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    Nicole Eramo

    Steve Helber / AP

    WASHINGTON — Rolling Stone has settled a defamation lawsuit brought by the University of Virginia administrator featured in a since-retracted article about campus rape.

    UVA administrator Nicole Eramo filed notice late Tuesday in federal court in Virginia that she was dropping her lawsuit against Rolling Stone, the magazine’s parent company Wenner Media, and reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

    Eramo's lawyer, Libby Locke, told BuzzFeed News that an "amicable" settlement was reached, but that the terms are confidential.

    "We're happy that the case is settled now," Locke said. "It allows Nicole to move on and really focus on what she does best, which is help victims of sexual assault. i think she's thrilled to have this behind her."

    A spokesperson for Rolling Stone's parent company, Wenner Media, said in an email to BuzzFeed News that the parties "have come to an amicable resolution" and confirmed that the terms are confidential. A lawyer for Rolling Stone declined to comment.

    A jury in November awarded Eramo $3 million, with Erdely ordered to pay $2 million, and Rolling Stone and Wenner Media were ordered to pay $1 million. The defendants all challenged that verdict before the federal district judge who presided over the trial, who heard arguments in February and had yet to issue a ruling.

    Eramo sued for defamation over the 2014 article, "A Rape on Campus," claiming that she was falsely portrayed as the personification of the university's alleged indifference to sexual assaults on campus and was cast as the "chief villain of the story." Eramo argued that contrary to the story's narrative, she actively tried to help a student, identified in the story as Jackie, who claimed she was raped at a fraternity house, and did not attempt to persuade Jackie to remain silent about the allegations.

    Rolling Stone later retracted the story after questions arose about the truthfulness of Jackie's account. The federal jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, that heard Eramo's case concluded in November that Erdely and the magazine acted with "actual malice" in publishing certain statements about Eramo and her handling of Jackie's case.

    In court papers challenging the verdict late last year, lawyers for Rolling Stone, Wenner Media, and Erdely contested the "actual malice" finding, and argued the Eramo failed to show that she was actually harmed by the sections of the article at issue, as well as comments that Erdely made about the article after it was published.

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    Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

    Republicans, Democrats, and the political media alike are watching a series of special elections over the next weeks that could end up putting into motion significant resources, recruitment efforts, and new narratives about President Donald Trump’s popularity.

    Some tricky political questions — how much Trump will remake the party ideologically, how closely will candidates tie themselves to him — are already factoring into special elections in Kansas and Georgia.

    But a key and unpredictable factor looms over the 2018 midterms, and especially the primaries: Donald Trump. Presidents typically don’t busy themselves with midterm primaries. But Trump revels in unpredictability. He loves to campaign. He loves the speech to the big rally audience. And he loves to strike back at those who have wronged him and distanced themselves from him.

    Many of the more than 15 GOP officials, operatives, and candidates interviewed for this story described the prospect of Trump getting involved similarly: It would be a surprise from anyone other than Trump.

    “I think there’s a high likelihood” Trump endorses in GOP primaries, Robert Graham, a Trump ally and former Arizona Republican Party chairman, told BuzzFeed News. “He’s unapologetic, he’s a strong leader, and he’s confident in his opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised.”

    Graham said there have been “plenty of discussions and plenty of promised support” from Trump-aligned donors to back a serious primary challenge to Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, one of Trump’s most vocal critics last year. Graham said he has been encouraged to consider running for the seat, but not by Trump or anyone at the upper levels of the president’s political network.

    Trump has raised expectations for such confrontations. There was a White House aide’s tweet calling for the defeat of Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a House Freedom Caucus member who’s become a thorn in Trump’s side. Then there was Trump’s involvement, in the weeks before his inauguration, in the messy fight for control of the Ohio Republican Party. By making personal phone calls on behalf of his favored candidate, Trump helped unseat a chairman who had been loyal to Gov. John Kasich, who had refused to endorse or even vote for Trump in the general election.

    Questions about Trump’s coattails of course will exist after Tuesday, when Republicans had more trouble than they should have defending a House seat up for grabs in the special election in Kansas. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence taped robo-calls for Ron Estes as part of a last-minute rescue mission. Though many point to Trump’s low approval ratings, plenty in the party blame the tight race more on Sam Brownback, the state’s unpopular Republican governor, than on the president.

    Aaron Trost, Estes' general consultant, told BuzzFeed News that all it took to enlist Trump and Pence was a request to White House political director.

    "And they did a phenomenal job and I think it was really big help," Trost said.

    Trump's status as leader of his party complicates the 2018 calculus. Though his poor overall poll numbers would be a potential liability in a general election, for the moment he remains popular with GOP voters.

    “It remains to be seen how transferable Trump’s cult of personality is to candidates he might back in either a GOP primary or general election,” Jeff Sadosky, a Republican consultant and former top adviser to Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, told BuzzFeed News.

    Regardless of what Trump decides to do — or not do — in the 2018 primaries, the speculation that he or his close allies will assert themselves already is changing the style and substance of Republican races. The establishment vs. Tea Party battle lines that existed in the 2010 and 2014 midterms have given way to a pro-Trump vs. anti-Trump (or, more likely, less-pro-Trump) construct.

    There has been an emergence of Trump clones eager to gain favor with the president’s supporters, if not the president himself. Other candidates are subtler about it but believe their past loyalty to Trump will pay dividends, in a he-knows-who-his-friends-are kind of way.

    Republicans pinpoint two 2018 primaries where Trump or those closest to him are most likely to play: Flake’s re-election bid in Arizona and the South Carolina governor’s race.

    Representatives for Flake did not respond to requests for comment. In a November interview with The Arizona Republic, he shrugged off early polling that showed him vulnerable.

    One veteran GOP operative, who like others requested anonymity to speak about party affairs candidly, told BuzzFeed News that Trump allies at the Republican National Committee are buzzing about targeting Flake. Others interviewed were skeptical that the RNC would go through with it. Many have trouble picturing how such scenario would work.

    “It’s one thing to tweet it,” one Republican said. “It’s another to actually do it.”

    Unless Trump himself is willing to help raise money for a chosen challenger or to fly into on Arizona on Air Force One for campaign rallies, Flake could be tough to beat.

    Other groups such as the National Republican Senatorial Committee operate as incumbent-retention organizations. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Flake got extra-special attention from the NRSC, where his former campaign manager now serves as political director.

    The idea of the RNC and NRSC being at odds in a red-state primary featuring an incumbent is wildly different from how the party structures traditionally operate — and the idea seemed implausible to some party insiders. For similar reasons, threats against Amash and other House Freedom Caucus members ring even hollower to insiders.

    Regardless, Flake friends and foes agree the party needs to emerge with a strong nominee, citing speculation that Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, whom they believe would be a formidable opponent, will run for the seat. The only announced challenger on the GOP side is Kelli Ward, a former state lawmaker who last year lost a primary to Sen. John McCain. Ward’s performance in that race is why others are looking to Graham, the former state party chairman, or to Jeff DeWit, the state treasurer. Graham said he would not run if DeWit, a fellow Trump ally, does.

    Ward told BuzzFeed News that a key motivation for her campaign is how “openly antagonistic” Flake has been to Trump. But she is not getting her hopes up for a presidential assist.

    “I haven’t seen how many sitting presidents have come in to participate in a primary,” Ward said. “Donald Trump is different. You never know what he’s going to do. I don’t have an expectation he’s going to swoop in and say, ‘Vote for Kelli Ward.’ I’d be happy if he did, of course.”

    In South Carolina, meanwhile, GOP watchers are expecting Trump to help an incumbent.

    Henry McMaster, who at the time was serving as lieutenant governor, was one of the first high-profile elected officials in the country to endorse Trump’s campaign last year. After the president picked Nikki Haley to be his United Nations ambassador, McMaster ascended to the governor’s chair. Now he is facing a potentially tough primary in his bid to keep it.

    McMaster has faced some recent bad news: The State and The Post and Courier in Charleston have reported that state investigators are asking questions about McMaster’s longtime political consultant. And the governor has drawn a credible primary challenger in Catherine Templeton, who served in Haley’s cabinet and was in the mix to be Trump’s labor secretary.

    Templeton’s backers include businessman Mikee Johnson, a key activist and Haley ally who is helping her raise money. Johnson acknowledged to BuzzFeed News the speculation that Trump might reward McMaster for his support in an early presidential primary state.

    “There might be some of that coming back,” Johnson said when asked about the dynamic. “But I guess I would find it hard to believe the president has the time to come to a solid red state and campaign for a guy who has been in politics as long as McMaster has been.”

    McMaster’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

    Gubernatorial primaries in Michigan and Ohio also provide tempting opportunities to reciprocate.

    Michigan won a special place in Trump’s heart — “love,” he declared in a tweet before visiting Detroit last month — after he became the first Republican presidential candidate to win there in 2018. Trump picked the state party’s chairwoman, Ronna Romney McDaniel, to lead the RNC. A Trump fundraiser, with the backing of top Trump advisers, took over for McDaniel.

    The two top GOP contenders for governor there in 2018, Lt. Brian Calley and Attorney General Bill Schuette, supported decidedly non-Trumpian candidates in last year’s primaries. Calley went in big for Kasich, Schuette for Jeb Bush. Both later backed Trump. But Calley revoked his endorsement after the release of a 2005 recording in which Trump is heard speaking of women in crude terms that many have likened to sexual assault.

    “The Trump administration has a keen interest in making sure the blue wall stays demolished,” Schuette told BuzzFeed News. Trump is “very aware I helped. I didn’t abandon the party.”

    Pressed later about whether Schuette was expecting an endorsement from Trump, a spokeswoman replied via email: “As far as an endorsement goes, I can't really answer that. But I can say that the president knows who stood by him, and who didn't.”

    In Ohio, where Trump already has shown a willingness to engage against Kasich allies, three sitting statewide officeholders and a sitting congressman are preparing for the GOP primary for governor. Only the congressman, Jim Renacci, enthusiastically supported Trump. Rob Scott, a top Renacci adviser, served in the high command of Trump’s Ohio campaign last year.

    “President Trump is his own person, and if he weighs in, he weighs in,” Scott told BuzzFeed News. “Congressman Renacci is gaining major ground in Ohio with folks who were involved in the Trump campaign at the county level. I know the other campaigns are getting worried.”

    Alexis Levinson contributed reporting to this story.

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    Donald Trump on The O'Reilly Factor in 2015

    Nancy Wiechec / Reuters

    For two decades, Bill O’Reilly has been a towering figure in Republican politics, a crucial pit stop for GOP politicians attempting to reach his nearly 4 million strong, largely conservative audience.

    But as he heads out on vacation amid an advertising boycott, Fox News staffers have been left wondering whether he will return at all from a two-week getaway that the network and anchor say was preplanned.

    Despite the assurances that the trip was booked last fall and that O’Reilly is due to come back on April 24, the timing is raising doubts. One top Fox News source said that the 67-year-old host was pushed to go on a lengthy vacation, a move that buys Rupert Murdoch time to consider his future. The media mogul behind Fox News parent 21st Century Fox assumed control after former network chief Roger Ailes was ousted amid a sexual harassment saga this summer, and he has acted more or less unilaterally on Fox News decisions, the source said.

    Murdoch’s choice — arguably the most important programming decision in Fox New history — is a complicated one that weighs the preeminence of O’Reilly with the inherent power of the 8 p.m. hour on the most popular cable news network. O’Reilly has loomed large in the television industry, and the conventional wisdom in the media world as the allegations broke has been that he is far too valuable to be pushed aside. His ratings are coming off of their best quarter ever. He brings in an astonishing amount of advertising money: $178 million in 2015, according to Kantar Media. Indeed, The O’Reilly Factor’s reign as the most-watched cable show has continued even in the weeks since the new allegations emerged.

    That significance was on display last week when President Trump, an avowed Fox News fan, told the New York Times that O’Reilly shouldn’t have settled cases with his accusers. “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” Trump said. “He is a good person.”

    But inside the White House, the uncertainty surrounding the Fox News anchor’s future amid a sexual harassment scandal isn’t being viewed as much of a problem.

    A source close to the administration said that while O’Reilly treats the president fairly, he isn’t as hardline as some other Fox News pundits, and the loss of his presence on the network wouldn’t be too much of a loss for Trump. “Someone like Hannity would be a huge negative, or Lou Dobbs,” the source said. (Dobbs is an adamant supporter of Trump’s immigration agenda.)

    The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

    The controversy ignited earlier this month when the Times reported that five women received about $13 million to settle allegations against the anchor, who has denied the claims, which included sexual and verbal harassment accusations. Some 70 advertisers have pulled their commercials from his program, putting more public relations and financial pressure on the network to act.

    Fox News sources say that while the decision will ultimately come down to Murdoch and his sons, the internal chatter is that O’Reilly might be gone for good.

    That speculation, though, is perhaps influenced by his standing in Fox’s Midtown headquarters.

    “The only person you hear bad things about on a regular basis is Bill O’Reilly — he definitely has not made friends in the building, from the makeup people to senior producers,” one Fox News source said. Another top Fox personality called O’Reilly a "dick."

    New York magazine reported that the Murdoch family is divided over the issue, with 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch favoring O’Reilly’s ouster and his older brother Lachlan and father Rupert leaning toward keeping him. The Times reported Wednesday that as O’Reilly goes on his Italian vacation — which a spokesman told the Times coincided with O’Reilly’s kids’ spring break — the Murdochs are awaiting the results of an investigation of his conduct by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. As the AP noted, O’Reilly hasn’t taken this long of a spring break consecutively for at least a decade. He took off a similar amount of time last August, though.

    “The facts are as clear as can be: The vacation was planned last October and involves travel with a group of people. The vacation coincides with the Easter holiday and with the spring school break,” Mark Fabiani, a spokesperson for O’Reilly, said in an email.

    One of the Fox News sources said Murdoch’s sons’ view of the network is that they “respect it’s a cash cow — if money keeps printing they’re fine with it,” but if that stops they would have no problem blowing things up.

    In an emailed statement, a 21st Century Fox spokesperson said, "21st Century Fox investigates all complaints and we have asked the law firm Paul Weiss to continue assisting the company in these serious matters."

    For now, O’Reilly’s vacation relieves some of the PR pressure from the ad boycott. But ad executives, whose clients shy away from anything that could go over poorly with the press and consumers, say that advertisers are unlikely to return to the show unless Fox makes some sort of change that gives them political cover to do so. Though Fox can maneuver the ads to stem immediate financial losses, the boycott dragging on threatens to pose a tangible financial problem for the network, which hasn’t responded to the boycott other than to say that the spots have been “re-expressed” in other programs.

    Fox has faced advertiser pressure before. After an ad revolt, Glenn Beck’s old Fox show was made up of low-end ads like “buy gold” commercials before the network eventually pulled the program, one ad buyer noted.

    There’s also the question of who could even replace O’Reilly — though Murdoch has proven to be a shrewder cable programmer than many expected. In an eyebrow-raising move, the billionaire mogul tapped Tucker Carlson for the 9 p.m. slot when Megyn Kelly decamped Fox for NBC News amid the Ailes scandal. With more Americans glued to political TV and good reviews of his performance, Carlson’s ratings have soared, raising the question as to whether O’Reilly might not be so indispensable after all. A primetime slot on Fox News, one of the Fox sources said, has a certain guaranteed audience.

    Still, if O’Reilly is forced out, there is no clear succession plan. Dana Perino filled in for O’Reilly Wednesday night, and a Fox News spokesperson said a rotating cast of host talent will fill in while he is away. There are also signs that Fox may endeavor to stick it out. Even after the network had knowledge of the Times’ story, for instance, O’Reilly’s contract was renewed through 2020, according to reports.

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    Lawrence Bryant / Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice Thursday sent a letter to Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló denying a $2.5 million appropriation for nonpartisan voter education and a plebiscite vote that would allow Puerto Ricans to vote about what they want in terms of their status as a territory.

    Puerto Rican government officials told BuzzFeed News they will still likely move forward with the plebiscite vote June 11. A Department of Justice spokesperson said their role in the matter was limited to the issue of whether to appropriate funds.

    Most of the issues raised by DOJ in the letter related to the goal of the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status that the popular will of the people of Puerto Rico be ascertained in a clear way. The letter argued that the 2012 plebiscite vote, in which a majority rejected the current status and chose statehood, was "the subject of controversy" and much had changed in five years politically, economically, and demographically on the island, which means it is unclear that residents reject the status quo territory option. (The upcoming plebiscite as written only gives "statehood" and "free association/independence" as the two options, not the current territory option.)

    In a series of tweets, Puerto Rico's governor said it was "unacceptable" to include a "colony" option in an effort to decolonize Puerto Rico. The Trump administration's position, he said, is contrary to the will of the Puerto Rican people who have rejected a continuation of a colonial system that is wrong.

    "I think that this is an attempt by the attorney general to singlehandedly go against what has been the policy of the U.S. for the last 25 years," said Kenneth McClintock, Puerto Rico's former secretary of state, who said that there is no dispute that the island is a territory of the United States. "Therefore present status can not be part of the options to resolve — resolve means solutions, an alternative to the problem itself."

    Puerto Rico has in recent years been felled by a financial and health care crisis. McClintock said the 2011 White House task force came to the conclusion that in order to resolve Puerto Rico’s economic problems "you have to address the political status problem or the economic situation will not improve."

    The DOJ letter also took issue with how the 2017 plebiscite is worded, including the description of statehood as the only option that guarantees American citizenship by birth in Puerto Rico and the description of "free association," which the agency said could be misleading.

    The DOJ declined comment beyond the letter.

    Puerto Rican officials said that in calls before and after the decision was made, DOJ officials remained open to working with the Puerto Rican government. Officials said they will study the DOJ recommendations but fully intend to move forward with the plebiscite, though there is concern that the vote will not be recognized by Congress moving forward. Still, Governor Rosselló called the June 11 plebiscite the most important vote that will reveal the will of the people.

    But in conversations after the decision came down, statehood supporters were sharply criticized Sessions individually.

    "He's almost acting on this holy Thursday evening as a Judas who is being traitorous to longstanding American policy on Puerto Rico," McClintock said.

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    Jon Ossoff, who's become a surprise fundraising powerhouse and is running the Georgia special.

    WASHINGTON — The Democratic Party is trying to ride this wave — but they might get crushed by it.

    Washington Democrats are celebrating the surge of excitement, energy, and — of course — money pouring in from the #resistance to Donald Trump. But they're also increasingly aware that some of the forces powering the new left have no love for a party seen as betraying Bernie Sanders or for congressional campaign committees with long acronyms most Democratic voters have never heard of. And so the question now is whether the resistance will energize the organized Democratic Party — or burn it down.

    “Do not surrender parts of the country to right wing Republicans,” Sanders warned on MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Wednesday night, the day after a Sanders-supporting Democrat in Kansas came within seven points of a massive upset in a conservative district, a race in which the House Democratic campaign arm opted not to get involved. “With a little bit of help, they might have pulled it off. And I would hope that the Democratic leadership learns that lesson.”

    Democrats are certainly having a moment. The energy that has materialized on the left in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in November has Democrats ebullient about their prospects for the 2018 congressional elections.

    There was almost an upset in Kansas. In Georgia, a 30-year old, first-time Democratic candidate raised $8.3 million in under two months. And in states from Arizona to North Carolina, Democrats say, candidates are lining up to run for Congress in challenging districts.

    But some Democrats worry that energy could be a double-edged sword, one that might turn inward between now and 2018.

    That dynamic was on display Tuesday night, after James Thompson, a Democratic lawyer from Kansas, outperformed Hillary Clinton by 20 points in Kansas’s deep red 4th District. The national Democratic Party apparatuses steered clear of the race, deeming it too much of a longshot to warrant spending precious money or resources. After Thompson’s close call, some Democrats deemed that decision a mistake.

    The fight in Kansas Tuesday was between a Democrat and a Republican, but it also marked the latest chapter in the internecine Democratic Party fights marked by deep distrust of the Democratic campaign institutions by the grassroots. The distrust, some Democratic operatives allow, is earned: It was just six months ago that a similar cast of characters was saying states like Wisconsin and Michigan — states Donald Trump won — were safely in Democratic hands. In the aftermath of that defeat, some are questioning whether Democrats are blowing a shot in the opposite way — throwing away an opportunity to make great gains in the House and the Senate, despite a very difficult map for incumbent Democrats.

    “Why wouldn’t you take these opportunities?” said Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh, saying the DCCC made a mistake not doing more in Kansas.

    “To me, this is what you pray for as a party. These are the days you spend years waiting for,” she said.

    But there are dangers ahead that rather than being able to ride the wave, Democratic institutions will find themselves getting crushed by it.

    It’s happened before. In 2010, the tea party proved a huge boon for Republicans, energizing their base and helping them win historic majorities in a wave election. But in 2012, that energy turned inward, and their party ate its own in primary elections, losing some seats they were favored to win. Some Democrats worry that if they’re not careful, this midterm cycle could prove more 2012 than 2010 for their party.

