Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 19, 2022

Ex-CFO of Trump family business pleads guilty to tax fraud, a judge leans toward unsealing parts of Trump-search affidavit, and more

1

Ex-Trump Organization CFO pleads guilty to tax fraud

The former chief financial officer of Donald Trump's family business, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring with the company on a scheme to avoid paying taxes by compensating executives with under-the-table perks. He didn't implicate Trump. Under a plea deal, Weisselberg agreed to testify at the Trump Organization's October trial and admit participating in the scheme, which could make it harder for the real-estate company to defend itself against the charges. If Weisselberg testifies truthfully, he will be sentenced to five months in prison. Otherwise, he could get up to 15 years. He must pay nearly $2 million in taxes, penalties, and interest on unreported perks, including leased Mercedes-Benzes, a rent-free luxury apartment, and private-school tuition for his grandchildren.

2

Judge orders DOJ to redact Trump search affidavit for likely release

A federal judge on Thursday said he is inclined to unseal parts of the affidavit used to justify the recent FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the Justice Department to propose redactions to protect sensitive information in the affidavit, including the identities of cooperating witnesses. Jay Bratt, head of a Justice Department counterintelligence team, argued that the affidavit should not be made public because the department's investigation into Trump's handling of classified documents is in its "early stages," and has "national security overtones." But Reinhart said it was "very important" for the public to have as much information as possible about the unprecedented search of a former president's residence.

3

U.N. chief calls for demilitarizing area around Ukraine nuclear plant

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called for demilitarizing the area around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which Russia seized early in its invasion of Ukraine, amid warnings of an imminent attack. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling dangerously close to the plant, stoking concerns of a potential nuclear disaster. "The area needs to be demilitarized, and we must tell it as it is: Any potential damage in Zaporizhzhia is suicide," Guterres said. The U.N. chief met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the nuclear plant and possible steps toward peace, but reached no breakthrough. Erdogan is trying to mediate the conflict, and plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

4

Biden administration prepares to shift COVID treatment costs to insurers

The Biden administration is preparing to stop paying for COVID-19 shots and treatments as cases drop and pandemic funding runs low, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The Biden and Trump administrations always planned to shift control and responsibility for coverage to the health-care industry. "We've known at some point we'd need to move over into the commercial market, and we're approaching that time now," said Dawn O'Connell, assistant U.S. health secretary for preparedness and response. The transition could take months. The Department of Health and Human Services has scheduled an Aug. 30 planning session that will include drugmakers, pharmacies, and state public health officials.

5

Suspect pleads not guilty in Salman Rushdie stabbing

Hadi Matar, the 24-year-old New Jersey man accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie in Chautauqua County, New York, last week, pleaded not guilty Thursday to second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault. If convicted on the attempted murder charge, relating to Rushdie's stabbing, Matar could face up to 25 years in prison. He could face up to seven years on the assault charge, for the injury to another speaker on the stage. Rushdie has lived for years under threats from Muslim extremists over passages in his 1988 satirical novel The Satanic Verses that they consider sacrilegious. The 75-year-old author could lose vision in his right eye due to one of his numerous wounds.

6

2022 already deadliest year on record for Mexico journalists

This year is the deadliest on record for journalists in Mexico, with 18 killings already in 2022, human rights organization Article 19 said in a report released Thursday. "2022 could be the worst year in a century for the press," Article 19 regional director Leopoldo Maldonado told Reuters. The group has identified a link between the murders and the journalists' work in nine of the 18 cases. It has also documented 331 cases of intimidation, harassment, and other attacks against journalists in the first half of the year, a 52 percent increase over the same period of 2018, under former President Enrique Pena Nieto. Four journalists have been forcibly displaced within Mexico, and two have been driven into exile.

7

Judge blocks DeSantis-backed 'Stop WOKE Act'

A federal judge in Florida on Thursday blocked the "Stop WOKE Act" backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), saying its restrictions on how companies and schools can discuss race turns the First Amendment "upside down." "Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely," wrote U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark Walker, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama. "But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely." When DeSantis signed the law in April, he said it was necessary to prevent "the far-left woke agenda" from taking over Florida schools and workplaces.

8

3 men charged with Boston gangster Whitey Bulger's murder

A Mafia hitman and two others have been charged with killing notorious Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger four years ago in a West Virginia prison, the Justice Department said Thursday. Fotios "Freddy" Geas, Paul DeCologero, and Sean McKinnon were charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Bulger was beaten to death at USP Hazelton in 2018, just hours after being transferred there from a Florida prison. He was serving a life sentence for numerous crimes, including 11 murders. Bulger's death triggered questions about why a known FBI informant was placed with the general prison population. Bulger's family sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons, accusing it of "deliberately" sending Bulger to his death, but a judge dismissed the case in January.

9

CEO who set workers' minimum salary at $70,000 steps down 

Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price, who made national headlines in 2015 for slashing his own pay and setting a $70,000 minimum salary for his workers, has resigned from the credit card processing firm after being accused of trying to kiss a woman against her will. Price, who founded the company in college, said he is stepping down to focus on fighting the allegations, which he says are false. "My No. 1 priority is for our employees to work for the best company in the world, but my presence has become a distraction here," he wrote in an email to staff that he posted to Twitter. In 2015, Price cut his own salary from $1 million to match that of his workers, raising their salaries to at least $70,000 from a previous average of $48,000.

10

North Korean leader's powerful sister tells South Korean president to 'shut his mouth'

Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, lashed out Friday at South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol for repeating his offer of economic aid to Pyongyang in exchange for nuclear disarmament. "It would have been more favorable for his image to shut his mouth, rather than talking nonsense as he had nothing better to say," Kim Yo Jong said in a statement released by state news agency KCNA. "No one barters its destiny for corn cake." Her remarks were North Korea's first public response to the South Korean president's proposal, which he first made in May and mentioned again on Wednesday in a news conference marking his first 100 days in office. Yoon called his plan "audacious." Kim called him "really simple" and "childish."

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