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August 23, 2018

The National Enquirer used to have documents in its safe related to damaging stories about President Trump that it never published, people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press Thursday.

American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker, who publishes the Enquirer, is one of Trump's longtime friends. On Tuesday, Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, and said he had been directed by Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election to pay off two women who said they had affairs with him. Pecker, who reportedly has been granted immunity by federal prosecutors, also shared with prosecutors details of the payments Cohen made.

Right before the election, The Wall Street Journal published a story about Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump. The Journal reported that the Enquirer bought her story with the intention of never running it, in order to protect Trump. Former employees told AP that the Enquirer made these "catch-and-kill deals" with lots of people so they could gain the trust of celebrities and then ask them for favors down the road.

AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard and Pecker, afraid someone would come to American Media Inc. looking for documents related to McDougal and the other deals, removed the paperwork from the safe sometime before Trump's inauguration, AP reports. It's unknown if the documents were destroyed or placed in a safe somewhere else. Read more about Trump's close connection to the Enquirer at The Associated Press. Catherine Garcia

6:18 a.m.

On Tuesday, Sri Lanka raised the official death toll from Sunday's coordinated bombings at churches and luxury hotels to 321 dead and 500 wounded, and Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene gave a possible motive for the attack. "The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch," New Zealand, he told Sri Lanka's parliament.

A 28-year-old Australian white supremacist has been charged with murdering 50 people in two mosques during Friday prayer services on March 15. Sri Lanka has blamed a domestic Islamist militant group, National Thowfeek Jamaath, for Sunday's suicide bombings, which struck three Christian churches during Easter services and three hotels almost simultaneously, followed later by two more attacks. At least 40 people have been arrested as of Tuesday morning, including the driver of the van allegedly used by the initial seven suicide bombers, Sri Lanka said.

Sri Lanka responded to the bombings by shutting down social media sites and granting the military sweeping powers not used since the country's 26-year-old civil war ended in 2009. But Sri Lanka's government is also struggling to explain why it did not respond to warnings from foreign intelligence services, starting April 4, that National Thowfeek Jamaath was planning to target "some important churches" in a suicide terrorist attack to be carried out "shortly." Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet were unaware of the intelligence reports, blaming political dysfunction. Peter Weber

5:32 a.m.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is performing enviably in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary polls and he's getting glowing press, but his record isn't spotless. And at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire on Monday night, he got a question about an incident from 2012 involving his demotion of South Bend's first black police chief. CNN's Anderson Cooper set up the question by noting that the former police chief, Darryl Boykins, had allegedly ordered people to secretly record racist comments by senior white police officers.

A student asked Buttigieg what was on Boykins' tapes. "The answer is I don't know," Buttigeig said, explaining that the way the tapes were recorded potentially violated the federal wire tap act. "That's a law punishable by a term in prison and so I'm not going to violate it, even though I want to know what's on those tapes like everybody else does," he said. Buttigieg said he demoted Boykins after learning he "was the subject of a criminal investigation, not from him but the FBI, and it made it very hard to me to trust him as one of my own appointees."

Buttigieg conceded that he didn't handle the situation perfectly and said he learned a lot about the need to seek input from various communities and improving relations between communities of color and police.

Buttigieg also mused about whether coming out as gay earlier would have derailed his public-service career, pointed out that "God doesn't have a political party," argued that it's a good thing not to "drown people in minutia before we've vindicated the values that animate our policies," and said that while Trump has "made it pretty clear he deserves impeachment," that's up to "the House and Senate to figure out" and he thinks the most decisive way to "relegate Trumpism to the dustbin of history" is to hand Trump "an absolute thumping at the ballot box." Peter Weber

4:11 a.m.

President Trump's job approval rating has dropped 5 points since Special Counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report was released Thursday, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll released Monday evening, and Trump's new 39 percent approval matches the lowest point in his presidency, right after the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. The poll also found that 57 percent of voters disapprove of the job Trump is doing, putting him 18 percentage points underwater.

The poll also found a declining appetite for impeachment — 34 percent favor starting impeachment proceedings while 48 percent say no — even though 41 percent of voters agreed that Trump's campaign worked with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election and a 47 percent plurality said Trump tried to impede Mueller's investigation; 41 percent said Trump's campaign did not work with Russia and 34 percent said he did not try to hinder Mueller's probe. In a rare bit of bipartisan agreement, 48 percent of Democrats, 46 percent of Republicans, and 43 percent of independents said Mueller's investigation was handled fairly.

Politico/Morning Consult polled 1,992 voters Friday through Sunday, and the survey has a margin of sampling error of ±2 percentage points. Other polls have also found slippage in Trump's approval rating since the report was released; FiveThirtyEight's polling aggregate has Trump's approval at 41.3 percent, from 42 percent on Thursday, while RealClearPolitics puts his aggregate approval rating at 42.9 percent, from 44 percent on Thursday. Peter Weber

2:43 a.m.

On Monday night, White House Deputy Counsel Michael Purpura informed House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) that acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had ordered former White House security clearance chief Carl Kline to defy a subpoena and skip a deposition scheduled for Tuesday. Kline's lawyer said in a separate letter that his client, who now works at the Defense Department, would comply with the White House's order. "With two masters from two equal branches of government, we will follow the instructions of the one that employs him," said the lawyer, Robert Driscoll.

The House Oversight Committee is investigating how President Trump's White House approves security clearances. It subpoenaed Kline in early April after a whistleblower, career White House Personnel Security Office staffer Tricia Newbold, testified that Kline had overruled his staff and approved at least 25 security clearance applications rejected due to serious red flags, then retaliated against her when she spoke out. One of the senior officials whose application Kline approved despite significant concerns was reportedly Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law.

Earlier Monday, Cummings had rejected the White House's request that someone from the White House counsel's office attend the deposition with Kline, saying his committee would hold Kline in contempt if he ignored the subpoena. Peter Weber

2:15 a.m.

During the day, he delivered eggs and candy and baskets filled with toys to delighted children, but by night, he was throwing down in the streets of Orlando.

The Easter Bunny in question was actually Antoine McDonald, who told WESH he decided to dress up in celebration of the holiday while bar hopping across town with friends. At about 10:30 p.m., he said, he saw a man and woman outside the Underground Public House get into a fight, and while other people stood by and watched, he raced over to break it up. McDonald got in a few blows of his own against the man before police arrived and told the crowd to disperse. No one was arrested, and police say it's unclear how the altercation started.

McDonald said this wasn't planned, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time wearing the right costume. "I didn't say, 'Hey, look, look at this,'" McDonald stated. "No, I just rushed over there. The real deal. Nothing fake." Catherine Garcia

1:45 a.m.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said Monday that if elected president, she will give Congress 100 days to "get their act together and have the courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws," and if they "fail to do it, then I will take executive action."



The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate made this promise Monday night during a CNN town hall in New Hampshire. Her executive action would require that anyone who sells more than five guns a year conduct background checks on people purchasing guns; allow the ATF to take away the license of any gun dealer that breaks the law; and no longer allow fugitives from justice to purchase handguns or other weapons.

Harris decried the fact that students of all ages have to go through school shooting drills, and blasted Congress for failing to act when it comes to protecting kids from mass shootings, saying there are "supposed leaders who have failed to have the courage to reject a false choice, which suggests you're either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone's guns away." There needs to be "reasonable gun safety laws in this country," she added, "starting with universal background checks and renewal of the assault weapons ban." Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

1:09 a.m.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) says she had a perfectly legitimate reason to stand up for frozen pizzas in school cafeterias, but still regrets taking a stand on the issue.

While answering questions during a CNN town hall in New Hampshire on Monday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was asked about a 2010 letter she sent to the USDA, complaining about a new rule that would no longer count tomato sauce on frozen pizzas served in school cafeterias as a vegetable.

Klobuchar said she wasn't defending the pizzas, but rather farmers and businesses in Minnesota. "We were in the middle of the downturn, and it was a little more, I would say, complex in terms of the language," she said, adding that this was "fair criticism." In 2014, Klobuchar told The New York Times it was a mistake to send the letter, and she told the town hall audience she still regrets mailing it. The bigger issue, she added, is nutrition, and the "need to have healthier foods in kids' lunches." Catherine Garcia

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