November 9, 2018

When President Trump first launched his campaign in 2015, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker reportedly offered Trump a unique gift: He'd pay off women who alleged they'd had affairs with Trump. And contrary to what he's claimed before, Trump personally orchestrated and took advantage of that promise, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In a massive investigation published Friday, the Journal reports Trump either personally directed, or told his former attorney Michael Cohen to make, payments to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump previously claimed he had no knowledge of the payments before they happened, but federal prosecutors have reportedly heard otherwise — from Cohen himself.

News that Pecker, a former longtime friend of Trump, and Cohen paid to bury McDougal's and Daniels' allegations of affairs with Trump has already been reported. But the Journal's interviews with "three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events" reveal the payments all stemmed from a 2015 Trump Tower meeting in which Trump personally asked Pecker to keep his campaign safe from damaging stories. And when a payment to Daniels stalled, Trump reportedly urged Cohen to "get it done," forcing the lawyer to pay off Daniels himself.

Cohen has allegedly told federal prosecutors all of this in an attempt to soften his sentence for federal crimes he pleaded guilty to in August, implicating Trump along the way. Prosecutors also have secret recordings and even a "reimbursement agreement" that prove Trump funded the hush money payments and "was involved in or briefed on [them] nearly every step" of the way, the Journal writes.

Trump's alleged ties to the payments aren't inherently federal crimes, an election law specialist said. The White House referred the Journal's request for comment to the president's lawyer, who declined to comment. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:11 a.m.

Infectious disease experts are warning Americans to rethink their priorities with winter approaching more swiftly than people would like to think, bringing with it the possibility of an even worse coronavirus crisis.

The problem is many people aren't taking advantage of the breathing room summer provides to curb the virus' spread, opting instead to return to pre-pandemic routines, Stat News reports. "We just continue to squander every bit of opportunity we get with this epidemic to get it under control," said epidemiologist Michael Mina, an assistant professor in Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health and associate medical director of clinical microbiology at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. "The best time to squash a pandemic is when the environmental characteristics slow transmission. It's your one opportunity in the year, really, to leverage that extra assistance and get transmission under control."

There's still time do that, per Stat, but if Americans don't act quickly, they can expect bleaker-than-usual winter months. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, predicted that, without a new lockdown or barring an effective vaccine before the end of the year, winter will force people indoors and exacerbate the pandemic, which he said will see peaks "by far" exceeding the one the U.S. just experienced in recent weeks. Read more at Stat News. Tim O'Donnell

9:25 a.m.

Widespread looting and vandalism were reported in Chicago overnight following an officer-involved shooting in the South Side neighborhood of Englewood on Sunday afternoon. By Monday morning rush hour, city officials had raised the bridges across the Chicago River in an apparent effort to stop people from going downtown, while Illinois state police blocked off ramps and CTA suspended train and bus service.

"The looting began shortly after midnight as people darted through broken store windows and doors along Michigan Avenue carrying shopping bags full of merchandise," the Chicago Tribune reported. "Cars dropped off more people as the crowd grew. At least one U-Haul van was seen pulling up." The looting continued into the daylight hours, prompting the city's blockades.

"Videos that were circulating on social media captured the early morning scenes of hundreds of people in the streets, dozens of police officers, looting, and confrontations with the police," The New York Times reported. Police spokesman Tom Ahren claimed shots were fired at police at one point during the overnight unrest; while a squad car was apparently hit, no officers were injured in the incident.

The unrest was apparently linked to an event that took place on Sunday afternoon, when police responded to reports of a person with a gun. According to the police department, the suspect was confronted and fired at the officers, who responded by "[discharging] their firearms, striking the offender." The suspect was taken to a hospital, and his condition is unknown. Jeva Lange

8:31 a.m.

