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March 13, 2018

On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it's "highly likely that Russia was responsible" for a March 4 nerve gas attack on a 66-year-old former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, outside a shopping center in Salisbury. Skripal and his daughter, 33, are hospitalized in critical condition, and a British police officer who found them unconscious on a bench is in serious condition.

The pair "were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia," May said. "Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others." U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the nerve agent, Novichok, "came from Russia" and will "certainly trigger a response." He did not speculate if the Russian government ordered the attack, but said the Kremlin is increasingly "aggressive" and seems to be behind a "certain unleashing of activity that we don't fully understand."

Earlier Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had repeatedly declined to blame Russia for the nerve gas attack.

May gave Russian President Vladimir Putin until midnight Tuesday to explain how a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union ended up poisoning British citizens in broad daylight. The Russian Foreign Ministry said May is putting on "a circus show in the British Parliament" and posted a mocking tweet.

Novichok agents, which asphyxiate people by constricting airways and slowing the heart, are believed to be up to 10 times deadlier than better known nerve agents like Sarin and VX. Peter Weber

11:50 p.m.

An election researcher in Florida found that 15 percent of mail-in ballots sent in for the midterm election by Parkland residents between the ages of 18 and 21 were not counted, exceeding the statewide average, The Washington Post reports.

A shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February 2018 killed 17 people, and students there quickly organized, calling for stricter gun laws and holding the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C.

Daniel A. Smith, chairman of the political science department at the University of Florida, looked at Florida's open-source voting file, and determined that about 1 in 7 mail-in ballots submitted by college-age voters in Parkland were not counted, because they either didn't arrive in time or were rejected for reasons like not having a signature that exactly matched voting records. Looking at all Florida voters between 18 and 21, Smith found about 5.4 percent of mail-in ballots went uncounted. For all ages, the statewide average of rejected or uncounted mail-in ballots was 1.2 percent, Smith told the Post.

"If you are voting in Florida, and you are young in Florida, you have a good chance of your ballot not being accepted," Smith said. "Imagine going to the ATM and every 10 times you go, instead of spitting out your money, they take it or they lose it." From February 2018 to Election Day, about 250 Parkland residents between the ages of 18 and 21 registered to vote, Smith said, and more than half voted in November, which is an unusually strong turnout of young voters during a midterm election, he told the Post. For more about Florida's highly scrutinized electoral system and the Parkland students upset that their votes weren't counted, visit The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

10:25 p.m.

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL on Sunday, saying on Instagram he's "so grateful" for the time he spent on the team.

Gronkowski, 29, played nine seasons with the Patriots, and he thanked his teammates, fans, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Coach Bill Belichick for their support. "Now it's time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will truly be a part of my heart for [the] rest of my life," he said. A person with knowledge of the matter told ESPN that Gronkowski told Kraft about his decision in a phone call Sunday.

Quarterback Tom Brady praised Gronkowski on Instagram, calling it an "honor and privilege" to play with him. "You accomplished so much and our team was almost unbeatable when you were on the field!" he said. Gronkowski played 115 regular season games, with 521 receptions for 17,861 yards, and 16 playoff games, with 81 receptions for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns, records for a tight end. Catherine Garcia

9:48 p.m.

After Attorney General William Barr's summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report was released on Sunday, MSNBC's Ari Melber noticed something interesting.

"This is four pages and there's not a single full sentence in here that's quoted the Mueller report," he said. "Every quote from the Mueller report itself is a partial sentence." Many of those partial sentences, like the one saying it was not established that "members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities," are "quite important," Melber said, but it's "really striking that Barr basically said, 'I'm going to do this through the weekend. Mueller spent 22 months on it. I can do it in under 48 hours, and go beyond the Mueller report's findings.'"

Barr, Melber said, is "relaying one finding on no election collusion/conspiracy. That's big, and then he's going beyond the other finding that there is evidence of obstruction. The president is not exonerated, but he's also not accused of a crime, and the House is where that would usually be dealt with." The House, he continued, is "kind of being muscled out in an attempt by the new attorney general to say, 'I'm gonna issue my own conclusion on that,' and he's dong that with these four partial sentences."

It doesn't take a lawyer or a Washington insider to start wondering if "these four sentences, partial, are the very best [Barr] could find in the entire Mueller report about Donald Trump, and they are what's in the early letter," Melber said. Watch the clip below. Catherine Garcia

9:06 p.m.

Not long after the news alerts were sent out about Attorney General William Barr sending his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report to Congress, another email landed in the inboxes of President Trump's supporters, this one asking for money.

With the subject line "NO COLLUSION OR OBSTRUCTION," the Trump fundraising email states that as long as donors give $5 or more "by 11:59 p.m. TONIGHT," their gift will be "QUADRUPLE MATCHED," The Guardian's Ben Jacobs reports. It starts with a false statement — that Mueller's report is a "COMPLETE EXONERATION" — and blasts Democrats, accusing them of working with "the Fake News Media for 2 years orchestrating this Nasty Witch Hunt."

Trump needs money in order to "fight back BIGGER AND BETTER THAN EVER BEFORE," and that's why he is offering the quadruple match "for my best supporters only, the ones who stood by my side through the entire Witch Hunt." Everyone who donates through this solicitation will be placed on a list, which the email states will be delivered to Trump by his campaign team. Catherine Garcia

8:33 p.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team considered issuing a subpoena for President Trump to be interviewed, and discussed this with Department of Justice officials, a person with knowledge of the matter told CNN on Sunday.

They ultimately decided not to pursue a subpoena "based on the perception of the evidence and merits of the issues," CNN reports. Mueller's office spent months trying to get Trump to sit down for an interview, and finally submitted written questions to Trump last fall, asking him about things that happened prior to the 2016 election. He responded in November.

Mueller submitted his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election on Friday, and on Sunday, Attorney General William Barr sent a short letter to Congress giving his interpretation of the findings, saying Mueller did not find the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and he could not make a decision on whether Trump obstructed justice. Catherine Garcia

5:37 p.m.

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on Sunday agreed with the White House that the newly released summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report is a victory for President Trump — at least when it comes to allegations of collusion with Russia.

Toobin offered his analysis on CNN after Attorney General William Barr said that Mueller didn't find that Trump or his associates conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. Toobin said that the report is a "total vindication of the president and his staff on the issue of collusion."

When it comes to whether Trump obstructed justice, though, this is "somewhat more complicated," Toobin observed. This is because the summary notes that while the investigation "does not conclude Trump committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." It was Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that reached the conclusion that there was not sufficient evidence on obstruction, Toobin explains.

"That is still a vindication, but it's quite a different one than Mueller's total vindication of the president on the issue of collusion with Russia," Toobin said. He later added that although it may turn out that Barr and Rosenstein's conclusion on obstruction was the correct one, the fact that this came from "the president’s appointees" makes it a "very different thing from an independent conclusion." Watch Toobin's analysis below. Brendan Morrow

5:16 p.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not definitively conclude that President Trump or his associates during his 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russian election interference, Attorney General William Barr's letter to Congress briefing them on the matter revealed on Sunday.

That revelation has already led to the White House declaring Mueller's findings a "total and complete exoneration" of Trump.

However, the report also did not make a conclusive decision on whether or not Trump obstructed justice during the investigation. Instead, it will be up to Barr "to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime."

So, on the obstruction front, Trump still does not appear to be completely in the clear. Tim O'Donnell

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