FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
August 15, 2016
Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Sunday night, The New York Times published an article about the relationship between Donald Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and the Moscow-allied former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, as well as secret records from his once-ruling party showing millions of dollars worth of cash payments marked for Manafort.

Manafort was a consultant for Yanukovych, a member of the Party of Regions who fled to Russia after an uprising in 2014. The newly-formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau in Ukraine says that handwritten ledgers found in the former Kiev headquarters of the party show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Manafort from the party from 2007 to 2012, The Times reports. The records were discovered this year, and investigators believe the payments were doled out to people as part of an illegal system that influenced elections. They have not determined if Manafort ever received the money, or the purpose of any payments.

"He understood what was happening in Ukraine," Vitaliy Kasko, a former senior official with the general prosecutor's office, told The Times. "It would have to be clear to any reasonable person that the Yanukovych clan, when it comes to power, was engaged in corruption. It's impossible to imagine a person would look at this and think, 'Everything is all right.'" Manafort began focusing on international consulting in the 1980s, and his firm helped the Party of Regions win several elections. A lawyer for Manafort told The Times that Manafort did not receive "any such cash payments." Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, tweeted a link to the Times report, without comment. Trump has not responded, on Twitter or otherwise. Read the entire report, complete with tales of oligarchs, offshore accounts, and mysterious deals, at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

1:33 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The White House appeared to draw a new red line on Syria Monday night, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer warning that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been caught making "potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack" that "would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children," and if he "conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price." The rest of the government, including the military, appears to have been caught off guard by the announcement.

Five U.S. defense officials "said they did not know where the potential chemical attack would come from, and were unaware the White House was planning to release its statement," BuzzFeed News reports. "Several State Department officials typically involved in coordinating such announcements said they were caught completely off guard by the warning, which didn't appear to be discussed in advance with other national security agencies," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Typically, the State Department, the Pentagon, and U.S. intelligence agencies would all be consulted before the White House issued a declaration sure to ricochet across foreign capitals."

Various agencies and departments referred reporters to the White House for comment. It's "unclear how closely held the intelligence regarding a potential chemical attack was," The New York Times notes, after similarly reporting that "several military officials were caught off guard by the statement" from Spicer. "While the White House's motivation in releasing the highly unusual statement is uncertain, it is possible that Mr. Trump or his advisers decided a public warning to Mr. Assad might deter another chemical strike," the Times suggests, adding that the president has "absolute power to declassify anything he chooses to release," including intelligence on chemical weapons.

At least one Trump administration official appeared unfazed by the statement:

After U.S. intelligence pointed the finger at Assad for an April 4 chemical weapon attack on Syrian civilian, Trump ordered 59 missiles fired at an Assad air base; Russian blamed the anti-Assad opposition, claiming Syrian warplanes had hit rebel stockpiles. Last week, the U.S. shot down a Syrian government warplane after it targeted U.S. allies fighting the Islamic State. Peter Weber

12:59 a.m. ET
Brent Stirton/Getty Images

On July 7, the state of California will add glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup weed killer, to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer, but the maker of the product, Monsanto, is vowing to fight it out in court.

When a chemical is listed as being a known carcinogen, companies selling the product in California must add warning labels to their packaging. Monsanto has filed an appeal, saying the chemical doesn't cause cancer and labels would harm business, The Associated Press reports. "This is not the final step in the process," Monsanto Vice President of Global Strategy Scott Partridge said. "We will continue to aggressively challenge this improper decision."

The chemical is sprayed on 250 types of crops in California, and has no color or smell. Catherine Garcia

12:26 a.m. ET

David Jolly won a special House election in Florida in 2014 as a staunch critic of the Affordable Care Act, but then lost his seat to Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) in November. On Monday night, he told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell that when he was unexpectedly unemployed in January, with a pre-existing condition, he realized that he was glad ObamaCare was the law of the land.

"While I ultimately chose a private-sector plan, I also knew in 2017, ObamaCare provided an exchange that was a safety net that wasn't there before," he said. "And that's why the politics of ObamaCare in 2017 are different than in 2013. I lost my doctor and I lost my plan in 2013, and I was angry about ObamaCare, and I ran for Congress. But in 2017, as an unemployed person with a pre-existing condition, I knew ObamaCare was there as a safety net if me and my wife needed it."

Jolly apparently isn't alone in his newfound appreciation, if not love, for the 2010 law. In its latest ObamaCare tracking poll, released Friday, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 51 percent of U.S. adults had a favorable opinion of the law, "the first month that favorability has tipped over the 50 percent mark since Kaiser Family Foundation began tracking attitudes on the law in 2010," while the GOP replacement plan has become increasingly unpopular, with 55 percent disapproving versus 30 percent who approve. Senate GOP leaders hope to pass their replacement plan as early as this week, after the House GOP passed its version in May.

Also on MSNBC Monday night, GOP strategist Steve Schmidt and host Chris Hayes puzzled over why Republicans are not making a public case for their ObamaCare replacement bill, with the Senate version written behind closed doors before its rush toward a floor vote. Watch below. Peter Weber

June 26, 2017

The bride carried a bouquet made of hot sauce packets, while the groom smelled of chalupas, as is expected when a couple marries inside a Taco Bell.

On Sunday, Dan Ryckert and Bianca Monda became the first people to get married inside Taco Bell's Las Vegas Cantina on the Strip. After they exchanged their "I dos," they dined on quesadillas, burritos, and some Cheesy Gordita Crunches, and toasted with their champagne flutes filled with alcohol-spiked Freezes. They then cut the cake together, a two-tiered masterpiece surrounded by Cinnabon Delights.

Starting August 7, the cantina's wedding chapel will be available to the nacho-loving public, and $600 covers an officiated ceremony, garter, bow tie, bouquet, "Just Married" T-shirts, and a 12-pack of tacos. These Taco Bell touches meant the world to Ryckert and Monda, who met online two years ago and found out early on that they shared a love of casual Mexican fast food. "It was actually one of the first conversations we ever had," Ryckert told People. "She told me that she'd pick Taco Bell over a fancy Mexican place any day of the week, and I knew then that we were going to be a great fit." Catherine Garcia

June 26, 2017
David McNew/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Following the retraction of an article on a Wall Street financier and ally of President Trump allegedly meeting with a Russian investment fund, three investigative journalists at CNN are leaving the network.

On June 22, CNN published a story its website about Senate investigators looking into a meeting between SkyBridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci and an executive for the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which invests in Russian companies, the Los Angeles Times reports. Late Friday, CNN removed the story from its website, saying the article did not meet its editorial standards, and the network also apologized to Scaramucci. Scaramucci said Friday the story was false, and on Saturday, accepted CNN's apology, tweeting: "Everyone makes mistakes. Moving on."

In the wake of the retraction, the article's writer, Thomas Frank, and editors Eric Lichtblau and Lex Harris have all resigned from CNN, the network announced Monday night. CNN did not say that the story was false, just that the facts were "not solid" enough for publication. Harris, who started at CNN in 2001 and oversaw the investigative unit, said in a statement CNN is a "news organization that prizes accuracy and fairness above all else. I am leaving, but will carry those principles wherever I go." Catherine Garcia

June 26, 2017
Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer released a blunt statement Monday night about Syria, claiming the United States has "identified potential preparations for another chemical attack by the [Bashar al-] Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children."

The White House says it has seen activities "similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017, chemical weapons attack." The U.S. is in Syria to "eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria," the statement continued. "If, however Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price." Catherine Garcia

June 26, 2017
Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Tennis superstar Serena Williams is not to be messed with, on or off the court.

Over the weekend, John McEnroe, while promoting his new memoir, But Seriously, told NPR he believes Williams is the best female player ever. When asked why he didn't refer to her, like others have, as the best player in the world, McEnroe responded that while she is "incredible," if Williams "played the men's circuit, she'd be like 700 in the world."

Williams waited until Monday to tweet a message right to McEnroe. "Dear John," she wrote. "I adore and respect you but please, please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based." That wasn't all; Williams went on to add, "I've never played anyone ranked 'there' nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy as I'm trying to have a baby. Good day, sir." Williams is engaged to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and they are expecting their first child. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads