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February 2019: Get the latest monthly headline news from multiple news sources and news links. Get real facts, real news from major news originations.  

He’s not an institutionalist. He’s the man who surrendered the Senate to the president. Among the casualties of President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build his border wall is the reputation of the majority leader Mitch McConnell as a Senate institutionalist. The evidence of the last few days has confirmed, if there were still any doubt, that he is no such thing. First, he helped prolong the longest government shutdown in American history by insisting that the Senate would act only with explicit approval from the president. Now Mr. McConnell has fully acquiesced in President Trump’s power grab by supporting an emergency declaration, which he opposed just weeks before, aimed at addressing a crisis that Senate Republicans know does not exist. This display of obedience from the leader of a supposedly coequal branch of government is shocking only if you ever believed Mr. McConnell was an institutionalist. But his defining characteristic has always been his willingness to do anything and sacrifice any principle to amass power for himself. What separates him from the garden-variety politicians — what makes him a radical — are the lengths he is willing to go. Seeing this with clarity should help us grasp the danger to which he is subjecting the Senate — and, more important, our democracy. The signs of Mr. McConnell’s malign influence were always there. Before he became a Senate leader, he dedicated himself to opening the floodgates for corporate money to flow into our political system. Mr. McConnell chased the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law all the way to the Supreme Court; the 2003 challenge to the law bears his name. Mr. McConnell lost that one, but his cause prevailed six years later when the Supreme Court overturned restrictions on corporate contributions in Citizens United. In 2010, as minority leader, Mr. McConnell stated that his main goal was not to help our country recover from the Great Recession but to make President Obama a “one-term president.” A self-declared “proud guardian of gridlock,” he presided over an enormous escalation in the use of the filibuster. His innovation was to transform it from a procedural tool used to block bills into a weapon of nullification, deploying it against even routine Senate business to gridlock the legislative process.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe condemned what he called the "relentless attack" that President Trump has waged against the FBI even as it continues scrutinizing whether Americans in Trump's campaign may have conspired with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election. "I don't know that we have ever seen in all of history an example of the number, the volume and the significance of the contacts between people in and around the president, his campaign, with our most serious, our existential international enemy: the government of Russia," McCabe told NPR's Morning Edition. "That's just remarkable to me." McCabe left the FBI after 21 years last March, when he was dismissed for an alleged "lack of candor" in a media leak probe unrelated to the special counsel investigation. While he declined to conclude that Trump or his advisers colluded with Russia, McCabe said the evidence special counsel Robert Mueller has made public to date — including new disclosures about an August 2016 meeting between former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the FBI has linked to Russian intelligence — "is incredibly persuasive." Trump goes back and forth about what he accepts about the Russian interference in the 2016 election but he denies that he or anyone on his campaign colluded with it. The president and the White House also have focused their attention on McCabe's firing and what critics call the conflict of interest involved with McCabe's wife's political campaign — she ran unsuccessfully for the Virginia legislature as a Democrat.

"It's always good, and always challenging, to talk to you," Wallace said at the conclusion of the interview. White House senior adviser Stephen Miller — the Trump administration's leading voice on immigration — staunchly defended President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to fund a larger border wall in a contentious interview with "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace. Miller said the action was justified by the authorities granted the president under the National Emergencies Act of 1976 and added that if such an emergency had been declared to support U.S. involvement in a foreign nation such as Syria or Belarus, it wouldn't cause any blacklash. Trump's policy advisor also strongly signaled that If Congress passes a resolution disapproving of the emergency declaration, the president would veto it. That would be the first veto of his administration. "The president will protect his national emergency declaration, guaranteed," Miller said. Wallace pressed Miller on statistics that showed illegal border crossings were down substantially from the turn of the century, that most drugs were seized at ports of entry, and that no similar national emergency had previously been declared under the 1976 law. Miller dodged, however, when Wallace asked if he could point to "a single instance, even one" where a president asked Congress for funding, Congress did not give the appropriations, and a president then invoked national emergency powers.Asked specifically about the dwindling number of undocumented immigrants apprehended at the U.S. southern border since 2000, which Wallace said were down about 75 percent since that year, Miller said former President George W. Bush's immigration policy was an "astonishing betrayal of the American people." "I'm not going to sit here today and tell you that George Bush defended this country on the southern border because he did not," Miller said. "One of the biggest changes that happened since then and now is the mass release of illegal aliens due to a patchwork of court rulings and loopholes in our federal laws and changing tactics from smugglers and transnational organizations."

