×
September 20, 2018

The Kremlin began working behind the scenes to disrupt the 2016 election more than two years in advance. But even when Russian interference became obvious, U.S. officials spent weeks watching the infiltration occur before they could fight it off.

The Democratic National Committee's cybersecurity contractor, CrowdStrike, announced in June 2016 that Russian hackers had compromised the organization's network. The New York Times reported Thursday that CrowdStrike had actually been battling with hackers for weeks. Robert Johnston, a lead investigator for the company, said the hackers "were like a thunderstorm moving through the system — very, very noisy."

Despite the noise, CrowdStrike and the DNC didn't make any noise of their own about the hacking, choosing instead to quietly work to discern how Russians had broken in and figure out how to block them. Russia managed to obtain thousands of documents from the DNC's network, and provided them to WikiLeaks for publication.

"We knew it was the Russians, and they knew we knew," Johnston told the Times of the cyberwarfare. "I would say it was the cyber equivalent of hand-to-hand combat." Russian hackers may have intercepted communications about the DNC's efforts to fend off their attacks, helping them to dodge attempts to shut down their malware. Twelve Russian intelligence officers were indicted in July 2018 for the break-in. Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

4:01 a.m.

The remarkably lenient plea deal Jeffrey Epstein reached with federal prosecutors is the best-known case involving the millionaire financier's history of paying underage girls for sex, but one of Epstein's alleged victims also sued one of his alleged enablers, Ghislaine Maxwell. That case was settled before trial for an undisclosed sum in 2017, but U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet had "accepted almost all filings in the case under seal, without specific orders justifying the secrecy." Three parties sued to have the files unsealed, and on Tuesday night, "two mystery litigants" objected, Politico reports.

Since Sweet declined to unseal the files, the U.S. 2nd Court of Appeals is deciding the fate of the documents submitted to court and Sweet's sealed ruling. "Just prior to a court-imposed deadline Tuesday, two anonymous individuals surfaced to object to the unsealing," arguing "they could face unwarranted speculation and embarrassment if the court makes public records from the suit," Politico reports. In the lawsuit, Virginia Giuffre accused Maxwell of sex trafficking by allegedly facilitating Epstein's sexual interactions with teenage girls; Maxwell denied the charge.

One of the requests to quash the unsealing was filed on behalf of "John Doe" by Manhattan-based lawyer Nick Lewin and the other by Washington-based attorney Kerrie Campbell on behalf of "J. Doe." The three parties who had requested the files be unsealed were the Miami Herald, alt-right social media personality Mike Cernovich, and prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who said several of the sealed records would disprove allegations from two women that they had sex with him at Epstein's direction. You can read more about the case at Politico. Peter Weber

2:17 a.m.

"Everybody is breathlessly waiting for the Mueller report to come out, and there have been signs today that it might, maybe, possibly, definitely, or not be really soon," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. Wednesday's sign was yet another senior member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team wrapping up her work. "You know what that means?" Colbert asked. "Probably something."

With all the clues out there, "it's like we're three-quarters of the way through a Scooby-Doo episode," he said. "Just pull the mask off the monster, okay? We know it's Old Man Trump! 'I would've gotten away with it, too, if I wasn't totally guilty.'" At the same time, "some of the clues are pointing to the investigation not being over," he said, nodding to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein disclosing he's going to stay on the job just a little bit longer.

"Now, we've been on high Muller alert" since Feb. 21, when CNN noted some boxes being removed from the special counsel's office, Colbert said. "Yes, CNN is stalking Robert Mueller," but "the media has to look for whatever signs they can find, because the Mueller team has been completely silent. It's like trying to divine messages from the great volcano god — which, come to think of it, is exactly what Robert Mueller looks like."

Whenever Mueller submits his report, Attorney General William Barr will decide what parts of it to release to Congress or make public. But according to CNN, the White House expects to review whatever he plans to release — "you know, the way we let criminals edit their own indictment," Colbert said. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:38 a.m.

When DeLauren McKnight found out she was a perfect kidney donor match for her father, Billy Houze, it just made sense.

"My dad saved me 27 years ago when I was eight months old," the North Carolina resident told Inside Edition. "He saved my life so I could later save his." Houze and his wife adopted McKnight in 1992, and he has "always provided for me," McKnight said. "There is nothing I wouldn't do for my dad to see him live the life he is destined for."

