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3:15 PM ET, February 20, 2019


 Top Items: 
Justice Department preparing for Mueller report as early as next week  —  Washington (CNN)Attorney General Bill Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, with plans for Barr to submit to Congress soon after a summary …
Margaret Sullivan / Washington Post:
CNN's hiring of a GOP operative as political editor is even worse than it looks  —  A few months before the 2016 presidential election, Sarah Isgur tweeted some advice to Donald Trump: “The only 3 words that should be coming out of Donald Trump's mouth this week are: ‘Clinton’ ‘foundation’ ‘emails’”
Brian Stelter / CNN:
CNN's hiring of ex-Sessions spokeswoman stirs controversy
Jon Schwarz / The Intercept:   CNN Hires Trump Official Who Used Same Anti-Press Rhetoric as Man Who Sent Bombs to CNN
Maxwell Tani / The Daily Beast:
CNN Defends Hiring Former GOP Operative Sarah Isgur as Political Editor
Maxwell Tani / The Daily Beast:
CNN Staffers ‘Demoralized’ by Hiring of GOP Operative Sarah Isgur to Edit 2020 Coverage
Washington Post:
Supreme Court, in unanimous ruling, moves to limit state and local governments' power to impose fines and seize property  —  The court on Wednesday ruled in favor of Tyson Timbs of Marion, Ind., whose $42,000 Land Rover SUV was seized after his arrest for selling a couple hundred dollars' worth of heroin.
Robert Barnes / Washington Post:
Supreme Court says constitutional protection against excessive fines applies to state actions  —  The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution's prohibition on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, limiting their abilities to impose fines and seize property.
Discussion: Vox, ABC News, Axios and Mother Jones
NBC News:
Ethically challenged: Three scandals rock Trump administration in one day  —  First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.  —  WASHINGTON — It's hard to keep up with all of the alleged scandals hitting the Trump administration.
Washington Post:
White House readies panel to assess if climate change poses a national security threat  —  The White House is working to assemble a panel to assess whether climate change poses a national security threat, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post, a conclusion that federal intelligence agencies …
Jonathan Swan / Axios:
The White House plan to exploit Andrew McCabe's new book  —  White House officials and sources close to President Trump are treating Andrew McCabe's book as an opportunity.  —  What's happening: These people plan to keep promoting bits from “The Threat,” which has rocketed past Michelle Obama's …
Quin Hillyer / Washington Examiner:
McCabe's depiction of Jeff Sessions is pathetically unbelievable
Discussion: BlueDot Daily and CNN
Timothy L. O'Brien / Bloomberg:
Trump, McCabe and the Justice Department Go to War
Discussion: The Daily Beast, Salon and Hullabaloo
Julia Manchester / The Hill:
Dershowitz says Covington Catholic student has ‘reasonable case’ against Washington Post  —  Attorney Alan Dershowitz on Wednesday told Hill.TV's “Rising” that he believes that Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann has a “reasonable case” in his lawsuit against The Washington Post …
Paul Farhi / Washington Post:
The Washington Post sued by family of Covington Catholic teenager
Mathew Rodriguez / Out Magazine:
Trump's Plan to Decriminalize Homosexuality Is an Old Racist Tactic … The Trump administration is set to launch a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality in dozens of nations where anti-gay laws are still on the books, NBC News reported Monday.  While on its surface …
Luke Thompson:
The Congresswoman Loves the Swamp  —  Her Wealthy Chief of Staff used a PAC to Pay Her Boyfriend  —  Luke ThompsonBlockedUnblockFollowFollowing  —  Last Friday, my mentions died for your sins.  I posted a screen grab of Riley Roberts's House Microsoft Outlook card, including his official house …
Josh Rogin / Washington Post:
Inside Patrick Shanahan's clash with Congress in Munich over Syria  —  In a private meeting in Munich with more than a dozen lawmakers, acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan got an earful about President Trump's plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria by the end of April.
Evan Halper / Los Angeles Times:
Your phone and TV are tracking you, and political campaigns are listening in … It was a crowded primary field and Tony Evers, running for governor, was eager to win the support of officials gathered at a Wisconsin state Democratic party meeting, so the candidate did all the usual things: he read the room, he shook hands, he networked.
Shannon Young / Union-News:
UMass poll gives Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders edge in 2020 New Hampshire Democratic primary  —  Although former Vice President Joe Biden has yet to enter the 2020 White House race, he continues to lead declared Democratic candidates among expected New Hampshire voters with less than one year …
John Solomon / The Hill:
The family secret Bruce Ohr told Rod Rosenstein about Russia case  —  Who would have thought that, this deep into the Russia collusion probe, we'd be learning about yet another dossier connected to Hillary Clinton?  And, as it turns out, it was sort of a family secret.
