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April 15, 2018

Former FBI Director James Comey compared President Trump to a "forest fire" that is going to do "tremendous damage," but he sees a silver lining.

"A forest fire gives healthy things a chance to grow that had no chance before that fire," he told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an interview that aired Sunday night. Comey spoke in-depth about how the forest fire that is Trump is changing the way people look at the presidency, and not for the better. "The foundation of this country is in jeopardy, when we stop measuring our leaders against the central value of the truth," he said. Trump, he added, "must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country. The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president."

When people lie, "the rule of law breaks down," Comey said. "And there once was a day when people were afraid of going to hell if they took an oath in the name of God and violated it. We've drifted away from that day." It's important to prevent people from becoming "numb to the fact that the truth is being assailed," he said, and "deciding that it's just too much to pay attention to because that's the path to losing truth as the central value in this country." Americans "need to stand up in the public square and in the voting booth and say: 'Look, we disagree about an awful lot. But we have in common something that matters enormously to this country. And our leaders must reflect those values.'" Catherine Garcia

1:16 p.m. ET
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A communications aide working with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process has resigned in connection to a past sexual harassment allegation, a committee representative confirmed Saturday.

The aide, Garrett Ventry, denied all "allegations of misconduct," but a committee statement said despite the denial "he decided to resign to avoid causing any distraction." Ventry was in a temporary position on leave of absence from a public relations company; he resigned from that role as well.

Politico reports, citing an unnamed source, that Ventry also resigned in 2017 from a role with North Carolina House Majority Leader John Bell for allegedly misrepresenting his work with the 2016 presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Two former Rubio staffers told Politico Ventry was also accused of harassment while on the campaign. Ventry denied these allegations as well.

This comes as the committee grapples with the sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh himself, a development that has stalled the confirmation. Bonnie Kristian

11:50 a.m. ET
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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will sit for a deposition on a question about U.S. citizenship that has been added to 2020 census forms, a federal judge ruled Friday evening.

"Applying well-established principles to the unusual facts of these cases, the court concludes that the question is not a close one," wrote U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in his decision. "Secretary Ross must sit for a deposition because, among other things, his intent and credibility are directly at issue in these cases."

The deposition is part of a suit brought by New York, as well as other cities, states, and counties, seeking to exclude the new question. Critics have argued the citizenship question will distort census results because some immigrants may choose not to participate in the survey.

Ross is the first Cabinet-level official in two decades to be deposed in a civil case. The Department of Justice argued that to "demand for a Cabinet secretary's deposition is extraordinary, unnecessary, and unsupported." Bonnie Kristian

11:33 a.m. ET

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his challenger, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), wrangled at a contentious debate in Dallas Friday night. And the fatal shooting of Botham Jean — the black man killed in his apartment by a white Dallas police officer who says she mistook it for her own home — was a key issue of division between the candidates.

The evening of the debate, Cruz's Twitter account shared a video of O'Rourke speaking to wild cheers in a majority-black church. The clip shows an impassioned O'Rourke arguing Jean's case has yet to see justice. "How can we continue to lose the lives of unarmed black men in the United States of America at the hands of white police officers?" he asks.

The tweet's caption suggests the Cruz campaign sees this plea for better police accountability and a transparent public investigation into Jean's killing as self-evidently damning.

At the debate itself, Cruz argued his opponent consistently "sides against the police," claiming O'Rourke has "described law enforcement as modern day Jim Crow." O'Rourke's actual comment, made Wednesday, referenced the book The New Jim Crow to note black Americans are subject to demonstrable discrimination in the U.S. justice system.

"With the tragic shooting death of Botham Jean, you have another unarmed black man killed in this country by law enforcement," O'Rourke said at the debate. "Now, no member of law enforcement wants that; no member of this community wants that; but we've got to do something better than what we've been doing so far."

The latest polls show Cruz and O'Rourke are in a dead heat. Watch their full debate below; the discussion of policing begins around the seven-minute mark and continues through minute 16 with a discussion of NFL players' pre-game protests of police brutality. Bonnie Kristian

10:53 a.m. ET
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Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long will not be fired for his inappropriate use of cars owned by the government, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Friday.

Long used federal vehicles and personnel for his weekend commutes from Washington, D.C., to North Carolina. He had a driver take him home, and reportedly brought aides with him, housing them in hotels using taxpayer money. He was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.

Nielsen said Long, who will repay the government an undisclosed amount, was acting in line with a longstanding but unofficial FEMA practice intended to keep the administrator accessible in case of crisis. That practice has now been discontinued.

"We had a productive conversation where we discussed my expectations regarding the agency's use of government vehicles going forward," Nielsen's statement said. "The administrator acknowledged that mistakes were made, and he took personal responsibility." Bonnie Kristian

10:45 a.m. ET
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

China on Friday canceled scheduled trade negotiations with the United States, citing the Trump administration's tariff escalations. President Trump announced a new round of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports Monday and is expected to target another $257 billion in products this coming week.

"Nothing the U.S. has done has given any impression of sincerity and goodwill," said Chinese Foreign Ministry representative Geng Shuang. "We hope that the U.S. side will take measures to correct its mistakes."

China also slammed new U.S. sanctions punishing Beijing for purchasing weapons from Russia. "The U.S. approach is a blatant violation of the basic norms of international relations, a full manifestation of hegemony, and a serious breach of the relations between the two countries and their two militaries," said a Chinese Defense Ministry statement promising "consequences." Bonnie Kristian

10:28 a.m. ET

President Trump seemed to respond Friday night at a rally in Missouri to the day's report that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein considered invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from the Oval Office.

"Just look at what is now being exposed in our Department of Justice and the FBI. Look at what's going on," Trump said, never mentioning Rosenstein by name. "And I want to tell you, we have great people in the Department of Justice. We have great people. These are people, I really believe, you take a poll, I gotta be at 95 percent. But you got some real bad ones. You've seen what's happened at the FBI. They're all gone. They're all gone. They're all gone. But there's a lingering stench, and we're going to get rid of that too."

Trump also again weighed in on the sexual assault allegation against his Supreme Court nominee. Brett Kavanaugh is a "fantastic man" who was "born for the U.S. Supreme Court," the president said, promising his audience the confirmation would go through. "We have to fight for him, not worry about the other side," Trump said. "And by the way, women are for that more than anybody would understand."

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll published Thursday found a plurality of Americans now oppose Kavanaugh's nomination, and his rising unpopularity is significantly due to shifting attitudes among women since the allegation came to light. Bonnie Kristian

8:28 a.m. ET
Behrad Ghasemi/Getty Images

At least 24 people were killed and more than 50 injured Saturday when gunmen opened fire on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, state media reported. Civilians, including children and members of the press, were reportedly among the dead.

"Terrorists began shooting from a long distance while inside the park, at the armed forces as well as civilians watching the parade," said Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarch. Three of the attackers were killed and one was arrested, and the attack was claimed by the Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement, a separatist organization.

Officials said the shooters were disguised as military members and accused Saudi Arabia of connection to the attack. "Terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime have attacked Ahvaz. Children and journos among casualties," tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. "Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks." Saudi Arabia has not responded to the allegation. Bonnie Kristian

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