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July 20, 2018

Lordy, there are tapes.

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former longtime attorney, reportedly made recordings of Trump discussing payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal two months before the 2016 election, The New York Times reported Friday.

Lawyers familiar with the case say that the FBI seized the recordings when agents raided Cohen's office earlier this year. McDougal says she had an affair with Trump in 2006, which Trump denies, and Cohen is being investigated for potential campaign finance violations over allegedly paying hush money to prevent the affair allegations from going public ahead of the election.

Trump's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that the payment was ultimately never made, and that the recordings prove Trump did nothing wrong. "Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance," said Giuliani, calling it "powerful exculpatory evidence." Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

6:56 p.m.

A 27-year-old Marine veteran with PTSD was held for three days in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Michigan, despite being born in the United States, his lawyers said Wednesday.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez pleaded guilty last month to trespassing and damaging a fire alarm at a hospital in Grand Rapids, the ACLU said. He spent some time in a Kent County jail, and was set for release on Dec. 14 to await sentencing. ICE contacted the jail and asked that Ramos-Gomez be held for pickup, and he was then driven 70 miles to Battle Creek. He was there for three days before a lawyer working for his family called the ICE detention center and told authorities Ramos-Gomez is a citizen.

In an interview with NBC News, ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman asked why ICE, which has access to fingerprint records, thought Ramos-Gomez should be deported. "Why did they think he was a non-citizen? Did they get him confused with someone else? Who knows. This is an individual who's incredibly vulnerable with a mental illness." Ramos-Gomez was a lance corporal in the Marines, and earned awards for service in Afghanistan. He is now receiving mental health care for his PTSD.

The ACLU is calling on the Kent County sheriff and county commissioners to look into why the jail released Ramos-Gomez to ICE. Kent County Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt told NBC News that once Ramos-Gomez "was released from our custody, he was under the domain of ICE. Where they take him is their process. Our procedures were followed." Catherine Garcia

5:33 p.m.

Federal workers will get a paycheck at some point.

President Trump signed a bill Wednesday that ensures federal employees furloughed during the partial government shutdown will get back pay once it's over. Trump has long shown support for the bill, which was introduced by Virginia Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner last week and easily passed both houses of Congress.

Federal employees working without pay throughout the shutdown were already guaranteed back pay once the government reopened. This new law grants back pay to those furloughed during the shutdown. But it doesn't guarantee a paycheck for federal contractors, something Warner pushed for in a Wednesday tweet. He also, of course, advocated for the government to reopen after its 25-day-long shutdown. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:16 p.m.

Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) barely made it two weeks into his term before stirring up some controversy.

The congressman, who is fully aware that he's white, described himself as "an Asian trapped in a white body" at an event Tuesday, per National Journal fellow Nicholas Wu. And, as The Washington Post astutely said, "his apology didn't help" his case.

Case was at "an event celebrating Asian-American and Pacific Islander advances in Congress," Hawaii News Now says, but it's unclear what led up to the comments. What is clear is that Case represents America's only majority-Asian district.

Case told Hawaii News Now that he is "fiercely proud" of representing a state "where no ethnic group has been in the majority for generations." He added that he has "absorbed and live the values of our many cultures" and he "regret[s] if my specific remarks to the national API community on my full absorption of their concerns caused any offense." Also of questionable note: Case's spokesperson said the congressman was just repeating "what his Japanese-American wife sometimes says about him," per the Post.

Case first graced the House in Hawaii's 2nd District from 2002-2007, before leaving the post for an unsuccessful Senate run. He ran for the Senate again in 2012, losing to then-Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) in 2012. This time around, he won a primary of largely minority candidates to win his seat. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:34 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may be the only thing standing between a spending bill and the president.

House Democrats and a few Republicans passed two spending bills last week that would reopen the government, but McConnell refused to bring them before the Republican-held Senate. And on Tuesday, McConnell did it again — even though Democrats "have secured enough Republican votes in the Senate to reopen government," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Wednesday.

The government shutdown began Dec. 21 over President Trump's refusal to sign a spending bill without $5.7 billion in border wall funding. Democrats still refuse to bend to that demand. And when they took over the House this year, they and five Republicans quickly passed a spending bill to fund most government departments for the year and another that would fund the Department of Homeland Security for 30 days. McConnell refused to bring them for a vote in the Senate, saying they were "absolutely pointless show votes" on bills Trump wouldn't sign.

Democrats pointed out that the GOP-held Senate passed similar bills last year, which then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) wouldn't bring for a vote. And when those House Democrats, along with 12 Republicans, voted Friday to send a new set of spending bills to the Senate, McConnell again turned them down. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:13 p.m.

The creators of the massively popular online game Fortnite have acknowledged a security flaw that may have put players' accounts at risk.

Check Point Research said Wednesday they discovered a bug that would allow hackers to obtain users' login username and password if they clicked on a phishing link; the user would not need to enter any information at this link for their account to be taken over by the hacker, they say. The group blames this on a "vulnerability found in some of Epic Games' sub-domains."

Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, says that the security bug has been fixed, though it did not disclose how many users were affected. "We thank Check Point for bringing this to our attention," the company said, per Fortune.

Since Fortnite thrives off in-game currency, once a hacker had logged in to a victim's account, they would be able to make purchases using the person's credit card information, The Washington Post notes. Check Point Research also points out that hackers could have been able to listen into private chats by impersonating the user they hacked, although Epic Games clarified to The Verge that the hackers wouldn't be able to eavesdrop on the person whose account they'd taken over.

Fortnite has more than 200 million users and, according to The Verge, generated an estimated $2.4 billion in 2018. Brendan Morrow

3:50 p.m.

The definition of fake news has hit Washington, D.C.

"UNPRESIDENTED," the front page of The Washington Post screamed Wednesday, featuring a story that claimed President Trump had resigned. Except it wasn't The Washington Post, and it definitely didn't happen.

An activist group spent Wednesday morning handing out the fake Post copies around the capital, dated May 1, 2019 and suggesting Trump would resign with a note written on a napkin, the real Washington Post reports. It was full of anti-Trump stories that also appeared on a Post lookalike website, which has since been taken down.

The Post's PR team quickly tweeted that the paper and website were "not Post products." Anti-Trump activist L.A. Kauffman later said she, along with author Onnesha Roychoudhuri and the activist pranksters known as the Yes Men, created the fake paper, per NPR. As Politico report Ian Kullgren tweeted, "this is problematic" and definitely not helping their cause, but whoever was handing out the papers "wasn't having it" when he told her as much, he said.

The now-defunct fake Post website contained just a story called "A look at the 64 bills." The real Post published a real version of it, which you can read here. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:04 p.m.

Don't expect Disney's live-action remaking spree to slow down anytime soon.

A live-action version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is now in the works, The Hollywood Reporter said Wednesday. While no director is attached to the new Disney project, playwright David Henry Hwang is reportedly on board to pen the script, and Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz will return to do the music after working on the original movie. Menken previously returned to score 2017's Beauty and the Beast after also scoring the 1991 original. The remake will reportedly be based both on the original movie and on the novel by Victor Hugo.

Josh Gad will serve as producer on the project, and Deadline reports he might also star as Quasimodo after previously playing LeFou in the live-action Beauty and the Beast. No release date is set, as the Reporter notes that while The Hunchback of Notre Dame is in development, it's "not currently a priority for the studio."

After already having remade Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Pete's Dragon, and Beauty and the Beast, Disney has three new versions of their classic animated films slated for 2019: Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King. After that, a remake of Mulan is also set to release in 2020, and new versions of Pinocchio, The Little Mermaid, Lilo & Stitch, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, and The Sword in The Stone are on the way as well. Additionally, a live-action film about Cruella de Vil from One Hundred and One Dalmatians is in development, and a sequel to Maleficent, the live-action film about the Sleeping Beauty villain that grossed more than $750 million in 2014, will release in 2020. Brendan Morrow

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