1/ Michael Cohen says Trump knew in advance about Trump Jr.'s meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Cohen doesn't have evidence to back up his claim, but he is reportedly willing to make the assertion as part of his testimony to Robert Mueller. Cohen claims that he, along with several others, were in the room when Trump Jr. told Trump about the Russian's offer. According to Cohen, Trump approved the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Cohen's claim contradicts Trump, Trump Jr., their lawyers, and administration officials who have repeatedly said Trump didn't know about the meeting until he was asked about it in July 2017. Trump's response at the time was: "No. That I didn't know. Until a couple of days ago, when I heard about this. No I didn't know about that." A few days later, Trump was again asked whether he knew about the meeting. His response: "No, I didn't know anything about the meeting…. must have been a very unimportant meeting, because I never even heard about it … nobody told me."(CNN / NBC News / Washington Post)

  • 19 times Trump and his allies denied he knew of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. If true, Cohen's claim would contradict repeated denials from Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and lawyers for both, as well as other administration officials, who maintain that Trump learned about the meeting in 2017. (CNN)

  • Michael Cohen: "I'm not going to be a punching bag anymore." Cohen's actions appear to be driven by his outrage over Trump's indifference, his feelings of betrayal, and the personal and financial weight of the criminal case being assembled by federal prosecutors. (Washington Post)

2/ Trump tweeted that he "did NOT know" in advance about Trump Jr.'s Trump Tower meeting, disputing Michael Cohen's assertion that he did and accusing him of "trying to make up stories." Cohen said he's willing to testify that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the 2016 meeting in Trump Tower. In July 2017, it was reported that Trump personally dictated Trump Jr.'s statement about the latter's meeting with the Russian lawyer, claiming they had "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children." (Washington Post / CNN)

  • Natalia Veselnitskaya served as a ghostwriter for top Russian government lawyers and received assistance from senior Interior Ministry personnel. In the U.S., Veselnitskaya tried to overturn the Magnitsky Act, but denied acting on behalf of Russian officials and told Congress that she operates "independently of any government bodies." (Associated Press)

3/ Russians unsuccessfully hacked Sen. Claire McCaskill as she began her 2018 re-election campaign, making her the first known target of the Kremlin's 2018 election interference campaign. There is no evidence that the attempt to penetrate her campaign or staff systems was successful. (Daily Beast / NPR)

4/ Accused Russian spy Maria Butina had dinner last year with Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican congressman on the House Foreign Relations Committee. Two years earlier, Butina arranged a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, that included Rohrabacher and her mentor Alexander Torshin, who is one of Putin's closest allies. Rohrabacher also met Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during an official trip he made to Moscow in April 2016. Later that summer, Rohrabacher traveled to London to meet with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. WikiLeaks released Hillary Clinton's hacked emails on July 22, 2016. (ABC News)

5/ Nineteen months into the Trump presidency, there is no single person or agency in charge of combatting foreign election interference. This afternoon Trump presided over the first National Security Council meeting devoted to defending American democracy from foreign manipulation. Trump has called Russian election interference a hoax and its investigation a witch hunt. (NBC News)

6/ Putin invited Trump to Moscow days after the White House postponed its plans to host the Russian president. Sarah Sanders said Trump is "open to visiting Moscow" and that "Trump looks forward to having President Putin to Washington after the first of the year." Putin said he was ready to meet either in Washington or Moscow. (New York Times / CNN / Reuters)


Notables.

  1. The acting EPA administrator reversed Scott Pruitt's final policy decision to grant a loophole to pollution-emitting trucks. Andrew Wheeler formally vacated the agency's decision not to impose a pollution cap on "glider" trucks — vehicles with older and less efficient engines installed. (New York Times)

  2. The arrest of Stormy Daniels was planned months in advance, according to documents released by a whistleblower from the City of Columbus, who sent the Fayette Advocate emails and news clippings discussing Daniels' scheduled appearance, as well as pictures of her with Trump and videos of her dancing. The documents also included a map of the club where she was scheduled to perform. (Newsweek / Fayette Advocate)

  3. Trump administration issued 38 permits allowing 33 hunters to import lion trophies into the U.S. from two African nations. More than half of the individuals issued trophy hunting permits have been donors to the GOP or Trump. (HuffPost / The Hill / NPR / Friends of Animals)

  4. Trump used a taxpayer-funded trip to campaign for Republican congressional candidates in Illinois. He didn't name the candidates, but three Republicans were with him: Mike Bost, Rodney Davis and John Shimkus. (Washington Post)

  5. Trump again attacked NATO and Germany and complained about the news coverage of his recent trip to Europe. He told the crowd he was tough on Russia. "One thing I know about NATO, for sure," Trump said, "is that it's better for Europe than it is for us." (Independent)

  6. Trump Jr. falsely claimed that quarterly gross domestic product never passed 2% growth under Obama. It did. 15 times. (The Hill)