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December 20, 2018

Rudy Giuliani always knows how to clarify a confusing situation.

President Trump's attorney told CNBC on Thursday that he has an even better idea than Trump's proposed border wall. Why not just beef up border security?

"I don't see the magic in a wall, as long as there's some form of improved barrier that picks up penetration," he said. A physical wall might not be the best strategy, he suggested, contrary to what Trump has been saying for years.

"I could build a wall for him with long-range cameras and security," continued Giuliani. "He needs something. I think he'd compromise if he got most of what he wanted." A compromise is exactly what lawmakers are looking for as an imminent government shutdown hinges on whether Trump will accept a federal spending bill that doesn't include $5 billion for a border wall.

Giuliani's offer to improve security with amped up technology and general funding was pretty far from on-message — Democrats have offered exactly that, suggesting around $1.6 billion could go toward increased border security, instead of a wall. Trump's attorney clarified that he hadn't conferred with the president and was speaking for himself. He did not comment on whether his security firm, Giuliani Security & Safety, would be willing to construct Trump's newly-conceived "steel slats." Read more at CNBC. Summer Meza

8:08 p.m.

While on the witness stand Tuesday, the onetime right-hand man of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman said the alleged drug lord once paid a $100 million bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Guzman is accused of running the Sinaloa Cartel, and was extradited from Mexico to the United States in 2017 to face charges of trafficking heroin, cocaine, and other drugs. In a Brooklyn federal courtroom, witness Alex Cifuentes admitted under cross-examination by Guzman's lawyer that he told prosecutors in 2016 that the bribe had been arranged. He revealed to them that it was Peña Nieto who first asked for $250 million, and the bribe was paid in October 2012, two months before Peña Nieto was sworn in as president.

Cifuentes also said that during a meeting last year, he told prosecutors he was no longer sure how much was paid to Peña Nieto in bribes, and Guzman told him after Peña Nieto received the money, he sent a message to Guzman that he didn't have to live in hiding anymore. Peña Nieto served as president from December 2012 to November 2018, and has denied ever taking bribes from people involved in the drug trade. Cifuentes is one of about 12 witnesses who have made deals with U.S. prosecutors in exchange for their testimony against Guzman, Reuters reports. Catherine Garcia

7:17 p.m.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced on Tuesday that she is launching a presidential exploratory committee.

Gillibrand shared the news while taping an episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, telling the host she has the "compassion, the courage, and the fearless determination" to take on corruption and greed in Washington, institutional racism, and "special interests that write legislation in the dead of night."

She also told Colbert she will "fight for other people's kids as hard as I will fight for my own," and she believes that "anybody who wants to work hard enough should be able to get whatever job training they need to earn their way into the middle class." Colbert asked Gillibrand the first thing she would do if elected, and she said in addition to taking action on climate change, she would "restore what's been lost — the integrity and the compassion of this country. If you want to get things done, you have to get people together." Gillibrand is a vocal critic of President Trump's, and was re-elected in November. Catherine Garcia

6:48 p.m.

In a new court document filed Tuesday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office listed what investigators believe are lies Paul Manafort told since he agreed last year to be a cooperating witness.

Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, agreed to a plea deal in September so he would not have to go on trial in Washington, D.C., on conspiracy charges. In the heavily-redacted document, an investigator with Mueller's office writes that Manafort was "advised that lying to the government could subject him to prosecution." Last month, Mueller filed a document saying he believed Manafort had been lying, and the plea deal is now void.

The latest document states that Manafort lied about his dealings with Ukrainian business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, his contacts with members of the Trump administration, and a $125,000 payment he made in June 2017 to a redacted name. His lawyers have claimed that if Manafort gave any false statements, it was purely by accident. Catherine Garcia

5:19 p.m.

A Canadian businessman looking to avoid liquidation just got his hopes dashed by a font.

When Gerald McGoey's company went bankrupt at the end of 2017, a court tried to use his homes to pay back $5.6 million in debt to creditors, Ars Technica details. McGoey wasn't having that, and said he had papers from 1995 and 2004 showing his wife and children owned the homes.

The document from 1995 was written in the typeface Cambria, and the deed from 2004 was written in Calibri. Unfortunately for McGoey, those fonts were introduced by Microsoft Word in 2002 and 2007, respectively, as The Province describes.

It wasn't just some ordinary Microsoft aficionado who found the discrepancy, The Province says. The Ontario court brought in self-described "font detective" Thomas Phinney, who said "no one, other than a Microsoft employee, consultant or contract designer" could've used those typefaces at the time, per the court decision. McGoey's lawyers tried to argue they were misdated, but a judge still shredded McGoey's claim.

Calibri has a long history of tripping up schemers. When the infamous Panama Papers tied the Pakistani prime minister's children to some offshore companies, his daughter posted documents showing she was a trustee, not an owner of the companies. One problem: The Calibri-typed papers were dated before the font debuted.

These examples should teach would-be fraudsters a thing or two about typing out boldfaced lies. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:58 p.m.

Members of Congress took an hour Tuesday to condemn white supremacy and white nationalism on the House floor.

Why? Because after Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) questioned why those terms are "offensive" nowadays, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) decided to introduce a resolution to officially reject white nationalist and white supremacist movements. And in the debate that followed, 17 bipartisan lawmakers — including King himself — lined up to support him.

Debate isn't the best word for what transpired. It was more like a unanimous rejection of King's words that not-so-coincidentally took place on what would've been Martin Luther King Jr.'s 90th birthday. After hearing from the heads of the House Judiciary Committee, Clyburn kicked off the roast.

King took the floor right after Clyburn, explaining that he came from a family of abolitionists, saying his words were misconstrued, and pledging to back the resolution. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) quickly rose and said she "beg[ged] to differ." A total of four Republicans and 13 Democrats shared similarly scathing takes.

Congress eventually voted 424-1 to pass the resolution. The only no vote came from Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who said the bill didn't go far enough and demanded a censure of King, which he and two other Democrats moved to do Monday. Also on Monday, King was removed from his committee spots over his recent comments.

Watch everyone's harsh words for King on C-SPAN. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:20 p.m.

President Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, may not be able to discuss certain topics during his upcoming congressional testimony — but he still has plenty to say.

Cohen's testimony next month will be "highly restricted" so that he doesn't interfere with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Therefore, Cohen won't dive into Russia-related topics he has discussed during his 70 hours of interviews with Mueller.

At the same time, the Journal reports that the hearing, which will focus more on Cohen's personal experience working as Trump's attorney, could still be "explosive." In fact, a source close to Cohen said that he will "tell the story of what it's like to work for a madman, and why he did it for so long," adding that he's "going to say things that will give you chills."

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to violating campaign finance laws, saying he made hush payments to two women who claim they had affairs with Trump years before he ran for president. Trump, who Cohen claims directed him to make the payments, has accused Cohen of making up a story to get a lighter sentence. Cohen has also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about how long Trump negotiated a business deal in Russia.

Cohen's public hearing on Capitol Hill will take place on Feb. 7. Brendan Morrow

4:02 p.m.

President Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, was grilled for hours on Capitol Hill — yet plenty of Congress' key questions remained without definitive answers.

With hedging language thrown around left and right, here are some of the most non-committal responses from Barr so far that leave how he might act as attorney general somewhat unclear.

1. Barr didn't offer much in the way of his interpretation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution and how it might relate to President Trump, saying that there's a "dispute as to what the emoluments clause relates to" and that he has "not personally researched the emoluments clause" and "couldn't even tell you what it says," per Vox.

2. When asked to commit that the Justice Department under his leadership wouldn't "jail reporters for doing their jobs," Barr avoided doing so, saying he "can conceive of situations" where reporters might be imprisoned as a "last resort," The Daily Beast reports.

3. Asked about his statement in 1992 that Roe v. Wade will "fall," Barr didn't quite say Tuesday whether he still believes the landmark abortion case had been wrongly decided, but he told senators that the department had "stopped as a routine matter asking that it be overruled" and said "I don't see that being resumed," per CNN.

4. Barr at numerous points during the testimony would not commit to recusing himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe if his ethics officials told him to, saying he will not "surrender the responsibility" of the job, says The Washington Post. He also didn't say how much of the report would be made public and didn't commit to explaining potential changes he might make to it, per Talking Points Memo.

5. When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Barr whether waterboarding is torture, he said that he would "have to look at the legal definition" but that "right now, it's prohibited," per Vox. Brendan Morrow

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