November 14, 2017

The Russian foreign ministry made dozens of money transfers in 2016 with memo lines that read "to finance election campaign of 2016," BuzzFeed News reports. The FBI is now reportedly investigating those transactions, which make up a large part of more than 60 suspicious transfers that totaled over $380,000 and went to Russia's embassies around the world, including in Afghanistan and Washington, D.C.

"We had an election and the intelligence community concluded Russia interfered in it," one FBI agent told BuzzFeed News. "How could we not investigate a suspicious financial transaction that contained a memo that said, 'finance election campaign 2016?' Given the climate and what was in that memo line it would be very irresponsible for us not to investigate. It's a good lead."

It is unclear how the money that was transferred was actually used, or if the "election campaign of 2016" is in fact referencing the U.S. election. "Seven nations had federal elections during the span when the funds were sent — including the Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament, on Sept. 18, 2016," writes BuzzFeed News. "Russian embassies and diplomatic compounds opened polling stations for voters living abroad."

Still, there is plenty of room for intrigue: An unverified dossier alleging ties between President Trump and Moscow makes reference to Russian diplomatic staff "in key cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., and Miami" being rewarded for "relevant assets" with a "'pension' distribution system as cover" that paid out "tens of thousands of dollars," Business Insider's Natasha Bertrand notes. Read the full report, including details of how the memo was discovered, at BuzzFeed News. Jeva Lange

7:48 a.m. ET

One of the biggest stories this week was the scandal rocking Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm that harvested and allegedly weaponized the private information of 50 million Facebook users before being hired by President Trump's campaign — a campaign Cambridge Analytica top executives claim they won on Trump's behalf using their data and specially tested phrases like "Crooked Hillary." On Thursday morning, Trump was apparently feeling nostalgic and a bit braggadocious:

He's right — they're not saying that anymore. They're talking about Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign figuring out "how to manipulate you at all costs," as Trevor Noah explained on Wednesday night's Daily Show. What they did may sound like advertising, where "they try to get you to buy something by tugging at your emotions, but this is 10 levels above that," Noah said. "You see, using Cambridge Analytica's tools, Trump's campaign figured out a way to manipulate people — or as they called it, electronic brainwashing."

As an example, he pointed out that Cambridge Analytica discovered that the phrase "drain the swamp" would make people want to vote for Trump. "And I'm not making this up: Trump told us this himself," like a "Bond villain" revealing "his entire scheme," Noah said. "Trump didn't create new fears in people, he found a way to appeal to fears and desires that already existed. And they used Facebook, in the same way that Facebook will be, like, 'Hey, remember your friend Steve from high school?' Except this time it was like, 'Hey, remember how you're scared of brown people?'"

Just to be clear, that's what people are saying now. Peter Weber

7:21 a.m. ET

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have been at each other's throats for the past year and a half, both claiming they could beat the other in a physical fight if they just got the chance. Biden, 75, escalated the threats Tuesday when he said he would have "beat the hell" out of Trump "if we were in high school."

Never one to forfeit the last word, Trump, 71, delivered the counterpunch on Twitter on Thursday:

Biden had initially ignited the adolescent feud in 2016 when he said he wished he could have taken Trump "behind the gym" back in the day, Business Insider reports. Trump responded in the subsequent weeks that he would "love" to fight Biden at "the back of the barn" and that the vice president would "fall over" with "just a little bit of a puff."

Earlier this month, Trump said he would "kick [Biden's] ass" if they were permitted to go at each other. Jeva Lange

6:40 a.m. ET

There is something for most lawmakers to like in the must-pass omnibus spending deal released Wednesday night — with 2,232 pages and a $1.3 trillion price tag, there had better be. The bill features $80 billion above budget caps for the military and $63 billion more for domestic programs like infrastructure and medical research, and $4.65 billion to fight the opioid crisis. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had to run to the White House amid reports President Trump was balking, but one senior White House official tells The Associated Press that Trump was merely concerned that the details of the package weren't being optimally presented to the public.

On Twitter late Wednesday, Trump did his own sales pitch:

The $1.6 billion for the border wall comes with "some serious strings attacked," The Washington Post notes. Less than half of the 95 miles of border projects will be for new barriers — and that includes $445 million for "levee fencing" in the Rio Grande Valley — with the rest earmarked to repair existing barriers, and "none of President Trump's big, beautiful wall prototypes can be built."

