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November 14, 2017
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife apparently demanded gifts of champagne and cigars from two businessmen and their personal aides, Haaretz reported Tuesday. Hadas Klein, an aide to Israeli-American filmmaker Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer, is reported to have told Israeli police investigators that "there was an understanding that Arnon had to supply the Netanyahus with whatever they want."

Netanyahu was named in August as a suspect in two corruption investigations and has been interviewed by investigators five times. The first case, known as Case 1,000, deals with improper gifts; the second, Case 2,000, alleges that Netanyahu arranged financial benefits in exchange for positive press coverage.

Klein's testimony reportedly bolsters investigators' claims for Case 1,000, which The Guardian said has been dubbed "the gifts affair." Previously, a lawyer for the prime minister defended the Netanyahus' conduct by saying that "there is no ban on receiving cigars as a gift." Klein's statements to investigators, however, insinuate that the Netanyahus were not passive recipients of gifts but rather actively solicited between 650,000 and 700,000 shekels' worth of champagne and cigars, a haul worth roughly $180,000 to $200,000.

Israeli police apparently believe that they have enough damning information to bring corruption charges against the prime minister. Local media had previously reported that the prime minister is a prolific smoker who consumes tens of thousands of shekels' worth of gifted cigars a month, while his wife regularly drinks bottles of pink champagne worth hundreds of shekels each. Netanyahu has said the probes "will produce nothing because there was nothing," The Guardian notes.

Netanyahu has served Israel's longest consecutive term as prime minister and is said to have a "phenomenal relationship" with President Trump. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:27 a.m. ET
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21st Century Fox announced Wednesday it will sell its remaining stake in U.K. broadcaster Sky to Comcast, CNBC reports. The transaction will be worth about $15 billion.

Rupert Murdoch's Fox empire has long sought to own Sky, and it has spent months competing with Comcast to make the purchase. Murdoch and Comcast both hoped purchasing Sky would launch them into the streaming universe to compete with Netflix, NPR explains. But the U.S. cable company finally proved victorious Saturday when its offer of roughly $39 billion topped Fox's at an auction.

Comcast has since revealed that it owned over 30 percent of Sky's shares. Under U.K. rules, that meant Comcast had to offer to buy other investors' Sky shares, Reuters says. And on Wednesday, the Walt Disney Company, which purchased Fox in June, agreed to sell Fox's remaining shares to Comcast, meaning Fox's 39 percent stake will be added to Comcast's existing 30 percent.

Comcast and Fox have a bitter business rivalry, with Disney recently outbidding Comcast to purchase Fox for $71.3 billion. Wednesday's Sky sale will "significantly reduce the amount of debt Disney will incur in acquiring 21st Century Fox" and allow it to "invest in content creation for its direct-to-consumer platforms," Disney said in a statement. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:08 a.m. ET
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More Democratic women are running for House seats this fall than ever before, but the money they've raised doesn't exactly show it.

Cook Political Report shows 67 House races that are hovering near toss-up territory as the midterms approach. Yet the 34 Democratic women facing off in those races have raised an average of $500,000 less than the 33 Democratic men, NPR analysis has revealed.

Democratic women have so far raised an average of $1.59 million in each of their House races, while men have raked in an average of $2.15 million, per NPR. Women are securing a bit more funding from political action committees than men, but PAC money makes up a far narrower percentage of fundraising than small money and out-of-state donations. And with Democratic women falling behind in those categories, it's no surprise there's such a wide fundraising gender gap.

Still, these numbers are nothing new. Women have always pulled in less fundraising dollars than men, and we're only noticing now because there are more women candidates than ever, liberal consultant Taryn Rosenkranz tells NPR. Men earn more money than women, and they have traditionally made campaign donations more of a priority, contributing to the historical gap. But now, with Democratic women vying for half the seats on the verge of turning blue this fall, donors may have to acknowledge the obvious before Democrats can actually make their House-flipping dreams come true.

Read more about the political gender gap at NPR. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:07 a.m. ET

The second woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct is also ready to testify.

Deborah Ramirez has alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a drunken dorm party while they were both students at Yale University. On Wednesday, her attorney John Clune told Today that he would "not be surprised" if Ramirez agreed to testify before the Senate about the matter, even before an FBI investigation takes place.

Clune had previously suggested that Ramirez might refuse to testify if the FBI did not first examine her claim. But on Today, host Savannah Guthrie pointed out that Christine Blasey Ford, who earlier this month accused Kavanaugh of forcibly groping her at a high school party, also requested an FBI investigation before her testimony — only to agree to speak before the Senate without one. Clune explained that while Ramirez would strongly prefer an investigation take place before she testifies, she may eventually decide to speak under oath anyway. He also told CBS This Morning on Wednesday that Ramirez is ready to "have a conversation" about "what this is going to look like" and "if there's going to be an FBI investigation."

