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U.S. News December 2018:
Mick Mulvaney will become the acting White House chief of staff at the end of the year, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet on Friday. He most recently served as the Office of Management and Budget director. While Mulvaney was named as an acting chief of staff, he will step down from his role as OMB director, a White House official said. A senior administration official said there is "no time limit" for Mulvaney to remain in the top White House post. Mulvaney could lose the "acting" part of his title if things go well, according to another senior administration official. "It's his to lose," this administration official told CNN. The President's decision to appoint Mulvaney as his chief of staff began to materialize around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, this official said. Trump had been marinating on this idea throughout the day and ultimately decided to pull the trigger because the speculation and bowing out of candidates had begun to get out of hand.

Michael Cohen, President Trump's onetime lawyer and fixer, says his former boss knew it was wrong to order hush money payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to two women who say they had affairs with Trump — but he directed Cohen to do it anyway to help his election chances. Cohen also said in an interview with ABC News that aired Friday that the president's repeated assertions that Cohen is lying about the payments and other aspects of his work for Trump were false. "He knows the truth. I know the truth. Others know the truth," Cohen said. "The man doesn't tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds."

President Donald Trump sought the open arms of Twitter and Fox News to creatively explain away inconvenient facts about his legal peril and his promised border wall before GOP senators dragged him back to reality with a rebuke from his own party for ignoring a cold-blooded murder OK'd by a foreign colleague. In Trump's universe, Mexico is already paying for the wall. And the crimes for which Michael Cohen is going to jail aren't crimes after all; they were added to his rap sheet by prosecutors as a dig at Trump. But alternative facts, to borrow the phrase coined by White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway to reject facts they reject without evidence, only go so far. Trump learned their limits Thursday afternoon when Republican senators lobbed at him a resolution condemning Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump had ignored the clear conclusion of the CIA that bin Salman was involved in the killing when he issued an exclamation point-laden official statement last month that it was unproven that Saudi Arabia and its crown prince were complicit. It wouldn't matter anyway, the President said, since Saudi Arabia is buying US military equipment.

Special counsel Robert Mueller urges a federal judge to reject an attempt by President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn “to minimize the seriousness” of his crime days before his sentencing date. In pre-sentencing documents, Flynn’s lawyers and the special counsel had both recommended a light sentence for the highly decorated U.S. Army veteran. Mueller said Flynn has cooperated extensively with the government in 19 interviews with law enforcement officials, which began even before he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

A leaked federal study showing that refugees to America brought in $63 billion more in government revenues than they cost in the last 10 years was "banned" by the Trump administration. That study was not "banned"; rather, mention of the fiscal benefits of admitting refugees was excised from it before it was finalized.

Recent revelations in memoranda filed by the government against Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort describe even more widespread and troubling contacts with the Russians. However, since the inception of the Mueller investigation, President Donald Trump, his lawyers, legal pundits on both sides of the aisle, and everyone in between has either claimed or conceded that "collusion" is not a crime. President Trump has tweeted, "Collusion is not a crime. ..." Rudy Giuliani told Fox News, "I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. ... Collusion is not a crime." Jay Sekulow told The New Yorker, "For something to be a crime, there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated. ... There is not a statute that refers to criminal collusion. There is no crime of collusion." Having worked as a federal prosecutor for 13 years in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, I can report that the President and his lawyers are wrong. Collusion is a crime. The federal criminal code says so. The federal bribery statute -- 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(2)(B) -- makes it a federal crime for a public official to "collude" in a fraud on the United States. More specifically, the federal bribery statute expressly states that a crime is committed when a public official "directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value ... in return for ... being influenced to ... collude in ... any fraud ... on the United States." - Trump and the Republicans trying to protect Trump tell us that collusion is not a crime, the federal bribery statute -- 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(2)(B) -- makes it a federal crime for a public official to "collude" in a fraud on the United States.

President Donald Trump claimed Thursday that "money we save" from a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada would make good on his long-standing promise to have Mexico pay for a new southern border wall. Trump's highly questionable assertion, in a morning tweet, comes as he is lobbying Congress for $5 billion to help fund construction of the wall and threatening a partial government shutdown if he does not get his way. In recent days, as the debate over the wall has come to the fore, Trump has faced renewed criticism for appearing to have abandoned his campaign pledge to make Mexico pay for it. "I often stated, 'One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall,'" Trump wrote on Twitter. "This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!" Mexican officials have said there was no discussion in the trade-deal negotiations of mechanisms under which Mexico would pay for the wall. And on Thursday, both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., ridiculed Trump for his assertion. - Now that is just plain stupid, how dumb does Donald J. trump think we are?

Comments by science review board chairman add weight to fears that Trump administration is aiming to discredit research to justify scrapping regulations. A conservative science adviser to the Trump administration is casting doubt on longstanding research linking fossil fuel pollution to early deaths and health problems, worrying environmental experts. At a meeting to review air pollution science compiled by staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency this week the advisory board chairman, Tony Cox – a consultant and statistician who has worked for the industry and criticized EPA standards – questioned whether soot from coal plants and cars can be directly blamed for asthma and cardiopulmonary problems. Cox pushed staffers to specify what percentage of health problems are directly caused by the pollution or are just associated with it, a figure that the US government has not required in order to restrict pollutants that are known to harm people.

Another day, another known investigation into President Trump and the organizations/people around him. The Wall Street Journal: “Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations, people familiar with the matter said. The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is in its early stages, also is examining whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions, some of the people said.”. The New York Times has additional details of this investigation. “The inquiry focuses on whether people from Middle Eastern nations — including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — used straw donors to disguise their donations to [the inaugural committee and a pro-Trump Super PAC]. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugural funds.”

We now have details as to how the indicted former campaign manager worked with the president to undermine federal law enforcement. Paul Manafort, who served as the manager for President Trump’s presidential campaign, provided advice to the president and senior White House officials during the earliest days of the Trump administration on how to undermine and discredit the FBI’s investigation into whether the president, his campaign aides, and family members conspired with the Russian Federation and its intelligence services to covertly defeat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to government records and interviews with individuals familiar with the matter. Manafort himself was under criminal investigation by the FBI during this same time, a fact then known to the White House. Last Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller alleged in court filings that Manafort told “multiple discernible lies” to FBI agents and prosecutors, in violation of the cooperation agreement between Manafort and the special counsel’s office. Among those, Mueller charged, were lies by Manafort to investigators that he had not been in contact with anyone in the White House. Manafort urged the president to attack the FBI. First, Manafort advised the president and his political surrogates to more aggressively and directly attack the FBI and other elements of the federal law enforcement apparatus investigating his administration. The goal of Manafort’s advice was to “delegitimize” the investigation itself, one person familiar with the advice explained to me. Manafort wanted nothing less than to “declare a public relations war on the FBI,” this same person said. Another goal was to discredit then-FBI Director James Comey and other senior FBI officials — as it had become increasingly likely they would be witnesses against the president. Trump later did just that, but it’s unclear what role, if any, Manafort’s advice played in the president deciding to go on the attack.

Speaking at a meeting of the Presidential Council for Human Rights in the Kremlin on December 11, President Vladimir Putin expressed puzzlement over the fate of Maria Butina, the Russian agent indicted in the United States. Putin said that Butina was “guilty of nothing” – a claim she refuted herself on the morning of Thursday, December 13, when she pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC two days after the Russian president pronounced her innocent. Before accepting Butina’s plea, Judge Tanya Chutkan established that Butina had entered into a plea deal voluntarily, knowingly and with no pressure or coercion, and also without any mental or psychological conditions. - Is that the Russian version of the coffee boy defense used by the Trump campaign?

The Department of Education said Thursday that it would wipe away student debt for 15,000 borrowers, implementing an Obama-era rule that Secretary Betsy DeVos has fought to block for more than a year. The debt cancellations will total about $150 million. The rule, known as Borrower Defense to Repayment, was designed to help students cheated by for-profit colleges get relief on their education debt. The announcement comes about two months after a federal judge ordered immediate implementation of the rule. The judge had sided with attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia who sued DeVos for delaying the rule while she worked on rewriting it. Those students who will immediately see their loans canceled were at schools that closed while they were enrolled. About half of the debt was owed by borrowers who attended one of the now defunct for-profit Corinthian Colleges. The network of schools folded in 2015 after it was fined $30 million by the government for misleading prospective students with inflated job placement numbers. At the time, about 16,000 students were enrolled at its remaining 28 campuses. But the rule also was designed to make it easier for students to apply for relief if they believe their schools misled them, by inflating job placement rates, for example -- even if they weren't enrolled when the schools closed.
US President Donald Trump's former lawyer insists Mr Trump knew making hush money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign was wrong. Speaking after he was sentenced to prison for campaign finance and fraud crimes, Michael Cohen told ABC News: "He directed me to make the payments." "Nothing at the Trump organisation was ever done unless it was run through Mr Trump," he said. The president has denied ever asking Cohen to make illegal payments. "He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law," Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday, suggesting Cohen had pleaded guilty "to embarrass the president".

Federal prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to President Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy, according to people familiar with the inquiry. The inquiry focuses on whether people from Middle Eastern nations — including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two funds. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugural funds. The line of questioning underscores the growing scope of criminal inquiries that pose a threat to Mr. Trump’s presidency. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is focusing on whether anyone in the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to tip the 2016 presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor, while prosecutors in New York are pursuing evidence he secretly authorized illegal payments of hush money to silence accusations of extramarital affairs that threatened his campaign.

An expert explains how Obama left Trump a North Korea mess, and how Trump found a way to make it more dangerous. “Most people are not aware of how close we came to nuclear war and how plausible it actually was throughout 2017 and early 2018.”. That’s North Korea expert Van Jackson’s stunning conclusion. In his new book On the Brink: Trump, Kim, and the Threat of Nuclear War, Jackson retraces the Washington-Pyongyang standoff during President Donald Trump’s first two years in office. He identified at least “seven or eight moments” when he believed war between the US and North Korea was possible. And while much of the tensions had to do with North Korea’s aggression before Trump took office, the president found ways to make it much, much worse. “Trump talks shit everywhere about everybody, but only as it relates to North Korea did we come close to nuclear war because of it,” Jackson, a former Obama administration official now at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, told me. “So I blame Trump, but I don’t blame him entirely.” What’s scarier is that Jackson doesn’t see the relationship improving anytime soon.

The "Statement of Admitted Facts" says that AMI admitted making a $150,000 payment "in concert with the campaign". Donald Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump's relationships with women, NBC News has confirmed. As part of a non-prosecution agreement disclosed Wednesday by federal prosecutors, American Media Inc., the Enquirer's parent company, admitted that "Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate's relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided." The "Statement of Admitted Facts" says that AMI admitted making a $150,000 payment "in concert with the campaign," and says that Pecker, Cohen, and "at least one other member of the campaign" were in the meeting. According to a person familiar with the matter, the "other member" was Trump.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations, people familiar with the matter said. The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is in its early stages, also is examining whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions, some of the people said.

Dozens of businesses and institutions across the country received email threats Thursday afternoon, prompting evacuations and sweeps of buildings. At this time it's unclear if the threats -- which have been received in San Francisco, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Washington, DC and other locations nationwide -- are connected. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said they are aware of the threats and are working with law enforcement to provide assistance. "As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety," the FBI said. This email demanding $20,000 via Bitcoin was forwarded to CNN affiliate KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City by a viewer who received it at her business. It's unclear whether everyone who received a threat on Thursday received the same email.

