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April 23, 2018

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo for secretary of state, he announced Monday morning. Manchin, a moderate senator from a red state, had been pegged as a likely cross-aisle vote for Pompeo.

President Trump tapped Pompeo last month to replace the ousted Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on Pompeo's nomination later Monday, where it is possible he will fail to receive a positive recommendation; Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) has already announced his opposition to Pompeo given Pompeo's hawkishness, and no committee Democrats support Pompeo.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will likely proceed to a full Senate vote on Pompeo's nomination later this week. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) already announced her intention to support Pompeo, and her vote alongside Manchin's should be enough to overcome any Republican defections and propel Pompeo to the State Department. Kimberly Alters

April 20, 2018
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Swedish DJ Avicii, 28, was found dead in Oman on Friday, his publicist confirmed. "It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii," the publicist, Diana Baron, said in a statement.

Avicii had retired from performing in 2016 after suffering "very public health problems for the past few years, including acute pancreatitis, in part due to excessive drinking," The Hollywood Reporter writes. In an interview, Avicii told The Hollywood Reporter that he "took on board too much negative energy" touring and that since quitting, "I'm happier than I have been in a very, very long time. Stress-free more than I have been in a very long time. I can't say I'm never going to have a show again. I just don't think I'm going to go back to the touring life."

Avicii's hits include "Levels," which went platinum in the U.S., and "Wake Me Up," which hit #4 on the Hot 100, Rolling Stone writes. "Devastating news about Avicii, a beautiful soul, passionate and extremely talented, with so much more to do," tweeted fellow DJ Calvin Harris. "My heart goes out to his family." Jeva Lange

April 20, 2018
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The Justice Department is stalling on recommended civil rights charges against the police officer who killed Eric Garner in 2014, The New York Times reported Friday. Federal prosecutors have recommended bringing charges against Staten Island police officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose use of a chokehold while subduing Garner on a sidewalk led to Garner's death and sparked the rallying cry, "I can't breathe."

The prosecutors assert that Pantaleo's actions constituted a clear excessive use of force. But the Justice Department is wary of acting on the recommendation because it fears a case against Pantaleo may be lost at trial, the Times explains, as "juries frequently give great deference to police officers for actions carried out under pressure." Pantaleo has said he was trying to execute a different maneuver to subdue Garner — one that would not have put pressure on Garner's neck, like the chokehold did — but that his posture was adjusted in the struggle as he "feared he would be pushed through a storefront window behind him," per the Times.

The department's decision under Attorney General Jeff Sessions is sure to spark backlash, given Sessions' spotty history with race relations as well as the overall posture of the Trump administration. But both Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder, who served as attorneys general under former President Barack Obama, had reservations about the case as well, the Times notes; while Holder was convinced the evidence supported an indictment for Pantaleo, he conceded that prosecutors might lose at trial, and Lynch vacillated for months as to whether charges were truly warranted at all.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has "convened several meetings" as to whether to approve the charges, the Times reports, which have "revealed divisions within the Justice Department." One source told the Times that Rosenstein would likely eventually decline to pursue the case. Read more at The New York Times. Kimberly Alters

April 20, 2018
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The Democratic National Committee is suing the Trump campaign, Russian government, and WikiLeaks for millions of dollars in relation to the 2016 hack of DNC emails and the subsequent election of President Trump, The Washington Post reports. "This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for president of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency," said DNC chairman Tom Perez in a statement.

The DNC claims that high-level Trump campaign officials worked with Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton's chances by stealing Democratic emails and disseminating them via WikiLeaks. The lawsuit is similar to one filed by the party in 1972 over the Nixon re-election campaign's break-in at the Democratic headquarters, The Washington Post reports, which ultimately ended in President Richard Nixon's resignation.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is still conducting his own investigation into whether or not Trump's team colluded with Russia to swing the election. The House Intelligence Committee, which is controlled by Republicans, previously concluded that there is no evidence of such collusion.

Trump is not personally named as a defendant in the DNC lawsuit, although his son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort are. Russia's GRU military intelligence service is also named as a defendant, as is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Jeva Lange

April 18, 2018
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Cuban President Raúl Castro is expected to step down this week, with Miguel Díaz-Canel the lone candidate to be his successor, The Associated Press reports. The move comes less than two years after the death of Fidel Castro, who was the brother of 86-year-old Raúl.

Díaz-Canel, 57, is described by The Washington Post as "a consensus builder unlikely to push for quick or radical change." He will be the first new leader of the communist island nation after almost 60 years of rule by the Castro brothers. "This is about institutionalizing the regime," explained Jorge Domínguez, a Cuba expert at Harvard University, adding: "If you are someone who really wants the regime to endure, it's what Raúl needs to do." Jeva Lange

April 18, 2018
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A British man who intentionally tried to infect his partners with HIV has been sentenced to life in prison, the BBC reports. He faces a minimum term of 12 years.

Daryll Rowe, 27, sabotaged condoms or had unprotected sex with 10 men, then taunted his victims by revealing he was "riddled" with the virus, which can develop into AIDS. "I have HIV. Lol. Whoops!" he texted to one victim. Of the 10 victims, five ultimately contracted the virus. Rowe is the first person in England to have been sentenced to such a crime.

A hairdresser, Rowe was diagnosed with HIV in April 2015, but avoided treatment that would have made him less contagious. "I never had in my mind before, during, or after any of the sex that I wanted to pass on HIV to anybody," he told the court, despite the apparent evidence in his text messages.

Rowe was convicted of five counts of grievous bodily harm with intent and five counts of attempted grievous bodily harm, The Guardian reports. Jeva Lange

April 17, 2018
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President Trump on Tuesday revealed that the U.S. is engaged in bilateral talks with North Korea. Speaking after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said his administration has "started talking to North Korea directly," entering into "direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea."

Bloomberg News' Jennifer Jacobs reported that "senior U.S. officials" have in fact communicated directly with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and are working to arrange a meeting between Trump and Kim that Trump first floated earlier this year. Trump said Tuesday that the meeting would take place "probably in early June," or "a little before that" — if it takes place at all, Jacobs reported.

The Washington Post noted that it was unclear what Trump was referring to when he mentioned direct talks, given that the U.S. and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations. He may have been implying communication between "higher-level contacts," the Post said, "a step that diplomats have been expecting as a crucial run-up to the planned summit between Trump and Kim." Kimberly Alters

April 16, 2018
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Seven inmates were killed and 17 others injured in a fight at Lee Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in South Carolina, The Associated Press reports. No officers were reportedly wounded.

The prison "was secured at 2:55 a.m. following an incident which started at 7:15 p.m.," South Carolina's Department of Corrections tweeted early Monday morning. "The incident involved multiple inmate on inmate altercations in three housing units."

The prison, which holds about 1,500 inmates, is considered one of the state's "most dangerous," Fox News writes, and another inmate was killed in February, also in a fight. Jeva Lange

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