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Customs and Border Protection officers said Thursday they discovered 254 pounds of the drug hidden in a floor compartment of a truck trailer loaded with cucumbers. The sensitive nose of a drug-sniffing dog has led to what federal officials say is the largest seizure in US history of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid blamed for the majority of overdose deaths. Customs and Border Protection officers said Thursday they discovered 254 pounds of the drug hidden in a floor compartment of a truck loaded with cucumbers. They also found 395 pounds of methamphetamine. CBP valued the fentanyl at $3.5 million and the methamphetamine at $1.1 million. The seizure was more twice the size of the apparent previous record of 118 pounds which was found in a truck stopped by state troopers in Nebraska in 2017.

(CNN) Information the Justice Department collected from Roger Stone's iCloud accounts, email accounts and on computer hardware "span several years," special counsel Robert Mueller said Thursday. Mueller wants to place a protective order that would lock down the confidentiality of evidence collected against Stone, as the prosecutors begin sharing the documents with his legal team. Stone's attorneys have consented to this type of order from the judge, but the judge has not yet signed off. Orders like these are fairly typical in high-profile cases and are meant to prevent leaks of documents in the case. The evidence the Justice Department collected against Stone to charge him with lying to Congress and witness tampering includes "multiple hard drives containing several terabytes of information consisting of, among other things, FBI case reports, search warrant applications and results (e.g., Apple iCloud accounts and email accounts), bank and financial records, and the contents of numerous physical devices (e.g., cellular phones, computers, and hard drives)."

A new report claims Purdue Pharma, the drug company accused of helping engineer and profit from the opioid epidemic, also considered expanding into addiction treatment. The ProPublica article is purportedly based on secret parts of a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts against Purdue and members of the Sackler family who own the company. The suit alleges Purdue deceptively sold OxyContin and downplayed its dangers. Purdue says it will continue to defend itself. According to ProPublica, blacked out portions of the documents apparently show Purdue wanted to capitalize on addiction treatment. The article cites "internal correspondence" between Purdue Pharma executives discussing how the "sale" and treatment of opioid addiction are "naturally linked." ProPublica goes on to report, "while OxyContin sales were declining, the internal team at Purdue touted the fact that the addiction treatment marketplace was expanding." ProPublica specifically names Kathe Sackler as being involved with a secretive project called "Project Tango," which was allegedly meant to help Purdue break into the addiction treatment market. The redacted documents also reportedly show that Richard Sackler "complained" over email that an OxyContin Google alert "was giving him too much information about the drug's dangers."

As U.S. sanctions against Venezuela’s state oil company ripple through the market, there’s one company with more at stake than most: its Russian counterpart, Rosneft PJSC. Rosneft Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin has personally spearheaded Russia’s support for President Nicolas Maduro’s government and over the past five years, the Russian oil company has funneled more than $7 billion in Venezuela, largely through loans to be repaid in future crude deliveries. Rosneft is “one of the largest international investors in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” according to its annual reports, and the country is one of the company’s largest international investments.

The Trump administration will stop abiding by a landmark arms control pact with Russia as soon as Saturday after last-minute diplomatic efforts to bring Moscow back into compliance failed, a top State Department official told Reuters. “We’ll have an announcement made, follow all the steps that need to be taken on the treaty to suspend our obligations with the intent to withdraw,” Andrea Thompson, under secretary of State for arms control and international security, told the publication in an interview Thursday. Thompson’s remarks followed talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Beijing, where Thompson is leading the U.S. delegation at the 2019 P5 Conference. The U.S. has publicly accused Russia of violating the Soviet-era Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) since 2014, which Moscow denies. President Trump signaled in October that he planned to withdraw from the treaty, citing Russia's failure to comply.

EU launches mechanism to bypass US sanctions on Iran - Virginia Pietromarchi
EU opens new channel for humanitarian trade with Iran, showing its willingness to stand against US policies. The European Union has announced the setting up of a payment mechanism to secure trade with Iran and skirt US sanctions after Washington pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal last May. The proposal of a financial instrument has been a key element in the EU's strategy to keep Iran from quitting the 2015 nuclear agreement, which was signed to prevent Tehran from building nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief. The new institution, named INSTEX - Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges - will allow trade between the EU and Iran without relying on direct financial transactions. It is a project of the governments of France, Germany and Britain and will receive the formal endorsement of all 28 EU members. The administration of US President Donald Trump has been closely eyeing European efforts to establish the financial mechanism and warned any attempt to evade its "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran would be subject to stiff penalties. The mechanism is the first concrete step by the EU to counter Trump's unilateral decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal.

(CNN) An undocumented worker fired from President Donald Trump's New Jersey golf club will be in attendance at Trump's State of the Union address next week after being invited by a Democratic congresswoman. Victorina Morales, a Guatemalan native, worked for years at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey before describing herself as an undocumented worker to The New York Times in December. She was ultimately terminated from her job and currently faces deportation. Morales was invited to Trump's State of the Union address by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-New Jersey, which the congresswoman's office and Morales' attorney confirmed separately to CNN.

Florida public works employees got more than they bargained for Tuesday night when they were called to investigate a possible sinkhole that had opened up outside a shopping center. Beneath the hole was a narrow tunnel stretching 50 years from a wooded area towards a branch of Chase Bank. The FBI is now probing the passageway, which contained a power cable, a generator, muddy boots and a small ladder, local station WPLG reported. "I would like to say I saw something like this in the movies," FBI Special Agent Michael Leverock told reporters Wednesday, per CNN. "However, this hole is so small. It is unique." Any potential burglars would have to squeeze through a diameter of just two to three feet, Leverock said. “It's very small, it's very claustrophobic," he added. “You would not be afraid of small places for sure if you were doing this." The tunnel was most likely dug with pickaxes and a small wagon found at the scene, the special agent explained. Its entrance was hidden by a wooden pallet. “It’s crazy,” Robert Lazerow, a bank customer who stumbled on the investigation, told The Miami Herald. “You only hear about things like that in the movies. How would someone think you could get away with that?” Investigators believe more than one person helped dig the passageway, which did not reach the bank itself. Leverock believes the diggers were aiming for an ATM. They never got into the bank itself, so the FBI is treating the incident as an attempted bank burglary.

Corsi is “Person 1” in Stone’s indictment. I read his book. There’s some stuff in there. The answer to where Robert Mueller is going with his prosecution of Roger Stone could have a lot to do with conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi. Stone, who was arrested last week at his home in Florida, has long had one big question swirling around him: Was he was somehow involved in the “hack and leak”? That is: the hacking of leading Democrats’ emails by Russian intelligence officers, the provision of those emails to WikiLeaks, and the eventual public release of those stolen emails. Stone has denied any involvement. But Corsi — known as “Person 1” in Stone’s indictment — was questioned by Mueller’s prosecutors on this topic extensively, over multiple sessions late last year. In recent months, he’s gone public, giving many media interviews. He even released a book called Silent No More: How I Became a Political Prisoner of Mueller’s “Witch Hunt,” giving what he says is an account of what happened. The book should be read with heaping piles of salt. Before Mueller’s investigation, Corsi was best known as the pundit who helped popularize conspiracy theories that claimed Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and/or was a secret Muslim — neither of which was true. The new book, too, makes many claims about Corsi’s state of mind, intentions, and memories that don’t seem particularly believable. But, interestingly, Corsi goes into a whole lot of detail about what Mueller’s prosecutors asked him, and what evidence they told Corsi they had. Here, Corsi makes some surprising disclosures — and admissions — that really could shed light on Mueller’s investigation.

Trump administration faces an increasingly adversarial Congress — in both parties - Seung Min Kim, Sean Sullivan, Josh Dawsey
Senior Republicans are warning him away from a national emergency declaration to build a border wall. The top Senate leader is directly rebuking his national ­security policy in Syria and Afghanistan. And Democratic committee chairs are threatening subpoenas for his top officials. For an administration that had largely been accommodated by Republican lawmakers during its first two years, President Trump is facing an increasingly adversarial Congress eager to assert itself on matters of foreign policy and oversight. Senate Republicans — fresh off a bruising fight over the longest government shutdown in history — are sending fresh signals of discontent, challenging the administration on foreign policy and imploring it to stay out, for now, of talks to avert another shutdown next month. And in the House, where Democrats came into power largely on a promise to serve as a check on the president, several Cabinet secretaries have already declined to testify before committees on contentious topics such as the impact of the shutdown and the administration’s abandoned policy of separating migrant families.

In 2018, a black supervisor at a GM plant in Ohio reported five nooses hung in his work area over several months. One of his white staffers told him, "back in the day, you would have been buried with a shovel." That same year, a man in Riverside, California, was videotaped hanging a noose on the fence between his house and the house of a mixed-race couple. In September, a white high school student put a noose around the neck of a black classmate in Ouachita, Louisiana. In October, a retired firefighter in Grapevine, Texas, hung a doll by the neck on the railing in front of a black neighbor's apartment in an attempt to intimidate the family. Lynching may seem like something out of the distant past, but the use of lynching symbolism to terrify, intimidate and curtail the lives of black Americans is very much happening today, say civil rights advocates.

“[I]mpressing the NRA’s Russian hosts is the quickest way to secure a private interview with President Putin,” an organizer of the NRA’s infamous 2015 trip to Moscow wrote. A former NRA president hoped to win access to Vladimir Putin on a trip to Moscow, according to an email from one of the trip’s organizers. That organizer, Republican operative Paul Erickson, also said the trip could have “enormous diplomatic consequences.” The email, sent in November 2015 and reviewed by The Daily Beast, came just months before the Kremlin’s election meddling went into full gear. In the email, Erickson wrote that an official with the Russian Central Bank had made a tantalizing, though tentative, offer to former NRA president David Keene: an interview for his newspaper with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the time, Keene was the opinion editor for The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper. He had previously helmed the NRA, and he maintained close ties with its top officials. And he was one of the small group of people on the trip. “[I]mpressing the NRA’s Russian hosts is also the quickest way to secure a private interview with President Putin on behalf of David Keene and the Washington Times–a plum that was dangled in front of Keene by Torshin himself during a recent Torshin visit to Washington, DC,” Erickson wrote. “High stakes all around.” The NRA’s Russian hosts were a powerful group. Alexander Torshin, who Erickson said had tentatively offered Keene a Putin interview, was a deputy governor at Russia’s powerful central bank at the time. Justice Department prosecutors later alluded to him when they charged Erickson’s girlfriend, Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina, with conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent in the U.S. Butina pleaded guilty to the charge last month. Her organization, called The Right to Bear Arms, had helped organize the trip Keene went on. - What is going on with GOP and its love for Putin?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called efforts by House Democrats to make Election Day a federal holiday a "power grab" by Democrats. McConnell was criticizing H.R. 1, the far-reaching bill that Democrats have made the center of their agenda since taking the House. The bill is focused on voting, campaign finance and ethics reform. The bill would make Election Day a holiday for federal workers, and would encourage private employers to do the same. McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday that Democrats "want taxpayers on the hook for generous new benefits for federal bureaucrats and government employees," including a "new paid holiday for government workers." These comments were made the week after 800,000 federal employees across the country were finally back to work after 35 days of having been furloughed or forced to work without pay during the government shutdown. The bill also attempts to dismantle barriers to voting with measures such as automatic voter registration and re-enfranchising felons who have completed their sentences. It would also allow federal workers six days off to work at polling places, which McConnell particularly criticized. - That’s rich coming from Mitch McConnell, McConnell who used his power to usurped a Supreme Court pick from Obama. Did Mitch McConnell steal Obama’s Supreme Court because he failed in his quest to make Obama a one-term president?

Gov. Matt Bevin’s lawyers say taxpayers “should not have to collectively bear the financial responsibility for Davis’ intransigence.” (AP) — As a candidate for governor in 2015, Matt Bevin said he “absolutely supported” a Kentucky county clerk who stopped issuing marriage licenses because of her opposition to gay marriage. But four years later, after a court ordered Kentucky taxpayers to pay more than $222,000 in legal fees for the gay and straight couples who sued, outside lawyers for now Gov. Bevin say former Rowan County clerk Kim Davis broke the law and taxpayers “should not have to collectively bear the financial responsibility for Davis’ intransigence.” “Only Davis refused to comply with the law as was her obligation and as required by the oath of office she took,” Bevin attorney Palmer G. Vance II wrote in a brief filed with the court. Bevin has been a staunch supporter of Davis, who spent five days in jail for refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses following the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalized gay marriage. Davis even switched parties, registering as a Republican because she said the Democratic Party abandoned her. But now, Davis and Bevin will oppose each other in federal court on Thursday as lawyers argue who should have to pay for the lawsuit that stemmed from Davis’ actions. Bevin and Davis, who lost her re-election bid in November, have asked the court not to award legal fees. But if they do, they disagree on who should pay. Davis’ attorneys argue she acted on behalf of the state.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s lawyers say taxpayers “should not have to collectively bear the financial responsibility for Davis’ intransigence.” (AP) — As a candidate for governor in 2015, Matt Bevin said he “absolutely supported” a Kentucky county clerk who stopped issuing marriage licenses because of her opposition to gay marriage. But four years later, after a court ordered Kentucky taxpayers to pay more than $222,000 in legal fees for the gay and straight couples who sued, outside lawyers for now Gov. Bevin say former Rowan County clerk Kim Davis broke the law and taxpayers “should not have to collectively bear the financial responsibility for Davis’ intransigence.” “Only Davis refused to comply with the law as was her obligation and as required by the oath of office she took,” Bevin attorney Palmer G. Vance II wrote in a brief filed with the court. Bevin has been a staunch supporter of Davis, who spent five days in jail for refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses following the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalized gay marriage. Davis even switched parties, registering as a Republican because she said the Democratic Party abandoned her. But now, Davis and Bevin will oppose each other in federal court on Thursday as lawyers argue who should have to pay for the lawsuit that stemmed from Davis’ actions. Bevin and Davis, who lost her re-election bid in November, have asked the court not to award legal fees. But if they do, they disagree on who should pay. Davis’ attorneys argue she acted on behalf of the state.

Democrats have been unable to authorize release of witness transcripts to the special counsel without GOP members who were just named Wednesday. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., formally named the nine Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday, ending a weekslong delay that may have cost special counsel Robert Mueller valuable time to act on potential leads the panel could offer just as he appears close to wrapping his investigation. Democrats now in the majority on the Intelligence Committee had vowed that one of their first acts would be to authorize the release of more than 50 witness interview transcripts to Mueller to aid in his probe. At the least, members have said they had reason to believe some witnesses lied to the panel, something that has already led Mueller to bring charges against Trump allies. It is likely that Mueller and his team of investigators have had access to the committee’s transcripts, two sources familiar with the matter tell NBC News. But while the committee voted unanimously last September to authorize the release of redacted transcripts of most of their Russia-related interviews, the then-GOP majority rejected a Democratic motion to provide all transcripts, including classified materials, directly to Mueller. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the committee, told NBC Wednesday that even if Mueller’s team has seen the transcripts, they have been limited in what they could do with that information.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that God "wanted Donald Trump to become president." Sanders spoke with David Brody and Jennifer Wishon of the Christian Broadcasting Network. Brody during the interview asked the press secretary for a "spiritual perspective" on Trump's presidency. "I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president," Sanders said. "And that’s why he’s there, and I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about.” Trump has often courted the support of evangelical leaders, and many high-profile evangelicals have defended him despite criticism regarding his rhetoric on immigration, race and other subjects. Sanders was asked Wednesday about a pair of religion-based issues, including allegations from conservatives that freshmen Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) harbor anti-Semitic views. The two representatives have drawn criticism for their support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is critical of the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians. - Sarah God did not Donald J. Trump to be president Putin and the devil did.

(CNN) A pro-Russian Twitter account used information from a criminal case that Robert Mueller's team brought against a Russian social media company as part of a disinformation campaign, according to a new filing from the Justice Department. That publication of documents that had been shared with defense attorneys, but not made public in the ongoing case, was yet another disinformation campaign from Russia -- this time aimed at discrediting Mueller's investigation, federal prosecutors wrote in the filing Wednesday. "Certain non-sensitive discovery materials in the defense's possession appear to have been altered and disseminated as part of a disinformation campaign aimed (apparently) at discrediting ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. political system," prosecutors wrote. The documents -- though they did not contain sensitive information that could harm American national security -- should have never reached the public's view, the prosecutors said. In late October, the account @HackingRedstone posted on Twitter a webpage with documents from the criminal case against Concord Management and Consulting. The computer that had published the documents was in Russia, the FBI found. Some of the documents contained numbers and labels that the Justice Department had used to organize the evidence electronically. But the US government and Mueller's office hadn't been hacked. Instead, prosecutors say individuals who had access to the evidence in the case may have spread it. "Concord's request to send the sensitive discovery to the Russian Federation unreasonably risks the national security interests of the United States," prosecutors wrote. "Moreover, consistent with the apparent pro-Russian aim of the tweet, to the extent that the individuals who created the webpage reside outside the United States, this contravention is likely to go unpunished." The 13 Russians indicted alongside Concord have not appeared in US court, and they cannot be extradited by international authorities.

He once felt he owed Trump his loyalty. Now he owes Congress an explanation. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen lied to Congress about issues central to the Russia investigation out of “blind loyalty” to his longtime boss. But now the man who once said he would take a bullet for Trump plans to correct the record before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees—perhaps giving lawmakers more insight than they’ve ever had into the president’s dealings with Russia before and during the election. Cohen’s much-hyped public testimony before a separate panel, the House Oversight Committee, was expected to be highly restricted to avoid interfering with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, with which Cohen has been cooperating for several months. (Cohen postponed that hearing following attacks from the president and the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on his wife and father-in-law.) But the intelligence-committee hearings will be conducted behind closed doors, giving Cohen the opportunity to have a freer exchange with the members. Cohen is willing to answer questions about what he’s told Mueller and other issues related to the ongoing investigation, according to two people familiar with his plans. (They, like other people I spoke with, requested anonymity to discuss the private deliberations.) However, his legal team is also in talks with Mueller’s office to determine whether there are any parameters for his testimony. The House Intelligence Committee is also “in consultation with the special counsel’s office to ascertain any concerns that they might have and to deconflict,” according to a committee aide.

(CNN) Victorina Morales, a cleaner who spent years working at one of President Donald Trump's golf clubs, risked deportation by outing herself as an undocumented worker to the New York Times in December -- but now she's asking Congress for protection. Along with three other former club workers, Morales arrived in Washington this week to meet with lawmakers, who they hope will launch an investigation into Trump Organization hiring practices and shield them from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security. The group met Tuesday with New Jersey Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez. Menendez said after the meeting that he'd "raise concerns" with federal agencies about ensuring their status is not affected "negatively." "[The workers] really speak volumes about the hypocrisy of the president who rails against immigrants but uses their labor and does so in a way, and an in an environment, as I understand it, that was hostile to them and threatening to them," Menendez said in remarks to reporters Tuesday.

Trump reportedly keeps finding a way to meet the Russian leader privately. If you’re a US president, it’s probably not a great idea to meet with a foreign leader who meddled in your country’s elections without some way to record what’s being discussed. But that’s just what President Donald Trump apparently did — again. According to the Financial Times, Trump spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin during last November’s G20 summit in Argentina without a US official present to take notes. First lady Melania Trump was by the president’s side during the chat, but no staff joined them. The White House had previously acknowledged that both leaders met for an “informal” talk but didn’t disclose that Trump had no official member of his team present. Putin did have someone, though: his translator, although it’s unclear if that person wrote anything down. This isn’t the first time Trump has done this. During the G20 meeting in Germany in July 2017, he got up from his seat during a dinner in order to sit next to Putin, who did have his translator to help. That meeting, which the White House didn’t initially reveal, came just hours after Trump bought Putin’s denial that Russia didn’t intervene in the 2016 presidential election. Why having no note taker matters: There are two major problems with Trump’s continued and ill-advised conduct. First, the optics. Trump continually finds ways to meet with Putin privately. That’s a really bad look when you consider the fact that US intelligence says the Russian directed a sophisticated campaign to help Trump win the White House, not to mention special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible Trump-Russia ties during the 2016 presidential campaign. But second, and more importantly, we’ll never really know what happened during the Trump-Putin chat since only four people were there — Trump, Putin, the first lady, and the translator — and nothing was recorded (that we know of). In addition to this, the administration apparently has no notes of any of the many Trump-Putin interactions over a two-year span. And at least on one occasion in 2017, Trump told his translator after an official meeting with Putin not to share details of the meeting with staff. Trump actually seized his notes. This isn’t a minor clerical issue. It actively hinders some US officials from doing their job when they don’t receive a detailed briefing about what the president discussed with another head of state. Without knowing what they agreed to, fought about, or even laughed at, it’s nearly impossible for the administration to conduct policy accordingly. And let’s not forget that we’re talking about Trump here: the guy who shared highly classified intelligence in a meeting with top Russian officials in the Oval Office back in May 2017 and who has surrounded himself with a high number of pro-Kremlin confidants.

The 20-million square foot campus was praised by President Donald Trump as proof of his ability to revive American manufacturing. Foxconn is reconsidering plans to make advanced liquid crystal display panels at a $10 billion Wisconsin campus, and said it intends to hire mostly engineers and researchers rather than the manufacturing workforce the project originally promised. Announced at a White House ceremony in 2017, the 20-million square foot campus marked the largest greenfield investment by a foreign-based company in U.S. history and was praised by President Donald Trump as proof of his ability to revive American manufacturing. Foxconn, which received controversial state and local incentives for the project, initially planned to manufacture advanced large screen displays for TVs and other consumer and professional products at the facility, which is under construction. It later said it would build smaller LCD screens instead. Now, those plans may be scaled back or even shelved, Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn Chief Executive Terry Gou, told Reuters. He said the company was still evaluating options for Wisconsin, but cited the steep cost of making advanced TV screens in the United States, where labor expenses are comparatively high. "In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S.," he said in an interview. "We can't compete."

The last week has seen an immense global backlash following the news that Facebook plans to integrate its three powerhouse messaging platforms - Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram - into one giant data quarry. If anyone was holding out for some tangible reason to fear the data implications of this, then perhaps the news just in that Facebook has been caught paying teens and young adults for (almost) unfettered access to the private data on their phones will be it. You get the sense with Facebook, that data exploitation, treating the information exchanged by its billions of users, as a legitimate domain within which it can casually, commercially trawl, has become so entrenched in the DNA of the organization that it literally can't help itself. The reports overnight, first broken by TechCrunch, are that "desperate for data on its competitors, Facebook has been secretly paying people to install a 'Facebook Research' VPN that lets the company suck in all of a user’s phone and web activity."

After a number of reports revealed that Trump Organization employed undocumented immigrants, the company said it is expanding its system for checking the legal status of new employees. The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump's company plans to start using E-Verify, a system that checks federal databases to determine whether a person is eligible to work in the U.S. "We are instituting E-Verify on all of our properties as soon as possible," Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons who helps run the company, told the Washington Post. "We’re starting with the golf properties, and we are going to be doing all of them." Eric Trump's comments followed a number of reports of illegal immigrants working at Trump's properties, including his hotels and golf clubs. Over the weekend, the Post reported that dozens of undocumented employees had been fired due to their legal status in the country. The firings came amid a fierce debate over illegal immigrants and a wall along the southern U.S. border, Trump's signature campaign promise. The impasse over a wall left the government shutdown for 35 days, the longest in U.S. history. Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has highlighted the negatives of hiring undocumented workers. He has said using E-Verify would help halt the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S., even asking for more money in the 2019 budget to expand the program across the nation. The Post noted that Eric Trump's comments were the first time the company or the Trump family has addressed the legal status of some of its workers after a New York Times story in December revealed several women had worked at Trump's golf club in Bedminster, N.J. for years, one even tended the president's room and made his bed.

President Trump lashed out at U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday, calling them “extremely passive and naive” about the nuclear danger posed by Iran and pushing back on their assessments of the Islamic State and North Korea during a congressional hearing. In a series of tweets, Trump offered what amounted to a rebuttal of testimony on an array of global threats provided to the Senate on Tuesday by a panel of top officials from his administration. Trump was most pointed in his pushback on the assessment of Iran. During testimony, officials said that Iran was not trying to build a nuclear weapon and was in compliance with an agreement forged during the Obama administration from which Trump subsequently withdrew the United States. The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Trump wrote. “They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran.” “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” the president added.

(CNN) Roger Stone is known for hyperbole, but his latest graphic warning should worry Donald Trump. The political trickster said Tuesday, a day he pleaded not guilty to seven charges laid by special counsel Robert Mueller, that Trump's presidency is in mortal peril because the Russia investigation amounts to a "speeding bullet heading for his head." Stone's comment, to "Breitbart News Daily" on Sirius XM radio, added to soaring anticipation, fueled by a remark by acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker on Monday, that the probe could soon end with Mueller's final report. And it raised the question of whether Trump's repeated claim of "no collusion" fired off in scores of tweets and comments to the press, is a sufficiently broad defense to the existential threat that Stone perceives from Mueller's work. The indictment of Stone, Trump's longest serving political adviser, refocused attention on whether Trump and his team crossed legal and ethical lines during an effort to defeat Hillary Clinton in an election that featured a simultaneous Russian meddling operation. The key question for Mueller has always been whether there was a criminal conspiracy by members of Trump's team to cooperate with Moscow's bid to make him President. So far, he has offered no proof of such a bombshell finding, in a forest of indictments, court filings, one trial and convictions of people around the President in a probe that appears to be getting ever closer to the Oval Office. If Mueller does establish such behavior, it would answer the puzzling question: Why have so many people around Trump -- at great costs to themselves -- repeatedly lied about ties to Russians? Or, it's conceivable -- if the special counsel could conclude that though there was evidence of a cover-up -- it was not motivated by a desire to hide a crime, but was meant to spare Trump the political embarrassment of noncriminal links to Russia? But even if that is the case, Mueller's voluminous filings and other publicly available information have established a pattern of behavior by Trump and aides that tore at norms of behavior during campaign season and shows clear disrespect for the integrity of a presidential election -- part of the fabric of US democracy. It is likely to fall to the Democratic-led House to consider whether such activity is unethical and in such conflict with American values, that it merits further action -- potentially even impeachment.

