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February 21, 2019

Chicago police said on Thursday that actor Jussie Smollett staged a fake hate crime because he wasn't happy with his Empire salary.

After bringing Smollett into custody and charging him with filing a false police report, police said in a press conference that Smollett orchestrated a "publicity stunt" that has left a "scar on Chicago." Authorities for the first time alleged a motive in the case, saying Smollett was dissatisfied with his pay.

Smollett had claimed he was attacked by two men who beat him, tied a rope around his neck, and screamed, "This is MAGA country!" But Chicago police said Thursday he actually paid the two men, two Nigerian brothers, $3,500 to attack him, and that they have the checks to prove it. The brothers, one of whom worked on Empire, were the ones to tell police about Smollett's motive, authorities added.

Police also said Smollett was not hurt "other than scratches on his face" and that these injuries "were most likely self-inflicted." Smollett had said he received a threatening letter prior to the alleged attack, but police said Smollett was also responsible for sending this letter.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson went after Smollett for his alleged hoax, asking, "Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?" Johnson also said that Smollett "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career" and that what he did is "shameful." Brendan Morrow

February 20, 2019

Federal prosecutors say that a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant arrested last week on drug and gun charges wanted to "murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country."

Christopher Paul Hasson was arrested on Feb. 15, and investigators discovered 15 firearms and 1,000 rounds of ammunition in his Silver Spring, Maryland, home, court documents say. Prosecutors allege that Hasson was a "domestic terrorist" who held extremist views and described himself in a document found on his computer as a "long time White Nationalist, having been a skinhead 30 plus years ago before my time in the military."

Prosecutors say from January 2017 to January 2019, Hasson read "neo-fascist and neo-Nazi literature" online, and on Jan. 17 he searched "what if trump illegally impeached," "best place in dc to see congress people," and "civil war if trump impeached." On that same day, he compiled a list of "political leaders, media leaders, cultural leaders, and industry leaders" he wanted to target, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, Ari Melber, and Chris Hayes, and CNN's Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon, and Van Jones.

A law enforcement source told NBC News that the Coast Guard flagged Hasson because he was searching extremist websites while using his work computer. Catherine Garcia

February 19, 2019

Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano says that if a bombshell New York Times report about President Trump asking then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to put one of his allies in charge of the Michael Cohen investigation is correct, this was "an attempt to obstruct justice."

Trump wanted Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, to take the Cohen case, the Times reports; because of a conflict of interest, he had recused himself. While discussing the report with anchor Shepard Smith on Tuesday, Napolitano said such a phone call shows "corrupt intent. That is an effort to use the levers of power of the government for a corrupt purpose, to deflect an investigation into himself or his allies."

Smith asked if this was obstruction of justice, and Napolitano explained it was "attempted obstruction. It would only be obstruction if it succeeded. If you tried to interfere with a criminal prosecution that may knock at your own door by putting your ally in there, that is clearly an attempt to obstruct justice." He also warned that Whitaker, who testified to Congress that the White House never asked for "promises or commitments" about any investigations, could face his own legal issues. "There's two potential crimes here for Matt Whitaker," Napolitano said. "One is actual perjury, lying to the Congress. The other is misleading. Remember, you can be truthful but still misleading." Catherine Garcia

February 12, 2019

A record number of Americans are three months behind on their car payments, leaving economists surprised — and concerned.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York released a new report on Tuesday that shows seven million Americans are at least 90 days late on their car payments. Most of those seven million people are 30 or younger with low credit scores. Defaults are highest among "subprime" borrowers, who have credit scores of 620 or lower and usually have interest rates between 14.5 and 20 percent on their loans.

"The substantial and growing number of distressed borrowers suggests that not all Americans have benefited from the strong labor market and warrants continued monitoring and analysis of this sector," economists said in a blog post accompanying the report. Michael Taiano, senior director at Fitch Ratings, told The Washington Post that car loans are typically prioritized when it comes to making payments. "If you don't have a car, you can't get back and forth to work in a lot of areas of the country," he said. "A car is usually a higher-priority payment than a home mortgage or rent." Catherine Garcia

February 4, 2019

Liam Neeson just derailed the press tour for his new movie Cold Pursuit with a jaw-dropping story.