For nearly two years the Trump-Russia affair has dominated front pages and mired the president's administration in conflict and controversy. But what is it exactly? How did it begin? And where is it going? The inquiry is being led by Robert Mueller, a widely respected former director of the FBI. Holed up in an unremarkable office in Washington DC, Mr Mueller's team is quietly going about one of the most high-profile political inquiries in US history. Five people connected with Donald Trump's campaign and presidency have been charged with criminal offences. One of them, his former lawyer Michael Cohen, could be jailed on Wednesday on several charges, making him the first member of the president's inner circle to be imprisoned in relation to the inquiry. President Trump denies any wrongdoing and says the charges against his former staff are "peanuts". We've put together a straightforward guide to what we know, what we don't know, and what Mr Mueller may know that we don't.

Kentucky's Supreme Court has struck down a pension law that spurred thousands of the state's teachers to protest last spring. The court ruled that the way the pension bill was passed didn't give state lawmakers a "fair opportunity" to consider it. In a surprise maneuver, both chambers pushed the measure through in a matter of hours — before the public and even some lawmakers had had a chance to read it. On March 29, after previous versions of the legislation had stalled, the Republican majority turned what had been an 11-page sewer bill into a 291-page pension bill and passed it in just hours. Kentucky law requires a bill to be read three times over three different days; the legislature tried to claim that readings when it was still a sewer bill counted, but the judge disagreed.

To the conservative Americans she courted, Maria Butina was the right kind of Russian. She loved guns and the church and networking with top officials in the National Rifle Association. She schmoozed with Republican presidential candidates, and became a supporter of Donald J. Trump. She spent Thanksgiving at a congressman’s country house, took a Trump campaign aide to see the rock band Styx and helped a Rockefeller heir organize “friendship dinners” with influential Washingtonians. On Thursday, Ms. Butina, 30, pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiring to act as a foreign agent in a deal with federal prosecutors. In doing so, she acknowledged that her activities were motivated by more than mere personal conviction. As part of the deal, Ms. Butina admitted to being involved in an organized effort, backed by Russian officials, to open up unofficial lines of communication with influential Americans in the N.R.A. and in the Republican Party, and to win them over to the idea of Russia as a friend, not a foe. Ms. Butina’s guilty plea now casts a spotlight on the Americans she worked with, including prominent members of the N.R.A. and her boyfriend, Paul Erickson, 56, a longtime Republican operative who ran Patrick J. Buchanan’s 1992 presidential campaign and who now faces accusations of fraud in three states. Officials have said federal investigators are examining what Mr. Erickson and others who helped Ms. Butina knew about her links to the Russian government.

US President Donald Trump has said he never directed his former private lawyer to break the law, a day after he was was sentenced to prison. "He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law." Mr Trump tweeted of Michael Cohen, adding that he pleaded guilty "to embarrass the president". His comments came a day after Cohen received a three-year jail sentence for campaign finance and fraud crimes. Cohen had blamed Mr Trump's influence and "dirty deeds" at his sentencing. In a series of tweets on Thursday, Mr Trump also insisted that he "did nothing wrong" in regards to campaign finance laws. He said Cohen "probably was not guilty" of those campaign violations but pleaded guilty to benefit himself. "As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!"

A new proposal would threaten waterways and drinking-water supplies. On Tuesday, in the Trump administration’s latest assault on the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed rolling back Clean Water Act protections that have helped make America’s rivers and streams fishable and swimmable, in the process threatening drinking-water supplies across the country. Once again, the E.P.A. is disregarding basic science. This latest proposal obscures its harmful effects with legalese that draws dubious distinctions between certain streams even though pollution flows downstream regardless of the legal terminology the agency deploys. This is a thinly veiled effort to slash water pollution protections that have long been embraced by both Republican and Democratic administrations.

President Donald Trump is facing pushback for saying he may intervene in a legal case involving the chief financial official of Huawei Technologies — if such a move would help Washington secure a trade deal with Beijing. Canadia’s foreign minister warned the U.S. not to politicize extradition cases, saying that the legal process should not be hijacked for political purposes. “Is it really the job of the president to start intervening or interfering in judicial matters?” asked David Kuo, CEO of The Motley Fool Singapore, a financial services firm. He added: “We’re not talking about a president who can intervene in everything — it’s not a banana republic after all.”

Even as the president continues to rail about the “Witch Hunt” on Twitter, Mueller’s strategy looks like anything but. Nearly every defendant he’s targeted has pleaded guilty, meaning he’s moving against people with overwhelming evidence. Those targets have mostly, in turn, cooperated—naming more alleged crimes and suspects. Similarly, in the one instance he has been forced to go to trial, Mueller prevailed handedly, winning convictions against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in every category of charges he brought. Mueller has also assiduously handed off certain crimes to other prosecutors, be it identity theft stemming from Russia’s Internet Research Agency, foreign lobbying questions, and even referring the original Cohen case to the Southern District in New York. Together, those facts paint the picture of a conservative prosecutor, focused on demonstrable crimes and clear cases of criminal behavior. Mueller famously sees the world in black and white, right versus wrong, and all of his investigations have Russia and Russian influence as their core focus. Thus far he’s stayed clear of anything that might appear gray. CNN’s John Berman has described it as the “12 days of Mueller.” The filings thus far, taken together, have clarified where Mueller is heading, and appear to help delineate who is likely on the special counsel’s “naughty list” this holiday season. The past two weeks of rapid-fire filings, court appearances, and news reports show several people and entities potentially in Mueller’s sights.

New York (CNN Business)Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that they have struck a non-prosecution agreement with National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc., effectively ruling out charges for the tabloid publisher over its role in securing hush money from President Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen. As part of the agreement, AMI admitted to making a payment of $150,000 in cooperation with members of Trump's presidential campaign in order to prevent former Playboy model Karen McDougal's claims of an affair with Trump from being made public during the 2016 race. AMI chairman David Pecker is a longtime friend of Trump's, and the Enquirer was one of Trump's most reliable and enthusiastic media boosters during the campaign. Pecker met with Cohen "and at least one other member of the campaign" in August of 2015, according to the non-prosecution agreement, which was struck with prosecutors from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. "At the meeting, Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate's relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided," the agreement read. "Pecker agreed to keep Cohen apprised of any such negative stories."

As the U.S. opioid epidemic grinds on, fentanyl is fast becoming the main culprit in drug overdose deaths, health officials report. Cocaine and heroin remain the street drugs of choice, but more overdose deaths involve fentanyl, either mixed with those narcotics or taken alone. Between 2013 and 2016, overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased about 113 percent per year, researchers found. "The drugs most frequently involved in overdose deaths change quickly from one year to the next," said lead researcher Dr. Holly Hedegaard, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. Many of these deaths involve more than one drug, Hedegaard said. "A lot of the deaths that mention fentanyl also mention heroin, and a lot of the deaths that mention cocaine also mention fentanyl," she explained.

Incoming New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) told NBC News on Wednesday that she plans to launch an exhaustive investigation into President Trump and his business dealings once she takes office in January. "We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well," James said. "We want to investigate anyone in his orbit who has, in fact, violated the law." James said she plans to probe any illegitimacies concerning Trump's real estate holdings in New York, particularly in light of an October New York Times investigation, which found that Trump participated in "dubious tax schemes" in the 1990s that helped him earn additional wealth from his father's real estate business. James said she will also investigate a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer, as well as any potential violations of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause. The meeting, along with a number of other events being probed by special counsel Robert Mueller, would fall under James's jurisdiction, NBC News noted. "Taking on President Trump and looking at all of the violations of law I think is no match to what I have seen in my lifetime," she said.James floated the idea of pursuing investigations into the president on the campaign trail.

The company that owns The National Enquirer tabloid will not be prosecuted for its efforts to protect Donald Trump during his presidential campaign. AMI, which owns the tabloid National Enquirer, admitted to making a $150,000 hush money payment, and will cooperate with investigators. AMI chief David Pecker is (was?) a longtime friend of Donald Trump, long before the campaign. Pecker has been granted immunity. He is singing. Trump should be worried. The U.S. Southern District of New York reached a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, in which the firm admitted it made "catch and kill" payment to Trump's alleged ex-paramour Karen MacDougal. AMI admitted that it paid her “in concert with” the Donald Trump presidential campaign. Said the SDNY prosecutors, “AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.” Prosecutors say AMI admitted “its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”

After a Friday memo from federal prosecutors appeared to implicate President Donald Trump in Michael Cohen’s campaign finance crimes related to hush money payments to women who allegedly had affairs with the president, Trump has maintained that he is not concerned about the possibility of impeachment. “It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country,” Trump told Reuters in an interview Tuesday. He added: “I’m not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened.” Talk of impeachment appeared to boil up again after the release of the memo, which stated as fact that Trump appeared at a meeting with Cohen and National Enquirer President David Pecker to discuss a catch-and-kill payment to Karen McDougal. Cohen has also said that the president directed him to make a hush payment to Stormy Daniels. Both of these payments were found to be criminal. Some Democrats have argued that campaign finance violations could warrant impeachment, but other congressional leaders have expressed doubt that the crimes would be serious enough to justify impeachment proceedings. - Sorry Donnie they will be dancing in streets and singing songs of joy with the hope that criminal Don goes to jail.

President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer sparred before news cameras over the effectiveness of a southern border wall, at times fact-checking and speaking over one another. While all three leaders said they wanted border security, there was clearly no consensus over how much money they would set aside for Trump’s barrier. Trump said he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security."

President Donald Trump insisted on Tuesday that much of the border wall he wants has already been built and has been "very effective."  But he appears to be referring to old border fencing built decades ago. And, despite his hard-line policies and tough rhetoric, border arrests have actually spiked in the past year. Here's a look at what Trump said during a tense meeting with congressional Democrats and why it doesn't match reality.
 
Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer and fixer for President Donald Trump, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to tax fraud, lying to banks and violating campaign finance laws. The campaign finance charges relate to hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress about an aborted deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. That case was lodged by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin explained how “all of Trump’s collusion denials” may crumble. One seven-letter word ― “synergy” ― may prove critical in proving the allegations that President Donald Trump colluded with Russia, according to Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin. Rubin asked in her column Monday what would happen if “collusion” wasn’t just defined (as it has been by many) as the alleged “plot operating in 2016 between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russians to manipulate the election” but was actually widened to include an earlier alleged 2015 “plot” for Trump to “make hundreds of millions” on projects while denying “any deals” with the Russians. “Notice the word ‘synergy’” in special counsel Robert Mueller’s sentencing memorandum in the case of Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, Rubin wrote. She added: “According to Mueller, Michael Cohen was contacted shortly after Trump declared his candidacy, in November 2015, by a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian government who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level.’” Rubin claimed that “all of Trump’s collusion denials crumble” if there was “concrete evidence of Trump’s approval (how could there not be?) to cooperate with Russia to make money and get some help.”

The Fact Checker has evaluated false statements President Trump has made repeatedly and analyzed how often he reiterates them. The claims included here – which we're calling "Bottomless Pinocchios" – are limited to ones that he has repeated 20 times and were rated as Three or Four Pinocchios by the Fact Checker.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) shrugs off news that federal prosecutors implicate President Trump in two crimes committed by his former attorney Michael Cohen.

An Oval Office meeting with President Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and presumptive incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi Tuesday spiraled out of control over funding the border wall Tuesday, in what Schumer described as a Trump "temper tantrum." With a potential government shutdown looming less than two weeks away, Pelosi told Mr. Trump, "you will not win" on the border wall. The president demanded border wall funding — and said he's not afraid the shut down the government over it. In fact, he said, he's proud to do so, and will take credit for it. "If we don't get what we want one way or the other ... I will shut down the government," the president said. "And I am proud ... I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck." Minutes before, at the beginning of the meeting, the president had said the opposite: "I'd like not to see a government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens." Mr. Trump is pushing for $5 billion for his border wall — Democrats don't want to give him much more than $1 billion. Government funding runs out Dec. 21, days before Christmas. - Sorry Don the Con your wall would not have stopped 9/11 nor does it stop right wing domestic terrorist.

The Trump administration is expected on Tuesday to unveil a plan that would weaken federal clean water rules designed to protect millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams nationwide from pesticide runoff and other pollutants. Environmentalists say the proposal represents a historic assault on wetlands regulation at a moment when Mr. Trump has repeatedly voiced a commitment to “crystal-clean water.” The proposed new rule would chip away at safeguards put in place a quarter century ago, during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, who implemented a policy designed to ensure that no wetlands lost federal protection. “They’re definitely rolling things back to the pre-George H.W. Bush era,” said Blan Holman, who works on water regulations with the Southern Environmental Law Center. Wetlands play key roles in filtering surface water and protecting against floods, while also providing wildlife habitat. - Donald J. Trump and the GOP are taken away clean water to protect companies and help them make more money.

Jared Kushner has reportedly developed a close relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and routinely spoke with the Saudi leader even after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. What's more, Kushner allegedly provided the crown prince with advice on how to "weather the storm" and urged the Saudi leader to "resolve his conflicts around the region and avoid further embarrassments." Kushner's relationship with the crown prince has been a subject of great speculation for some time, long before Khashoggi's killing. Jared Kushner has reportedly developed a close relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and routinely spoke with the Saudi leader even after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A synagogue and a Georgia pipeline were the targets of two Ohio residents arrested by federal authorities in separate investigations, officials said on Monday. Authorities said Damon Joseph, 21, planned to kill worshipers inside a Jewish synagogue in Toledo with an assault rifle. In a second case, Elizabeth Lecron, 23, is accused of purchasing bomb-making materials she intended to use to blow up a pipeline. Both arrests followed monthslong investigations in which clues, such as images of guns or words of support for mass murderers, were posted on social media. The stark difference in Joseph and Lecron's targets shows the scope of the challenge for investigators, said Justin E. Herdman, US attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. "It's not just one threat. It's across the spectrum," Herdman told CNN in an interview on Monday. "It's not just Islamic or anarchist or animal rights terrorism. It's everything." Investigators became aware of Joseph after they noticed pictures of knives and firearms on his social media accounts, court records show. FBI agents posing as members of ISIS began a monthslong conversation with Joseph in which he offered his services in creating propaganda videos, court records show.

(CNN) Accused Russian spy Maria Butina appears to have reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Butina is accused of trying to infiltrate Republican political circles and party leaders during the 2016 campaign in order to advance Russian interests, and prosecutors have said the former American University student was in touch with politically powerful Russians about her activities in the US. Her attorneys and prosecutors on Monday filed a two-page request for a "change of plea" hearing as soon as Tuesday. Butina has maintained her innocence and has been in jail since her arrest for illegally acting as a foreign agent.

The Supreme Court Monday rebuffed efforts by states to block funding to Planned Parenthood. It left in place two lower court opinions that said that states violate federal law when they terminate Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood affiliates who offer preventive care for low income women. It would have taken four justices to agree to hear the issue, and only three conservative justices -- Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch -- voted to hear the case. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh appeared to side with the court's liberals in not taking up the case -- showing an effort to avoid high-profile abortion-related issues for now.

Former FBI Director James Comey said that Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York and now President Donald Trump’s attorney, may have leaked sensitive information from inside the bureau’s New York office during the closing days of the 2016 presidential election. Comey told Congress during a closed-door deposition on Friday, November 7, that he ordered agents to investigate possible leaks based on Giuliani’s public statements, which appeared to draw on inside knowledge of the FBI’s investigation into alleged misuse of classified information by then-candidate Hillary Clinton, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Trump administration's relentless efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers are well known—from the recent deployment of US troops to stop a "caravan" of migrants that hadn't yet reached the border to the president's promise to shut down the government if Congress doesn't approve funding for a border wall. But while these stories occupy the national headlines, a proposal to radically limit legal immigration is quietly barreling through the bureaucratic process of becoming law. On Monday, the public has its last chance to comment on a proposed change to the so-called "public charge rule" under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the new rule, DHS could also penalize applicants for having bad credit or lots of student loans. On Friday, Boundless sent a letter to DHS opposing the proposed rule. It was signed by 120 business owners, including top executives from tech outfits like General Assembly, Foursquare, TechStars, and MongoDB, among others. "This policy would prevent countless people critical to growing American businesses from living and working here," the letter reads. "

n author and conspiracy theorist who says he’s being threatened with indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in the Trump-Russia probe filed a federal lawsuit Sunday night accusing Mueller of constitutional violations and leaking grand jury secrets. Jerome Corsi’s new suit against Mueller also accuses the special prosecutor of trying to badger Corsi into giving false testimony that he served as a conduit between Wikileaks found Julian Assange and Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump. “Defendant Mueller and his prosecutorial staff have demanded that Plaintiff Corsi falsely testify that he acted as a liaison between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange concerning the public release of emails downloaded from the DNC’s servers,” the complaint says. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, is just the latest maneuver in a public campaign against Mueller by Corsi and his attorneys. Last month, they gave reporters copies of draft court documents showing that Mueller wanted Corsi to plead guilty to a false statements charge. - Donald J. Trump tried the same thing when he was caught for race discrimination he lost.

We focus on outliers and ignore systemic injustice. I was once a poster child for a certain version of the American dream. The one where poor black children need unforgiving discipline to overcome the inevitable obstacles in their lives so they can vault themselves into the meritocracy. It’s the same dream that led to tragedy at the T.M. Landry College Preparatory School in Louisiana, where The New York Times recently reported that administrators allegedly abused children in their quest to send them to elite universities. Around the world, people reacted in horror to the story. I was disturbed by what I read too. But I was also disturbed by the way this one school was being described as a singular, extraordinary case of fraud and abuse perpetrated by two villains. The truth is much worse.

California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said Sunday that President Donald Trump could "face the real prospect of jail time" after federal prosecutors said last week that the President directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to make illegal hush-money payments during the presidential campaign. "My takeaway is there's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first President in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time," Schiff, the likely incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told CBS's Margaret Brennan on "Face the Nation." The filing Friday by federal prosecutors in Manhattan was the first time prosecutors said Cohen acted at the direction of Trump to make payments during the 2016 campaign to silence two women who claim to have had affairs with Trump prior to his time running for office. In the memo, prosecutors wrote: "In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1." Individual-1 is the term prosecutors have been using to refer to the President.

When federal prosecutors recommended a substantial prison term for President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, they linked Mr. Trump to the crimes Mr. Cohen had committed in connection with the 2016 presidential campaign. What the prosecutors did not say in Mr. Cohen’s sentencing memorandum filed on Friday, however, is that they have continued to scrutinize what other executives in the president’s family business may have known about those crimes, which involved hush-money payments to two women who had said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. After Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws and other crimes — he will be sentenced on Wednesday — the federal prosecutors in Manhattan shifted their attention to what role, if any, Trump Organization executives played in the campaign finance violations, according to people briefed on the matter. Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s self-described fixer, has provided assistance in that inquiry, which is separate from the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. In addition to implicating Mr. Trump in the payments to the two women, Mr. Cohen has told prosecutors that the company’s chief financial officer was involved in discussions about them, a claim that is now a focus of the inquiry, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Mr. Cohen has told prosecutors that he believes Mr. Trump personally approved the company’s decision to reimburse him for one of the payments, one of the people said.

The Russian ambassador. A deputy prime minister. A pop star, a weightlifter, a lawyer, a Soviet army veteran with alleged intelligence ties. Again and again and again, over the course of Donald Trump’s 18-month campaign for the presidency, Russian citizens made contact with his closest family and friends, as well as figures on the periphery of his orbit. Some offered to help his campaign and his real estate business. Some offered dirt on his Democratic opponent. Repeatedly, Russian nationals suggested Trump should hold a peacemaking sit-down with Vladi­mir Putin — and offered to broker such a summit. In all, Russians interacted with at least 14 Trump associates during the campaign and presidential transition, public records and interviews show. “It is extremely unusual,” said Michael McFaul, who served as ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama. “Both the number of contacts and the nature of the contacts are extraordinary.”

Senior American officials were worried. Since the early months of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, had been having private, informal conversations with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son of Saudi Arabia’s king. Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former senior American officials. In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders. But even with the restrictions in place, Mr. Kushner, 37, and Prince Mohammed, 33, kept chatting, according to three former White House officials and two others briefed by the Saudi royal court. In fact, they said, the two men were on a first-name basis, calling each other Jared and Mohammed in text messages and phone calls. The exchanges continued even after the Oct. 2 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was ambushed and dismembered by Saudi agents, according to two former senior American officials and the two people briefed by the Saudis.

The United States is claiming that the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei covered up violations of sanctions on Iran, according to Canadian prosecutors. Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver and faces extradition to the United States, is believed to have helped Huawei circumvent US sanctions by telling financial institutions that a Huawei subsidiary was a separate company, prosecutors said at a hearing Friday to determine whether Meng should be released on bail. Her lawyer said that she has ties to Canada and is not a flight risk. The judge, after hearing arguments from Meng's lawyer and prosecutors, did not rule on bail.

If accusations that President Donald Trump directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to make illegal hush payments to women who had alleged affairs with Trump prove to be true, Rep. Jerry Nadler said those actions would be impeachable offenses. "They would be impeachable offenses. Whether they're important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question," Nadler, D-New York, said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday morning. "Certainly, they're impeachable offenses, because, even though they were committed before the President became President, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office." In a sentencing memo on Friday, prosecutors from the Manhattan US attorney's office wrote, "In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1." Individual-1 is the term prosecutors have been using to refer to the President. Friday's court filing was the first time prosecutors said Cohen acted at the direction of Trump to make payments to silence women who claim to have had affairs with Trump prior to his time running for office. Trump has denied the affairs and has not been accused of any crimes related to the payments. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight federal crimes, including tax fraud, making false statements to a bank, and campaign-finance violations tied to his work for Trump, including hush payments Cohen made or helped orchestrate.

In the narrative that prosecutors are building, President Trump continued to secretly seek to do business in Russia well into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made more efforts to influence him. The latest revelations by prosecutors investigating President Trump and his team draw a portrait of a candidate who personally directed an illegal scheme to manipulate the 2016 election and whose advisers had more contact with Russia than Mr. Trump has ever acknowledged. In the narrative that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and New York prosecutors are building, Mr. Trump continued to secretly seek to do business in Russia deep into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made more efforts to influence him. At the same time, in this account he ordered hush payments to two women to suppress stories of impropriety in violation of campaign finance law. The prosecutors made clear in a sentencing memo filed on Friday that they viewed efforts by Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to squelch the stories as nothing less than a perversion of a democratic election — and by extension they effectively accused the president of defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory. On Saturday, Mr. Trump dismissed the filings, and his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, minimized the importance of any potential campaign finance violations. Democrats, however, said they could lead to impeachment.

These documents appear loaded with intention. Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) and from the Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed significant documents Friday in the criminal cases of President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. In D.C, the court released a redacted submission outlining the grounds for Mueller’s determination that Manafort had breached his plea agreement. In New York, both the SDNY and special counsel filed documents related to Cohen’s sentencing. SDNY prosecutors named the president of the United States as a direct participant, if not the principal, in felonies. Other Trump campaign and Trump Organization officials may face criminal charges for the hush-money scheme. The special counsel ties Trump directly to possible Russia collusion. Russian contacts began during the GOP primary. Some potential hints of obstruction and suborning perjury.

For the first time, prosecutors have tied President Donald Trump to a federal crime, accusing him of directing illegal hush-money payments to women during his presidential campaign in 2016. The Justice Department stopped short of accusing Trump of directly committing a crime. Instead, they said in a court filing Friday night that Trump told his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to make illegal payments to buy the silence of two women — porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal — who claimed to have had affairs with Trump and threatened his White House bid. Trump has denied having an affair. Cohen has pleaded guilty to several charges, including campaign finance violations, and is awaiting sentencing. Although Trump hasn't been charged with any crimes, the question of whether a president can even be prosecuted while in office is a matter of legal dispute.

When Christopher Cantwell learned that self-professed neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. had been convicted of murder, he promised violent retribution — “complete and total destruction” by “an army of fanatics” ready to die for their cause. But, as with everything Cantwell has done since August 2017, his vow was at least somewhat blunted by his dramatic fall and humiliating nickname: the “Crying Nazi.” Cantwell, who earned the nickname for his reaction to news of a warrant for his arrest, made the threats on Friday, the same day Fields was found guilty of first-degree murder for ramming his car through a crowd of counterprotesters at the “Unite the Right” rally last year in Charlottesville. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed, and 35 others were injured, many grievously.

For the first time, federal prosecutors in New York on Friday said that President Trump directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to make two illegal payments during the 2016 presidential campaign. Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York connected Trump to the illegal payments in the latest filing in the case involving his longtime lawyer and fixer. The document states that Cohen "acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump before the election in steering payments to silence Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, two women claiming they had affairs with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied the affairs. The latest filing does not explicitly name Trump, but makes numerous references to an "Individual-1" who it states in January 2017 "had become the President of the United States" and for whom Cohen worked as a personal attorney. Prosecutors argue that Cohen made the payments for the rights to Daniels and McDougal's stories before the election in order to "suppress the stories and thereby prevent them from influencing the election." Cohen had previously implicated Trump regarding the payments when he pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations, among other counts involving bank and tax fraud. But the filing Friday is the first time prosecutors have also tied Trump to the illegal payments.

Federal prosecutors released sentencing recommendations for two alleged criminals who worked closely with Donald Trump: his lawyer Michael Cohen, and campaign manager Paul Manafort. They are filled with damning details. But the most important passage by far is this, about Trump’s fixer: “Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.” The payments in question, as the document explains, concern a payoff to two women who claimed to have affairs with Trump. The payments, according to prosecutors, were intended to influence the campaign, and thereby constituted violations of campaign finance law. They have not formally charged Trump with this crime — it is a sentencing report for Cohen, not Trump — but this is the U.S. Department of Justice calling Trump a criminal. There is more. Under normal circumstances, the long list of charges federal prosecutors cited against Michael Cohen would be a political catastrophe for President Trump. One of the president’s closest associates turns out to have allegedly committed a long string of crimes, from tax evasion to making false statements to a financial institution, that would besmirch the good name of the man who worked at his side for years. Of course Trump has no good name. But the fact that he is being called a felon by the United States government is a historic step. And it is likely the first of more to come.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie reportedly praised Confederate States President Jefferson Davis in a 1995 speech, calling him a “martyr to the Lost Cause” and an “exceptional man in an exceptional age.” According to CNN, Wilkie also said viewing Confederate history through the “lens of slavery” is a “disservice to our ancestors.” “To view our history and the ferocity of the Confederate soldier solely through the lens of slavery and by the slovenly standards of the present is dishonest and a disservice to our ancestors,” Wilkie reportedly said at a U.S. Capitol event hosted by the United Daughters of Confederacy. “We can’t surrender American history to an enforced political orthodoxy dictated to our children by attention-starved politicians, street corner demagogues, and tenured campus radicals.”

It’s easy to see why Donald Trump nominated William Barr to serve as the next attorney general of the United States. Barr has spent more than a year publicly auditioning for the job, saying everything Trump plainly wants to hear: The president was right to fire FBI Director James Comey, to criticize special counsel Robert Mueller for hiring a number of Democratic prosecutors, to call for the investigation of Hillary Clinton over the Uranium One deal. Barr even told the New York Times that the Justice Department was “abdicating its responsibility” by investigating Trump’s associates but not the uranium deal, claiming, falsely, that there is more basis for scrutinizing Clinton than potential Russian collusion. These views are both absurd and ominous given that, if confirmed, Barr will presumably oversee the Mueller probe. So, too, is Barr’s recommendation in 1992 that President George H.W. Bush pardon six key players in the Iran-Contra scandal, four of whom had already been convicted of lying to investigators. But the sad truth is that Barr is probably the least dangerous person Trump would plausibly choose to serve as America’s chief law enforcement officer.

Yet Trump tweets: “Totally clears the President. Thank you!” In court documents filed Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller for the first time cites President Trump’s time in the White House as relevant in the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It’s the same time frame in which Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, says he prepared and circulated a statement to congressional investigators that was false. The revelations were two of four areas in which the special counsel says Cohen provided “useful” assistance in the Russia investigation over the course of seven meetings with investigators. The Mueller filing and a separate one also filed Friday by federal prosecutors in New York essentially place the president as a key figure in multiple federal investigations. Yet Trump wrote on Twitter about an hour after the filings became public: “Totally clears the President. Thank you!”

The special counsel accused Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman of breaching his plea deal in the ongoing Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller met a deadline on Friday to release a court filing explaining why he accused former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of breaching his plea deal with investigators.

Former Trump lawyer pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Russian real estate deal involving the president’s business during the 2016 campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday did not recommend a specific sentence for President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, citing his continued cooperation. “The sentence imposed should reflect the fact that lying to federal investigators has real consequences, especially where the defendant lied to investigators about critical facts, in an investigation of national importance,” prosecutors wrote in their court filing Friday. “However, the defendant has made substantial and significant efforts to remediate his misconduct, accept responsibility for his actions, and assist the SCO’s investigation. Accordingly, the Government respectfully submits that the Court should give due consideration to the defendant’s efforts set forth above and that it would be appropriate to allow the defendant to serve any sentence imposed in this case concurrently with any sentence imposed in United State v. Cohen.” Cohen pleaded guilty last month to lying to Congress about negotiations over a Russian real estate dealing involving Trump’s business during the 2016 presidential election. In a separate memo filed by the Southern District of New York on Friday, prosecutors recommended a “substantial term of imprisonment” for Cohen despite his cooperation into a probe of Trump’s past financial dealings.

Paul Manafort allegedly lied to prosecutors about his communications with officials in the Trump administration, "information pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation" and more, the government said in a court filing on Friday. Manafort met with prosecutors 12 times and testified twice before a grand jury, the Justice Department said. During that time, prosecutors say Manafort didn't tell the truth about key topics even though he had agreed to cooperate with the government in any way it wanted as part of his guilty plea. The office of special counsel Robert Mueller included the details in a document filed with a federal judge that argues that Manafort has violated that plea agreement. Manafort's statements "were not instances of mere memory lapses," prosecutors wrote. "If the defendant contends the government has not acted in good faith, the government is able to prove the false statements at a hearing."

New York (CNN)Federal prosecutors in New York said in a court filing Friday that President Donald Trump's former longtime personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, should receive a "substantial" prison sentence of roughly four years for tax fraud and campaign finance crimes, and prosecutors from special counsel Robert Mueller's office accused him in a separate filing of lying to them about his contacts with Russia. Mueller also revealed that a Russian national who claimed to be well-connected in Moscow spoke with Cohen in 2015 and offered "political synergy" with the Trump campaign. The pair of memos from two sets of prosecutors reflect their views of Cohen's criminality and utility to the federal investigations ahead of his scheduled sentencing on December 12. In their filing, prosecutors from the Manhattan US Attorney's office knocked Cohen's "rose-colored view of the seriousness of his crimes," noting his years-long willingness to break the law. "He was motivated to do so by personal greed, and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends," the filing said.

Special counsel Robert Mueller said Friday that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied about five major issues after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, including his "contact with administration officials." In a heavily redacted document, Mueller also said Manafort lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik. Mueller has said Kilimnik has ties to the Russian military intelligence unit accused of hacking the Democrats, and they've previously outlined how the two men may have worked together to tamper with witnesses following Manafort's arrest last year. The accusations by Mueller add to growing signs that the special counsel's team has a wealth of evidence about contacts between people close to Trump -- even in the White House -- and Russians during the 2016 campaign. The document also contains the stunning disclosure that Mueller can show, including with text messages, that Manafort was in contact with Trump administration officials early this year -- even after he was indicted in late 2017. The new and damaging information for the White House comes at a time when every move by Mueller appears to bring his investigation deeper into the White House and Trump's inner circle, and shows it has expanded well beyond what may or may not have happened in the 2016 campaign.

Federal prosecutors said on Friday that President Trump directed illegal payments to ward off a potential sex scandal that threatened his chances of winning the White House in 2016, putting the weight of the Justice Department behind accusations previously made by his former lawyer. The lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, had said that as the election neared, Mr. Trump directed him to pay two women who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump. But in a new memorandum arguing for a prison term for Mr. Cohen, prosecutors in Manhattan said he “acted in coordination and at the direction of” an unnamed individual, clearly referring to Mr. Trump. In another filing, prosecutors for the special counsel revealed that as early as November 2015, a Russian citizen offered Mr. Cohen “government level” synergy between Russia and Mr. Trump’s campaign. That approach, which Mr. Cohen did not pursue, came months before other known approaches by Russian emissaries to the campaign.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III told a judge Friday that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, told “multiple dis­cern­ible lies” during interviews with prosecutors, including about his contacts with an employee who is alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence. The allegations came in a new court filing by the special counsel that pointed to some the questions prosecutors have been asking a key witness in their closely-held investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Mueller’s prosecutors filed a portion of the document under seal and redacted other key points from view. But they said that Manafort had told numerous lies in five different areas, including about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm who prosecutors have said has Russian intelligence ties. Manafort met twice during the campaign with Kilimnik.

Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday said President Donald Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer Michael Cohen made “substantial and significant efforts to remediate his misconduct,” and help Mueller’s ongoing criminal investigations. Mueller also said he was not taking a position on what sentence Cohen should receive next Wednesday when he is sentenced for the crime of lying to Congress.

