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Trump's spy chief releases new batch of Russia documents to Justice Department

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe has approved the release to the Department of Justice of a large binder full of documents to assist a review of the Obama administration's handling of the Trump-Russia investigation, according to a source with direct knowledge of the materials and confirmed by Ratcliffe.

Why it matters: The release, which is being revealed publicly for the first time today, comes as President Trump is urging his agencies to expedite the release of materials that he believes will be politically advantageous to him.


  • It follows a flurry of tweets by the president accusing the Obama administration of orchestrating a "treasonous plot" against him by investigating his campaign's ties to Russia.

Driving the news: The release of the documents to U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was tapped by Attorney General Bill Barr to carry out a sweeping review of alleged abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies investigating Trump and Russia, comes just hours before the start of the vice presidential debate.

  • The source said Ratcliffe has been working on this batch of documents for a number of weeks.
  • Former CIA Director John Brennan, a frequent target of the president and his allies, has accused Ratcliffe of selectively declassifying documents in order to "advance the political interests" of Trump ahead of the election.

The big picture: Trump's allies have long claimed that Durham's investigation will result in the indictments of top Obama administration officials. Thus far, Durham has netted a single guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer who admitted to altering an email used to help obtain a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

  • The timing and format of the findings from Durham's investigation are not known, but Trump's allies have pushed Barr to release some kind of report before the election.
  • A career prosecutor abruptly resigned from Durham's office last month, prompting Democrats to call for an "emergency" inspector general investigation into whether Barr is politicizing the probe to influence the election.

What they're saying: In response to this reporting, Ratcliffe confirmed in a statement to Axios: "At my direction, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has provided almost 1,000 pages of materials to the Department of Justice in response to Mr. Durham's document request, including a new batch that Justice Department lawyers are now able to view immediately."

  • "I will continue to ensure the Intelligence Community's responsiveness to the DOJ's requests. We also look forward to supporting the DOJ in further declassifications consistent with their investigation."
  • "As the president has made clear, we must be appropriately transparent with the American people and give them the confidence that the extraordinary work of intelligence professionals is never misused or politicized."

Defense makes closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson opened his closing argument on Monday by reminding the jury that Derek Chauvin "does not have to prove his innocence."

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial is seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades.

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Merrick Garland: Domestic terrorism is "still with us" and remains critical threat

In his first major speech, Attorney General Merrick Garland warned the nation Monday to remain vigilant against the rising threat of domestic extremism.

Why it matters: Domestic terrorism poses an "elevated threat" to the nation this year, according to U.S. intelligence. Garland has already pledged to crack down on violence linked to white supremacists and right-wing militia groups.

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"Nine minutes and 29 seconds": Prosecutors begin closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Steve Schleicher, an attorney for the prosecution in Derek Chauvin's trial, began closing arguments on Monday by describing in detail George Floyd's last moments — crying out for help and surrounded by strangers, as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial, seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades, will reverberate across the country and have major implications in the fight for racial justice.

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European soccer goes to war over wealthy clubs' plans for exclusive "Super League"

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

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81% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive earnings surprise for Q1

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

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NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hopping the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

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All U.S. adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, meeting Biden's April 19 deadline

All 50 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have now made U.S. adults over the age of 16 eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, meeting President Biden's April 19 deadline.

Why it matters: The landmark speaks to the increased pace of the national vaccination campaign, but will increase pressure on the federal government, states and pharmaceutical companies to provide adequate vaccine supply and logistics.

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Minneapolis braces for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial

Minneapolis is waking up to images of an occupied city on Monday, as the city and the world await a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

What it's like: Residents running errands, picking up dinner and heading to the dog park in recent days encountered heavily-armed National Guard troops stationed throughout the city.

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