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June 2, 2017
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In March, the White House acknowleged that Jared Kushner had secretly met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), in December. Kushner, the only known White House official to be a focus of the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, has been under scrutiny for back-channel communications with Moscow he suggested setting up in December with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The White House maintains that the Kushner-Gorkov meeting was just one of many diplomatic meetings President Trump's son-in-law held during the transition, while VEB reiterated to The Washington Post this week that Gorkov met with Kushner as head of his family real estate business, as part of the bank's new investment strategy. VEB has been subject to U.S. sanctions since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

"Either account of the meeting could bring complications for a White House undergoing intensifying scrutiny from a special counsel and multiple congressional committees," The Washington Post notes: Either Kushner was representing Trump at a meeting with a Kremlin-linked bank pushing for lifting sanctions as the president, Barack Obama, was readying new sanctions over Russia's election interference, or Gorkov — a graduate of the FSB intelligence service academy — was meeting with a real estate executive, close to a president-elect, who was scouring for financing for his company's troubled $1.8 billion purchase of a Manhattan office building. Then the Post has this detail:

Flight data reviewed by The Washington Post suggests that the meeting may have taken place on Dec. 13 or 14, about two weeks after Kushner's encounter with Kislyak. A 19-seat twin-engine jet owned by a company linked to VEB flew from Moscow to the United States on Dec. 13 and departed from the Newark airport, outside New York City, at 5:01 p.m. Dec. 14, according to positional flight information provided by FlightAware. ... After leaving Newark on Dec. 14, the jet headed to Japan, where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin was visiting on Dec. 15 and 16. The news media had reported that Gorkov would join the Russian president there. [The Washington Post]

"Basically, VEB operates like Putin's slush fund," said Anders Aslund, a Russia expert at the Atlantic Center. VEB was also implicated in a U.S. espionage case with lateral ties to former Trump adviser Carter Page. The sanctions against VEB would not have barred Kushner from meeting Gorkov or Gorkov from investing in a U.S. real estate project. You can read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

2:33 a.m. ET
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Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford have given the Senate Judiciary Committee sworn and signed statements from four people, including Ford's husband, affirming that she told them about her alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as early as 2012, USA Today reported early Wednesday. "The declarations will be used by Ford's attorneys during a committee hearing on Thursday that could determine the fate of Kavanaugh's embattled nomination." Ford says that at a house party in 1982, Kavanaugh and a friend locked her in a room and Kavanaugh pinned her down, tried to remove her clothes, and covered her mouth when she tried to yell for help. Kavanaugh denies the allegation.

Ford's husband, Russell Ford, says that he learned about his wife's experience "around the time we got married" but didn't know the details until 2012. "I remember her saying that her attacker's name was Brett Kavanaugh, that he was a successful lawyer who had grown up in Christine's home town, and that he was well-known in the Washington, D.C., community," he attests. A friend, Adela Gildo-Mazzon, said Ford told her about the alleged assault over dinner in June 2013, Keith Koegler says Ford told him in 2016 during the Brock Turner assault scandal at Stanford and shared Kavanaugh's name in June, and neighbor Rebecca White said Ford described the assault to her in 2017.

For Thursday's hearing, Republicans have hired Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Ford about her allegations on behalf of the all-male Republican Senate Judiciary Committee membership. You can read more about Ford's sworn statements at USA Today. Peter Weber

1:13 a.m. ET

President Trump was so late to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, his speech was bumped back a slot. "Once he actually made it to the U.N., he jumped right into his favorite talking point, himself," a newly beardless Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. The audience of diplomats and world leaders found that topic unintentionally hilarious. "Don't worry, Mr. President, they're not laughing at you," Colbert said. "They're laughing with each other at you."

"After explaining to the countries of the world that America would leave them alone, he started picking on them," Colbert said, playing some examples. "He's working the room like an insult comic. 'Hey, check out Italy over here — hey, you're not fooling anybody with that big boot. Gambia, Gambia, we all know their national motto: Where the hell is Gambia?'" Trump wasn't mean to everyone, though, he noted: "I can't believe the only guy he praised was Kim Jong Un. Putin is gonna be jealous."

Colbert compared the American president's main message — "Trump appeared before the United Nations to reject the premise of nations uniting," he summarized — to a wedding toast, delivered in Trump voice: "Congratulations to Mike and Diane on their wedding. We believe the institution of marriage is a sham, we reject the ideology of monogamy. Diane, when Mike gets fat, call me.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

12:41 a.m. ET

On Monday, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh did something unprecedented, Trevor Noah said on Tuesday's Daily Show: "He went on TV to reassure the nation that he's not a sexual predator." Kavanaugh repeated the phrase "dignity and respect" a conspicuous amount, Noah said, "like it's a vodka brand that pays him for product mentions. 'Whenever I'm at a prep school party, I always treat women with Dignity & Respect.'" He said Kavanaugh's yearbook also basically disproves his claim he's "always" treated women with dignity and respect, especially Renate Dolphin.

"I'm going to be honest: As a man, I haven't always treated women with dignity and respect, so I'm not trying to throw the first stone," Noah said. "What I'm saying, though, is Kavanaugh is trying way to hard to convince everyone that not only did he not assault anyone, he's always been a living saint. ... It seems like Kavanaugh is so desperate to get this gig, that he's willing to say anything — and I mean anything." Dulcé Sloan shared her thoughts on Kavanaugh's assertion he was a virgin well into college, and she went heavy on the virgin-shaming.

Late Night's Seth Meyers focused on the irrelevance of Kavanaugh's assertion: "First thing: It does not matter if you were a virgin. You are being accused of sexual assault, not sexual intercourse. Those things have nothing to do with each other. It's the same as saying, 'I couldn't have robbed that bank, I'm a virgin.'" Meyers also suggested that "if you're trying to distance yourself from sexual assault, maybe Fox News isn't the place to hang out. Usually when they interview someone accused of sexual assault, it's for a job."

The Late Show's Stephen Colbert just spliced himself into the Kavanaugh interview, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

September 25, 2018

On Tuesday, comedian Bill Cosby was transported to a Pennsylvania state prison in handcuffs after Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill sentenced him to three to 10 years in jail for drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004. Cosby, 81 and legally blind, will also be classified as a "sexually violent predator" on a sex-offender registry for the rest of his life. Constand and some of the other 60-plus women who accuse Cosby of sexual assault celebrated the sentence, but Cosby's publicist Andrew Wyatt declared Cosby innocent, criticized the trial, and tied Cosby to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is fighting his own sexual misconduct allegations.

"I believe and think it is important to point out that this has been the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States," Wyatt said. “What is going on in Washington today with Judge Kavanaugh is part of that sex war that Judge O’Neill along with his wife are a part of."

Kavanaugh and his allies may not be thrilled at Wyatt's attempt to shackle the federal appellate judge to a convicted sex offender, but Wyatt had another analogy, too: "They persecuted Jesus, and look what happened. I'm not saying Mr. Cosby's Jesus, but we know what this country has done to black men for centuries. So Mr. Cosby's doing fine, he's holding up well. And everybody who wants to say anything negative, you're a joke as well." Peter Weber

September 25, 2018

Florence Wisniewski isn't going to let a hurricane sully her good name.

Wisniewski, 4, lives in Chicago, far from where Hurricane Florence caused so much devastation. Her mother, Tricia Wisniewski, told WLS-TV that she explained to her daughter what was going on in the Carolinas, and showed her video of the flooding and houses underwater. "She wanted to help," Tricia Wisniewski said. So Florence, who goes by Flo, helped her mother set up a donation bin on their porch.

They took a map of the hurricane's path and covered it with photos of Flo, and then shared the image on Facebook, asking for donations. Since then, the family has collected food, diapers, toiletries, and money for people affected by Hurricane Florence, which "speaks volumes of the neighborhood," Tricia Wisniewski said. Flo told WLS-TV it was important for her to give back because "it's right to do, to help people." Catherine Garcia

September 25, 2018
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Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor and registered Republican, will question Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) confirmed Tuesday night.

Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers. All 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are men, and they've decided to bring a woman in to ask Ford and Kavanaugh questions while they are under oath during Thursday's hearing.

The Washington Post was the first to report that Mitchell was the leading candidate. Mitchell is a 26-year veteran of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Phoenix, and is the sex crimes bureau chief.

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

September 25, 2018
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The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Friday morning on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.

On Thursday, the panel will hear testimony from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a professor who said she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when they were teenagers. Under committee rules, a vote must be scheduled three days in advance, and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said a vote might not take place. "If we're ready to vote, we will vote," he tweeted. "If we aren't ready, we won't."

The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, said it's "outrageous" for a vote to be scheduled "two days before Dr. Blasey Ford has had a chance to tell her story." Catherine Garcia

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