Change of plans
June 13, 2019

The wife of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has just pleaded guilty to conspiring to misuse campaign funds.

Margaret Hunter in court on Thursday pleaded guilty to one count and withdrew her previous not guilty plea, The Associated Press reports. The California congressman and his wife were indicted in August for allegedly putting $250,000 worth of campaign funds to personal use from 2010 through 2016.

“I am deeply remorseful and I apologize,” she said in court on Thursday while accepting full responsibility. She faces up to five years in prison.

The California congressman has pleaded not guilty in his own case and previously said that his wife was responsible for the violations because she is in charge of the finances, CNN reports. "I didn't spend any money illegally," he said in August. The Associated Press reports Margaret Hunter has agreed to testify against her husband.

On Thursday, the congressman responded to his wife's guilty plea by saying, "It's sad that they were able to bludgeon her into submission," per NBC News' Alex Moe. He went on to say that "we've got some Hillary lawyers there in San Diego" and that "I look forward to going to trial." That trial will take place in September. Brendan Morrow

June 1, 2019

Israel's new elections could alter Jared Kushner's Middle East peace plan, The New York Times reports.

President Trump will reportedly make a significant effort to help Benjamin Netanyahu retain his post as Israel's prime minister after he was unsuccessful in forging a coalition government by Wednesday's deadline. That failure triggered the country's second national election of 2019, which is set for September 17. But, the Times reports, if Trump is to fully support Netanyhau, his son-in-law Jared Kushner will likely have to tilt his secretive peace plan more heavily in Israel's favor, isolating Palestinians in the process.

Kushner has now suggested that the plan will not call for a creation of a Palestinian state, which the Times reports has long been America's policy goal for the Israel-Palestine conflict.

While Trump and Netanyahu enjoy a strong relationship, that is not necessarily the reason Kushner's plan could shift. Instead, the 2020 U.S. presidential election also factors into play. The Trump administration does not intend to reveal the political portion of their plan until after Israel's elections in September — and, subsequently, the formation of a new government in October. That's a bit too close to the first primaries of the 2020 election in November for the White House's comfort, the Times reports. To avoid alienating evangelicals and influential pro-Israel donors stateside, then, it is unlikely the administration will present a plan that would put Israel or Netanyahu in an uncomfortable situation, the Times reports. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

May 17, 2019

President Trump apparently prefers golf courses to castles.

While it hasn't been publicly announced, Trump has considered stopping in Ireland between his June visits to Britain and France and meeting with its Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Yet the prime minister has so far refused to meet at Trump's requested golf course venue, and it has led Trump to consider skipping the visit altogether, The Irish Times reports.

When discussions first started between the U.S. and Irish governments, Varadkar said he'd like to meet Trump in the western County Clare's Dromoland Castle, sources in Dublin tell The Irish Times. But Trump apparently noticed that's just a short drive away from his Doonbeg golf club, and requested that the two leaders meet there. The Irish government has still pressed for the original hotel location, leading Trump to consider bowing out of the meeting and heading to Scotland instead, a White House source says.

Varadkar has publicly disagreed with Trump on a number of issues, and recently struggled to find any overlap in their policy preferences. Varadkar also affirmed Thursday that during the yet-unscheduled visit, protests would be "allowed" and "welcome" because "peaceful protest is part of democracy," per The Irish Times. The manager of Dromoland Castle, now a hotel, says the U.S. and Irish governments have checked out the space for a possible visit, but oddly hadn't booked anything for a trip presumably just a month away. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 11, 2019

The Virginia delegate who was set to introduce articles of impeachment against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D-Va.) has changed his tune.

Delegate Patrick Hope tweeted Friday that he would begin the impeachment proceedings against Fairfax on Monday "if he has not resigned before then." On Monday, though, Hope said that after circulating a draft among his colleagues, he has decided there are "additional conversations that need to take place before anything is filed," CBS News reports.

Hope also said that "the impeachment process is about investigating to find the truth" but that he is "open to discussions on other avenues that would accomplish the same goals."

Fairfax has now been accused of sexual assault by two women. Vanessa Tyson has alleged that Fairfax sexually assaulted her at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, while Meredith Watson alleged that Fairfax raped her in college. Fairfax has denied both allegations and in a statement Saturday asked for the public not to "rush to judgment" before an FBI investigation can be conducted, The New York Times reports.

But Fairfax is facing calls to resign from prominent Democrats, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and 2020 candidates like Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), per The Hill. Brendan Morrow

October 19, 2017

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is backing out of a controversial scheduled appearance at the Women's Convention next week in Detroit in order to visit Puerto Rico, where in the wake of Hurricane Maria, 3 million people remain without power and 1 million don't have running water.

In a statement, Sanders apologized to the organizers of the convention for having to cancel, adding, "Given the emergency situation in Puerto Rico, I will be traveling there to visit with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and other officials to determine the best way forward to deal with the devastation the island is experiencing."

The Women's Convention is a three-day event put on by the same organizers behind the Women's March in January. When it was announced that Sanders was speaking on opening night, there was immediate backlash from critics wondering why the honor was given to a man. In response, co-president Tamika Mallory said Sanders was not the convention's headliner, and he was invited because he's a "fierce champion of women's rights." Prominent women appearing at the event include Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and actress and activist Piper Perabo. Catherine Garcia

April 29, 2016

Actor Will Ferrell has reportedly nixed plans to play Ronald Reagan in a comedy about the late president's dementia, just days after it was announced he had signed on to star. Ferrell's spokesperson now says he was never officially attached to the project. "While it is by no means an 'Alzheimers comedy,' as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project," his spokesperson said.

Shortly after news of the film broke, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis penned an open letter expressing her disappointment. "Perhaps if you knew more," Davis wrote, "you would not find the subject humorous." Becca Stanek

December 11, 2014

New York state will soon prohibit insurance companies from refusing to cover the costs of gender reassignment surgery, according to The New York Times.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is sending a letter to insurance companies this week notifying them that patients with gender dysphoria —people born as one gender who identify with another — are entitled to treatment under state law. The change makes New York the ninth state to compel coverage for the procedure. Jon Terbush

December 6, 2014

Speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan, in what is likely his final visit to the region as defense secretary, Chuck Hagel on Saturday confirmed that the United States will delay about 1,000 troops in withdrawing from Afghanistan, NBC News reports.

The U.S. plan had originally been to leave just 9,800 troops in the region by the beginning of 2015; now, Hagel says 10,800 will remain stationed there for at least the first few months of the new year.

"But the president's authorization will not change our troops' missions, or the long-term timeline for our drawdown," Hagel said. Sarah Eberspacher

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