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Mueller Impanels Grand Jury in Trump Probe

Special Counsel Robert Mueller impanels Washington grand jury in Russia probe. NPR: "Special counsel Robert Mueller is using a grand jury in Washington, D.C., in connection with his investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between Russia and top aides to the Trump campaign... The latest development signals that the former FBI director's investigation is 'growing in intensity,' with the grand jury beginning work in recent weeks."

Justice Dept. Advances Hard-Line Agenda

Justice Dept., under siege from Trump, plows ahead with his agenda. NYT: "In the last six months, the attorney general has rolled back Obama-era policies on gay rights, voting rights, and criminal justice and police reform while advancing his own fight against drugs, gangs and violent crime. The scope of the work goes far beyond the investigation into Russia’s interference in last year’s election and possible ties to the Trump campaign... Mr. Sessions has mandated that prosecutors be as tough as possible in charging and sentencing all crimes, including drug offenses that carry stiff mandatory minimum prison sentences. He has expanded the ability of the police to seize people’s assets, irrespective of whether they may have been convicted of a crime or even charged."

Cities baffled as Sessions targets them on immigration. NBC: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions took new steps Thursday to punish cities he believes are not cooperating with federal immigration agents in a move that was met with bewilderment by local officials who said they did not know why they were being singled out. The Justice Department sent letters to four cities struggling with gun violence, telling them they would not be eligible for a program that provides money to combat drug trafficking and gang crime unless they give federal immigration authorities access to jails and notify agents before releasing inmates wanted on immigration violations."

'Democracy" No Longer a U.S. Priority Overseas

Rex Tillerson’s new goal for the State Department: Drop democracy promotion abroad. Salon: "You’d think that only supervillains would oppose justice and democracy overseas, but Donald Trump’s top foreign diplomat may prove you wrong. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may be abandoning America’s longstanding habit of promoting justice and democracy throughout the world — or, at the very least, paying lip service to that ideal. Tillerson has ordered a new statement of purpose for the State Department, and draft statements have been leaked, according to a report by The Washington Post. While the new statements are similar to the old mission statement, one key difference is that the new draft omits any explicit reference to democracy or justice."

Quiet Rollback of Energy, Environmental Safeguards

Chaos obscures Washington's biggest policy change. Axios: "An unrelenting barrage of chaotic news coming out of Washington is distracting from a quieter revolution: A near complete reversal of America's energy and environmental policies... Climate and energy have typically been issues most people don't care much about, especially compared to their healthcare, their jobs and their evening plans. But some of the biggest changes happening in Washington now are in this area, right at the time it's receiving the least attention."

Senate Recess Begins

Senate starts recess, GOP leaves town with no clear path on Obamacare. Politico: "Republicans are leaving Washington Thursday for a month of recess with no clear direction on what they’ll do next on Obamacare... The reality is that, after seven years of unity on repealing Obamacare, Republicans are rudderless on how to talk about or address the defining domestic policy issue of nearly the past decade for their party, and they have no clear plans despite holding all the levers of power in Washington. Now, they face a month away from the Capitol, answering to their home-state voters about their lack of progress."

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Is Wrong: Schools Don’t Cause Science Ignorance. Jeff Bryant: "It’s true that a lot of Americans don’t have a very good grasp of science. Only about half of Americans believe that human beings evolved over time, fewer parents are vaccinating their children, and while most people accept that climate change is happening, they don’t think it will affect their lives. But are public schools to blame for this?"

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