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December 14, 2018

In Wednesday's non-prosecution deal with National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc., federal prosecutors said AMI admitted that in an August 2015 Trump Tower meeting with President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen and "at least one other member of the [Trump] campaign," CEO David Pecker had agreed to "help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate's relationships with women." AMI subsequently made a $150,000 payment "in concert with the campaign" to one purported mistress, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, prosecutors said, and the "principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman's story so as to prevent it from influencing the election."

In that August 2015 meeting, "the 'other member' was Trump," NBC News reports, citing "a person familiar with the matter." Trump's active participation in the meeting — and direct involvement in or knowledge of the hush payment — was reported by The Wall Street Journal in early November. Cohen has since pleaded guilty to felony campaign finance violations, purportedly committed at the direction of Trump, in connection with a separate hush payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump and his lawyers have continuously shifted their story about what happened and what Trump knew about the hush payments, with the latest iteration being Trump's insistence Thursday that he "never directed Michael Cohen to break the law," and if any laws were broken, that's on Cohen. "But if Trump is now in the room, as early as August of 2015 and in combination with the recording where Trump clearly knows what Cohen is talking about with regarding to David Pecker," former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman told NBC News, "you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud."

At CNN, The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow discussed the Enquirer's "catch and kill" practices and reminded Anderson Cooper that AMI paid to bury at least one other negative story about Trump during the campaign. Peter Weber

9:59 p.m.

The Trump administration on Monday said taxpayer-funded family planning clinics can no longer refer women for abortions.

The Health and Human Services Department also told clinics that they must maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions, The Associated Press reports. Every year, about four million low-income women are able to receive family planning and preventative health services through the Title X program, which provides $260 million worth of grants to independent clinics. Under federal law, taxpayer funds cannot be used to pay for abortions.

Many of these clinics are operated by Planned Parenthood, and President Leana Wen said the organization is hoping to get the regulations overturned in federal court. Several professional groups, including the American Medical Association, are against the new policy, saying it could affect how a woman receives basic medical care. Catherine Garcia

8:49 p.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday night said the House of Representatives will not raise the debt ceiling unless it is combined with a budget agreement.

Earlier in the day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that if a budget deal is not reached soon, Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling before its August recess, otherwise there won't be enough money to pay the government's bills. This idea, Pelosi said, is not "acceptable to our caucus."

Lawmakers have until the end of September to hammer out a budget deal, as that's when funding for several agencies is scheduled to run out. The Treasury Department can only issue debt up to the limit set by Congress. Since President Trump's inauguration, total government debt has increased by about $3 trillion, to more than $22 trillion. Catherine Garcia

8:04 p.m.

It took more than a century, but Andrew Johnson has met his match when it comes to racist presidents, presidential historian Jon Meacham said Monday.

Meacham appeared on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss President Trump telling four lawmakers — all Democratic women of color — that they needed to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." Going on a "journey toward a more perfect union is the story of the country," Meacham said. "What the president's done here is yet again — I think he did it after Charlottesville and I think he did it, frankly, when he was pushing the birther lie about President Obama — he has joined Andrew Johnson as the most racist president in American history."

Meacham explained that in a state message, Johnson "said African Americans were incapable of self-government and relapsed into barbarism if they weren't closely supervised." Historian Eric Foner, he added, "said this was the single most racist statement by a president in a public paper." Since the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, politicians have set it up so poor black Americans and poor white Americans are "pointing at each other instead of pointing up," Meacham said. "That's the story of the racial politics of the country in the modern era. By using culture instead of economics, which the Republican Party in the modern era has done very well."

The country can't escape its past, and it's "pointless to try to expiate ourselves from what Trump has been saying," he said, adding, "The way America moves forward from this is 51 percent of the time we're with Lincoln instead of Andrew Johnson." Catherine Garcia

7:08 p.m.

The four progressive Democratic lawmakers targeted by President Trump in a series of racist tweets over the weekend held nothing back during a press conference on Monday.

