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National Govt & Politics

    Fox News says it has hired former Democratic National Committee chief Donna Brazile as a political commentator. Brazile had been let go from a similar role at CNN in 2016 after it was revealed that she had shared material about topics that would be addressed at a Democratic forum with Hillary Clinton's campaign. At Fox, Brazile will not have anything to do with any debates or town halls — if they ever happen. That's from a Fox News executive who spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because the person was not authorized to speak about contract details. Brazile says she knows she'll be criticized by progressive friends for signing with Fox, but that she believes it's important to talk with people you disagree with.
  • Melania Trump has chaired a White House meeting to learn more about youth programs at federal departments and agencies. The first lady has spent much of the past year traveling domestically and internationally to promote her 'Be Best' youth initiative, which emphasizes their well-being, safety online and avoiding drugs. She said she hosted Monday's meeting of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs to learn more about available government programs and how to continue working together to create more opportunities to help and empower children. She opened by saying her focus has and always will be on 'our children, the next generation.' More than 20 departments and agencies belong to the working group, which was established under President George W. Bush. Five Cabinet secretaries attended the meeting.
  • Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday that her department may have been founded to combat terrorism, but its mission is shifting to also confront emerging online threats. China, Iran and other countries are mimicking the approach that Russia used to interfere in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and continues to use in an attempt to influence campaigns on social media, she said. Under threat are Americans' devices and networks. 'It's not just U.S. troops and government agents on the front lines anymore,' she Nielsen said. 'It's U.S. companies. It's our schools and gathering places. It's ordinary Americans.' Devices and networks are 'mercilessly' targeted, she said. Those responsible are 'compromising, co-opting, and controlling them.' Nielsen was speaking about the priorities of a sprawling department created after the Sept. 11 attacks. It handles counterterrorism, election security and cybersecurity, natural disaster responses and border security — President Donald Trump's signature domestic issue. The president on Friday issued his first veto, to secure money for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Nielsen did not specifically mention that fight, but made clear that she sees a humanitarian and security crisis at the border because of an increasing number of Central American families crossing into the U.S. to seek asylum. While the overall number of migrants coming into the U.S. is down from a high of 1.6 million in 2000, the number of families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has reached record highs. The system is at a breaking point, she said. Nielsen said the department has introduced tougher screening systems at airports and is working with the State Department to notify other countries of stricter information-sharing requirements. She said the countries that work with the U.S. will make the world safer, and those that do not 'will face consequences.
  • President Donald Trump says he is unfairly being blamed for the New Zealand mosque massacre. Trump tweeted Monday that the media 'is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand.' He adds: 'They will have to work very hard to prove that one.' The gunman in last week's massacre left a document in which he called himself a white nationalist and referred to Trump as 'a symbol of renewed white identity.' Trump had expressed sympathy for the victims, but played down the threat of white nationalism across the world, saying he didn't consider it a rising threat despite data suggesting it's growing. In the past, Trump has drawn criticism for saying 'both sides' were to blame for violence at a deadly white supremacist demonstration.
  • The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case that could make it more difficult for states to prosecute identity theft and other crimes. The high court agreed Monday to take a case out of Kansas that involves the state's prosecution of people who were using others' Social Security numbers on employment and other forms. Kansas' highest court ruled in 2017 that the state couldn't prosecute those crimes by relying on information that is on a required federal work authorization form, the I-9. Kansas argued it can prosecute because the same information also appears on state work forms. Ten states had urged the Supreme Court to take the case.
  • The Supreme Court will consider overturning a criminal conviction by a 10-2 jury vote in Louisiana. The justice acted Monday, four months after Louisiana voters amended the state constitution to prohibit non-unanimous verdicts in criminal cases. Oregon is the only state that still allows them. The high court will consider the case of Evangelisto Ramos, who was convicted in 2016 of second-degree murder in the killing of a woman in New Orleans. Ramos is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole. The change in the state constitution took effect in January, but is of no help to Ramos without court action. The last time the Supreme Court took up the issue was in 1972, when it ruled that nothing in the Constitution bars states from allowing some convictions by non-unanimous verdicts. But even in Oregon and Louisiana, first-degree murder, which could bring the death penalty, has required a unanimous verdict. The court has held that the Sixth Amendment requires unanimous verdicts in federal criminal cases. The 1972 case turned on the vote of Justice Lewis Powell. The court said states were not compelled to follow suit and require unanimous juries in all criminal cases. At the same time, the Supreme Court has determined that most rights guaranteed by the first 10 amendments to the Constitution apply to states as well as the federal government Also Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether states can eliminate the so-called insanity defense for criminal defendants without violating the Constitution. The appeal comes from a Kansas man who has been sentenced to death for killing his estranged wife, their two daughters and the wife's grandmother. The cases will be argued in the fall.
  • The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider Virginia's plea to reinstate the life-without-parole sentence of a man who as a teenager participated in sniper shootings that terrorized the Washington, D.C., region in 2002. The justices said they will take up the state's appeal in the case of Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17 when he and John Allen Muhammad fatally shot 10 people in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Malvo was sentenced to life-without-parole terms in Virginia and in Maryland, and Muhammad was sentenced to death and was executed in 2009. Malvo was sentenced to four life terms for crimes he committed in Virginia. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled last year that while Malvo's life-without-parole sentences were legal when they were imposed, Supreme Court decisions that followed altered sentencing requirements for juvenile offenders. The appeals court judges said a resentencing would determine whether Malvo qualifies as 'one of the rare juvenile offenders' who can be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole because his 'crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.' They said if his crimes instead 'reflect the transient immaturity of youth' he's entitled to a sentence short of life without parole. The Supreme Court will review that decision. As is typical, the justices did not make any comment in agreeing to hear the case, which likely will be heard in the fall. Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, Malvo isn't getting out of prison anytime soon. He isn't currently getting a new sentencing hearing in Maryland, where he struck a plea deal and was sentenced to six life-without-parole prison terms for shootings that took place in that state. A judge previously ruled that Malvo would not get new sentencing hearings in Maryland. Malvo has appealed. Malvo has been serving his sentences at Red Onion State Prison in Pound, Virginia. Malvo and his mentor Muhammad, who was 41, shot people as they pumped gas, loaded packages into their cars and went about their everyday business during a three-week period. ___ Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko
  • The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene Monday in a fight over control of the nation's oldest synagogue and its religious bells worth millions, leaving in place a ruling that the Rhode Island synagogue will remain the property of a New York congregation. The Congregation Jeshuat Israel in Newport, Rhode Island, had asked a judge to declare that it owned the more than 250-year-old Touro Synagogue and a set of Colonial-era Torah bells, called rimonim. It had a plan to sell the bells to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for $7.4 million as a way to shore up its finances. Manhattan's Congregation Shearith Israel, the nation's oldest Jewish congregation, became trustee of Touro after Jews left Newport in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It fought the plan to sell the bells. Congregation Jeshuat Israel has worshipped at Touro since the late 1800s, and the two sides have periodically fought since then over who controls it. Lou Solomon, a lawyer for Congregation Shearith Israel, struck a conciliatory tone, saying he looked forward to 'a return of harmonious relations' between them and Touro's congregation. 'It's a national treasure, it's going to remain open for all Jews,' Solomon said. But he added a caveat. 'We're going to go forward with or without them. It is my hope that there will not be any more hostile acts,' he said. A trial judge awarded control of the property and the bells to the Newport group, but the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals went the other way, giving them to the group from Manhattan. Gary Naftalis, a lawyer for the Newport congregants, said they were disappointed. 'Our petition raised significant constitutional issues affecting the survival of Touro Synagogue and the rights of religious organizations in America,' he said, adding that they hope the congregation's 'right to continue to pray in the historic Touro Synagogue, as it has for over a century, will be respected.' Solomon said the New York congregation plans to reach out to the one in Newport soon with an offer to meet and plan for ways to move forward together. 'We don't want to be the imperialists that are coming there and kicking people out. What matters is that the synagogue remain a house of worship for all Jews, open to all Jews,' he said. Touro Synagogue was dedicated in 1763 and is a national historic site. The synagogue was visited by George Washington in 1790, and he later sent its congregants a letter declaring that the government of the United States 'gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.' It attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually.
  • The Supreme Court is rejecting a new appeal from a Georgia death row inmate, despite evidence that a juror in his capital case used racial slurs. The high court had previously blocked the execution of Georgia inmate Keith Leroy Tharpe. But the justices on Monday refused to take up his case after a lower court ruled against him. The 59-year-old Tharpe is trying to get his death sentence thrown out because of comments the juror made to defense investigators several years after Tharpe's trial. The juror signed an affidavit, though he later testified that he voted for Tharpe's death sentence because of the evidence against him. The juror has since died. Lower courts have ruled Tharpe can't use the juror's statement. Tharpe was convicted of killing his sister in law.
  • President Donald Trump is targeting Joe Biden after the former vice president made a verbal slip about a potential 2020 presidential bid. Trump, who has eagerly followed the 2020 Democratic field, tweeted Monday: 'Joe Biden got tongue tied over the weekend when he was unable to properly deliver a very simple line about his decision to run for President.' Added Trump: 'Get used to it, another low I.Q. individual!' At a dinner over the weekend, Biden said he had 'the most progressive record of anybody running.' But Biden hasn't announced whether he will launch a third run for the White House. He quickly corrected himself, but the comment prompted frenzied speculation. Trump previously labeled California Congresswoman Maxine Waters and actor Robert De Niro as being 'low I.Q.