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August 19, 2016
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Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's campaign chairman, made a fortune and revived his political consultant career in Ukraine beginning with a 2005 contract with steel magnate Rinat Akhmetov, The Washington Post details, but Manafort's subsequent work for Ukraine's ruling party and since-ousted Moscow-aligned president, Viktor Yanukovych, might send him to jail, according to newly uncovered documents and emails.

The most serious legal problem for Manafort is that he and his Trump campaign deputy, Rick Gates, did not register as foreign agents for their covert work directly running a lobbying operation in Washington on behalf of Ukraine's government, The Associated Press reports, citing emails it has obtained. The emails show Gates' direct management of a lobbying effort via two lobbying firms, Mercury and the Podesta Group (run by Tony Podesta, brother of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta), and former employees at both firms say Manafort — Gates' boss at DMP International — personally oversaw the campaign and spoke with them on the phone.

Also on Thursday, Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau posted on Facebook 22 instances where Yanukovych's Party of Regions earmarked $12.7 million in "under the table" payments to Manafort, though there is no proof Manafort ever received that money. "Under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, people who lobby on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties must provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department," AP says. "A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000."

Politically, AP adds, "Manafort and Gates' activities carry outsized importance, since they have steered Trump's campaign since April. The pair also played a formative role building out Trump's campaign operation after pushing out an early rival." Manafort's relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a protégé who rose from interpreter to head of Manafort's Ukraine office, is also under scrutiny, given Kilimnik's well-known background with Russia's military intelligence, as detailed by Politico. Kilimnik says he traveled to the U.S. and met with Manafort as recently as this past spring.

Manafort said earlier this week that he had not personally received "any such cash payments" from the Party of Regions (though Manafort's statement "left open the possibility that cash payments had been made to his firm or associates," The New York Times notes), and he and Gates have maintained that they did no work for Ukraine that required registering as foreign agents. Neither had anything to add to those statements on Thursday. You can read more about Manafort's business in Ukraine and ties to its pro-Russian political and business class at AP, The Washington Post, Politico, and The New York Times. Peter Weber

2:07 a.m. ET

If you ask President Trump, Canada has decided to stop being polite and start getting real, and is sticking it to America in the form of cheap softwood.

As Seth Meyers explained on Thursday's Late Night, a fight is potentially brewing between the U.S. and Canada over dairy farmers and lumberjacks, "which sounds like a Canadian romance novel." Canada is being accused of undercutting U.S. dairy farmers and lumber suppliers, and the U.S. retaliated by putting a tariff on Canadian softwood lumber exports. Trump claims that Canada has been "rough" with the U.S. for years, but as Meyers sees it, the worst thing the country has ever done isn't artificially lower the price of lumber, but rather attempt "to pass off ham as bacon." It sounds like maybe that bajillion dollar wall should go to the border up north instead. Catherine Garcia

1:31 a.m. ET
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Spurred on by chief strategist Stephen Bannon and trade adviser Peter Navarro, President Trump was eager to announce he's triggering a U.S. exit from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at a rally on Saturday, his 100th day in office, Trump told reporters Thursday night. "I was all set to terminate," he told The Washington Post. "I looked forward to terminating. I was going to do it." He has said publicly that phone calls from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau changed his mind.

"They called me up, they said, 'Could we try negotiating?'" Trump explained. "I said, 'Absolutely, yes.' If we can't come to a satisfactory conclusion, we'll terminate NAFTA." He told The Wall Street Journal that he told Peña Nieto he'd have to "think about it," but after Trudeau called a half an hour later, he decided "they're serious about it and I will negotiate rather than terminate." Trump's senior advisers say the president had already decided not to pull the plug before he spoke with the Canadian and Mexican leaders, dissuaded by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue, adviser Jared Kushner, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce members.

Purdue made his case with a map of areas that would be affected by pulling out of NAFTA, many of them "Trump country" agricultural and manufacturing belts. "It shows that I do have a very big farmer base, which is good," Trump told The Washington Post. "They like Trump, but I like them, and I'm going to help them." He still took some persuading, Trump said, recounting that at one point he turned to Kushner and asked, "Was I ready to terminate NAFTA?" Kushner said yes.

With NAFTA safe for now, and Trump eager to reassure his nationalist-minded supporters before the 100 day mark, Trump took aim at another free trade deal Thursday night, calling the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (Korus) with South Korea "a horrible deal," adding, "We're getting destroyed in Korea." He called the deal, ratified in 2011, "a Hillary Clinton disaster" that "should've never been made," and noted that unlike NAFTA, if he withdraws from the deal, it will terminate immediately, not in six months. "We've told them that we'll either terminate or negotiate," Trump told The Washington Post. Trump also said he wanted to charge Seoul about $1 billion for using the U.S. THAAD missile-defense system, an idea South Korea rejected. Peter Weber

1:27 a.m. ET
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NRA members planning on attending President Trump's speech at the association's annual conference Friday in Atlanta are being asked to leave their guns at home.

Under federal law, the Secret Service can keep guns out of sites being visited by protected people, even in states with open carry laws, and such a restriction is extremely common for any event where the president is speaking. In a statement to CNN, the Secret Service said that "individuals determined to be carrying firearms will not be allowed past a predetermined outer perimeter checkpoint, regardless of whether they possess a ticket to the event." The NRA said that lawfully carried firearms will be permitted in every other area of the conference, being held this year at Georgia World Congress Center. Catherine Garcia

12:51 a.m. ET
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As he approaches his 100th day in office, President Trump is feeling nostalgic, fondly remembering his days before having the nuclear codes, when he spent his time firing people on television and eating well done steaks in Manhattan restaurants.

"I loved my previous life," he told Reuters in an interview Thursday. "This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier." When he was just a New York businessman with a penchant for gold furnishings, he was used to not having any privacy, but he told Reuters he still isn't quite used to having Secret Service agents with him at all times. "You're really into your own little cocoon," he said, "because you have such massive protection that you really can't go anywhere." That includes getting behind the wheel. "I like to drive," he said. "I can't drive any more." There are a few things from his past life he still gets to do — play golf, tweet at all hours of the day, and visit his private club in Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago, where he has spent half of his weekends as president.

Although Trump did take some time during the interview to rehash the election results — passing out a map to Reuters reporters that showed the areas he won in red — he also looked ahead. He's not going to attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner this weekend because he thinks the media has been treating him unfairly, but that won't stop him from attending it in 2018. "I would come next year," he said. "Absolutely." Catherine Garcia

12:20 a.m. ET
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On Thursday night, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to issue a stay of execution for Arkansas death row inmate Kenneth Williams, 38, clearing the way for his execution before midnight. Williams is the fourth and apparently final inmate Arkansas will put to death before its supply of one of three lethal-injection drugs expires at the end of April. Originally, Gov. Asa Hutchinson had scheduled eight executions, two at a time, over 11 days; courts have stayed four of them. Williams had been scheduled for execution at 7 p.m., but Arkansas had postponed it pending word from the Supreme Court.

(UPDATE: Williams was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m. local time, after the lethal injection regime was administered starting at 10:52 p.m., according to prison officials.)

Lawyers for Williams and Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project had appealed his execution by arguing that the previous executions had been flawed and left the inmates suffering as they died, and also that Williams is developmentally disabled. Lawyers for the state told the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that while Williams has "low average" intelligence, he did not cooperate with the doctors testing his mental capacity. Williams was convicted of murdering two people and later confessed to a third murder, and when he escaped from prison, he killed a fourth person when his getaway car slammed into a water truck. Peter Weber

April 27, 2017
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If Congress is unable to pass a bill to fund the government by a Saturday morning deadline, it won't be that big of a deal, President Trump told Reuters in an interview Thursday.

"We'll see what happens," he said. "If there's a shutdown, there's a shutdown." Unless a bill is passed by 12:01 a.m. ET Saturday, the government will have to temporarily lay off hundreds of thousands of federal workers, which Trump admits would be a "very negative thing."

On Wednesday, the GOP introduced a bill that keeps the government afloat for another week, which would give Republicans and Democrats more time to negotiate a plan that funds the government through Sept. 30. Trump told Reuters his administration is prepared for a shutdown, and if it does take place, it will be the Democrats' fault. Catherine Garcia

April 27, 2017
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Experts in financial crime from the United States Postal Inspection Service are now involved in the Justice Department's investigation of Fox News, several people with information on the matter told CNN Thursday.

The USPIS looks into mail fraud and wire fraud cases, and over the past few weeks, investigators have been interviewing former Fox News staffers, inquiring about managers and their business practices, CNN's Brian Stelter reports. In February, it was reported that the Justice Department was investigating Fox News, and at the time, they were said to be focusing on the settlements made with women who accused former Fox News boss Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, and whether shareholders needed to know about the agreements.

Now, CNN reports, investigators are also examining possible misconduct by Fox News personnel, specifically asking about people known as "friends of Roger," who were loyal to Ailes. They were employed by Fox News as consultants for unknown purposes, and one sent Fox News a monthly invoice for $10,000, CNN reports. 21st Century Fox declined to comment. Catherine Garcia

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