November 14, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions insisted Tuesday that he has been answering Congress' questions to the best of his ability during several congressional hearings. Sessions made the claim while appearing before the House Judiciary Committee. Last week, 17 House Democrats signed a letter written to Sessions that announced their intent to press the attorney general on a statement made during his January confirmation hearing, when he claimed he was not aware of any contacts between Russian officials and members of Trump's campaign.

To that end, Sessions said in forceful, prepared remarks Tuesday: "I will not accept, and reject, accusations that I have ever lied. That is a lie."

Challenged by Democratic senators earlier this month about why he did not disclose that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had proposed a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting Sessions attended, Sessions told the committee Tuesday that he had "no recollection" of the meeting until the news reports came out. "I do now recall that the March 2016 meeting at the Trump Hotel that [George] Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting," Sessions added.

All of Sessions' testimony can be watched live or from the beginning at C-SPAN. Jeva Lange

8:20 a.m. ET
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Student-led March for Our Lives rallies are scheduled in Washington and cities across the United States on Saturday. About 500,000 people are expected to gather in the capital alone, and some 700 additional protests for stricter gun laws are listed on the march website.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where the mass shooting on Valentine's Day left 17 people dead, are among the 20 speakers scheduled for the primary event in Washington. All the speakers are 18 or younger, and they will be accompanied by performances from celebrities including Ariana Grande, Common, and Miley Cyrus.

March for Our Lives' student organizers say Saturday's protests are just the beginning of their gun control campaign. "We want to continue what we're doing, especially leading up to November," said Jaclyn Corin, 17, from Parkland. "We want every young person to register to vote and head to the polls, no matter who they're voting for or what party they've voting for." Bonnie Kristian

7:58 a.m. ET
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President Trump on Friday issued an order banning transgender people who "may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery" from the military "except under certain limited circumstances."

The question of transgender troops has been in limbo for the better part of a year since Trump's surprise announcement via Twitter last summer of a complete ban on transgender service. That initial rule was blocked in court, and the Justice Department dropped its challenge to the stay in December pending a recommendation from Defense Secretary James Mattis. The Friday memo said Mattis reached a conclusion in favor of this new ban, which will still face court challenge.

"This new policy will enable the military to apply well-established mental and physical health standards — including those regarding the use of medical drugs — equally to all individuals who want to join and fight for the best military force the world has ever seen," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the memo. Mattis likewise argued against exemptions "from well-established mental health, physical health, and sex-based standards, which apply to all Service members" in a February report to Trump.

But critics contend the plan discriminates against the LGBT community and will reduce military readiness. "The Trump-Pence administration's continued insistence on targeting our military families for discrimination is appalling, reckless, and unpatriotic," said Ashley Broadway-Mack of the American Military Partner Association. Bonnie Kristian

March 23, 2018
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George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to President Trump, communicated with top Trump campaign officials like Stephen Bannon and Michael Flynn about his foreign outreach efforts and received encouragement from a senior-level official to make contact with Russians, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts last year, was reportedly urged to accept an interview with a Russian news agency by the campaign’s deputy communications director, Bryan Lanza. "You should do it,” Lanza wrote, per an email that was "described" to the Post. The message further touted the potential gains to be had from a U.S. “partnership with Russia.”

Trump and his staffers have sought to downplay the role that Papadopoulos played in the campaign, calling him a "low-level volunteer" and merely a "coffee boy." But emails revealed to the Post show that Bannon, then the campaign CEO, and Flynn, then a top campaign adviser, were frequently in touch with Papadopoulos to discuss possible meetings between Trump and foreign officials.

Papadopoulos is cooperating in the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign was involved. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

March 23, 2018

As the national conversation on gun violence comes to a head, 63 percent of gun owners maintain they keep guns for self defense. Others point out times the "good guy with a gun" argument went wrong.

A new story from BuzzFeed News looks at those times.

Since 2015, at least 47 people have been shot by someone who mistook them for an intruder, per an analysis by BuzzFeed News and gun violence-focused newsroom The Trace. The victims were actually family members, friends, or emergency responders — and 15 of them died.

BuzzFeed News turned four of these stories into a harrowing Twitter thread describing the moment each shooter realized what they'd done, like this snippet of Alexis Bukrym's story:

Bukrym's story continues, describing how she learned gun safety as a child and kept a handgun under her pillow while living with the roommate she shot. She knew about the risk of an accident, but her roommate didn't have a gun, and it seemed worth the risk to protect them both.

Read the rest of the story — including Bukrym's views on guns after the accident — at BuzzFeed News. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 23, 2018
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President Trump's newest hire is already wrapped up in the administration's scandal of the moment.

Incoming National Security Adviser John Bolton's super PAC in 2014 bought Cambridge Analytica data collected from Facebook profiles, per a contract obtained by The New York Times. That makes Bolton's super PAC one of the firm's first customers, the Times noted.

The John Bolton Super PAC spent almost $1.2 million on "behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging," which used data compiled from Facebook users. Bolton's PAC was aware the data came from Facebook, whistleblower Chris Wylie confirmed to the Times.

Connections to Cambridge Analytica have surfaced in multiple Republican campaigns since Saturday, when Wylie revealed how the company breached Facebook to build databases of user information. Trump's campaign was the most notable, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as well as now-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson both paid the firm during their presidential runs in 2016, ABC News reported. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 23, 2018

South Korea wants its government workers to stop working so hard.

Federal employees are putting in too many overtime hours, BBC reports, so the local government is taking extreme measures to make sure they head out on time: Employee computers will be automatically powered down at 8 p.m. sharp every Friday.

The local government in Seoul, South Korea's capital city, is rolling out the new initiative starting later this month, BBC reports, in an effort to stop a "culture of working overtime." In April, the shutdown will start a bit earlier, at 7:30 p.m. By May, the initiative's final phase, the workday will end at 7 p.m.

Government employees in South Korea work an average of 2,739 hours a year, about 1,000 hours more than their counterparts in other developed countries. Lawmakers have been trying to crack down on overworked employees, reducing the maximum for weekly work hours from 68 to 52 earlier this month.

The South Korean government will consider exemptions for the new lights-out policy, reports BBC, and more than two-thirds of government workers have already asked to be excluded. The Verge reports that this is not the first instance of government-regulated screen time in the country: Children were previously barred from playing online video games past midnight unless they had parental permission. Read more at BBC. Summer Meza

March 23, 2018

Foreign adoptions by U.S. parents dropped 12 percent in 2017, per State Department statistics released Friday.

American families only adopted 4,719 children from other countries last year, down from 5,372 in 2016. And it's only the latest fall in a chronic decline; international adoptions peaked at 22,884 in 2004 and they've fallen dramatically ever since, per The Associated Press.

Nearly 40 percent of adopted children came from China in 2017, which is consistently the No. 1 home country for foreign-adopted children.

Russia usually took the No. 3 spot until the U.S. banned Russian adoptions in 2014. Adoptions from several other countries have also seen suspensions in the past few years, AP notes.

The decline in foreign adoptions is a worldwide trend, though AP notes that the U.S. still accounts for half of that shrinking number. Read more here. Kathryn Krawczyk

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