Houze had gallbladder surgery in 2016, and soon after, his kidneys began to fail. A pastor, he is now on dialysis three times a week. His name was put on a kidney donation list, but doctors warned it could take up to eight years to find a donor. All of Houze's children were tested, and only McKnight was a match. "I was just amazed," she said. The pair are now undergoing follow-up tests, and surgery should be scheduled within the next few weeks. Catherine Garcia

1:12 a.m.

President Trump continues to snipe at the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and The Daily Show's Trevor Noah continues to be amazed. "I really can't believe Trump is beefing with a dead man — and losing," he said Wednesday night. But don't worry, "Trump still has time to fight with people who are still alive, and this week his opponent of choice is George Conway."

Conway, a conservative lawyer and husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, has gotten Trump's goat by repeatedly tweeting the clinical definition for narcissistic personality disorder. "Look, I'm not saying Trump is a normal person, but you can't just sit at home and diagnose a mental illness over Twitter," Noah said, and then he started reading the symptoms. "I take it back, this is the most perfect match between disease and person I have ever seen."

Trump's pushback was unequivocally bad, though, Noah said. "Damn, Donald Trump calling someone 'the husband from hell' is pretty amazing. I mean, this is the same dude who has a separate checkbook for paying off porn stars." Stuck in the middle, meanwhile, is Kellyanne Conway, and "you've gotta admit this sucks for her," Noah said. "No discussion of someone's marriage problems should ever be on cable news, all right? It should be on Dr. Phil." And since Dr. Phil wasn't available, Noah took matters into his own hands.

Late Night's Seth Meyers marveled that "the guy who called his opponents 'babies' has spent his entire term as president whining about people being mean to him, from Saturday Night Live to John McCain to Google," and now Conway. "I'm sorry, but you are the last person who should call anyone else 'the husband from hell,'" he said. "You've been divorced twice, you paid hush money to a porn star, your affairs were all over the tabloids, and you misspelled your wife's name. If anything, 'Husband From Hell' sounds like the name a Lifetime movie about you." Peter Weber

12:58 a.m.

At least 1,500 hotel guests in South Korea had no idea there were spy cameras hidden in their rooms and the footage was being livestreamed to the internet, police said Wednesday.

The cameras were concealed inside 30 hotels in 10 cities. The videos were streamed to a site that has more than 4,000 members who pay for access. Police said they have arrested four men in connection with the case.

Law enforcement agents in South Korea have been dealing with an uptick in spy cameras recording unsuspecting people, and it's become such a problem that female inspectors now search Seoul's public bathrooms to make sure there aren't any hidden cameras, BBC News reports. In 2017, police investigated more than 6,400 reports of illegal filming, and last year, tens of thousands of women marched in cities across South Korea to demand an end to such recordings. Catherine Garcia

12:19 a.m.

Born 16 weeks early, Isabella Ciriello spent the first three months of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit, listening to Mozart sonatas inside her incubator.

Ciriello's doctor at New York-Presbyterian Komansky Children's Hospital, Jeffrey Perlman, told her mother that premature babies find classical music soothing, and she began playing it for her daughter when she was about 49 days old. Now 12, Ciriello plays the guitar, piano, and drums, and believes that this early exposure sparked her interest in classical music.

Last summer, Ciriello asked to meet the doctor who took care of her in the NICU, and during lunch with Perlman, he told her that he would love to have an "orchestra of all my favorite patients" come back and play for the babies now in the NICU. Ciriello took him up on his offer, and held a performance in the NICU to mark World Prematurity Month, playing five songs on her guitar. It wasn't just the babies taking in the music — nurses and doctors, including some who took care of Ciriello 12 years ago, came in to listen. "I was in their position once," Ciriello said of the babies, and "it feels good to give back and help them." Catherine Garcia

March 20, 2019

Less than a week after a gunman murdered at least 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern effectively banned the sale of AR-15s and all similar assault rifles Thursday afternoon. "Six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military-style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand," Ardern said. "Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines."

These changes will require legislation, and Ardern said she expects the bans to be enshrined in law by April 11, with a buy-back program put in place afterward. In the meantime, the government has immediately reclassified "virtually all" of the weapons she mentioned so buying them now require a special permit from the police. "I can assure people that there is no point in applying for such a permit," Ardern added.

"I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride," Ardern said. She got immediate backing from the trade group Federated Farmers, which said "this will not be popular among some of our members, but after a week of intense debate and careful consideration by our elected representatives and staff, we believe this is the only practicable solution."

Australia banned semi-automatic weapons after a 1996 mass shooting in which a gunman with an AR-15 murdered 35 people. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads