July 18, 2019

New court documents unsealed on Thursday detail President Donald Trump's 2016 team's conversations as Michael Cohen was arranging hush money payments to silence women alleging they had affairs with Trump.

In the documents, an FBI agent says that Trump's former attorney in the days after the Access Hollywood tape was released "exchanged a series of calls, text messages, and emails" with Stormy Daniels' attorney Keith Davidson, the National Enquirer's David Pecker and David Howard, Trump, and then-campaign secretary Hope Hicks, per BuzzFeed News' Zoe Tillman.

"Based on the timing of these calls, and the content of the text messages and emails, I believe that at least some of these communications concerned the need to prevent [Stephanie] Clifford from going public, particularly in the wake of the Access Hollywood story," the FBI agent says.

One portion of the document also describes a conversation on Nov. 5, in which Cohen texted Hicks noticing that a Wall Street Journal article about the National Enquirer paying to silence Karen McDougal, who also claimed she had an affair with Trump, was "getting little to no traction," per CBS News' Steven Portnoy. Hicks responded, "Same. Keep praying!! It's working!" Hicks claimed in a comment for that story, "We have no knowledge of any of this." The documents also show that Cohen texted Howard that "he's pissed," per HuffPost, seemingly referring to Trump.

Hicks has denied knowing about Daniels' allegations until November 2016, a claim she made during congressional testimony, ABC News reports.

Cohen is currently serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations as prosecutors say he made the hush money payments at the direction of Trump, and the documents show Trump and Cohen communicating numerous times as Cohen was arranging the payments, CNN reports. Trump has denied knowing anything about the payments. Brendan Morrow

7:22 p.m.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents aged 12 to 15.

Pfizer has said clinical trials show the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with BioNTech to be 100 percent effective in this age group. The vaccine already has been approved for people aged 16 and up.

The approval sets the stage for many middle schoolers and young high-school students to be vaccinated before the next school year. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must approve the authorization as well before vaccinations for the age group can begin. The Week Staff

7:08 p.m.

If Los Angeles County continues to administer 400,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots a week, it will likely reach herd immunity among adults and older teenagers by mid- to late-July, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Monday.

"The focus from here on in for us is to make it as easy as possible for eligible residents to get vaccinated," Ferrer told reporters during a news conference.

To reach herd immunity, a community must have enough people who have either been inoculated or have natural immunity to protect the rest of the population against the coronavirus. In Los Angeles County, more than 3 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 84 percent getting a second dose on schedule, 7 percent getting a second dose late, and 9 percent still waiting to get their second dose, the Los Angeles Times reports.

If 2 million more get their first doses, 80 percent of all residents 16 and older will have received at least one shot. Ferrer stressed that for the county to reach herd immunity in mid- to late-July, vaccine rates must stay steady. There are 750 vaccination sites across Los Angeles County, and mobile vaccination teams are visiting communities where people have mobility issues or there is a lack of health care facilities.

California has recovered from the surge in cases over the fall and winter, with the state now seeing its lowest hospitalization rate since the beginning of the pandemic. Catherine Garcia

6:16 p.m.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has written the perfect song for that surely very large group of people who equally love space, old-timey sea shanties, and internet trends.

The heliophysics and solar wind sea shanty, set to the tune of "Soon May the Wellerman Come," takes the original lyrics and makes some galaxy-themed edits. For example, instead of traditional lines "Soon may the Wellerman come / To bring us sugar and tea and rum," the researchers chant in unison, "Soon may the solar wind come / To bring us plasma and magnetism."

The research laboratory's catchy jam "illuminates one of the primary connections between the Sun and the Earth, the solar wind," NASA writes. "The solar wind is a constant outflow of magnetized material released by the Sun and causes a cascade of effects on space and Earth. The most visible of these from our planet is the aurora borealis, displays of colorful light in the sky that provide a stunning example of the Sun-Earth connection."

Typically performed by fishermen, merchant sailors and whalers, sea shanties were a type of folk song sung on ships to pass time. After a recent resurgence on TikTok (thanks to a viral video from aspiring Scottish musician Nathan Evans), even Andrew Lloyd Webber has found himself playing along. Perhaps NASA can recruit him to help write its next hit single. Brigid Kennedy

6:03 p.m.