    A major source of both peril and opportunity is candidate recruitment. A favorable-looking political environment can be a huge boon for Democrats, helping to persuade top tier recruits to take the plunge. But it’s also a moment rife for conflict. “Democrats can mess it up by everybody piling up into certain districts to run rather than running in as many districts as possible,” said a Florida Democratic consultant, or “if Democrats start imposing purity tests and start questioning the goodwill of folks like at the DCCC.”

    Or the issue could be simply a wealth of riches.

    “Where we have run into problems with enthusiasm before is when you get a lot of people last-minute running for these offices,” said North Carolina Democratic consultant Morgan Jackson. A candidate might be hugely appealing, but if they get in too late without having built the necessary infrastructure, they can find themselves easily bested in a primary by someone with better name recognition.

    In watching what’s happening in North Carolina, Jackson says he’s hopeful. Strong candidates are starting to explore House campaigns already — even in some more Republican-leaning congressional districts — and they are doing so early enough before the election and the candidate filing deadline to give someone time to really establish themselves as a candidate, and perhaps even avoid a primary. “To me that shows that the enthusiasm is being channeled the right way and we may be able to avoid the divisive primaries that we’ve had in the past,” Jackson said.

    The question is how — and where — the Democratic campaign establishment figure into this unbridled energy. Quite clearly, it’s a boon for Democrats overall. And some Democrats say it’s important.

    But for all the griping about the DCCC’s absence in Kansas, some Democrats also caution that the party institutions have to be careful. It’s a tricky balance for a national party to take advantage of the energy and try to channel it to its uses, without being seen as trying to coopt it. Democratic campaigns right now are trying to figure out how to at once get involved and plugged in to newly formed activist entities like the Indivisible Group, without trying to take over.

    “I think the best thing you can do right now is let the genuine citizens lead this,” said Colorado Democratic consultant Laura Chapin.

    “It’s not that you abandon strategy,” she added, “but I think there’s kind of a ‘water finds a way’ principle going on here.”

    And given that the energy seems to be there regardless of what the party structures do, some, like Marsh, think Democrats are making a mistake to ignore opportunities to channel that water like in the Kansas special election — and should look at upcoming special elections in Georgia (where Democrats are already very involved), Montana, and South Carolina. Even if they aren’t going to win, the specials pose opportunities to do party building, these Democrats argue. It’s an opportunity to help train people on the ground in all the campaign mechanics – door knocking, phone banking, campaigning. Maybe Democrats don’t win the House seat, but “maybe that investment in infrastructure has a ripple effect that can maybe bring over a Senate seat, bring in a governor, bring in other elected positions,” Marsh said.

    But some say that maybe it shouldn’t be the party structures that are helping to amplify this energy at all. “No campaign has ever been won by waiting on the party to act … the party is definitely helpful, but the party comes in only after the candidate finds their magic,” said the Florida consultant.

    And that leaves some Democrats asking if maybe instead of an adversarial relationship between the institutions and the grassroots, it could evolve into more of a “symbiotic” relationship, as Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz termed it, between entities like Daily Kos and more liberal organizations, which helped fundraise for Thompson, and established institutions like the DCCC.

    “I think there’s a strategy that you want to harness that energy, that you want to give everybody an opportunity to participate maximally, but the last thing we need is a bunch of smarty-pantses telling us, you know, how the Resistance should be deployed,” said Schatz. “People are going do what they want to do and that’s the beauty of this thing.”

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    Bryan Woolston / Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A small but growing number of the 200-plus defendants charged with felony rioting on Inauguration Day are pledging to reject any plea deal offer from prosecutors.

    A statement outlining the pledge, obtained by BuzzFeed News, was written in response to the first guilty plea entered in the rioting cases in late March. The statement represents the views of at least 20 defendants, and is still being circulated, according to Ben Aubin, one of the defendants who helped draft it.

    "We do not concede that plea bargains such as this legitimize the charges against us and we will continue to fight our cases and demand trials. The risk of imprisonment, fines, and probation is far less meaningful than giving even tacit legitimacy to these charges," the statement says.

    People participating in a demonstration billed as an anti-capitalist and anti-fascist protest in Washington during President Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20 smashed the windows of cars and stores, causing more than $100,000 in property damage, according to police.

    DC law defines a riot as a "public disturbance" involving at least five people that leads to violence or the threat of violence against people or property. The felony rioting charge isn't limited to individuals directly involved in acts of violence, though — it also covers those who "willfully incited or urged others to engage in the riot."

    The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a maximum fine of $25,000. Of the 214 defendants indicted on the felony rioting charge, one has pleaded guilty so far. Jack Sorensen, 18, of Pittsford, NY, entered a guilty plea on March 24 to a lesser charge of misdemeanor rioting. In the plea agreement papers filed with the court, he admitted not leaving as the protests turned violent. Sorensen did not admit direct involvement in any property damage.

    Sorensen was sentenced to 180 days in jail, but that sentence was suspended. He'll spend year on probation, pay a $500 fine, and do 50 hours of community service. He declined an interview request.

    The statement from the defendants who say they won't plead guilty isn't accompanied by a list of signatories. It's signed, "L12," a reference to the fact that the mass arrests on Inauguration Day took place at the corner of L and 12th streets in northwest Washington. BuzzFeed News spoke or messaged with seven defendants who joined the statement, and some said they feared retaliation from prosecutors as well as professional and other personal consequences if they went public.

    "To accept plea bargains under these circumstances could be considered admitting guilt and giving legitimacy to the state’s charges against us," the statement says. The statement also pledges not to cooperate with prosecutors or provide evidence against other defendants.

    Aubin told BuzzFeed News that the purpose of the statement wasn't to throw Sorensen "under the bus," but rather to express their intention to fight what they contend are unlawful prosecutions. Aubin, who said he's been a participant in anarchist culture but wasn't directly involved in any of the property damage, said he hasn't been offered a plea deal.

    "Because this is such an important case, we would rather accept jail time," Aubin said. "Going to jail is not something that any of us is fearful of because we represent more than ourselves at this moment."

    A spokesperson for the US attorney's office declined to comment on whether plea deals have been offered to other defendants.

    Prosecutors have told the District of Columbia Superior Court judge presiding over the rioting cases that they plan to group the defendants into categories based on the specific type of criminal activity they're accused of, the evidence available, and the extent to which certain evidence relates to multiple defendants. The first group includes 12 people, and prosecutors said they're prepared to immediately set a trial date.

    One member of the first group, Spencer Kaaz, told BuzzFeed News that he supported the statement pledging not to take a plea deal. Kaaz, who said he has been arrested before for participating in political demonstrations, denied any direct involvement in the property damage on Jan. 20. He said he learned from his lawyer that there were evidence records indicating he was carrying smoke bombs at the time, which he denied. He said he hadn't been offered a plea deal.

    "The whole rationale behind [the statement] is to say, these charges are illegitimate, we do not recognize these allegations because they’re falsified, they’re trumped up charges. For many different reasons, just to oppose it in general," Kaaz said.

    A number of defendants are pursuing efforts in court to get their cases dismissed, arguing that prosecutors have failed to identify specific evidence tying them to any particular act of destruction.

    More than 100 defendants also jointly filed papers in court earlier this week opposing the government's proposal to make all of the electronic data gathered by police and prosecutors available all at once to defense lawyers via one central database. Defense lawyers argue that this approach raises privacy concerns and wrongly absolve the government of its responsibility to identify the evidence that is relevant to each individual case.

    Statement from "L12":

    LINK: Mass Arrests On Inauguration Day Swept Up Journalists And Legal Observers — And Their Phones

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    Jose Luis Magana / AP

    WASHINGTON — The White House counsel's office has interviewed approximately 20 lawyers for open seats on the federal trial court in Washington, DC, sources familiar with the process tell BuzzFeed News, setting its sights on a bench dominated by President Obama's nominees.

    The White House has been vetting candidates for federal court vacancies for months, but with the US Supreme Court confirmation fight over, the counsel's office can focus its attention on the 126 other open seats across the country.

    There are four vacancies on the US District Court for the District of Columbia. It's the dominant court in the nation for lawsuits over access to federal government records, and routinely handles major cases dealing with national security and legal challenges to actions by executive branch agencies. Nine of the the 11 active judges serving on the court were nominated by President Obama.

    Candidates interviewed by the White House so far for the four vacancies include West Virginia Solicitor General Elbert Lin; Matthew Miner, a private practice lawyer who was a longtime senior aide to Attorney General Jeff Sessions when Sessions was still in the US Senate; and Dabney Friedrich, a former member of the US Sentencing Commission who served in the White House counsel's office under President George W. Bush.

    Presidents typically defer to senators to recommend nominees for their home state district courts, but DC doesn't have any senators. President Trump is expected to rely little, if at all, on the advice of the city's lone official congressional representative, Democratic Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton. Democratic presidents have given Norton senatorial courtesy to recommend candidates; President George W. Bush didn't do so, but he did consult her on his intended nominees. Norton sent a letter to the White House in March asking for some voice in the process, but it isn't clear if she received a response. A spokesperson for Norton and a White House spokesperson did not return requests for comment.

    The counsel's office is stacked with lawyers who practiced at private law firms in Washington before joining the White House and are familiar with the local legal community. Until recently, Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the conservative lawyers' group the Federalist Society, was on leave from the organization to serve as an adviser to Trump on judicial nominations.

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has made recommendations for the DC court, lawyers familiar with the process told BuzzFeed News. A spokesperson for Grassley said in an email that, "Nominations to the Article III courts are the President’s to make. Occasionally the Chairman makes recommendations, as is customary."

    BuzzFeed News confirmed the names of six of the approximately 20 lawyers interviewed to date: Besides Lin, Miner, and Friedrich, the counsel's office has spoken with private practice lawyers Jessie Liu, Stuart Nash, and Kate O'Scannlain.

    Although it wasn't clear if any of them are considered frontrunners at this stage of the vetting process, the varied backgrounds, political and legal connections, and experience among the six illustrate the wide range of lawyers that the White House is considering for the court.

    Before joining the West Virginia attorney general's office as its top appellate lawyer in 2013, Lin practiced at a private law firm and spent a few years as a trial attorney at the US Department of Justice. He clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas, as well as Judge William Pryor of the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, who was one of the judges on Trump's short list for the Supreme Court.

    Friedrich, a former federal prosecutor, served as counsel to Sen. Orrin Hatch when Hatch was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Liu, also a former federal prosecutor, served as a senior official in the Justice Department's national security and civil divisions during the second Bush administration. Miner was a federal prosecutor in Alabama before he was hired to work for Sessions in the Senate.

    Nash is a former judge on the District of Columbia Superior Court. He was a senior official in the Justice Department — including a year working for Hatch on the Senate Judiciary Committee — before he was confirmed to Superior Court in 2010.

    O'Scannlain is a private practice lawyer who has practiced in Washington for more than a decade and is affiliated with the Federalist Society. Her father is Ninth Circuit Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain.

    Nash declined to comment. Lin, Friedrich, Miner, Liu, and O'Scannlain did not return requests for comment or couldn't be reached on Friday.

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    Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson

    AP Photo/Danny Johnston

    WASHINGTON — At the end of February, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that his state planned to hold eight executions over the course of the last two weeks of April — two each on four different days.

    The move — carrying out executions of all but one person on the state’s death row in a 10-day period — was necessary, the governor explained, because its limited supply of one of the three execution drugs in the state’s execution protocol is due to expire at the end of the month.

    Since then, however, Hutchinson and state lawyers have found out that the task might be more difficult to accomplish than they had hoped.

    By Friday evening, less than 72 hours before the first execution is set to take place, all of the eight executions had been put on hold — by three different state and federal courts.

    A fourth court issued a ruling on Saturday morning siding with the inmates — a broad injunction halting the executions that followed a four-day hearing in federal court this past week.

    Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office is fighting in court to ensure that at least some of the executions can go ahead, though, announcing Saturday morning that her office will be going to a federal appeals court to ask it to reverse the federal injunction.

    On Saturday evening, the state filed its appeal at the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

    The biggest underlying issue is that Arkansas has not carried out an execution for nearly a decade. The most recent execution was held in November 2005. The last year when Arkansas conducted more than one execution in a year was 2000, when it held two executions several months apart.

    The decision to move forward with so many executions in such a short period of time means that challenges to its procedures — which involve a robust, statutorily based clemency process and a three-drug execution protocol that includes the sedative midazolam — are raising significant issues.

    For example, although the US Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma’s use of midazolam in a three-drug execution protocol in 2015, most death penalty states have since discontinued the use of the drug — which has figured into several botched executions in recent years. Additionally, a federal appeals court recently upheld a trial court’s order halting executions in Ohio during litigation over the state’s planned use of midazolam.

    Because it has been nearly a decade since the most recent execution in Arkansas, the situation there also means, looking ahead, that Arkansas officials — from the governor to the state’s attorneys to prison guards — don’t have any recent experience with the actual practice of executing people.

    On top of everything else, Hutchinson has tasked officials in his state with carrying out two executions each night. The last state to try that was Oklahoma in 2014 — and the state had to put off the second execution after the first was botched.

    What's more, the pure number of executions is striking. Hutchinson scheduled eight executions in 10 days. By way of comparison, there have only been six executions in the entire country so far all year.

    Two federal court challenges — one relating to the clemency consideration and one relating to the drug protocol — have raised significant questions about what will happen over the next two weeks.

    In the drug protocol challenge relating to midazolam use, US District Judge Kristine G. Baker held a four-day hearing this week, featuring testimony from expert witnesses on both sides, over the inmates’ request for a preliminary injunction and the state’s opposition.

    On Saturday morning, Baker denied the state's request to dismiss most of the inmates' claims and ruled in favor of the inmates' request for a preliminary injunction, halting their executions because the inmates were able to show the protocol that includes midazolam "creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain" and that risk is substantial when compared to "known and available alternatives."

    "Plaintiffs argue that Arkansas’s lethal injection protocol violates the Eighth Amendment under this standard," Baker wrote. "After hearing the evidence presented by the parties, the Court is compelled to stay these executions."

    Before that ruling was issued, however, a state judge issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) halting all of the upcoming executions based not on the use of midazolam but, instead, due to a challenge from a supplier of one of the other drugs in the protocol — vecuronium bromide.

    McKesson Medical-Surgical, Inc. — the largest U.S. pharmaceutical distributor, according to the Fortune 500, where it's ranked No. 5 — brought that challenge in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County on Friday. In it, the company seeks “return of illegally obtained property” — its drugs.

    The company alleges in its complaint that the Arkansas Department of Corrections “misled” the company regarding its sale of vecuronium bromide to the state, as the company does not allow sale of its drugs for use in executions. Specifically, the company details how the state sought to “circumvent McKesson’s controls by placing the Vecuronium order over the phone through a familiar customer sales representative” and later “refused to return the 10 boxes of Vecuronium” after McKesson discovered the state’s plans to use the drug in executions.

    On Friday evening, Judge Wendell Griffen issued the TRO, ordering that the state “shall not use vecuronium bromide obtained from [McKesson] until ordered otherwise by this Court.”

    “As a public opponent of capital punishment, Judge Griffen should have recused himself from this case,” Judd Deere, the communications director in the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, said in a statement. “Attorney General Rutledge intends to file an emergency request with the Arkansas Supreme Court to vacate the order as soon as possible.”

    Asked to comment on Deere's comments regarding whether Griffen should have recused himself from hearing the case, Griffen told BuzzFeed News via email, "I am unable to discuss pending litigation. Any arguments by the parties will be addressed on the record."

    Griffen had set the next hearing in the case for 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, April 18, which is the morning after the first day of scheduled executions, but later developments have appeared to moot the need for that hearing.

    After Rutledge's office filed a request with the Arkansas Supreme Court to ask that the TRO be vacated — and after Baker had issued the preliminary injunction in federal court — McKesson announced that it was seeking to withdraw its request for a TRO as unnecessary.

    The company made clear in a statement, however, that it might refile the suit if necessary to stop the state from using its drugs in executions.

    Case-Specific Stays

    In addition to the state and federal court rulings relating to the drugs that Arkansas intends to use, two of the eight people scheduled for execution already have been given individualized orders stopping their executions — with a judge asking for more information regarding a third request.

    On Friday evening, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for Bruce Ward, who was scheduled to be executed on Monday, April 17. On Saturday, the state asked the court to reconsider its stay.


    Arkansas Department of Correction, via AP File

    Ward’s attorneys say that he has a “lifelong history of severe mental illness, including paranoid schizophrenia, delusions, and breaks with reality.”

    The stay was the result of an appeal from a complaint filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court to stop Ward’s execution on the grounds that his severe mental illness made him incompetent to be executed. The complaint said that spending three decades in solitary confinement worsened Ward’s mental health amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.

    “We are grateful that the Arkansas Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution for Bruce Ward so that they may consider the serious questions presented about his sanity,” Scott Braden, one of Ward’s attorneys from the Arkansas Federal Defender Office, said in a statement.

    Deere, the communications director for Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge, said the attorney general “is evaluating options on how to proceed” in response to the stay.

    Ward was sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of Rebecca Doss, an 18-year-old store clerk at a gas station in Little Rock. Ward was convicted of strangling Doss to death. Her body was discovered in the men’s restroom at the store.

    Ward’s lawyers also asked the Arkansas Supreme Court for a stay pending the outcome of a pending US Supreme Court case, McWilliams v. Dunn. That appeal, filed on April 12, states that Ward, 60, was denied his right to an independent mental health expert who could have help his defense attorney understand and better present his mental health issues in court.

    Earlier in the week, a federal judge stopped the planned April 27 execution of Jason McGehee.

    US District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr., hearing the challenge to the state’s treatment of the clemency process for the upcoming scheduled executions, halted McGehee’s scheduled execution after the Arkansas Parole Board recommended commuting his death sentence to life in prison without parole.

    In his April 6 ruling, Marshall wrote that McGehee was entitled to the 30-day period required by law for the parole board to send their recommendation to the governor. The 30-day period will go past the date when the state’s supply of its execution drug expires.

    “Judge Marshall was clearly troubled by the state's clemency process," John C. Williams, a lawyer for McGehee, told Time. “He was emphatic that the clemency process has been shoddy and arbitrary in many respects.”

    McGehee was sentenced to death for his role in the 1996 murder of 15-year-old John Melbourne Jr. Then 20, McGehee was the leader of a gang of delinquents and was involved in the fatal beating and torture of Melbourne, the youngest member of the group — who was believed to have “snitched” to the police, according to court records.

    On Friday, lawyers for another one of the inmates scheduled for execution, Marcel Williams, asked the court to step in and stop his execution due to the “deviations from procedure” in the clemency process, which the lawyers argue “uniquely prejudice[]” their client. Two members of the seven-member parole board voted in favor of granting clemency to Williams, who is due to be executed on April 24.

    “Because, as argued below, the arbitrary restriction on the development of evidence at the clemency hearing, prevented Mr. Williams from creating a persuasive record for mercy, his due process rights were violated,” they wrote.

    Later Friday, Marshall issued an order asking the state to respond to Williams’ request by 5 p.m. Monday.

    Williams, 46, has admitted to killing Stacy Rae Erickson in 1994. At the clemency hearing, however, he begged for forgiveness from her family and asked for his death sentence to be reduced to life without parole. “I am so sorry,” an emotional Williams told Erickson’s family at the hearing. “I wish I could take it back, but I can't. To those I hurt, sorry is not enough.”

    Williams was sentenced to death for abducting, raping, and killing Erickson, a 22-year-old mother of two. Williams’ attorney argued that his trial lawyers had failed to present compelling, mitigating evidence relating to his troubled upbringing and a background of poverty and abuse that would have potentially resulted in a life sentence.

    AP Photo/File

    The Other Scheduled Executions

    Attorneys for Don Davis, scheduled to be executed on the same day as Ward, also asked the Arkansas Supreme Court for a stay pending the outcome of the US Supreme Court case, McWilliams v. Dunn.

    His attorneys said that Davis, 54, had an IQ in the range of intellectual disability and that he suffered from ADHD and psychoactive abuse disorders.

    The appeal said that mental health had been a “significant issue” for Davis and that he had repeatedly and unsuccessfully requested the independent experts to help with his case.

    Davis was sentenced to death for the 1990 shooting death of Jane Daniel. The murder weapon a fingerprint, and items stolen from Daniel and her neighbor’s home linked Davis to the crime.

    The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday denied a request to stay the execution of Stacey Eugene Johnson, who is scheduled for execution on Thursday, April 20, and the parole board has also rejected Johnson’s bid for clemency.

    Johnson, 47, has maintained his innocence in the 1993 death of Carol Heath, who was beaten and strangled to death in her home where her two young children, ages 6 and 2, were present.

