May 23, 2018

On Wednesday, after 13 hours of meeting behind closed doors, the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, removed prominent Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson as president "for the benefit of the future mission of the seminary." Patterson, 75, is at the center of what's being described as a #MeToo moment in the Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest Protestant body. Earlier this month, two recordings emerged of Patterson, one from 2000 in which he talked about counseling a woman being physically abused to stay in the relationship and pray for her "abusive husband," and another, from 2014, in which he discussed a 16-year-old girl in a biblically and morally questionable manner.

The recordings prompted more than 1,400 Southern Baptist women to call for Patterson's resignation, and on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Patterson had urged one woman in 2003 to forgive the man who raped her, a fellow student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and told her not to report the incident to police, before suspending her for two years.

Kevin Ueckert, chairman of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board, said the trustees had decided to appoint D. Jeffrey Bingham, dean of the seminary's school of theology, as interim president and "appoint Dr. Patterson as president emeritus with compensation, effective immediately." Patters and his wife will also be allowed to retire on campus, on the grounds of the near-complete Baptist Heritage Library, as offered last September.

Washington University's R. Marie Griffith called Patterson's ouster a "turning point moment" for Southern Baptists. "The tide has shifted so strongly on these issues of sexual harassment and assault, all I can think is: Enough leaders knew they'd really be condemned and look terrible if they stood up for him at this point," she told the Post. Peter Weber

2:22 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in Syria.

Pence after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a press conference Turkey will "pause" its operation in Syria "in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours." Turkey's offensive, Operation Peace Spring, will be "halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal," Pence also said.

This announcement comes after Trump pulled back troops from northern Syria last week, clearing the way for Turkey's military offensive in a decision that drew bipartisan criticism. A senior Turkish official told CNN after the announcement, "we got exactly what we wanted."

As part of the agreement, the United States won't impose additional sanctions on Turkey, Pence said, with Trump planning to withdraw the Turkish sanctions put into effect this week once the ceasefire is permanent.

Trump tweeted after Pence's announcement that "this deal could NEVER have been made 3 days ago" and "there needed to be some 'tough' love in order to get it done." He added, "This is a great day for civilization." Brendan Morrow

2:09 p.m.

The quid pro quo didn't just happen. It happens "all the time."

During a Thursday press conference, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Ukraine's disproven involvement with the 2016 DNC email hack played a role in why the U.S. withheld security aid for Ukraine. And when ABC News' Jon Karl explained that Mulvaney had just admitted to a quid pro quo, he simply responded with "we do that all the time with foreign policy."

Trump's camp has claimed there was "no quid pro quo" in his call with Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky, and that security aid for Ukraine wasn't held up because Zelensky didn't move to probe former Vice President Joe Biden. But the administration has still neglected to answer just why that aid was withheld — until Mulvaney's admission Thursday.

"The look-back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that [Trump] was worried about" when deciding whether to release aid to Ukraine earlier this year, Mulvaney said, referring to Trump's belief that Ukraine had something to do with the DNC hack. He later said it had nothing to with Biden, and then told the gathered reporters to "get over it" when it came to the admitted quid pro quo. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:11 p.m.

The Trump administration's ethically dubious G7 decision is official.

Next year's Group of Seven summit will be held at President Trump's Doral resort in Miami, Florida, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney announced Thursday. The event will bring hundreds of diplomats, world leaders, and their staffers to the financially strained resort, raising its profile even though Mulvaney is claiming Trump won't profit from the event.

Apparently quoting people who chose the site for the G7, Mulvaney said Doral was "by far and away the best physical facility for this meeting." "It's almost like they built this facility to host this type of event," he added. Mulvaney brushed off questions regarding Trump's obvious benefit from the event, saying Doral will host it "at cost" so Trump does not make money from it.

The decision comes even after talks of a Doral venue raised heaps of questions about potential ethics violations. It's an especially risky decision considering the House's impeachment investigation is currently probing how Trump financially benefits from his presidency, and ironic seeing as Trump continues to accuse former Vice President Joe Biden of using his position to enrich his family. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:23 a.m.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland will criticize President Trump before Congress Thursday, saying he disagreed with his decision to involve his personal attorney in Ukraine policy and delay aid to the country.

Sondland, a key figure in the Ukraine scandal, is testifying as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry, which was sparked by a whistleblower complaint alleging Trump abused his power by urging Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

In his opening statement, Sondland says that "security aid to Ukraine was in our vital national interest and should not have been delayed for any reason." Still, he tells Congress he does "not recall any discussions" with the White House about withholding aid in return for assistance in the 2020 presidential election.

Sondland also says he was "disappointed" when Trump in May 2019 directed him to talk Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters as officials were trying to set up a meeting between the president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine," he says.

Even so, Sondland says he felt he had no choice but to work with Giuliani if he hoped to set up a meeting between Trump and Zelensky, but he insists he "did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani's agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son." He also says, though, that when he spoke to Giuliani, the president's lawyer "emphasized that the president wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing Ukraine to look into anticorruption issues," with Giuliani mentioning the 2016 presidential election and the Ukrainian gas company where Biden's son served on the board, although Sondland says he wasn't personally aware until recently of Biden's connection to the company.

Brendan Morrow

11:19 a.m.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) always knew he'd have to make the most of his time in Congress.

Cummings, the leader of the House Oversight Committee, died Thursday at 68 due to "complications concerning longstanding health challenges." He'd represented Baltimore in Congress for the past 23 years, and from his first day on the job, used it to call for finding "common ground" between opposing parties in the chamber.

After he earned his seat in a special election to replace retiring Rep. Kweisi Mfume, Cummings made a short floor speech recalling his time in the Maryland House of Delegates. "Our world would be a much better world, a much better place, if we would only concentrate on the things we have in common," Cummings recalled "often" saying in his previous position. He then relayed how his time in Congress would be centered on "a mission and a vision to empower people," and read a poem by Dr. Benjamin E. Mays to explain how he'd spend the short "minute" of his life.

Watch the whole speech, along with Cummings' first C-SPAN interview, below. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:39 a.m.

An Illuminati-loving self-help author is now in charge of honoring the smartest high school seniors in the country.

Last week, President Trump named Colorado lawyer George Mentz to the Commission on Presidential Scholars, which chooses academically excelling high school seniors to honor with a national award. Mentz's expertise for the role apparently comes from running a company that allegedly gives skills certificates to unqualified applicants, and also authoring several books that tell readers how the Illuminati can help them get the most out of life, reports The Denver Post.

Mentz, a longtime Trump supporter and donor, is the author of The Illuminati Secret Laws of Money, The Illuminati Handbook, 50 Laws of Power of the Illuminati, and 100 Secrets and Habits of the Illuminati for Life Success. Several of those books are co-authored with someone named "Magus Incognito," and generally share how mindfulness can lead to prosperity. Mentz cautioned The Denver Post about getting "too excited" about his word choice, essentially saying the term "Illuminati" is used as a marketing tactic.

Mentz is also the current owner of the Global Academy of Finance and Management and former CEO of the American Academy of Financial Management, both of which "award certifications, allowing applicants to add an alphabet soup of titles after their names," The Denver Post writes. Multiple Wall Street Journal articles found that AAFM gave out the certifications to recipients who hadn't taken qualifying courses, and listed people on its board of advisers who said they'd never advised the company. Read more at The Denver Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:20 a.m.

President Trump's condolences for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) are surprisingly normal.

Cummings, the leader of the House Oversight Committee pursuing impeachment into Trump, died Thursday at 68 due to "complications concerning longstanding health challenges." His fellow congressmembers were quick to pour out praise for Cummings in the hours after the news broke, and, unexpectedly, so was Trump.

In a Thursday tweet, Trump extended his "warmest condolences" to Cummings' friends and family. "I got to see firsthand the strength, passion, and wisdom of this highly respected political leader," Trump continued — a very tame message considering Trump's July feud with Cummings.

Trump spent the summer insulting Cummings and his home district in Maryland, calling Baltimore "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess" and even mocking Cummings when his home was robbed. But at least in writing, and at least for now, Trump seems to have changed his tune. Kathryn Krawczyk

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