December 28, 2018

On Thursday, McClatchy reported that a cellphone linked to Michael Cohen, former lawyer and fixer for President Trump, had briefly connected with cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, about the time an unverified dossier placed Cohen in the Czech capital for a covert meeting with Russians. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is aware of the intercepts, McClatchy said, and its reporters were told about the cellphone evidence from four sources who learned of it independently from foreign intelligence connections. Cohen, who has been cooperating with Mueller's Trump-Russia collusion investigation, reiterated Thursday that he has never been to Prague, ever, adding cryptically that "#Mueller knows everything!"

Was Cohen being cute about Prague, and had maybe visited its suburbs or somewhere else in the Czech Republic? "NO," he tweeted, when people asked. Still, McClatchy's "reporting is the opposite of thin," notes New York's Jonathan Chait, and assuming this isn't "a massive journalistic error," evidence that Cohen was in Prague that summer and met with Russians "would mean just about the worst possible thing for Trump," providing a direct link between the president and Russians allegedly trying to cover up collusion with Trump's campaign. A spokesman for Mueller's office declined McClatchy's invitation to comment on its report. Peter Weber

12:27 a.m.

In his forthcoming book, Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation, Andrew Weissmann describes what it was like serving as a prosecutor on former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, going into detail about his frustrations and fears.

The Washington Post reports that in the book, Weissmann — who now teaches at New York University School of Law and serves as an MSNBC legal analyst — writes that the special counsel's efforts were stymied by the constant threat of Trump's wrath. They were reluctant to get too aggressive, he said, due to "the president's power to fire us and pardon wrongdoers who might otherwise cooperate."

Weissmann writes that this is why Mueller's top deputy, Aaron Zebley, stopped investigators from taking a broader look at Trump's finances, the Post reports. The pressure, he said, "affected our investigative decisions, leading us at certain times to act less forcefully and more defensively than we might have. It led us to delay or ultimately forgo entire lines of inquiry, particularly regarding the president's financial ties to Russia." 


With Trump, Russia's main intelligence agency has "gotten what it had worked so hard for — a servile, but popular, American leader," Weissmann writes. "There is no other way to put it. Our country is now faced with the problem of a lawless White House, which addresses itself to every new dilemma or check on its power with a belief that following the rules is optional and that breaking them comes at minimal, if not zero, cost."

Weissmann told the Post he decided to write Where Law Ends after Attorney General William Barr released his own four-page summary of Mueller's report, which downplayed the findings; Mueller would later pen a letter saying Barr "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of his work.

"I wrote it very much so there would be a public record from somebody, at least one viewpoint, from the inside as opposed to the story being told in maybe a less accurate way by people from the outside," Weissmann said. In the book, he accuses Barr of enabling a "lawless" president, and says the attorney general "had betrayed both friend and country." Read more about Weissmann's book, including why he thinks there was enough evidence showing Trump obstructed justice and how special counsel rules should be changed, at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

September 21, 2020

A lot of Republicans agreed on a somewhat arbitrary rule in 2016 that the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee during an election year. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the current Judiciary Committee chairman, was so convinced by the righteousness of his argument that he said he would hold off on considering a nominee put forward by President Trump if it occurred during an election year — and he urged people to keep the tape and use his words against him if he changed his mind. Well, now he's changed his mind, and The Lincoln Project rolled the tape.

The Late Show used an earlier iteration of Graham's "use my words against me" offer and took him up on it Monday night. And Stephen Colbert's writers used a liberal interpretation of his pledge. Watch below. Peter Weber

September 21, 2020

The Bobcat fire in Los Angeles County is continuing to threaten the historic Mount Wilson Observatory, as well as communications towers used by local television and radio stations and law enforcement.

Last week, flames were within 500 feet of the 116-year-old observatory, but firefighters were able to keep them at bay. Since the weekend, fire crews have been battling flareups at the top of the mountain, caused by winds out of the east. "Just when I thought the danger was over, it wasn't," Thomas Meneghi, the observatory's executive director, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. Meneghi also said there is a 530,000-gallon water tank on the observatory grounds, and over the last several days, firefighters have used half of it to battle the blaze.

Since Sept. 6, the Bobcat fire has scorched more than 105,000 acres, making it one of the largest fires in L.A. County history. It is only 15 percent contained, and crews are having a hard time getting a handle on it due to the rocky terrain in the Angeles National Forest. The Bobcat fire has moved down into the Antelope Valley, where it has destroyed several homes and buildings and is quickly burning through low-lying desert shrubbery. Catherine Garcia

September 21, 2020

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted (R) was heckled on Monday by supporters of President Trump, who objected to Husted mentioning wearing masks.

