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July 12, 2018

A sudden surge in violent crime in Baltimore coincided with one particular event — the death of Freddie Gray.

Police in Baltimore faced heavy criticism and protests after Freddie Gray, a black man, suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in 2015, and have been reporting fewer crimes in the city ever since, USA Today reported Thursday.

While law enforcement is still responding to everyday 911 calls, they are seemingly turning a blind eye to crimes that they previously reported. In recent years, the murder rate and number of shootings has skyrocketed, making Baltimore the deadliest big city in the U.S. Experts say that the rioting in 2015 changed the Baltimore police force, making officers less likely to act on suspected crime they witness on a daily basis, like drug deals and traffic violations. The number of instances in which an officer approached a Baltimore resident for questioning dropped 70 percent between 2014 and 2017, USA Today found.

Backlash over Gray's death forced Baltimore law enforcement to examine its use of force and potential biases against minorities, but officers say it also made them reluctant to engage in some situations. "They realize that if they do something wrong, they're going to get their head bit off," said a former Baltimore lieutenant. "There's no feeling that anybody's behind them anymore."

But critics say it doesn't have to be one or the other, and that police should be able to protect the city while still protecting individuals' rights. "What it says is that if you complain about the way the police do our job, maybe we'll just lay back and not do it as hard," said an ACLU advocate. Around 150 people have been killed in Baltimore so far this year. Read more at USA Today. Summer Meza

3:29a.m.

On the morning after the 2018 midterms, President Trump took a few minutes to dance on the political graves of several Republicans who declined to embrace him during the campaign. Among them was Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah). "Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost," Trump said. A week later, it looks like Love has a good shot at winning. On Wednesday evening, Salt Lake and Juab counties released a new dump of 12,000 ballots in Utah's 4th Congressional District race, and Love's deficit to Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D) shrank to 873 votes.

"With the heavily Republican Utah County expected to update its count on Friday, McAdams precarious lead of 0.36 percentage points is likely to change, and could potentially erode away entirely," The Salt Lake Tribune reports. Dave Wasserman at the Cook Political Report agrees:

Both campaigns expressed cautious optimism. "Since Election Day, Mia has consistently improved her margin and is on a steady path to victory," Love campaign manager Dave Hansen said. McAdams' campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, said the vote count has had "ups and downs," but "we feel good about the mayor’s lead and remain optimistic about the remaining votes." Love has filed a lawsuit to halt the counting of ballots in Salt Lake County until her campaign can challenge signatures on provision and mail-in ballots. Peter Weber

2:59a.m.

President Trump has been in a sour mood for days, CNN reported Wednesday evening, confirming a slate of reports about Trump brooding and lashing out at staffers following mounting Democratic gains in last week's midterms, bad press from his trip to France over the weekend, and expected bad news from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Adding to Trump's pique, CNN says, was his feeling that first lady Melania Trump publicly exposing a staffing dispute with a senior national security official made him look like "a bossed-around husband."

"Yes, he's pissed — at damn near everyone," a White House official told CNN. You can hear Jake Tapper read that quote in CNN's report:

But CNN also sheds some light on why Trump's weekend in Paris worsened his already dark mood, including his feeling that his widely panned "decision to scrap a planned visit to an American cemetery in France because of rain" showed "he's being misserved by some of his staffers," notably Deputy Chief of Staff Zach Fuentes, who informed him of the logistical problems with traveling to the cemetery. CNN adds:

As he watched the onslaught of headlines criticizing him for skipping the trip with no backup plan, the president took his anger out on Fuentes personally. Whiling away the empty hours at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris, Trump complained the entire trip to France was poorly conceived and executed, according to people familiar with the matter. He'd long discovered the events on Sunday would not include a grand military parade like the one he witnessed a year ago on Bastille Day, leading him to wonder what the point of the trip was. [CNN]

Trump reportedly spent that afternoon demanding updates on the election results and watching Fox News. You can read more about Trump's itch to fire people, his Election Night party with billionaire friends, and his Paris blues at CNN. Peter Weber

2:08a.m.

This was not your average field trip.

Instead of visiting a museum or watching a performance, about 100 students from Seattle's Garfield High School on Tuesday traveled to the Elliott Bay Book Co. Each teenager had a $50 gift card, their money maximized thanks to a 20 percent store discount. They had to follow just one instruction: buy whatever books they wanted.

English teacher Adam Gish believes in the power of reading, telling The Seattle Times it "can humanize us and help us, especially at this age, discover our identities because we discover that other people go through the same thing." While in the classroom several years ago, Gish discovered that many of his students had never been inside a bookstore before. As a special reward, he would take a few every year to Elliot Bay Book Co. and let them choose a book, but it was too expensive for him to take all of his students.

Now, thanks to a private donor, Gish can bring dozens of ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders to the bookstore. Students have to apply by writing a letter, and some shared that their families can't afford books, while others said reading has helped them expand their minds. "A new book is a novelty, a hardcover novel almost unheard of ... it seems surreal and I would be honored to participate in this," one student wrote. This year, Gish let all of the students who wrote letters go on the field trip, where they picked up books like Becoming by Michelle Obama and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. After everyone checked out at the register, about 450 books were bought. Catherine Garcia

1:47a.m.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) finally put his foot down. On Wednesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked a motion by Flake and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) to force a full Senate vote on a bill protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, newly endangered by President Trump's appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Flake then announced that until the bill gets a floor vote, he will not vote for any of the 32 judicial nominations McConnell hopes to confirm before year's end or vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees awaiting a vote in the Judiciary Committee.

