May 17, 2017

A partner of President Trump's financed Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto using hundreds of millions of dollars received from the Russian bank Vnesheconombank, or VEB, The Wall Street Journal reports. At the time of the deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin sat on VEB's supervisory board; Russian experts say the bank is a "vehicle for the Russian government to fund politically important projects," The Wall Street Journal writes.

Trump's partner, Russian-Canadian developer Alexander Shnaider, helped finance the hotel after selling his company's share in a Ukrainian steelmaker for $850 million. The unknown buyer, financed by VEB, was reportedly "an entity acting for the Russian government."

After Mr. Shnaider and his partner sold their stake in the steelmaker, Mr. Shnaider injected more money into the Trump Toronto project, which was financially troubled. Mr. Shnaider's lawyer, Symon Zucker, said in an April interview that about $15 million from the asset sale went into the Trump Toronto project. A day later, he wrote in an email: "I am not able to confirm that any funds" from the deal "went into the Toronto project."

A spokesman for the Trump Organization, the family's real-estate firm, said Mr. Trump had no involvement in any financial dealings with VEB and that the Trump company "merely licensed its brand and manages the hotel and residences." VEB didn't respond to requests for comment. [The Wall Street Journal]

In February, Trump claimed: "To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with [has dealings with Russia]." Trump also directed his lawyers to review his tax returns and release a letter showing limited income from Russian sources over the past decade.

Read the entire story at The Wall Street Journal. Jeva Lange


Consider your holiday shopping done.

Texas resident Trisha Hope has published a book that's literally a compilation of President Trump's many tweets, spanning the entire first year of his presidency. It's fittingly called Just the Tweets, and it seems both of its authors are planning to attend a Texas rally on Monday night.

Hope got the idea to bind Trump's tweets in a book because her relatives weren't on Twitter, she tells KPRC, Houston's NBC affiliate. But "after publishing the tweets on a website, she realized she could just make a book," Galveston County's The Daily News writes. The first of four — or, as the Trump-supporting Hope wishes, maybe eight — expected volumes was published earlier this year.

While selling the book online, Hope quickly ran out of the book's first 500 copies. She has since sold thousands more copies while touring Trump rallies around the country, she told the Daily News. And now, it appears Hope is back in her hometown, selling the $35 books ahead of Trump's Houston rally for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday night.

Hope wasn't the first or the last person to publish Trump's tweets in a book, the Daily News points out. But at this rally, at least, Hope seems to have the hometown advantage — and what she describes as some "ornate gold foil lettering" on the cover to help it stand out. Kathryn Krawczyk


The long train of migrants marching through Central America has continued to grow as it approaches the U.S. — a local government estimated that more than 7,000 migrants are now in the group, reports The New York Times. Many have been walking for days on end to escape violence and poverty, pregnant women and young children included. The hot temperatures and exhausting journey make for what CNBC has labeled a "humanitarian crisis."

Meanwhile, President Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off aid to Honduras, where most of the migrants are from, as well as Guatemala and El Salvador, which many migrants passed through. He's also baselessly claimed there are "unknown Middle Easterners" traveling among the throngs hoping to gain asylum in the United States. Here's a glance at what the group actually looks like. Kathryn Krawczyk

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In the days since Saudi Arabia offered an explanation for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump's reaction has completely shifted.

The president on Monday told reporters he is "not satisfied" with what he has heard from Saudi Arabia about the death of the Washington Post columnist who went missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month, reports Talking Points Memo. After first claiming they had no knowledge of the situation, Saudi Arabian officials claimed last week that Khashoggi was killed as part of a rogue operation carried out by one of the advisers to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

They also claimed that Khashoggi was only supposed to be interrogated and was killed after a fistfight broke out, but on Monday, CNN reported that surveillance footage showed a man suspected of being involved in Khashoggi's death leaving the consulate in his clothing. Turkey suggested that he traveled to Istanbul specifically to serve as a body double.

On Friday, Trump said that he found Saudi Arabia's explanation for Khashoggi's death to be credible. On Saturday, though, he suggested the Saudi government had lied in some way, saying, "their stories are all over the place," reports The Washington Post. However, he also said he wasn't convinced the crown prince was involved.

Trump's statement Monday came after he said he had spoken directly with the crown prince. He also told reporters that he wouldn't wait one month for Saudi Arabia to complete its investigation into Khashoggi's death. "That's a long time," he said, per CNN's Kaitlan Collins, adding that "there's no reason" for it to take a full month. "We're going to get to the bottom of it," he pledged. Brendan Morrow


For Wonder Woman fans, the wait for the second outing will now be even more excruciating than expected.

Star Gal Gadot revealed on Twitter Monday afternoon that Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel to the hit 2017 superhero film, will now be released on June 5, 2020, after previously being scheduled for Nov. 1, 2019. Though this seven-month delay might be disappointing, Gadot presented it as a good thing, calling the June release date the movie's "rightful home." The first Wonder Woman also came out in June and became the highest-grossing film of summer 2017.

Gadot didn't give any particular reason for the delay, but mentioned that it was being moved "thanks to the changing landscape." She could possibly be referring to the fact that a November slot would force Wonder Woman 1984 to compete with the studio's October 2019 release of Joker, the standalone film about the Batman villain.

Marvel also recently removed an untitled film originally planned for July 2020 from its schedule, possibly giving Warner Bros. room to shift Wonder Woman into that new "home" date. It remains to be seen whether there are any other reasons for the delay, but some box office pundits view it as a wise move.

Wonder Woman 1984, as the title suggests, will see Diana Prince returning decades after the events of the first film amid the Cold War. Despite the fact that his character died in the first film, Chris Pine will somehow be returning. Nobody knows for sure how that's happening, but now, we'll have another seven months to speculate wildly. Brendan Morrow


Unpaid taxes and lawsuits may squash Michael Avenatti's presidential campaign before it's even started.

A California judge on Monday ordered Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, to pay $4.85 million he owes to an ex-colleague, reports The Associated Press. The ruling came just hours after The Daily Beast reported that Avenatti owes millions in back taxes.

Monday's suit came from Jason Frank, who was an attorney at Avenatti's former law firm. Frank alleged the firm "misstated its profits" and owed him far more than he was paid, AP writes. After denying Avenatti's request to bring the case to federal court, the judge ruled in Frank's favor. Neither Avenatti not a representative were at Monday's hearing, and did not argue in the case, but Avenatti did tell AP on Monday that Frank owed him $12 million "for his fraud," without explaining further.

Avenatti rocketed to fame after representing Daniels in a lawsuit against President Trump earlier this year. He's since used that platform to campaign for Democrats and float a 2020 presidential run, and often urges Trump to release his tax returns. But Avenatti's first 2020 mention was met with criticism over his finances, particularly reports of $2.4 million in then-unpaid taxes owed by his old law firm. The Daily Beast also reports Avenatti personally owes another $1.2 million to the IRS, though Avenatti says those debts are "fully paid."

Monday's ruling adds to the $10 million Avenatti's former firm was already ordered to pay Frank in May. Read more about Avenatti's reported financial straits at The Daily Beast. Kathryn Krawczyk


Americans will head to the polls this November with a much different view on the nation's biggest problems than in 2016.

A new survey conducted by Pew Research Center found that more U.S. adults view drug addiction, college affordability, sexism, and racism as "very big" problems than did two years ago.

Just before the 2016 presidential election, 56 percent of Americans already viewed drug addiction as being a "very big" problem, but now, that number has risen to 68 percent. Meanwhile, 63 percent now say college affordability is a very big problem, compared to 52 percent in 2016. Today, 34 percent say sexism is a very big problem, compared to 23 percent in 2016; and 46 percent say racism is a very big problem, compared to 39 percent in 2016.

Some of these answers are split among party lines. For instance, while 48 percent of Democrats see sexism as a very big problem, only 17 percent of Republicans do. But a few issues, including drug addiction and ethics in government, earned bipartisan concern.

Then there are issues that have become less troublesome. Two years ago, 47 percent of those surveyed said job opportunities for Americans was a very big problem, but now, that number has shrunk to just 25 percent. In fact, of the 18 issues presented, job opportunities ranked lowest as the least of Americans' worries. Additionally, just 35 percent now say that terrorism is a very big problem, compared to 53 percent in 2016.

The poll surveyed 10,683 U.S. adults online from Sept. 24 through Oct. 7. The margin of error is 1.5 percentage points. See more results at Pew Research Center. Brendan Morrow


The stars have aligned for physics fans hoping to get their hands on a Stephen Hawking relic.

Wheelchairs, scientific papers, and even a script from The Simpsons once belonging to the late physicist will be auctioned off starting Oct. 31, The Associated Press reports. Proceeds from the online sale will benefit Hawking's foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Hawking was given just a few months to live when he was diagnosed with ALS at age 22, but famously produced cosmological theories from a wheelchair until he died at 76 in March. His oldest chair will be up for auction, as well as a newer motorized model expected to fetch up to $19,500, per AP.

The auction's premier item is expected to be a signed copy of Hawking's doctoral thesis, "Properties of Expanding Universes." It's estimated to fetch up to $195,000, AP says. Lower-budget items include a bomber jacket, a copy of A Brief History of Time signed with Hawking's thumbprint, and a script from one of Hawking's several Simpsons appearances. The rest of Hawking's scientific archive will be preserved by the British government.

Papers by Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and other science legends will all be up for grabs at the same auction, CNBC says. If old-school physics is more your thing, drop a bid on a script explaining Isaac Newton's love of alchemy that's expected to go for at least $100,000. Kathryn Krawczyk

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