"We can continue to enable this president and report on the bile of garbage that comes out of his mouth, or we can hold him accountable for his crimes," Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said. "It is time for us to stop allowing this president to make a mockery out of our constitution. It is time to impeach this president."

On Sunday, Trump referenced Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Omar in several tweets, saying they "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe" and the women needed to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Pressley were all born in the U.S.; Omar's family fled Somalia more than 20 years ago, and she is now a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Pressley said Trump's remarks — which he refused to apologize for on Monday — are "simply a disruption and a distraction from the callous, chaotic, and corrupt culture of this administration. I encourage the American people and all of us in this room and beyond not to take the bait." As for Ocasio-Cortez, she believes Trump "does not know how to defend his policies and so what he does is attack us personally." Catherine Garcia

5:39 p.m.

President Trump and Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom's frontrunner to replace outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, see eye to eye on some things, but that doesn't mean Johnson would follow Trump into battle. At least not blindly.

During a debate for party leadership, Johnson and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt were both asked if they would support U.S. strikes against Iran, considering the high tensions between the two powers. Both candidates said they would not.

"Diplomacy must be the best way forward," Johnson said. Hunt also expressed concern that conflict could break out accidentally.

That wasn't the only Trump-related question the two candidates answered, however.

Trump's tweets telling Democratic congresswomen to go back to the "broken and crime infested places from which they came" reverberated across the globe, prompting Johnson and Hunt to address them during the debate. The two were again largely in agreement on the matter, with the former calling Trump's comments "unacceptable" and the latter deeming them "totally offensive." Despite the criticism, though, they both hedged on calling the tweets racist. Tim O'Donnell

Tim O'Donnell

5:36 p.m.

New York City theatergoers aren't getting stubbed — er, snubbed — after this weekend's blackout.

On Saturday, the lights literally went out on Broadway, with a power outage causing several New York City theaters to cancel their nightly performances. That cost ticket seller StubHub more $500,000 under their policy that guarantees refunds for canceled shows, Billboard reports via a StubHub press release.

A solid 30 blocks of Manhattan's west side lost power at 6:47 p.m. Saturday, and some areas didn't have it restored until midnight. Yet even as restaurants, subways, and theaters emptied out, some performers took their songs to the streets, putting on impromptu show for anyone near Broadway.

StubHub's user policy says that it'll refund any ticket costs and fees if a show is canceled, and will let customers know if their show is rescheduled. That's the case for Jennifer Lopez's Madison Square Garden show that was rebooked for Monday, and Dave Chapelle's solo Broadway show rescheduled for this coming Sunday.

That $500,000 total doesn't even count event tickets sold by other companies, or losses of revenue for businesses that couldn't operate without power. Saturday's blackout came exactly 42 years after a blackout crippled the city for 25 hours, sparking a surge of looting and arson at a cost of $1.2 billion in 2017 dollars. There's no official estimate for losses sustained Saturday, though it looks like customers who saw a Broadway show taken to the streets got their entertainment for free. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:41 p.m.

President Trump needed to remind himself to shower Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) in falsities.

Trump tweeted a racist attack on Omar and three other Democratic congressmembers on Sunday, suggesting they "go back and help fix" the "countries" they came from. And in doubling down on that attack Monday, Trump falsely accused Omar of "speaking about how wonderful Al Qaeda is," despite Omar having no ties to the terrorist group and Trump having no idea how to spell it.

During his Monday press conference, Trump said he didn't think his tweets attacking the freshmen Democrats were racist "at all" before repeatedly suggesting Omar's "statements about al Qaeda" were laudatory in some way. Omar has angered Republicans with some of her tweets, but she's never praised al Qaeda. The Washington Post's Jabin Botsford later shared these photos he captured at the conference, which show that Trump's notes were covered in black marker scribbles reminding him to bring up the mysterious "alcaida" and the even vaguer "some people."

While Trump has continued to defend his Sunday tweets, GOP lawmakers have been slow and even reluctant to react. The so-called "squad" of Omar and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) meanwhile scheduled a press conference for 5 p.m. ET Monday to respond. Kathryn Krawczyk

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