In an interview with The Independent to promote his latest revenge thriller, the actor revealed that that years ago, someone close to him was allegedly raped, and when she told him the rapist was a black man, he went out with a weapon hoping to have a run-in with a random black person so he could let out his rage.

“I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I'd be approached by somebody," he said. "I'm ashamed to say that, and I did it for maybe a week — hoping some 'black bastard' would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him."

Neeson admitted in the interview that the behavior he described was "awful" but that he "learned a lesson" from the experience, which he volunteered apparently in an attempt to discuss the themes of the film, in which his character seeks revenge for the death of his son. But he seemed to realize he made a huge mistake here, telling the reporter of the story, "I'm saying it to a journalist. God forbid.” Meanwhile, his co-star Tom Bateman, who was sitting next to him the entire time, spoke for all of us by saying, "Holy sh-t." Brendan Morrow

February 4, 2019

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has approximately one public supporter.

After news sites published a page from Northam's medical school yearbook from 1984 featuring a photo of one man in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan robes, pretty much every high-profile member of his own party told him to step down. That changed Monday morning though, as former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) told CNN he doesn't think Northam should resign "today."

Lieberman decried the "rush to judgment that is unfair to" Northam. The governor has claimed that he wasn't in the photo, so Lieberman said Northam should be asked whether he knew "the picture was on his page." Northam should also be "judged in the context of his whole life" and be shown "mercy" until he's "proven guilty," Lieberman added.

Northam has resisted calls for his resignation since the photos were published Friday. He acknowledged that the photo is "clearly racist" and said Friday that he was in it, but now claims he wasn't in the photo after all. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 1, 2019

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is back in hot water.

On Friday, photos surfaced of Northam's page in a 1984 yearbook from Eastern Virginia Medical School. Among photos of Northam in a suit and tie and next to a Corvette, there is a photo of two unidentified men, one in blackface and one in full Ku Klux Klan robes, reports The Washington Post.

The photo was first posted on Big League Politics, a conservative website founded by an ex-Breitbart writer. CBS News affiliate WTKR found the same page in a copy of the yearbook at a local library, and the Post also confirmed it was real. Northam graduated from the school in 1984. He was previously Virginia's lieutenant governor before being elected to the top spot in 2017.

Northam also came under fire by conservatives earlier this week after indicating support for late-term abortion. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said Northam was "defending born-alive abortions," but Northam's office defended the statement as clearly limited to cases of "nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities."

Northam's office has not yet issued a statement on the photo, but a Northam ally, state Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw (D), gave this statement. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 24, 2019

Two career White House security specialists rejected Jared Kushner's application for a top-secret security clearance, but a supervisor dismissed their recommendation and approved it, two people with knowledge of the matter told NBC News.

Their decision came after Kushner's FBI background check raised red flags, and there were concerns about his foreign entanglements. The supervisor, Carl Kline, became director of the personnel security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017, and Kushner wasn't the only person to get a pass: Kline overruled at least 30 other rejections of incoming Trump officials, NBC News reports. Prior to Kline's arrival, it was rare for rejections to be overruled.

Kushner didn't just want a top secret clearance — he tried to get access to sensitive compartmented information, or SCI, which is a higher designation. SCI material includes transcripts of intercepted foreign communications and reporting from CIA sources, and it's the CIA that decides whether to give SCI clearance to top White House officials. After they conducted their background check on Kushner, NBC News reports, one CIA agent called the White House security division and asked how Kushner managed to get a top secret clearance. Ultimately, Kushner was not granted clearance for SCI, NBC News reports. For more on security clearances and what goes into background checks, visit NBC News. Catherine Garcia

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