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April 20, 2019

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly left Attorney General William Barr and other members of the Justice Department perplexed, The Washington Post reports.

Their confusion stems from Mueller's decision to not reach a conclusion on whether President Trump obstructed justice during Mueller's probe into 2016 Russian election interference and the Trump campaign's conduct surrounding the meddling. In public, Barr — who reportedly considers Mueller a friend — said it was Mueller's "prerogative" to make the call, or lack thereof, on obstruction.

But privately, Barr and Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein disagreed with Mueller's legal theories. In the report, Mueller's team pointed to a long-standing legal opinion at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Council, which says that a sitting president should not be indicted. Mueller reportedly concluded that meant they could not accuse the president of a crime and, at times, the report implies that Congress should assume the role of making prosecutorial decisions.

This reportedly surprised Barr who did think Mueller had the authority to make such a decision (Barr eventually came to the conclusion that the evidence did not constitute obstruction.) Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, told the Post that it was, indeed, a surprise that Mueller leaned so heavily on the OLC opinion.

"It doesn't make any sense, because on collusion, he seemed to be perfectly empowered to reach a conclusion on whether the president committed a crime," Turley said. "The other problem is that his mandate clearly allowed him to make a decision." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

2:30 p.m.

Artificial intelligence is officially joining the fight against cancer.

Google on Monday announced new research in training an AI tool to recognize the signs of lung cancer from a CT scan of a patient's chest. The research, which began in late 2017, has culminated in an AI capable of diagnosing lung cancer with better accuracy than certified radiologists.

In order to test the AI, Google showed it 45,856 chest CT scans, comparing the AI's diagnoses with those of six board-certified radiologists, Engadget reported. Google's AI was able to detect cancer in 5 percent more of these screenings than the radiologists; it also reduced false diagnoses by "more than 11 percent."

Radiologists typically have to view up to hundreds of images from a single CT scan in order to make a successful diagnosis for lung cancer; Google's AI is able to generate a three-dimensional image instead of 2-D ones, as well as detecting specific areas of malignant tissue in the lungs, which radiologists are often unable to do from images alone.

This AI modeling technique represents a breakthrough in the ability to diagnose cancers early on. Lung cancer, which accounts for more than 1.7 million deaths every year around the world, is often not caught until later stages, when treatment has a much lower chance of success. Google's technology will have to undergo further research and testing before becoming available as a diagnosis tool, but the company hopes to "make early detection more accessible." Shivani Ishwar

2:24 p.m.

President Trump's trade war with China is about to go global.

Trump has spent pretty much his entire presidency trying to negotiate a trade deal with China, with both countries levying tit-for-tat tariffs all the while. And while those tariffs have mainly hurt American farmers so far, a new Morgan Stanley analysis published by Reuters suggests they could turn into a problem for the whole world.

After a brief hibernation, trade talks with China started up again earlier this month. And in the middle of those discussions, Trump upped a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese exports to 25 percent, leading China to, of course, retaliate. If that pattern continues, specifically "if talks stall, no deal is agreed upon, and the U.S. imposes 25 percent tariffs on the remaining circa $300 billion of imports from China," then "we see the global economy heading towards recession," a Morgan Stanley analyst wrote in a Monday memo. The Federal Reserve Board would then have to cut interest rates down to zero, the analyst predicted.

Back in the states, the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates Trump's current tariffs translate to an average tax hike of $550 for each American family, Politico reports. Extending that tariff to $500 billion worth of goods could lead to a $2,200 tax spike for a family of three. That effectively erases the $800 average tax cut U.S. families saw under Trump's Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. Making matters even worse, companies including Walmart are warning that ongoing tariffs will just lead to higher consumer prices. Read more about the everyday negatives of Trump's tariffs at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:32 p.m.

The hosts of Fox & Friends aren't happy with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's criticism of their network.

Buttigieg during a town hall event on Sunday night had called out Fox hosts, blasting "what goes on with some of the opinion hosts on this network" while criticizing some specific comments from Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson. "There is a reason why anyone has to swallow hard and think twice about participating in this media ecosystem," he said. He also said that a lot of people tune into Fox in good faith, even if "some of those hosts are not there in good faith."

In response, Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade scolded Buttigieg on Monday, telling him, "Don't hop on our channel and continue to put down the other hosts on the channel, or the channel. If you feel that negative about it, don't come."

Kilmeade went on to say that Buttigieg taking "shots" at the network's prime time lineup without going on the prime time shows "shows, to me, absolutely no courage."

Buttigieg had decided to participate in a town hall with Fox News after the Democratic National Committee had previously chosen not to partner with the network for 2020 debates, and after other Democratic candidates for president had turned Fox down for a similar event. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently did so while labeling Fox a "hate-for-profit racket." At his town hall, Buttigieg noted, "A lot of folks in my party were critical of me of even doing this with Fox News," to which moderator Chris Wallace joked, "I've heard that." Brendan Morrow

12:58 p.m.

