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January 11, 2019

The Office of Government Ethics may have some beef with Andrew Wheeler.

The acting Environmental Protection Agency chief receives more free burgers each month than any healthy person should eat. Check out this bite of a financial disclosure form, which the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington spotted and the Center for Responsive Politics' Anna Massoglia shared.

Executive branch officials have to disclose their financial interests to the ethics office. It helps prevent conflicts of interest, and also answered why Wheeler "promoted Lucky Buns so much on his personal Twitter" even after he joined the EPA, Mother Jones' Rebecca Leber says. Lucky Buns later hopped in to say Wheeler "helped us get off the ground two years ago as an investor," and they offer free burgers "to all our investors."

The meat in $2,000 worth of burgers certainly isn't good for the environment the EPA is trying to protect. Then again, the coal industry Wheeler spent several years lobbying for is probably worse. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:31 a.m.

The people who know what's going on in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation are, as usual, not talking, so Mueller watchers are left digging for clues about when the special counsel's final report will be handed in, who will be able to view it, and whether any more indictments are coming. Another clue dropped Tuesday, in a court filing by two members of Mueller's shrinking staff, Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben and prosecutor Adam Jed.

The two-page filing requests more time to respond to a Washington Post filing seeking access to redacted portions of records in Paul Manafort's criminal case. "Counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government," Dreeben and Jed write, indicating that The Washington Post did not oppose pushing the date back to April 1, from March 21.

What does this tell us? "That the special counsel investigation may be wrapping up — or maybe it's not" — but "either way, they're very busy," CNN reports. More helpfully, CNN notes that "broadly throughout the Mueller probe, Dreeben's public court filings show he has dedicated his time to fighting defendants' attempts to dismiss indictments, media requests to unseal documents, and appeals including a mystery grand jury matter involving a foreign-owned company that's awaiting Supreme Court action."

There are lots of other signs that Mueller's investigation is winding down, including the departure of seven of 17 lawyers and expected imminent exit of senior prosecutor Andrew Weissmann. But "Dreeben, by all appearances, works long hours still," CNN reports. "He regularly arrives to the office minutes after the notoriously early Mueller," and "FBI agents and prosecutors continue to swarm in and out of Mueller's office daily — and even have visited the courthouse for non-public matters at least twice" since last week. Peter Weber

12:59 a.m.

Disney officially finalized its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox early Wednesday morning.

The company's new assets include Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox Family, Fox Animation, Twentieth Century Fox Television, the FX and National Geographic channels, Star India, and Fox's interest in Hulu, Variety reports. "This is an extraordinary and historic moment for us — one that will create significant long-term value for our company and our shareholders," Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement.

Disney has said that through the purchase, the company aims to "increase its international footprint" and "expand its direct-to-consumer offerings." With Iger at the helm, Disney purchased Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion, acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2010 for $4 billion, and bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion. Catherine Garcia

12:10 a.m.

U.S. military officials are disputing a new Amnesty International report released Tuesday that states there is credible evidence U.S. airstrikes in Somalia have killed or injured almost two dozen civilians.

Amnesty International says it interviewed 65 witnesses and survivors of five airstrikes, and examined satellite images and additional data. The organization determined that there is "credible evidence" the U.S. was behind four of the five airstrikes, and it's plausible it was responsible for the fifth. The strikes killed 14 civilians and left eight injured.

The U.S. military is conducting operations against al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda. In 2018, the U.S. was responsible for 47 airstrikes that killed 338 militants, and so far this year, more than 230 militants have been killed in 28 airstrikes. U.S. Africa Command officials said it's been concluded that there were no civilian deaths in the first four airstrikes reported by Amnesty International, and in the fifth case, the U.S. did not have any airstrikes in the vicinity on that day. Defense officials told The Associated Press that al-Shabaab lies about civilian deaths and threatens locals into doing the same. Catherine Garcia

12:05 a.m.

"Donald Trump's alliance with Fox News has been one of the few constants throughout his shambolic presidency," Gabriel Sherman writes at Vanity Fair. "But in recent days, that bond has shown signs of fraying."

