Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 17, 2018

Trump acknowledges reimbursing Cohen in financial disclosure, the White House says the North Korea summit is still on, and more


Trump acknowledges reimbursing Cohen in financial disclosure

President Trump reported a reimbursement to his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in his latest financial disclosure that appears to cover the $130,000 Cohen paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. That payment was made days before the 2016 presidential election to ensure Daniels' silence on her claim that she had an affair with Trump more than a decade earlier. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels, and he denied knowledge of any payment to her until recently acknowledging he had paid Cohen a retainer fee to cover the handling of "false and extortionist accusations." The new disclosure acknowledges that Cohen was reimbursed for expenses between $100,000 and $250,000, but doesn't specify for what.


White House says Trump's meeting with North Korean leader still on

The White House said Wednesday that the planned June summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was still on, despite reports that Pyongyang was threatening to back out. North Korean state media announced Wednesday that Kim may reconsider the talks in Singapore if the U.S. continues to demand that Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons program. National Security Adviser John Bolton recently said North Korea could follow the example of Libya, which abandoned a far less advanced nuclear program. Libya's longtime leader, Moammar Gadhafi, was overthrown by Western-backed rebels and killed, making the precedent unappealing for Kim. Trump was asked about the summit, and said, "We'll see what happens."


Senate panel releases information on Trump Tower meeting

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday released information regarding its investigation into a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Trump campaign associates and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump Jr., who attended the meeting, struck an unapologetic tone in an interview with the panel last year, saying he didn't think there was anything wrong with talking to a Russian lawyer. He said he didn't recall whether he discussed the meeting with his father, and that it hadn't occurred to him that the meeting might have been part of Moscow's efforts to help President Trump beat Clinton.


Senate Intelligence Committee says Russia tried to boost Trump campaign

The Senate Intelligence Committee's leaders said Wednesday that they had "no reason to dispute" the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election hoping to help then-candidate Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival. The statement was released jointly by the committee's chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and its vice chair, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). "Our staff concluded that the ... conclusions were accurate and on point," Warner said. "The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton."


Tillerson warns of leaders who conceal the truth

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday warned against a "growing crisis in ethics and integrity" in a commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute. He said if Americans don't confront their leaders' failings "then American democracy, as we know it, is entering its twilight years." The remarks were widely interpreted as a veiled rebuke of his former boss, President Trump. Tillerson also said that truth, or a "common set of facts," is necessary to safeguard a free society. "If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom," he said.


Whistleblower: Bannon sought to stoke 'culture war' using online data

President Trump's former strategist Stephen Bannon sought to stoke a "culture war" by using personal information collected online to exploit tensions over race, immigration, and other sensitive topics, a whistleblower from now-defunct political data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica told U.S. senators on Wednesday. The whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, worked for SCL, Cambridge Analytica's British parent. Cambridge Analytica was driven out of business by the backlash over allegations that it improperly used data for 87 million Facebook users. The company did work for President Trump's campaign. Wylie said that one of the reasons he left the company was that he heard discussions about discouraging voting by African-Americans. An attorney for Bannon, who was then a Cambridge Analytica vice president, did not immediately comment.


Senate Democrats push through legislation to preserve net neutrality

Senate Democrats, with the help of three Republicans, approved legislation seeking to reverse the Federal Communications Commission's plan to ditch the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules preventing internet service providers from slowing connections for some users and letting others pay for faster service. Despite prevailing in the 52-47 vote, Democrats have little hope of passing the measure in the Republican-controlled House. Even if they did, President Trump would be expected to veto it, and Democrats would lack the votes to override him. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by Trump in January 2017, got the commission to overturn the net neutrality rules in December, calling them heavy-handed.


North Carolina teachers protest for better pay, more education funding

About 19,000 North Carolina teachers protested in the streets of the state capital, Raleigh, on Wednesday, calling for better pay and increased funding for public schools. "I feel the current politicians in charge of the state are anti-public education," Raleigh high school teacher Bill Notarnicola said at the march, the latest in a series of teacher protests across the country demanding increased education spending. "We are seeing cutback, after cutback, after cutback." The teachers, wearing red shirts, carried signs with such slogans as "We care! We vote!" Many of the demonstrators entered the Legislative Building, where the Republican-controlled legislature was holding meetings. No arrests were made.


Trump lawyer Michael Cohen reportedly sought $1 million from Qatar

President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, sought a $1 million payment from the government of Qatar in December 2016 in exchange for advice and access to the Trump administration, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing the recipient of the offer and several others with knowledge of the alleged request. Qatar reportedly declined the offer on the sidelines of a Trump Tower meeting between the Persian Gulf nation's foreign minister and Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump's first national security adviser, and then-key Trump aide Stephen Bannon. Cohen did not participate in the meeting, but spoke privately with Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who then ran the investments division of Qatar's sovereign wealth fund.


Michigan State reaches $500 million settlement with Nassar victims

Michigan State University has reached a $500 million settlement with hundreds of victims of Larry Nassar, the former school physician who has been accused of sexual assault by scores of women. The settlement, announced Wednesday, requires the school to pay out $425 million while reserving $75 million should more victims come forward. Nassar remained employed by Michigan State for years after his abuse was first reported to school officials; university president Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis have resigned in the backlash. Nassar was also a longtime team doctor for USA Gymnastics, and several athletes spoke out about his abuse at his sentencing earlier this year, including Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber.


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