10 things you need to know today: October 31, 2017
Special Counsel Robert Mueller reveals his first indictments, a judge blocks parts of Trump's military transgender ban, and more
Mueller charges Trump's former campaign chairman with money laundering
Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed charges against Paul Manafort, President Trump's one-time campaign chairman, and another former Trump campaign official, Rick Gates, on Monday, accusing them of money laundering, conspiracy against the U.S., failing to register as foreign lobbyists, and other crimes. The charges stemmed from Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates, but did not involve activities related to Trump's campaign. Manafort's indictment centers on work he did for a pro-Russia party in Ukraine and the alleged hiding of payments in overseas banks. Manafort and Gates turned themselves in and pleaded not guilty. Manafort's supporters disputed the charges. His lawyer, Kevin Downing, called them "ridiculous," and noted that the Ukraine lobbying ended "two years before Mr. Manafort served in the Trump campaign."
Former Trump campaign adviser pleaded guilty to lying to FBI about Russia contact
One of President Trump's former campaign advisers, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with a Russian "professor" offering "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Monday. Papadopoulos was arrested in July and entered his guilty plea on Oct. 5, but the case was not unsealed until this week. Papadopoulous told the FBI that the professor told him that the Russians had "thousands of emails" incriminating to Clinton before he ever joined the Trump campaign. "In truth," the charges read, Papadopoulos joined the campaign in early March, met with the professor in mid-March, and learned of the emails in late April. "The professor only took interest in defendant Papadopoulos because of his status with the campaign," the document says.
Judge blocks parts of Trump's military transgender ban
A federal judge on Monday partially blocked President Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the administration couldn't enforce provisions of Trump's memorandum regarding the enlistment and retention of transgender military service members, because the plaintiffs "have established that they will be injured by these directives, due both to the inherent inequality they impose, and the risk of discharge and denial of accession that they engender." The judge also criticized Trump for unveiling his plan for the ban on Twitter "without any of the formality or deliberative processes that generally accompany the development and announcement of major policy changes that will gravely affect the lives of many Americans." Kollar-Kotelly said her ruling essentially restored the pre-ban status quo. Administration lawyers have said courts "owe the utmost deference" to Trump on military matters.
South Korea and China push to mend frayed relations
South Korea announced Tuesday that they would hold summit talks with China next week in a push to normalize their ties strained over Seoul's decision to let the U.S. deploy a controversial missile defense system within its borders earlier this year. The installation of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system touched off domestic protests and economic retaliation by China, which called the THAAD system a threat to its security. South Korea and the U.S. say the missile defenses are intended strictly as protection against threats from North Korea, which has been warning of attacks against the U.S. and its allies with nuclear-tipped missiles.
Spain charges 20 Catalonia separatist leaders with rebellion
Spanish authorities on Monday charged 20 separatist leaders in Catalonia with rebellion and sedition for the regional government's push for independence. The accused included regional President Carles Puigdemont and Carme Forcadell, the speaker of the Catalan parliament, which Madrid dissolved after regional lawmakers declared Catalonia independent from Spain. "With their decisions and actions over these last two years, they have provoked an institutional crisis culminating with the unilateral declaration of independence, realized with total disregard for our constitution," said Spanish Attorney General Jose Manuel Maza.
NBC ends Halperin's contract after sexual misconduct allegations
NBC News and MSNBC terminated the contract of veteran journalist Mark Halperin, whom multiple women recently accused of sexual misconduct. The Game Change co-author had worked as an NBC News senior political analyst, and contributed on MSNBC shows. Last week, Penguin Press canceled a forthcoming book on the 2016 election co-authored by Halperin, and HBO scrapped a project based on the book. More women have come forward since the initial allegations, bringing the number of accusers to a dozen. The women said Halperin, while clothed, pressed his erect penis against them without their consent at a time when he was in a position of authority at ABC News. Halperin denies some of the specifics, but apologized for what he said was "aggressive and crude" behavior.
FBI looks into controversial $300 million Puerto Rico contract
The FBI is investigating a controversial $300 million contract between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the tiny Montana-based company Whitefish Energy Holdings, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced Sunday that, at his request, PREPA's board will cancel the deal. The power authority hired Whitefish to rebuild power lines on the island following two destructive hurricanes. The deal drew scrutiny because Whitefish only had two full-time employees when it got the contract, and is based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown. Zinke has denied any wrongdoing, and Rosselló said he has not found anything improper about the deal, although it had become "a distraction."
U.S. commandos capture alleged Benghazi plotter in Libya
U.S. special operations forces captured a militant suspected of playing a lead role in the 2012 Benghazi attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. "Yesterday, on my orders, United States forces captured Mustafa al-Imam in Libya," President Trump said in a statement Monday. "Because of this successful operation, al-Imam will face justice in the United States." Details of the weekend raid in Libya were not immediately available. In July 2014, members of the elite Delta Force captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a militia leader and alleged ringleader of the attacks, at his Benghazi home.
Facebook says 126 million users may have seen Russian posts
Facebook plans to tell Congress on Tuesday that 126 million of its users — far more than previously disclosed — may have seen content posted by Russian operatives over the last two years. In written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said 29 million people got content directly from the Kremlin-linked troll farm the Internet Research Agency between June 2015 and August 2017, but as the posts were shared 126 million — the equivalent of half the voting population — could have been exposed. Twitter and Google will also testify that the Russian trolls used social media to reach more of the electorate than previously acknowledged.
Netflix announces end of House of Cards following Spacey allegations
Netflix on Monday decided to end its hit series House of Cards next year after the surfacing of allegations that star Kevin Spacey made unwanted sexual advances against then-14-year-old actor Anthony Rapp in 1986. The show will run through its upcoming sixth season. Netflix announced the move just over 12 hours after Rapp went public with his allegations. He said Spacey made sexual advances when they were alone at Spacey's New York City apartment after a party at a time when both were appearing in Broadway plays. Netflix and producers Media Rights Capital said in a joint statement that they were "deeply troubled by last night's news." Spacey said he did not remember the incident but, if it was true, he owed Rapp "the sincerest apology."