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May 16, 2018

The Senate Intelligence Committee announced Wednesday that it has reached the conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election with the specific aim of electing President Trump, The Washington Post reports. The report confirms findings by the intelligence community, but conflicts with the conclusions reached by House Republicans in April, which were called "highly partisan" and "incomplete" by former CIA Director John Brennan.

The Senate committee additionally released some 2,000 pages of documents related to a heavily-scrutinized meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Kremlin-linked lawyer at Trump Tower, although Wednesday's report does not weigh in either way on the question of if the Trump team colluded with Russia. Such a determination will come in the Senate's final report.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a statement that "there is no doubt Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections." The dispute between the House and Senate GOP "sets up a clash … over which record of events is most accurate," The Washington Post writes. Jeva Lange

10:06 a.m.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's fight against foreign aid has turned even more deadly.

U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó has welcomed humanitarian aid for the impoverished country, but Maduro announced the closure of the country's border with Brazil on Thursday in an attempt to keep it out. Civilians still tried to keep border traffic flowing on Friday, but soldiers fired back against the operation, leaving at least one dead and 12 injured, The Washington Post reports.

Maduro claimed victory last year in an election widely seen to be fraudulent, while Guaidó declared himself the legitimate interim leader as he and the U.S. continue to call for new elections. Since then, Maduro has maintained that any aid is an attempt to undermine his presidency and set up a blockade at the Colombian border last week. Guaidó said some aid did make it into the country.

Still, Maduro moved again to block aid by shutting down the Brazilian border, and said he was considering a "total closure" on the border with Colombia as well, per Al Jazeera. An indigenous community kept a checkpoint open on the border for aid to flow through, but a military convoy confronted the group Friday morning. Community members "sought to block the military vehicles by standing in front of them" and the military opened fire, "wounding at least 12 people, four of them seriously," the Post writes. At least one woman has died so far. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:49 a.m.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who was removed from his committee assignments last month after comments about white supremacy, says he will seek re-election in 2020 and will do so with a clean conscience.

King in an interview with Iowa Public Television on Thursday said that he has "nothing to apologize for," immediately going after the news media and citing President Trump as saying The New York Times is "a dishonest entity." King in January had been quoted in a Times interview as saying, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" The congressman also faced criticism in October after meeting with a group with Nazi ties and endorsing a white nationalist candidate for Toronto mayor, reports The Washington Post.

But King on Thursday blamed the outrage he has faced in recent months on "formerly credible" news organizations, which create a "phenomenon that America is not ready for, and that's this cyberbullying that unleashes." He insisted that there is "no story whatsoever" and that these reports from the Times and the Post were false.

In particular, King claimed he had been misquoted by the Times and that his question of "how did that language become offensive?" was only referring to the term "Western civilization," not the terms white nationalist and white supremacist. The Times interview, however, was far from the first time King came under fire for using white supremacist language. He had also said in 2017, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies," later defending this comment by saying "it's not about race." Additionally, he said of the term "white nationalist" in 2018, "It is a derogatory term today. I wouldn't have thought so maybe a year or two or three ago." Brendan Morrow

9:09 a.m.

Duke said Thursday that freshman basketball superstar Zion Williamson suffered a mild knee sprain when his Nike PG 2.5 shoe burst apart at the start of the Blue Devils' prime-time televised game against North Carolina, suggesting he could return soon to the currently No. 1-ranked team, The Washington Post reported. Nike shares dropped by 1 percent on Thursday as the athletic apparel maker scrambled to figure out why the shoe disintegrated, per CNN.

Former President Barack Obama was courtside, and was shown in a widely seen video reacting by pointing toward Williamson and saying, "His shoe broke!"

Duke struggled after Williamson's injury, losing to No. 8 UNC in a stunning upset. The incident renewed debate over whether playing college ball is worth the risk for players who stand to make millions as pros. Harold Maass

8:46 a.m.

The CEO of Time's Up resigned last week after a sexual assault claim was made against her son, the organization said Friday.

Lisa Borders, who became the CEO and president of Time's Up in November 2018 after previously serving as president of the Women's National Basketball Association, announced Monday she had resigned "with deep regret" in order to "address family concerns." She did not provide further details at the time.

On Friday, though, Time's Up said that Borders had informed members last week that her son had been accused of sexual assault, and she decided to resign within 24 hours. "We agreed that it was the right decision for all parties involved," the statement adds. This followed a report from the Los Angeles Times on the allegations.

Borders was the first CEO and president of Time's Up, which formed in 2018 as a movement against sexual harassment and assault. The group says Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Goldman will serve as interim CEO "while we conduct an executive search." Brendan Morrow

8:20 a.m.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appears to be the only person arguing that the White House has complied with congressional demands that President Trump submit a report determining who is responsible for the murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. Last November, Risch's predecessor, former Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and ranking Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.) had triggered the Global Magnitsky Act, giving Trump four months to report back.

Two weeks ago, when the 120-day deadline lapsed, the White House informed the Senate that Trump "maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate," which most senators took to mean Trump was violating the Magnitsky Act. But Risch has been telling his Republican committee colleagues that Trump has, in fact, complied with the law, Politico reports. A majority of senators, after getting a classified briefing on Khasoggi's murder, believe that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was at least complicit in the killing.

In effort to quell open GOP revolt on his committee, Risch sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a letter requesting a classified briefing on the administration's efforts to hold the Saudi government accountable. All but two committee Republicans — Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) — signed the letter, Politico reports, and Democrats declined to sign it after Risch rejected their insertion of a line about how the White House "is not in compliance" with the law, "which is of grave concern to members of this committee." Peter Weber

7:52 a.m.

Jussie Smollett returned to work the day of his arrest and reportedly told Empire's cast and crew he's innocent.

Chicago police on Thursday arrested Smollett after a grand jury charged him with one count of felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. Authorities said in a press conference that Smollett had staged an attack against himself because he was dissatisfied with his salary on Empire.

Empire is currently in the middle of production on the end of its fifth season. Smollett returned to work Thursday after paying a $10,000 bond, and according to CNN, he apologized to the cast and crew in a meeting. But he continued to maintain his innocence, which left one source in attendance "shocked and dismayed," CNN writes.

Fox said prior to Smollett's arrest that he is not being written off Empire after reports his scenes were being scaled back. But the network said Thursday, "We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."

Smollett has not commented publicly since being charged, but his lawyers said in a statement Thursday that he "fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing." Chicago police say they have evidence that Smollett orchestrated the supposed hate crime, including a check written to the men he said attacked him. Brendan Morrow

6:50 a.m.

Rachel Maddow added a little something special to the historical record on MSNBC Thursday night, and she says it's pretty relevant to today's geopolitical situation. She began with a note Vice President George H.W. Bush wrote to disgraced former Vice President Spiro Agnew in October 1988, thanking him for his advice right before a game-changing presidential debate against Michael Dukakis. Agnew, Maddow reminded viewers, had resigned in 1973, right before Watergate broke, and narrowly avoided jail for tax fraud.

But her main event was a secret deal between Agnew and the Saudi crown prince in 1980. It starts with a telex in which Agnew begs the crown prince for an audience to address "a personal emergency that is of critical importance to me." An August 1980 letter spells out what that personal emergency was. Maddow summarized it like this: "Spiro Agnew was writing to the Saudi royal family to solicit their help, their financial support, for him to lead a scorched-earth propaganda campaign in the United States to expose the Jews. To wage a political war on Jews in America."

Specifically, Agnew painted a conspiracy to destroy him by "Zionists" and the media "they" control, and asked for $600,000 that he could live off while he continued "my fight against the Zionist enemies who are destroying my once great nation." And in Maddow's "favorite part," Agnew signed off: "My congratulations to Your Highness on the clear and courageous call to Jihad."

"The jihad-congratulations reference there appears to be a reference to the fact that the Saudi crown prince, just days earlier, had publicly called for a holy war against Israel," Maddow explained. And the Saudis appear to have given him at least $100,000. "Less than 10 years out of office, a former American vice president orchestrated a secret financial deal with Saudi Arabia to fight Jews in this country," she reiterated. "That seems like something that should matter even today," when the same Saudi royal family is in control. Watch below. Peter Weber

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