March 21, 2019

The remarkably lenient plea deal Jeffrey Epstein reached with federal prosecutors is the best-known case involving the millionaire financier's history of paying underage girls for sex, but one of Epstein's alleged victims also sued one of his alleged enablers, Ghislaine Maxwell. That case was settled before trial for an undisclosed sum in 2017, but U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet had "accepted almost all filings in the case under seal, without specific orders justifying the secrecy." Three parties sued to have the files unsealed, and on Tuesday night, "two mystery litigants" objected, Politico reports.

Since Sweet declined to unseal the files, the U.S. 2nd Court of Appeals is deciding the fate of the documents submitted to court and Sweet's sealed ruling. "Just prior to a court-imposed deadline Tuesday, two anonymous individuals surfaced to object to the unsealing," arguing "they could face unwarranted speculation and embarrassment if the court makes public records from the suit," Politico reports. In the lawsuit, Virginia Giuffre accused Maxwell of sex trafficking by allegedly facilitating Epstein's sexual interactions with teenage girls; Maxwell denied the charge.

One of the requests to quash the unsealing was filed on behalf of "John Doe" by Manhattan-based lawyer Nick Lewin and the other by Washington-based attorney Kerrie Campbell on behalf of "J. Doe." The three parties who had requested the files be unsealed were the Miami Herald, alt-right social media personality Mike Cernovich, and prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who said several of the sealed records would disprove allegations from two women that they had sex with him at Epstein's direction. You can read more about the case at Politico. Peter Weber

1:14 a.m.

Rudy Giuliani is "heartbroken" over recent comments made by his former associate Lev Parnas, who says he worked closely with Giuliani in Ukraine as part of an attempt to find damaging information about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Speaking to Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday night, Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, said he was once "close to" Parnas, but was "misled by him." In October, Parnas and his business partner Igor Fruman were arrested and charged with campaign finance violations. Last week, Parnas made several public accusations against Giuliani, President Trump, and Attorney General William Barr, implicating all of them in the Ukraine scheme that is central to Trump's impeachment.

While Fruman did not cooperate with House impeachment investigators, Parnas did, turning over documents and other materials. Parnas said while he was in Ukraine trying to find dirt on the Bidens, he "wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani and the president." Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney, refuted this, saying Parnas "in very large part did not tell the truth" and "lied stupidly."

Giuliani told Ingraham he would not discuss all of Parnas' accusations, but did deny ever talking about his Ukraine investigation with Barr and said Parnas' account of a meeting during a 2018 White House Hanukkah party was a lie. In November, CNN reported that Parnas told two people close to him that during the celebration, Trump let Parnas and Fruman know he wanted them to go on a "secret mission" to Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Giuliani said this was "absolutely untrue," as they were never pulled into a private meeting.

Parnas posted a photo taken at the party on social media, showing him posing with Trump, Giuliani, Fruman, and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump has repeatedly denied knowing Parnas; Parnas has promised to keep releasing pictures of the two of them together. Catherine Garcia

12:29 a.m.

The Senate will vote Tuesday on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-K.Y.) proposed rules for President Trump's impeachment trial. If they approve the rules, the senators will be voting for some very late nights at the office.

McConnell's rules allow 24 hours for opening arguments over two sessions. If Trump's team and the House Democratic impeachment managers use all their time, it "could push testimony past midnight," The Washington Post reports. That would be a long time for senators to sit quietly without checking their phones, assuming they show up for the trial, but arguably worse for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

After the opening arguments, senators would have 16 hours to question Trump's team and the House managers, then four hours to debate whether to allow witnesses and new evidence — and then, whether to allow the House's impeachment documents to be admissible as evidence. That's "a key difference from the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton," the Post notes. "Though the material will be printed and made available to senators, it won’t be automatically admissible unless a majority of senators approve it."

All this may be a moot point, though, because McConnell's rules also allow Trump's team to move to dismiss the charges at any time after the rules are adopted, so 51 senators could end the trial right away. Fox News congressional reporter Chad Pergram isn't impressed.

University of Texas constitutional law professor Steve Vladeck suggests McConnell might not have had impartial justice in mind.

"All 53 Republican senators are expected to support the rules as written by McConnell," the Post reports. Peter Weber

January 20, 2020

The Islamic State's new leader is Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi, one of the terrorist organization's founding members, intelligence officials told The Guardian.

Last October, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a raid in Syria, and officials said Salbi replaced him just hours after his death. Born to an Iraqi Turkmen family, Salbi has a background as an Islamic scholar, and came up with the ISIS religious rulings authorizing the enslavement of Iraq's Yazidi minority. Salbi met Baghdadi in 2004, when both were detained by U.S. forces at Camp Bucca in Iraq.

There aren't many founding members of ISIS left, and the group doesn't have nearly as many fighters as it did during its peak in the mid-2010s. ISIS no longer controls vast swaths of Iraq and Syria, but they are still behind assassinations and roadside bombings in northern Iraq, a senior Kurdish official told The Guardian. There are rural networks that "remain very much intact," the official said. "After all, ISIS members in Iraq still receive monthly salaries and training in remote mountainous areas. That network allows the organization to endure, even when militarily defeated."

Salbi's whereabouts are unknown, but intelligence officials believe it's likely he is near Mosul, Iraq. There is a $5 million bounty on his head. Catherine Garcia

January 20, 2020

An attorney for Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Monday, requesting the he recuse himself from Parnas' criminal case.

Parnas was arrested last October and charged with campaign finance violations. In the letter, which was also filed in New York federal court, attorney Joseph Bondy said Barr has a conflict of interest and asked that a special prosecutor from outside the Justice Department handle Parnas' case. "Federal ethics guidelines bar federal employees from participating in matters in which their impartiality could be questioned, including matters in which they were personally involved or about which they have personal knowledge," Bondy wrote.

Bondy cited several reasons why Barr should recuse himself, noting that the reconstructed transcript released by the White House of President Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows Trump telling Zelensky that Barr could help him facilitate an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. Last week, Parnas told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that Barr knew about efforts in the Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, saying, "Attorney General Barr was basically on the team." Read Bondy's letter here. Catherine Garcia

January 20, 2020

Everyone knows that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for social justice, racial equality, and an end to poverty, but White House counselor Kellyanne Conway thinks he also wouldn't stand for President Trump's impeachment.

When asked by NBC News on Monday how Trump was observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Conway said he was getting ready to head to Davos for the World Economic Forum, then managed to connect the late civil rights leader to Trump's impeachment. "I don't think it was within Dr. King's vision to have Americans dragged through a process where the president is not going to be removed from office, is not being charged with bribery, extortion, high crimes, or misdemeanors," she said. "And I think that anybody who cares about 'and justice for all' on today or any day of the year will appreciate the fact that the president now will have a full throttle defense on the facts, and everybody should have that."

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., and Trump also tweeted that it was "so appropriate" that "exactly three years ago today, Jan. 20, 2017, I was sworn into office." His impeachment trial will formally begin on Tuesday. Catherine Garcia

January 20, 2020

A new CNN poll out Monday shows that 51 percent of Americans think the Senate should vote to convict and remove President Trump from office during his upcoming impeachment trial.

Meanwhile, 45 percent believe the Senate should vote against conviction and removal. Almost 69 percent say the trial should include testimony from new witnesses who did not appear before House impeachment investigators. Republicans are split on whether there should be witnesses in the trial — 48 percent are in favor of new witnesses, while 44 percent are not.

This was the first major national phone poll conducted since the articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate and Lev Parnas, the indicted Rudy Giuliani associate, appeared on cable news shows and implicated Trump in the Ukraine pressure campaign. The poll was conducted by SSRS from Jan. 16 to 19, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Catherine Garcia

January 20, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday submitted his impeachment trial rules proposal, which calls for a speedy trial.

The resolution will be voted on Tuesday afternoon, and needs a majority to pass the Senate. Under his plan, each side will have 24 hours over two days for opening statements, and senators will have up to 16 hours for questions and four hours of debate. After that, a vote will be held on calling additional witnesses. If other witnesses are called, the Senate will decide if any of them testify publicly.

"Sen. McConnell's resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, adding that McConnell "is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through." This proposal shows that McConnell "doesn't want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn't want to hear any new evidence. A trial where there is no evidence — no existing record, no witnesses, no documents — isn't a trial at all."

Eric Ueland, the White House's legislative affairs director, said President Trump and his team are happy with the proposal, as they are "seeking an acquittal as swiftly as possible." Catherine Garcia

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