January 8, 2019

A piece of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is now out in the open — not that Paul Manafort's lawyers wanted it to be.

On Monday, Manafort's lawyers submitted a filing in the U.S. government's case against him, and a redacted version was made public on Tuesday. Except the public document wasn't redacted very well, and revealed that Mueller is alleging Manafort shared 2016 polling data with a supposed Russian operative.

The filing refers to Konstantin Kilimnik, an aide of Manafort's who's also been charged with conspiracy and is thought to be a Russian intelligence agent. Manafort "conceded" he "may have discussed a Ukraine peace plan" with Kilimnik, and said they met up in Madrid, another not-quite-reacted portion shows.

Yet another mistaken redaction shows Mueller alleges Manafort talked to "a third party" who wanted to use Manafort's name "as an introduction" if they met President Trump. In response to Mueller's allegations that Manafort lied to government prosecutors, Manafort's lawyers say any "misstatements ... were not intentional."

Manafort was Trump's 2016 campaign chair, and is currently in jail after being charged with obstruction of justice and financial crimes. He was cooperating with Mueller until the special counsel's office found that he told them "multiple discernable lies." Lawyers say his legal troubles and imprisonment are taking a toll on his health. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:19 a.m.

In his first one-on-one interview since the general election, President Trump told Fox News' Maria Bartiromo over the phone that he is "ashamed" he once endorsed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R).

Trump, who throughout the interview repeated allegations of widespread voter fraud without evidence or much pushback from Bartiromo, complained about Georgia's electoral process in particular. The president became the first Republican presidential candidate to lose the state since 1992. He has already sought a mostly ineffective recount, but he's still fuming over his defeat, and he's taken out his on state officials, especially Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. But he let Kemp have it Sunday.

Trump said Kemp has "done absolutely nothing" to assist his efforts to flip the results and admitted "I'm ashamed that I endorsed him."

As several observers pointed out, Kemp has traditionally been a solid supporter of the president, highlighting how quickly Trump's relationships can turn. Tim O'Donnell

10:39 a.m.

Afghanistan officials reported a pair of separate fatal suicide bombings in the country Sunday.

At least 31 Afghan security force members were killed and 24 others wounded after an attacker reportedly drove a military humvee packed with explosives onto an army base outside the city of Ghazni on Sunday and detonated the bomb. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack. Per Reuters, a spokesman for the Taliban did not confirm or deny the group's involvement.

Another suicide bomber targeted the convoy of Attajan Haqbayat, the council chief in the southern Zabul province, on Sunday, killing at least three people and wounding 21 others. Haqbayat survived the attack with minor injuries. No one has claimed responsibility for that incident, either; Reuters notes Haqbayat is an outspoken critic of the Taliban.

The Taliban and the Afghan government are seeking a solution to their decades-long conflict, as the United States prepares to withdraw more troops from the country, but violence has surged throughout the negotiation process. The Taliban and the Islamic State have both carried out in attacks in recent weeks. Read more at The Associated Press and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

10:23 a.m.

David Prowse, a British actor best known for portraying Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died after a short illness, his management company announced Saturday. He was 85.

Prowse was a former bodybuilder and weightlifting champion who had several roles in which he played monsters and villains before George Lucas invited him to audition for both Vader and Chewbacca. Prowse said he chose the former because "everyone remembers the villain," per The Guardian.

While he appeared in all three original trilogy films, it was actually James Earl Jones who provided the character's voice, and Lucas cast Sebastian Shaw for the role when Vader's helmet is finally removed at the end of Return of the Jedi. Prowse reportedly had a falling out with Lucas, who banned him from attending official Star Wars conventions.

Despite playing an iconic pop culture figure, Prowse said he was most proud of his role as the "Green Cross Code Man" in a British road safety campaign. Read more at The Guardian and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

7:53 a.m.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously to reject a Republican lawsuit, led by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), that argued the Keystone State's law permitting universal mail-in voting was unconstitutional.

The high court said the "petitioners advocated the extraordinary proposition that the court disenfranchise all 6.9 million Pennsylvanians who voted in the general election," but "failed to allege that even a single mail-in ballot was fraudulently cast or counted." The justices also criticized the petitioners for filing the lawsuit more than a year after the bill was passed by Pennsylvania's GOP legislature. "The want of due diligence demonstrated in this matter is unmistakable," the justices wrote.

The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice meaning the plaintiffs are barred from bringing another action on the same claim.

The decision was yet another blow for the Trump campaign and its allies seeking to overturn election results — there have now been 26 pro-Trump legal challenges tossed out in key swing states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia. Read more at NBC News and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

November 28, 2020

Sarah Fuller, a goalkeeper for Vanderbilt women's soccer team, suited up for the Commodore football team Saturday and became the first woman to play in a Power 5 football game when she took the third quarter kick off.

Two women have played college football at the FBS level — Katie Hnida of New Mexico and April Goss of Kent State — but neither were on a team in the the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, or Pac-12.

Per ESPN, Vanderbilt's expected starting kicker opted out before the season, and several replacements are in quarantine this week because of COVID-19 testing, so Fuller got the call. She told Vanderbilt's website the historical aspect of the situation is "amazing and incredible," but "I'm also trying to separate that because I know this is a job I need to do." Read more at ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

November 28, 2020

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Friday that the "federal government is now fully in control" of the Tigray region's capital, Mekelle, after a successful military offensive, Reuters reports. It's a crucial development in the weeks-old intra-country conflict.

Abiy said police are searching for leaders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, who have been fighting the government's forces throughout November, and aim to "bring them to the court of law." He added that military operations have ended and the government's focus is now "rebuilding the region and providing humanitarian assistance." There has been no comment from the TPLF.

Earlier in the day, a spokeswoman for Abiy said the military would not target civilian areas, while Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the TPLF, told Reuters that Mekelle was under "heavy bombardment."

It has been difficult for news organizations to verify claims from either side over the course of the conflict since phone and internet links to Tigray have been down. Read more at Reuters and Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

November 28, 2020

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia last week for a secret meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in the hopes of striking a deal that would normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. But he came home empty handed after Prince Mohammed backed out, The Wall Street Journal reports.

His reasoning, Saudi advisers and U.S. officials told the Journal, was President-elect Joe Biden's victory over President Trump in the U.S. general election. Although the Trump administration was a factor in the recent so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Prince Mohammed reportedly wants to build ties with Biden and was reluctant about following suit while Trump is still in office, although the chances of that happening reportedly aren't impossible.

Negotiating normalization agreements between Israel and other Arab nations is one Trump policy Biden seems likely to keep pursuing, but the president-elect has taken a tougher stance on Saudi Arabia than Trump, especially after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Journal notes, so reviving talks with the new administration may be Prince Mohammed's best chance "to repair its image in Washington," a U.S. official said. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

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