July 9, 2019

Christopher Steele is back.

The former MI6 agent behind the now-infamous "Steele Dossier" on President Trump's ties to Russia — you know, the one containing the alleged "pee tape" — was the subject of a two-day grilling by the Justice Department's internal watchdog in June, Politico reports. Coincidentally, the interview took place in London while Trump was on his state visit to the British capital.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been conducting an investigation into the FBI's efforts to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page based, in part, on information provided by Steele.

The interview reportedly didn't start off well for either side. Horowitz's team wasn't sure about Steele as a credible witness, especially after the dossier was disputed by Trump and other officials. Steele, meanwhile, wasn't keen on speaking with the investigators because he's a foreign national.

But all's well that ends well. Both sides reportedly eased into the interview, and investigators found Steele's testimony credible and "even surprising." That's not good news for Trump allies who have claimed that Steele's dossier was used improperly by the FBI so they could "spy" on Trump's campaign. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

8:52 a.m.

Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani who worked as his envoy in Ukraine, communicated with a top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) about an effort to find damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden, documents released Friday night by House Democrats revealed.

The evidence shows Derek Harvey, a former White House official and top aide to Nunes, communicated extensively with Parnas and sought to speak with Ukrainian prosecutors who were giving Giuliani information about Biden, reports The Washington Post. The documents corroborate Parnas' own claims about Nunes's office's involvement in the scheme.

Parnas has said President Trump and his associates were working to push Ukraine into announcing an investigation into Biden. The messages, the Post writes, "indicate Nunes's office was aware of the operation at the heart of impeachment proceedings against the president — and sought to use the information Parnas was gathering." Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, did not comment on the documents.

Read more at The Washington Post and NBC News. Summer Meza

8:23 a.m.

Former GOP Rep. Chris Collins was sentenced on Friday to two years in federal prison on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI, reports NBC News.

Collins, who was a New York representative since 2013 and was the first member of Congress to endorse President Trump's candidacy, pleaded guilty to tipping off his son to confidential information regarding an Australian biotechnology company, which allowed them to make illegal stock trades avoiding more than $700,000 in losses.

At his sentencing, Collins tearfully apologized, reports The Washington Post. "I stand here today a disgraced former congressman," he said. "I cannot face my constituents. What I have done has marked me for life." The 26-month sentence will begin on March 17, and will likely be served at a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida.

Read more at NBC News and The Washington Post. Summer Meza

January 17, 2020

President Trump has a new target for his Twitter ire — Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei on Friday morning called Trump a "clown" who is only pretending to support Iran's people, and criticized the Trump-authorized killing of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. In Khamenei's first time leading Friday prayers at the Mosella mosque in Tehran since 2012, he said Iran's retaliatory missile strikes were a "slap on the face" to the U.S. that demonstrated Iran's "power."

Trump responded with a tweet on Friday evening, adding the zinger that Khamenei had "not been so Supreme lately."

Aside from the schoolyard taunt, Trump threw in a vague threat, noting Khamenei "should be very careful with his words!" That will surely calm the simmering tensions between the two nations.

January 17, 2020

There's a brand new way Democrats can make the debate stage next month.

The Democratic National Committee announced requirements to qualify for February's primary debate Friday, saying the donor threshold will remain steady, with candidates needing at least 225,000 unique donors. Candidates will also, as before, need to hit at least five percent in four qualifying national polls or seven percent in two polls of New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina voters. But there's now a third path that candidates can take to replace the poll requirement: If they win just one delegate in Iowa, they're in.

This could open a path for candidates such as entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who hit the donor requirement but didn't have enough qualifying polls to make January's debate. The Iowa caucuses are Feb. 3, and the next debate is Feb. 7 in New Hampshire. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 17, 2020

After traveling the world hunting for treasure in his personal life, Nicolas Cage can soon resume doing so in the movies, too.

A third National Treasure film is in the works at Disney with Bad Boys for Life's Chris Bremner writing a screenplay, The Hollywood Reporter wrote Friday.

No further details were provided in the report, which only briefly mentioned National Treasure while focusing on the status of a fourth Bad Boys film, which is also apparently happening. But this news comes more than a decade after National Treasure: Book of Secrets hit theaters, easily outgrossing the original but for some reason not being followed by five to eight more installments centered around Benjamin Franklin Gates' increasingly wacky adventures.

A third National Treasure has been discussed going back years, though, to the point that this movie could just be about the mythical quest for its own screenplay. Director Jon Turteltaub in 2018 suggested the odds it would come together weren't great, telling /Film, "I don't think Disney wants to make it," though he suggested it could happen as a streaming-exclusive film.

Now that it's apparently moving forward, though, what treasure hunt might be at the center of this installment? Could it just completely ignore the first two films and turn into a documentary about Nicolas Cage the actor's totally real attempt to locate the Holy Grail, which he revealed last year and dubbed his "grail quest"? Probably not, but Disney can have that idea for free. Brendan Morrow

January 17, 2020

The Harvey Weinstein trial officially has its jury.

Jury selection in the trial of the disgraced film producer ended Friday with seven men and five women set to serve, Variety reports. Three alternates, one man and two women, were also selected.

Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi during jury selection accused the defense and trying to "systematically exclude" young white women, The Hollywood Reporter writes. "They have eliminated every single white woman from this prospective jury panel," Illuzzi said, Variety reports.

The defense, in turn, accused the prosecution of trying to exclude men from the jury, but the Reporter writes Judge James Burke didn't accept either argument. The defense reportedly said it didn't seek to exclude young women but that, as The Associated Press writes, they "didn't want jurors who were too young to understand the way men and women interacted in the early 1990s."

The defense objected to one particular juror, a woman who wrote a forthcoming novel whose plot has to do with "predatory older men," Deadline reports. The judge ultimately said the woman could serve on the jury and denied the defense's subsequent request for a mistrial.

Weinstein is facing rape and sexual assault charges, which he has pleaded not guilty to. Opening arguments in the trial are set to begin on Jan. 22. Brendan Morrow

January 17, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden is still promising "If you like your insurance, you can keep it" — with a twist.

In his endorsement interview with The New York Times published Friday, Biden is asked about that phrase both he and former President Barack Obama have said in the past. And after accepting that he actually did say it, Biden promised that "if you like your plan, you can keep it," provided "your employer doesn't take it away from you."

While the ObamaCare mantra of keeping the insurance you like ended up not exactly being true, Biden still modified it in a July 2019 primary debate to say under his presidency, "If you like your health care plan, your employer-based plan, you can keep it. If in fact you have private insurance, you can keep it." There's video proof of Biden saying that but, when confronted with it in his Times interview, Biden replied with "I didn't say that, by the way."

The interview moved on, and Biden was asked about how if there was a public health insurance option, employers may stop offering insurance altogether.

That all devolved into what Biden saying something that would look perfect on a campaign coffee mug as long as it fits: "If you like your plan, you can keep it, assuming — I should add the obvious — if your employer doesn't take it away from you. Okay?" Kathryn Krawczyk

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