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) on Friday said President Trump’s lawyers gave shifting explanations to federal ethics officials about Trump’s reimbursement of a payment Michael Cohen made to an adult-film actress before the 2016 election, calling on the White House to turn over documents related to the transaction. In a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Cummings said documents his committee obtained from the federal Office of Government Ethics show that lawyers for Trump offered “evolving stories” about the president’s payments to Cohen, his longtime personal attorney. OGE officials appeared skeptical of their explanations, Cummings wrote. The White House and the Office of Government Ethics did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Cohen, who pleaded guilty last year to campaign-finance violations and lying to Congress, has admitted he paid $130,000 to actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016. Daniels says she had a sexual encounter with Trump years earlier and Cohen has said the payment was to buy her silence. Later, Cohen asked Trump’s company for reimbursement — and the Trump Organization paid him a total of $420,000, according to court papers. Cohen said in court that he had made the payments “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” Trump initially said last year that he did not know about Cohen’s payment to Daniels. But his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani revealed in a television interview that Trump had reimbursed Cohen. The president then acknowledged that he paid Cohen through a monthly retainer to stop what Trump called “false and extortionist accusations.” In a footnote on his personal financial disclosure filed last May, Trump reported a reimbursement of up to $250,000 to Cohen. He said he was disclosing it “in the interest of transparency,” stressing that it was not required to be reported as a debt. At the time, Giuliani told The Washington Post that he had publicly discussed Trump’s payments to Cohen because he knew the information would come out in the president’s financial disclosure. “I wanted it out there so it wasn’t a big surprise,” he said. In fact, a timeline released by Cummings Friday indicates that Giuliani’s revelation prompted ethics officials days later to press the president’s attorneys about Trump’s payments to Cohen.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, spent the last two weeks hammering out a deal on federal spending and border security with colleagues from both parties, reassured by a sense that Congress was finally asserting itself as a civil, stabilizing force. The feeling did not last. On Friday, President Trump mounted one of the most serious executive branch challenges to congressional authority in decades, circumventing Congress with an emergency declaration. It would allow him to unilaterally divert billions of dollars to a border wall and presented his Republican allies on Capitol Hill, who labored on a legislative compromise, with the excruciating choice of either defending their institution or bowing to his whims. The president’s move left Senate Republicans sharply divided, and it remains to be seen whether they will act collectively to try to stop Mr. Trump or how far into uncharted territory they are willing to follow a headstrong president operating with no road map beyond his own demands. “With him you always have to expect the unexpected,” said Ms. Capito, speaking on the phone from her kitchen in Charleston, W.Va., exhausted from a week of late-night talks at the Capitol. The Republican resistance to Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration was much more pronounced in the Senate than in the House, where a few Republicans — in the minority but more closely aligned to Mr. Trump — groused. But most of the conservative rank and file embraced it. After threatening to kill the spending compromise needed to keep the government open, Mr. Trump opted to cite a national emergency to pry loose additional funding to build a wall longer than the 55 miles in the bipartisan agreement. It was the divisive step that Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, Ms. Capito and most other Republicans in the Senate had forcefully urged him not to take, because it would establish a precedent they feared future Democratic presidents would use against them.

The details of the sit-down are not publicly known, but Mueller likely has interest in Sanders’ role crafting statements about the Trump team’s interactions with Russian nationals. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Friday that she met with special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. “The President urged me, like he has everyone in the administration, to fully cooperate with the special counsel. I was happy to voluntarily sit down with them,” Sanders said in a statement. The details and topic of the interview are not publicly known, but Mueller is likely interested in Sanders’ role crafting the official narrative about the Trump team’s interactions with Russian nationals. Mueller is also investigating any possible efforts by Trump’s team to obstruct a law enforcement probe of the 2016 campaign. The meeting occurred around the time Muellers team interviewed then-White House chief of staff John Kelly, CNN reported. CNN first reported the Sanders-Mueller interview on Friday.

When President Trump declared a national emergency along the southern border, he predicted his administration would end up defending it all the way to the Supreme Court. That might have been the only thing Mr. Trump said Friday that produced near-universal agreement. The American Civil Liberties Union announced its intention to sue less than an hour after the White House released the text of Mr. Trump's declaration, which said the "current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency." Nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen later filed suit, urging the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to "bar Trump and the U.S. Department of Defense from using the declaration and funds appropriated for other purposes to build a border wall."

President Trump announced that he's declaring a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The president wants to redirect money that had already been allocated by Congress for the military to fund construction of the wall instead. Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, the president said the original plans for the money "didn't sound too important to me."

USA TODAY - During a press conference in the Rose Garden, President Trump admitted that he didn't need to declare a national emergency to fund his border wall, but that he did it so he could "get it done faster." Thirty minutes into an off-the-cuff defense of his decision to declare a national emergency to help build his border wall, President Donald Trump made an admission that may have handed ammunition to legal opponents of the move. Trump, who has long described the situation on the Southwest border as a "crisis" and an "invasion," appeared to suggest his administration had all the time it needed to build the hundreds of miles of border barrier he has demanded for months. "I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this," Trump told reporters gathered in the White House Rose Garden on Friday, shortly before he signed a proclamation declaring the emergency. "But I'd rather do it much faster." Trump’s opponents, including a number of groups and officials suing the administration over the national emergency, pounced on the president's candid remarks and said they appeared to undermine his claims of an urgent problem on the southern border. George Conway, an attorney and frequent Trump critic who is married to longtime Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, summed up the reaction in a post on Twitter: "This quote should be the first sentence of the first paragraph of every [lawsuit] filed." This quote should be the first sentence of the first paragraph of every complaint filed this afternoon. https://t.co/ClHQhpTaEe  — George Conway (@gtconway3d) February 15, 2019.

(CNN) Paul Manafort defrauded banks, the IRS and other federal authorities out of greed, and thus should spend perhaps all his remaining years alive behind bars, special counsel Robert Mueller's office said Friday night. In a 26-page outline of his crimes and convictions for financial crimes, prosecutors make plain how high-flying Manafort believed he was, lifted for years by millions of dollars in secret income and a lifestyle of excessive spending. The penalty should be severe, they write. Thus, the former Trump campaign chairman deserves 19.5 years to 24.5 years in prison for his conviction for eight financial crimes, Mueller's office said. Manafort, 69, was convicted by a Virginia jury last August for bank fraud, tax fraud and other financial crimes related to the money he earned working for Ukrainian politicians. "In the end, Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law, and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars," prosecutors wrote. "The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct." Manafort's age should not help him receive a reduced sentence, Mueller's office said. "Manafort's age does not eliminate the risk of recidivism he poses -- particularly given that his pattern of criminal activity has occurred over more than a decade and that the most recent crimes he pled guilty to occurred from February to April 2018, when he conspired to tamper with witnesses at a time when he was under indictment in two separate districts," prosecutors wrote. The sentence will be up to the judge alone. Judge T.S. Ellis hasn't set a sentencing date. Manafort has also pleaded guilty in a Washington, DC, federal court, where he will be sentenced next month.

