Plot twist
September 22, 2018

A communications aide working with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process has resigned in connection to a past sexual harassment allegation, a committee representative confirmed Saturday.

The aide, Garrett Ventry, denied all "allegations of misconduct," but a committee statement said despite the denial "he decided to resign to avoid causing any distraction." Ventry was in a temporary position on leave of absence from a public relations company; he resigned from that role as well.

Politico reports, citing an unnamed source, that Ventry also resigned in 2017 from a role with North Carolina House Majority Leader John Bell for allegedly misrepresenting his work with the 2016 presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Two former Rubio staffers told Politico Ventry was also accused of harassment while on the campaign. Ventry denied these allegations as well.

This comes as the committee grapples with the sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh himself, a development that has stalled the confirmation. Bonnie Kristian

September 9, 2018

The deal that paid $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election to buy her silence about an alleged affair with President Trump was never valid or, if it was, should be immediately rescinded, Trump's lawyers argued in court filings Saturday.

If a judge agrees, Daniels will no longer be bound to silence, but her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, would likely be unable to compel Trump to give sworn testimony as to what he knew about the deal and when. Saturday's filing also drops the $20 million in damages Trump lawyers once claimed Daniels could owe for breaking the deal but requests the $130,000 be repaid.

Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, who arranged the $130,000 payment, has pleaded guilty to eight counts of financial crimes. One of those counts, "excessive campaign contribution," refers to the payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, which Cohen said he made "in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office."

"I have been practicing law for nearly 20 yrs," Avenatti tweeted after news of the filing broke. "Never before have I seen a defendant so frightened to be deposed as Donald Trump, especially for a guy that talks so tough. He is desperate and doing all he can to avoid having to answer my questions. He is all hat and no cattle." Bonnie Kristian

August 19, 2018

White House counsel Don McGahn has cooperated extensively with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged Trump campaign collusion, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Citing a dozen unnamed sources, the Times reports McGahn has shared "detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise." He has voluntarily given about 30 hours of interviews to the Mueller team spread across at least three sessions since December, offering information including Trump's directions for how McGahn should respond to Mueller's moves.

It is unclear, the Times notes, whether Trump has fully realized McGahn has taken this approach, which is extremely unusual for a defense attorney. "A prosecutor would kill for that," Solomon L. Wisenberg, a deputy independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation into former President Bill Clinton, told the Times. "Oh my God, it would have been phenomenally helpful to us. It would have been like having the keys to the kingdom."

McGahn originally began sharing information with Mueller in this manner, the report says, because he was concerned Trump intended to use him as a fall guy to escape any obstruction of justice charges. His cooperation was intended to demonstrate his own innocence. Bonnie Kristian

May 20, 2018

In August of 2016, President Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., met in Trump Tower with an emissary of two Saudi princes offering his father help in winning the presidential election, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Per the Times report, the meeting was arranged by Erik Prince, founder of the private military firm formerly known as Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Also present was an Israeli social media specialist who wanted to work for the campaign.

Trump Jr. said through a representative the meeting happened, but he rejected the offers. The Times story says otherwise, citing unnamed sources to report "Trump Jr. responded approvingly," and the emissary, George Nader, "was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump's son-in-law, and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president's first national security adviser." The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, was later paid a "large sum of money" by Nader, though the reason for the payment is disputed.

This rendezvous took place two months after Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who offered opposition research on Hillary Clinton. Bonnie Kristian

April 21, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the White House he may quit if his second-in-command, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, is fired by President Trump, The Washington Post reported Friday evening. Because Sessions has recused himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, Rosenstein oversees it, which has made him a target of the president's ire.

Trump's interest in firing Rosenstein has been rumored for months. Sessions reportedly made his show of support for Rosenstein in a phone call with White House Counsel Don McGahn last weekend.

One of the Post's sources said the message was not a threat but a communication of "the untenable position that Rosenstein's firing would" create for Sessions in an already tumultuous administration. Sessions himself has been in Trump's crosshairs in the past, reportedly as recently as this month. Bonnie Kristian

April 16, 2018

President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has represented three clients over the past year: the president, GOP fundraiser Elliot Broidy, and a third mystery man he refused to name. On Monday, a judge ordered that it be revealed that the third client is Fox News host Sean Hannity.

The revelation comes after The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday night that Cohen used a shell company to pay $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels for her silence on her alleged affair with Trump more than a decade ago, as well as to pay a former Playboy model $1.6 million for her silence about her claim that Broidy got her pregnant. "A Cohen lawyer, Stephen Ryan, had said that the third client, whom Cohen initially would not name, told Cohen over the weekend not to allow his name to get out," Bloomberg reports, just before the judge ordered Hannity to be named publicly.

Cohen has argued that some documents seized in a raid of his office and residences last week are covered by attorney-client privilege and has requested his own lawyers review what was taken. Jeva Lange

Update 4:04 p.m. ET: Hannity denied on Twitter that Cohen has acted on his behalf. "Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter," Hannity wrote. "I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective." He continued: "I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party."

April 11, 2018

The FBI was looking for documents concerning the infamous Access Hollywood tape when they raided the office and residences of President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, The New York Times reports. The tape, recorded in 2005 and made public just before the 2016 election, depicts Trump bragging into a hot mic about kissing and grabbing women by their genitals.

While it wasn't immediately clear what Cohen's relation might be to the tape, the news "reveals a new front in the investigation into Mr. Cohen that is being led by the United States attorney's office in Manhattan," The New York Times writes, explaining that authorities appear to be interested in Cohen's role in Trump's personal life. That helps explain, the Times writes, "why Mr. Trump was furious about the raid."

Other reports have said that the FBI agents were additionally looking for records of payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels, both of whom say they had sex with Trump more than a decade ago. The search warrant also reportedly sought information related to Cohen's possible violations of campaign finance laws and possible bank fraud. Jeva Lange

March 3, 2018

Adult film star Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had an affair with President Trump around the time his third wife, first lady Melania Trump, gave birth to their son, threatened to go public with her story shortly before the 2016 election, The Washington Post reported Friday evening.

Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged to pay Daniels $130,000 of his own money to buy her silence about a relationship he says did not occur. In late October of 2016, the payment had yet to arrive, and Daniels' attorney emailed Cohen to say his client "deems her settlement agreement canceled and void." The money eventually arrived a mere 12 days before the election, and Daniels kept silent until the story of the alleged affair broke in January.

The payment is now subject to two complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission. Read The Week's Paul Waldman on why the money "almost certainly constituted an in-kind campaign contribution" — and what that means for Cohen and Trump. Bonnie Kristian

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