Federal prosecutors in New York have filed their sentencing memo for President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen. Cohen pleaded guilty last week to Mueller’s charge that he lied to Congress about an aborted proposal to build a Trump Tower development in Moscow.  Cohen’s attorneys submitted their own sentencing document a day after Cohen’s most recent plea agreement, asking a federal judge to sentence Cohen to no time in prison. Federal prosecutors in New York have filed their sentencing memo for President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen. Here are the quick takeaways from the filing: The Southern District of New York cited sentencing guidelines of 51 to 63 months in prison when referring to the sentence. Prosecutors asked for a “substantial term of imprisonment.” But they noted that their recommendation be modestly lower than the suggested range of prison time suggested in federal guidelines. Prosecutors also wrote: “While Cohen – as his own submission makes clear – already enjoyed a privileged life, his desire for even greater wealth and influence precipitated an extensive course of criminal conduct.” The U.S. attorney’s office noted that Cohen’s cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe provided information that “was ultimately credible and useful to its ongoing investigation.”

For the past two years, attempting to understand the complexities of the Mueller investigation and President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia has felt like stumbling through a smoke-filled landscape. For every news story that seemed to chart a path forward, a new layer of unanswered questions would cloud the way. The past seven days may have marked the point at which things began to change, when the smoke began to dissipate, if only the tiniest amount. One of the biggest developments of the past week, Robert Mueller’s Wednesday sentencing memo for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, can be read in a very straightforward way. Despite the insistence of the president and his surrogates, Mueller still has plenty to reveal, and a lot of it will get to the heart of the question of whether any Trump officials colluded with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

The Environmental Protection Agency acted again to ease rules on the sagging U.S. coal industry, this time scaling back what would have been a tough control on climate-changing emissions from any new coal plants. The latest Trump administration targeting of legacy Obama administration efforts to slow climate change comes in the wake of multiplying warnings from the agency's scientists and others about the accelerating pace of global warming. In a ceremony at the agency, acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a proposal to dismantle a 2015 rule that any new coal power plants include cutting-edge techniques to capture the carbon dioxide from their smokestacks. Wheeler called the Obama rules "excessive burdens" for the coal industry. "This administration cares about action and results, not talks and wishful thinking," Wheeler said. Asked about the harm that coal plant emission do people and the environment, Wheeler responded, "Having cheap electricity helps human health."

A sheriff's sergeant who responded to a mass shooting last month at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks was killed by friendly fire from a California Highway Patrol officer's weapon during a shootout with the suspect, authorities announced Friday. At a morning press conference, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said Sgt. Ron Helus was struck five times by bullets from the suspect and a sixth time by a round from the CHP officer's AR-type rifle. Both law enforcement officers had entered the venue to confront 28-year-old Ian David Long, who shot 13 people before he fatally turned his weapon on himself. Helus and 11 other victims died in the Sept. 7 incident. "This was a dynamic, chaotic event that led to a very brief but furious gun battle between the killer and the lawmen," Ayub said. "We believe that Sgt. Helus was clearly not the intended target of the CHP officer -- which further illustrates the extreme situation both men faced." According to the county's chief medical examiner, Helus' initial wounds were survivable, but the sixth bullet proved deadly when it struck his heart.

The threat from President Trump and Republicans to take health care away — including a pending case that would strike down a large part of the law — has hit alarming levels. Yes, the Democrats reclaimed the House. But you should not assume that your health care coverage is now safe. The biggest threat is President Trump himself: His administration has been relentlessly assaulting the Affordable Care Act for two years, and that threat has not abated. Democrats may have made significant electoral gains by running on the protection of the pre-existing-conditions guarantee to insurance, but Republicans apparently aren’t listening. The president and his party remain focused on taking health care away. The administration has instituted administrative rules and guidance letters intended to undermine the insurance markets, trick the healthy into buying junk plans, and leave the less healthy with unaffordable premiums. It has also succeeded in reducing enrollment, making access to health care harder for the poor and immigrant populations and, for the first time in a decade, raising the number of uninsured children. To add insult to injury, it refuses to defend the A.C.A. in a ludicrous lawsuit in Texas — in which it now appears the judge may very well strike down a large part of the law, including the ban on pre-existing conditions. The entire A.C.A. is at stake. Don’t be fooled by the president’s claims that these problems are inherent in Obamacare.

The special counsel’s office is expected to reveal more details on Friday about separate investigations that have ensnared President Trump’s personal lawyer and his former campaign chairman. Federal prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will submit a sentencing memorandum in Manhattan federal court outlining how much time Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael D. Cohen should spend in prison for admitting he lied to Congress. Mr. Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced next week and has agreed to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s team as well as prosecutors in Manhattan investigating the president’s inner circle. In the case of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was convicted of financial fraud and who agreed to cooperate with the special counsel rather than face a second trial, Mr. Mueller’s team has accused him of repeatedly lying to investigators. Prosecutors pulled out of their plea deal with him because, they said, he was repeatedly untruthful. They were expected to disclose details about his falsehoods on Friday. Mr. Mueller’s team has left open the possibility that it could file new charges for lying against Mr. Manafort. Mr. Manafort’s lawyers say he has been honest with prosecutors.

White House chief of staff John Kelly was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller's team in recent months, three people with knowledge of the matter told CNN. Kelly responded to a narrow set of questions from special counsel investigators after White House lawyers initially objected to Mueller's request to do the interview earlier this summer, the sources said. Kelly is widely expected to leave his position in the coming days and is no longer on speaking terms with President Donald Trump, CNN reported earlier Friday. Kelly is the latest high-ranking White House official known to provide information for Mueller's investigation, though his interview marks a departure of sorts since Kelly didn't join the White House until July 2017. Most of the dozens of other interviews have been with people who were associated with the Trump campaign, were part of the transition or served in the early part of the administration.

Since being fired by President Donald Trump as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson has kept a very low profile. But on Thursday night in Houston, Tillerson broke that silence in a big way. Here's how he described the "why" behind the breakdown of his relationship with the President, according to the Houston Chronicle: "So often, the President would say here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can't do it that way. It violates the law." Um, what??? The President of the United States would tell the secretary of state how he wanted things done and the secretary of state would have to tell him it couldn't be done the way he wanted because that was illegal? This is all fine! What's scary about Tillerson's admission? A few things. 1) Trump either doesn't know the law or doesn't care about the law. 2) This isn't the first time we've heard of this sort of I-am-the-law, Judge Dredd-like behavior from the President. On that second point, remember that former FBI director James Comey has testified -- under oath -- that Trump, in a one-on-one meeting, asked him to put aside the Justice Department investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The President publicly pressured then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take up an investigation of Hillary Clinton's email server. (Clinton was not charged in a previous FBI investigation.). Time and time again -- particularly in his interactions with the Justice Department -- Trump has shown that he has zero understanding of the limits of his job. Tillerson described Trump as "a man who's undisciplined, doesn't like to read, doesn't read briefing reports, doesn't like to get into the details of a lot of things but rather says 'this is what I believe.'"

The ex-secretary of state also reiterated that ‘there’s no question’ Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sharply criticized his former boss in a wide-ranging interview at the MD Anderson Cancer Center on Thursday night, admitting publicly that President Trump was a “pretty undisciplined” man who “doesn’t like to read” and often had to be reminded about the law. In the rare public appearance since his ouster from Trump’s cabinet, Tillerson told CBS News reporter Bob Schieffer at the Houston event that he had never met Trump until the day he was asked to be secretary of state. According to Tillerson, he repeatedly had to stop Trump from engaging in illegal activity. “So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it, and I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law. It violates treaty,’’ Tillerson said, before reiterating a claim he made before he was ousted on March 13—that “there’s no question” Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

Imminent filings in Manafort and Cohen’s cases, plus the former FBI director’s upcoming congressional testimony, apparently put the president on edge. Donald Trump launched an early morning Twitter attack on Robert Mueller’s investigators Friday, hours before the special counsel’s team is set to deliver important court filings in his cases against the president’s former campaign chairman and his longtime legal fixer. The president quickly turned his eight-tweet rant into an analysis of Mueller and his team, who today will drop new public information in the cases of Paul Manafort and and Michael Cohen. James Comey, whom Trump dubbed “Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey,” will also testify before the House intelligence committee today. In total, Trump wrote nearly 300 words lambasting the men responsible for the Trump-Russia investigation over the past two years. “Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest,” Trump began. “And bye the way, wasn’t the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of “legal” at the corrupt Clinton Foundation? A total Witch Hunt [sic],” Trump continued, referring to Jeannie Rhee, who was appointed by Mueller to join his team.

Washington (CNN) In the hectic eight days after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and top FBI officials viewed Trump as a leader who needed to be reined in, according to two sources describing the sentiment at the time. They discussed a range of options, including the idea of Rosenstein wearing a wire while speaking with Trump, which Rosenstein later denied. Ultimately, then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe took the extraordinary step of opening an obstruction of justice investigation even before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed, the sources said. The obstruction probe was an idea the FBI had previously considered, but it didn't start until after Comey was fired. The justification went beyond Trump's firing of Comey, according to the sources, and also included the President's conversation with Comey in the Oval Office asking him to drop the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The new details about the genesis of the obstruction case into Trump that became a key element of the Mueller probe shed light on the chaotic week following Comey's firing and the scramble to decide how best to respond. They also help to explain the origins of the Mueller investigation that has stretched across 19 months, consumed Trump's presidency and is building toward a dramatic day of courtroom filings on Friday.

While President Donald Trump has pushed hardline immigration policies and vilified undocumented immigrants, his private club in New Jersey has employed people who managers allegedly knew were in the country illegally, The New York Times reported Thursday. The Times found two women who say they entered the United States unlawfully but were employed at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Victorina Morales, a native of Guatemala, told the newspaper she had crossed into the US illegally in 1999 and was hired at the club in 2013 as a housekeeper using phony documentation. Another woman, Sandra Diaz, who's from Costa Rica and is now a legal resident of the US, said she was also undocumented when she worked at Bedminster between 2010 and 2013, the Times reported.

Trump didn’t recite the profession of faith during the funeral for former President George H.W. Bush. People on Twitter are calling out President Donald Trump for failing to recite the Apostles’ Creed at the funeral for former President George H. W. Bush on Wednesday. Footage from the event shows much of the church, including the former presidents seated with Trump, standing to recite the profession of faith. Trump and first lady Melania Trump stood, but did not recite the creed, which was written in the program, nor did they sing the hymns. Given Trump’s widespread support among evangelical Christians, that led to plenty of criticism on social media.

When GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger lost his primary by a narrow margin in May, he suspected something was amiss. The congressman turned to a group of friends and family who had gathered with him on election night at a steakhouse near Charlotte and blamed the “ballot stuffers in Bladen,” according to three people at the gathering. Pittenger’s concern stemmed from the vote tallies in rural Bladen County, where his challenger, a pastor from the Charlotte suburbs named Mark Harris, had won 437 absentee mail-in votes. Pittenger, a three-term incumbent, had received just 17. In the days immediately after the race, aides to Pittenger told the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party and a regional political director for the National Republican Congressional Committee that they believed fraud had occurred, according to people familiar with their discussions. GOP officials did little to scrutinize the results, instead turning their attention to Harris’s general-election campaign against a well-funded Democratic opponent, the people said.

By passing legislation to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, Wisconsin Republicans followed the lead of their counterparts in North Carolina — and, as in North Carolina, they are likely to face major legal challenges. Two years ago, after Roy Cooper, a Democrat, unseated the Republican governor, Pat McCrory, G.O.P. supermajorities in the North Carolina General Assembly passed sweeping restrictions on Mr. Cooper’s power. Among other things, they expanded the state elections board and split it evenly between Democrats and Republicans so Mr. Cooper could not appoint a Democratic majority; slashed the number of employees who served at the governor’s pleasure; and limited Mr. Cooper’s authority to select members for numerous state boards, including those that regulate industry and finance. It was a move that tested legal limits and prompted outrage from Democrats. It also set a precedent that could pave the way for similar actions in other states — even though courts have ruled that much of the North Carolina package violates the state constitution.

Attorneys for Maria Butina and the Justice Department gave more signs Thursday morning they are negotiating a plea deal for the accused Russian spy. In a conference call with a federal judge in Washington, the attorneys said another upcoming hearing in the case should be canceled and that subpoenas planned for American University, where Butina was a graduate student, may be withdrawn by the end of this week. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys have previously indicated they were negotiating to end Butina's case.

A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison discusses how Republicans in the state are strangling democracy. Wisconsin's Republican-controlled legislature has apparently decided to kill democracy in their own state. Political observers can already see how protests are erupting throughout the state in response to how the Republican legislature voted to significantly reduce the powers of Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul before they can take office, according to CNN. Wisconsin Republicans are hardly innovators here — North Carolina Republicans passed a similar law after a Democrat won the governor's mansion in their state in 2016, and Michigan Republicans are aiming to do something similar right now — but the situation is particularly galling in Wisconsin due to its reputation as a bastion of integrity when it comes to the democratic process. In order to better understand both the radical nature of the legislature's actions and what it will mean for the future of democracy in Wisconsin, Salon spoke by email with Michael Wagner, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in "research, teaching, and service are animated by the question, 'how well does democracy work?'" Is there any precedent in Wisconsin's history for the legislature to disempower the governor and other top state officials in this fashion? I am not aware of such a precedent. When Gov. Walker replaced outgoing Gov. Doyle, Doyle halted his signature high-speed rail project at Walker’s request, as Walker had been against it. What is happening now in Wisconsin is a subversion of democracy – Wisconsin Republican lawmakers are changing the job descriptions of the governor and attorney general between Election Day and Inauguration Day simply because their side lost. This is a textbook example of how democracies die. That is, when norms about the peaceful transfer of power are violated, we are in trouble.

Trump’s concealment of his efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow raise a series of serious questions. After Michael Cohen pleaded guilty on Nov. 29 to lying to Congress about the details of his negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, Trump reacted with his usual mix of scorn and lies. Trump suggested first, and falsely, that everyone had known about the project during the campaign, and second, that it was perfectly fine for him to pursue the project while simultaneously running for president. In fact, Trump’s pursuit of the project during the campaign was highly problematic and may very well have been part of a bribery scheme involving the president of the United States. For starters, Trump’s repeated lies about negotiations to build his dream tower could have left him susceptible to Russian blackmail attempts. Every single time Trump lied publicly about those negotiations, people in the know in Russia could have exerted leverage over Trump by threatening to expose his lies. That possibility — that Trump was vulnerable to blackmail by a hostile power —constitutes an intelligence and national security nightmare that should alarm Americans of any political stripe. Just as importantly, however, Trump’s concealment of his efforts to build the Trump Tower may suggest a criminal conspiracy that hasn’t gotten widespread attention yet. Cohen’s guilty plea indicates that Trump and his representatives were actively negotiating with the Kremlin over the planned Trump Tower in Moscow throughout the campaign, including “as late as June 2016” — in other words after Trump became the presumptive Republican Party nominee in May of 2016. Thus, Trump’s business entanglements with Russia coincided with Russia’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election and to undermine Hilary Clinton. And, of course, at the same time, Trump the candidate was talking about easing economic sanctions on Russia and generally taking a more favorable foreign policy stance toward Russia.

Emails and other internal Facebook documents released by a British parliamentary committee on Wednesday show how the social media giant gave favored companies like Airbnb, Lyft and Netflix special access to users’ data. The documents shine a light on Facebook’s internal workings from roughly 2012 to 2015, during a period of explosive growth as the company was navigating how to manage the mountains of data it was accumulating on users. The committee said the documents show Facebook entering into agreements with select companies to allow them access to data after the company made policy changes that restricted access for others. Other emails show the company debating whether to give app developers that spent money advertising with it more access to its data. In other instances, Facebook discussed shutting off access to companies it viewed as competitors. The release of the documents has been in dispute for more than a week because the materials have been under seal by a California judge as part of an unrelated lawsuit between Facebook and app developer.

Republicans have spent years warning us that voter fraud is rampant. Despite no evidence that this is the case -- election fraud in the United States is in fact rare -- the GOP has put legislation into place in states across the country to make it harder to vote, arguing that it's necessary to protect the sanctity of elections. They take voter fraud seriously, they say. It's become one of their core issues. So we would expect that, faced with a rare case of potentially serious and pervasive electoral fraud, they would jump on it -- insist on an investigation, figure out exactly what happened, punish wrongdoers and close whatever holes in the system led to the abuses. There are indeed serious allegations of election fraud tied to North Carolina's midterm elections right now in a congressional district where results appear abnormal. But instead of insisting on investigating, Republicans are waving it away and insisting there's nothing to see. Why the sudden about-face on this allegedly serious crime? Because the Republican candidate, Mark Harris won -- by 905 votes -- and may have benefited from the alleged fraud. And of course the GOP position was never about protecting our democracy at all. It was about suppressing votes for Democrats and giving themselves an unfair advantage.

During a discussion about President Trump's tweets praising Roger Stone, CNN's Jake Tapper says the reaction would have been be "explosive" if another recent president had behaved similarly

The FBI is investigating a cyber attack on the campaign arm of congressional Republicans during the 2018 election cycle, a spokesman confirmed to CBS News' Rebecca Kaplan. The National Republican Congressional Committee was a "victim of a cyber intrusion by an unknown entity," NRCC spokesman Ian Prior said. "The cybersecurity of the Committee's data is paramount, and upon learning of the intrusion, the NRCC immediately launched an internal investigation and notified the FBI, which is now investigating the matter," Prior said. Politico first reported the hack, saying four senior aides were surveilled for several months. Politico also reported top Republicans, including speaking of the House Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, learned of the hack from Politico's inquiries. President Trump has bashed Democrats when they were hacked during the 2016 presidential campaign, claiming the Democratic National Committee was "poorly defended." "Only reason the hacking of the poorly defended DNC is discussed is that the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!" Mr. Trump tweeted in January 2017. He also accused the Democrats of being weak for getting hacked in a July 2018 interview with CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor. "I think the DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked," Mr. Trump said. "They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked."

Lawmakers sparred in sharp, angry tones. Furious demonstrators drowned out cheery Christmas carols being sung by schoolchildren. Visitors were cleared from a Capitol gallery, escorted away as they chanted: “Shame! Shame! Shame!” So went a long and tumultuous day in Wisconsin, as Republicans who control this state’s Legislature pushed forward an extensive list of measures aimed at limiting the power of a newly elected governor and attorney general — both Democrats — before either of them take office. Other parts of the sprawling legislative package would swiftly advance the Republican lawmakers’ agenda on matters unlikely to win a Democrat’s signature, such as limits to early voting. Republicans gained control of many Midwestern states over the last decade, but they suffered significant setbacks in the midterm elections, losing governor’s offices and several other top posts in states like Michigan, Illinois, Kansas and Wisconsin. In the weeks since the election, Republican leaders in some of those states have aimed to exert their influence with lawmaking sessions before Democrats arrive.

President Trump spent much of last spring accusing Amazon of pulling a “scam” on the American taxpayer and ripping off the United States Postal Service. On Tuesday, his administration delivered its own verdict: Not so much. The task force created by Mr. Trump to investigate the Postal Service’s finances did conclude that the mail system is losing money. But a report issued on Tuesday said that commercial package delivery for Amazon and other e-commerce retailers was actually profitable for the Postal Service and was not costing the United States “massive amounts of money,” as Mr. Trump has suggested in his tweets. Commercial package delivery is not profitable enough to offset the revenue losses the Postal Service is suffering, however, as Americans mail fewer and fewer first-class letters, and the Treasury Department task force outlined several recommendations to help shore up its finances.

The man at the center of an election fraud investigation in a North Carolina congressional race turned in nearly half of the requests for absentee ballots in a single county, records released Tuesday by the state's elections board show. Leslie McCrae Dowless, a veteran political operative in Bladen County who was convicted of insurance fraud in 1992 and was connected to questionable absentee ballot activity in another election, is at the center of a probe into unusual activity in the county. Dowless worked for Republican candidate Mark Harris, a Baptist minister who tallied 905 more votes than Democratic businessman and retired Marine Dan McCready. Dowless personally turned in 592 of the 1,341 total absentee ballots requested in Bladen County. Only 684 absentee ballots were ultimately cast in the county. Dowless did not return CNN's request for comment. Dowless has denied any wrongdoing to The Charlotte Observer.

More than 400 former Justice Department attorneys and staffers called for the removal of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker in a statement circulated Tuesday, claiming that his appointment violated the Constitution because he lacked Senate confirmation required of other Cabinet officials. The statement, organized by the government watchdog group Protect Democracy, was signed by the Justice alums, many of whom served both Democratic and Republican administrations. "Because of our respect for our oaths of office and our personal experiences carrying out the department’s mission, we are disturbed by the president’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker to serve as Acting Attorney General," the statement read. "Because of the profound responsibilities the position entails and the independence it requires, it can only be filled by someone who has been subjected to the strictest scrutiny under the process required by the Constitution." The opposition statement comes as a number of pending legal actions challenge the temporary replacement for fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Wells Fargo says a computer glitch is partly to blame for an error affecting an estimated 545 customers who lost their homes. The giant bank filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month, revealing it incorrectly denied 870 loan modification requests. About 60 percent of those homeowners went into foreclosure. Legislators, housing advocates, regulators and most importantly, the people who lost their homes – people like Jose Aguilar – are asking how this happened. "It's been very hard for me. It's something I wouldn't wish upon anybody," Aguilar told CBS News correspondent Anna Werner.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to lash out at special counsel Robert Mueller and attack his former personal attorney Michael Cohen. But he offered praise to his former adviser Roger Stone, who is also under scrutiny by the special counsel. CNN's Ana Cabrera discusses with former federal prosecutor Elie Honig.

Michael Avenatti will not face a felony in his domestic violence case ... according to the L.A. County District Attorney's Office. The D.A. has referred the matter to the L.A. City Attorney's Office. The City Attorney will now have to decide whether to charge Avenatti with misdemeanor domestic violence. TMZ broke the story ... Stormy Daniels' lawyer was arrested last week for felony domestic violence after his girlfriend, Mareli Miniutti, filed a police report, alleging Avenatti had gotten physically violent with her during an argument in their high-rise apartment in the Century City neighborhood of L.A. Mareli also got a restraining order against Avenatti.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office is expected to file a sentencing memo for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Tuesday, which will contain the special counsel's recommended sentence. The memo is also likely to lay out the extent of Flynn's cooperation with the government after he admitted last December that he lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Beyond illuminating the extent of Flynn's cooperation with Mueller, the memo could provide a window into what the special counsel has found so far in its probe, which began in May 2017.

