March 24, 2019

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

11:00 p.m.

Doctors at Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, the only abortion clinic still operating in Missouri, will no longer perform two pelvic exams on patients, as mandated by the state earlier this month, CBS News reports.

Missouri's Republican-led government enacted a rule that forced doctors to perform a pelvic exam on women 72 hours before they have an abortion; already, doctors conduct pelvic exams right before the procedure. The clinic's medical director, Dr. David Eisenberg, told CBS News on Wednesday that after performing these extra exams over the last few weeks, "I have new evidence to say that 100 percent of the patients who I've taken care of who've undergone this inappropriate, medically unnecessary, unethical pelvic exam have been harmed by that. Because to do so, in my opinion, is just assault."

The doctors consider the pelvic exam conducted right before an abortion to be medically relevant, and will continue the practice. Last month, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit after Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services refused to make a decision over whether to renew the clinic's license. A preliminary injunction is keeping the doors open, and a judge gave the state until this Friday to decide about the license. Catherine Garcia

10:00 p.m.

Andrea Thompson, the State Department official responsible for U.S. arms control negotiations with Moscow and a former national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, did not disclose to lawmakers during her confirmation process last year that she had a years-long friendship with Republican operative Paul Erickson, the ex-boyfriend of convicted unregistered Russian agent Maria Butina, The Washington Post reports.

Thompson, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, also didn't reveal the relationship to her supervisors, the Post's Josh Rogin writes; three administration officials said she only told them this week after Rogin approached her about the matter.

In 2017, Erickson officiated Thompson's wedding to David Gillian, a former senior Australian army officer. Erickson's attorney said Butina attended as her former boyfriend's guest. At the time, Thompson was Pence's national security adviser. About six months later, news broke about Erickson and Butina being linked to Russian influence operations in the United States.

Thompson holds top security clearances, and she should have revealed her ties to the couple, several administration officials told Rogin. "When the person who marries you gets into trouble with the Russians and your job is to negotiate with the Russians, you have to disclose that," one person said. "Everybody with an intelligence clearance knows that." Rogin notes that there is no evidence that Thompson and her husband had any major interactions with Butina outside of their wedding, and that Thompson purposely was untruthful to lawmakers during her confirmation process. For more on the relationship, and Erickson's alleged theft of $100,000 from Gillian, visit The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

9:05 p.m.

Mark Hamill came up with a plan to get people to stop vandalizing President Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: give it to his Star Wars co-star Carrie Fisher.

Hamill tweeted the idea on Wednesday morning, after sharing an article from 2018 about the West Hollywood City Council voting to ask the Los Angeles City Council and Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove Trump's star, which he received for his work producing beauty pageants. Vandals regularly spray paint and take pickaxes to Trump's star, but that's not enough to get it permanently replaced, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Ana Martinez told the Los Angeles Times. "We don't remove stars," she said. "The stars are part of the history of the Walk of Fame."

Fisher died in 2016, and under the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce's rules, "the application has to be submitted on the fifth anniversary of her death," Martinez said. She threw even more cold water on the idea of a Carrie Fisher star, saying her family or estate would have to submit a written agreement saying they want a star for Fisher, plus pay $50,000 for the star and its assorted costs. "Also, how do we know that Carrie Fisher wanted one?" Martinez said. "We don't know if she ever was interested. She was never submitted for a star." Catherine Garcia

7:59 p.m.

As part of an investigation into the unexplained deaths of nine American tourists over the last 13 months in the Dominican Republic, the FBI is testing samples taken from a minibar at one of the hotels where some of the Americans stayed, Dominican officials told CNN on Wednesday.

The samples were taken from the Bahia Principe Hotel. Ministry of Health communications director Carlos Suero told CNN that whenever a person dies in a Dominican hotel room, authorities test samples collected from the room's minibar, sink, and shower for bacteria.

In several cases, families of the deceased have said their loved one had a drink from the minibar before their death. Dominican officials are adamant these were isolated cases, and there's no reason for worried people to cancel their vacations. Catherine Garcia

7:01 p.m.

The Trump administration wants to do away with the Office of Personnel Management, and will furlough 150 workers if Congress tries to intervene, The Washington Post reports.

The agency manages the government's civilian workforce. The Trump administration says it is a troubled department that needs to be dismantled, and wants Congress to kill the department by June 30. An internal briefing document obtained by the Post shows that if Congress balks, employees will be sent home without pay on Oct. 1, and after 30 days, could be laid off. More than 5,500 people work in the department, and the Post reports that dozens of workers have retired or quit in recent months because they're not sure what will happen come October.

The Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog, released a report this week concluding that if the agency is shuttered, it would increase, not ease, a retirement claims backlog. The Trump administration wants to divide the agency among three other departments, and acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert told the Post "a legislative solution would be the most straightforward answer, but we've made it very clear we can't wait without action." Weichert, three officials told the Post, has told staffers that she is "planning to play chicken with Congress." Catherine Garcia

5:45 p.m.

There appeared to be progress on multiple fronts to avoid a military confrontation with Iran on Wednesday, but the Trump administration's plan remains unclear.

House Democrats voted to pass a $1 trillion appropriations bill, which includes a repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force — Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the only member of Congress to vote against AUMF in 2001, added the repeal last month.

However, no Republicans voted for the bill and it appears unlikely it will get past the Senate.

The AUMF was passed days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, granting the president authority to use military force against those responsible for the attacks and those who harbored them, generally considered to be al Qaeda and Afghanistan, respectively.

But lawmakers recently raised concerns that the Trump administration was potentially prepared to invoke AUMF to launch a war with Iran, after statements by officials tying Iran to al Qaeda, which raised skepticism in Congress.

On the other hand, President Trump is reportedly less hawkish on Iran than his advisers and he has privately pushed them to ease up their talk. Trump even called the attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which the U.S. alleges were orchestrated by Tehran, "very minor." State Department Special Representative Brian Hook, meanwhile, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a hearing on Wednesday that there is "no talk of offensive action" and the priority remains putting economic pressure on Iran, The Daily Beast reports. Tim O'Donnell

5:26 p.m.

President Trump's tariff threat didn't hurt the USMCA after all.

On Wednesday, Mexico's senate overwhelmingly voted to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. The deal is an update of North American Free Trade Agreement the three countries squabbled over last fall, and comes despite Trump threatening tariffs on Mexico a few weeks ago.

Mexico's Senate voted 114-4 to approve the deal, with three lawmakers abstaining from the vote. Some of those voting for the deal were cautious, seeing as Trump has been notoriously unpredictable when dealing with his southern neighbor, but said the bill was essential in guaranteeing Mexico's economic viability, Politico reports. Despite largely voicing opposition to Trump, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also pushed for the deal, essentially ensuring its passage in a Senate held by his party. The deal contains many of the same provisions as NAFTA, but calls for more automotive manufacturing within the three countries, per The Washington Post.

The approval came despite Trump threatening in late May to impose tariffs on Mexico unless it curbed the flow of migrants into the U.S. Several GOP lawmakers broke with Trump over the tariff threat, with some saying it would jeopardize the USMCA's passage. Trump later called off the threat after successful discussions with Mexican authorities. Kathryn Krawczyk

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