Mueller's team also released a filing in the case that suggested federal prosecutors might have obtained 'Stone's communications' with WikiLeaks. Roger Stone remains free to talk about Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation, just not in and around the Washington, D.C., courthouse where the longtime Donald Trump associate is fighting the special counsel’s charges he lied to Congress and obstructed its Russia investigation. That’s the end result from a four-page order issued Friday from a federal judge who had been considering a complete gag order on Stone in the wake of his full-on media blitz since his arrest last month in south Florida. Also Friday, Mueller's team released a filing in the case that included a tantalizing nugget suggesting federal prosecutors might have obtained "Stone's communications" with WikiLeaks, the website that dumped stolen Democratic emails during the election. While the language was somewhat vague, legal watchers quickly noted that it might represent a jarring new revelation, as previously Stone had only conceded to trying to connect with WikiLeaks via intermediaries. The double-barrel developments in Stone's case came amid a flurry of activity late on Friday, marking the busiest day yet in a court battle that still remains in a preliminary stage. First, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that attorneys for Stone, Mueller and any witnesses in the case “must refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.”

After declaring a national emergency to build a border wall, President Trump said “I want to get it done faster, that’s all.” The move bypasses Congress. President Trump declared a national emergency on the border with Mexico on Friday in order to access billions of dollars that Congress refused to give him to build a wall there, transforming a highly charged policy dispute into a confrontation over the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution. Trying to regain momentum after losing a grinding two-month battle with lawmakers over funding the wall, Mr. Trump asserted that the flow of drugs, criminals and illegal immigrants from Mexico constituted a profound threat to national security that justified unilateral action. “We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other,” he said in a televised statement in the Rose Garden barely 13 hours after Congress passed a spending measure without the money he had sought. “It’s an invasion,” he added. “We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.” But with illegal border crossings already down and critics accusing him of manufacturing a crisis, he may have undercut his own argument that the border situation was so urgent that it required emergency action. “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” he said. “I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.” The president’s decision incited instant condemnation from Democrats, who called it an unconstitutional abuse of his authority and vowed to try to overturn it with the support of Republicans who also objected to the move. “This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed president, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a joint statement.

IRAN, Russia and Turkey’s leaders welcomed Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria as “a positive step” after they met to decide the future of the war-stricken country. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his Iranian and Turkish counterparts in the southern city of Sochi, where they had “constructive and business-like” talks regarding Syria on Thursday. And in the joint press conference, Mr Putin said Washington’s decision of recalling the 2,000 US soldiers currently in northeastern Syria was “a positive step that would help stabilise the situation in this region, where ultimately the legitimate government should re-establish control”. But, he added, he hasn’t seen so far any movement in Syria signalling Mr Trump’s promises will be fulfilled.

When President Donald Trump declares a national emergency to free up funding for his border wall he will follow a long line of presidents dating back to George Washington who have relied on emergency authority to achieve a goal. But experts say national emergencies have rarely been used in the way Trump intends. Trump is expected to declare an emergency as early as Friday as a mechanism to unlock pots of federal money he can then use to build portions of a border barrier, a central promise of his 2016 campaign. He will also sign a bipartisan bill that sets aside $1.375 billion for barriers, far short of the $5.7 billion he has demanded. Presidential emergencies often lead to bitter partisan disputes and occasionally wind up in court, but they are relatively common. The United States is already subject to more than 30 national emergencies, including one signed in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter days after the Iranian hostage crisis began. "They’re declared for all kinds of things," said Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor at Princeton University's Center for Human Values. "They’re absolutely common, which is why nobody blinks an eye about the whole thing – and then you get a case like this." Since 1976, when Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, presidents have declared at least 58 states of emergency – not counting disaster declarations for weather events, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. Dozens remain in effect, extended by subsequent presidents. The Militia Acts of 1792 gave Washington authority to take over state militias during the Whiskey Rebellion. In perhaps the best-known use of emergency powers from history, President Abraham Lincoln established a blockade on the ports of Southern states and suspended habeas corpus without congressional approval. In modern times, presidents have far more frequently used emergency powers to impose sanctions. They have sometimes used them to seize property and call up the National Guard. - If Obama pulled that same crap that Trump has, Republicans would be up in arms rioting in the streets and talking impeachment.

In 2014, President Donald Trump railed against then President Barack Obama over his use of executive power on immigration. Fast forward five years and Trump is expected to do the same thing. "Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress," Trump said in a tweet on Nov. 20, 2014. Trump is now planning to use his executive powers in declaring a national emergency to obtain additional funds for a wall along the southern U.S. border. The White House announced Thursday he would make the declaration after signing a bipartisan funding bill that will provide $1.375 billion for a 55-mile border barrier – much less than the $5.7 billion that Trump has demanded. The funding bill would prevent the government from shutting down as it did in December, spurring the longest-ever shutdown on record. The move will allow Trump to sidestep Democratic opposition to get more wall funding, but it could draw legal challenges from lawmakers and others who viewed the move as a power grab and something that violates the Constitution. Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2014. In 2014, Trump seemed to have similar beliefs. His tweet attacking Obama for using executive authority on immigration specifically targeted an executive order that shielded up to 5 million immigrants from deportation and bolstered protections for "DREAMers," people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Although the positions were reversed, Obama was also frustrated by a lack of congressional action for what he viewed as a broken immigration system. Obama's order followed an impasse with the Republicans in Congress, who during elections that month took control of both the Senate and House. The White House at the time said allow Obama's orders were steps to "fix our broken immigration system." Trump was far from alone in attacking Obama in 2014. Republicans  blasted the former president for acting unilaterally, and the Supreme  Court ultimately struck down the plan in 2016. Even Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, denounced Obama's decision.

