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March 23, 2019

The Mueller report is now in the hands of Attorney General William Barr and the early reaction both inside the White House and from analysts is that things are looking good for the Trump administration — especially because Special Counsel Robert Mueller is not recommending any further indictments as a result of the nearly two-year investigation.

CNN legal expert Jeffrey Toobin said the lack of indictments is "unambiguously good news" for the White House.

MSNBC's Chris Matthews, meanwhile, expressed incredulity that the investigation concluded without Mueller directly interviewing Trump, though NBC News reporter Ken Dilanian explained that Trump likely would have invoked the Fifth Amendment regardless.

CBS News' Major Garrett reported that Trump's attorneys also are expecting the investigation to end in the president's favor.

"The special counsel's office is essentially shuttered and they believe not only legally, but importantly politically, the president will be found to be largely, if not completely in the clear," Garret said.

CNN's Jim Acosta likewise reported that the White House was celebrating the news "quietly," but "with a fair amount of glee." Acosta said a Trump campaign adviser told him, "This was a great day for America and we won." Tim O'Donnell

9:16 p.m.

Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky plays the president on TV, and will soon take on the role in real life, too.

Exit polls show that Zelensky won Ukraine's presidential election on Sunday in a landslide, with 73 percent of the vote. Zelensky, 41, has no previous political experience. He defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko, who has conceded defeat.

On the show Servant of the People, Zelensky plays a teacher who accidentally becomes Ukraine's president. Ukraine is at war in its eastern Donbass region, and critics worry that because of his lack of experience, Zelensky, who has ties to billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, won't be able to stand up to Russia or make peace with separatists. Catherine Garcia

1:12 p.m.

President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani made the talk show rounds on Sunday to defend his client following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on 2016 Russian election interference and the Trump campaign's conduct surrounding the meddling. The former New York City mayor wasn't exactly cautious when responding to questions from Fox News' Chris Wallace, CNN's Jake Tapper, and NBC's Chuck Todd. Here are three of Giuliani's boldest opinions on the Mueller Report.

Info sharing is a-okay — Giuliani told Tapper on CNN's State of the Union that "there's nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians," saying that campaigns get information on their opponents from so many different sources.

On NBC's Meet the Press, Giuliani told Todd that using material stolen by foreign adversaries in a campaign isn't fundamentally a problem — it just depends on the material itself.

Interference didn't do much anyway — While speaking with Todd, Giuliani — who said that much of the Mueller report is questionable — argued that it's "hard to believe" Russian interference did much to sway the 2016 election. While there is no way of quantifying the interference's tangible influence on the vote count, even members of the Republican Party, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), expressed serious concern over the amount of Russian interference the investigation uncovered.

Trump had reason to fire Mueller — Much of the analysis on the Mueller report points to aides such as former White House Counsel Don McGahn preventing Trump from "influencing" the investigation and, therefore, obstructing justice. But Giuliani told Wallace that even if Trump had fired the special counsel, it would not have been obstruction. Giuliani's point was that Trump had good reason to replace Mueller because he hired "very, very questionable" people to investigate Trump. Tim O'Donnell

12:11 p.m.

To impeach, or to not impeach? That is — always, it seems — the question.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday's edition of Meet the Press that he is not ruling out beginning impeachment proceedings against President Trump following Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on 2016 Russian election interference and the Trump campaign's conduct surrounding the meddling.

Nadler was anything but surefire on the matter, though. Per The Hill, he said Congress would first have to receive an unredacted version of Mueller's report — for which Democrats have issued a subpoena already — as well as hear testimony from both Mueller and Attorney General William Barr before determining whether to begin proceedings or not. That said, Nadler added that "if proven," some of the material from the Mueller report, particularly possible obstruction of justice, would be impeachable.

Nadler is not the first prominent Democrat to discuss beginning impeachment proceedings in recent days. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a presidential candidate, did so on Friday, while Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee chair, said during Sunday's This Week that Democrats may undertake impeachment, even with the knowledge that the Senate would be unlikely to vote Trump out of office. Schiff called the Mueller investigation "more significant" than Watergate. Tim O'Donnell

11:20 a.m.

An internal Department of Homeland Security memo said that top military and Homeland Security officials are considering classifying fentanyl — a highly potent synthetic opioid — as a weapon of mass destruction, CNN reports. A DHS official confirmed the authenticity of the memo.

Fentanyl is one of the painkillers that has contributed significantly to the opioid epidemic plaguing the United States. It was behind 30,000 of the 72,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017. It has reportedly concerned national security officials for decades because of its potential widespread lethality in terror attacks. Andy Weber, the former assistant secretary of defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs, told CNN fentanyl would be "disturbingly easy" to weaponize through the air and water systems.

U.S. officials first noted the danger of a fentanyl attack when the Russian military utilized it in 2002 by pumping it into the ventilation system of a theater in Moscow that had been taken over by Chechen rebels, CNN reports. The action killed dozens inside the theater. Officials from DHS and the Pentagon have reportedly met in recent months to discuss designating the drug a WMD; such a designation would allegedly disrupt its availability on the black market. Tim O'Donnell

11:03 a.m.

Not everyone is mourning the damage done to Notre Dame.

The Yellow Vest movement, a sometimes-violent national protest based around the beliefs that ordinary French citizens have lost purchasing power and French President Emmanuel Macron's policies favor the rich, has expressed anger at the nearly $1 billion in pledges to reconstruct the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, which caught fire last week.

Nine-thousand protesters took to the streets for the 23rd consecutive weekend in Paris on Saturday and criticized what they believe is hypocrisy from the French elite. Those gathered decried the fact that money will be spent on the cathedral as opposed to addressing poverty in France.

The protests started out peacefully, but they eventually turned violent as the demonstrators clashed with police who used tear gas and stun grenades to subdue them.

Macron was scheduled to address the Yellow Vest movement directly in a speech on Monday when the fire struck Notre Dame, but the president postponed in order to deal with the fallout surrounding the blaze. Tim O'Donnell

10:33 a.m.

This might go on a while.

President Trump fired back at Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) after Romney released a statement saying he was "sickened" by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on 2016 Russian election interference and the Trump campaign's conduct surrounding the meddling. Romney said the report highlighted Trump's dishonesty.

Romney did also add that the government can now "move on" from the investigation, but Trump wasn't ready to do that quite yet. The president responded to Romney's statement on Twitter, posting video footage of the senator's electoral defeat in the 2012 presidential election when he ran as the Republican nominee against former President Barack Obama.

Romney actually won a greater percentage of the popular vote in 2012 than Trump did in 2016, but he did not carry enough of the electoral vote to defeat Obama. Tim O'Donnell

8:09 a.m.

The FBI arrested a member of a right-wing militia on Saturday in New Mexico, just days after his armed group, The United Constitutional Patriots, detained more than 200 migrants who illegally crossed the United States' southern border into New Mexico.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, of Flora Vista, New Mexico, was charged with alleged unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition. The United Constitutional Patriots reportedly posted videos of its members detaining the migrants and coordinating with U.S. border patrol agents to take them into custody. The New Mexico attorney general's office described Hopkins as a "dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families," but it is unclear if his arrest is directly related to the detentions.

The militia's spokesman, Jim Benvie, said that Hopkins "will get through this" and the arrest "doesn't change anything." The American Civil Liberties Union, which has called The United Constitutional Patriots "fascist," blamed the group's vigilante actions on the rhetoric of President Trump. Tim O'Donnell

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