The omnibus package also gives a 2.4 percent raise to military personnel and a 1.9 percent raise to civilian workers, increases funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, beefs up the federal background check system for gun purchases, allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence, keeps the Johnson Amendment to prevent politicking at church, and orders the Secret Service to issue an annual report detailing travel costs for people under its protection, including the adult children of presidents. You can read more about what's in the bill at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

5:27 a.m. ET
Luka Gonzales/AFP/Getty Images

In December, Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski narrowly survived impeachment, but the apparent deal he made to win that vote came back to haunt him this week, and on Wednesday he offered his resignation in a televised address. "I don't want to be an obstacle for our nation as it finds the path to unity and harmony that it needs so much," Kuczynski said, before walking out of the presidential palace and getting into an SUV. Peru's Congress will decide Thursday whether to accept his resignation or impeach him. Next in line is Vice President Martín Vizcarra, who is also Peru's ambassador to Canada. It isn't clear if he is even in Peru.

Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former World Bank economist and Wall Street investor who narrowly beat Keiko Fujimori in 2016, survived the December impeachment vote after Fujimori's brother, Kenji Fujimori, broke with his sister and led a key bloc of allies to abstain. A few days later, Kuczynski pardoned their father, notorious former President Alberto Fujimori, ostensibly on health grounds. On Tuesday, a secret video from an ally of Keiko Fujimori showed Kenji, his allies, and allies of Kuczynski appearing to try to buy the support of an opposition lawmaker with promises of state contracts and kickbacks.

Kuczynski promised to restore Peru's economy and faith in its government, after years of corruption-tinged leftist governments. But now Peruvians are more disillusioned than ever. "The only public institution with moral authority left in Peru is the fire department," lawyer Oscar Mendoza told The Associated Press. "All the rest, when you touch them with your finger, puss comes out because they are fully corrupted by graft." Peter Weber

4:15 a.m. ET

President Trump is apparently furious about reports that he was warned to not congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin about his re-election, right before he congratulated Putin, Jimmy Kimmel said on Wednesday's Kimmel Live. "Some White House staffers believe the leak was a deliberate attempt to embarrass the president — as if he needs any help with that — but the part of the story I love, and I don't even know if he realizes this: The fact that we know he's mad about the leak is because someone leaked his reaction to the leak, which is a lot of leaks. It might be time for this White House to start wearing Depends." Kimmel mocked up a chart showing Trump from "perturbed" to his current state, "furious," and it wasn't pretty.

Trump was also clearly angry on Wednesday about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation — or as he spelled it on Twitter Wednesday morning, "Special Council." "They still haven't corrected the spelling of 'counsel' — I guess he wants to show his base that he won't be swayed by a bunch of left-wing, liberal dictionaries," Kimmel joked. "And I know a lot of people can't spell, but a lot of people aren't president, and the fact is, having a leader who cannot spell is potentially dangerous." Lunch-launch?

"But typos and leaks should be the least of Trump's worries today," Kimmel said. "What he should be worried about is all the renewed interest in his alleged sexual dalliances. Like a porno Gremlin, Stormy Daniels has now multiplied and there are at least three women now actively pursuing legal action in cases involving Donald Trump." Or, well, at least two. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:34 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On Wednesday, New York City's Department of Buildings launched investigations at 13 buildings owned by Kushner Cos., looking for possible "illegal activity" involving apparently falsified permits claiming those properties had no rent-controlled tenants when in fact they had hundreds. The more than 80 permit applications were signed when Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, was CEO of the family company, The Associated Press reported Sunday. Kushner did not sign any of the permits himself, but company employees did, including its chief operating officer.

If Kushner Cos. had correctly listed the number of rent-controlled tenants, construction at those properties would have been scrutinized for possible attempts to harass tenants into leaving the building, allowing the property company to raise rents. And at many of the properties, that's what appears to have happened, AP says, citing documents uncovered by the watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative. Kushner Cos. said Wednesday that it operates under "the highest legal and ethical standards" and blamed the investigation on "politically motivated attacks." Peter Weber

3:05 a.m. ET

"The Stormy Daniels story just won't go away, no matter how many photos of her bustline Anderson Cooper slowly zooms in on every night," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "They've actually renamed his show Anderson Cooper 36DD." He reminded everyone that Daniels was paid $130,000 to sign a nondisclosure agreement just days before the election, keeping her silent about her alleged affair with President Trump. Colbert found this plausible in part because Trump has made his senior staff sign nondisclosure agreements, too. "Now this is troubling in two ways," he said. "One, that's totally illegal — government officials work for us, not Trump; he can't make them sign NDAs. And two, it really makes me think Trump has had sex with his entire staff."

Still, given Trump's love of NDAs, it's hardly surprising that six other women have apparently approached Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, to say they have similar stories about Trump. "Yes, and they've all been compiled in the new book Six Shades of Hulnh," Colbert joked, making a gagging sound. Avenatti says he has proof that Daniels was physically threatened to stay silent about her relationship with Trump, and that she'll likely discuss it in her 60 Minutes interview airing Sunday. Colbert ended with a modified Atticus Finch monologue that Harper Lee might not approve of. Watch below. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads