August 19, 2016

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's campaign chairman, made a fortune and revived his political consultant career in Ukraine beginning with a 2005 contract with steel magnate Rinat Akhmetov, The Washington Post details, but Manafort's subsequent work for Ukraine's ruling party and since-ousted Moscow-aligned president, Viktor Yanukovych, might send him to jail, according to newly uncovered documents and emails.

The most serious legal problem for Manafort is that he and his Trump campaign deputy, Rick Gates, did not register as foreign agents for their covert work directly running a lobbying operation in Washington on behalf of Ukraine's government, The Associated Press reports, citing emails it has obtained. The emails show Gates' direct management of a lobbying effort via two lobbying firms, Mercury and the Podesta Group (run by Tony Podesta, brother of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta), and former employees at both firms say Manafort — Gates' boss at DMP International — personally oversaw the campaign and spoke with them on the phone.

Also on Thursday, Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau posted on Facebook 22 instances where Yanukovych's Party of Regions earmarked $12.7 million in "under the table" payments to Manafort, though there is no proof Manafort ever received that money. "Under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, people who lobby on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties must provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department," AP says. "A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000."

Politically, AP adds, "Manafort and Gates' activities carry outsized importance, since they have steered Trump's campaign since April. The pair also played a formative role building out Trump's campaign operation after pushing out an early rival." Manafort's relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a protégé who rose from interpreter to head of Manafort's Ukraine office, is also under scrutiny, given Kilimnik's well-known background with Russia's military intelligence, as detailed by Politico. Kilimnik says he traveled to the U.S. and met with Manafort as recently as this past spring.

Manafort said earlier this week that he had not personally received "any such cash payments" from the Party of Regions (though Manafort's statement "left open the possibility that cash payments had been made to his firm or associates," The New York Times notes), and he and Gates have maintained that they did no work for Ukraine that required registering as foreign agents. Neither had anything to add to those statements on Thursday. You can read more about Manafort's business in Ukraine and ties to its pro-Russian political and business class at AP, The Washington Post, Politico, and The New York Times. Peter Weber

May 14, 2021

Nicki Minaj is opening up about the "devastating" loss of her father.

The rapper emotionally addressed her father's death in a letter on her website Friday three months after he was killed in a hit-and-run on Long Island, reports Entertainment Weekly. These were her first public comments on his death, according to Yahoo News.

"It has been the most devastating loss of my life," Minaj wrote. "I find myself wanting to call him all the time. More so now that he's gone. Life is funny that way."

In February, Charles Polevich was charged in connection with the hit-and-run death of Robert Maraj. Nassau County Police Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick said Polevich "made the conscious decision to leave" the scene "instead of dialing 911" after hitting Maraj with his car in Mineola, New York, The Associated Press reported. Minaj's mother filed a $150 million lawsuit against Polevich in March; her lawyer said at the time Polevich's "behavior was criminal, cowardly, and immoral."

In her post on Friday, Minaj wrote that she can't yet "bring myself to discuss" her father's death further, but she paid tribute to him by writing, "May his soul rest in paradise. He was very loved & will be very missed." Brendan Morrow

May 14, 2021

It's the meme that just won't go away (but will go "to the moon," apparently).

A Rhode Island man sold a vacant lot in Providence for 150,000 Dogecoin (or about $50,000 at the time), in what is believed to be the first real estate deal brokered using the meme-inspired cryptocurrency, local TV station WJAR reported Thursday.

"He said, 'I think it would be really cool if we could only sell my lot using Dogecoin,'" realtor Kyle Seyboth said of the unnamed seller. Now, the sale has Seyboth's "phone ringing from people who want to do the same thing," even if fluctuating prices make it impossible to know whether the buyer or the seller will come out on top.

Dogecoin first began as a joke, in the wake of 2013's popular Doge meme. But after recent endorsements from Elon Musk and a subreddit of online investors, the digital currency has seen quite the meteoric rise in value. Prices dropped after Musk's May 8 appearance on Saturday Night Live, and again when the SpaceX CEO announced Tesla would stop accepting "Bitcoin as payment," but still it remains the "fourth-largest crypto by market value on CoinMarketCap," per CNBC.

As of Friday morning, Dogecoin was up 39.4 percent after crypto exchange platform Coinbase announced it would officially list the coin, reports CNBC. Brigid Kennedy

May 14, 2021

In January, The Pokémon Company announced that it was teaming up with Universal Music Group artists to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Though nobody knew exactly what that meant at the time, the hope was obviously for either "new pocket monster-inspired tunes" or a Lavender Town theme exercise remix — but instead we got Post Malone singing about his favorite NFL team?

On Friday, Katy Perry shared her own contribution to the anniversary celebrations: a video for her new single "Electric," in which she travels back in time with her Pikachu to make her younger self enter a talent show. Though the song sounds like it belongs on a TJ Maxx playlist ("there's no reason that this life can't be electric!"), it's at least more on-brand for Pokémon than Hootie and the Blowfish.

Read more at Kotaku. Jeva Lange

May 14, 2021

Nicolas Cage put on an ill-advised fake Jamaican accent in order to audition for 2011's The Green Hornet, according to Seth Rogen, who went on The Howard Stern Show earlier this week.

Rogen recalled how Cage said he wanted his character to be a "white Bahamian man," which "set off a lot of alarms." Rogen explained, "I remember going there with Evan [Goldberg] my partner and just being like, 'I just don’t want him to do it in front of us. I'll just be so uncomfortable.' And I remember Evan being like, 'He's not going to do it. He'll talk about it. He won't launch into it. That would be too much.'"

But then Cage showed up "and literally within 60 seconds … he stands in front of us reciting a monologue, talking in a Jamaican accent," Rogen said. "And we were just like, 'It's happening.'" Read the whole cringey story at The Hollywood Reporter, or watch below. Jeva Lange

May 14, 2021

"My girlfriend" just doesn't have the same ring to it, but comedian John Mulaney is reportedly dating actress Olivia Munn — news that broke shortly after Page Six revealed he's divorcing his wife of six years, Anna Marie Tendler.

Munn and Mulaney supposedly met at church, though Munn has admitted she's had her eye on Mulaney for years. In a 2015 HuffPost Live interview resurfaced by Page Six on Friday, she revealed "we were at a wedding together and I was like 'Oh my gosh, do you and your fiancé want to go have dinner or something and go hang out?'" She added that "I was just so obsessed with hanging out with and talking with him," but afterwards, when Munn emailed Mulaney, he never wrote her back.

"I might've got the wrong email — probably. That's what I tell myself," she joked. Jeva Lange

May 14, 2021

Joel Greenberg, Rep. Matt Gaetz's (R-Fla.) former confidant, has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and admitted to sex trafficking a minor, The New York Times reports.

Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector and associate of Gaetz, reached a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to six federal charges against him, including sex trafficking of a child, according to CNN. He admitted that he and others paid a 17-year-old girl for sex, saying that he "introduced the minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts" with her, the Times reports.

Prosecutors reportedly say they have evidence corroborating Greenberg's admissions, per the Times, and Greenberg also reportedly admitted to other crimes including stealing money from taxpayers.

Gaetz has been facing an investigation into whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and violated sex trafficking laws. Though Greenberg reportedly didn't implicate Gaetz by name in the new filings, according to the Times, he "has told investigators that Mr. Gaetz had sex with the girl and knew that she was being paid."

Reports emerged last month that Greenberg was likely cooperating with prosecutors, at which point his attorney said, "I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today." Meanwhile, investigators in the probe have also reportedly been seeking cooperation from Gaetz's ex-girlfriend, who according to CNN is "believed to have knowledge of drug use and arrangements with women." Brendan Morrow

May 14, 2021

Politicians — they're just like us.

President Biden's staff during his time as vice president did not serve leafy greens at events because Biden "did not want to be photographed with any leaves in his teeth," said Christopher Freeman, a caterer for the then-vice president, in an interview with The New York Times.

Instead, Biden stocked his vice presidential residence with items like vanilla chocolate chip Haagen-Dazs, Special K cereal, grapes, cheese, and some Orange Gatorade to wash it all down. No "untag" button needed.

Read more at the Times. Brigid Kennedy

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