Cohen provided while speaking to the special counsel's team for hours.

Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, said on Thursday that it "does not matter" how much Barr redacts the Mueller report because Cohen will be able to "fill in the bulk" of these redactions, adding in a message to Trump, "nice try." Brendan Morrow

Brendan Morrow

8:50 a.m.

CNN's Chris Cuomo is befuddled by Attorney General William Barr's rollout of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report — but the way it's being handled does remind him of someone.

Barr plans to hold a press conference on Thursday morning about the release of the redacted version of the Mueller report. But the report won't actually be made public until hours later, meaning journalists won't have the opportunity to ask informed questions, and Barr could be able to frame the narrative about the report.

This plan "to have a press conference about something before you've released that thing," is "weird," Cuomo concluded on New Day. Perhaps it's because Barr has taken some inspiration from President Trump, Cuomo considered. He asked: "Who likes to do press conferences where they promise that things are going to happen and people don't know the facts yet, but 'here, this is going to be amazing' ... I wonder who may have encouraged this press conference?"

Cuomo, in fact, raised concerns about Barr all throughout Thursday's New Day. At the top of the show, Alisyn Camerota noted that Democrats are "accusing Barr of trying to shield the president and color Mueller's findings for the public," to which Cuomo shot back, "And that's because he is," per NewsBusters. Cuomo on his Wednesday show complained about Barr's handling of the entire process, from his four-page summary to his press conference held before a holiday weekend, arguing, "The process has been stinky."

Cuomo's fears didn't seem to be assuaged after the Justice Department announced the topics for the press conference later in the morning, with Cuomo saying that "Democrats are accusing Barr of improperly trying to color Mueller’s findings before the public or lawmakers could read the Mueller report, and by definition, he’s doing just that." Brendan Morrow

8:17 a.m.

The Justice Department has just revealed what Attorney General William Barr plans to discuss at his highly-anticipated press conference on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.

A DOJ spokesperson on Thursday said that Barr in his press conference will address three issues: whether executive privilege was invoked, what recent interactions the Justice Department has had with the White House, and the redaction process, per CNN's Abby Phillip.

Barr had previously come under fire from Democrats for holding this press conference before the Mueller report is released to Congress or to the public, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) both calling the plan "indefensible."

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will be present for the press conference, per CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, but he does not plan to make a statement. It will reportedly last about 20 minutes. CNN's Jim Sciutto observed that if the conference is limited to these three questions, it sounds like it's "not about Mueller, it's about Barr and Barr defending Barr." Brendan Morrow

7:02 a.m.

Attorney General William Barr will hold a press conference at 9:30 Thursday morning to discuss a report the press won't be able to read until Thursday afternoon. Special Counsel Robert Mueller won't be there, and neither will any of his team of investigators. In a joint statement Thursday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) characterized Barr's press conference as an "indefensible plan to spin the report," which, combined with other aspects of Barr's "regrettably partisan handling of the Muller report," has "resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality."

"We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the special counsel's investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible," Pelosi and Schumer wrote. "The American people deserve to hear the truth." Peter Weber

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