August 13, 2019

When it emerged last week that the National Rifle Association and its estranged advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, had moved to buy NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and his wife, Susan, a $6 million mansion in suburban Dallas last year, the NRA insisted that "not a cent of NRA money was ultimately spent" on the abortive real estate purchase.

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that it obtained a copy of a $70,000 check the NRA sent in May 2018 to WBB Investments LLC, a Delaware entity created a week previously. The money was intended as earnest money toward an offer on the 10,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, nine-bath French country–style estate in a gated golf club community, a person familiar with the transaction told the Journal. New York's attorney general is investigating the proposed purchase as part of a larger review of the NRA's nonprofit status.

"The NRA made a nominal payment to help facilitate the process for a real estate transaction that was supposedly being undertaken by Ackerman McQueen following the Parkland tragedy," NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the Journal. The check was reportedly returned after the deal fell apart. Ackerman McQueen said it's "patently false" that anyone other than LaPierre was driving the transaction.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that LaPierre wanted the NRA to buy him the property because "he was worried about being targeted and needed a more secure place to live" after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. LaPierre requested that WWB Investments be created to facilitate the purchase, the Post reported, and the LaPierres "were intensely involved in the selection of the property." Emails described to the Post show that Susan LaPierre was concerned there wasn't enough closet space in the men's master bedroom and bathroom.

ProPublica and The Trace published documents last week showing that NRA accountants reviewing the books flagged the $70,000 payment as a top concern and violation of the organization's "accounts payable procedures." Nonprofit lawyer Elizabeth Kingsley told the Journal that "if there's a check from the NRA to an LLC, that doesn't seem consistent with a story that Ackerman was going to pay for it." Peter Weber

10:58 p.m.

President Trump mostly avoided talking about his impeachment during a Tuesday night rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, focusing instead on slamming Democrats and praising the GOP's newest lawmaker.

Speaking to a capacity crowd of 7,000, Trump claimed he has been busy "creating jobs" and "killing terrorists" while "congressional Democrats are obsessed with demented hoaxes, crazy witch hunts and deranged partisan crusades." He commended Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) for leaving the Democratic Party in December, calling him "brave" and "principled" for defying "the left-wing fanatics in his own party."

He also accused Democrats of trying to take away health care and criticized the Green New Deal, a proposal to tackle climate change and guarantee jobs in clean energy industries. The resolution would force Americans to "close your factories, get rid of your cows," he said, incorrectly. "You don't have too many cows in Wildwood, but if you do, they're gone." Catherine Garcia

10:00 p.m.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said the quiet part out loud on Monday when she told reporters she was "really interested" in seeing how Iowa voters react to President Trump's impeachment lawyers attacking former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

"Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening," Ernst said. "And I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, these Democratic caucusgoers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?"

While meeting with Iowa voters on Tuesday, Biden said Ernst "spilled the beans. She just came out and flat said it. You know, the whole impeachment trial for Trump is just a political hit job to try to smear me, because he is scared to death to run against me, and he has good reason to be concerned."

Ernst is up for re-election this year, and with her Biden comments, she has invited "Democratic activists to look at her," Sue Dvorsky, a former chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, told The New York Times. Brian Bruening, chairman of the Clayton County Democrats, said the Trump legal team's arguments had "zero effect on actual caucus voters. I don't know any Joe Biden supporter whose support of Biden has lessened because of any of the impeachment issues." Catherine Garcia

8:45 p.m.

In response to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, Starbucks has closed more than 2,000 stores in China.

The flu-like virus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and there are more than 4,500 confirmed cases; at least 130 people have died. Starbucks is the world's largest coffee chain, and China is the company's biggest growth market, making up 10 percent of its global revenue, Reuters reports. There are 4,292 Starbucks locations in China, and the stores that are staying open have revised operating hours.

The company does expect this to temporarily affect its finances. Due to its strong quarterly earnings, Starbucks had planned on giving an update on its 2020 financial forecast, but that has been delayed because of the outbreak, Reuters says. Catherine Garcia

7:47 p.m.

On Sunday, the Israeli government will vote on annexing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and parts of the Jordan Valley.

This could cover up to 30 percent of the West Bank, the area Palestinians want for their own independent state.

Standing alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump on Tuesday unveiled his Middle East peace plan, which calls for Israel to control a unified Jerusalem and a new Palestinian state including outer portions of East Jerusalem. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he rejected the "nonsense" proposal and "will not kneel down." Catherine Garcia

6:33 p.m.

During a meeting of Republican senators on Tuesday afternoon, GOP leaders announced that they do not have enough votes to stop witnesses from being called at President Trump's impeachment trial, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not share any numbers, but did acknowledge the votes aren't where he needs them to be, people with knowledge of the meeting said. The senators will vote later this week on whether to allow witnesses in the trial, and a new Quinnipiac poll shows 75 percent of voters want to hear witness testimony.

Trump's lawyers finished their opening arguments on Tuesday, and declared the trial should end "as quickly as possible" without any witnesses. On Sunday, The New York Times reported that in his forthcoming book, former National Security Adviser John Bolton contradicts the defense argument that Trump did not engage in a quid pro quo with Ukraine. The White House blocked Bolton from testifying during the House impeachment inquiry. Catherine Garcia

5:44 p.m.

White House adviser and President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner had some strong words for Palestinians on Tuesday.

Kushner, who played a central role in devising the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan unveiled earlier in the day, said during an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the proposal offers Palestinians the best chance for a "better life," suggesting it'd be a mistake for them not to accept the offer. If they don't, he said — while placing much of the blame on Palestinian leadership — they'll "screw up" yet another opportunity like they've always done.

Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas already said he "categorically rejects" the plan, and protests broke out in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday, so Kushner's harsh comments don't seem like the best bet to defuse tensions at the moment. Still, he went on to defend the plan elsewhere, telling Bloomberg if Palestinians "truly want a state," they should "come to the table."

It's not just Palestinians who were disappointed in the White House's solution, though. Neighboring Jordan wasn't a fan, and several analysts felt it did little to curb Israeli settlement and annexation in the West Bank in the long run. Kushner, though, argued securing a four year freeze on Israeli settlements was the deal's biggest accomplishment. Tim O'Donnell

5:31 p.m.

Apple might just be getting over its iPhone slump.

In its first quarterly report of the fiscal year, Apple reported a total revenue of $91.82 billion, a big step over estimates of $88.43 billion. That largely comes thanks to the debut of the iPhone 11 late last year, which propelled iPhone revenue to $56 billion in the quarter, CNBC reports via the Tuesday report.

This quarter is the first since the Apple's iPhone 11 debut, which gave Q1 a $23 billion jump from the previous Q4. The $56 billion is also an 8 percent increase year over year.

Before the iPhone 11 debut, Apple had seen quarter after quarter of weak iPhone sales, prompting suggestions that service revenue would be the future of the company. Apple did bring in a service revenue of $12.7 billion in this first quarterly report since the premiere of the company's Apple TV+ service, but it paled in comparison to the company's $79.1 billion product revenue, per TechCrunch. Kathryn Krawczyk

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