Democratic senators and House members took to TV and Twitter on Saturday to blast John Dowd, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, after he told The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should shut down the Russia probe. “The continued attacks on law enforcement by @realDonaldTrump and his lackeys must stop,” tweeted Sen. Bob Casey, while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Dowd’s comments “yet another indication that the first instinct of the president and his legal team is not to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller, but to undermine him at every turn.” (Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego merely tweeted, “Hell no.”) Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Michael Bennet, and Jeanne Shaheen also warned of a constitutional crisis if Trump moved to shut down Mueller’s investigation. Meanwhile, Mark Warner, a member of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, urged, “Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the Special Counsel. Now.” Dowd’s comments came a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who been interviewed by Mueller’s team and asked about the firing of former FBI head James Comey.
Former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe has followed in the footsteps of Trump foe James Comey—he reportedly kept personal memos on his dealings with the president. McCabe, fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday less than two days before his retirement, took notes on his interactions with the president in the same manner as Comey prior to his dismissal as FBI director last May, according to a source cited by the Associated Press. Comey’s memos proved to be a thorn in Trump’s side long after the ousted FBI director left, with some allegations in the documents suggesting possible obstruction of justice by the president. Trump reveled in McCabe’s dismissal late Friday, but he appeared more defensive amid increasing criticism over the move on Saturday, as many suggested McCabe was axed to undermine the ongoing Russia investigation. “As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign,” Trump tweeted Saturday, accusing the FBI of “tremendous leaking, lying and corruption.”
Cambridge Analytica, a data firm tied to President Trump's presidential campaign, has been accused of harvesting the user data of millions of people to influence elections. Facebook announced it was suspending the company late Friday, saying the measure was in response to the data firm improperly storing the user data of 270,000 people for years after promising to delete it. On Saturday, however, sources cited by The New York Times said the suspension went far beyond simple policy violations, with the data firm accused of stealing the personal information of at least 50 million Facebook users with the goal of influencing elections. The personal data was reportedly obtained under the guise of a personality-prediction app by Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan, who is accused of conspiring with Cambridge Analytica to unlawfully glean users' information and build psychological profiles. The data analysis company has faced increasing scrutiny in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe for its work with President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Facebook has also come under fire for its role in allowing Russian ads to flourish during the election, and some questioned why the social media giant took so long to take action against Cambridge Analytica. Sen. Mark Warner told The Daily Beast the latest accusations are “more evidence that the online political advertising market is essentially the Wild West.” “Whether it’s allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it's clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency,” he said.
--with reporting by Spencer Ackerman
Engineers involved in the construction of the pedestrian bridge that collapsed near Florida International University on Thursday concluded there were no “safety concerns” from a crack in the structure just hours before it crashed down on cars, killing at least six. A statement released by the university on Saturday said the crack was discussed by representatives from Figg Bridge Engineers, the bridge’s construction manager, and university authorities prior to the collapse, but engineers decided “the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge.” The meeting came two days after a lead engineer left a voicemail with a Transportation Department official about “some cracking” in the structure. The new details emerged as authorities uncovered more bodies in the wreckage on Saturday, with a 37-year-old construction worker and 18-year-old college student among the identified victims. Police have said they expect to uncover more bodies once the rubble is cleared.
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President Trump rejoiced in the dismissal of deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe late Friday, calling the move “a great day for democracy.” The president posted a celebratory tweet on the news shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions dropped the bombshell that McCabe would be terminated prior to his planned retirement, a move likely to deprive him of retirement benefits. Describing McCabe’s ouster as a “a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI,” Trump also used the opportunity to take a shot at ousted FBI director James Comey, who he said “made McCabe look like a choirboy.” The firing triggered alarm among many who fear McCabe was booted to appease the president and undermine special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Former CIA director John Brennan was among those to see red flags in the move, accusing Trump of “scapegoating” McCabe on Saturday. “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history,” he wrote on Twitter.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday ordered the expulsion of 23 diplomats and the closure of the British Council, a government organization fostering cultural and scientific cooperation. The tit for tat expulsions were expected in retaliation for British Prime Minister Theresa May’s expulsion of 23 Russians earlier this week. But the shuttering of the Council, which is seen as a key outreach program by Britain, amounted to an escalation of the latest fallout between the two countries. A former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, was poisoned along with his daughter on British soil with a nerve agent that Western governments say must have come from Russia. Moscow summoned British ambassador Laurie Bristow on Saturday morning to announce the retaliatory measures before warning in a statement that further action could be taken against Britain if its government makes any more “unfriendly” moves toward Russia.
United Airlines on Saturday confirmed it had accidentally loaded a dog onto a plane bound for St. Louis this week, leaving several dozen passengers delayed for a last-minute flight diversion. Natalie Noonan, a spokeswoman for the airline, told The Washington Post that Flight 3996 was diverted to Akron, Ohio on Thursday because the company “chose the fastest option to reunite the dog with his family.” Passengers forced to accompany the dog on its journey were compensated for the delay, Noonan said. At least 33 passengers were on board, according to CNN. The airline has made headlines this week for three separate dog-related incidents, one of which was fatal. A French bulldog forced into the overhead compartment for the duration of a three-hour flight died Monday. A day later, a German shepherd meant to be shipped to Kansas City was mistakenly sent to Japan by the airline.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping was reappointed on Saturday with no term limits. The National People’s Congress unanimously voted in favor of the move, just a week after the legislature approved a constitutional amendment scrapping presidential term limits. Xi ally Wang Qishan, who previously led anti-corruption efforts, was appointed to the post of vice president and will also be allowed to rule without term limits. Xi has been compared to dictator Mao Zedong for his recent consolidation of power, and critics warn his indefinite rule will lead to further political repression and human rights violations. After receiving a standing ovation on his reappoint Saturday, Xi vowed to “strenuously struggle to build a rich, strong, democratic and civilized” country in his next term.
The New York Jets climbed three spots in the 2018 NFL draft on Saturday to become No. 3 overall after a clever trade with the Indianapolis Colts. As part of a blockbuster deal, they sent the Colts their first round-pick, No. 6 overall, as well as their two second-round picks—No. 37 and No. 49 overall—this year. They also agreed to send their second-round pick in 2019. With the move, the Jets have ensured they will get one of the top-rated quarterbacks available, with USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Wyoming's Josh Allen, and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield all in the running. The other New York team, the Giants, will get the No. 2 pick of the draft season, giving New York football fans plenty to look forward to in the months ahead.