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December 14, 2018

Federal prosecutors in New York City have begun a criminal investigation into whether President Trump's 2017 inaugural committee misspent any of its record $107 million haul and whether any of the committee's biggest donors sought access to or special favors from the incoming Trump administration for their donations, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday evening, citing people familiar with the matter.

The investigation arose partly out of materials seized by the FBI in an April raid of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen's office and residences, the Journal says, and federal prosecutors have sought information from Rick Gates, deputy chairman for both Trump's campaign and inaugural committee, who has pleaded guilty to different crimes and is cooperating with investigators. "Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws," the Journal notes. "Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law."

Trump's $107 million inaugural fund was more than twice the previous record, set in 2009. The inaugural committee has not publicly accounted for how it spent $103 million, though it has identified vendors it paid $61 million and broken out some of the broad spending categories. Thomas Barrack, the real estate developer and longtime Trump friend who chaired the inaugural committee, said the committee's finances were audited by an outside organization, though he has not made that audit public. "There is no sign the investigation is targeting Mr. Barrack," the Journal says. Reporter Rebecca Davis O'Brien, who helped break the story, walked through some of the other details with CNN's Jake Tapper, and you can watch that below and read more at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

9:35 p.m.

A Georgia man was arrested on Wednesday in connection with a plot to attack the White House using an anti-tank rocket, federal authorities said.

U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak said Hasher Jallal Taheb, 21, of Cumming has been charged with attempting to damage or destroy a building owned by the United States using fire or an explosive. In an affidavit filed in court Wednesday, an FBI agent stated that in March 2018, a local law enforcement agency received a tip about Taheb; the person said Taheb had been radicalized, was using a new name, and planned to travel overseas.

The complaint says that in October, Taheb told a confidential FBI source he wanted to travel to a territory controlled by the Islamic State, but because he didn't have a passport, he was going to instead attack the White House and Statue of Liberty. He went on to meet with an undercover FBI agent and the FBI source multiple times, and allegedly told them he wanted to use an anti-tank weapon to blow open a door to the White House, taking out as many people as possible. He was arrested by FBI agents while inside a rental car, after he traded his own car for semi-automatic assault rifles, three explosive devices with remote detonators, and an anti-tank rocket. Catherine Garcia

8:40 p.m.

Jack Bogle, the founder of The Vanguard Group and creator of the index fund, died Wednesday. He was 89.

Vanguard is the world's largest mutual fund organization, now managing $4.9 trillion in global assets. When he created what is now known as the Vanguard 500 Index Fund, he was ridiculed by Wall Street, with the fund dubbed "Bogle's Folly." In his letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in February 2017, billionaire investor Warren Buffet praised Bogle, saying that he was "frequently mocked by the investment-management industry," but "he helped millions of investors realize far better returns on their savings than they otherwise would have earned. He is a hero to them and to me."

Bogle grew up during the Great Depression, and studied economics at Princeton. He founded Vanguard in 1975, and served as chairman and CEO until 1996. Bogle also wrote 13 books about investing, with his final tome, Stay the Course: The Story of Vanguard and the Index Revolution, published in December. He is survived by his wife, Eve, and six children. Catherine Garcia

7:48 p.m.

The Pentagon is finalizing a policy to closely examine recruits who have green cards or other foreign ties, an initiative that would likely target thousands of people every year, two Department of Defense officials with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.

Last year, a federal judge blocked a similar effort to target green-card holders. The Pentagon is concerned about espionage and terrorism, and this new vetting process will screen "foreign nexus" risks, the Post reports; this could include people with foreign citizenship and those with family members who are not U.S. citizens.

Some U.S. citizens could also be targeted, including those with foreign spouses or relatives with dual citizenship. Anyone chosen for this screening would not be allowed to go to recruit training until they are cleared, which could take days for some and much longer for others. Defense Department officials told the Post the new policy will be distributed to military services no later than Feb. 15. Catherine Garcia

6:56 p.m.

A 27-year-old Marine veteran with PTSD was held for three days in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Michigan, despite being born in the United States, his lawyers said Wednesday.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez pleaded guilty last month to trespassing and damaging a fire alarm at a hospital in Grand Rapids, the ACLU said. He spent some time in a Kent County jail, and was set for release on Dec. 14 to await sentencing. ICE contacted the jail and asked that Ramos-Gomez be held for pickup, and he was then driven 70 miles to Battle Creek. He was there for three days before a lawyer working for his family called the ICE detention center and told authorities Ramos-Gomez is a citizen.

In an interview with NBC News, ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman asked why ICE, which has access to fingerprint records, thought Ramos-Gomez should be deported. "Why did they think he was a non-citizen? Did they get him confused with someone else? Who knows. This is an individual who's incredibly vulnerable with a mental illness." Ramos-Gomez was a lance corporal in the Marines, and earned awards for service in Afghanistan. He is now receiving mental health care for his PTSD.

The ACLU is calling on the Kent County sheriff and county commissioners to look into why the jail released Ramos-Gomez to ICE. Kent County Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt told NBC News that once Ramos-Gomez "was released from our custody, he was under the domain of ICE. Where they take him is their process. Our procedures were followed." Catherine Garcia

5:33 p.m.

Federal workers will get a paycheck at some point.

President Trump signed a bill Wednesday that ensures federal employees furloughed during the partial government shutdown will get back pay once it's over. Trump has long shown support for the bill, which was introduced by Virginia Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner last week and easily passed both houses of Congress.

Federal employees working without pay throughout the shutdown were already guaranteed back pay once the government reopened. This new law grants back pay to those furloughed during the shutdown. But it doesn't guarantee a paycheck for federal contractors, something Warner pushed for in a Wednesday tweet. He also, of course, advocated for the government to reopen after its 25-day-long shutdown. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:16 p.m.

Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) barely made it two weeks into his term before stirring up some controversy.

The congressman, who is fully aware that he's white, described himself as "an Asian trapped in a white body" at an event Tuesday, per National Journal fellow Nicholas Wu. And, as The Washington Post astutely said, "his apology didn't help" his case.

Case was at "an event celebrating Asian-American and Pacific Islander advances in Congress," Hawaii News Now says, but it's unclear what led up to the comments. What is clear is that Case represents America's only majority-Asian district.

Case told Hawaii News Now that he is "fiercely proud" of representing a state "where no ethnic group has been in the majority for generations." He added that he has "absorbed and live the values of our many cultures" and he "regret[s] if my specific remarks to the national API community on my full absorption of their concerns caused any offense." Also of questionable note: Case's spokesperson said the congressman was just repeating "what his Japanese-American wife sometimes says about him," per the Post.

Case first graced the House in Hawaii's 2nd District from 2002-2007, before leaving the post for an unsuccessful Senate run. He ran for the Senate again in 2012, losing to then-Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) in 2012. This time around, he won a primary of largely minority candidates to win his seat. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:34 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may be the only thing standing between a spending bill and the president.

House Democrats and a few Republicans passed two spending bills last week that would reopen the government, but McConnell refused to bring them before the Republican-held Senate. And on Tuesday, McConnell did it again — even though Democrats "have secured enough Republican votes in the Senate to reopen government," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Wednesday.

The government shutdown began Dec. 21 over President Trump's refusal to sign a spending bill without $5.7 billion in border wall funding. Democrats still refuse to bend to that demand. And when they took over the House this year, they and five Republicans quickly passed a spending bill to fund most government departments for the year and another that would fund the Department of Homeland Security for 30 days. McConnell refused to bring them for a vote in the Senate, saying they were "absolutely pointless show votes" on bills Trump wouldn't sign.

Democrats pointed out that the GOP-held Senate passed similar bills last year, which then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) wouldn't bring for a vote. And when those House Democrats, along with 12 Republicans, voted Friday to send a new set of spending bills to the Senate, McConnell again turned them down. Kathryn Krawczyk

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