If Flake and the entire Democratic caucus vote no on the judicial nominations — probably McConnell's top priority — Vice President Mike Pence would have to step in to break the 50-50 tie. Flake can single-handedly block all nominees from being voted out of committee, assuming all Democrats vote with him. If Flake is joined by another Republican who supports his bipartisan bill — passed out of committee months ago — to give special counsels an avenue to contest their firing, no judges would be confirmed for the remainder of this Congress. Coons said he and Flake are confident the bill "would get 60 votes if given a vote."

McConnell and other Republicans, including some who helped write the bill, have argued the legislation is unnecessary because Trump won't fire Mueller. Flake wasn't buying that argument. “The president now has this investigation in his sights and we all know it,” he said on the Senate floor. "Why? Why do we do this? To protect a man seemingly who is so incurious about what Russia did during the 2016 elections? ... Why do we do that? Do we have no more institutional pride here?”

The legislation, even if passed in the Senate, faces an uncertain future in the House, though senators could insist on including it in must-pass legislation before the end of the year. Peter Weber

1:11a.m.

He may be a professional rapper, but that doesn't make Kanye West a good communicator, his wife, Kim Kardashian, said Wednesday.

It seems like many millennia have passed since that fateful day when West, donning a red Make America Great Again hat, visited the Oval Office and briefly rendered President Trump speechless. It was only a month ago, though, and at Wednesday's Criminal Justice Reform Summit, Kardashian revealed that in the time since, she's "educated" her husband on Trump's policies. "I know it's very confusing because, when you see someone wearing a red hat, you think they support that," she added. "But he's just fighting for free thought. And for the freedom to like a person, even if it's not the popular decision."

West is "not very political, actually," she said. He "just happens to like Donald Trump's personality, but doesn't know about the politics." When they're at home, he'll say things that are "basically the opposite" of public statements he's made, which is why Kardashian thinks he's "very misunderstood and the worst communicator." Sure, she could have "corrected him" on social media, Kardashian said, but she believes "people have their own journeys" they need to take. West did change his tune after the meeting, saying he'd been used to "spread messages I don't believe in." Catherine Garcia

12:49a.m.

"That blue wave keeps crashing on the beach — in the last 24 hours, two tight House races have been called for Democrats, one in California, one in New Jersey," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. His audience appeared to appreciate those wins. "You know who's not enjoying last Tuesday's election? The guy who lost, Donald Trump," Colbert said. President Trump has reportedly "retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment," he added. "Yes, Trump is ending his larval stage, and in just a few weeks he will emerge as a hideous, race-baiting butterfly."

The White House is so mired in Trump's anger, his staff has apparently been avoiding him. "They're all holed up in the one place he will never go: a salad bar," Colbert joked.

"You can tell the midterm results were way worse for Republicans than they initially let on from the way they're behaving," Seth Meyers said on Late Night. "And the more results we get from last week's midterm elections, the clearer it is that this was in fact a massive blue wave." He showed Trump declaring victory right after the elections, rubbing it in by highlighting some big races Trump bet big on and lost.

"As the results get worse for Republicans, they're getting more desperate, and they seem to be focusing their desperation on Florida," Meyers said. "Republicans have been spreading lies about nonexistent voter fraud without any evidence, and you'll never guess who they're blaming for that nonexistent voter fraud." (It's Hillary Clinton. Meyers laughed.) "So why, why is Trump freaking out?" he asked. Special Counsel Robert Mueller. "For two years, Trump has acted like a guy who's afraid the walls are closing in, and that was when Republicans were in charge of everything. Now Democrats control the House and Mueller can make news again." Watch below. Peter Weber

November 14, 2018

After being arrested Wednesday on suspicion of domestic violence, lawyer Michael Avenatti called the allegations "completely bogus."

Avenatti, who represents adult film star Stormy Daniels, has been a cable news mainstay for the last year. After being arrested in West Los Angeles, Avenatti was booked into jail and released on a $50,000 bond. In a statement, Avenatti thanked Los Angeles Police Department officers for "their professionalism," and denied the "completely bogus" allegations. "I have never been physically abusive in my life nor was I last night," he said. "Any accusations to the contrary are fabricated and meant to do harm to my reputation. I look forward to being fully exonerated."

Avenatti also spoke to reporters, saying he's "not going to be intimidated from stopping what I am doing. I am a father to two beautiful, smart daughters. I would never disrespect them by touching a woman inappropriately or striking a woman." When the news first broke about his arrest, TMZ reported that a law enforcement official said Avenatti's estranged wife, Lisa Storie-Avenatti, filed the report on Tuesday night. Storie-Avenatti's lawyer released a statement saying she was not the woman involved, and "states that there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and that she has never known Michael to be physically violent toward anyone." Catherine Garcia

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