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December 6, 2018

After President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 but before the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe opened an obstruction of justice investigation, two people with knowledge of the matter told CNN on Thursday.

McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were both concerned about President Trump's behavior, CNN reports, and they discussed several different ways they could rein him in, including having Rosenstein wear a wire while meeting with him (when The New York Times first reported this detail in September, Rosenstein denied it). CNN says the FBI had been considering launching the investigation even before Comey was fired, because of Trump asking Comey during an Oval Office meeting to end the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

A Department of Justice official told CNN Rosenstein never attempted to curtail Trump, but others with knowledge of the matter said Rosenstein and several top FBI officials did worry about Trump's behavior. For more on the chaotic days after Comey's firing, visit CNN. Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2018

In the three months following the 2016 presidential election, lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved several blocks of rooms at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., paying for an estimated 500 nights, The Washington Post reports.

The Washington firm Qorvis/MSLGroup, which has long worked for the Saudi government, paid to host six groups of U.S. military veterans at the Trump International, spending more than $270,000, the Post reports. Once in D.C., the veterans were pushed to lobby against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which lets the families of Sept. 11 victims file suit against the Saudi government.

Before Trump's election, veterans stayed in Northern Virginia, and the switch to Trump International took place in December 2016, the Post reports. At that time, the average nightly rate at the Trump hotel was $768; organizers told the Post they received a discount, all other hotel rooms in the area were full, and they were not trying to appeal to Trump. One veteran from Texas, Henry Garcia, told the Post he was never told Saudi Arabia was behind his trip until partway through, and he was surprised by the amount of wining and dining that occurred. "It made all the sense in the world when we found out that the Saudis had paid for it," he said.

Two federal lawsuits have been filed claiming Trump violated the Constitution's foreign emoluments clause by taking improper payments from foreign governments, and on Tuesday, the attorneys general in D.C. and Maryland subpoenaed 13 Trump businesses, looking for records showing foreign spending, the Post reports. Read more about the lobbying efforts and what the veterans say they were told to say about JASTA at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2018

Lawyers hired by CBS have found that former CEO Les Moonves, who stepped down in September after several women accused him of sexual misconduct, lied and destroyed evidence in order to save his severance, and the network has justification to withhold that $120 million from him, The New York Times reports.

The Times reviewed a 59-page draft of the report that is expected to be sent to the CBS board by next week. After The New Yorker published the allegations against Moonves in August, CBS hired lawyers to conduct an independent investigation into the matter, and wanted them to determine whether Moonves violated terms of his employment agreement; if he did, the network would have cause to deny him a $120 million severance payment.

The report states that Moonves "engaged in multiple acts of serious nonconsensual misconduct in and outside of the workplace, both before and after he came to CBS in 1995," the Times reports. This includes incidents not previously reported. The lawyers said they spoke with Moonves four different times, and he was "evasive," "untruthful at times," and "minimized the extent of his sexual misconduct."

Moonves' lawyer, Andrew Levander, told the Times his client "denies having any nonconsensual sexual relation" and "cooperated extensively and fully with investigators." Catherine Garcia

November 15, 2018

After a year of discussions, Justice Department officials are optimistic they will be able to get WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange into a U.S. courtroom, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

In 2012, Assange received political asylum from Ecuador, and he has been living in the country's London embassy ever since. Prosecutors do not yet know what charges they might file, but it could involve the Espionage Act, the Journal reports. Prosecutors are also reportedly considering publicly indicting Assange so the Ecuadorian government could see evidence against him and would have a reason to remove him from the embassy.

Last month, Assange sued Ecuador over his conditions in the embassy, and after a judge rejected his claims, he said he believes he'll soon be kicked out. In 2010, Chelsea Manning gave WikiLeaks documents related to the Iraq War, and ahead of the 2016 presidential election, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails hacked from Democrats; Special Counsel Robert Mueller says those hacked emails were provided by Russian intelligence officers. Catherine Garcia

October 31, 2018

The Senate Intelligence Committee is taking a closer look at Stephen Bannon's activities during the 2016 presidential election, including his role at Cambridge Analytica, three people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

Bannon is a former White House adviser, and the committee is examining what he might know about contacts between two Trump campaign advisers, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, and Moscow. Last year, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russians; during the campaign, he spoke with a professor who claimed Russians had "dirt" on Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, Reuters reports. In September, he was sentenced to 14 days in prison. Page, who has extensive business ties to Russia, has not been charged with anything.

Investigators also want to know about Bannon's time as vice president of Cambridge Analytica, a defunct data analysis company. He was there from June 2014 to August 2016, when he left to join the Trump campaign as a strategist. Cambridge Analytica collected the personal data of millions of Facebook users without their consent, and was hired by the Trump campaign to target potential voters.

Two people told Reuters staff investigators hope to interview Bannon in late November. Bannon's lawyer, William Burck, told Reuters the committee "has expressed an interest in interviewing Mr. Bannon as a witness, just as they have many other people involved in the Trump campaign. But the committee has never suggested that he's under investigation himself and to claim otherwise is recklessly false." Catherine Garcia

October 8, 2018

In 2016, an Israeli company sent several proposals to top Trump campaign official Rick Gates for social media manipulation, The New York Times reports.

The company, Psy-Group, sent over at least three proposals as part of what it called "Project Rome." The Times spoke with several people who knew of Project Rome, and also viewed documents. One plan included creating fake online identities to attack President Trump's then-opponent in the GOP primary, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in an attempt to target and sway 5,000 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention. Another plan involved using social media to sow division "among rival campaigns and factions."

The Times says there's no evidence that the Trump campaign ever agreed to go along with any of the proposals, and people with knowledge of the matter said Gates became uninterested once other campaign aides started working on an in-house social media strategy. Gates learned about Psy-Group through Republican consultant George Birnbaum in March 2016, and the company's owner, Joel Zamel, met in August 2016 with Donald Trump Jr.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office has copies of the proposals and investigators have spoken with Psy-Group employees, the Times reports. Gates is now cooperating with Mueller, after pleading guilty to several charges of financial fraud and tax evasion. Read more about the proposals and Psy-Group, which is now in liquidation, at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

September 10, 2018

For the last several months, the Trump administration has discussed imposing sanctions against senior Chinese government officials in response to Beijing detaining and torturing ethnic Uighurs, a minority Muslim group, in internment camps, current and former U.S. officials told The New York Times.

Officials from the White House, Treasury Department, and State Department have also talked about limiting sales of American surveillance technology that China uses to monitor Uighurs in the northwestern part of the country, the Times reports. On Sunday, Human Rights Watch released a report based on interviews with 58 former residents of Xinjiang who said they were taken to camps where they had to pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and denounce parts of Islam; some also said they were tortured by security officers.

Human Rights Watch said what they are seeing is of a "scope and scale not seen in China since the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution," and recommends that countries withhold visas from Chinese officials and control exports of technology. China has not admitted it is detaining Muslims, but has acknowledged enforcing "counter-extremism education." Catherine Garcia

August 29, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is preparing new policies that would offer more support to students accused of sexual assault and harassment on campus and reduce liability for colleges, The New York Times reports.

The Times obtained a copy of the proposed rules, which would redefine sexual harassment as "unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school's education program or activity." Colleges would only have to investigate claims of misconduct that took place on their campuses, and schools would be tasked with launching investigations that provide "prompt and equitable" resolutions and begin "under the presumption that the accused is innocent until proved guilty," the Times reports.

Last fall, DeVos announced she was rescinding the Obama administration's Title IX guidance on sexual assault on campus, saying it was not fair to students accused of misconduct. Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill told the Times the information "is premature and speculative." Catherine Garcia

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