Sherman pointed to Trump's tweeted salvos at Fox News and some news anchors Sunday, but said those attack have only "widened the chasm between the network's opinion hosts and the news division, which have been fighting a cold civil war since Roger Ailes was ousted in July 2016." One senior Fox staffer told Sherman, "Reporters are telling management that we're being defined by the worst people on our air," meaning pro-Trump opinion hosts like Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs, and the Fox & Friends gang. An anchor close to Hannity gave the rebuttal: "We make all the money."

The final arbiter of this "cold civil war" will be Lachlan Murdoch, the eldest son of media baron Rupert Murdoch and the chairman and CEO of Fox Corp., the downsized media company created when Fox sold its entertainment assets to Disney. Lachlan Murdoch — "a libertarian conservative, not a MAGA diehard," Sherman notes — isn't expected to make any editorial changes until after that deal closes Wednesday, "for fear of antagonizing Trump into opposing it," Sherman reports, citing two sources close to Lachlan. And any changes from Murdoch are expected to be modest, at least at first.

But Sean Hannity may not wait around. "Sources said Hannity is angry at the Murdochs' firing of Ailes and Bill Shine," believes "the Murdochs are out to get Trump," and may leave when his contract is up in 2021, Sherman reports. One source who heard the conversation tells Sherman, "Hannity told Trump last year that the Murdochs hate Trump, and Hannity is the only one holding Fox together." You can read more about the potential Fox-Trump breakup at Vanity Fair. Peter Weber

March 19, 2019

The Fairleigh Dickinson University Knights had a come-from-behind victory on Tuesday night, defeating Prairie View A&M and securing the school's first-ever NCAA tournament win.

The final score for the First Four game was 82-76. It was also a good night for senior guard Darnell Edge, who scored a career-high 33 points. Fairleigh Dickinson has four campuses and two teams, with the Knights representing the Metropolitan Campus in Hackensack, New Jersey. The school has played in six NCAA tournament games.

Coach Greg Herenda, who recently recovered from life-threatening blood clots, told The Associated Press that the win was "overwhelming." He has been a coach for 35 years, and at Fairleigh Dickinson for six. On Thursday, the team will face the No. 1 seed, Gonzaga, in Salt Lake City. Catherine Garcia

March 19, 2019

One day before Lion Air Flight 610 crashed last October shortly after taking off from Jakarta, a different crew struggled to gain control of the plane as it entered a dive, people familiar with the incident told Bloomberg.

An off-duty pilot was sitting in the cockpit of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet on Oct. 28, and quickly realized that the anti-stalling flight-control system was malfunctioning. He directed the crew to cut the power to the motor that was forcing the nose down, Bloomberg reports, and the plane stabilized. Investigators said the same malfunction happened the next day, Oct. 29, causing the plane to crash into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board.

This previously undisclosed detail was not mentioned in the report released by Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee. It's believed that a similar issue with the anti-stalling system led to an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 plane crashing on March 10 after taking off from Addis Ababa. Following the Lion Air crash, two U.S. pilots' associations shared their concerns that the possible risks associated with the anti-stalling system were not clearly stated during training and in manuals. Catherine Garcia

March 19, 2019

The White House is refusing to give the House Oversight Committee any documents or produce any witnesses for its investigations, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published Tuesday night. He called this an "unprecedented level of stonewalling, delay, and obstruction."

Cummings, the committee chairman, said Democrats were elected so the House could serve as a "truly independent check and balance on the executive branch." His committee is the House's primary investigative body, and he has sent the White House 12 letters on six topics, "some routine and some relating to our core national security interests." The White House, Cummings said, "has not turned over a single piece of paper to our committee or made a single official available for testimony during the 116th Congress."

One investigation is focusing on White House security clearances, in the wake of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lying about his communications with the Russian ambassador and reports that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, received a top-secret clearance despite warnings. The White House "offered to let us read — but not keep — a few pages of policy documents that have nothing to do with the officials we are investigating, along with a general briefing on those policies during which they will answer no questions about specific employees," Cummings said.

Cummings listed the different requests that have been ignored, including for documents related to Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, making hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, and White House officials allegedly using private email to conduct business, which is illegal. "If our committee must resort to issuing subpoenas, there should be no doubt about why," Cummings said. Read the entire revealing op-ed at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

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