Day 764: Infinitely better.
1/ Robert Mueller’s sentencing memorandum is due to today before midnight in the prosecution of Paul Manafort. In filings like these, prosecutors typically outline all of the defendant’s crimes, convictions, and their cooperation, which could also shed more light on how Manafort fits into Mueller’s larger Russian investigation. [Editor’s note: I’ve basically been waiting all day for this to drop. I’ll update the blog when this is filed to reflect the latest.] (CNN / Associated Press)
2/ Mueller is not expected deliver a final report to the attorney general next week after all. It was previously reported that William Barr was preparing to announce the completion of the investigation into any links between Trump and Russia as soon as next week. Separately, the chairs of six House committees wrote Barr a letter suggesting that withholding evidence uncovered by Mueller could be the means for a “cover-up.” 34 individuals and three companies so far have pleaded guilty, been indicted or been swept up in the inquiry. (CNBC / CNN / Reuters)
Sarah Sanders is confident that Mueller’s report will not show collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, claiming that Trump had no reason to collude because he was an “infinitely better” candidate. (Washington Post)
Michael Cohen provided federal prosecutors in Manhattan with information about possible irregularities within the Trump Organization, as well as about donations to the Trump inaugural committee. Prosecutors questioned Cohen about Imaad Zuberi, a California venture capitalist and political fund-raiser, who contributed $900,000 to Trump’s committee. (New York Times)
3/ New York state prosecutors are prepared to charge Paul Manafort if Trump issues a presidential pardon for his federal crimes. Manafort could be charged with state offenses without triggering double jeopardy protections, including evasion of New York taxes and violations of state laws requiring companies to keep accurate books and records. Manafort was convicted of eight felonies and pleaded guilty to two more. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month for those federal crimes. Robert Mueller recommended that Manafort serve up to 24 years – essentially a life sentence for the 69-year-old. (Bloomberg / New York Times)
4/ The Trump administration issued a new rule blocking taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions. The rule prohibits organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortions or abortion referrals from participating in the $286 million federal family planning program. Some of that funding will redirected toward religiously-based, anti-abortion groups. (Politico / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)
The U.S. will leave 200 troops in Syria even after the so-called pullout announced by Trump in December. Trump has reportedly backed away from a complete U.S withdrawal from Syria, and will instead leave the “small peacekeeping force” in place for a period of time after the majority of forces have left the country. The decision to leave 200 troops in place came after Trump spoke with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who convinced Trump to “continue coordinating on the creation of a potential safe zone” in Syria. (Reuters)
The Department of Agriculture has paid $7.7 billion to help farmers impacted by Trump’s trade war with China. In total, Trump has pledged a $12 billion relief package to offset the losses from retaliatory tariffs imposed by Beijing in response to Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods. (NBC News)
Trump is the only 2020 presidential candidate who won’t promise not to knowingly use hacked materials that are published during the election cycle. Every other 2020 candidate who has either announced or is in the exploratory phase has pledged not to knowingly use or reference stolen or hacked material that appears online on the grounds that it may have been obtained illegally. (Daily Beast)
The New Jersey state Senate passed a bill that would keep presidential candidates off the state’s 2020 ballot unless they release their tax returns. Candidates for president and vice president would be required to publicly release five of their most recent tax returns at least 50 days before the general election in 2020. (The Hill)
North Carolina’s election boards ordered a new election for the state’s 9th Congressional District after officials said corruption surrounding absentee ballots tainted the results of the 2018 midterm election. The bipartisan board voted 5-0 to hold a new election after Republican candidate Mark Harris was confronted by days of evidence that one of his campaign’s operatives orchestrated a ballot fraud scheme, leading Harris to call for a new vote. The race is the last unsettled 2018 congressional contest in the country. (Reuters)
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