U.S. stocks tumbled in Tuesday trading in a selling wave that obliterated the market's gain from the day before when Wall Street celebrated news of a truce in the U.S.-China trade fight. The celebration may have been premature, as experts warned that the two countries remain far apart in ironing out key disputes over tariffs as well as protection of technology secrets and intellectual property. President Trump even reminded his Twitter followers Tuesday morning: "I am a Tariff Man." "Narrow agreements and modest concessions in the ongoing [U.S-China] trade dispute will not bridge the wide gulf in their respective economic, political and strategic interests," said  Atsi Sheth, managing director at Moody's Investors Service, in an email. The Dow ended Tuesday down nearly 800 points, or 3.1 percent, to 25,027.54, more than erasing its 488-point gain over the previous two trading days. The S&P 500-stock index fell 3.2 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index dropped 3.8 percent. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks now has a loss for the year.

Donald Trump has agreed not to escalate his trade war with China, but many other countries have also been affected by the US president's America First trade policy. From Spanish olives to Canadian steel, no corner of the world has been untouched by US trade tariffs - a tax on foreign products - since President Trump entered the White House. Along the way, he has rewritten the rule book for how the US goes about the process of protecting its domestic trade.

Hours after Jeffrey Epstein’s trial ended in a plea deal, Florida lawmakers set their sights on Trump Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s role in that deal. Hours after Jeffrey Epstein settled a civil lawsuit that was about to go to trial, a Florida congresswoman stood outside the courthouse and demanded an investigation into another aspect of the disgraced billionaire’s long-running drama: the role Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta played in a sweetheart plea deal. “We are hoping for transparency,” Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat, said at a press conference a day after she and 14 other lawmakers called on the Department of Justice inspector general to open a probe. “It is just a shocking plea agreement.”

One day after President Donald Trump’s pal Roger Stone crowed he would have to lie to “bear false witness against” POTUS, Stone instead invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself as he turned down a request to turn over documents and testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee’s top Dem, Sen. Dianne Feinstein posted the letter of response from Stone’s attorney Grant Smith,  (read it here) in which he said, “Mr. Stone’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege must be understood by all to be the assertion of a Constitutional right by an innocent citizen who denounces secrecy.” Trump famously said during his race to the White House that “the mob take the Fifth; if you’re innocent, why do you take the Fifth Amendment?”

Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean reacts to President Donald Trump's history of criticizing those who invoke their Fifth Amendment right.

President Trump won’t be testifying, though lawyers in the case tried to depose him. President Bill Clinton won’t be there either, though he, like Trump, was an occasional guest of the man at the center of the trial, billionaire sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein. Don’t expect to find Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta in the courtroom in West Palm Beach, Fla., though his decision not to prosecute Epstein was a milestone in the twisting path toward the courtroom showdown that is finally supposed to begin Tuesday after nearly nine years of byzantine bickering. Even Epstein himself, the prime figure in the legal battle, isn’t expected to show up; he’ll deliver his version of this epic by affidavit. Though the trial mainly will feature battalions of lawyers fighting over the actions of another set of lawyers, the case could offer a window into a sordid saga of sexual exploitation that includes many big names in American politics.

Michael Avenatti, the hard-charging lawyer for Stormy Daniels who had been flirting with a presidential campaign, announced on Tuesday that he would not run. Mr. Avenatti has been a persistent critic of President Trump and has represented Ms. Daniels, a pornographic film actress, in lawsuits against Mr. Trump and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. He has long argued that in order to win in 2020, Democrats need to nominate someone who can go toe-to-toe with President Trump, implicitly rejecting the “when they go low, we go high” philosophy espoused by Michelle Obama. He reiterated that sentiment in his statement on Tuesday.

A black man killed by the police in an Alabama mall in November was shot three times from behind, according to a forensic examination commissioned by the man’s family. The finding, announced in a news conference on Monday, was seen by the man’s family and lawyers as evidence he was running away and posed no threat to the officer who shot him. Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., 21, was fatally shot in the middle of a panicked crowd at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Ala., on Nov. 22, as officers responded to reports of gunshots on Thanksgiving night. Witnesses said Mr. Bradford, who was legally carrying a handgun, was directing shoppers to safety.

The president’s tweets appeared to be evidence of tampering with witnesses. For well over a year now, evidence has steadily accumulated that President Trump may have obstructed justice in connection with the investigation into his 2016 campaign. But Monday, Trump edged closer to an open display of obstruction and witness tampering: He urged potential witnesses against him to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement — and implied threats against those who do. Trump began by publicly attacking Michael Cohen, his former attorney and fixer, who pleaded guilty last week to lying to Congress about a Trump real estate project in Moscow and who has been cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Trump suggested in a series of tweets not only that Cohen is lying but also that he should receive no benefit for cooperating, as Cohen’s lawyers have requested: “‘Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time.’ You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? … He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”

In mid-May 2017, Paul Manafort, facing intensifying pressure to settle debts and pay mounting legal bills, flew to Ecuador to offer his services to a potentially lucrative new client — the country’s incoming president, Lenín Moreno. Mr. Manafort made the trip mainly to see if he could broker a deal under which China would invest in Ecuador’s power system, possibly yielding a fat commission for Mr. Manafort. But the talks turned to a diplomatic sticking point between the United States and Ecuador: the fate of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In at least two meetings with Mr. Manafort, Mr. Moreno and his aides discussed their desire to rid themselves of Mr. Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, in exchange for concessions like debt relief from the United States, according to three people familiar with the talks, the details of which have not been previously reported.

Of all of President Trump’s former associates who have come under scrutiny in the special counsel’s Russia investigation, his former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, has undertaken perhaps the most surprising and risky legal strategy. Mr. Cohen has twice pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to a litany of crimes, and he has volunteered information to the special counsel and other agencies investigating Mr. Trump and his inner circle. He did all this without first obtaining a traditional, ironclad deal under which the government would commit to seeking leniency on Mr. Cohen’s behalf when he is sentenced on Dec. 12. Mr. Cohen has concluded that his life has been utterly destroyed by his relationship with Mr. Trump and his own actions, and to begin anew he needed to speed up the legal process by quickly confessing his crimes and serving any sentence he receives, according to his friends and associates, and analysis of documents in the case. He has told friends that he is mystified that he is taking the fall for actions he carried out on behalf of Mr. Trump, who remains unscathed. Still, he is resigned to accepting responsibility.

Self-dealing and foreign influence were their biggest fears for the presidency. Michael Cohen’s guilty plea for lying to Congress about Donald Trump’s Moscow project prompted a new frenzy of “Did the president commit a crime?” chatter among legal pundits. Finding—or refuting—a smoking gun of criminality has become the singular focus for the president’s supporters and critics alike, and his ex-lawyer’s plea deal has turbocharged the search for evidence that will definitely prove his illegal behavior. The implication is that the federal criminal code is the only arbiter of President Trump’s fitness to remain in office and that special counsel Robert Mueller will have the final say on the matter. As a former FBI agent and lawyer, I sympathize with the temptation to find the statute that will crack open this case. But what matters most here is not found in a criminal law text. It’s a 230-year-old document in the National Archives. Cohen’s guilty plea on Thursday demonstrates that Trump’s behavior is fundamentally incompatible with the vision of government expressed by the Constitution itself. To wit, Trump not only believes it’s OK to profit from the presidency, but he’s also willing to put the U.S. under a foreign adversary’s thumb to do it.

The U.S. Navy has concerns about meeting recruiting targets due to a more stringent policy for green-card holders adopted by the Trump administration, according to a report by The Washington Post. A military official speaking to the newspaper anonymously said there are over 2,800 green-card holders waiting to start basic training. Naval officials called this backlog “untenable” in a document obtained by The Post, adding the situation brings “increasing risk of mission failure.”

Along with the ornaments and strands of lights, two police officers in the 4th precinct of Minneapolis' Police Department added some unusual items to their lobby's Christmas tree: A collection of street trash, including packs of Newport cigarettes, a crumpled bag of Takis chips, a cup from a Popeyes fried chicken outlet, a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor and some yellow crime scene tape. Critics say the items chosen play on negative stereotypes about African-Americans. "These pieces of trash were deliberately chosen to represent how certain officers feel about the community they serve: that Black people are a stereotype to be mocked and the lives of those they serve may as well be reduced to trash in the gutter," City Councilman Phillipe Cunningham said on Facebook. The department has since placed the officers on leave and has launched an internal investigation amid an outcry that the decorations mocked the precinct's predominantly black neighborhoods.

Republicans are suddenly pushing “good governance” in states they lost power in. Republicans are about to lose their grip on power in a number of states, and they’re trying their hardest to sour Democrats’ election wins. In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker will have to pass the baton to Democrat Tony Evers come January, but before he does, the state’s GOP-controlled legislature has called for an “extraordinary session” to curb Evers’s power in office and potentially make it harder for Democrats to get elected in the future. A similar tale is playing out in Michigan, where Democrats Gretchen Whitmer, Dana Nessel, and Jocelyn Benson handily won the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state races, respectively. Michigan Republicans are trying to make sure the Democratic trifecta has less power to undermine Republicans’ legislative accomplishments. The state governments have proposed a slate of bills that would touch everything from voting access to the judicial system. In Wisconsin, the proposals, some of which are expected to pass Tuesday, could limit Evers’s power to change policies around welfare, health care, and economic development, cut down early voting, and even allow the Republican-led legislature to hire their own lawyers to undermine the attorney general. In Michigan, a Republican proposal would guarantee the GOP-controlled legislature the right to intervene in any legal battles involving state laws that the attorney general may be reluctant to defend. If Republicans are successful, it’s a power grab that would seriously undermine the platform on which Evers campaigned, and won.

The top admiral overseeing US Naval forces in the Middle East, Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, was found dead in his residence in Bahrain on Saturday, the Navy said in a statement. While his death is being investigated, officials say there is no evidence of foul play at this time. "This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at Fifth Fleet, and for the entire Navy," Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, told CNN Saturday. "Adm. Stearney was a decorated professional and a devoted father, a devoted husband and a good friend."

At the post G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, US President Donald Trump held what the White House called a "very successful meeting" with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and agreed that current US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports of 10% will remain unchanged for 90 days. Tariffs were due to be raised to 25% on January 1. According to the White House, there will be a substantial increase in American exports to China of agricultural, energy, industrial and other products which will reduce the trade deficit in favor of China. The White House statement declares both sides will begin negotiations to resolve differences on forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft. Chinese state media reported Sunday that the two countries had reached "consensus on economic and trade issues" and that "healthy and stable economic and trade relations conform to common interests of the two countries and the whole world." The reality is far more unsettling, especially for China. We are merely entering the next phase of what will be an enduring economic competition between the world's two largest economies. For America, the next 90 days is about assessing testing how much further China is prepared to compromise. For China, it must rethink its fundamental negotiating strategy and time is running out.

"When you're attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation, you're losing," Sarah Sanders, then a Donald Trump campaign aide, famously said of Hillary Clinton supporters before the 2016 presidential election. Although she has repeatedly struggled with the facts -- and now serves as White House press secretary -- Sanders' apt tweet remains wisdom for the ages. Both President Donald Trump and Sanders have led the charge against special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors investigating the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia and other crimes unearthed in that endeavor. Trump has repeatedly called the investigation a "witch hunt" in an attempt to paint Mueller and his team as a band of corrupt authorities trying to bring down an innocent President. The closer Mueller gets, the more caustic Trump becomes. On Thursday, we saw yet another round of efforts to attack investigators after Michael Cohen, the President's former lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump's business dealings with Russia. While the President has maintained he had "nothing to do with Russia," Cohen told a federal court on Thursday that, acting as Trump's representative, he had been in communication with the Russian government about a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential campaign. Cohen previously told Congress that talks surrounding the project ended before the Iowa caucuses, but they continued for at least six months longer. Faced with the new revelations made public by his lawyer-turned-nemesis, Trump returned to familiar territory and lashed out against his accuser, along with Mueller and the investigation as a whole. He called Cohen a weak liar, while branding Mueller and his team of independent public servants "a total disgrace."

President Donald Trump on Monday called for his ex-personal lawyer Michael Cohen to receive a stiff prison sentence for his admitted crimes. Trump accused Cohen of making up "stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself." Trump also accused special counsel Robert Mueller of seeking "lies" from witnesses about Trump, and praised his longtime associate Roger Stone as having the "guts" to withstand pressure from Mueller's prosecutors to "make up stories" about the president. - Donald J. Trump should watch what he says his time will come to pay for his crimes and all the bad things he has said will come back to haunt him as people taunt him with his own words.

It appears that the Mueller investigation is reaching its endgame. After a two-month hiatus for the midterms, special counsel Robert Mueller's team is prepared to once again show its work. These developments are ominous for President Donald Trump. In short order, expect to see a case of conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election to be laid out in court. Defenders of the president have, despite the obvious progress of the Mueller investigation — more than 30 indictments or guilty pleas, including Trump’s campaign chairman, personal lawyer, national security adviser, deputy campaign manager and foreign policy adviser — consistently argued that “no collusion” has been proved. While it is true that the charges made public have not alleged conspiracy (there is no crime of “collusion”) it should be clear to all but the most obtuse by now that the endgame is drawing near. Mueller is laying out the predicate for a wide-ranging conspiracy case that will likely ensnare the president’s family and, quite likely, Trump himself.

"'Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time,'" Trump tweeted on Monday morning. "You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself." He followed that gem up with this: "Bob Mueller (who is a much different man than people think) and his out of control band of Angry Democrats, don't want the truth, they only want lies. The truth is very bad for their mission!" "He makes up stories." "They only want lies." It's fascinating that one of Trump's preferred lines of attack against his enemies also happens to be his greatest weakness/flaw: Telling the truth (or not). By now, everyone knows -- or should -- that Trump said more than 5,000 things in his first 601 days in office that were either totally false or misleading, according to a count maintained by The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog. What's less known but of critical import is how many people who are (or have been) very close to Trump are now proven-beyond-any-doubt liars. Sharon LaFraniere of The New York Times (you might have heard of it) made that point in a hugely important piece over the weekend. Here's the key bit: "If the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has proved anything in his 18-month-long investigation — besides how intensely Russia meddled in an American presidential election — it is that Mr. Trump surrounded himself throughout 2016 and early 2017 with people to whom lying seemed to be second nature.

President Donald Trump is embracing a former campaign adviser who stated that he won't testify against him as part of Robert Mueller's investigation, while calling for a "full and complete" prison sentence for his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is cooperating with the special counsel. In a series of tweets, Trump said Monday morning that Roger Stone, a Republican political operative and longtime Trump ally, has "guts" for saying that he won't testify against the President. "'I will never testify against Trump.' This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about 'President Trump.; Nice to know that some people still have 'guts!'" Trump tweeted Monday morning. Trump's politically charged tweets came as much of the nation's attention was on the late President George H.W. Bush, whose body was being transported from Houston to Washington, DC, to lie in state in the rotunda of the US Capitol until Wednesday morning. Stone has repeatedly said he won't testify against the President. Most recently, Stone told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that "there's no circumstance under which I would testify against the President because I'd have to bear false witness against him. - What did Donald J. Trump and company do that Trump is so afraid he is openly commit witness tamper it must be really bad.

CIA director Gina Haspel is expected to brief a handful of senators — including leaders of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees — on Tuesday about U.S. intelligence related to the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a congressional source familiar with plans for the briefing told CBS News. The CIA declined to comment on this report. Haspel's visit to Capitol Hill comes less than a week after her absence at a closed-door briefing on U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen triggered an uproar among key lawmakers. After the briefing, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, senators voted overwhelmingly, 63-37, to advance a resolution to cut American military assistance to Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi's brutal murder on Oct. 2 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, has generated a rift between the Trump administration and some of its most consistent supporters in Congress — including Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who threatened last week to withhold key votes until he received a briefing from Haspel. Graham later said he had been notified that a briefing would be forthcoming.

A congressional race in North Carolina that seemed to be settled on election night was reopened last week amid allegations of absentee ballot fraud. The Republican candidate, Mark Harris, has a 905-vote lead over the Democrat, Dan McCready. Mr. Harris won 61 percent of submitted absentee ballots in Bladen County, even though registered Republicans accounted for only 19 percent of the ballots submitted. To do that, he would have had to win essentially every independent who voted absentee, as well as some registered Democrats. In every other county in the district — even strongly Republican ones — Mr. McCready won the absentee vote. In an affidavit sent to the elections board, one Bladen County resident, Datesha Montgomery, said a woman had come to her door in October and collected her absentee ballot, which is illegal in North Carolina. Ms. Montgomery said that she had voted only for sheriff and school board, and that the woman “said she would finish it herself.” Another resident, Emma Shipman, said in an affidavit that a woman had similarly collected her ballot, which was unsealed and unsigned. A third, Lucy Young, said she had received an absentee ballot even though she had not requested one.

The death of former President George H.W. Bush  drew an immediate outpouring of condolences from around the country and  the world. From former presidents to representatives and business  leaders, the praise was overwhelming for the 41st president. His son, the 43rd president, sent an immediate statement on behalf of George H.W. Bush's children. "Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94  remarkable years, our dear dad has died. George H.W. Bush was a man of  the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for.  The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for  the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for dad and for the  condolences of our friends and fellow citizens."

The Trump administration has authorized five companies to "incidentally, but not intentionally, harass marine mammals" by using seismic air guns to search for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean. It's a decision opposed by environmental groups, who say the blasts could harm marine animals such as humpback whales, and some coastal communities, who fear it could be a precursor to offshore drilling. The authorizations issued by NOAA Fisheries are not the final step, however – the companies must also obtain permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management before they can start exploring. "Despite the massive, widespread and bipartisan opposition, the president is essentially giving these companies permission to harass, harm and potentially kill marine life – all in the pursuit of dirty and dangerous offshore oil," Diane Hoskins, the campaign director on offshore drilling for Oceana, said in a call with reporters.

Missouri woman charged with murder during rush-hour traffic. A Missouri woman charged with murder in the road-rage death of another driver reportedly told police she deliberately crashed into the other woman’s car then “slammed into her” when she got out to check the damage. Elizabeth McKeown, 46, is jailed without bond after pleading not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the Nov. 20 death of Barbara Foster, 57, the Springfield News-Leader reports. No attorney is listed for her in online court records. During an interview with police, McKeown said she got impatient sitting in afternoon rush-hour traffic in Springfield because she wanted to get to the bank before it closed and make her car payment. A probable-cause statement says McKeown told police that when Foster, in the car in front of her, “wouldn’t go,” she started nudging the vehicle with her Ford Mustang. Then, she said, she “decided to hit it full-out.”

"These veterans must be fully repaid for errors they did not cause and that is what I expect the VA to do," one senator said. A bipartisan group of senators and one member of the House have sent a letter demanding the Department of Veterans Affairs' inspector general investigate continuing issues in paying student veterans the benefits they are owed under the Forever GI Bill. Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and John Boozman, R-Ark., along with five Democratic and three Republican senators and one Democratic congressman, signed the letter requesting the inspector general look into allegations that VA did not intend to reimburse veterans "for missed or underpaid benefits" related to the Forever GI Bill. Schatz is the top Democrat and Boozman is the chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on veterans affairs.

The Republican governor said taxpayers should no longer be forced to pay the salary of someone so incompetent. Florida Gov. Rick Scott removed embattled Florida elections supervisor Brenda Snipes on Friday, citing "misfeasance, incompetence and neglect of duty" after widespread vote-counting issues in Broward County during the closely watched gubernatorial and Senate races. Scott issued an executive order ousting Snipes, who had previously announced her retirement effective in early January, and he appointed Peter Antonacci who heads Enterprise Florida, a public-private joint venture that promotes business development in the state. "After a series of inexcusable actions, it's clear that there needs to be an immediate change in Broward County and taxpayers should no longer be burdened by paying a salary for a Supervisor of Elections who has already announced resignation," Scott said in a statement. "I know that Pete will be solely focused on running free and fair elections, will not be running for election and will bring order and integrity back to this office."

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke accused a top House Democrat of “drunken and hostile behavior,” after the Democrat called on Zinke to resign and vowed to hold congressional hearings examining Zinke’s conduct in office.  The claim is related to the fact that, in the 1980s, the lawmaker battled with alcohol addiction for which he sought treatment. Zinke's tweet was a response to Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, who wrote an op-ed published in USA Today on Friday calling for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to resign. "I take no pleasure in calling for this step, and I have resisted it even as questions have grown about Mr. Zinke’s ethical and managerial failings. Unfortunately, his conduct in office and President Donald Trump’s neglect in setting ethical standards for his own cabinet have made it unavoidable," Grijalva wrote in the op-ed.

Six White House officials have violated the Hatch Act, according to a letter from the Office of the Special Counsel to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. The six officials are White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah, White House deputy director of communications Jessica Ditto, executive assistant to the President Madeleine Westerhout, former special assistant to the President and director of media affairs Helen Aguirre Ferré, press secretary for the Vice President Alyssa Farah and Office of Management and Budget deputy communications Director Jacob Wood. The Hatch Act limits certain political activities of federal employees in an attempt to prevent the federal government from affecting elections or operating in a partisan manner. This includes sending partisan messages from social media accounts used for official government business. All six violated the Hatch Act by using their Twitter accounts, which they use for official purposes, to tweet messages considered partisan by OSC. Four of the six tweeted messages that included "#MAGA" or the slogan "Make America Great Again!" Shah tweeted a message from his account citing research from the Republican National Committee. Ditto retweeted Shah's message with RNC research.

President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal he pursued on Trump's behalf, signaling his cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller's probe. Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's ex-personal lawyer, has sought leniency from a federal judge for his guilty pleas in crimes that implicated his former boss in questionable actions or potential illegality. Expressing repentance, contrition, and shame, Cohen asked to be spared from being sent to prison at his scheduled Dec. 12 sentencing in a legal memorandum filed late Friday. The filing cited his cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation has angrily been branded a "witchhunt" by Trump in numerous statements and tweets.

California Republicans, drummed out of office by the carload in the recent election, have exited whining. They’ve figured out why they got thumped so badly, and it’s simple: California, that dastardly state, allowed voters to vote. The result was that seven Republican House seats turned Democratic, including all four in Orange County, transforming that once reliably GOP stronghold into a blue streak. “I just think it’s weird,” outgoing House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said of California’s system of allowing every vote to be counted, even if it’s filed with local election officials days after election day. “California defies logic to me.” There’s no evidence of ballot box shenanigans. - Former California GOP Chair Shawn Steel

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