April 14, 2021

The United States is prepared to sanction dozens of Russian individuals and entities and expel as many as 10 Russian officials and diplomats in response to election interference and hacks, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News.

The sanctions, which could be announced as soon as Thursday, would target about 12 individuals, including government and intelligence officials, and 20 entities, with several linked to the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm that meddled in the 2016 election, or the SolarWinds hack, Bloomberg News reports.

Shortly after President Biden was inaugurated, he ordered a review of reports that Russia placed bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; Russian interference in U.S. elections; the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny; and the SolarWinds hack, which is believed to have been orchestrated by Russia.

On Tuesday, Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone, and the White House said Biden "made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to Russia's actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference." Russia has denied meddling in U.S. elections and the bounty report. Read more at Bloomberg News. Catherine Garcia

March 30, 2021

An investigation has been launched into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him, three people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times.

The Justice Department launched the investigation in final months of the Trump administration, the Times reports, and investigators are looking into whether Gaetz, 38, violated federal sex trafficking laws. The encounters between Gaetz and the minor took place about two years ago, two people familiar with the matter told the Times. Gaetz is one of former President Donald Trump's most ardent supporters, and senior Justice Department officials, including some appointed by Trump, were notified about the investigation, the Times reports.

Three people familiar with the matter told the Times that this inquiry is part of a broader investigation into Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Florida's Seminole County and one of Gaetz's political allies. Last summer, Greenberg was indicted on charges of sex trafficking a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial is scheduled to begin in June.

Gaetz told the Times that his lawyers were informed he is the subject, not target, of a Justice Department investigation, and "I only know that it has to do with women. I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward." Earlier Tuesday, Axios reported that Gaetz has been talking about possibly leaving Congress before his term is up in order to become a "media personality" on the conservative Newsmax network. Catherine Garcia

March 5, 2021

Last July, when top aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) learned that a report written by state health officials included the number of nursing home residents who died in the coronavirus pandemic, they intervened and rewrote the document, removing the data, The New York Times reports.

At the time, the death toll was more than 9,000 — a number that had not been made public, the Times reports. Earlier this year, after New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report saying the state seriously undercounted the number of nursing home COVID-19 deaths, Cuomo released the complete data. He said the number was kept under wraps over fears the Trump administration may have used it to launch a politically-motivated investigation into how New York handled the pandemic in nursing homes.

After reviewing documents and interviewing six people with direct knowledge of the matter, the Times found that Cuomo and his senior aides began concealing the number of deaths well before federal authorities started asking for the data. The report written by state health officials put the death toll at 50 percent higher than the number the Cuomo administration was publicly citing, the Times reports. Cuomo aides began pushing to simplify the number, the Times says, and that's when health officials became concerned that it would no longer be an accurate scientific report.

The death toll remained in the report even after one of Cuomo's top aides edited it, but was removed after two other aides became aware of its inclusion, the Times reports. None of the aides who were working on the edits had any experience in public health. Read more at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

December 30, 2020

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has hired a forensic accounting firm to assist in its investigation of President Trump's business operations, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

The probe was launched in 2018 to look into alleged hush-money payments made to two women who said they had affairs with Trump. The investigation has since expanded to include Trump Organization real estate transactions and other activities, the Post reports.

The firm, FTI Consulting, was brought on by District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to search for anomalies among different property deals, a person with knowledge of the matter told the Post. In recent weeks, Vance's team has reportedly spoken with employees from Deutsche Bank, one of Trump's biggest lenders, and the insurance brokerage Aon.

The district attorney is still seeking eight years of Trump's tax records and other financial information. The Supreme Court and lower courts have rejected Trump's argument that he is immune from state court proceedings because he is president, and if his latest request to the Supreme Court for a stay is denied, Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, will have to turn over the financial documents. Catherine Garcia

December 21, 2020

Federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York have been discussing with Justice Department officials in Washington whether to make a legal request for Rudy Giuliani's emails, two people with knowledge of the matter told NBC News.

Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, is President Trump's personal lawyer. Under Justice Department policy, prosecutors must get approval from Washington before asking a judge to sign a search warrant for items that might be protected by attorney-client privilege; NBC News notes that it is not known if the approval was granted.

In October 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported that SDNY prosecutors were investigating Giuliani and his business dealings in Ukraine, and as part of the probe, they examined Giuliani's bank records. That same month, two of Giuliani's associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested and charged with campaign finance fraud. Parnas and Fruman both helped Giuliani try to dig up dirt in Ukraine about President-elect Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

The Washington Post reported in February that prosecutors had started talking with witnesses in an attempt to gather more documents for the investigation, and two people familiar with the matter stressed to NBC News that the probe is ongoing, with one saying it is "very active."

Giuliani's attorney, Robert Costello, told NBC News he has "no reason to believe there's any truth to the allegations that there is renewed interest in my client." Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Trump has talked with advisers about granting Giuliani a preemptive pardon. Catherine Garcia

November 24, 2020

First it was Corn, now it's Michael Flynn.

President Trump is telling people close to him that he plans on pardoning his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, two people familiar with the matter told Axios. In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Flynn's sentencing was delayed for two years because he was cooperating with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, and earlier this year, Flynn's new legal team accused prosecutors of misconduct and asked to have his guilty plea withdrawn.

In September, Flynn's lawyer Sidney Powell — the same attorney who has an on-again, off-again relationship with Trump's election legal team — said during a hearing that she asked Trump not to issue a pardon for Flynn. It's unclear if Powell and Trump have had recent discussions about pardoning Flynn, Axios says.

Two people with knowledge of the matter told Axios it's not just Flynn who is on Trump's list — he plans on making several pardons between now and when he leaves office in January. Catherine Garcia

November 16, 2020

After international inspectors shared that Iran has increased its stockpile of nuclear material, President Trump asked his top national security aides if he had options for a military strike against the country's main nuclear site, four former and current U.S. officials told The New York Times on Monday.

Trump made the query during a meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday. On Wednesday, inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency said at Iran's Natanz facility, the uranium stockpile is now 12 times larger than what was permitted under the nuclear deal forged during the Obama administration. They also said Iran did not give inspectors access to another area where there was evidence of earlier nuclear activity.

Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all discouraged Trump from taking any action, warning it could lead to a dangerous situation, the Times reports. The advisers believe they got through to Trump and a missile attack inside Iran won't happen, the officials said, but he might still be trying to find a way to hit Iranian allies, including militias in Iraq.

Read more about Trump's views on Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency's report on the country's nuclear program at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

November 11, 2020

Privately, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien is open about President Trump losing the election and the need to start a transition with President-elect Joe Biden, one official told The Daily Beast, but he won't say anything about the matter to Trump's face.

Multiple officials told The Daily Beast that O'Brien has been enabling Trump and his refusal to concede the election. He has urged national security staffers to go along with Trump's false claims about widespread voter fraud, the officials said. O'Brien has also spent the last several months complaining about Mark Esper, who Trump fired as defense secretary earlier this week, and he has supported Trump installing loyalists in top Pentagon positions.

One former national security official told The Daily Beast it's not surprising that O'Brien is behaving this way, as he is a yes man who "does whatever Trump says." Several officials also said the name "Biden" can't be uttered these days, with one national security official claiming that if "you even mention Biden's name ... you'd be fired. Everyone is scared of even talking about the chance of working with the [Biden] transition." A White House official told The Daily Beast — only half kidding — that in the West Wing, you can say Biden's name, but only if "you're talking about who lost the election to the president." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads