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August 18, 2014

On Sunday, Ukraine's military entered the center of Luhansk, one of two rebel-held cities in Eastern Ukraine. Rebels reportedly still control parts of Luhansk, but Ukrainian forces posted photos of the Ukrainian flag flying at a city police station.

This is the latest setback for the pro-Russia separatists who declared autonomous "people's republics" in Luhansk and Donetsk, 90 miles away, in April but have been steadily losing ground over the past month. In besieged Donetsk, separatist fighters are reportedly starting to dress in civilian clothes and carousing drunkenly around at night; three senior leaders of the separatist enclaves, all Russian nationals, have resigned or left the country over the past week.

Western officials and analysts are nervous about Russia's response to the separatists' dwindling fortunes. If Russian President Vladimir Putin believes "the rebels are about to get routed, we do have a problem," Eurasia Group analyst Cliff Kupchan tells The New York Times. Moscow's purportedly humanitarian convoy of 280 trucks is still on the Russia side of the border, and Russia maintains that it is not arming the rebels.

The new separatist prime minister of Donetsk, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, said in a statement that Russia was sending him reinforcements, including 150 armored vehicles and 1,200 troops who'd spent the summer training in Russia, however. "They are joining at the most crucial moment," he added. And last Thursday night, reporters for Britain's The Telegraph said they witnessed "a column of armored vehicles and military trucks" crossing from Russian into a remote area near Donetsk; they call this "the first confirmed sighting of such an incident by Western journalists."

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers met Sunday in Berlin with their French and German counterparts for talks on ending the fighting and paving the way for the Russian aid to make its way into Ukraine. "It was a difficult discussion but I believe and I hope that we made progress on some points," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Peter Weber

5:03 p.m. ET
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Track Palin, the son of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was arrested Saturday after a family dispute turned violent, Anchorage Daily News reports.

Track's father Todd Palin told police that the incident occurred after he told his son that he could not retrieve a pickup truck from their home because "he had been drinking and was on pain medication." Per a police report filed after the incident, an intoxicated Track arrived at the home anyway and assaulted Todd, beating him so violently that he "had blood from several cuts on his head and had liquid coming out of his ear."

Upon arriving at the home, police attempted to engage with 28-year-old Track, but that approach failed after he called the officers "peasants" and demanded they surrender their guns. Sarah Palin was the one to contact police and authorities found her "visibly upset" at the scene, per the report.

Track eventually surrendered to police and admitted to the officers that "he had consumed a few beers earlier," the report says. Track additionally told police that when he arrived at his parents' home, "Todd had a gun in his hand. ... When the door did not open, [Track] looked through the window next to the door and saw Todd pointing a gun at him."

Track was arrested and charged with assault and burglary. Last year, he was also arrested on domestic violence charges after he reportedly punched a woman in the face. Read the full police report here. Kelly O'Meara Morales

4:18 p.m. ET
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Former Russian tennis star Anna Kournikova reportedly gave birth to twins with her longtime boyfriend (or possibly husband), musician Enrique Iglesias, this weekend, TMZ writes — but no one had even known she was pregnant. The children, reportedly named Lucy and Nicholas, are the first for the famously private couple.

Kournikova's surprise pregnancy is an oddity in a world of social media rumors and prying paparazzi, although TMZ notes "the last photo we can find of the 36-year-old in public is … on a boat in Miami ... from November 2016." On the twins' alleged birthday, Kournikova posted photos of herself on a boat to Instagram. Jeva Lange

3:48 p.m. ET

Paul Manafort has apparently been dreaming of a white Christmas — by the beach, that is.

On Monday, Manafort's legal team filed a motion to modify the terms of his house arrest to let him spend four days in the Hamptons between Dec. 22 and Dec. 26. President Trump's former campaign chairman was indicted in October on charges including tax evasion, fraud, and "conspiracy against the United States," as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Manafort is currently under house arrest in Virginia. His motion to travel to the Hamptons would seem a little far-fetched if his legal team had not already succeeded last week in petitioning for him to be relocated, pending trial, to his residence in balmy Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, instead of his Virginia condo.

The new motion filed Monday proposes that the conditions of his Florida residency — which include GPS monitoring and an 11 p.m. curfew — now be transferred to his home in Bridgehampton, New York, over the Christmas holiday. Manafort's lawyer notes that the former Trump campaign chairman has old and infirm family members who would not be able to attend a Manafort Christmas in his Virginia apartment, which "would splinter the family's regular religious celebration." That's why Manafort is also requesting to be allowed to travel between Bridgehampton and East Hampton, where his in-laws live, "to celebrate Christmas together as best they can."

For good measure, Manafort's lawyer also asked that the curfew be lifted on Christmas Eve, "should the family decide to attend a midnight religious celebration of the holiday." Read the full motion here. Kelly O'Meara Morales

3:33 p.m. ET

An Amtrak train derailed Monday morning in Washington state, causing "multiple injuries and fatalities," local officials said. Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, said the incident is under investigation.

Troyer said that no motorists were killed in the derailment, and deaths "are all contained to the train. It's pretty horrific." The incident caused a train car to dangle over the major Interstate 5 thoroughfare. Thirteen of the train's 14 cars jumped the track, and on the freeway five cars and two semi-trucks were also involved in accidents because of the crash.

The train was carrying 78 passengers and five crew members when it derailed roughly 40 miles south of Seattle, near Tacoma, just before 8 a.m. local time. It was the inaugural run of a new, high-speed route connecting Seattle and Portland. Amtrak said it was "aware of an incident involving Amtrak train 501." Kimberly Alters

This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout.

2:57 p.m. ET
Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

FBI officials warned Donald Trump that foreign countries like Russia would try to "infiltrate" his campaign as far back as August 2016, NBC News reported Monday. Then the Republican presidential candidate facing off against Hillary Clinton, Trump was apparently briefed on the possibility just weeks after he officially won the GOP nomination.

NBC News reports that counterintelligence officials asked both Clinton and Trump to tell the FBI about any unsavory outreach from foreign actors. Trump most likely received his briefing after Aug. 17, 2016, NBC News reports, by which point several Trump campaign officials had already had the type of interactions that the FBI would be curious about; Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, for example, occurred in June of that year, even though it was not publicly known until The New York Times reported on it this past July.

Former FBI counterintelligence agent Frank Montoya told NBC News that the intelligence community was "aware of contacts" between Trump campaign officials and Russia prior to Trump's briefing, and claimed officials downplayed that knowledge to Trump so as not "to compromise the investigation." Montoya additionally claimed that if Trump's team was indeed warned of potential foreign interference and then stood by as it appeared to occur, that could be a problem. "If we're telling these guys stuff and they are not acting on it, then we're going to keep that as evidence," Montoya said.

A White House spokesperson downplayed the report and said it was "hardly a news story," citing the fact that both Trump and Clinton were briefed on the matter. Clinton's team did not respond to an NBC News request for comment. Read the full story at NBC News. Kelly O'Meara Morales

2:29 p.m. ET

One of President Trump's judicial nominees has withdrawn from consideration, the White House said Monday, after a clip of him struggling to answer basic legal questions went viral last week. The development marks Trump's third failed judicial nominee, after the nominations of Brett Talley and Jeff Mateer also stalled.

Matthew Spencer Petersen, tapped by Trump to be a federal district judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, endured a brutal period of questioning by Republican Sen. John Kennedy (La.) during his Senate confirmation hearing last week — a performance that critics seized on as evidence that Petersen was unqualified for the job.

In a letter to Trump, Petersen wrote that he was withdrawing from consideration because "it has become clear to me over the past few days that my nomination has become a distraction — and that is not fair to you or your administration." In the letter, Petersen recounted his legal background; he has been a commissioner of the Federal Election Commission since 2008, including serving as that body's chairman as recently as 2016.

"I have practiced law for almost two decades — in both private practice and public service. I have worked as an attorney in both bodies of Congress," Petersen wrote. "I had hoped that my nearly two decades of public service might carry more weight than my two worst minutes on television." Read his full withdrawal letter below. Kimberly Alters

1:59 p.m. ET

President Trump tweeted that a devastating train crash in Washington state on Monday illustrates why his infrastructure plan "must be approved quickly":

A timeline for Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure overhaul — one of his major campaign promises — has been unclear, although it remains a possible next step in early 2018 after the GOP votes on a tax plan, Politico reports.

There are still an unknown number of casualties from Monday's crash. Trump followed his initial tweet up ten minutes later with another to offer of his "thoughts and prayers" to everyone involved. Jeva Lange

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