1/ Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion, violating campaign finance laws, lying to banks and to Congress. Cohen apologized for his conduct, admitting that he had arranged the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal "for the principal purpose of influencing the election" for president in 2016, and took "full responsibility" for covering up the "dirty deeds" out of "blind loyalty" to Trump. Cohen pleaded guilty in two separate cases: One brought by Robert Mueller over his lies to Congress. The other was brought by the southern district of New York over tax and bank fraud, and campaign finance violations. Cohen blamed Trump for his "path of darkness." In addition to the prison time, Cohen will forfeit $500,000 in assets and pay $1.393 million in restitution. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Politico / The Guardian / NBC News / CBS News / ABC News)

  • Sean Hannity deleted past tweets that tied him to Cohen hours before Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison. Hannity reportedly deleted over 270 tweets, with five of them directly referencing his relationship with Cohen. Hannity deleted several April 16 tweets discussing Cohen following the revelation that Cohen represented him, Trump, and former Republican National Committee Deputy Finance Chair Elliott Broidy in legal matters. "Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective," Hannity tweeted in the now-deleted tweet. (Newsweek / Daily Beast)

  • Trump blamed Cohen for the crimes stemming from paying Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, arguing that it was his "lawyer's liability if he made a mistake, not me." Cohen said he arranged the payments at Trump's behest. (Bloomberg)

  • Stormy Daniels was ordered to pay Trump nearly $293,000 for his attorneys' fees and another $1,000 in sanctions after her defamation suit against him was dismissed. Earlier this year Daniels filed a defamation lawsuit, claiming Trump acted with "actual malice" and "reckless disregard for the truth" when he mocked her claim that she was threatened by an unknown man to keep silent about her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. (Associated Press / The Guardian / ABC News)

2/ National Enquirer's parent company admitted that it paid Karen McDougal $150,000 in an attempt to influence the 2016 election as part of a non-prosecution cooperation agreement that American Media Inc. entered into with the Southern District of New York. David Pecker, a Trump ally and CEO of AMI, met with Cohen "and at least one other member of the campaign" in August of 2015, offering "to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate's relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided." AMI confessed to the tabloid practice of "catch and kill," paying McDougal for the rights to her story about an alleged affair with Trump and then never publishing it. (Bloomberg / Talking Points Memo / CNN / New York Times)

  • 🚨The "one other member of the campaign" was Trump. In August 2015, Trump met with Pecker in his Trump Tower office and asked how he could help the campaign. Pecker offered to use the National Enquirer to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Trump. (Wall Street Journal)

  • ⏪Four days before the 2016 election, Hope Hicks claimed the Trump campaign had "no knowledge of any of this," adding that McDougal's claim that she had an affair with Trump was "totally untrue." In a statement at the time, the company said that "AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump." (Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌Day 581. David Pecker was granted immunity by federal prosecutors for providing information about Cohen and Trump in their criminal investigation into hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the 2016 presidential campaign. In exchange for immunity, the CEO of American Media, Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, met with prosecutors and shared details about payments Cohen arranged to Daniels and McDougal, including Trump's knowledge of the deals. Dylan Howard, AMI's chief content officer, is also cooperating with federal prosecutors. Together, Pecker and Howard corroborate Cohen's account implicating Trump in a federal crime (campaign-finance violations). Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis says there are more revelations to come. And, one person close to Cohen claims Cohen wants to tell Mueller that Trump discussed the release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's e-mails during the weekend when the Access Hollywood "grab 'em by the pussy" tape dominated the news cycle. Late last night, Trump tweeted: "NO COLLUSION - RIGGED WITCH HUNT!" It's unclear what prompted the tweet. (Wall Street Journal / Vanity Fair / NBC News / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 581: The National Enquirer kept a safe with documents about hush money payments and damaging stories it killed as part of its relationship with Trump. Pecker and the company’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, removed them from the safe in the weeks before Trump's inauguration and it's unclear if the documents were destroyed or simply were moved to a new location. (Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 547: Michael Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model who had an affair with Trump. In the September 2016 conversation at Trump Tower, Cohen told Trump that American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, had bought the rights to McDougal's story about her affair with Trump for for $150,000 in August 2016. Cohen suggested that they acquire the rights to McDougal's story themselves and Trump asked how to proceed and whether he should write a check. The FBI seized the recording during the raid on Cohen's office. Rudy Giuliani confirmed that Trump had discussed the payments with Cohen on the tape, but said the payment was ultimately never made. Prosecutors want to know if Cohen's efforts to limit negative stories about Trump during the campaign violated federal campaign finance laws. When informed about the recording today, Trump responded: "I can't believe Michael would do this to me." (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 162: "Morning Joe" hosts claimed that Trump tried to blackmail them with a National Enquirer hit-piece. Joe Scarborough recounted a story where "three people at the very top of the administration" called and texted him to say the National Enquirer was going to run a negative story about him and Mika Brzezinski. "If you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage," the officials said, "then [Trump] will pick up the phone and basically spike this story." In a Washington Post op-ed by Scarborough and Brzezinski today, the couple said that during the campaign, Trump called Mika “neurotic” and promised to personally attack them after the campaign ended. Trump is friends with David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer. (CNN / Washington Post)

3/ Michael Flynn asked to be spared jail time because of his "extensive cooperation" with Mueller. Flynn pleaded guilty last December to lying to the FBI during its counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He blamed the FBI agents for tricking him into lying by not warning him "that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview." Flynn asked to receive a year of probation and 200 hours of community service in light of his cooperation, long service in the U.S. military, and his lack of a criminal record. Mueller's office similarly recommended little to no jail time last week because he had provided "substantial assistance" in the investigation that "likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming." (Politico / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / NBC News)

  • Everyone who's been charged as part of the Mueller investigation. The special counsel has issued more than 100 criminal counts against 33 people and three companies. (New York Times)

4/ The incoming New York attorney general plans to launch a wide-ranging investigation into Trump, his family, and "anyone" in his orbit who may have violated the law. Letitia James plans to investigate any potential illegalities involving Trump's real estate holdings in New York, the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, government subsidies Trump has received, whether he used his businesses to violate the emoluments clause, and the Trump Foundation. (NBC News)

  • Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are poised to benefit financially from the Opportunity Zone tax break they pushed Trump to pass. Opportunity Zones provide tax breaks to developers who invest in depressed American communities. Watchdog investigators say the pair are navigating an ethical minefield after becoming two of Trump's closest advisers without divesting from their real estate investments. The couple owns stakes in at least 13 properties held by Kushner's family firm that could now qualify for tax breaks because they are in Opportunity Zones in New Jersey, New York, and Maryland. (Associated Press)

  • Rudy Giuliani continues to seek lucrative security consulting contracts with foreign governments while representing Trump as part of his work for Giuliani Security and Safety. Giuliani is not a government employee and is not subject to government ethics rules. His security consulting contracts include clauses stipulating that he will not lobby on behalf of clients before the U.S. government. (New York Times)

  • The targets of U.S. sanctions are trying to hire lobbyists with connections to Trump in order to help them reduce or get out of those sanctions entirely. Some of the biggest payments to Washington's influence industry have gone to lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants with connections to Trump or his administration, a notion that reeks of the pay-to-play corruption often seen in the politics of many African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and former Soviet nations. "People overseas often want to hear that you know so-and-so, and can make a call to solve their problem," said a leading Washington sanctions lawyer. The trend has been encouraged by Trump administration officials who project Trump's willingness to make deals around sanctions and tariff exemptions. (New York Times)

5/ Trump claimed he is not concerned about impeachment a day after it was reported that he sees impeachment as a "real possibility." He then defended the payments he directed Cohen to make to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, saying "It's hard to impeach somebody who hasn't done anything wrong and who's created the greatest economy in the history of our country." Trump added: "I'm not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened." (Reuters)


Notables.

  1. The next chief of staff needs to win the approval of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. The two have their sights set on Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, who they see as extremely loyal. Mnuchin, however, remains uninterested in the position. "There was no Plan B" after Nick Ayers refused to take the job, Steve Bannon said. Trump, meanwhile, claimed that 10 to 12 people who want the chief of staff job "badly," but the understanding is that Trump has essentially been "just calling around to friends" to try and fill the position. (Reuters / Politico / Washington Post)

  2. Trump doubled down on his decision to stand by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite his own CIA's assessment that MBS ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. "He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia," Trump said during an interview. "They’ve been a very good ally." Trump continued to defend MBS by reiterating that the "crown prince vehemently denies" any involvement in Khashoggi's death. (Reuters)

  3. The Trump administration decided that Vietnamese migrants who arrived before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Vietnam are all eligible for deportation. The White House reinterpreted a 2008 agreement that specifically bars the deportation of Vietnamese people who arrived in the U.S. before July 12, 1995. (The Atlantic)

  4. The Senate passed legislation to reverse a Trump administration policy limiting donor disclosure requirements for political nonprofits. The resolution blocks the recent Treasury Department change to IRS forms allowing political nonprofits to avoid listing some donors. The rule, however, is unlikely to survive the GOP-led House, which must vote on the resolution before the end of the year. (Politico / Washington Post)

  5. The House passed an $867 billion farm bill to address a wide range of areas including farming, nutrition, conservation, trade, energy and forestry. The bill, which passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support, heads to Trump's desk for his signature. (The Hill / Los Angeles Times / CNN)

  6. Despite no evidence linking terror attacks in the U.S. to illegal immigration, Trump used the attack in France to again argue for more funding for his border wall. "Another very bad terror attack in France," Trump tweeted. "We are going to strengthen our borders even more. Chuck and Nancy must give us the votes to get additional Border Security!" (ABC News / Politico / Washington Post)