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February 11, 2019

A heavily redacted transcript of a closed-door hearing in a Washington federal courtroom released late Thursday contained "one of the most tantalizing" hints that Special Counsel Robert Mueller "is still pursuing the central question of whether there was some kind of deal between Russia and the Trump campaign" during the 2016 presidential election, The New York Times reported Sunday night. The hearing was about the Mueller team's assertion that Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign manager, had lied to prosecutors, voiding his cooperation deal.

The theory that Trump campaign officials were in talks to effectively cede Eastern Ukraine to Russia and maybe ease Russian sanctions while Russia was helping the Trump campaign "was offered almost as an aside by the prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann," the Times says. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson asked Weissmann why Manafort's alleged lies about discussing a "peace" plan for Ukraine with longtime Russian colleague Konstantin Kilimnik — beginning Aug 2, 2016, when Manafort was still running Trump's campaign, and continuing into 2018 — mattered. The Times continues:

"This goes to the larger view of what we think is going on, and what we think is the motive here," Mr. Weissmann said. "This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel's office is investigating." ... Jackson seemed to agree with prosecutors that whether Mr. Manafort lied about his contacts with Mr. Kilimnik was important, saying at one point, "I am, actually, particularly concerned about this particular alleged false statement." [The New York Times]

Mueller's office has mostly skirted the collusion question, racking up guilty pleas or convictions for Manafort and others in Trump's orbit for lying to investigators and financial crimes while laying out a case that Moscow interceded on Trump's behalf in 2016. But there have been hints of conspiracy, and Weissmann told Berman that whether any American even unwittingly engaged with election-meddling Russians relates to "the core" of Mueller's investigation. Read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

8:42 p.m.

In response to recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, an additional 1,000 U.S. troops are being sent to the Middle East, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced Monday.

The U.S. says Iran is behind the attacks, and "hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups...threaten United States personnel and interests across the region." These troops, who will join 1,500 other soldiers sent to the region last month after similar tanker attacks, are "for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East."

Earlier Monday, Iran said within 10 days, it will go over the 300 kg of low-enriched uranium it can have under its 2015 nuclear deal. Catherine Garcia

7:55 p.m.

Four people were shot Monday in Toronto during a rally celebrating the Raptors' NBA championship.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said the victims sustained minor injuries, and other people were wounded as they tried to run away from the gunfire. Two people "with firearms" have been arrested, Saunders said, and he asked that anyone who witnessed the shooting or took video contact authorities.

Police originally said two people had been shot. The incident took place while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Raptors players were onstage. Catherine Garcia

7:04 p.m.

A student who survived the shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and became a conservative activist said Harvard University has rescinded his acceptance, after racist remarks he made two years ago were made public.

Kyle Kashuv, 18, tweeted on Monday that he made the "egregious and callous comments" online when he was 16, in an attempt to "be as extreme and shocking as possible." He said he apologized to Harvard, and blamed his "former peers and political opponents" for contacting the school and convincing them to drop him.

Kashuv also said he requested a face-to-face meeting with someone from Harvard in order to explain his actions further, but he was rejected. He expressed his irritation at the university, and said "deciding that someone can't grow, especially after a life-altering event like the shooting, is deeply concerning." He might not be going to classes in Cambridge, but one Twitter user told Kashuv he "did learn via Harvard. They taught you accountability." Catherine Garcia

4:50 p.m.

The United Nations has condemned itself for its conduct surrounding the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, The Guardian reports.

A new report commissioned by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, written by Gert Rosenthal, a Guatemalan former foreign minister, and seen by The Guardian before publication, reportedly concluded that there was a systemic failure on behalf of the organization, including competing strategies between agencies, a "culture of mistrust" in relations with Myanmar's government, and "mixed and incomplete signals coming from the field," all of which prevented the UN from adequately responding to the alleged genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya minority. Thousands of people have been killed, and villages razed, while more than 70,000 Rohingya fled across the border to Bangladesh.

The report places particular emphasis on between the variance in approaches among U.N agencies, The Guardian writes — some practiced quiet diplomacy with the Myanmar government, others publicly condemned the human rights abuses. "Even at the highest level of the organization there was no common strategy," Rosenthal wrote in the report. The different approaches also reportedly devolved into "unseemly fighting."

Rosenthal's report also addresses the actions of former U.N. resident coordinator for Myanmar, Renata Lok-Dessallien, who was accused of downplaying concerns about worsening abuses against the Rohingya. He found that there were, in fact, "instances of deliberately de-dramatizing" the situation by Lok-Dessallien.

The report is expected to be made public this week. Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

4:14 p.m.

Megadeth lead vocalist has just announced he has been diagnosed with throat cancer.

Mustaine, who co-founded the heavy metal band after leaving Metallica in 1983, shared the news with fans on Monday, writing in a Facebook post that this is "clearly something to be respected and faced head on" but that "I've faced obstacles before" and that he and his doctors have "mapped out a treatment plan which they feel has a 90 percent success rate."

Although the band is canceling "most" of its remaining 2019 shows as a result, Mustaine says that "in some form," they will remain involved in an October "Megacruise" they had planned. Megadeth had a summer tour planned to commemorate its 35th anniversary, Variety reports.

Still, Mustaine says the band is continuing to work on its next album, which he writes that he "can't wait for everyone to hear," and he promises that "Megadeth will be back on the road ASAP." Brendan Morrow

4:03 p.m.

Alt-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones sent child porn to Sandy Hook families, their lawyers alleged Monday.

The Infowars host has been locked in a legal battle with the families after he alleged the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut shooting was a hoax. He was recently ordered to hand over files as a part of that lawsuit, but when he did, they were allegedly embedded with child pornography, the CT Post reports.

Families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting say after Jones alleged they were "crisis actors" perpetuating a fake shooting, his followers began sending them death threats and even published their addresses as they moved to avoid the threats. The families have since sued Jones for defamation, and won a victory in that challenge earlier this year when a judge ordered Jones to hand over business data to the families' lawyers. Now, those lawyers say when Jones complied with the court request, he also sent over electronic files containing child porn, per CT Post.

Jones has since claimed that the child porn was placed on his servers in a malware attack, and offered $1 million to whoever found who did it, per The Daily Beast. On his Friday Infowars show, he implied that Christopher Mattei, the attorney representing the Sandy Hook families, planted the material. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:59 p.m.

Check off another box for Julián Castro.

The Democratic 2020 hopeful has already laid out his Oval Office plans concerning police reform, education, and immigration. On Monday, he provided a little blast from the past when he turned his attention to housing issues, something with which he is no doubt familiar, as former President Barack Obama's housing secretary.

He's taking his time, too. Castro announced on his website that he would unveil the entire plan over the next several days, starting with his solution to the rental affordability crisis, which involves expanding the Housing Choice Voucher Program, a renters' tax credit, and local zoning reforms.

He also outlined his plan to end homelessness, which he hopes to accomplish by 2028, including the eradication of veteran, child, and youth homelessness by the end of his hypothetical first term in Washington. While Castro admits those target dates might sound too optimistic, he argues his tenure at HUD and his experience as San Antonio's mayor provided him with the necessary experience.

Castro says he'd achieve those goals by an increase in funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants by $5 billion, tripling spending. He would also expand Pell Grants to cover food and housing costs for college students, guarantee a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction, and establish permanent housing initiatives to provide health care and other services for those at risk of becoming homeless. Read part one of Castro's plan here. Tim O'Donnell

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