    The second execution scheduled for Thursday, April 20, is of Ledell Lee, 51. The Arkansas Parole Board similarly denied recommending clemency for Lee on March 27. Lee has maintained his innocence in the 1993 murder of his neighbor, Debra Reese.

    Reese, 26, had been beaten to death with a tire iron that her husband had given her for protection. She had been struck 36 times, according to court records.

    The state parole board recommended against clemency for Kenneth Williams, who had killed four people in the late 1990s. He is due to be executed on April 27.

    Williams, 38, escaped from prison in 1999 while serving a life sentence without parole for the murder of Dominique Hurd, a University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff cheerleader. After escaping, he went to the nearby residence of Cecil Boren, a farmer, and shot him to death. Williams then fled in a stolen truck which he crashed into another vehicle during a high-speed police chase resulting in the driver’s death. In 2000, Williams was sentenced to death for Boren’s murder.

    The state parole board recommended on April 10 against clemency for Jack Jones, scheduled to be executed on April 24.

    Jones, 52, was sentenced to death for the 1995 murder of Mary Phillips during a robbery at her accounting office. Jones robbed Philipps and her 11-year-old daughter Lacy at gunpoint, according to court documents. He then tied Lacy to a chair while he anally raped Phillips and strangled her to death. He also choked Lacy until she was unconscious and struck her eight times in the head with the barrel of a BB gun. Lacy regained consciousness when the police were photographing her body thinking she was dead. She testified against Jones in court.

    LINK: More From BuzzFeed News: Collected legal documents in challenges to the eight April executions scheduled in Arkansas.

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    Jim Young / Reuters

    WASHINGTON — One condemned man's fate remained in question Monday until nearly midnight in Arkansas, where the state was stopped from carrying out the first two of eight scheduled executions in April.

    Although the Arkansas Supreme Court had issued stays of execution for Don Davis and Bruce Ward — both to have been executed Monday — the state asked the US Supreme Court to vacate the stay for Davis.

    With the death warrant signed by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson due to expire at the end of Monday, the state was preparing witnesses for the scheduled execution in the final 30 minutes of the day — in the hopes that the justices in Washington would allow the execution to proceed.

    The US Supreme Court refused to step in and lift the stay, however, denying the state's request with the clock ticking down to midnight.

    Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office has asked the US Supreme Court to vacate the stay of execution granted to Davis, on death row for the 1990 shooting death of Jane Daniel. Davis' lawyers opposed the request to lift the stay.

    The last-minute fight over Davis' scheduled execution was just the latest in a flurry of litigation resulting from the state's aggressive execution schedule — which itself came about, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has acknowledged, because one of the state's execution drugs is due to expire at the end of the month.

    Earlier Monday, a federal appeals court sided with the state in a challenge brought by the death-row inmates largely based on questions surrounding the sedative — midazolam — that is due to expire soon. The drug has been at the center of several botched executions in recent years, although the US Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma's protocol, which included the drug.

    A district court judge had ruled over the weekend that the inmates were likely to succeed in their challenge to the state's protocol. As such, the district court put all eight scheduled executions on hold. The state appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The court, sitting en banc — meaning the whole appeals court — ruled 7-1 against the inmates Monday evening in ending that stay of execution entered by the district court.

    The appeals court decision meant the state was able to continue attempts to carry out executions — two a night on four nights in a 10-day period — although other challenges stood in their way.

    Those challenges led the state to stop with appeals trying "at this time" to execute the other man scheduled to be executed Monday. The Arkansas Supreme Court had granted that man, Bruce Ward, two different stays of execution — relating to two different claims his lawyers raised.

    The state high court previously granted a stay of execution for Ward on a claim that he lacks the competency to face execution. The state asked the court to reconsider the stay, which the court declined to do Monday evening.

    Then on Monday, the court granted an additional stay to Ward and a stay for Davis on a claim that their executions should both be stayed pending the outcome of a case before the US Supreme Court currently, McWilliams v. Dunn. McWilliams will address whether the expert assistance an indigent defendant is provided at trial must be independent of the prosecution. In their argument in favor of the stay, lawyers for Davis and Ward wrote that both men "have been denied this right." Three justices of the state's high court dissented from the stays in two written opinions.

    Although Rutledge tweeted that she would appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court as to both men's cases, her office announced a little past 8 p.m. ET that the office only would be continuing in efforts Monday to proceed with Davis' execution.

    After the US Supreme Court denied her request as to Davis, Rutledge issued a statement calling Monday night's halted execution "heartbreaking" for the family of Jane Daniel.

    She also, though, made clear that she would continue fighting in court to proceed with the remaining scheduled executions over the coming days. The next two executions — of Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee — are scheduled for Thursday.

    As such, the coming days likely will involve significant additional litigation — including a likely request for US Supreme Court review of the ruling against the inmates on their federal claim that the state's execution protocol — which uses the sedative midazolam — is unconstitutional.

    Also Monday evening — in yet another piece of litigation surrounding the state's executions — the Arkansas Supreme Court vacated a temporary restraining order that a state trial court judge had entered last week barring the state from using the vecuronium bromide it had purchased from McKesson Medical-Surgical in its executions.

    The company — which contractually prohibits its drugs from being used in executions — alleged the state purchased the drugs under false pretenses.

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    WASHINGTON — The Alabama Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously upheld a suspension of Roy Moore — the court's elected chief justice — that will last for the remainder of his time in office.

    The decision means the judge who lambasted the US Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex couples' marriage rights will not serve on the state's high court again. He is suspended until his term expires in January 2019 and is ineligible to run again due to his age.

    The high court — with seven specially appointed justices sitting in judgment because all of the elected justices recused themselves — upheld a state judicial ethics board's ruling that Moore violated judicial ethics canons on six counts, concluding, "[W]e affirm the judgment of the Court of the Judiciary in all respects."

    Moore found himself in the latest controversy due to an order he issued to state probate judges in January 2016 that ignored federal court rulings regarding same-sex couples' marriage rights.

    The combative judge previously was removed from office by the same judicial ethics board for refusing to remove a copy of the Ten Commandments from the courtroom.

    The court found that the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which investigated and prosecuted the complaints, and Court of the Judiciary, which heard the complaints and meted out the punishment, acted within their jurisdiction.

    To the broader point about whether the commission proved its case against Moore, the state's high court was blunt: "The record before this Court supports the findings of the Court of the Judiciary; therefore, we cannot conclude that its judgment is plainly and palpably wrong, manifestly unjust, or without supporting evidence."

    The court rejected all other arguments raised by Moore — including those questioning the authority of the Court of the Judiciary to issue the sanction of suspension.

    Additionally, the court ruled on one aspect of Moore's challenge that is no longer applicable to him — whether it violated his due process rights to be be taken off the bench, as required by state law, after the Judicial Inquiry Commission filed its complaint.

    The court, which ruled on the matter due to the fact that the commission is sure to file other complaints against other sitting judges in the future, held that the law does not violate due process rights of judges, in part at least, because they are paid during the time their complaint is resolved.

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    Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

    Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Arkansas officials prepared Thursday evening to carry out the state's first execution in more than a decade — but three temporary court orders have pushed back the scheduled execution as courts consider last-minute requests to stop it.

    Ledell Lee, convicted in the 1993 murder of Debra Reese, remained uncertain of his fate into the night, as state officials fought to carry out one of four executions it had scheduled for this week.

    Before they could do so, however, a federal appeals court and then the US Supreme Court delayed the scheduled execution as they considered final appeals in his case.

    After the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit initially entered a temporary stay just before his execution was set to begin, Justice Samuel Alito later also issued a temporary stay so that the US Supreme Court could consider Lee's requests.

    By 9:30 p.m. Central Time, all eyes were on the US Supreme Court — as all of Lee's other requests at relief from lower courts had been denied. The temporary stay entered by Justice Alito would continue until a further order from him or the US Supreme Court.

    The other scheduled Thursday execution in Arkansas — of Stacey Eugene Johnson — was stayed by a Wednesday ruling.

    The Arkansas Supreme Court halted the scheduled execution of Johnson, convicted in the 1993 murder of Carol Heath, on Wednesday. A motion for reconsideration was denied Thursday, and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she will not seek US Supreme Court review at this time.

    The state's high court also, however, stayed a lower court's injunction on Thursday afternoon that was preventing the state from being able to use one of the three drugs it uses in its execution protocol. The move allowed the state to move forward with preparations for Thursday night's scheduled execution of Lee.

    The execution — initially scheduled for 7 p.m. CT — would be the first carried out in the state since November 2005. A reporter from TVH-11 in Little Rock noted that witnesses were being taken in vans to the execution site from the holding area a little past 6 p.m. in preparation for the execution.

    Moments before that happened, however, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a temporary stay of execution until 8:15 p.m. CT to consider a pending appeal relating to his ability to show that he has an intellectual disability. Arkansas opposes that stay request.

    At 8:15 p.m. CT, the US Supreme Court — Justice Samuel Alito, specifically, stepped in — issuing a stay of execution for Lee until 9:30 p.m. ET "or pending further order of the undersigned [Alito] or of the Court, whichever is later."

    Moments later, the Eighth Circuit extended its stay until 9:15 p.m. CT. By 9:15 p.m. CT, however, the court had denied a series of requests for a stay of execution.

    Johnson and Lee were scheduled to be executed Thursday — the second of four days this month Arkansas has scheduled two executions to take place.

    The Wednesday order halting Johnson's execution on a DNA-related claim was issued by a now-familiar 4-3 split of the state high court. Justices Karen Baker, Shawn Womack, and Rhonda Wood dissented. The same 4-3 division stayed the executions of both men due to be executed on Monday of this week.

    A similar request was filed at the Arkansas Supreme Court by the second man scheduled for execution on Thursday, Ledell Lee, but the Arkansas Supreme Court denied that and two other requests on Thursday afternoon. In response, lawyers for Lee filed a lawsuit in federal district court, seeking a stay of execution and a ruling that Arkansas' DNA testing statute, as construed by the Arkansas Supreme Court, is unconstitutional.

    In addition, though, multiple federal appeals are pending on issues relating to the state's use of the sedative midazolam in its three-drug protocol, the clemency process being used by the state in conjunction with the April scheduled executions, and the timing of the executions themselves. Those appeals are pending at the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and the US Supreme Court.

    The Eighth Circuit, in a 7-1 decision, rejected the clemency process appeal on Thursday evening.

    Later Thursday evening, the Supreme Court rejected stay requests in three different petitions brought previously by multiple Arkansas death-row inmates — although one of them, coming out of the case challenging the state's use of midazolam in its protocol as a violation of the Eighth Amendment, prompted the four liberal justices to dissent from the court's stay denial.

    Two of the justices — Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor — wrote separately in dissent to express their frustration both with the state's process and the court's inaction in the case.

    Three additional requests to the Supreme Court seeking a stay for Lee were filed Thursday evening, and the four inmates involved in the clemency process appeal at the Eighth Circuit — including Lee — are seeking Supreme Court review of that case and stays of execution.

    Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in February ordered the executions to be scheduled before the end of April. The scheduling was necessary, the state has acknowledged, because the state's midazolam supply expires at the end of the month.

    In addition to the pending federal appeals, however, a state trial court judge, Circuit Judge Alice Gray, issued a temporary restraining order on Wednesday preventing the state from using the vecuronium bromide it purchased from McKesson Medical-Surgical in its executions.

    The vecuronium bromide is the second of three drugs used in the state's protocol. (Potassium chloride is the third drug in the state's protocol.) The company claims the state purchased the vecuronium bromide under false pretenses. McKesson contractually bars drugs it sells from being used in executions.

    Gray found that the state acted in bad faith and that the company is likely to succeed in its lawsuit. As such, she granted the TRO — at the hearing on Wednesday and in a written order issued a little before noon Thursday. Without the use of the drug, Arkansas would not be able to carry out executions unless it obtains a replacement drug for its protocol.

    Rutledge's office filed its notice of appeal with Gray's court 15 minutes later. Before the written order was even filed, however, the state asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to step in. Once the written order was filed, the state asked for an emergency stay of that order. McKesson opposed the requests.

    After quick briefing from both sides, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a stay of the injunction — meaning the state can use the execution drugs — while the appeal is heard.

    This is a developing story. Please check back at BuzzFeed News for the latest.

    Documents relating to challenges to scheduled executions in Arkansas:

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    Pat Sullivan / AP

    After a nearly two-year standoff between death penalty states and the federal government, the Food and Drug Administration formally blocked shipments of thousands of illegal execution drugs on their way to Texas and Arizona. The move sets up a potential legal battle between death penalty states and the Trump administration.

    In 2015, Texas, Arizona, and Nebraska each purchased 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic now-banned in the United States. The supplier, a man in India named Chris Harris, claimed to be a manufacturer, but a BuzzFeed News investigation raised questions about his claims.

    A facility he lists with the DEA turned out to be a former apartment he left owing rent on. The facility he registered with the FDA is a small office space he rents; a secretary at the building said manufacturing couldn’t be done there.

    States, desperate to obtain execution drugs, have turned to Harris a handful of times over the past several years. Each time, Harris convinces the states that the legal problems with the drugs he sells are solved; They’ve never actually been used in executions, but he’s made more than $100,000 from the sales.

    In 2015, the FDA warned Texas, Arizona, and Nebraska that buying thiopental from Harris would be illegal, and that they would block the shipments if they tried it.

    In the letters, the FDA pointed to a 2012 injunction by a federal judge that forces the FDA to block illegal shipments of sodium thiopental. The ruling came about after the FDA, under President Obama, had allowed shipments of execution drugs into the country.

    Inmates sued the FDA, and Judge Richard Leon ruled the government had “a mandatory obligation … to refuse to admit the misbranded and unapproved drug, thiopental, into the United States.” The order also directed the FDA to stop “permitting the entry of, or releasing any future shipments of, foreign manufactured thiopental that appears to be misbranded or [an unapproved new drug].” The ruling was upheld by a federal appeals court in 2013.

    Despite the FDA's warning that doing so would be illegal, the states tried to import the drugs anyway.

    Harris shipped the drugs to Nebraska, Texas and Arizona last year. Nebraska’s shipment never left India; the state tried to get a refund, but Harris refused. Texas and Arizona’s shipments were seized at the airport by Customs and Border Patrol, under orders from the FDA.

    Since then, the states hired a former FDA investigator and a well-connected law firm to try to convince the federal government to allow the drugs into the country.

    In January, Texas sued the FDA for detaining the drugs without making a final decision, prompting the FDA to agree to provide one in April. Both Texas and Arizona have publicly indicated that they intend to sue the FDA if the drugs were formally denied.

    The deadline for making the final decision was Thursday. The Justice Department announced the decision in a court filing on Thursday afternoon.

    "[T]he United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a final decision, refusing admission of the detained drugs into the United States," the lawyers wrote.

    In a statement, the FDA said the drugs would now have to be sent back to the supplier or destroyed, adding that its hands were tied because of an injunction put in place years ago.

    "The FDA previously exercised enforcement discretion regarding the importation of sodium thiopental used for lethal injection," FDA spokesperson Lyndsay Meyer said in a statement.

    "However, in 2012 the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order that permanently enjoins the agency from" allowing foreign thiopental that appears to violate federal law.

    "As such, the court order requires the FDA to refuse admission to the U.S. any shipment of foreign manufactured sodium thiopental being offered for importation that appears to be an unapproved new drug or a misbranded drug."

    In a statement, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice criticized the decision to block the drugs.

    "It has taken almost two years for the Food and Drug Administration to reach a decision which we believe is flawed," TDCJ spokesperson Jason Clark said.

    "TDCJ fully complied with the steps necessary to lawfully import the shipment. We are exploring all options to remedy the unjustified seizure."

    Before Texas purchased drugs from Harris, the state had intended to purchase the drugs from a different supplier in India. The deal fell through when the supplier was raided by India’s Narcotics Control Bureau, its facility shut down, its drugs seized, and five of its employees arrested. Indian authorities say the company was selling opioids and psychotropic drugs illegally to people in the United States and Europe.

    Weeks later, Texas turned to Harris and sent him a check for $25,000.

    In total, the three states sent Harris more than $75,000. If Texas and Arizona are hoping to get a refund, they are unlikely to get it. Nebraska asked for one last year and the supplier refused.

    “I am sorry to state that refund of the payment is not possible as there has been no fault of my company,” Harris wrote, adding that he hoped they could do business again in the future.

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    On this week's No One Knows Anything, we talk about why Bill O'Reilly was forced out of Fox News, how much people should really be reading into the Georgia and Kansas special elections, and how a custody trial involving Alex Jones has taken on a bigger significance within media.

    Steven Perlberg, who covers media and politics for BuzzFeed News, joins to talk about O'Reilly. And regular co-host Charlie Warzel calls in from Texas where he's been covering the Jones trial.

    As he wrote earlier this week:

    Since Sunday evening, when the Austin American Statesman broke the news that Jones’ attorneys planned to defend his custody on the grounds that his two-plus decades of conspiracy theorizing has been “performance art,” Alex Jones' name and reputation have unexpectedly become one of the biggest stories in the country.

    And while it’s unusual for a contentious family custody case to end up as fodder for late-night television hosts (the Jones case got the extended Colbert monologue treatment on Monday evening), Jones’ trial is far larger than his painful and in some ways ordinary family dispute. For the millions on either side who both adore and revile Jones, the case offers the hope of answering a near-impossible question: Where does Alex Jones the character end and Alex Jones the person begin?

    But the herculean task of untangling Jones from his political views has put the 43-year-old broadcaster at the center of something bigger than himself. Unexpectedly, Jones is now the star of a courtroom drama that feels less like a quotidian family law case and more like a referendum on politics, the internet, and the media in the post-Trump ecosystem.

    How to listen:

    Stream the episode above, or search for “No One Knows Anything” in your podcast app of choice, like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, and more. This link automatically opens the show in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher, depending on your mobile device.

    Be sure to subscribe to the show so you never miss a new episode!

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    Dave Kotinsky / Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Campaign Zero's DeRay Mckesson is set to launch a podcast titled "A Word With DeRay" that will aim to help give its listeners direction on social advocacy.

    The podcast will be published under Crooked Media, the new liberal political network founded last year by former Obama aides Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor.

    Mckesson first appeared with Lovett, Favreau, and Vietor on the network’s flagship “Pod Save America” podcast at the height of the anti-Trump protests, discussing the lessons he learned protesting and organizing.

    The move to sign Mckesson, the most famous activist to emerge from the Black Lives Matter movement, comes briefly off the heels of its successful "Keepin' It 1600" podcast on The Ringer Podcast Network, founded by the sports columnist and author Bill Simmons. They spun off the podcast, and, like The Ringer, have plans to expand it into a larger editorial platform, which has so far largely featured themselves, as well as MTV News writer Ana Marie Cox. (Mckesson had one other suitor for the project, he said, but declined to name the podcast network.)

    Mckesson's group, Campaign Zero, has sought to recalibrate its organizing strategy under the Trump presidency. The group most recently created "Our States", a resource manual to assist people who want to oppose Trump's policies at the state level; and a more comprehensive Wikipedia-style format called the Resistance Manual designed to quickly inform anti-Trump organizers on the administrations policies and priorities that the group deems worth protesting.

    Crooked Media hopes to have an impact on the 2018 midterm elections, and part of its strategy was to dedicate a podcast exclusively to activism, organizing and what steps people could take to make a difference. Favreau said he immediately thought of Mckesson, whom he met while running for mayor of Baltimore.

    "Because we're growing so slowly every person that we bring on we almost want them to have multiple talents," Favreau told BuzzFeed News. "And I think with DeRay, he's someone who's obviously knows how to organize and been involved with the movement, but he's also brilliant and down to earth when you talk to him which also fits in with our brand and what we're trying to do."

    Mckesson told BuzzFeed News that Campaign Zero quickly learned that even the people most interested in helping it advance its goals didn’t have guidance in terms of what actually do. Already armed with the web tools, Mckesson likened his aim with the podcast to his appearances on cable news and on Twitter over the course of the past few years: as a large-scale attempt to help give supporters language to talk about matters of policing, racial issues, and the movement itself.

    His own success as a principal in the movement — and as a player in national politics — is due in large part to his effectiveness as a communicator.

    “I’m trying to figure out how we give people language that they can repeat,” Mckesson told BuzzFeed News. “I think a lot of the media, not just podcasts, are doing a lot of the ‘Let me explain the world to you’ [format] but not in a way listeners can actually keep explaining the world to people."

    “I want to be intentional about how I use platforms to amplify this work,” he said. I think a podcast will be a great opportunity to do that."

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    Jack Gruber / AP

    WASHINGTON — As Vice President Mike Pence stood on the massive deck of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, he delivered a message to North Korea, which he called "the most dangerous and urgent threat to the peace and security of the Asia Pacific."

    "The era of strategic patience is over," he said. "The shield stands guard and the sword stands ready."

    It was the kind of high stakes message American presidents have delivered abroad for years, but it came from Pence, not President Donald Trump.

    “'I wish I could be where you are,'” Pence recalled Trump telling him on the phone earlier in the day. "And I know he meant it, from the bottom of his heart."

    As Trump's first 100 days in office come to a close next week, he has not once been where Pence or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have gone — on foreign trips representing the United States, preferring instead to visit the states that helped propel him to the presidency and of course spending many weekends in Florida at Mar-a-Lago. Trump's first announced foreign trip will be in May to Brussels for a NATO meeting.

    His decision not to travel abroad reflects a combination of an election that focused on a return to "America First," and on the homebody ways of a 70-year-old who spends a lot of time golfing at clubs he owns. But it also marks a new era in American relations with its allies and enemies alike, and the emergence of a world with a smaller American presence, or at least one where if you want to meet the president of the United States, you're coming to him not the other way around.

    At the same point in April in his first term, Barack Obama had visited nine countries including the UK, France, Germany, Turkey, Iraq and Mexico. George W. Bush had visited Mexico and Canada, as well as 23 states compared to Trump's 7.

    "Part of it is that he's so deeply unpopular overseas, which is the exact opposite of Obama," a source close to the administration said of the stay-at-home POTUS. "Does it really serve him to go over and face massive protests? After he ran on America First it can be challenging to go to rest of the world."

    A Trump administration official disputed that his America First approach has played into his lack of travel, noting that comparing him to past presidents doesn't work precisely because he came to Washington to shake up traditional approaches.

    Trump's meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders have been robust, the official said, and he trusts Pence, Tillerson, homeland security chief Gen. John Kelly and secretary of defense James Mattis to meet with foreign leaders.

    "Obama liked to micromanage everything, he thought he was the smartest person in the room," the administration official said. "This president has a lot of faith in his team."

    While some of Obama's travel involved events that were already scheduled before he became president like the April 2009 NATO summit, which Trump will attend in May, former officials say Obama still prioritized traveling abroad, despite difficulties getting foreign travel on the books as the country emerged slowly from recession.

    "He thought it was important because the Iraq war had eroded our standing in the world and he thought he had to do the real work of public diplomacy not just with leaders but with people that live in those countries," said Tommy Vietor, who worked on foreign policy issues for Obama during his two terms. "He saw value in that when you need support from an ally or not quite an ally like the Chinese or Russians."

    But Christopher Ruddy, a longtime friend of President Trump and CEO of conservative NewsMax Media said Trump has developed a traditionalist foreign policy, which is good for world stability, right from home.

    "He came in charging hard against the Chinese and offering an olive branch to Russia, but now he understands the strategic importance of China and he recognizes some of the problems with Russia because of the Syria crisis," Ruddy said. "He’s getting his feet on the ground — you can have controversial positions, but without upsetting the apple cart."

    Unsurprisingly, Trump opponents give him much less credit on the issue.

    "Trump hasn't gone abroad or to many other states in the first 100 days, because it's coincided with the Palm Beach social season," said GOP strategist and CNN commentator Ana Navarro of one of the few places Trump has traveled to often, his private club in Florida. "He has been busy entertaining, holding court, golfing, jacking up membership prices and hiring foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago. Not much time left to go to Montana or Argentina."

    Kevin Madden, a former senior advisor on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns, said so much of Trump's appeal to his supporters was concentrated around domestic policy promises so the lack of travel isn't too much of a surprise. But while he isn't interested in matching the cadence of past presidents, the emergence of a new crisis may force his hand.

    "It's too soon to say whether the change has hurt just yet, since this approach is only beginning to be tested with recent developments in North Korea and Syria," Madden said, adding that "in times of crisis, presidents don't outsource their responsibility, so the approach may very well change and adapt as circumstances around the globe change and adapt."

    A White House official with knowledge of Pence's role said there's been "a pretty consistent pattern" on foreign travel of Tillerson and Mattis traveling to a region to lay the groundwork for the administration. Those visits are then followed up by Pence delivering a message from Trump, who will ultimately be "the closer" when he travels to the region like he will in May and to Southeast Asia for three summits in November.

    A beneficiary of this approach will likely be Pence, who has already been empowered in the mold of past powerful vice presidents like Joe Biden and Dick Cheney, said Jeffrey Lord, a public Trump booster on CNN.

    "Under the circumstances there is no hotter button issue than North Korea and he sent him to South Korea, which really means something," Lord said.

    But as people on both sides of the aisle know, there is only one POTUS.

    "You can send Pence places, that’s good, its useful," Vietor said. "It's reassuring, he stays on script, and probably understands the issues that are at stake more than Trump ever will but there’s no substitute for sending the president."

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    AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

    On Thursday, the federal government formally blocked two shipments of a massive amount of execution drugs on their way to Texas and Arizona.

    The decision to block the shipments came after months of legal arguments back-and-forth between the states and the Food and Drug Administration. In announcing the conclusion, the FDA did not include its full decision or the reasons it came to its conclusion that the drugs can't enter the United States.

    But the full decision shows the FDA said its hands were tied. BuzzFeed News obtained a redacted copy on Friday through an open records request.

    In the decision, the FDA pointed to a 2012 court decision that requires the government block shipments of sodium thiopental, an outdated anesthetic, when the shipments appear to violate the law.

    The states argued "that [the case] was 'wrongly decided,'" FDA importer Alexander Lopez wrote to Texas. "But FDA is bound by the terms of the order issued by the District Court in that case."

    "We interpret the order to mean what it says: namely, that FDA is required to refuse entry to thiopental produced abroad when it appears that the thiopental is misbranded or an unapproved new drug."

    There are no longer any FDA-approved manufacturers of sodium thiopental. Years ago, the sole supplier stopped making the drug because states were using it in lethal injections.

    So in 2015, the states turned to a man in India who has made more than $100,000 selling execution drugs to states that have never been able to use his products. He placed a label on the vials that carries the disclaimer that they are "For law enforcement purpose only." Texas and Arizona argued the drugs should be allowed in due to a law enforcement exception.

    The FDA responded that a law enforcement exception can't apply, because the drugs will still be used on humans.

    "The law enforcement exemption could not have been intended to apply to lethal injection, because FDA issued the regulation ... in 1956, well before any state used lethal injection as a method of execution," Lopez wrote.

    If states want to import the drug, they could attempt to have the drug approved — a process that could take years. They argued approving a drug for lethal injection would be absurd, as the approval process requires clinical trials and testing — something that has not been done for lethal injection.

    "Here, it is not absurd to suggest that the [law] requires a drug to be shown to be safe and effective for use under the conditions suggested in its labeling," Lopez wrote.

    "There are numerous situations where it is difficult to design appropriate clinical trials, such as testing a treatment for anthrax infection or plague. In such cases, FDA regulations may allow flexibility, or trials may differ from what scientists generally envision, but FDA's statutory authority remains the same."

    If the states wanted to import the drugs, the FDA said they either needed to get the drug approved, or go to court to lift the 2012 order.

    Litigation seems likely. Over the past year and a half, both states have indicated publicly that they would sue if the drugs were denied. Texas has requested the FDA give them time to seek a court order before the drugs are destroyed or returned to India. The FDA said the states have 90 days to export or destroy the drugs.

    Read the full decision:

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    This combination of undated file photos provided by the Arkansas Department of Correction shows death-row inmates Jack Jones, left, and Marcel Williams.

    Arkansas Department of Correction via AP

    WASHINGTON — By 7:30 p.m. Central Time, Arkansas had completed one of two planned executions on Monday — just four days after the state held its first execution in more than a decade and just days before one of its execution drugs expires.

    Before the second scheduled execution began, however, a federal district court judge issued a temporary stay to consider a request from lawyers for Marcel Williams that his execution be halted because, lawyers argued, the first execution — of Jack Jones — "appeared to be torturous and inhuman." The state opposed the request, calling the claims "utterly baseless."

    After holding a hearing on the request, US District Judge Kristine Baker denied Williams' request and lifted the stay a little before 9:30 p.m. CT — opening the way for the state to proceed with Williams' execution.

    Arkansas is poised to become the first state in more than 15 years to execute two people in one night.

    A little past 7 p.m. CT, Arkansas began executing Jack Jones for the 1995 murder and rape of Mary Phillips during a robbery at her accounting office while her 11-year-old daughter watched. Reporters in Arkansas were told by prison officials that Jones' time of death was 7:20 p.m. CT.

    Williams is set to be executed for abducting, raping, and killing Stacy Rae Erickson, a 22-year-old mother of two, in 1994.

    The Arkansas Supreme Court and US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit had denied all pending requests for stays of execution for both Jones and Williams earlier Monday — sending both men's lawyers to the US Supreme Court for final requests to stop the executions.

    Shortly past 7 p.m. Eastern Time, the US Supreme Court denied both of Jones' requests for a stay of execution. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only noted dissent. She would have granted a stay of execution to Jones, in a case that raised claims that the state's execution process violated the Eighth Amendment ban on "cruel and unusual punishments."

    The US Supreme Court denied Williams' requests a little before 9 p.m. ET. Sotomayor, again, dissented.

    A district court several years ago had ordered a new sentencing hearing for Williams due to a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, but that ruling was overturned by the appeals court on a procedural issue. The US Supreme Court let the appeals court ruling, and Williams' death sentence, stand — over the objection of Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    The last state to attempt two executions in one day was Oklahoma. In 2014, the state had scheduled the executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner for the evening of April 29, 2014. However, after Lockett's execution went awry — one of several botched executions using the sedative midazolam in 2014 — Warner's execution was delayed.

    On Monday night, as it did last week, Arkansas is using the same three drugs in its protocol as Oklahoma had been using that night.

    The last state to successfully carry out two executions on one night was Texas — in 2000.

    Arkansas, which had scheduled eight executions over a two-week period before its supply of midazolam expires at the end of the month, only conducted one of the four executions it had set for this past week — executing Ledell Lee on April 20.

    In addition to Jones and Marcel Williams, the state plans to execute Kenneth Williams on Thursday. A federal judge already halted the originally planned Thursday execution of Jason McGehee, due to issues with the way the condensed execution schedule had altered the state's clemency process.

    Read the relevant court documents, made available by BuzzFeed News:

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    Steve Doocy, Mary J. Blige, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Tucker Carlson on the set of Fox & Friends in 2015.

    Rob Kim / Getty Images

    On Monday night, Tucker Carlson assumed the prized 8 p.m. time slot on Fox News, a big step in the cable news host’s steady climb at the network over the past few months.

    Now Carlson is looking to raise his profile even more. According to three people familiar with the matter, the 47-year-old Fox host is shopping a book or series of books to publishers.

    Carlson is having something of a surprising media moment right now. When Megyn Kelly left Fox News for NBC News earlier this year, Carlson was handpicked by acting Fox News chief Rupert Murdoch to assume her 9 p.m. time slot. The show has been generally well received, and buoyed by the political news cycle, Carlson’s ratings have soared.

    This week, Carlson took over the 8 p.m. hour from Bill O’Reilly, who was forced out of Fox last week amid a sexual harassment scandal.

    For book publishers, Carlson has fast become a pundit in relatively high demand. According to two sources, the ongoing auction will likely fetch Carlson millions of dollars.

    The book is not autobiographical in nature, but rather reflects on themes Carlson cares about, a publishing source said.

    Carlson is being represented by literary agency Javelin. The firm’s founding partner, Keith Urbahn, is a former chief of staff to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

    "Tucker's is easily the most sought-after book by a news personality in many years, and he's on track to get one of the biggest and certainly most well deserved deals in recent history,” said Matt Latimer, a partner at Javelin representing Carlson.

    One natural home for Carlson’s book would be News Corp’s HarperCollins, which like Fox News owner 21st Century Fox is controlled by the Murdoch family. HarperCollins published Kelly’s recent book, Settle for More.

    Before arriving at Fox News, Carlson co-founded conservative news website The Daily Caller. He hosted a show on MSNBC from 2005 to 2008 but is perhaps most well-known for his time giving voice to the conservative viewpoint on CNN’s Crossfire.

    The new project would not be the first book for Carlson, who got his journalistic start in the magazine world. His 2003 autobiography, Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News, traced his time throughout the Beltway media.

    Carlson did not immediately return a request for comment.

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    Pool / Getty Images

    A federal judge on Tuesday barred the Trump administration from enforcing part of President Trump's January executive order that took aim at sanctuary cities — concluding that a challenged provision threatening federal funding for those cities is "clearly unconstitutional."

    US District Judge William H. Orrick issued a nationwide preliminary injunction — sought by San Francisco and Santa Clara counties in California — against enforcement of Section 9(a) of the January 25, 2017, executive order.

    The section of the order purported to give Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly broad authority to deny funds to cities that "refuse to comply" with a law that requires cooperation between state and local governments and federal immigration authorities.

    "[T]he Order has caused budget uncertainty by threatening to deprive the Counties of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants that support core services in their jurisdictions," Orrick wrote.

    "Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation," a late-night statement from the White House press secretary's office declared.

    "Once again, a single district judge -- this time in San Francisco -- has ignored Federal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country," the statement continued. "This decision occurred in the same sanctuary city that released the 5-time deported illegal immigrant who gunned down innocent Kate Steinle in her father's arms. San Francisco, and cities like it, are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens, and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands."

    Although the Justice Department argued a narrow interpretation of what the executive order authorized in court, Orrick pointed to the "plain language" of the order and the president's own words — Trump called the order "a weapon" to fight cities that opposed his immigration policies — in concluding that the narrow reading "is not legally plausible."

    The Justice Department responded by defending its interpretation of the executive order and noting what the government continues to be able to do in the wake of the injunction. Justice spokesperson Ian Prior said in a statement:

    The Court upheld the “Government’s ability to use lawful means to enforce existing conditions of federal grants or 8 U.S.C. 1373.” The Department of Justice previously stated to the Court, and reiterates now, that it will follow the law with respect to regulation of sanctuary jurisdictions. Accordingly, the Department will continue to enforce existing grant conditions and will continue to enforce 8 U.S.C. 1373. Further, the order does not purport to enjoin the Department’s independent legal authority to enforce the requirements of federal law applicable to communities that violate federal immigration law or federal grant conditions.

    In reviewing the claims raised by the counties, Orrick found that the order likely violates separation of power principles, as well as the Fifth and Tenth Amendments.

    He noted that the order does not provide any notice, review, or appeal mechanisms for cities or states affected by the order. "This complete lack of process violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process requirements," he wrote. Orrick also found that the order is likely void for vagueness under the Fifth Amendment because it gives "no clear guidance on how to comply with its provisions or what penalties will result from non-compliance."

    Regarding the purpose for the executive order's funding threat, Orrick wrote, "The Executive Order attempts to use coercive methods to circumvent the Tenth Amendment’s direct prohibition against conscription."

    Later, addressing the scope of the injunction, he wrote, "Given the nationwide scope of the Order, and its apparent constitutional flaws, a nationwide injunction is appropriate."

    The enjoined section of the executive order:

    The enjoined section of the executive order:


    Full statement from the White House Press Secretary's Office:

    "Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation. Federal law explicitly states that “a Federal, State or Local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” 8 U.S.C. 1373(a). That means, according to Congress, a city that prohibits its officials from providing information to federal immigration authorities -- a sanctuary city -- is violating the law. Sanctuary cities, like San Francisco, block their jails from turning over criminal aliens to Federal authorities for deportation. These cities are engaged in the dangerous and unlawful nullification of Federal law in an attempt to erase our borders.

    "Once again, a single district judge -- this time in San Francisco -- has ignored Federal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country. This decision occurred in the same sanctuary city that released the 5-time deported illegal immigrant who gunned down innocent Kate Steinle in her father's arms. San Francisco, and cities like it, are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens, and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands. This San Francisco judge's erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country, empowering the worst kind of human trafficking and sex trafficking, and putting thousands of innocent lives at risk.

    "This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge. Today’s ruling undermines faith in our legal system and raises serious questions about circuit shopping. But we are confident we will ultimately prevail in the Supreme Court, just as we will prevail in our lawful efforts to impose immigration restrictions necessary to keep terrorists out of the United States.

    "In the meantime, we will pursue all legal remedies to the sanctuary city threat that imperils our citizens, and continue our efforts to ramp up enforcement to remove the criminal and gang element from our country. Ultimately, this is a fight between sovereignty and open borders, between the rule of law and lawlessness, and between hardworking Americans and those who would undermine their safety and freedom."

    LINK: Read Judge Orrick's decision.

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    AP images

    WASHINGTON - As the Trump administration scrambles to list the accomplishments of Donald Trump’s first hundred days, an awkward fact is becoming clear: To the extent that they have much to brag about, it’s because they’ve turned important roles and projects over to the swamp-dwelling Washington insiders Trump campaigned against.

    Trump’s clearest major accomplishment is also the purest example of this trend: The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was a masterpiece of insider politics, steered by the longtime master of Washington conservative judicial politics Leonard Leo and guided through the Senate by the most Washington of Washington strategists, Ron Bonjean.

    The nomination process was as slick as virtually everything else Trump touched was messy: Well-researched and coordinated, with an array of conservative groups feeding and sparring with the media and with Democrats. It was characterized by aggression and spin, but not overt lying or massive bumbles. And while it was hardly a rogue operation — Bonjean is close to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer — it was like an alternate universe from the chaos reporters are accustomed to coming out of Pennsylvania Avenue. Crucially, Trump, after a few wild tweets, stayed out of it. And, in just 66 days, it worked for an administration that has not had any major legislative successes with its Republican Congress outside of reversing Obama-era regulations.

    The lesson: The swamp is winning.

    Bonjean heaped praise on the administration’s efforts with Gorsuch that included the White House counsel and legislative affairs offices in an email to BuzzFeed News.

    "The White House has an outstanding communications team who asked us to assist with the Supreme Court confirmation process because they had just moved into their offices and required additional capacity of operatives who had relevant experience of working in the Senate. It was an honor to be part of this successful effort.”

    Bonjean was seen as someone inside the process who was an expert on how rules and committees work, knowledge the White House leaned on. While Leo had a deep understanding of an array of judicial issues large and small that might come up and served as a resource and sounding board for the team that came together weeks before Gorsuch was even nominated.

    But while the president has his moments where he harkens back to populist campaign-style Trump — as he did last week in Wisconsin on a buying and hiring American initiative — the swamp he pledged to drain remains as murky and swampy as ever.

    There are lobbyists waivers, the White House’s decision to not release visitor logs, and some personnel decisions (like Trump recently saying nice things about Janet Yellen). These decisions have left some in Trumpland scratching their heads and wondering if the swamp was just too rooted in Washington.

    “You’ve heard of the Empire Strikes Back? Well the swamp has struck back,” said a source close to the administration. “The establishment has ruled Washington DC for so long, it’s so entrenched and powerful, it’s proving harder to kill than we envisioned.”

    But these issues are decidedly the purview of the president. The New York Times found that Trump is inviting potential conflicts by “populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.”

    Press secretary Sean Spicer recently had to tie himself in logical knots as he explained that the White House was declining to make visitor logs public — a move that means lobbyists or special interests could enter the White House, and have meetings with administration officials or even the president himself without the public ever knowing.

    “We’re following the law as both the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records act prescribe it,” Spicer said. “So it’s the same policy that every administration had up until the Obama administration, and, frankly, the faux attempt that the Obama administration put out, where they would scrub what they didn’t want put out, didn’t serve anyone well.”

    Christopher Ruddy, CEO of the conservative Newsmax and a longtime friend of the president, argued the administration has adopted a “siege mentality” because of how antagonistic the press is and that the visitor logs would be used against the White House but that it would be better to “take a few hits” in the name of transparency.

    “I personally think they should allow the visitor logs and release them I would hope that they would reconsider that position,” Ruddy said.

    “I believe that anybody that visits a public institution, the logs should be available to know who came and went unless it impacts national security,” Ruddy continued. “I’m a believer in the more disclosure, the better.”

    That’s not all for swampy victories, though.

    The source close to the administration said that the worst transgression of all is that Trump seems open to retaining Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen. Asked by the Wall Street Journal if she was “toast,” Trump responded that she was not.

    “No, not toast,” Trump said. “You know, I like her, I respect her. She’s been [in the Oval Office.] She’s been in that seat. I do like the low interest rate policy.”

    “I’m incredibly bothered that he said Yellen could be reappointed,” the source close to the administration said. “She’s the personification of the swamp, very much a detriment to the American worker. Great for Wall Street but terrible for most wage-earning, paycheck to paycheck Americans.”

    Still, Trump supporters are betting that blue collar workers care more about populist Trump’s events in Wisconsin where he says he’s going to take a “sledgehammer” to regulations, is going to scrap the NAFTA trade deal, and wants more products stamped “Made in the USA,” than who helped get Gorsuch confirmed, has the ear of the president or is being hired in Washington.

    Steve Cortes, a Fox News contributor who took part in a Hispanic business roundtable at the White House with chief of staff Reince Priebus last month, was succinct.

    “I don’t think the Trump voter gives a shit.”

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