Husted spoke at a Trump rally outside of Dayton, and came onstage sporting a red mask with "Trump 2020" printed on the front. "I'm trying to make masks in America great again," he said to jeers. Husted pulled out another mask that said "MAGA," which did nothing to get the crowd on his side — instead, the boos continued and one person shouted at him, "Get off the stage!"

"Hang on, I get it," Husted responded. "You don't like it. But when you go in a grocery store where you have to wear one ... just listen up! All right, I get it. But if somebody tells you to take it off, you can at least say you're trying to save the country by wearing one of President Donald Trump's masks."

It wasn't just the idea of wearing masks to protect others that got the crowd riled up — when Husted mentioned Gov. Mike DeWine (R), who made masks mandatory in most indoor areas, that opened him up to another round of boos. DeWine and Husted are co-chairs of Trump's campaign in Ohio, and when Trump later mentioned the governor during his speech, some jeering could be heard. Trump called DeWine "a real good friend of mine," and promised the audience, "He's opening up." Catherine Garcia

September 21, 2020

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll released Monday shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden ahead of President Trump in Wisconsin, with a closer race in Pennsylvania.

In Wisconsin, 48 percent of likely voters said they are voting for Biden while 43 percent said they are supporting Trump. Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, 48 percent believe Biden would handle it better than Trump, with 40 percent saying Trump would do better than Biden. On the economy, 48 percent said Trump would do a better job managing it, and 42 percent said Biden would do better. One percent of respondents said they have taken advantage of early voting.

In Pennsylvania, 49 percent of likely voters said they are voting for Biden and 46 percent said they will vote for Trump. When it comes to the pandemic, 48 percent said Biden would be better at handling it, compared to 44 percent who said Trump would be better, and 51 percent said Trump would be better at managing the economy, with 45 percent saying Biden would be better. Two percent of respondents said they already voted in the election.

Reuters/Ipsos is surveying voters in six battleground states: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona. Additional polls are expected to be released on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Wisconsin and Pennsylvania polls were conducted online in English from Sept. 11 to 16. In Wisconsin, 1,005 adults, including 609 likely voters, were surveyed, and in Pennsylvania, 1,005 adults, including 611 likely voters, were surveyed. Both polls have a credibility interval of 5 percentage points. Catherine Garcia

September 21, 2020

A federal judge in Wisconsin on Monday extended the state's cutoff day for absentee ballots to be counted in the presidential election.

Under current law, for an absentee ballot to be counted, it must be returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day, but U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled that absentee ballots can be counted up to six days after the Nov. 3 election. He also extended the deadline for mail and electronic voter registration from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21.

The Democratic National Committee, Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and other organizations sued to extend the deadline, citing the long lines and shortage of staffers during April's presidential primary. Conley paused the ruling from going into effect for one week, and Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt said the state GOP is determining next steps.

For the April primary, Conley extended the deadline to return absentee ballots for a week, and almost 7 percent of all ballots cast came during that time, The Associated Press reports. The Wisconsin Elections Commission said that so far, more than one million absentee ballots have been requested for the Nov. 3 election, and the state expects as many as two million will be cast. Catherine Garcia

September 21, 2020

President Trump on Monday said he'll probably announce his Supreme Court nominee on Saturday, and word is he's leaning toward the speculative favorite, appellate court judge Amy Coney Barrett, Bloomberg reports.

Barrett, whom Trump reportedly met with Monday, is well-regarded in conservative circles, Bloomberg notes, and, because she hails from the Midwest, there's reportedly a sense that her selection could help sway swing voters in Rust Belt and Great Lakes states. Trump also already interviewed Barrett when filling the last Supreme Court vacancy, and he reportedly considers her, per Bloomberg, to be a "smart, hard-nosed conservative jurist who would come across well during televised confirmation hearings" and hold steady on issues like abortion, gun rights, and health care when they come before the court.

Additionally, there's reportedly widespread support for Barrett within the White House, and she's also viewed as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) favorite contender.

Bloomberg reports that Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban-American from Florida, is reportedly the only other person Trump is seriously considering, but she's a distant second. While the president has spoken highly of her and her selection could help Trump electorally in Florida, he's apparently concerned that she received votes from 27 Democrats when she was confirmed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. While that traditionally may sound like a bonus, the upcoming confirmation process will almost certainly be split along party lines so bipartisan credentials would seemingly be a non-factor, either way. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads