Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not recuse himself from the ongoing investigation into President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, Bloomberg reports. Last year, Sessions announced he would recuse himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and while the Cohen probe was sparked by a tip from Mueller's team, it is being carried out by the Southern District of New York.
Sessions will consider recusal specifically on a "matter-by-matter basis as may be needed," the Justice Department said. "To the extent a matter comes to the attention of his office that may warrant consideration of recusal, the attorney general would review the issue and consult with the appropriate Department ethics experts." Otherwise, Sessions is "entitled to briefings on the status of the investigation," Bloomberg writes, which "could put [him] in the position of being asked by Trump … to divulge information about the Cohen investigation."
FBI agents raided Cohen's office earlier this month, reportedly looking for evidence of possible bank and wire fraud and campaign finance violations, as well as documents related to the $130,000 payment Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels right before the 2016 presidential election. Trump called the raid a "whole new level of unfairness." Jeva Lange
Even as President Trump's new steel and aluminum tariffs dominate the headlines, Congress is quietly moving to temporarily reduce or remove tariffs on 1,662 different products, Reuters reports. The miscellaneous tariff bill, as it is known, unanimously passed the House of Representatives in January, and aims to reduce prices for American consumers and companies on everything from chew toys to camera accessories to certain chemicals.
The tariffs reduced or axed in the bill were originally implemented to protect American industries that supporters say no longer exist domestically. "Why in the world would we put a tariff on a product that's not made in the U.S.?" argued lobbyist Ron Sorini. "It's kind of crazy." A small group of critics, though, argue that removing the tariffs could potentially hurt industries that do in fact still exist, but perhaps do not have the means to defend themselves in Washington. A Reuters assessment found that the bill "includes 145 items that are made domestically."
Supporters of the tariff reductions argue it was on companies and manufacturers to keep up with legislation, and to defend themselves in Washington if they were threatened. "If somebody doesn't know about something, that's a shame, but that might mean that they didn't take steps to stay informed," the executive vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, Stephen Lamar, told Reuters. Jeva Lange
Mueller charges Ukrainian government lawyer for lying about his interactions with Trump campaign official Rick Gates
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has filed charges against lawyer Alex Van der Zwaan, who is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to lying about an interaction with former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, the longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, CNN reports. Van der Zwaan is also accused of willfully failing to turn over an email communication that was requested by the special counsel's office.
Little has been previously reported about van der Zwaan, who is apparently "a London-based, Russian-speaking son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan," writes Washington Post legal reporter Spencer Hsu. BuzzFeed News reports that "according to the criminal information filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office ... investigators asked van der Zwaan in November about his work in 2012 for the Ukraine Ministry of Justice preparing a report on the trial on Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister."
Van der Zwaan is reportedly a London-based, Russian-speaking son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan. Was named in November reports about money allegedly stolen by former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, that allegedly was used to pay a US law firm Skadden Arps for fees. https://t.co/7uaBHUlYpm
— Spencer Hsu (@hsu_spencer) February 20, 2018
Van der Zwaan claimed incorrectly to Mueller's team that his last communication with Gates was an "innocuous text message," the charges say. In fact, van der Zwaan spoke "with both Gates and Person A" in September 2016 about a report on the trial of Tymoshenko.
In November, KyivPost reported that "prosecutors on the case want to question members of the Skadden team who came to Ukraine to work on" the report, which sought to justify the imprisonment of Tymoshenko by former President Viktor Yanukovych. Members of the team cited by KyivPost included "Obama administration officials Gregory Craig and Clifford Sloan, as well as [Alex Van der Zwaan] … who prosecutors say acted as an intermediary for the team on much of the trip." Jeva Lange
Update 9:46 p.m. ET: Alex van der Zwaan pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to investigators in the Russia probe. NBC News reports it's unclear to what extent he may be cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but an agreement he signed last week states in exchange for his plea, he will not be prosecuted further for false statements he made last November and December. He is set to be sentenced on April 3.
This cricket announcer's play-by-play of a crossbow arrow landing on the field is the most delightfully British thing
In what is possibly the most British incident of all time, two very confused cricket teams were forced to end their match Thursday after a crossbow arrow landed in their field, The Independent reports.
No one was hurt in the incident, although the championship match between Middlesex and Surrey at the Oval in London was declared a draw after police arrived onsite to investigate. The bolt was apparently fired from somewhere outside the stadium. "It was a pretty tasty arrow with a proper metal end," Gareth Batty, the Surrey captain, told The Guardian. "I did archery as a kid and that was not a normal archery arrow … It is a deadly weapon for sure, if it had hit someone it would have caused some serious damage. It just shows the world we live in."
Not everyone present was an expert in archery, though. It took the game's announcer quite awhile to understand what was going on — watch his delightful play-by-play below. Jeva Lange
Watch the moment cricketers run for cover after a 'crossbow bolt' hits the Oval pitch during a match between Surrey and Middlesex today pic.twitter.com/16cJynEemj
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) August 31, 2017
President Trump has reportedly overruled the judgment of nearly two dozen of his top officials and Cabinet members and is poised to raise tariffs on certain imports to as high as 20 percent, a decision that is likely to spark a massive global trade war that would affect not just China, but American allies from Japan to the United Kingdom. Trump's final decision, "with a potentially profound effect on U.S. economic and foreign policy, will be decided in coming days," Axios writes.
Trump could raise steel tariffs to 20 percent, even as his decision is likely to spark a court injunction from the affected industries, Axios reports. Aluminum, semiconductors, paper, and certain household appliances could also be affected.
"One official estimated the sentiment in the room as 22 against and three in favor [of the tariffs] — but since one of the three is named Donald Trump, it was case closed," Axios writes. "At one point, Trump was told his almost entire Cabinet thought this was a bad idea. But everyone left the room believing the country is headed toward a major trade confrontation." Jeva Lange
While the rest of the nation scrambled to figure out what the heck was going on in Washington, freshly fired FBI Director James Comey looked decidedly relaxed on Wednesday. The day after President Trump caught him off-guard with the news his tenure as head of the FBI was over, Comey donned a baseball cap and a quarter-zip and enjoyed some sunshine. The Associated Press, which snagged a photo of Comey outside his home, reported he was "casually puttering in his yard." Becca Stanek
— Ted Bridis (@tbridis) May 10, 2017
Honolulu-born former President Barack Obama is returning to his tropical roots to work on his memoir, The Washington Post reports. On the heels of post-presidency vacations through Palm Springs, the Caribbean, and Hawaii, Obama is now staying on the South Pacific island of Tetiaroa, where he reportedly plans to write his book.
The French Polynesian atoll once belonged to Marlon Brando and is a favorite vacation spot of celebrities. Obama reportedly arrived at the Tetiaroa resort alone and will stay for at least a month. It is unclear if the rest of his family will be joining him; daughters Malia and Sasha are busy with an internship and high school, respectively.