As President Donald Trump prepares to declare a controversial national emergency on Friday over the border issue, the White House is reportedly looking at raiding funds approved by Congress to aid those suffering in the devastating aftermath of disasters. According to Associated Press, which cited unnamed Congressional aides and White House officials, Trump is eyeing up the $13 billion in disaster relief funding split into pots to help Puerto Rico, California, Texas, and other states cope with recent hurricanes, wildfires and flooding. Trump was unable to secure any of the $5.7 billion he demanded from Congress to fund his planned steel and concrete wall along 1,000 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. House Democrats, who have a strong majority, refused to allocate any money to Trump’s wall, arguing it is expensive, ineffective, and responding to a crisis that does not exist. The president shut down the government for five weeks before caving in and reopening it temporarily. Under pressure from Republicans to avoid another shutdown, Trump will reluctantly sign off on a bipartisan compromise deal agreed by Congress, which includes more money for border security but only $1.37 billion for 55 miles of new fencing instead of the wall as he envisions it. But he will simultaneously declare a national emergency, unlocking a suite of presidential powers that allow him to bypass Congress altogether and take money from approve budgets elsewhere, such as for defense spending.

(CNN) Paul Manafort's latest legal debacle deepened the core intrigue underlying special counsel Robert Mueller's probe: Why have so many of President Donald Trump's associates been caught lying about contacts with Russians? In a significant new twist in the 2016 election saga, a judge ruled Wednesday that Trump's ex-campaign chairman "intentionally" lied to investigators, breaking a deal he had reached as a cooperating witness. The lies, including about meetings with a suspected Russian intelligence asset, were about issues intimately linked to Mueller's wider inquiry, which includes a look into whether there were any links or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian election interference effort. How Team Trump has changed its story in the Russia probe. Taken in isolation, the new Manafort bombshell would have rocked any presidency, given his senior role in the Trump campaign. But for a White House as cloaked in suspicion as this one, after two years of stunning revelations about Moscow's election interference, it is yet more bad news that will fuel a feverish atmosphere and further crank up pressure on Trump's inner circle. Like many of the stunning reveals from Mueller, the latest Manafort drama also offered tantalizing glimpses into the special counsel's web of investigation but provided no resolution to the long-running Russia puzzle. Mueller has yet to provide any proof of a conspiracy or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russians, despite obtaining convictions and guilty pleas from a string of the President's former associates.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, announced on Thursday that President Trump planned to declare a national emergency so he can bypass Congress and build his long-promised wall along the southwestern border. That raised the prospect of a constitutional clash with lawmakers over who controls the federal purse.

Analysis: The U.S. organized a global conference on the Mideast in Warsaw, but Turkey's leader is at a summit with Russian and Iranian leaders instead. As Trump administration officials presided over the second day of an international conference in Warsaw dominated by calls to ratchet up pressure on Iran, one longtime U.S. ally and NATO member was noticeably absent — Turkey. Snubbing the gathering in Poland, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday attended a rival conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he planned to meet his Russian and Iranian counterparts to work out a final settlement of the war in Syria. The dueling summits illustrate President Donald Trump's struggle to forge a united front against Iran, and reflect Turkey's drift away from Washington as it finds common ground with Moscow and Tehran, experts and former officials said. For decades, the U.S. could count on Turkey as a reliable partner that would line up with other allies against Iran and support Washington's strategic goals. But the political landscape has changed, U.S. influence in the region is in doubt, and Ankara is staking out an independent course, said Colin Clarke, senior research fellow at the Soufan Center, a New York-based think tank. "I think we're seeing a realignment," Clarke told NBC News. "The U.S. has gone from the position where we called the shots, to where we are making mere suggestions to Turkey. That's a major sea change."

Threatening to reveal Jeff Bezos’ ‘dick p*ck’ was just the latest strong-arm tactic. ‘The nice way of calling it was quid pro quo,’ one veteran said, ‘but really it was blackmail.’ It may have shocked the world when the publisher of the National Enquirer allegedly tried to use nude pictures to coerce Jeff Bezos. But it came as no surprise to three veterans of the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc. “The threats, the blackmail, that’s their business model,” one former National Enquirer staffer told The Daily Beast. That model burst out into public view on Thursday night when Bezos—the world’s richest man, the founder of Amazon, and the owner of The Washington Post—published emails from AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard that threatened the release of a “d*ck pick” if the Post didn’t relent in its investigation of AMI. It was a familiar moment to Paul Barresi, a private investigator who spent years working on cases that informed stories in AMI and other tabloids. “The National Enquirer had some people who would go to a celebrity and say, ‘unless you give in to a one-on-one interview that would amount to a fluff piece with us, we’re going to report XYZ,” he said. “The celebrity would then acquiesce to their demand.” “The nice way of calling it was quid pro quo, but really it was blackmail,” Barresi said. “I know that the same methodology is practiced today,” he added. “Obviously it's practiced, because they did it” to Bezos.

Supplying Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez’s racy texts was just the latest in a long relationship with the Enquirer and its sister publications.Michael Sanchez, the Hollywood talent agent who allegedly leaked Jeff Bezos’ racy text messages to the National Enquirer, has a history of weaponizing his connections at AMI and the Enquirer on behalf of—and sometimes against—his former clients. Sanchez leaked information about client Scottie Nell Hughes’ affair with Fox Business host Charles Payne to the Enquirer, two sources told The Daily Beast. An explosive lawsuit he filed against another former client, So You Think You Can Dance judge Mary Murphy, ended up an exclusive story in AMI-owned Radar Online on the same day it was filed. That was years before Sanchez found himself at the center of the war between Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company. As The Daily Beast has reported, Sanchez was the alleged source of racy text messages between Bezos and his sister, Lauren Sanchez, that wound up splashed on the pages of the Enquirer last month. Sanchez has denied (though not to The Daily Beast) leaking Bezos’ texts, but AMI has described the culprit as a longtime Enquirer source. Sanchez also acknowledged this week that he is friends with Dylan Howard, a top executive at AMI who shared a byline on the Enquirer’s Bezos story. And Sanchez admitted that he provided pictures of his sister to an AMI publication, Us Weekly.

It comes precisely a year after the Parkland shooting, where Jones accused survivors of being crisis actors. Alex Jones, America’s most famous conspiracy theorist, is not in a good place right now. His longtime Infowars associate Roger Stone has been been indicted as part of the probe into alleged Russian collusion, and Jerome Corsi, another associate, is being investigated by a federal grand jury. Jones is currently feuding with the much more popular podcaster Joe Rogan. And now, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis has ruled that Jones must undergo a sworn deposition. The deposition ruling, which was announced Wednesday night, is part of a defamation lawsuit filed by the parents of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting. The lawsuit alleges that, because of Jones’ accusations that the shooting was staged and the parents are “crisis actors”, the victims’ parents have been subject to ceaseless abuse and harassment. For example, Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah Pozner died in Sandy Hook, have been forced to move seven times due to death threats. Mark and Jackie Barden, whose son Daniel also died in the shooting, have suffered similar levels of harassment.

Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director, said in an interview aired on Thursday that top Justice Department officials were so alarmed by President Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office. The concerns about the president’s actions also prompted Mr. McCabe to order the bureau’s team investigating Russia’s election interference to expand their scope to also investigate whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey. They also were to examine if he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests. Mr. McCabe’s remarks were made in an interview on “60 Minutes” scheduled to air on Sunday. He was promoting his memoir, “The Threat: How the F.B.I. Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” which will be released next week. Mr. McCabe said he spoke to Mr. Trump just after Mr. Comey was fired, and the next day he met with the team investigating Russia’s election interference. “I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion,” Mr. McCabe said. “That were I removed quickly, or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.”

The 2016 nominating conventions had recently concluded and the presidential race was hitting a new level of intensity when Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, ducked into an unusual dinner meeting at a private cigar room a few blocks away from the campaign’s Trump Tower headquarters in Manhattan. Court records show that Manafort was joined at some point by his campaign deputy, Rick Gates, at the session at the Grand Havana Room, a mahogany-paneled space with floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of the city. The two Americans met with an overseas guest, a longtime employee of their international consulting business who had flown to the United States for the gathering: a Russian political operative named Konstantin Kilimnik. The Aug. 2, 2016, encounter between the senior Trump campaign officials and Kilimnik, who prosecutors allege has ties to Russian intelligence, has emerged in recent days as a potential fulcrum in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. It was at that meeting that prosecutors believe Manafort and Kilimnik may have exchanged key information relevant to Russia and Trump’s presidential bid. The encounter goes “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating,” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told a federal judge in a sealed hearing last week. One subject the men discussed was a proposed resolution to the conflict over Ukraine, an issue of great interest to the Russian government, according to a partially redacted transcript of the Feb. 4 hearing. During the hearing, the judge also appeared to allude to another possible interaction at the Havana Room gathering: a handoff by Manafort of internal polling data from Trump’s presidential campaign to his Russian associate.

The senator urged lawmakers to pass his legislation to use the drug lord’s fortune to build the barrier. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Tuesday urged the passage of his legislation to use the ill-gotten gains of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to build a border wall after the drug kingpin was convicted of narcotics trafficking and other charges. “It’s time to pass my EL CHAPO Act,” Cruz tweeted. “I urge my Senate colleagues to take swift action on this crucial legislation.” The tweet includes a graphic of an imprisoned El Chapo surrounded by money bags with the caption: “Make El Chapo pay for the wall.”

CNN)Paul Manafort "intentionally" lied to special counsel Robert Mueller's office, breaking the plea agreement that made him the star cooperator in the Russia probe, a federal judge found on Wednesday. Manafort "made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation," including his contacts with his Russian associate during the campaign and later, Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote on Wednesday. Jackson's ruling is another stunning turn in Mueller's efforts to uncover Russian interference in the 2016 election, as the first man the special counsel indicted then pursued as a potential cooperator for a year sees the end of any benefits he tried to gain through a guilty plea.Manafort was convicted of various financial crimes in August, and then cut the deal to plead guilty to two charges of conspiracy and witness tampering in September.
In all, Jackson determined Manafort intentionally lied about $125,000 he received for the legal bills, about another unnamed Justice Department criminal investigation and about his interactions with his longtime Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik while he was campaign chairman and later. Jackson noted twice in her order that two of the topics Paul Manafort lied about, Kilimnik and payments he received for his legal bills were "material to the investigation." Manafort is still bound by what he agreed to in the plea, so he will not be able to retract his guilty pleas. But the finding frees Mueller's office from its contractual obligations in the plea, like asking for a reduced sentence for him because of his cooperation. Mueller spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment. Manafort's lawyers have maintained that he did not intentionally lie. The judge reviewed extensive transcripts and evidence that would give her a window into Mueller's work, and her ruling shows that Manafort's lies were serious enough to disrupt his cooperation.

The network has said it merely was monitoring Stone's house when the ex-Trump aide was arrested after piecing together clues from its reporting. Roger Stone urged a federal judge Wednesday to make special counsel Robert Mueller’s office explain why it shouldn’t be held in contempt for violating the seal on the longtime Donald Trump aide’s indictment by allegedly leaking it to the press. Stone has repeatedly criticized the dramatic arrest at his home in January, which was caught on film by a CNN camera crew staking out his South Florida house. Stone claims CNN was tipped off about the arrest to film the raid, violating court orders. The network has said it merely was monitoring the house after piecing together clues from its reporting. In its motion, Stone’s team argues that CNN presented it with a copy of the indictment without a time stamp from the court records database, known as PACER, which it says is a sign the network had the document ahead of time. "A person with privileged access to a 'draft' of Roger Stone’s Indictment, identical to that which had been filed under seal ... had — in violation of the Court’s Order — publicly distributed the Indictment prior to its release from the sealing ordered by the Court," the filing says. However, the special counsel’s public release announcing the indictment was sent out minutes before Stone’s arrest, and it included a link to the same copy of the indictment without a PACER time stamp. Later that morning, Mueller’s office updated its link to an indictment with the PACER markings. Mueller’s office declined comment on Stone’s complaint. CNN’s reporting relied on a number of factors: The special counsel's team had blocked off Jan. 25, the day of the arrest, while scheduling a court hearing for another case. Stone's indictment had also been seen as a looming inevitability, and CNN said it pieced two and two together and deduced that could be the day of the arrest.

The House vote is the latest in a series of moves by Congress aimed at curbing the president's foreign policies.  The House on Wednesday passed a measure aimed at withdrawing all U.S. military support for the Saudi Arabia-backed war in Yemen, the latest in a series of rebukes by Congress to President Donald Trump's foreign policy. The Democratic-led House advanced the bill, 248-177, as its first major vote on foreign policy, making it priority even as the administration resists congressional involvement in the conflict. Last year, with Republicans in the majority, the House refused to take up the measure in order to keep the president's hands from being tied on a key foreign policy area. Because a similar bill has passed the Senate before and is likely to pass again, it could be the first veto of Trump's presidency. The resolution, authored by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., has strong support from both sides of the aisle. It would invoke the War Powers Resolution, inserting congressional oversight into the conflict in Yemen, effectively ending U.S. involvement and military assistance to the civil war there between the Yemen government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. “It’s overdue,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the measure.

A rare example of elite accountability. For most of this week, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has been under fire for comments she made on Sunday about Israel policy that had anti-Semitic undertones. Omar apologized on Monday, but Republicans, including President Donald Trump, are still calling on her to resign or be stripped of her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In a Wednesday hearing, though, Omar showed that she has a quite a lot to offer the committee — grilling Trump’s special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, in a way that very few lawmakers would be willing to do. Abrams is a former Reagan administration official who focused on Latin America policy. Under his watch, the US supported a number of armed anti-Communist groups with truly brutal human rights records. Abrams also played a vital role in the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the Reagan administration secretly sold arms to Iran and used the money to fund Nicaraguan right-wing fighters called the Contras — even hiding information from Congress to cover up the situation, which is a federal crime.

"Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive," Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said. "They were inappropriate then and are inappropriate today." A Louisiana police department has found itself at the center of its own blackface scandal after a photo taken more than two decades ago surfaced showing two white Baton Rouge officers wearing face and body paint to appear as if they are black. In it, Lt. Don Stone and Capt. Frankie Caruso are seen dressed in denim outfits, hats and sunglasses with their exposed skin covered in brown paint as they strike a pose for the camera. The photo, taken in 1993, was in the Baton Rouge Police Department yearbook, according to the media outlet The Rouge Collection, which featured the photo on its site. The picture was captioned "Soul Brothers." The image — the latest in blackface controversies popping up across the country in recent weeks — led to the Baton Rouge Police Department issuing an apology. "Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive," police Chief Murphy Paul said. "They were inappropriate then and are inappropriate today." According to the police department, the photo was taken before Stone and Caruso went undercover for a drug bust in a predominantly black neighborhood. "The Baton Rouge Police Department would like to apologize to our citizens and to anyone who may have been offended by the photographs," Paul said.

The US national debt topped $22 trillion on Monday, and it's the first time the debt has ever hit that threshold. The record follows a year in which the budget deficit was $779 billion, the highest since 2012, and the amount of debt issued topped $1.3 trillion, the most since 2010. A debate is growing around how much the nominal amount of government debt really matters to the economy. The US national-debt load surpassed $22 trillion on Monday, according to the Treasury Department. It's the first time that the total outstanding public debt has topped that threshold. A little less than $16.2 trillion of that debt was held by the public in the form of Treasurys, while the other $5.8 trillion was intragovernmental holdings.  The amount of debt being accumulated is also accelerating because of recent changes. The budget deficit in fiscal year 2018 (October 2017 to September 2018) hit $779 billion. The deficit measures the amount of revenue the government pulls in minus the government's expenditures. Additionally, a Treasury report estimated the total amount of debt issued during 2018 topped $1.3 trillion: the largest issuance of new debt since 2010.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) “unequivocally” apologized in a Monday statement for a series of tweets on Israel that Democratic leaders have condemned for containing anti-Semitic tropes. “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” she said. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. This is why I unequivocally apologize.” Omar also wrote that she reaffirms her stance against lobbying groups like the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee, along with the National Rifle Association and the fossil fuel industry. “It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it,” she wrote. The statement comes after House Democratic leaders called on her to apologize after she claimed that AIPAC was paying politicians to take pro-Israel stances. “As Democrats and as Americans, the entire Congress must be fully engaged in denouncing and rejecting all forms of hatred, racism, prejudice, and discrimination wherever they are encountered,” House leaders said.

GOP livid with Trump over ignored Khashoggi report -  ANDREW DESIDERIO and BURGESS EVERETT
It's the latest rift between Republicans and the president over foreign policy.
Senate Republicans are fuming at President Donald Trump for telling lawmakers he would disregard a law requiring a report to Congress determining who is responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The uproar among Republicans is just the latest example of their deep discontent with the president’s foreign policy. It could prompt even more defections in favor of a Democrat-led resolution coming before the House and Senate this month to cut off U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war. “It’s not a good way to start the new Congress in its relationship with the Foreign Relations Committee,” said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican on that panel, in an interview. “It violates the law. And the law is clear about those timelines. I’m urging them and I expect them to comply with the law.”

A former White House communications aide who wrote a tell-all book about working in the Trump administration has filed a lawsuit against President Trump alleging that he sought to “silence” former employees by using his campaign organization as a “cutout.” Team of Vipers author Cliff Sims filed the lawsuit Monday after the Trump campaign filed an arbitration claim against him last week, claiming he had violated a non-disclosure agreement by publishing his book. Sims has accused Trump of violating his First Amendment rights—with the campaign serving as an “illegitimate cutout” to enforce NDAs and seek retribution against former employees. In the document, Sims said he “cannot definitively recall” if he signed an NDA drafted by the White House Counsel’s Office—but did acknowledge that he signed one when he joined the campaign that barred him from “disclosure of ‘confidential’ information or the disparagement of the Trump Campaign, President Trump, or his family.” The complaint further claimed the campaign was “acting at the President’s behest”—as evidenced by Trump’s public disapproval of Sims’ book—and “concealing” Trump’s official involvement to silence Sims “in a manner that would otherwise be unavailable under existing First Amendment case law.”

Negotiators say they reached an agreement in principle to avert shutdown - Ted Barrett, Phil Mattingly, Manu Raju, Ashley Killough, Clare Foran and Kaitlan Collins
(CNN) Congressional negotiators say they have reached an agreement in principle to avert a partial government shutdown at the end of this week. The four lead bipartisan negotiators, emerging from talks Monday night, declined to get into details on how the agreement was struck or the exact parameters of a deal, but when asked whether it included barrier funding and a resolution to the detention bed issue, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby said: "We got an agreement on all of it." Shelby's comments follow those from a Democratic aide involved in the border security funding talks who said earlier Monday negotiators are "very, very close" to an agreement and they are now checking to see if the emerging proposal would get the votes it needs to pass the House. Lawmakers are racing the clock in an effort to find the common ground necessary for an agreement on border security that will pass both chambers of Congress and be signed into law by the President before Friday at midnight to prevent another partial government shutdown. About 25% of funding for the federal government runs out at the end of the week and a group of bipartisan lawmakers have been meeting for weeks to negotiate over border security as part of the budget for the Department of Homeland Security. In a sign that made it look like a shutdown was increasingly likely, talks broke down over the weekend, but four members of that group -- the top Democrat and Republican from both the House and Senate Appropriations committees -- kept meeting Monday to try and broker a deal. Asked what was different today than over the weekend, Rep. Kay Granger, the top House Republican on the conference committee, quipped, "Maybe we got sleep." "That's always sort of helpful in making a decision," she added.

Multiple sources tell The Daily Beast that Michael Sanchez, a Trumpworld associate and brother to Bezos’ lover, gave the couple’s texts to the National Enquirer. The brother of Jeff Bezos’ mistress, Lauren Sanchez, supplied the couple’s racy texts to the National Enquirer, multiple sources inside AMI, the tabloid’s parent company, told The Daily Beast. Another source who has been in extensive communication with senior leaders at AMI confirmed that Michael Sanchez first supplied Bezos’ texts to the Enquirer. The leaked texts, published last month, included notes from Bezos like, “I want to smell you, I want to breathe you in. I want to hold you tight.” AMI has previously refused to identify the source of the texts, but a lawyer for the company strongly hinted at Sanchez’s role during a Sunday morning interview on ABC. “The story was given to the National Enquirer by a reliable source that had given information to the National Enquirer for seven years prior to this story. It was a source that was well known to both Mr. Bezos and Ms. Sanchez,” attorney Elkan Abramowitz told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. Asked directly whether Sanchez was the source, Abramowitz said, “I can’t discuss who the source was. It’s confidential within AMI.” An AMI spokesperson declined to comment for this story. Asked directly more than a half-dozen times whether or not he supplied the texts to the Enquirer, Sanchez declined to respond.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Health Department confirmed seven mumps cases at an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Houston Saturday afternoon. We confirm seven mumps cases at an ICE facility in Houston. All seven individuals are adult detainees who were detained during their infectious period. There is no evidence the disease was transmitted to anyone outside of the facility. https://t.co/zPdYyM3HDG

The government agreed not to prosecute AMI for campaign-finance violations, but only if it committed no more crimes. Now the company is accused of extortion. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are looking into whether American Media Inc., the company that publishes the National Enquirer, violated its non-prosecution agreement as a result of conduct alleged by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, according to a source familiar with the matter. The non-prosecution agreement, signed in September 2018, describes AMI's role in a payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said she had an affair with Donald Trump prior to his presidential candidacy. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation for arranging a hush-money payment to McDougal, and AMI agreed to cooperate with prosecutors rather than face similar charges for helping to facilitate the payment. Bezos published a post on the blogging site Medium on Thursday in which he quoted e-mails and correspondence that he said showed that AMI threatened to publish intimate photos of Bezos and his girlfriend if he did not stop investigating how AMI had obtained them. AMI's non-prosecution agreement makes it clear that the company can be prosecuted for any crime that may have occurred after the agreement was signed. "It is understood that should AMI commit any crimes subsequent to the date of signing of this agreement," says the agreement, "AMI shall thereafter be subject to prosecution for any criminal violation of which this Office has knowledge." The agreement also explicitly states that the non-prosecution deal only applies to crimes related to the payments associated with Cohen's guilty plea. According to Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney who is now an NBC News analyst, AMI's alleged interactions with Bezos are "arguably a violation of the extortion statute." Added Rosenberg, "[Prosecutors] must also assess whether AMI has put its non-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department (given its written promise not to commit additional crimes) at risk." Mimi Rocah, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York and an NBC News analyst, said AMI's interactions would likely invalidate the non-prosecution agreement if the firm clearly committed a crime. "It doesn't have to be a federal crime," said Rocah. "It could be a state crime."

An August 2016 meeting between President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and an associate with ties to Russian intelligence goes to the “heart” of the Russia investigation, according to a court transcript unsealed Thursday. The transcript from a sealed hearing in Paul Manafort’s case provides further insight into what special counsel Robert Mueller considers significant in his wide-ranging probe of the Kremlin’s efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election and the ties between Trump associates and Russia. It makes clear that prosecutors have honed in on the repeated contacts between Manafort and his longtime associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI says has ties to the Russia’s military intelligence agency. Still, it’s unclear what specifically has piqued prosecutors’ interests and whether it has any direct connection to any conspiracy related to election interference. The transcript of the hearing, which took place Monday, was released by court order Thursday but much of it was redacted to protect the ongoing investigation including several key portions about Manafort and Kilimnik. According to the transcript, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said the substance of the meeting, which took place in New York just weeks after the Republican National Convention, goes to the “larger view of what we think is going on” and what “we think the motive here is.” “This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the Special Counsel’s Office is investigating,” Weissmann said, noting Kilimnik’s past intelligence ties and Manafort’s position at the top of the Trump campaign at the time. “That meeting and what happened at that meeting is of significance to the special counsel,” he added later.

Like father, like son. President Donald Trump apparently wasn’t paying attention — or maybe he was — when Native American leaders blasted his “racist” use of “Pocahontas” as a slur against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). He resurrected it — again — Saturday in a tweet. But what was more startling was his eldest son’s response using a astonishing term: “Savage!!! I love my president!” Trump wondered mockingly in a tweet Saturday if Warren would be the nation’s “first Native American presidential candidate” — denigrating both Warren and appearing to characterize the idea of a Native American candidate as unimaginable. Warren has been criticized for referring to her Native American heritage. Though a DNA test last year indicated she likely had a Native American ancestor, she is not the member of any tribe. She apologized last week to the Cherokee Nation, whose leaders have said that being a tribal citizen is “rooted in centuries of culture and laws — not through DNA.”

Former Ebola czar Ronald Klain called the exam results “a disgrace.” An Obama administration official previously tasked with addressing the Ebola epidemic skewered President Donald Trump’s physical exam results, labeling them “a disgrace.” In a tweet Saturday, Ronald Klain argued that it was impossible for a doctor to predict a patient’s future health, suggesting Trump’s doctor had become “an instrument of his lies.” On Friday, the president made a four-hour visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where his doctor, Sean Conley, performed his check-up with 11 other specialists. In a statement, Conley said Trump “is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his Presidency, and beyond.” While Conley noted that the president “did not undergo any procedures requiring sedation or anesthesia,” he gave no details on what the appointment entailed.

Threatening to reveal Jeff Bezos’ “dick p*ck” was just the latest strong-arm tactic. “The nice way of calling it was quid pro quo,” one veteran said, “but really it was blackmail.” It may have shocked the world when the publisher of the National Enquirer allegedly tried to use nude pictures to coerce Jeff Bezos. But it came as no surprise to three veterans of the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc. “The threats, the blackmail, that’s their business model,” one former National Enquirer staffer told The Daily Beast. That model burst out into public view on Thursday night when Bezos—the world’s richest man, the founder of Amazon, and the owner of the Washington Post—published emails from AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard that threatened the release of a “dick p*ck” if the Post didn’t relent in its investigation of AMI. It was a familiar moment to Paul Barresi, a private investigator who spent years working on jobs for AMI and other tabloids. “The National Enquirer had some people who would go to a celebrity and say, ‘unless you give in to a one-on-one interview that would amount to a fluff piece with us, we’re going to report XYZ,” he said. “The celebrity would then acquiesce to their demand.” “The nice way of calling it was quid pro quo, but really it was blackmail,” Barresi said. “I know that the same methodology is practiced today,” he added. “Obviously it's practiced, because they did it” to Bezos.

US News February 2019 Page 1

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