Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 23, 2018

Harold Maass
Our '10 things you need to
know' newsletter
Your free email newsletter subscription is confirmed. Thank you for subscribing!


Fox News reports Trump is considering Manafort pardon

Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt told Sean Hannity on Wednesday that President Trump had told her in an interview earlier in the day that he was considering pardoning his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted Tuesday on eight of 18 counts of financial crimes. One White House official said that would be a PR "nightmare." "I think he feels badly for Paul Manafort," Earhardt said. Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he had sympathy for Manafort, whom he called a victim of a "witch hunt" by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia's election meddling. One of the Manafort jurors, Paula Duncan, told Fox News that a lone juror had prevented Manafort from being convicted on all 18 counts. Duncan, who described herself as an avid Trump supporter, said she was not the lone holdout, but it was hard for her to find Manafort guilty. "I wanted him to be innocent, I really wanted him to be innocent, but he wasn't," she said. [Fox News]


Democrats call for halting Kavanaugh confirmation after Cohen conviction

Several key Democratic senators on Wednesday called for Republicans to halt the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, citing President Trump's implication in possible financial crimes. Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating campaign finance laws, saying he committed the crimes "at the direction of a candidate for federal office," inevitably Trump. "I have canceled my meeting with Judge Kavanaugh," said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), explaining that Trump "does not deserve the courtesy" as an "unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal matter." Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Kavanaugh's "nomination is tainted and should be considered illegitimate," while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) echoed Hirono by saying Americans don't want "an unindicted co-conspirator" to select a Supreme Court justice. [CNN]


White House rejects suggestion that Cohen crime implicates Trump

President Trump and the White House pushed back on Wednesday against suggestions that a plea deal struck by Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, implicated Trump in a crime. "As the president has said, we've stated many times, he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him," Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of Trump. "Just because Michael Cohen made a plea deal doesn't mean that that implicates the president on anything." Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, among other crimes, saying that Trump directed him ahead of the 2016 election to pay hush money to two women who said they had affairs with Trump. Democrats say that makes Trump a "co-conspirator" in a criminal case. Trump said the actions Cohen admitted to weren't even a crime, criticizing him while praising his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted of tax and bank fraud but refused to "break." [Reuters, The New York Times]


New York subpoenas Cohen in Trump Foundation investigation

New York state investigators have subpoenaed Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal lawyer, as part of an investigation into the Trump Foundation, The Associated Press reported Wednesday, citing an official in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) administration. Cohen could potentially provide information about whether Trump or his charity broke state law or lied about liabilities. The news came a day after Cohen pleaded guilty to tax fraud and campaign finance violations connected to alleged hush money paid just before the 2016 election to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump more than 10 years earlier. "We can confirm that a subpoena has been issued to Michael Cohen for relevant information in light of the public disclosures made yesterday," said James Gazzale, a spokesman for the state's tax department. [The Associated Press]


Democratic Party says it was targeted in failed voter-database hacking

The Democratic National Committee revealed Wednesday that a cybersecurity researcher had alerted it to an attempt to hack into its voter database, Votebuilder. The DNC said it had alerted the FBI to the issue on Tuesday, the day the researcher from the firm Lookout warned about the sophisticated hacking attempt, which was not successful, The New York Times reported, citing two officials briefed on the case. A Democratic Party official said it was not immediately clear who was behind the intrusion, in which the hackers sent people inside the DNC emails seeking to trick them into using a fake login page. "This attempt is further proof that there are constant threats as we head into midterm elections and we must remain vigilant in order to prevent future attacks," said Bob Lord, chief security officer for the DNC. [The New York Times]


Judge orders suspect held on $5 million bail in Mollie Tibbetts murder

A judge on Wednesday ordered Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the accused murderer of 20-year-old Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts, to be held on $5 million bail. The government has described Rivera, 24, as an undocumented Mexican immigrant, and President Trump has cited the case as evidence of the need for tougher enforcement of immigration laws. "If he had not been in the country, she would be alive today," Trump said at a Tuesday rally in West Virginia. Rivera's defense attorney Allan Richards fired back, saying, "Sad and sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury members." Richards also disputed the description of Rivera as an illegal immigrant, based on a statement from the dairy farm where Rivera worked. The employer said, however, that it appeared that the statement was incorrect, and Rivera was working under a false name. [MarketWatch, The Associated Press]


Hurricane Lane approaches Hawaii with 155 mph winds

Powerful Hurricane Lane barreled toward Hawaii on Wednesday with top sustained winds of 155 miles per hour. The Category 4 storm was expected to pass close to the islands or make landfall on Thursday, with heavy rains, strong winds, and dangerous surf into the weekend. Lane briefly reached Category 5 intensity late Tuesday before losing a bit of strength early Wednesday. The storm is expected to continue weakening gradually on Thursday and Friday. Still, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu said Lane remained a "dangerous hurricane." Hurricane warnings cover the Big Island and Maui, with the first tropical-storm-force winds expected overnight. Lane would be just the third hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii, and the first since 1992. [Star-Advertiser, The Washington Post]


U.S., China enact new tariffs, escalating trade war

The Trump administration and China went through with a scheduled escalation of their trade war on Thursday, imposing 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion worth of each other's goods. The tit-for-tat tariffs between the world's two largest economies now have extended to $100 billion of products since July. China's Commerce Ministry said Washington was "remaining obstinate" by moving forward with the tariffs. "China resolutely opposes this, and will continue to take necessary countermeasures," it said in a brief statement. Beijing also said it would file a complaint over the new tariffs with the World Trade Organization. Mid-level officials from the two countries resumed trade talks in Washington. Despite the new levies, global stock markets were mostly higher on Thursday. U.S. stock futures were flat. [Reuters, The Associated Press]


Disney offers to pay tuition for thousands of workers

The Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday said it was offering to pay full tuition for hourly workers seeking a college degree, finishing high school, or training to acquire a new skill. The program could benefit as many as 80,000 hourly workers in the U.S. Disney said it would start paying tuition for employees in online classes this fall. Disney plans to invest $50 million in its "Disney Aspire" program initially, then add up to $25 million a year. "The Walt Disney Company will cover 100 percent of tuition upfront and will also reimburse application fees and required books and materials, removing the worry of paying to start or continue school," said Jayne Parker, Disney's chief HR officer, in a blog post. The entertainment giant is the latest major corporation to offer such educational benefits as executives seek ways to attract and keep employees in a tightening job market. [CBS News]


Trump awards posthumous Medal of Honor to airman John Chapman

President Trump on Wednesday awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor to the late Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman for "extraordinary heroism" in a 2002 battle in Afghanistan. After a helicopter carrying Chapman and his Navy SEAL teammates came under heavy enemy fire while landing on Takur Ghar mountain, one of the men fell out into the snow. The helicopter made it to safer ground, and Chapman and his teammates immediately decided to go back for the fallen man. After charging and clearing an al Qaeda machine-gun bunker, Chapman was killed after knowingly stepping into the sights of another enemy machine-gun team in an apparent attempt to draw fire away from an incoming U.S. helicopter. He was the first member of the Air Force to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor in combat, since the Vietnam War. [The Washington Post, CNN]