Kavanaugh has denied both allegations. Watch a portion of Clune's interview with Today below. Brendan Morrow

9:51 a.m. ET

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says he "never sexually assaulted anyone," and says he's got calendars to prove it.

Two women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his high school and college years. Late Tuesday, Kavanaugh sent the Senate Judiciary Committee pages from his 1982 calendar, saying that he'd use them to testify Thursday that he wasn't at the high school party where Christine Blasey Ford alleges he forcibly groped her, reports USA Today.

Kavanaugh has for some reason kept the ancient artifact in his possession since his senior year of high school, and now he hopes it will come in handy. The calendar includes vestiges of suburban teenage life, with entries like "go to Timmy's" and "grounded." The pages also show that Kavanaugh appreciated fine films such as Rocky III and Grease II, which he saw in the same week in June.

More importantly, Kavanaugh listed parties he attended, even noting at least some of the attendees. Kavanaugh will use the agenda to show that there's no evidence he ever attended the party described by Ford. "He could have attended a party that he did not list," Kavanaugh's team acknowledged.

Check out the calendar pages below, via USA Today, if you've always wondered on which day in 1982 Kavanaugh mowed the lawn. Summer Meza

9:45 a.m. ET
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As Christine Blasey Ford prepares to testify this week that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, a new poll suggests many Republicans don't care whether she's telling the truth or not.

The poll, released Wednesday by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist, asked Americans if Kavanaugh should be confirmed to the Supreme Court even "if the charge of sexual assault during a party in high school by Christine Blasey Ford" is true. Among Republicans surveyed, 54 percent said he should still be confirmed. Only 32 percent of Republicans said Kavanaugh should not be confirmed if Ford's allegation is true. This was not the case among adults overall, as 59 percent of the poll's respondents said if Ford is telling the truth, Kavanaugh shouldn't be confirmed. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.

Earlier this week, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) suggested that Kavanaugh doing "something really bad 36 years ago" may not disqualify him from serving as a Supreme Court justice. The poll suggests many Republicans agree.

This poll was conducted by speaking to 997 adults over the phone from Sept. 22 to Sept. 24, partially before and partially after a second allegation against Kavanaugh came to light on Sept. 23. The margin of error is +/- 3.9 percent. Read the full results at NPR. Brendan Morrow

8:17 a.m. ET
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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's job may be safe for at least a few more weeks.

The Washington Post reports that ahead of Thursday's meeting between Rosenstein and President Trump, the general consensus among administration officials is that the deputy attorney general will stick around until after the midterms.

This was not always the case, as reports emerged Monday that Rosenstein had offered to resign but was expected to be fired. This followed a report from The New York Times that said Rosenstein had talked about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. The White House subsequently said that Trump and Rosenstein would meet Thursday, declining to comment on whether he was about to lose his job.

The new report says Rosenstein did indeed tell the White House over the weekend he was willing to resign, and his departure seemed like such a sure thing that a succession plan was in place on Monday, leaving officials surprised when his ouster went unannounced. The officials who spoke with the Post didn't rule out the possibility that Rosenstein will be fired this week, but they don't think it's likely, as his ouster could adversely affect Republicans in November's midterm elections.

Instead, officials now expect Rosenstein to depart after the midterms, and they think Attorney General Jeff Sessions will go with him. Brendan Morrow

7:24 a.m. ET

There was some liberal Sturm und Drang when The New York Times hired conservative Wall Street Journal editorialist Bret Stephens for its op-ed stable. But it would be hard to find a liberal columnist with a more damning indictment of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) than the one Stephens meted out Tuesday. Stephens said he shared colleague Gail Collins' enthusiasm for the Texas Senate race for a couple of reasons: "Small reasons: I like Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic challenger, and I like the idea that Texas can turn a bit purple if you have a candidate with energy, wit, and a human touch."

"The big reason," Stephens added, "is that I despise Ted Cruz. That is 'D-e-s-p-i-s-e.'" He explained why, savagely:

Because he's like a serpent covered in Vaseline. Because he treats the American people like two-bit suckers in 10-gallon hats. Because he sucks up to the guy who insulted his wife — by retweet, no less. Because of his phony piety and even phonier principles. Because I see him as the spiritual love child of the 1980s televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining. Because his ethics are purely situational. Because he makes Donald Trump look like a human being by comparison. Because "New York values." Because his fellow politicians detest him, and that's just among Republicans. Because he never got over being the smartest kid in eighth grade. Because he's conniving enough to try to put one over you, but not perceptive enough to realize that you see right through him. Because he's the type of man who would sell his family into slavery if that's what it took to get elected. And that he would use said slavery as a sob story to get himself re-elected. [Bret Stephens, The New York Times]

For what it's worth, Cruz seems kind of obsessed with the race, too. Read more of Stephens' musings at The New York Times. Peter Weber

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