Former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has a problem with the 20-something-strong Democratic primary field.

The ex-Senate majority leader retired in 2017 and is currently fighting pancreatic cancer, but that hasn't stopped him from taking shot after shot at President Trump over the past two years. Now Reid has broadened his view to Democratic targets, particularly those 2020 contenders he thinks should've run for the Senate instead, he tells The New York Times.

While Democrats have piled into the presidential race, the party has recently faced a "recruitment problem" when it comes to drawing Senate candidates, as the Times puts it. Reid suggests this stems from "a feeling that the Senate ... is not dignified like it used to be," and then said it was "a shame that someone like [2020 contender and Montana Gov.] Steve Bullock would not run for the Senate."

Reid particularly wanted to see failed Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke try again in 2020, this time for Sen. John Cornyn's (R-Texas) seat. O'Rourke "came to see me at my home" and "I told him I thought he should've run" for Senate instead of the presidency, Reid said. O'Rourke said "nothing" in return.

Still, Reid won't declare a favorite 2020 candidate just yet. "Everybody knows my affection for Joe Biden," Reid told the Times, but he added that Biden "knows — I've told him I can't endorse him." Then again, he did tell Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to seriously consider a 2020 run back in 2017 — and she listened. Read Reid's whole interview at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:02 p.m.

A Fox & Friends segment went completely off the rails on Monday morning as New Yorker after New Yorker showed absolutely no interest in chatting with Steve Doocy.

Doocy tried to conduct a man-on-the-street segment about a report that New York might start fining people who text while walking across the street. It did not go well to say the least, with Doocy's first attempted interview subject reluctantly offering a few words before shooting him down for more of a response and walking away.

From there, Doocy wandered around for more than a minute getting fully ignored by person after person, eventually realizing that trying to do a man-on-the-street segment about 20 minutes before most people have to be at work wasn't the best idea in the world.

“Can you tell that New York City is a very busy place?” he asks. "It is indeed." Watch the brutal segment via Media Matters for America's Bobby Lewis below. Brendan Morrow

11:57 a.m.

Rihanna is a nine-time Grammy winner, a more-than-occasional actress, a developer of several groundbreaking fashion collaborations, and a purveyor of skin-tone inclusive beauty products. Oh, and she's only 31.

So now that you've processed all that, let's throw another accolade into the mix. Robyn Rihanna Fenty is now the first black woman to head a major luxury fashion house, and playwright Jeremy O. Harris talked to her about it at The New York Times Style Magazine.

Earlier this month, LVMH announced that it was opening a fashion house under Rihanna's Fenty name. She'll join Dior, Givenchy, and Fendi under the Louis Vuitton umbrella — though she's already "as big as LVMH, if not bigger," Harris said. Rihanna was amazed at — but didn't doubt — that assertion, but said she had no idea it would be so historic until "months into" her work with LVMH. And while Rihanna hasn't necessarily felt like an outsider in the white-dominated fashion world, she did affirm that every step of the way, she's shown that she "will not back down from being a woman, from being black, from having an opinion."

Rihanna also discussed why she's using her last name for her fashion and beauty brands. It stems from seeing "celebrity brands" like "Hilary Duff and Hannah Montana have so much success" but eventually become "so oversaturated in the market that it diluted their personal brands," Rihanna said. She keeps her music on a first-name basis "so that you didn’t have to hear the word 'Rihanna' every time you saw something that I did," she continued. So you can expect to see "Rihanna" on her forthcoming ninth album, out sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Read the whole interview at The New York Times Style Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:18 a.m.

The winner of Game of Thrones turned out to be quite unexpected — but it wasn't as wildly unpredictable as you might have thought.

Leading up to the show's series finale, as fans endlessly debated who would ultimately emerge as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, there were several obvious contenders. But much to the surprise of some fans, betting markets had someone else in mind: the person who ultimately emerged victorious in "The Iron Throne," who shall remain nameless as to avoid divulging spoilers.

In fact, the betting website Odds Shark days ahead of the show's final episode declared this person the -500 favorite to win the series, prompting USA Today to ask, "Are we missing something?" Writer Henry McKenna proceeded to delve into all the reasons this winner wouldn't make sense while offering that "maybe the oddsmakers know something we don't."

Indeed, Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson noted in her post-finale assessment that "many regarded it as a fluke" when this character became the favorite to win, although she goes on to note that in retrospect, it actually makes a lot of sense. It's worth noting that there were leaks about the finale in recent weeks that accurately revealed the winner, which may have been the reason for the sudden jump in the betting odds; one bookmaker suspended wagers for that reason. Still, the winner had emerged as the favorite even going back to November of last year.

Ultimately, whether the choice of Game of Thrones' victor was satisfying is up for debate, and it's part of the reason the finale has proven to be so divisive. But if nothing else, those who followed the betting markets in their pools certainly had reason to celebrate. Brendan Morrow

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