The Qatar bribery allegations featuring Trump, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, and the Steele dossier, explained
On Sunday, lawyer Michael Avenatti got the ball rolling on a strange and convoluted story involving Qatari diplomats, President Trump, Michael Cohen, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Ice Cube, Stephen Bannon, and the Trump-Russia collusion dossier compiled by ex-spy Christopher Steele. Avenatti, who represents porn star Stormy Daniels, released photos showing Ahmed al-Rumaihi, a top official at Qatar's state investment fund, getting in a Trump Tower elevator on Dec. 12, 2016, with Cohen and Qatar's foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani.
Al-Rumaihi's company, Sport Trinity, confirmed to CNN that he was at the Trump Tower meetings, and Qatar's press attaché told Britain's Daily Mail on Tuesday that al Thani was there, too, to meet with Trump transition officials. Also known: The Qatari wealth fund division al-Rumaihi ran from May 2016 to March 2017 bought a 19.5 percent stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft five days before the December 2016 meeting.
Then things get murky. An unidentified Kuwaiti official told the Daily Mail that in the last week, al-Rumaihi told him that in a December 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Flynn and Cohen, "Cohen told him to send millions to various members of the Trump family." Al-Rumaihi apparently refused, but Jeff Kwatinetz, a former business partner of al-Rumaihi's in a basketball league co-owned with Ice Cube, said in a sworn deposition last week that al-Rumaihi asked him to offer a bribe from Qatar to Bannon, a friend, in January, and when Kwatinetz said no, al-Rumaihi laughed and asked, "Do you think Flynn turned down our money?" (Al-Rumaihi denies saying this.)
Also publicly unsubstantiated is a claim in the Steele dossier that in summer 2016, a Rosneft official offered the Trump campaign, via adviser Carter Page, a stake in Rosneft if future President Trump scrapped Russia sanctions, as Slate explains. Helpfully, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell tried to tie all these strands together with Slate's Jeremy Stahl on Tuesday night, while The Atlantic's David Frum issued a note of caution. Watch below. Peter Weber
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was so incensed by President Trump's press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday that he called Republican lawmakers and gave them permission to speak out against Trump's comments, three people familiar with the matter told Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman.
Kelly warned Trump that by saying he had no reason to believe Russia would want to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, it made things infinitely worse for him with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Sherman reports, and he also urged him to take back the remarks, which he kind of attempted to do on Tuesday.
Trump himself was surprised by the public's negative reaction to the press conference, but by the time he returned to the United States he was enraged that few people were defending him. "This was the nightmare scenario," one Republican close to the White House told Sherman. Catherine Garcia
FEMA is rejecting thousands of appeals for housing aid in Puerto Rico because people can't prove they own their homes
Since Hurricane Maria ravaged homes in Puerto Rico last September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied at least 335,748 applications for disaster assistance, and has either rejected or not responded to 79 percent of appeals.
It's hurricane season again, and for residents like Ramón Paez Marte, they are still dealing with damage done in 2017. He lives in Canóvanas, and his home is missing part of the roof and has a broken door. Paez Marte told NBC News he's applied for assistance, but has been told he's ineligible. FEMA requires people prove their houses were damaged, and they must be inspected by officials. Residents also have to prove their identities and home ownership status, but that's an issue in Puerto Rico, where houses are passed down, some are built without legal permits, and many don't have a title or deed.
Paez Marte gave FEMA a letter from the mayor of Canóvanas, which stated he had owned his home for about 20 years; his appeal was rejected, with FEMA saying he couldn't prove that was his house. "I don't live here because I want to," he told NBC News. "No one that lives here, lives here willingly. They're here because we truly have nowhere else to go." Catherine Garcia
Liz Cambage isn't just breaking records in the WNBA — she's standing beside the greatest players on the men's side too.
The Dallas Wings center scored 53 points against the New York Liberty on Tuesday, setting a new record for the most points scored by a WNBA player in a single game. The 6-foot-8 phenom toppled the record set by Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquana Williams in 2013, when she scored 51 points against the San Antonio Silver Stars while she was a member of the Tulsa Shock.
In helping the Wings to a 104-87 victory Tuesday, Cambage was clearly on point, going 17-22 from the field and 15-16 from the free throw line. She also nabbed 10 rebounds and blocked five shots. Bleacher Report's Natalie Weiner noted that the last basketball player to stuff the box score like Cambage did Tuesday was the one and only Michael Jordan.
Previously, Cambage's highest-scoring game was her 37-point performance against the Chicago Sky earlier this month. But with 44 seconds left in Tuesday's game against the Liberty, the Australian was able to sink a 3-pointer and secure her spot at the top. Watch Cambage make history below. Amari Pollard
Liz Cambage put up a historic stat-line today, with 53 POINTS (including 4 threes), 10 rebounds, and 5 blocks to become the record leader in most points in a single #WNBA game!