China imposed retaliatory sanctions against five U.S. senators, a congressman, and five additional Americans on Monday in response to sanctions levied by the White House on Friday over China's crackdown on Hong Kong, Bloomberg reports. Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Tex.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.), as well as Rep. Chis Smith (N.J.), were all slapped with the restrictions. "Last month China banned me. Today they sanctioned me. I don't want to be paranoid but I am starting to think they don't like me," Rubio joked in a tweet Monday morning.

The lawmakers all share "hawkish" attitudes on China and have "urged the U.S. government to adopt harder stances toward Beijing," The Wall Street Journal reports. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a press conference Monday that the measures were "in response to the U.S.'s wrong behaviors" and took aim at "individuals who behaved badly on Hong Kong-related issues."

The heads of five non-governmental organizations — the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, and Human Rights Watch — were also among those sanctioned, according to CNBC. Notably, no one in the Trump administration was slapped with restrictions. Jeva Lange

8:03 a.m.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is expected to announce his running mate this week, teasing a reporter on Sunday by asking, "Are you ready?"

Biden has said he will choose a woman as his vice presidential pick, with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice having emerged as frontrunners. Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and California Rep. Karen Bass have also been floated by analysts as potential picks.

"[Biden] has a very difficult decision to make … but it's almost an embarrassment of riches," Howard University political science professor Niambi Carter told USA Today, while others have worried that Biden's delay has made his choice "messier than it should be" and pitted "women, especially Black women, against one another." Check out the seven candidates The Week's Matthew Walther believes have the best chance here. Jeva Lange

1:58 a.m.

When Lauren Cortez found out she was pregnant, there was one person she wanted to deliver her baby: Dr. Bryan Cox, the same OB/GYN who helped welcome her to the world 25 years ago.

Cox has been an OB/GYN at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, for 33 years. Cortez's mother, Isabel Luna, has been one of his patients for decades, and spoke highly of him. When Cortez arrived at her first appointment, she was "excited, because her mom loves me, so it was a great situation," Cox told Good Morning America. "It was fun the whole pregnancy."

Cortez's son, Logan James, was born on July 26, weighing six pounds, one ounce. Cox had a special greeting for Logan — the same one he gave Cortez in 1995. "Dr. Cox, right when the baby is born, he sings 'Happy Birthday,'" Cortez said. "The fact that he takes that little time to personalize the birth experience meant a lot to me." Catherine Garcia

1:22 a.m.

President Trump and some of his closest aides and advisers decided that when it comes to debate prep, he will only have five or six people in the room with him to limit the potential for leaks, someone with knowledge of the matter leaked to Axios.

Trump, his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, campaign manager Bill Stepien, senior adviser Jason Miller, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie met at Trump's golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, two weekends ago to plot out how they will prepare for debates with former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Axios reports. The group agreed that they would gather every 10 days until the first scheduled debate, and they might welcome different people based on their subject matter expertise.

Christie pretended to be Hillary Clinton during 2016 debate prep sessions, and Trump has told people privately it is likely he'll step in and role-play as Biden this time around, Axios reports. Miller and Christie have both told Trump not to go into the first debate thinking he'll trounce Biden, as he has experience with debating, and one person told Axios Trump has "verbalized how important these are going to be. He's said, 'We gotta win.'" Catherine Garcia

12:06 a.m.

Jimmy Lai, a 72-year-old media tycoon and activist who is a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party, was arrested early Monday, accused of colluding with foreign forces, The Washington Post reports.

This is a crime under Hong Kong's new national security law that aims to stifle dissent, and anyone found guilty could receive life in prison. Lai's company, Next Digital, publishes the Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper, and a person familiar with the matter said several company executives were also arrested on Monday, the Post reports.

In a statement, the Hong Kong Police Force said seven men between the ages of 39 and 72 were arrested on suspicion of breaching the security law, but did not release their names. Mark Simon, one of Lai's close aides, said two of Lai's sons were among those arrested.

Lai is from mainland China, and became politically active in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. He has been calling for greater freedoms and democracy in Hong Kong, and was arrested in February on charges of illegal assembly and intimidation. Catherine Garcia

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