December 12, 2018

The National Enquirer's publisher is cooperating with New York prosecutors, telling them that it paid one of the women alleging she had an affair with President Trump $150,000 and did so specifically to prevent her from influencing the election.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said Wednesday that prosecutors reached a non-prosecution agreement with American Media, Inc., the Enquirer's publisher, and that as part of this agreement, AMI says it "made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate's presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election," per NBC News.

Karen McDougal, a model, says she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007, which Trump denies. Prosecutors also say AMI has admitted the "principal purpose" of paying McDougal was to "suppress" her story and "prevent it from influencing the election."

This news comes after Trump's ex-lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison in part due to his role in violating campaign finance laws by paying McDougal in order to keep her silent about an alleged affair. Cohen did not pay McDougal directly but rather made arrangements for AMI to purchase the rights to her story but not publish it.

AMI's admission in court stands in contrast to its 2016 statement to The Wall Street Journal: "AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump." Brendan Morrow

12:58 p.m.

Former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has a problem with the 20-something-strong Democratic primary field.

The ex-Senate majority leader retired in 2017 and is currently fighting pancreatic cancer, but that hasn't stopped him from taking shot after shot at President Trump over the past two years. Now Reid has broadened his view to Democratic targets, particularly those 2020 contenders he thinks should've run for the Senate instead, he tells The New York Times.

While Democrats have piled into the presidential race, the party has recently faced a "recruitment problem" when it comes to drawing Senate candidates, as the Times puts it. Reid suggests this stems from "a feeling that the Senate ... is not dignified like it used to be," and then said it was "a shame that someone like [2020 contender and Montana Gov.] Steve Bullock would not run for the Senate."

Reid particularly wanted to see failed Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke try again in 2020, this time for Sen. John Cornyn's (R-Texas) seat. O'Rourke "came to see me at my home" and "I told him I thought he should've run" for Senate instead of the presidency, Reid said. O'Rourke said "nothing" in return.

Still, Reid won't declare a favorite 2020 candidate just yet. "Everybody knows my affection for Joe Biden," Reid told the Times, but he added that Biden "knows — I've told him I can't endorse him." Then again, he did tell Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to seriously consider a 2020 run back in 2017 — and she listened. Read Reid's whole interview at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:02 p.m.

A Fox & Friends segment went completely off the rails on Monday morning as New Yorker after New Yorker showed absolutely no interest in chatting with Steve Doocy.

Doocy tried to conduct a man-on-the-street segment about a report that New York might start fining people who text while walking across the street. It did not go well to say the least, with Doocy's first attempted interview subject reluctantly offering a few words before shooting him down for more of a response and walking away.

From there, Doocy wandered around for more than a minute getting fully ignored by person after person, eventually realizing that trying to do a man-on-the-street segment about 20 minutes before most people have to be at work wasn't the best idea in the world.

“Can you tell that New York City is a very busy place?” he asks. "It is indeed." Watch the brutal segment via Media Matters for America's Bobby Lewis below. Brendan Morrow

11:57 a.m.

Rihanna is a nine-time Grammy winner, a more-than-occasional actress, a developer of several groundbreaking fashion collaborations, and a purveyor of skin-tone inclusive beauty products. Oh, and she's only 31.

So now that you've processed all that, let's throw another accolade into the mix. Robyn Rihanna Fenty is now the first black woman to head a major luxury fashion house, and playwright Jeremy O. Harris talked to her about it at The New York Times Style Magazine.

Earlier this month, LVMH announced that it was opening a fashion house under Rihanna's Fenty name. She'll join Dior, Givenchy, and Fendi under the Louis Vuitton umbrella — though she's already "as big as LVMH, if not bigger," Harris said. Rihanna was amazed at — but didn't doubt — that assertion, but said she had no idea it would be so historic until "months into" her work with LVMH. And while Rihanna hasn't necessarily felt like an outsider in the white-dominated fashion world, she did affirm that every step of the way, she's shown that she "will not back down from being a woman, from being black, from having an opinion."

Rihanna also discussed why she's using her last name for her fashion and beauty brands. It stems from seeing "celebrity brands" like "Hilary Duff and Hannah Montana have so much success" but eventually become "so oversaturated in the market that it diluted their personal brands," Rihanna said. She keeps her music on a first-name basis "so that you didn’t have to hear the word 'Rihanna' every time you saw something that I did," she continued. So you can expect to see "Rihanna" on her forthcoming ninth album, out sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Read the whole interview at The New York Times Style Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:18 a.m.

The winner of Game of Thrones turned out to be quite unexpected — but it wasn't as wildly unpredictable as you might have thought.

Leading up to the show's series finale, as fans endlessly debated who would ultimately emerge as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, there were several obvious contenders. But much to the surprise of some fans, betting markets had someone else in mind: the person who ultimately emerged victorious in "The Iron Throne," who shall remain nameless as to avoid divulging spoilers.

In fact, the betting website Odds Shark days ahead of the show's final episode declared this person the -500 favorite to win the series, prompting USA Today to ask, "Are we missing something?" Writer Henry McKenna proceeded to delve into all the reasons this winner wouldn't make sense while offering that "maybe the oddsmakers know something we don't."

Indeed, Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson noted in her post-finale assessment that "many regarded it as a fluke" when this character became the favorite to win, although she goes on to note that in retrospect, it actually makes a lot of sense. It's worth noting that there were leaks about the finale in recent weeks that accurately revealed the winner, which may have been the reason for the sudden jump in the betting odds; one bookmaker suspended wagers for that reason. Still, the winner had emerged as the favorite even going back to November of last year.

Ultimately, whether the choice of Game of Thrones' victor was satisfying is up for debate, and it's part of the reason the finale has proven to be so divisive. But if nothing else, those who followed the betting markets in their pools certainly had reason to celebrate. Brendan Morrow

10:26 a.m.

Game of Thrones fans' watch has ended, and the final bow proved to be predictably divisive.

Social media was immediately engulfed with negative reactions as the show's series finale, "The Iron Throne," wrapped up, with one particular heel turn from the previous week continuing to draw complaints. The ultimate victor also left many unsatisfied, with some fans feeling the series rushed into this conclusion at the end of an unnecessarily truncated final season and others complaining that certain plot points did not satisfyingly pay off.

On IMDb, the last episode currently holds a brutal score of 4.8 out of 10 with more than 70,000 ratings. Before this final season, no episode of Game of Thrones had even earned an IMDb score lower than 8 out of 10. For comparison, the famously hated series finale of Dexter has an IMDb score of 4.7.

Television critics have been a bit kinder, but not much. On Rotten Tomatoes, the episode holds a score of 57 percent, meaning 57 percent of critics gave it a positive review and 43 percent gave it a negative review. This is quite a drop from the season premiere, which scored a 92 percent approval rating among critics. The audience score for the show's last season is currently 37 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 2.5 out of 5.

These online reviews from fans should certainly be taken with a grain of salt considering those who hated something are always far more likely to rate it online than those who liked it. The reaction certainly wasn't all negative, with even some who were critical of previous episodes coming away from the finale pleasantly surprised.

Still, Game of Thrones is now almost certain to go down in history along with all of the other shows with famously divisive endings. Will this ending tarnish the iconic series' legacy like How I Met Your Mother, or will it actually gain more appreciation over time like The Sopranos? Only time will tell. Brendan Morrow

9:57 a.m.

It's apparently very unclear where President Trump stands with Rust Belt voters.

As the The New York Times put it in an article published Monday, "there's no boom in Youngstown [Ohio], but blue-collar workers are sticking with Trump." Yet a Politico story from the same day reveals that Trump is "scrambl[ing] to reverse his Rust Belt slide."

Both stories come ahead of Trump's Monday visit to Pennsylvania for a rally, and just after he made campaign stops in Michigan and Wisconsin. Trump is apparently "moving aggressively to shore up his support" in those three states, which he won in 2016 "but where his own polling shows him in trouble heading into 2020," Politico writes. Former Vice President Joe Biden has reportedly started to pull ahead in those states, according to people briefed on the Trump campaign's 17-state polling project.

"People close to the president insist they're not panicked," Politico writes. And if they take the The New York Times' word for it, they'd be right. Despite the fact that Rust Belters never saw the economic resurgence Trump promised, he "appears to have lost little of his blue-collar support here," the Times reports. The former Democratic chair of an Ohio county says his party "has lost its voice to speak to people that shower after work and not before work." Those voters "don't care" about Trump's tax returns, former chair David Betras continued, and they're bound to turn the Midwestern purple states red once again.

Of course, the 2020 election is still a year and a half away, and Democrats haven't even chosen a nominee yet. Let the speculation continue. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:11 a.m.

President Trump started off his workweek with another tweetstorm raging against The New York Times, strangely personifying the news outlet in the process.

Trump tweeted in response to a report from the Times that Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering specialists flagged some potentially suspicious transactions involving accounts controlled by President Trump and Jared Kushner but that these concerns were ignored. The report also includes the detail that Deutsche Bank lent to Trump while "most Wall Street banks had stopped doing business with him after his repeated defaults."

The president's twitter thread was focused on this latter detail, as he contended that he "didn’t need money" and that "when you don’t need or want money, you don't need or want banks." From there, Trump labeled the media "corrupt and deranged" and he predicted the Times will "pass away when I leave office in 6 years" — not go out of business, but "pass away."

The writer of this Times story, David Enrich, was quick to respond to Trump's denials, saying his claim is "not true" and reiterating his reporting that Deutsche Bank was for 20 years the only bank willing to lend to Trump. He added that he "spent a long time looking into this."

Trump added in a follow-up tweet, "Two Tweets missing from last batch, probably a Twitter error. No time for a redo! Only the Dems get redos!" He evidently did have time to go back and delete this tweet, but the two tweets that he claims are missing may forever remain a mystery. Brendan Morrow

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