×
November 30, 2018

Early Friday, tweeting from Argentina, President Trump laid out a breezy new version of his interactions with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, following revelations from longtime lawyer Michael Cohen that Trump's company was negotiating the construction of a Trump Tower Moscow until mid-June 2016, that Cohen had updated him regularly on the progress of those talks, and reports that Cohen had proposed to Kremlin officials gifting Russian President Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse in the building.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Trump had denied having any business dealings with Russia; on Thursday afternoon, he claimed Cohen is lying but said "there would have been nothing wrong if I did do it," because "when I'm running for president, that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to do business." Trump elaborated in his new tweets:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation will probably eventually show how much of Trump's new story is true. But it certainly seems false that he talked about exploring deals with Russia on the campaign trail. This is from his second debate with Hillary Clinton:

Negotiating with Russia probably was "very legal." Keeping it secret? Not "very cool." Peter Weber

2:27 p.m.

It's an exciting time to be a capuchin monkey.

Modern humans' ancestors went through a Stone Age about 3 million years ago, marked by their use of stone to create tools for all kinds of purposes, from hunting to construction. And while other non-human species have been known to use stones as tools from time to time, the capuchin monkey has shown evidence of having a true Stone Age of its own, Science News reports.

The evidence comes from a study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution this week. An archaeological site in Brazil uncovered stone tools used by capuchin monkeys from various times over the past 3,000 years. The capuchins' use of stone tools has actually changed over time, which is what makes it different from other primates' habits — over the course of the monkeys' Stone Age, as their environment has adapted, they've adapted their tools to suit their needs.

This doesn't necessarily mean that these little primates will eventually progress to their own Bronze Age and Iron Age like humans did, but it's still a remarkable find. Maybe with enough time, capuchins will find their own ways to evolve — and one day, inherit the Earth.

Read more at Science News. Shivani Ishwar

2:13 p.m.

YouTuber Desmond Amofah, known to fans of his gaming videos as Etika, has been found dead at 29.

The New York Police Department on Tuesday confirmed that Amofah was found dead after being reported missing last week. His body was found in the East River after authorities responded to a 911 call and after they previously discovered his belongings on the Manhattan Bridge, BuzzFeed News reports.

Amofah had last been heard from on June 19, and fans had expressed concern for his safety after he uploaded a video suggesting he was struggling with suicidal thoughts and speaking about his "mental illness" and saying "it was a fun life." He had previously struggled with mental health issues and in April was brought to the hospital for evaluation after police said he had been "threatening suicide," The Verge reports. Shortly prior to his disappearance, Newsweek reports Amofah sent a series of disturbing tweets suggesting he was having suicidal thoughts. The NYPD told Kotaku its investigation is ongoing. Brendan Morrow

2:00 p.m.

Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders will leave his job next month, The New York Times reported.

Sanders has served as the agency's acting head since the previous commissioner Kevin McAleenan left to head the Department of Homeland Security in April. His departure comes as CBP faces growing criticism of its treatment of detained migrant children, though The Washington Post's Nick Miroff cites a DHS official in saying that isn't the cause of Sanders' resignation.

CBP has long faced scrutiny over its treatment of migrants at the border, especially under President Trump's administration. That ramped up last week amid reports that nearly 300 minors, some as young as 2 and half years old, were facing unsanitary conditions at a Clint, Texas detention facility. Most of them had been transferred out of the facility and to a tent camp on Monday, but on Tuesday, CBP reportedly moved 100 of those children back.

Before heading CBP, Sanders was the agency's chief operating officer and is a close ally of McAleenan. Sanders offered his resignation to McAleenan on Monday, saying it would be effective July 5, The Wall Street Journal notes. He didn't elaborate on his reasons for resigning. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:14 p.m.

More than 100 migrant children have reportedly been moved back to a border station in Clint, Texas, which independent monitors described as having "unconscionable" living conditions, after they were initially moved into the care of Health and Human Services.

Clara Long, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the children at the Clint facility did not have access to soap to wash their hands and were only allowed to shower infrequently, if at all, during multiple weeks of detainment. A Customs and Border Protection official denied the allegations about the lack of crucial amenities like soap and water — which CBP says are continuously available — but did agree with the reports from the monitors that unaccompanied minors should not be living in CBP facilities. "We do not want them in our custody, our facilities are not built for that," the official said in a call with reporters on Tuesday.

CBP reportedly transferred the care of 250 migrant children held in Clint to Health and Human Services to help relieve overflow, but 100 of those children are heading back to the border station because CBP says there are no longer capacity issues, CNN reports. Tim O'Donnell

1:05 p.m.

We have a new White House press secretary.

First lady Melania Trump on Tuesday announced that her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, will take over for Sarah Huckabee Sanders as the new White House press secretary. She'll be serving dual roles in the administration, as Trump also announced that Grisham will serve as the next White House communications director, too. This job had previously been vacant.

In a tweet, Trump said she is excited for Grisham to work "for both sides" of the White House.

Grisham had been seen as a top contender to replace Sanders, with Axios having previously reported that President Trump "has told people he likes her and trusts her." Axios also noted that Grisham, who served as an aide during Trump's 2016 run, is "one of a tiny number of campaign originals left in the White House." The New York Times describes Grisham as "loyal and sometimes combative," adding that she's "known for defending Mrs. Trump and the Trump family, and for her ability to keep the East Wing relatively free of leaks." And a former senior White House official described her to CBS as "the ultimate Trump loyalist." Brendan Morrow

12:51 p.m.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) misused thousands of dollars of campaign funds during the course of multiple extramarital relationships, federal prosecutors said in new court filings.

Hunter was previously indicted for allegedly putting $250,000 in campaign funds to personal use, and the Justice Department now says this included funds he used to "pursue a series of intimate personal relationships" with at least five women, Politico reports.

Prosecutors said that all of these women were involved in politics in some way, and he allegedly carried out multiple affairs with lobbyists. The court filing, for instance, details a trip Hunter allegedly took with a lobbyist to Lake Tahoe, during which he put about $1,000 for his hotel bill on his campaign credit card, also using campaign funds to pay for airfare and a $7 beer, reports USA Today's Brad Heath.

The filing also describes additional alleged relationships with lobbyists, as well as a House aide, who prosecutors said he took out for drinks that he paid for using campaign funds. They said he had affairs with a woman who worked in his office as well, plus another woman who worked in the House of Representatives, The Washington Post reports.

“Carrying out all these affairs did not come cheap — Hunter spent thousands of dollars treating women to meals, drinks, and vacations, and traveling to and from their homes,” prosecutors said, The Daily Beast reports. They also said Hunter's use of campaign funds was "necessary for Hunter to satisfy his desire for intimacy" due to the Hunters' "financial difficulties."

Hunter has denied any illegal activity. His wife, who was also indicted, recently changed her plea to guilty, and prosecutors in their latest filing say that she may be called to testify. The trial is set for Sept. 10. Brendan Morrow

12:45 p.m.

President Trump's cough criticism was about much more than germs.

During an ABC News interview that aired last week, Trump's insistence that his Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney "leave the room" if he was "going to cough" stole the show. It's true that Trump is a "germaphobe who does not like shaking hands or being around sick staffers," and some staffers saw the incident as a reflection of that, Politico reports. Yet other Trump allies saw it as "the public airing of Trump's newfound irritation with his acting chief," Politico continues.

Mulvaney has been Trump's top aide since John Kelly departed at the end of last year, but still hasn't lost his title's "acting" designation. Yet White House staffers insist that doesn't mean Mulvaney will be ousted soon, seeing as Trump "likes the hands-off approach Mulvaney has taken to his schedule, whims and decision-making style," Politico reports. Instead, that not-so-temporary title, along with the ongoing insults, seem to be the president's way of "assert[ing] his dominance over an ally or staffer who Trump feels has gotten too big for his britches," Politico continues.

Those pompous moves Mulvaney is allegedly making? Filling the West Wing with his former Office of Management and Budget staffers, piling his favorite aides onto Air Force One trips, and organizing three senior staff retreats to Camp David, to name a few.

Both Mick Mulvaney and outgoing White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to requests for comment. Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

See More Speed Reads