Amid escalating violence in Jerusalem on Monday, at leat 20 Palestinians, including nine children, have been killed after Israel launched air raids on the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian health ministry told Al Jazeera.

Jerusalem has been the site of unrest for the last several days as Palestinians protested against potential evictions in east Jerusalem, and Israeli police met the demonstrations, which took place at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, with force. Earlier Monday, Hamas fired several rockets at Israel after the group's ultimatum demanding Israel withdraw its security forces from Al-Aqsa, where they clashed with Palestinians inside, resulting in injuries to 300 Palestinians and 21 officers, The Guardian reports. In response to the rockets, Israel carried out the deadly airstrikes.

Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said both Hamas' and Israel's actions were "war crimes" that endangered civilian lives. Read more at Al Jazeera and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

5:15 p.m.

His mission was to no longer accept his Golden Globe Awards.

Tom Cruise has returned his three Golden Globes to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in protest of the embattled organization, Deadline reports.

This was the latest blow to the group that puts on the Golden Globes after NBC announced Monday afternoon it would not air the awards show in 2022. The HFPA drew heavy criticism ahead of this year's ceremony after it was revealed that its voting body doesn't consist of a single Black member. The HFPA recently announced planned changes to address a number of issues including the group's lack of diversity, but major studios called the reforms out for not going far enough, and NBC on Monday officially pulled the plug on next year's ceremony.

"This is a new tack," Deadline writes of Cruise's move, "but I wouldn’t be surprised if others follow his lead and that the reception area of the HFPA could be crammed with golden trophies." Cruise twice won a Best Actor Golden Globe for Born on the Fourth of July and Jerry Maguire, and he also won Best Supporting Actor for Magnolia.

The news was just another example of the major crisis the Golden Globes group is facing amid questions over whether the ceremony will even return to NBC at all. Even though NBC said Monday it hopes to "be in a position to air the show in January 2023," Variety writes dropping it in 2022 "could very well serve as a permanent break between the Globes and NBC." Clearly, it hasn't been a golden afternoon for the HFPA. Brendan Morrow

4:57 p.m.

Like Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) doesn't think Republicans should stop talking about the 2020 presidential elections — just not for the same reason.

Stefanik, an ally of former President Donald Trump, is widely expected to replace Cheney as the GOP conference chair, the No. 3 Republican position in the House, this week. While she's said she's focused on winning the 2022 midterms and "going on offense" against the Biden administration's policies, she told The Washington Examiner she doesn't think Trump's continued focus on his election loss, which he falsely claims was the result of widespread voter fraud, is out of step with that strategy.

"I think the president is right to focus on the election integrity and election security issues," Stefanik told the Examiner without explicitly stating whether she believes President Biden was elected legitimately. "If you go to any Republican Lincoln Day dinner, any town meeting across the country, it is one of the top concerns of voters."

Stefanik explained that, in her view, continuing to discuss 2020 will help "rebuild the American people's trust in our elections" and is "very much in line" with the GOP's push against the Democrats' H.R. 1 voting rights bill, which she called a "federal takeover" of elections.

Cheney, on the other hand, thinks Republicans ought to emphasize 2020 to prove that Trump should no longer be involved with the party going forward. Read Stefanik's full interview at The Washington Examiner. Tim O'Donnell

3:34 p.m.

After a longer-than-expected pit stop as a minor league outfielder, Tim Tebow is reportedly continuing his unconventional professional sports career and will head back to the gridiron for the first time since 2015.

Tebow, a legendary Heisman Trophy- and national championship-winning quarterback for the University of Florida who couldn't quite cut it in the NFL, is close to inking a 1-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, which would reunite him with his old college coach, Urban Meyer, the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports.

Tebow won't be lining up under center for his second go round in the NFL, though. This time, he'll be trying to make the roster as tight end, a positional move that a lot of analysts thought the 33-year-old should've made to prolong his career when he was younger.

Assuming nothing changes in the next few days and Tebow and the Jaguars complete their deal, there's no guarantee he'll make the final roster. But it looks like there's a chance the clock will strike "Tebow Time" once again. Tim O'Donnell

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