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June 13, 2017

On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions dismissed former FBI Director James Comey's report to senators last week in a closed-door session that Sessions possibly had a third, previously unreported meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016. Sessions said that it was his understanding that Kislyak was indeed in attendance at the event, but that he could "not remember" talking to the ambassador.

Under questioning, Sessions clarified it was "possible" he had spoken with Kislyak but if it happened, he couldn't "recall" it.

"Certainly I can assure you nothing improper [happened] if I'd had a conversation with him, and it's conceivable that occurred," Sessions said. "I just don't remember it."

Perhaps this photograph might jog his memory? Jeva Lange

12:57 p.m.

Accused Russian spy Maria Butina officially pleaded guilty to conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors Thursday, NBC News reports.

Butina, who is said to have worked on Russia orders to infiltrate American politics, pleaded not guilty to her single count of conspiracy a few months ago. But she reportedly entered a plea deal with prosecutors earlier this week, and officially reversed her plea Thursday.

Back in July, Butina was arrested on a single conspiracy count of being an unregistered foreign agent in the United States. Prosecutors and reports detailed how Butina got close to conservative politicians by touting gun rights and working closely with the National Rifle Association. She notably "agreed and conspired" with Republican operative Paul Erickson "under direction of" Russian Central Bank leader Alexander Torshin, prosecutors said. Butina was studying international relations in the U.S. under a student visa, but allegedly reported back to Moscow at the same time.

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that Butina had reversed her fight against the charges and had started cooperating with prosecutors. Butina's Thursday appearance in a Washington, D.C. court confirms her reversal, and shows she'll "cooperate with federal, state and local authorities in any ongoing investigations," ABC News reports. She faces at most five years in prison and will probably be deported afterward, per CNN. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:25 p.m.

President Trump on Thursday suggested the lies told by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn weren't really that significant — even after having fired him for lying.

Trump wrote on Twitter that Flynn got a "great deal," responding to the fact that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has recommended Flynn receive no prison time. Trump went on to assert, though, that the reason for this recommendation was that "they were embarrassed by the way he was treated." In particular, Trump claimed that the "FBI said he didn't lie."

But CNN's Josh Campbell points out that the FBI only said that Flynn showed no signs of lying. "But, they had him on tape, so they knew he was lying," Campbell adds. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI when he said he did not discuss sanctions with Russians; he has not yet been sentenced but has asked for no jail time. Trump himself said in December 2017 that he had to fire Flynn "because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI." Brendan Morrow

12:02 p.m.

A Seattle school district's decision to implement a later start time for students allowed them to get more sleep and may have even improved their academic performance, a new study shows.

Researchers at the University of Washington tracked sophomores both before and after a school district pushed its start time from 7:50 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. They found that with the 8:40 start, students got on average an extra 34 minutes of sleep each night, reports NPR. They didn't simply move their bedtime later and get the same amount of sleep, as some suspected could happen.

That wasn't the only positive outcome: the study also found that there was a 4.5 percent increase in the students' median grades.

"These results demonstrate that delaying high school start times brings students closer to reaching the recommended sleep amount and reverses the century-long trend in gradual sleep loss," the researchers say. While it's easy to draw a link between the late start time and the additional sleep, it's "much harder to attribute causality for 4.5% higher grades on increased sleep." However, it's "certainly reasonable" to conclude that students who are more well-rested would see an improvement in their grades, and one teacher told NPR that her students seemed to find it easier to engage in class after the later start time began.

The study additionally showed that the number of absences and late arrivals also went down with the later start time, but this was only apparent in the economically disadvantaged school they looked at, which they conclude suggests "delaying high school start times could decrease the learning gap between low and high socioeconomic groups." Brendan Morrow

11:47 a.m.

The Oklahoma City bombing woke up U.S. counterterrorism officials to violent white supremacy and other forms of right-wing extremism. But 9/11 and political pressure turned their attention elsewhere — and "now, they have no idea how to stop" far-right extremists, The New York Times details in Thursday's episode of The Daily podcast.

After Timothy McVeigh's deadly 1995 attack, an FBI crackdown "somewhat succeeded in sending the far right underground," Times contributor Janet Reitman reports on The Daily. Then 9/11 arrived, and "the entire national security apparatus," including the FBI under then-director Robert Mueller, shifted to "countering Islamic extremism," Reitman says. Just one man — Daryl Johnson — was left to probe domestic right-wing extremism under the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.

Things seemed quiet until former President Barack Obama gained national prominence, and Johnson — a registered Republican — correctly assumed the first black president would reinvigorate white supremacists. Under Obama, Johnson authored a report warning of this new threat, which was largely taking shape online, Johnson tells The Daily. But conservative media didn't like tying "right-wing" to "extremism," Johnson said. And their intense backlash led then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to rescind the report altogether.

National security monitoring of violent white supremacy only faded from there. Johnson was reassigned to a new job and eventually left DHS, and today, not a single person at DHS is dedicated solely to right-wing extremism, Johnson tells The Daily.

This shift may have successfully prevented another 9/11. But "white supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed more people in the United States ... than any other category of domestic extremist" in the meantime, per the Times. Listen to more on The New York Times' The Daily. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:23 a.m.

The 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were announced Thursday, with Radiohead, Janet Jackson, and Def Leppard among the latest to be enshrined in Cleveland, reports Pitchfork.

Joining them in the March induction ceremony will be Stevie Nicks (already in as a member of Fleetwood Mac), The Cure, Roxy Music, and The Zombies. Among the acts who will be left out despite a nomination: Devo, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, and Rage Against the Machine.

Radiohead got the nod despite its well-publicized indifference to the honor. "If you ask me what I'd rather be doing that night," guitarist Ed O'Brien told Rolling Stone upon the band's first nomination in 2017, "I'd rather be sitting at home in front of the fire or going to a gig." It seems that for O'Brien and his bandmates, that cozy night will have to be postponed. See the full list of inductees at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jacob Lambert

9:51 a.m.

President Trump seems to have no idea how lawyers work.

In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Trump railed against his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday for what a judge called a "smorgasbord of criminal conduct." Among those crimes were campaign finance violations that Cohen said he committed on Trump's orders.

But Trump "never directed Michael Cohen to break the law," the president claimed in Thursday's tweets. Instead, Trump insinuated that if he suggested something illegal, Cohen should've known not to do it. Trump went on to claim Cohen's campaign finance charges "were not criminal," and that his ex-fixer "probably" wasn't guilty of them "even on a civil basis," which isn't exactly how the law works. Instead, Cohen pleaded guilty to these charges simply "to embarrass the president," Trump claimed.

Read Trump's haphazard explanation of what he claims is Cohen's elaborate prank below. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:47 a.m.

In case you're having trouble keeping track of the criminal status of various associates to President Trump, Wikipedia is, as always, here to help.

After former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen on Wednesday was sentenced to three years in prison, Vox reporter Aaron Rupar pointed out that the Wikipedia page for Cohen and other Trump allies has a handy-dandy "criminal status" box, with Cohen's currently reading "pleaded guilty to all charges; sentenced to three years in jail and a $50,000 fine to the U.S. Senate."

Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, also has one. His reads, "Found guilty on 8 counts; pleaded guilty to counts of conspiracy; scheduled to be sentenced on February 8, 2019 or March 5, 2019." Both Cohen's and Manafort's pages appear to have been graced with this box in August, following their convictions.

Another Trump associate who has this box on his Wikipedia page is former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who was recently released from prison and is under supervised release after pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI. Brendan Morrow

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