Watch @ecambage make history #WatchMeWork pic.twitter.com/9O9gPVhcUv
— WNBA (@WNBA) July 17, 2018
Not everyone was buying it when President Trump said he simply misspoke during his Monday press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he said he didn't "see why it would be Russia" that interfered in American elections. On Tuesday, he told reporters that he simply meant to say that he didn't "see why it wouldn't be" Russia, adding, "I think that probably clarifies things."
Lucky for Trump, some conservative lawmakers were happy to accept his defense of Russian meddling in the 2016 election as a simple misunderstanding.
"I'm just glad he clarified it," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told NBC News. "I can't read his intentions or what he meant to say at the time, and suffice it to say that for me as a policy maker, what really matters is what we do moving forward."
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) concurred, telling Fox News that he took the president at his word when he explained his controversial comments as a botched double-negative. Portman on Monday called Trump's failure to side with the U.S. intelligence community "troubling."
While Rubio and Portman enjoyed a sigh of relief, not every conservative who condemned Trump's Monday comments has been so quick to move on. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), for example, didn't back down from his criticism, including when he said Monday that Trump gave Putin "a propaganda win." Instead, he told Fox News that Trump had been "weak" and delivered a "bad day for America." Summer Meza
Everyone predicts Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will face tough questions, especially about Roe v. Wade, when he eventually undergoes his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But two Democratic senators — Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.) — were there for Kavanaugh's last hearing. And they think Kavanaugh may have fudged a few answers.
In 2006, Kavanaugh faced the Senate committee after receiving a lifetime nomination to the D.C. Court of Appeals, The Atlantic reports. Kavanaugh had previously worked for former President George W. Bush, so Durbin and Leahy asked about his involvement in administration decisions during the war on terror. That included how detained terror subjects were treated in the early 2000s.
Kavanaugh denied knowing anything about the torture of detainees at the time, and he was confirmed. But two stories from The Washington Post and NPR soon reported that Kavanaugh discussed torture with White House lawyers in 2002, telling them that Justice Anthony Kennedy — whose impending retirement has spurred Kavanaugh's nomination to the bench — wouldn't support indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, per The Atlantic.
Durbin told NPR that the revelation made him feel "perilously close to being lied to." He wrote Kavanaugh to ask for clarification, and tweeted the same letter the day after Kavanaugh's SCOTUS nomination. Apparently, Kavanaugh never responded. Leahy wrote to the U.S. attorney general, but was denied a criminal investigation, The Atlantic says. He "still has questions about how truthful" Kavanaugh was last time around, per his statement after Kavanaugh's July 9 nomination.
Now, Kavanaugh is set to appear once again before the Senate, and Durbin and Leahy are still on the committee. And judging by Durbin's and Leahy's tweets, they haven't gotten over that one question. Read more at The Atlantic. Kathryn Krawczyk
Dogs across the country better lawyer up — the government is feeling litigious.
The United States on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against "APPROXIMATELY 30 PIT BULL-TYPE DOGS," a legal tracking Twitter account reported. The lawsuit, filed in North Carolina, alleges that the dogs were involved in an animal fighting operation, and seeks to require their owners to pay up.
Among the defendants: "a brown male, pit bull-type dog;" "a black and white, female pit bull-type dog;" and "an underweight black, male pit bull-type dog." The dogs are suspected of being involved in a fighting ring "for purposes of sport, wagering, or entertainment."
Of course, it's the humans who will ultimately be accused of violating the Animal Welfare Act, the lawsuit explains, but the poor dogs are the ones who were seized by officials and are named in the legal documents. "They are currently in the custody of the United States Marshals Service and being cared for by the Humane Society of the United States," reads the lawsuit. While the "pit bull-type" dogs were seized more than a month ago, the owners apparently still haven't paid to cover the cost of their care and veterinary treatment while in government custody.
For the record, the government's "approximate" guess was spot-on. It's unclear how much longer the exactly-30 dogs will remain in government care. Summer Meza
Queen fans, get ready to belt your hearts out: Bohemian Rhapsody is just a few months away.
20th Century Fox released a new trailer Tuesday for the Freddie Mercury biopic, calling it "a foot-stomping celebration" of "one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet."
Framed by some of the band's most famous hits, including "We Will Rock You," "We Are The Champions," and of course the titular "Bohemian Rhapsody," the trailer gives us a look at the very beginnings of Queen and their unexpected rise to stardom. We also get brief glimpses of Mercury as he wrestles with his bisexuality and his struggle with his AIDS diagnosis, despite speculation that those parts of the story would be left untold.
Starring Emmy award-winning actor Rami Malek as Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody is expected to be released on Nov. 2, 2018. Watch the full trailer below. Shivani Ishwar