Discussion: The Gateway Pundit
Jerry Iannelli / Miami New Times:
Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz Keeps Calling Ocasio-Cortez “Attractive” and It's Very Gross … Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said virtually nothing about Matt Gaetz in public.  But, given the life experience and political beliefs of the Democratic U.S. representative from New York …
Discussion: Raw Story
Tina Nguyen / Vanity Fair:
“Activists Masquerading as Journalists”: Why the Right-Wing Media Is So Furious About the Jussie Smollett Affair  —  A rush to judgment was endemic on the left.  But the Smollett episode also exposes a complementary phenomenon on the right, specifically an ever-simmering resentment …
Steven Shepard / Politico:
Virginia voters — including African-Americans — have Northam's back  —  Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam appears to have quelled any widespread public clamor for his resignation in the wake of his blackface scandal.  —  Two new polls out Wednesday show pluralities say the Democrat should not quit …
Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball:
New Virginia poll: Northam approval weak, but Virginians not demanding his resignation
Discussion: IJR
Jennifer Rubin / Washington Post:
Graham sums up how stupid the GOP has become  —  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in a number of ways epitomizes the Republican Party's descent into intellectual rot and immoral opportunism.  Graham as a candidate called out President Trump as a bigot and “the most flawed nominee in the history of the Republican Party.”
Discussion: Raw Story
Dan Cancian / Newsweek:
Barack Obama: 'If You're Confident About Your Sexuality, You Don't Need Eight Women Around You Twerking'  —  Former President Barack Obama and NBA star Stephen Curry joined together on Tuesday to urge boys from minority backgrounds to become strong examples for their communities by focusing …
John McWhorter / The Atlantic:
What the Jussie Smollett Story Reveals  —  I was one of many people who found Jussie Smollett's story a little off from the beginning.  Two white men in ski masks are out in 10-degree weather in the middle of the night, equipped with a bottle of bleach or something like it and a rope that they fashioned into a mock noose.
Discussion: KBZK, Althouse, CNN and The Week
Deutsche Bank Weighed Extending Trump Loans on Default Risk  — Bank is said to have been concerned about default in office  — Executives considered extending maturities to address risk  —  Top Deutsche Bank AG executives were so concerned after the 2016 U.S. election …
Chuck Ross / The Daily Caller:
FBI Used Confidential Sources Who ‘Already Had’ Trump Campaign Contacts, Bureau Lawyer Told Congress  — An FBI official testified to Congress in August that the bureau relied on confidential sources in addition to Christopher Steele who had pre-established contact with the Trump campaign as part of “Crossfire Hurricane.”
Jeff Carlson /   EXCLUSIVE: Testimony by FBI Lawyer Trisha Anderson Reveals Extensive Role in Trump, Clinton Investigations
Jonathan Chait / New York Magazine:
Trump's New Defense: Congress Can't Investigate Because There Are Too Many Crimes  —  President Trump spent the weekend decrying the “coup” against him, demanding the imprisonment of federal investigators, and calling for retribution against those who mock him.  Below the surface, though, a more serious argument is taking shape.
Discussion: Hullabaloo
Washington Post:
Microsoft says it has found another Russian operation targeting prominent think tanks  —  SAN FRANCISCO — For the second time in six months, Microsoft has identified a Russian government-affiliated operation targeting prominent think tanks that have been critical of Russia, the company said in a blog post Tuesday evening.
Katie Anderson / Campus Reform:
EXCLUSIVE: Calif. college calls the POLICE...over a cartoon frog  —  Folsom Lake College notified the local police after finding a poster of a cartoon frog, stating that “hate has no home on our campus.”  —  An FLC faculty member found the sheet featuring Pepe the frog on their office door earlier in February.
Discussion: Breitbart
Conor Friedersdorf / The Atlantic:
Accused College Students Deserve the Presumption of Innocence  —  Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos believes that college students accused of sexual misconduct in Title IX cases are owed a presumption of innocence, or non-responsibility, in keeping with a bedrock principle of Western justice.
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 More Items: 
Daniel Strauss / Politico:
Sherrod Brown's opening: Less liberal than the liberals
Discussion: Splinter and naked capitalism
Iran's hard-line MPs launch fresh drive to impeach Rouhani
Tony Maglio / The Wrap:
50 Cent Says Trump Offered Him $500,000 ‘Just to Come’ to the Inauguration (Video)
Josh Kovensky / Talking Points Memo:
Concord Cites Dostoevsky, Visa Wait In Latest Broadside Against Mueller
Isaac Chotiner / New Yorker:
Max Boot Defends Elliott Abrams's Account of U.S. Policy in El Salvador
James Hohmann / Washington Post:
The Daily 202: Barack Obama criticizes pop culture for promoting the wrong values to young men
David Horovitz / The Times of Israel:
Netanyahu's despicable push to bring racists into Israel's political mainstream
Discussion: KBZK
 Earlier Items: 
The Charlotte Observer:
Harris' consultant denies knowing about illegal activities by Dowless during campaign
Discussion: Roll Call
The New York Times Company:
Carol Rosenberg Joins The Times
Mattie Kahn / Glamour:
Rep. Elise Stefanik Launches PAC to Elect More Republican Women to the House of Representatives
Discussion: Splinter
Alabama woman who joined ISIS is begging to come home
Thomas L. Friedman / New York Times:
Is America Becoming a Four-Party State?
Discussion: Lawyers, Guns & Money
Ted Mann / Wall Street Journal:
Amtrak Plan to Expand Ridership Could Sidetrack Storied Trains
Eric Talmadge / Associated Press:
Possible peace declaration looms large over Trump-Kim summit
Discussion: Reuters and The Daily Caller