August 13, 2019

Billionaire Tom Steyer is the newest member of the overcrowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field, but he's cruising past candidates with a longer track record in the race to the debate stage. That's good news for him, but it's opened the door for criticism of his campaign strategy and the Democratic National Committee.

The perception is that Steyer's personal wealth has given him a leg up over other candidates who are gasping for air as they try to reach the 130,000 donor and 2 percent polling thresholds to qualify for the third primary debate in September, The Atlantic reports.

Steyer has funneled $7 million into TV commercials since he announced his campaign last month, which is reportedly more than most of the other campaigns have raised overall, and he's already spent $2.5 million on digital ads, a figure greater than any other candidate, including President Trump. A lot of that advertising is on Facebook, which one aide from a rival 2020 campaign equated to a "wealth transfer" between Steyer and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

Steyer for his part said that his ability to attract donors and support in the polls — he's just one DNC-recognized poll short of fully qualifying for September — isn't about his spending abilities, but his message and vision. "Running grassroots campaigns, at some level, is about running a good campaign, but this is about whether you have something to say that's different, that's true, and that's important," he said.

Not everyone's buying that. "If this is truly about the grassroots, you wouldn't set up a system where you can buy grassroots," one campaign aide told The Atlantic, referring to the rules set in place by the DNC. Read more at The Atlantic. Tim O'Donnell

1:59 a.m.

In his closing statement Monday night, MSNBC host Chris Hayes offered a few thoughts on "the path of least resistance," where organizations turn a blind eye to bad behavior — the NBA's efforts to appease China, for example, or Republican lawmakers pleading ignorance of President Trump's "bile, bigotry, and rank corruption, and abuse of power." But then Hayes veered out on a limb: "Heck, I feel the tug of it myself as my own news organization is embroiled in a very public controversy over its conduct."

Hayes ran through NBC News' pushback against a new book by Ronan Farrow, Catch and Kill, in which Farrow alleges, among other things, that NBC News tried to kill his bombshell report on Harvey Weinstein not only because of pressure from Weinstein's lawyers but also because of concerns about similar allegations about Matt Lauer, then a big star at NBC News.

Hayes noted that NBC News denies these allegations. He seemed skeptical: "One thing, though, is indisputable. Ronan Farrow walked out of NBC News after working on the Weinstein story and within two months published an incredible article in The New Yorker that not only won a Pulitzer but helped trigger a massive social and cultural reckoning that continues to this day."

"The path of least resistance is always there, beckoning seductively with an entirely plausible cover story — 'You've got bigger fish to fry,' 'This isn't the hill to die on,' 'The story isn't ready,'" Hayes said. "But of course it's the very ease of that path that makes it the enemy of the kind of work we as journalists are supposed to do." Peter Weber

1:57 a.m.

Before he fought to keep his tax returns private, President Trump wanted to release them, in order to show the world how smart he was for lowering his taxable income, a former adviser told CNN.

Sam Nunberg served as Trump's political adviser from 2011 to August 2015, and said that during a lunch with Trump in 2013, he said he would be fine with his tax returns being released as part of a presidential bid. Nunberg, who did not see the returns himself, told CNN Trump "thought he could defend the return. I inferred from the conversation that he believed that it was a lower number and he'd look savvy." Another one of Trump's former senior advisers joined the pair for lunch, and corroborated Nunberg's account.

In May 2014, Trump declared on Irish television that he would "absolutely" release his tax returns if he decided to run for office, but Nunberg said that six months later, he talked him out of it. During a meeting, he told Trump that under federal election rules, all he had to do was release a broad financial statement, and could leave the tax returns under wraps. Nunberg told CNN he thought this would protect Trump from opponents who might find something explosive in the tax returns. Trump was fine with this, Nunberg added, because "he wanted to look rich rather than smart."

Trump wouldn't announce he was entering the race for another eight months, and he went on to become the first nominee of a major party not to release their taxes in more than three decades. The president's tax returns are now the focus of several legal challenges, and Trump lost an appeal last week to keep House Democrats from subpoenaing his returns from his longtime accountant. Catherine Garcia

1:24 a.m.

Badlands National Park in South Dakota has expanded its bison range, a move that will "contribute to the health and genetic integrity of the herd and continued health of the prairie," the park said.

The bison now have an additional 22,000 acres of grazing land, for a total of 80,193 acres. The park itself is 244,000 acres, with about 1,200 bison calling it home. On Friday, four bison were moved to the new range, returning to the area for the first time in 150 years.

New fencing and cattle guards were installed in the range, thanks to $743,000 in public and private donations. Due to the expansion, visitors will have "more opportunities for viewing, photographing, and learning about bison in their native habitat on the badlands' iconic and stunning landscape," the park said. Former President Barack Obama named the bison the national mammal in 2016. Catherine Garcia

12:33 a.m.

Moving up from the south, Syrian government troops seized several towns in the northeastern part of the country on Monday, one day after reaching an agreement with the Kurdish-led militia that has held control of the area for several years.

The Kurds and Syria reached the deal after President Trump pulled back U.S. troops from the border, giving Turkey the opportunity to invade Syria and launch an assault on the Kurds. The Kurds and United States worked together to fight the Islamic State in Syria, and the Kurds took control over territory lost by ISIS. After the U.S. retreat, the Kurds turned to the Syrian government for added protection against Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the Kurds terrorists.

Syrian government forces were able to take control of multiple towns from the Kurds, including Taqba, which has a hydroelectric dam on the Euphrates. Kurdish fighters spent Monday battling Turkish troops and allied Syrian militias in the border towns of Ras al Ain and Tal Abyad. The recent developments are viewed as victories for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who counts Russia and Iran as his allies.

Complicating matters is the fact that the U.S. has about 50 tactical nuclear weapons stored at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, 250 miles from the Syrian border. Two U.S. officials told The New York Times that over the weekend, State and Energy Department employees were reviewing plans for getting the weapons out of Turkey. They are "essentially Erdogan's hostages," the Times says, and moving them from Turkey would basically end the alliance between the United States and Turkey. Leaving them is just as problematic, as it puts the weapons and U.S. in a vulnerable position. Read more at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

12:05 a.m.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton was so alarmed by a White House–linked effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democrats, he told aide Fiona Hill to alert the National Security Council's chief lawyer, Hill told House impeachment investigators in her 10-hour deposition on Monday, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal report. Specifically, Bolton told Hill, the top NSC staffer on Russia and Eurasian affairs, to notify White House lawyers that Rudy Giuliani, White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland were running a rogue operation, the Times reports.

"I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up," Bolton reportedly told Hill to relate to the lawyers, after a heated July 10 meeting with Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a key player in the Ukraine pressure campaign, and Ukrainian officals. Before that meeting, Hill reportedly testified, Bolton told her that "Giuliani's a hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up." Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, is now under federal criminal investigation for his work in Ukraine, the Journal reported Monday. Sondland is scheduled to be deposed on Thursday.

House investigators are now trying to decide whether to question Bolton, The Washington Post reports.

Hill also testified that he had strongly opposed Giuliani's successful push to have Trump remove America's ambassador to Kyiv, Marie Yovanovitch, who had a reputation for fighting corruption in Ukraine. "I don't know Fiona and can't figure out what she is talking about," Giuliani told the Post on Monday night, adding that he believes she was out of the loop when it came to Ukraine, at least compared with Sondland. "She just didn't know," Giuliani said, reiterating his assertion that he was working on orders from the State Department. Peter Weber

Update, 12:47 a.m.: This article has been updated based on a clarification by the Times:

Peter Weber

October 14, 2019

A Fort Worth, Texas, police officer who shot and killed a woman inside her home early Saturday was charged with murder on Monday, shortly after he resigned from the force.

The former officer, Aaron Dean, is being held at the Tarrant County Correction Center, Fort Worth Police Sgt. Chris Daniels said. The woman, 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson, was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when she was shot. A neighbor had noticed Jefferson's front door was slightly open and called the police department's non-emergency line, asking them to do a wellness check. Body-camera footage released by the police department shows an officer shining a flashlight into the house, then yelling, "Put your hands up, show me your hands," before firing one shot.

The white officer shooting a black woman inside her home caused immediate outrage in Fort Worth, and Daniels had a message for all concerned. "To the citizens and residents of our city, we feel and understand your anger and your disappointment and we stand by you as we work together to make Fort Worth a better place for us all," he said. Jefferson's older sister, Ashley Carr, said Atatiana was "simply going on along with her life, living a law-abiding citizen's peaceful life, and she was killed by a reckless act of a Fort Worth police officer. There is simply no justification for his actions." Catherine Garcia

October 14, 2019

During her testimony before House lawmakers on Monday, Fiona Hill, President Trump's former top Russia adviser, said that Rudy Giuliani wanted to see certain things happen in Ukraine in order to benefit Trump, so he went around U.S. officials and career diplomats, a person familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

Hill met with lawmakers from the three House committees investigating Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Throughout her 10-hour, closed-door testimony, she shared her concerns over Giuliani's role in Ukrainian foreign policy, the Post says. Hill was a member of the National Security Council, but left one week before Trump's call with Zelensky.

Hill also reportedly praised Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, and told lawmakers she was angry when Yovanovitch was removed in May, after Giuliani pressured Trump to recall her from the post. Last week, Yovanovitch testified as part of the impeachment inquiry, and said Giuliani and some of his Ukrainian allies saw her as a threat, standing in the way of their political and financial interests. Catherine Garcia

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