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January 12, 2018
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's lawyer might have arranged a $130,000 payment to former adult film star Stephanie "Stormy Daniels" Clifford during the campaign to ensure she not speak publicly about an alleged sexual encounter with the president at a Lake Tahoe golf tournament in 2006, The Wall Street Journal reports based on conversations with people familiar with the alleged dealing.

The encounter was reportedly consensual, although another adult film star, Jessica Drake, claimed in October 2016 that Trump kissed her and two other women without consent in a suite at the same tournament. The Journal previously reported that Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year, was paid $150,000 by the National Enquirer for a story of her own alleged 2006 affair with Trump, although it was not ultimately published. Trump notably married Melania Trump in 2005.

"Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false," Clifford wrote in a statement to the Journal. Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, said: "This is now the second time that you are raising outlandish allegations against my client. You have attempted to perpetuate this false narrative for over a year; a narrative that has been consistently denied by all parties since at least 2011." Read the full allegations at The Wall Street Journal. Jeva Lange

Editor's note: This post originally mischaracterized the National Enquirer's payment to Karen McDougal. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.

9:25 a.m. ET

If Trump is "crossing a line" by going after the Justice Department investigation of him and his campaign, "will his own party speak up?" CNN's Chris Cuomo asked Tuesday morning, posing the question to recently retired Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), making his New Day debut. "Forgive me if this seems cynical, call it out if so, but I think that's a rhetorical question: Will Republicans stand up against the president? The answer is no, they are assisting him, Devin Nunes, other members of this kind of formative cabal. ... Your party's going to let him do what he wants to do here, yes of no?"

"Well, for the moment I think that's true, but the midterms will be a seminal test," Dent said. "I mean, this could be a very difficult midterm election and I suspect after that election, I think some views might change. I think we have to conduct much more rigorous oversight, and I've been concerned about this."

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), who is still in Congress and on the House Intelligence Committee with Nunes, said "of course" he's not comfortable with what Nunes and Trump are doing on the investigation, and "nobody should be." Nunes is essentially "sending a signal around the world that some quirky, completely factless investigation may cause you as an informant or you as a CIA asset to be exposed, and that is going to make us profoundly less safe." Watch below. Peter Weber

8:51 a.m. ET

President Trump has been agitating about news an FBI informant approached members of his campaign in 2016, and with help from House Republicans, he's on the verge of getting top secret information on the informant. "Carrie, I need your help understanding the president's position about why he is so exercised about the idea that the FBI would use a confidential informant to investigate a crime," CNN's Alisyn Camerota asked legal analyst Carrie Cordero on Tuesday's New Day. Cordero said using informants is "not particularly unusual" and has a low legal bar, but "what is unusual is revealing the actual identity of sources, publicly for sure and even to congressional intelligence oversight personnel."

Chris Cuomo took a whack at making Trump's argument. The FBI is on firm legal ground, he said, but "this isn't about law, it's about politics and ... it feeds a narrative that Donald Trump wants the American people to believe, which is that they're out to get you in the Deep State of government, and I'm going to fight them." Trump definitely has "a persecution complex" and the White House's official strategy "in all but name" is "investigate the investigator," political analyst John Avlon said. "Presidents who have attacked prosecutors — in particular, Nixon, Clinton — it's because they've had something to hide," he added. One "surreal" thing that isn't helpful to Trump's "Witch Hunt" argument "is that both campaigns were being investigated by the FBI. We only knew about one." Peter Weber

7:10 a.m. ET

Before there was Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into President Trump's campaign and Russia, the FBI started a counterterrorism investigation of the campaign that we now know was code-named "Crossfire Hurricane," which is also the name of a Rolling Stones song. According to The Late Show's re-enactment of the session where the FBI dreamed up that code name, "Crossfire Hurricane" was a compromise reached after some serious disagreement, mostly about the artistic merits of the band King Crimson.

"How about Beatles, 'Back in the USSR?'" one agent suggested. "Too obvious," said the team leader and King Crimson fan. "Jailhouse Rock?" suggested the other agent. "Nah, the Elvis estate is too litigious." They finally agreed on the Stones song, but quickly ran into discord about the relative merit of the band's members. In real life, Trump and his allies are trying to undermine the FBI's counterterrorism investigation, but it's kind of fun to imagine the early team fighting — like men of a certain age are wont to do — over classic rock. Watch below. Peter Weber

6:41 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, a magistrate judge in Australia convicted Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson of covering up the sexual abuse of minors in the 1970s, a charge that carries up to two years in prison. Wilson, 67, was released on bail until his June 9 sentencing. He is the highest ranking Catholic official to be convicted of covering up sexual abuse anywhere in the world. Two former altar boys testified that they had told Wilson in the mid-1970s that Jim Fletcher, a priest arrested for pedophilia in 2004, had abused them, and Wilson had done nothing. Wilson, who pleaded not guilty, said he had no recollection of being told about Fletcher's abuse at the time.

Unlike Cardinal George Pell, Australia's senior-most Catholic prelate and the Vatican's finance chief, Wilson was not accused of abusing anybody. The allegations that he covered up the two cases of sexual abuse surfaced in 2010 — four years after Fletcher died of a stroke in prison, after being convicted of nine counts of child sexual abuse — and police charged Wilson in 2015. "The case against the archbishop was especially surprising, given his reputation for acknowledging and apologizing to the victims of pedophile priests," The New York Times reports. You can learn more and hear from the victims in the report below. Peter Weber

5:50 a.m. ET

It isn't clear yet who blinked in Monday's extraordinary White House meeting between President Trump, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and the FBI director and director of national intelligence over the Justice Department's investigation of Trump's campaign, but the meeting itself was par for the course for Trump, Anderson Cooper said on CNN Monday night. "We know what this is — we've seen it before from President Trump, his surrogates, and supporters whenever Special Counsel Robert Mueller makes a move or some other damaging story hits the president."

This meeting centered around Trump's demand that the Justice Department look for politically motivated spying against his campaign. "The claim of a spy within the Trump campaign comes with, as of yet, little or nothing to back it up and plenty to raise suspicions about its validity, including the central role of someone the president went out of his way to praise today," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Cooper said. For weeks now, Nunes — who was also a leader of Trump's presidential transition team — has been demanding information on a top secret intelligence source the FBI and CIA warned would be in jeopardy if his cover were blown. "Then some right-wing media got ahold of the story," Cooper said, and Nunes' fingerprints were all over those reports.

"The president has been here before, and Devin Nunes has been here before as well," in March 2017, when Nunes briefed Trump on material Nunes had gotten from the White House just days earlier, Cooper said. In that case, "the president rage-tweeted about it, but he never went quite as far about that as he did today." Watch below. Peter Weber

5:16 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump hosted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Chris Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Monday for a meeting about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian collusion and the Trump campaign. Specifically, the group discussed the demand by Trump allies in the House for highly classified documents tied to Mueller's investigation and Trump's demands that the Justice Department investigate the president's unsubstantiated suggestion there was improper political spying on his campaign. Everybody walked away with something, but it isn't clear what exactly anyone got.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the group agreed that "Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with congressional leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested," probably by the end of the week.

"It was not clear after Monday's meeting how much of that information will now be shared with lawmakers and in what form, or who it will be shared with and in what venue," The New York Times notes. The FBI and CIA had "strenuously resisted" the request by House Republicans to see the documents about a covert intelligence source who met with members of the Trump campaign, warning it could cost lives and burn allies. It is already significant that "the president effectively requested, and apparently received, a review of the investigation into his campaign," The Washington Post adds, though the Kelly-brokered meeting could either be "a concession from the Justice Department" or "a bureaucratic maneuver to buy time and shield actual documents."

Trump's personal lawyer "Rudy Giuliani made it clear today that he wants these documents for the Trump legal defense team," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Monday. "That is not appropriate, and I have a concern about anyone from the White House being present for review of these sensitive documents," including Kelly. Peter Weber

3:52 a.m. ET
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump is raising a fuss and crossing some perilous lines over an American academic in Britain who met with three Trump campaign foreign policy advisers in the summer and fall of 2016 and passed some information about those interactions to the FBI. After Trump was elected, his top trade adviser, Peter Navarro (pictured), recommended naming Stefan Halper, widely reported to be the FBI source, as ambassador to an unidentified Asian country, Axios reports. "A White House official said Halper visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building last August for a meeting about China," too.

Navarro put forward Halper's name, as well as several other candidates, because Halper is a fellow China hawk who worked with Navarro on an anti-China book and movie, Axios says. Halper, who taught international affairs, American studies, and intelligence seminars at Cambridge University from 2001 to 2015, is also a veteran of three Republicans administrations. "Most friends describe him as a moderate Republican who is hawkish on China and deeply committed to U.S. institutions, having worked for years inside and around the federal government," The Washington Post reports.

So Halper, 73, may not have been a perfect fit with the Trump administration, allegedly informing on the Trump campaign notwithstanding. "During classes at Cambridge, he often raised questions about [President George W.] Bush's decisions and embraced a traditional Republican approach to foreign policy that emphasized long-standing Western alliances and limited foreign intervention," the Post reports. Peter Weber

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