One former analyst at the Wikistrat consulting firm called it ‘disturbing.’Days after Donald Trump rode down an escalator at Trump Tower and announced he’d run for president, a little-known consulting firm with links to Israeli intelligence started gaming out how a foreign government could meddle in the U.S. political process. Internal communications, which The Daily Beast reviewed, show that the firm conducted an analysis of how illicit efforts might shape American politics. Months later, the Trump campaign reviewed a pitch from a company owned by that firm’s founder—a pitch to carry out similar efforts. The founder of the firm, called Wikistrat, has been questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team as they investigate efforts by foreign governments to shape American politics during the 2016 presidential campaign. Joel Zamel, a low-profile Israeli-Australian who started the firm, has deep contacts in Middle Eastern intelligence circles. There are no known publicly available pictures of him. But he met people in the upper echelons of the Trump campaign. In April 2016, senior Trump campaign official Rick Gates reviewed a pitch produced by a company called Psy Group, which Zamel reportedly owns. The pitch laid out a three-pronged election influence campaign that included creating thousands of fake social media accounts to support then-candidate Trump and disparage his opponents, according to The New York Times. After Trump became the party’s official nominee, Zamel met with Donald Trump Jr. and discussed the plan, which echoed both the real election interference already underway by the Kremlin and the scenario Wikistrat gamed out the year before. Zamel took part in at least two meetings in Washington in 2016 and 2017. And his staff at Psy Group made several connections about their social media manipulation plan with individuals who represented themselves as close to the Trump team.

“A cold snap in the teeth of global warming is no more unusual than a cool day in summer. Both happen,” one climate scientist said. The massive cold weather front descending over the Midwest this week has commentators straining for analogies (“Deep Freeze,” “Arctic Outbreak” and “Ice Age”) and at least some people wondering what has become of global warming. President Donald Trump and radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh seemed bemused by the notion that the climate is warming at a time when most of America will be hunkering down against sub-freezing temperatures. But climate authorities, including those inside Trump’s government, said the record-setting cold does nothing to contradict the consensus on climate change. According to a tweet Tuesday morning from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “Winter storms don't prove that global warming isn't happening.”

Public health groups are suing the Trump administration for blocking a rule requiring employers to report details of workplace injuries. The partial government shutdown may have disrupted air travel and triggered financial hardship, but it didn’t stop the White House from continuing to dismantle regulations meant to protect US workers. On Friday, the Trump administration gutted a 2016 rule that required most employers to electronically submit detailed reports of all workplace injuries to the Department of Labor each year — reports they’ve long been required to keep, but never required to submit. The Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule would have allowed the government, for the first time, to get more complete data on how many US workers are injured on the job and how those injuries happened. Enacted under the Obama administration, it was supposed to help inspectors identify dangerous work conditions, and in turn pressure businesses to comply with workplace safety laws. But in 2017, the Trump administration put the electronic reporting rule on hold, then amended it this summer to let employers off the hook. Employers would no longer have to submit the detailed injury reports — just a summary report. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which reviews regulations before they are published, then rushed the amendment through the three-month review process in just six weeks — even though the office was closed during the shutdown and two-thirds of the office’s employees were furloughed. By Friday, the changes were finalized and published. The move caught labor leaders off-guard and drew sharp criticism from public health researchers, who rely on injury data to analyze health risks and develop prevention programs. Public Citizen, a nonprofit group that promotes research-based policies to improve occupational health, immediately filed a lawsuit with two other public health groups to block the changes. The AFL-CIO labor federation accused the department of ramming through the controversial changes as a favor to big business groups, who oppose the rule.

The director of national intelligence, as well as directors from various intelligence agencies, briefed the new Worldwide Threat Assessment to the Senate Intelligence Community Tuesday, lining out the top international threats to the US. Cyber threats from China and Russia and the loss of allies were highlighted as significant threats to the post-World War II world order. The report also directly contradicts White House statements on North Korea's commitment to denuclearization and the defeat of ISIS. Cyber threats, espionage, and election interference. "We anticipate that all our adversaries and strategic competitors will increasingly build and integrate cyber espionage, attack, and influence capabilities into their efforts to influence US policies," the report states.

Some elites of the pro-Trump media sphere have turned on the president for his failure to secure border wall funding after a 35-day partial government shutdown. Trump signed a measure Friday to reopen the government for three weeks while border security negotiations continued. After Trump signed the stopgap measure, Coulter sent a flurry of tweets attacking Trump as a “wimp.” After singing his praises for years, some of President Donald Trump’s most influential defenders have abruptly changed their tunes. Just as recent polls show Trump’s base of supporters shrinking, some elites of the pro-Trump media sphere have turned on the president for his failure to secure border wall funding after a 35-day partial government shutdown. While politicians generally pay close attention to the media, even Republicans in Congress have speculated that a handful of conservative pundits hold significant sway over this president. He reportedly maintains close relationships with some talk-show hosts and has even invited some to speak at his campaign-style rallies.

The Democratic senator knows it’d basically wipe out private coverage. She seems OK with that. Two big questions for Democrats who support “Medicare for All” are whether they understand how such a system would actually work ― and whether they really support what is arguably its most sweeping and controversial feature. When it comes to Kamala Harris, the answer to both questions appears to be yes. Harris, the Democratic senator from California who is now running for president, said during a CNN forum Monday evening that she believes health care should be a right ― and that creating a single, government-run insurance program modeled on Medicare is the best way to achieve that. Harris’ endorsement of Medicare for All is not a new development. She is among more than a dozen Democratic senators who in, in late 2017, co-sponsored Medicare for All legislation from Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and longtime champion of the idea. Harris reiterated that support just a few weeks ago, in an op-ed for The New York Times. But the Medicare for All Act of 2017, as the legislation is formally called, envisions some dramatic changes to the U.S. health care system ― including a prohibition on private insurance, except for coverage of services outside the scope of the new government plan.

The president told a group of visitors that Obama would just sit in a dining room and watch basketball all day, according to The Washington Post. President Donald Trump reportedly likes to put his own spin on tours of the White House. The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump enjoys giving impromptu talks to visitors — and on one occasion baselessly claimed that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, watched a lot of sports from the private dining room off the Oval Office. “He just sat in here and watched basketball all day,” Trump said, according to the publication, citing four people. Trump also claimed to have found the room in “rough shape” when he moved into the official residence in January 2017 and told guests there had been a hole in the wall, the Post reported. An Obama official poured cold water on Trump’s reported tour stories, however. They denied the existence of a hole and said Obama did not watch basketball in the dining room.

(AP) — A high-stakes gambler who rained a hail of gunfire down on a crowd of country music fans, killing 58, took any specific motive for the 2017 attack to his grave, the FBI said Tuesday as it concluded the investigation into the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The agency found no “single or clear motivating factor” to explain why Stephen Paddock carried out the attack from his suite in a high-rise casino hotel. The 64-year-old fatally shot himself as police closed in. “It wasn’t about MGM, Mandalay Bay or a specific casino or venue,” Aaron Rouse, the agent in charge of the FBI’s Las Vegas office, told The Associated Press. “It was all about doing the maximum amount of damage and him obtaining some form of infamy.” The finding was contained in a long-awaited report compiled by the FBI’s Behavior Analysis Unit, a group of experts who spent months examining several factors that might have led to the rampage. “This report comes as close to understanding the why as we’re ever going to get,” Rouse said. Almost 900 people were hurt during the Oct. 1, 2017, attack on an outdoor concert. Paddock wanted to die in infamy, inspired in part by his father’s reputation as a bank robber who was once on the FBI most wanted list, the report said. In many ways, he was similar to other active shooters the FBI has studied. His “decision to murder people while they were being entertained was consistent with his personality,” the report said. The gunman was not directed or inspired by any group and was not seeking to further any agenda. He did not leave a manifesto or suicide note, and federal agents believe he had planned to fatally shoot himself after the attack, according to the report.

At some point during the attack, one of the suspects wrapped a rope around the actor's neck. Empire star Jussie Smollett was attacked early Tuesday morning in what Chicago police are calling a possible hate crime, authorities confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. The 36-year-old actor was exiting a restaurant in the 300 block of East Lower Water Street when two suspects began yelling racial and homophobic slurs toward him. They then proceeded to attack Smollett, punching him before pouring an unknown chemical substance over him, police said. At some point during the attack, one of the suspects wrapped a rope around Smollett's neck. "Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime," police said in a statement to THR. Smollett was hospitalized for his injuries. A rep for Smollett did not immediately respond to a request for his condition update. Police are looking for witnesses and reviewing nearby security footage.

(CNN)A defense attorney for Andrew Miller, who's fighting a subpoena from Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, learned Monday afternoon that the special counsel still wants witness testimony for a federal grand jury. Paul Kamenar, the defense attorney, says the assertion from Mueller's team made clear to him that Mueller and the Justice Department are considering an additional indictment of Roger Stone or have plans to charge others. The development sets up the potential for another twist in the Russia probe. It comes hours after acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said that Mueller's investigation was "close to being completed." Kamenar's client is Miller, a former employee of Stone's whom Mueller subpoenaed in mid-2018 to testify to the grand jury. In a court hearing about Miller's testimony, a judge made clear that Mueller sought information Miller had about Stone's communications regarding Wikileaks and Russian hackers around the time they disseminated damaging hacked Democratic emails. "The special counsel has advised me the grand jury is still interested in Andrew Miller, and they consider the case still a live case," Kamenar told CNN late Monday afternoon. Miller faces no criminal charges. Stone was indicted by the grand jury on Thursday for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice -- but the court papers against him alleged no crimes regarding actual contact between Americans and Julian Assange and the Russians. Stone will be arraigned in Washington Tuesday morning. A separate but related criminal case against Russian intelligence officers alleges Stone was in contact with them about the hacked documents in 2016, but Stone was not named in that case.

(CNN) A federal judge in Virginia has canceled Paul Manafort's sentencing set for February 8 until further notice because of the conflict over his cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller. Judge TS Ellis said Manafort's sentencing should be delayed because the judge in Washington -- who is handling a second criminal case where Manafort pleaded guilty -- hasn't yet resolved prosecutors' allegation that he breached his plea deal. "Because it appears that resolution of the current dispute in defendant's prosecution in the District of Columbia may have some effect on the sentencing decision in this case, it is prudent and appropriate to delay sentencing in this case until the dispute in the DC case is resolved," Ellis wrote Monday.
A hearing is set for Monday regarding Manafort's breach of plea in DC, and it's not clear when that judge, Amy Berman Jackson, will rule on the issue. Manafort's attorneys have said he misremembered details when he spoke to investigators and did not intend to lie.

President Trump will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Feb. 5, 10 days before the deadline for lawmakers in the House and the Senate to reach an agreement on a border security package to avert another government shutdown. On Monday afternoon, Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent an invitation to the president, and he later replied, agreeing to the date. “We have a great story to tell and yet, great goals to achieve!” he wrote. The exchange capped weeks of back-and-forth between the speaker and the president over when, and whether, he could deliver the speech in the House chamber. On Jan. 23, in the middle of the 35-day government shutdown, Ms. Pelosi told the president she wanted to postpone the address, initially scheduled for Tuesday. When Mr. Trump pressed ahead last week, insisting he wanted to give the speech on Tuesday, Ms. Pelosi disinvited him.

The head of the Justice Department said Monday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation is nearing an end — the first official acknowledgment that the probe that has ensnared President Trump may soon reach a conclusion. Acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker made the comment during a news conference about an unrelated subject — indictments stemming from a Chinese technology firm. Asked about his view of the Mueller probe, given critical comments he had made while working as a television pundit before he started working at the Justice Department, Whitaker said that those statements were offered while he was as a private citizen. “I have been fully briefed on the investigation and I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report,” said Whitaker. “I am comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed. . . . Right now, you know, the investigation is, I think, close to being completed.”

A bipartisan pair of senators want to require that a report from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, as well as from other Justice Department special counsels, is released publicly once the investigation ends. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), both members of the Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation Monday that would require a Department of Justice special counsel to hand over a report to Congress once either the probe ends or in the event a special counsel is fired or resigns. “A Special Counsel is appointed only in very rare serious circumstances involving grave violations of public trust. The public has a right and need to know the facts of such betrayals of public trust," Blumenthal said in a statement. Grassley added that requiring a public report would provide "oversight of and insight into activities" of a special counsel probe. "I was encouraged to hear attorney general nominee William Barr place a high priority on transparency when asked at his confirmation hearing about Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, and there’s no reason to think that Mueller won’t be allowed to finish his work," Grassley added. Mueller, or another special counsel, would have to turn over the report within two weeks and must include "all factual findings and underlying evidence," according to a release from Blumenthal's office. An unclassified version would be made public, according to the legislation. Requiring a public report comes after Barr was asked repeatedly about if he would allow any of Mueller's findings to be publicly released. Barr told members of the Judiciary Committee that it was his “intent” to release as much about Mueller’s findings as he can consistent with the law. But he stopped short of pledging to release the report in its entirety.

Of that $11 billion hit, $3 billion is gone forever, a Congressional Budget Office report found. shutdown in government history — but the economic effects will be felt for a long time. A report released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the economy took an $11 billion hit, including $3 billion that's gone forever, in the 35 days that parts of the federal government went unfunded. "In CBO's estimation, the shutdown dampened economic activity mainly because of the loss of furloughed federal workers' contribution to GDP, the delay in federal spending on goods and services, and the reduction in aggregate demand," the report said. And that may just be the tip of the economic iceberg. "Underlying those effects on the overall economy are much more significant effects on individual businesses and workers. Among those who experienced the largest and most direct negative effects are federal workers who faced delayed compensation and private-sector entities that lost business. Some of those private-sector entities will never recoup that lost income," the report said. The CBO said its estimates "do not incorporate other, more indirect negative effects of the shutdown, which are more difficult to quantify but were probably becoming more significant as it continued." "For example, some businesses could not obtain federal permits and certifications, and others faced reduced access to loans provided by the federal government. Such factors were probably beginning to lead firms to postpone investment and hiring decisions," the report said. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that the report shows that "the President’s shutdown inflicted needless pain and chaos in the lives of millions of Americans, and stole billions of dollars from the economy."

For eight years, it seemed to Margarita Cruz that the management at the Trump Organization’s golf club in Westchester, N.Y., did not notice — or did not care — that the green card and Social Security card she had used to get hired were fake, purchased in Queens for about $120. Ms. Cruz, a housekeeper, said she cleaned guest rooms, offices and shops at the club. She laundered sheets and pool towels. But that all ended this month, she said. Ms. Cruz and about a dozen other employees — housekeepers, landscapers and a head chef — at the club, Trump National Golf Club, were fired Jan. 18 because they were in the country illegally, according to interviews with Ms. Cruz and the former workers’ lawyer. The firings were first reported on Saturday by The Washington Post. The New York Times reported in December that undocumented immigrants had been employed at another club owned by the Trump Organization, the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., and that they were kept on the payroll for years even though management there had some knowledge of their fraudulent papers. Several workers deemed ineligible to work in the country had already been fired at the Bedminster club, according to people familiar with the matter. The employment of undocumented workers at Trump Organization properties runs counter to President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, which he has made central to his campaign and his presidency. He is currently in a heated political battle to build a wall along the border with Mexico, which he claims would stop drugs and crime. Evidence does not support Mr. Trump’s thesis.

A tantalizing reference to a high-level campaign official hints at why the Trump confidant allegedly lied to Congress about his contacts with Wikileaks. The special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s indictment of Roger Stone on charges of lying to Congress, obstructing an official proceeding, and witness tampering plops the political provocateur in the hot, deep soup of the Russia scandal, and holds him under for what seems like an eternity. Stone promptly surfaced Friday—arms flung wide in Nixonian victory signs—to claim his arrest was “politically motivated” and promise he’ll plead not guilty. President Donald Trump used the occasion to reprise his “Witch Hunt” and “No Collusion” themes on Twitter. But the indictment trusses and binds Stone with emails and text messages of remarkable specificity that not even the best defense attorney will find easy to untangle. Stone, the indictment alleges, lied to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks, Julian Assange’s organization that released the Russian-hacked Democratic National Committee emails and later the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. Stone impeded the congressional investigation with his false testimony and failure to surrender requested records, according to the indictment, and he tampered with a witness in the investigation, radio show host Randy Credico, whom the indictment refers to as Person 2 and whom Stone called his “intermediary” to Assange and the WikiLeaks trove. Stone allegedly coached Credico to do a “Frank Pentangeli” before the House Select Committee on Intelligence—Pentangeli being the character in The Godfather Part II who lies to a congressional committee as part of a conspiracy to protect mob boss Michael Corleone from prosecution. According to the indictment, Stone, after Credico decided that acting wasn’t for him, also threatened Credico’s therapy dog, Bianca. That can probably be dismissed as standard Stone barking. But the ominous “Prepare to die [expletive],” might be harder to explain.

A mere two days after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history ended, the White House is making clear that President Donald Trump is ready to do it all over again if he doesn’t get funding for a border wall. “Yeah, actually I think he is,” acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on CBS’ Face the Nation when he was asked if the president is willing to shut the government down again. “He is willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border. He does take this very seriously. This is a serious humanitarian and security crisis.” Mulvaney did say that Trump “doesn’t want to shut the government down” and expressed optimism that the “negotiations are far from over.”

(CNN) Kamala Harris did not mention President Donald Trump by name as she officially announced her run for president on Sunday, but she she issued a sharp, mocking attack on his relationship with Russia. In one of her sharpest attacks on Trump's perceived coziness with Russia, she decried a time, "When we have foreign powers infecting the White House like malware." As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Harris has been cautious in how she has described the ongoing probes into Russian interference in the US election and particularly allegations that the Trump campaign colluded the Russians.

Just days after losing the battle with House leader Nancy Pelosi over funding for a border wall, President Donald Trump is laying out his case, once again, for a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. While most Americans were sleeping, reading the paper or getting ready for church Sunday morning, Trump was on Twitter calling for increased border security. To get his point across, he dropped several statistics alleging illegal immigration is spiraling out-of-control and costing the country millions every month. “We are not even into February and the cost of illegal immigration so far this year is $18,959,495,168. Cost Friday was $603,331,392,” Trump tweeted. “There are at least 25,772,342 illegal aliens, not the 11,000,000 that have been reported for years, in our Country. So ridiculous! DHS.” He didn’t say where he got those numbers. But according to a December 2018 report from the Department of Homeland Security, there were an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. in 2015, the last year figures were available.

(CNN) Roger Stone said Sunday he would tell the truth about his communications with President Donald Trump and did not shut the door on the possibility of cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller. Asked on ABC's "This Week" about the chances he would cooperate with Mueller, Stone said his attorneys would need to discuss the subject but contended he would testify honestly about any wrongdoing that may have occurred. "If there's wrongdoing by other people in the campaign that I know about -- which I know of none -- but, if there is, I would certainly testify honestly," Stone said. "I would also testify honestly about any other matter, including any communications with the President. It's true that we spoke on the phone, but those communications are political in nature." Stone was indicted on Thursday by a federal grand jury in Washington on seven counts and was arrested on Friday morning in Florida. Mueller alleged in the indictment that Stone sought stolen emails from WikiLeaks in coordination with Trump campaign officials. Stone said Friday afternoon that he would plead not guilty and would not "bear false witness against the President." Asked then if he was cooperating with the special counsel, Stone said, "I don't want to address that question, but I have made it clear I will not testify against the President, because I would have to bear false witness against him."
In Sunday's interview, Stone echoed Trump in his attacks on the special counsel investigation and denied any "conspiracy with Russia."

Trump advisers lied over and over again, Mueller says. The question is, why? -  Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey, Matt Zapotosky
They lied to the public for months before Donald Trump was elected — and then repeatedly after he took office. They lied to Congress as lawmakers sought to investigate Russia’s attack on American democracy in 2016. And they lied to the FBI, even when they knew lying was a crime. In indictments and plea agreements unveiled over the last 20 months, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has shown over and over again that some of President Trump’s closest friends and advisers have lied about Russia and related issues. On Friday, Mueller laid out a new allegation: that longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone lied to Congress and obstructed its probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign. Trump and his associates have dismissed the serial deception as a sideshow that has little to do with the central question of the Mueller investigation: whether his campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia. Following Stone’s indictment on Friday, Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani scoffed, “Another false-statement case? God almighty.” But it is unclear if the special counsel shares that view. While Mueller has not accused any American of criminally coordinating with Russia, the lies meticulously unspooled by his prosecutors over 20 months have not been mere quibbles.

The flamboyant political aide is often tagged with the term. But its origins—and Stone’s relationship with the word—are complicated. Roger Stone, now under indictment on several counts related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, has always reveled in being a political mischief-maker. It’s a reputation he has burnished since he was 19 years old, when he was involved in the “dirty tricks” operation of Richard Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign. More recently, he bragged publicly about purported contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, the subject of Friday’s indictment. When asked in the 2017 documentary Get Me Roger Stone why he has embraced the role of “dirty trickster,” he shrugged and said, “Well, I’m stuck with it now. It’s going to be in the first paragraph of my New York Times obit, so I might as well go with the flow.” “Dirty trickster” is one thing. But Stone, who says he will plead not guilty to the charges against him, hasn’t been so eager to embrace another, more profane Nixon-era label with which he’s often tagged: “ratfucker,” or a political operator who engages in roguish behind-the-scenes behavior to undermine rivals. He’s inexorably linked to the term, even if he doesn’t like it. “Stone’s specialty is being a ‘ratfucker,’” wrote Will Greenberg of Mother Jones in 2017. Abigail Tracy of Vanity Fair called him a “professional ratfucker” last year—a description echoed by the Law & Crime website after Friday’s indictment. Where did the word “ratfucking” come from, and how did Stone become one of its prime targets? As first recounted by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in All the President’s Men, the term “ratfucking” entered the lingo of the Nixon campaign thanks to Donald Segretti, who was hired by his old college friend, Dwight Chapin, to sabotage the campaigns of Democrats running in the 1972 primaries. As undergraduates at the University of Southern California, Segretti and Chapin, along with other future Nixon staffers including press secretary Ron Ziegler, had been involved in a group called Trojans for Representative Government that gleefully engaged in shady tactics to win campus elections.

Even as he agreed to reopen the government, the president used recycled inaccurate claims to press his case for a wall. President Trump has addressed the nation in prime time from the Oval Office, delivered remarks from the Rose Garden, met with Democrats in the Situation Room and traveled to the border with Mexico to make his case that the government would not reopen unless he got funding for a border wall. Thirty-five days into the shutdown, the president announced on Friday from the Rose Garden that the government would reopen until at least Feb. 15, giving Congress time to work out a deal on border security. He did not get any funding for a wall. And on Friday, he did not advance any new arguments for building one. In fact, many of the claims he made were recycled heavily from previous comments and contained many of the same misstatements and exaggerations. Also notable was something Mr. Trump did not say, namely that Mexico would pay for the wall, one of the most often repeated, and unsupported, claims he has made on the border funding dispute. Mr. Trump continued to inflate figures about crime and drugs. The essence of Mr. Trump’s pitch for a border wall — that a porous border had led to a crime and drug epidemic — remained unchanged. Last year, he said, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement “removed 10,000 known or suspected gang members like MS-13 and members as bad as them.” (This is exaggerated; the agency reported it had removed 5,872 “known or suspected” gang members in the 2018 fiscal year.)

The Justice Department added another piece to the puzzle of its Russia investigation on Friday with charges against GOP political consultant Roger Stone — but the full picture still isn't complete. Stone was arrested in Florida following an indictment by a grand jury working with the office of special counsel Robert Mueller. He denied breaking the law and said he'll plead not guilty when he's arraigned later in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors say Stone and at least two of his associates served as intermediaries between Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and "Organization 1" — as WikiLeaks is referred to in the court document — which fenced material stolen by the Russian government as part of the Kremlin's scheme to wreak havoc in the 2016 White House race. After WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee in July 2016, "a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone" to ask what else WikiLeaks had planned. Stone then pinged "Person 1" — conservative commentator Jerome Corsi — and instructed him to "get the pending ... emails" from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. That was the start of what appeared to be weeks' worth of indirect communication between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks through Stone and his associates, according to the indictment — and, via WikiLeaks, with Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU. The charges Stone is facing are about the accounts he gave to Congress about these events. Stone vowed Friday that he'll fight the charges and said he expects to be "vindicated" in court. A Trump lawyer highlighted on Friday that the charges in the Stone indictment, however, aren't about collusion — they're about the statements Stone made to Congress and others.

The House speaker also took aim at the indictment of Roger Stone, calling Trump’s choice of friends “staggering.” Following the arrest of longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) delivered a damning rebuke of the president’s choice of friends, questioning the legitimacy of his election and his ties to Russia. “The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people,” the congresswoman said in a statement Friday evening. “It is staggering that the President has chosen to surround himself with people who violated the integrity of our democracy and lied to the FBI and Congress about it.” Stone, who was charged with seven counts Friday, including lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, has credited himself with Trump’s presidential run and was an informal adviser to his campaign until the summer of 2015. Stone appears to have seen the indictment coming, often saying that he expected this day to come. In her condemnation of the president, Pelosi accused Trump of continuing to attempt to subvert special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election, arguing it raised serious questions, including “what does Putin have on the President, politically, personally or financially,” and Trump’s motivations behind weighing a NATO pullout. Pelosi said a NATO withdrawal would be a win for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Offering as much insurance as possible that Mueller’s work would be safeguarded, the congresswoman also spoke out against witness intimidation, stating that any effort to “prevent them from appearing before Congress” must be stopped.

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