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10 things you need to know today: February 23, 2019

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Tim O'Donnell
Special counsel Robert Mueller arrives at the U.S. Capitol for closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017.
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1.

Mueller investigation reportedly will not conclude next week

A senior Justice Department official told NBC News on Friday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's potential involvement in Russian election interference will not conclude "as early as next week," as was previously reported. CNN sources had said it was possible that Attorney General William Barr would announce the completion of the probe in the coming weeks, which would mean Barr would review Mueller's report and write a summary to provide to Congress in the near future. However, the probe, which has gone on for nearly two years and led to indictments or plea deals with 37 people, is reportedly ongoing. [NBC News, The Week]

2.

Mueller's Manafort sentencing memo not made public

Special Counsel Robert Mueller faced a midnight deadline Friday to file a memo with his recommendations for the sentencing of Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chair, who was convicted last year of eight counts of financial fraud. The memo was not made public. A previous sentencing document from Mueller's office recommended Manafort be sentenced to between 19 and 25 years in prison, a penalty that could see him spend the rest of his life behind bars. Friday's filing was sent to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, possibly under seal and with a request to redact some material before public release. [CNN, The Associated Press]

3.

Trump taps a new nominee to replace Haley as U.N. ambassador

In the wake of his first choice, Heather Nauert, removing her name from consideration, President Trump announced on Friday that he has nominated Kelly Knight Craft to succeed Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador. Craft, a Republican donor from Kentucky, currently serves as the U.S. ambassador to Canada. She is credited with playing a key role in negotiating a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico. Having already been confirmed by the Senate for the Canada posting, she is not expected to face a challenge in getting confirmed for the role, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters. [Reuters, The Washington Post]

4.

Trump forecasts a 'very good chance' of U.S.-China trade deal

President Trump met with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the White House Friday, expressing optimism that Washington and Beijing could reach a trade deal soon. "I think we both feel there's a very good chance the deal will happen," Trump said, indicating he may extend a March 1 deadline for new U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports if he feels adequate progress is being made. Additional negotiations between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to take place at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. "I think President Xi and I will work out the final points," Trump mused. "Perhaps and perhaps not." [CNN, USA Today]

5.

Reversing course, Trump announces 400 soldiers will remain in Syria

President Trump announced on Friday that the U.S. will keep 400 soldiers remaining in Syria. Half of the troops will serve as part of a multinational force in the northeastern part of the country, while the other half will be stationed at an outpost in the southeast. On Friday, Trump denied that the decision is a reversal from his previous rhetoric, in which he said he would pull all U.S. troops from Syria. "It's a very small, tiny fraction of the people we have, and a lot of people like that idea," he said. [The New York Times, CNN]

6.

New York prosecutors prepare charges on Manafort in case of presidential pardon

Paul Manafort, former campaign chair for President Trump, was convicted last year on federal crimes, but New York state prosecutors are reportedly drafting a slew of state-level charges that would not be affected by a potential presidential pardon from Trump. Manafort has been jailed due to financial crimes, but Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance reportedly wants to "ensure" Manafort isn't let off the hook even if Trump pardons him, which Trump has declined to rule out. Because defendants can't be charged twice for one offense, state prosecutors are reportedly readying different charges that don't intersect with the federal government's indictment. Manafort hasn't been sentenced, but he is potentially facing between 19 and 25 years in prison. [Bloomberg, The Week]

7.

Planned Parenthood will soon be restricted from Title X funding

Reflecting conservative calls to defund Planned Parenthood, the Trump administration on Friday issued a new rule that excludes abortion providers and abortion referrers from Title X funding. Once it takes effect, the family planning program will largely direct its $286 million budget to faith-based reproductive health groups. The rule, which will take effect 60 days after it's published on the federal register in the next few days, means Planned Parenthood and other providers can't conduct abortions or issue referrals at the same facilities it uses for other reproductive services, such as STD and breast cancer screenings. [NPR, Politco]

8.

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse

R&B singer R. Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse on Friday, and a no-bail arrest warrant has been issued, Chicago police said. Kelly has been accused of abusing several women and minors between the ages of 13 and 16, with allegations spanning several decades. The singer has been accused of running a "cult" of "brainwashed" women he draws in by promising affection or mentorship, and he was dropped by his record label last month after a documentary highlighting the allegations brought increased scrutiny to his alleged actions. Kelly has denied any wrongdoing. [Chicago Sun-Times, CNN]

9.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with solicitation of a prostitute

Police in Jupiter, Florida, charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with solicitation of a prostitute on Friday. Kraft was apparently one of 25 people charged in the prostitution ring bust, which revolved around a Palm Beach County massage parlor. Police claim they have "video of Robert Kraft involved in acts with a prostitute as part of their investigation," NBC News reports. The prostitution ring investigation reportedly took more than eight months to complete, and involved Homeland Security and the IRS in addition to local police. Arrest records reportedly say that women at the massage parlor were being held in "sexual servitude." An active arrest warrant has been issued for Kraft. [CBS News, The Week]

10.

Dianne Feinstein clashes with school children over Green New Deal

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) argued with a group of school of children over her unwillingness to support the Green New Deal on Friday. The Sunrise Movement, an organization which encourages young people to combat climate change, posted a video of the encounter to Facebook. More than a dozen children and adults met with Feinstein to ask her to vote yes on the proposal. Feinstein, however, informed the crowd that "there's no way to pay" for the deal. When one girl requested she vote yes anyway, Feinstein told her that she might end up doing that, but "it's not a good resolution." [CNN, The New York Times]