Day 755: Other methods.
1/ Trump intends to sign the bipartisan border security deal and avoid another partial government shutdown. Trump said he was “not happy” with the deal and suggested that he’d find “other methods” for financing his border wall without congressional approval by “moving things around” in the budget from “far less important areas.” The agreement includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of physical border barriers – short of the $5.7 billion Trump wanted for his wall – and is less than the $1.6 billion included in a Senate package last year. Republicans and administration officials, meanwhile, have signaled that Trump will sign the measure and then immediately use his executive authority to redirect federal money to fund the additional border barriers. The agreement must be signed into law in both chambers of Congress and signed by Trump before the end of the week in order to avoid another shutdown. (CNN / Bloomberg / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC)
2/ Paul Manafort and Rick Gates met with a Russian political operative in August 2016. Prosecutors believe that Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik may have exchanged key information relevant to Russia and Trump’s presidential bid, including a proposed resolution to the conflict over Ukraine and Manafort sharing internal polling data from Trump’s presidential campaign to the Russian associate. (Washington Post)
📌 Day 753: Robert Mueller’s lead prosecutors disclosed that the special counsel is continuing to pursue collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia based on the conversations between Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, who allegedly is linked to Russian intelligence. Prosecutors have been focused on discussions the two had about a “peace plan” to end the conflict following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. The two repeatedly communicated about the plan for Ukraine starting in early August 2016, while Manafort was still running Trump’s campaign, and continuing into 2018 – months after Manafort had been charged by Mueller’s office related to his work in the country. (New York Times)
📌 Day 750: Mueller’s team accused Paul Manafort of lying to them about “an extremely sensitive issue” in hopes of increasing “his chances for a pardon.” Prosecutors allege that Manafort worked on Ukrainian political matters from August 2016 to December 2018 – after his first indictment by the special counsel in 2017 – and that he tried to avoid providing information that could be damaging to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort business partner in Ukraine. Prosecutors believe Kilimnik is connected with Russian intelligence. Kilimnik also attended Trump’s inauguration. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN)
📌 Day 727: Konstantin Kilimnik “appears to be at the heart of pieces of Mueller’s investigation” into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Kilimnik is a Russian tied to Moscow’s intelligence services and is connected to Manafort. Prosecutors filed a 31-page affidavit from an FBI agent, and another 406 blacked-out exhibits, after a federal judge ordered them to lay out the “factual and evidentiary basis” for their claims that Manafort repeatedly lied after his plea deal and as a result had breached his cooperation agreement. (CNN / Washington Post)
📌 Day 719: Paul Manafort gave 2016 polling data to a former employee with ties to Russian intelligence services. The exchange was inadvertently revealed when Manafort’s lawyers failed to fully redact Manafort’s interview with Robert Mueller in a court filing. Manafort’s attorneys meant for Mueller’s line of questioning to remain private, but the text in question was easily readable when opened with a word processor. (Washington Post / CNBC / Daily Beast)
3/ House Democrats plan to launch their own probe into Trump’s connections to Russia. Using their new subpoena power, Democrats plan to focus on potential money laundering by using the multiple committees they control to host hearings and public sessions that could stretch into 2020. Democratic members of Congress plan to interview new witnesses and go back to previous witnesses, who they believe “stonewalled” committees under the Republican majority. The House Intelligence Committee will lead the effort, with the House Financial Services Committee focusing on money laundering, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee looking into possible Russian connections. (Axios)
- The Justice Department is investigating the leak Michael Cohen’s personal bank records, which includes numerous payments to Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, from a company linked to a Russian oligarch. Essential is what Cohen used to make hush money payments to Stormy Daniels to silence her allegations of an affair with Trump. (CNN)
4/ A Manafort-linked super PAC failed to report a $1 million contribution it received just before the 2016 election. The Federal Election Commission has asked the Rebuilding America Now PAC for more information about the contribution, which was disclosed in an amended filing two years after the fact. Mueller, meanwhile, is reportedly investigating whether Rebuilding America Now illegally received foreign funds. (Talking Points Memo)
poll/ 33% of voters support shutting down the government again over Trump’s demand for a border wall while 60% of voters oppose another shutdown. 52% of voters would blame Trump and the Republicans for another shutdown, while 37% say they would blame Democrats. Voters remains split when it comes to building a border wall along the southern border, with 47% in favor and 47% opposed. (Politico)
poll/ Trump’s approval rating jumped seven percentage points to 44% approval after the 35-day shutdown ended. The approval rating is one percentage point shy of his personal best. (Gallup)
The national debt topped $22 trillion for the first time in U.S. history. The Treasury Department shows that the total outstanding public debt is at $22.01 trillion — up from $19.95 trillion when Trump first took office – and the debt has accelerated since the passage of Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut in December 2017 and the increase in military spending. (Associated Press / USA Today / CNBC)
A record 7 million Americans are 90 days or more behind on their car payments – more than 1 million higher than the peak in 2010 following the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Economists warn that this is a red flag, saying car loans are typically the first payment people make because it’s how they get to work, and that as car loan delinquencies rise, it is usually a sign of significant duress among low-income and working-class Americans. (Washington Post / CNBC)
The FEMA administrator resigned. Brock Long was the subject of a Homeland Security investigation last year into his use of government vehicles to travel between Washington and his home in North Carolina. (NPR / Washington Post / CNN)
The Senate passed a public lands conservation bill, designating more than one million acres of wilderness and hundreds of miles of wild rivers for environmental protection and reauthorizing a federal program to pay for conservation measures. The Trump administration, however, has worked to strip away protections on public lands, shrinking national monuments, and opening up large swaths of land up for oil, gas and mining leases. (New York Times / The Guardian / Washington Post)
Trump called for the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep an aging coal plant open that buys coal from a company chaired by a leading donor to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. (Washington Post)
Trump installed a $50,000 room-sized “golf simulator” at the White House, allowing him to play virtual rounds by hitting a ball into a large video screen. It replaced an older, less sophisticated simulator that Obama had installed. (Washington Post)
Trump complained that getting a dog would make him feel “a little phony.” The Trumps are the only modern first family to not have a pet of any kind. (ABC News)
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