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December 12, 2018

President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to 3 years in prison on Wednesday for lying to Congress and for financial crimes, Courthouse News' Adam Klasfield reports. He also has to pay a $100,000 fine, and the sentence will begin March 6, likely in a minimum-security prison.

At a Manhattan federal courthouse, Cohen was sentenced to 36 months, or 3 years, for his guilty plea to New York prosecutors' eight counts of tax evasion and campaign finance violations — financial crimes in which Cohen implicated Trump. He got 2 more months for his late November deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in which he pleaded guilty to the federal crime of lying to Congress about Trump's business dealings with Russia. The 2-month sentence will be served concurrently with the 36 months.

In sentencing recommendations filed Friday, Mueller's team recommended leniency given Cohen's subsequent cooperation with the probe into the Trump campaign's involvement with Russian election interference. Mueller's team also affirmed Wednesday that Cohen provided "credible" and "valuable information" to the investigation. But in Friday's recommendations, the Southern District of New York said Cohen committed "serious crimes worthy of meaningful punishment." A prosecutor speaking Wednesday said Cohen "didn't come anywhere close to assisting this office in an investigation."

Cohen's lawyer fought back against the Southern District in Wednesday's sentencing, saying his client "came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful person in our country." Still, the judge called each of Cohen's crimes "a serious offense against the United States," CNN says. Cohen on Wednesday said he took "responsibility" for his "blind loyalty to Donald Trump," per Courthouse News. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 11, 2018

At least two people are dead and 11 are injured after a shooter opened fire in Strasbourg, France, French National Police tells NBC News.

The shooting happened near Strasbourg's Christmas market, which was being held under tight security measures after France was rocked by terror attacks in recent years, Reuters reports. A shooter has been identified as someone on a terrorist watchlist, per NBC News. They were shot by an Operation Sentinel soldier, but are still on the run, per AFP. Witnesses tell Reuters the gunshots lasted about 10 minutes, though it's not clear if all those shots came from the original shooter or police returning fire.

The European Parliament has a location in Strasbourg, which is on France's border with Germany, and a parliament member tells Euronews the building is on lockdown. Around 80 people sheltered in place in a nearby McDonald's, and residents around the market have been told to stay inside. France's counterterrorism prosecutor has already launched an investigation into the attack, per BBC.

More than 130 people died in 2015 when terrorists attacked a concert hall and other spots around Paris. In 2016, a terrorist drove a car into vacationers in Nice, killing more than 80. These past incidents led authorities to check bags before visitors could enter the Strasbourg market and unauthorized vehicles were banned from getting close, Reuters says. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 8, 2018

Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave the White House at the end of the year, President Trump announced Saturday. "John Kelly will be leaving — I don't know if I can say 'retiring.' But he's a great guy," Trump told reporters. "John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year." A retired four-star general, Kelly was reportedly hired last year to bring order to a chaotic White House, but quickly found himself stymied by a freewheeling president who reportedly resented his constraints. Kelly's departure has been anticipated for months, and Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence's 36-year-old chief of staff, is rumored to be the frontrunner to replace him.

Read more at The New York Times. Nico Lauricella

December 5, 2018

Two naval planes crashed into the Pacific Ocean after a midair collision early Thursday morning 200 miles off the southwestern coast of Japan, the U.S. Marine Corps said.

The incident involved a KC-130 and F/A-18; there were two crew members on the F/A-18, which was being refueled, and five on the KC-130. Officials said one Marine has been found and is in stable condition, while six remain missing. The two planes had launched from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, but went missing during regularly scheduled training.

This is a developing story, and has been updated throughout. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 28, 2018

In a closed-door meeting Wednesday, House Democrats nominated House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to return as House speaker next year. It's a "vote of confidence," as Pelosi described it, for when the whole House officially votes for its leader in January.

Pelosi ran unopposed to become speaker, the same role she held when Democrats held a House majority from 2007-2011. But she faced opposition from some Democrats, mostly newcomers, who wanted to see fresh leadership. Sixteen representatives signed a letter officially opposing Pelosi, and the nine Democratic members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus demanded a set of rule changes before they would back Pelosi.

One of those letter-signing defectors, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), told The Washington Post on Wednesday there was "no alternative" to electing Pelosi. Pelosi also reached a deal with the Problem Solvers on Wednesday, securing their support. Still, 22 Democrats opposed Pelosi as of Wednesday by the Post's count. Pelosi could only lose 17 Democratic votes without losing the speakership, assuming every Republican votes against her.

Also on Wednesday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) beat Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), 123-113, for caucus chair. The spot was vacated by outgoing Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), who Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez surprisingly beat earlier this year. Both Jeffries and Lee are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, but the 72-year-old Lee said "institutional barriers" including gender and age likely prevented her from winning the race. The 48-year-old Jeffries will take the No. 5 spot in the Democratic House and is seen as a "future party leader," Politico writes. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), meanwhile, was elected to chair the Congressional Black Caucus. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 23, 2018

A suicide bomber attacked a market in northern Pakistan on Friday, killing 35 people, per The Associated Press. The attack came just hours after three gunmen assaulted the Chinese consulate in the southern city of Karachi, killing two policemen and two civilians.

In the first Karachi attack, three gunmen tried to enter the consulate in a high-end part of Karachi around 9 a.m. local time, The Washington Post reports. Security officers outside the consulate killed the three gunmen in a shootout, preventing them from reaching staff and diplomats inside. Onlookers also reported seeing an explosion nearby. An investigation into a motive is ongoing, a police official said, but a separatist group opposing China has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Later in the day and farther north, a bomber rode a motorcycle into a weekly market in the town of Kalaya and detonated explosives in a crowd of people buying vegetables, household items, and winter clothes. At least 35 were killed and dozens more were injured, and most were Shiite Muslims, a police official told AP. Pakistan's prime minister called the bombing "an act of terrorism."

The attacks appeared to be unrelated, but they underscored the many security challenges Pakistan faces from separatists and Islamist extremists. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 7, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out on Wednesday in what could potentially trigger consequences as significant as the dissolution of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Here's what you need to know.

What does it mean that Sessions was forced to resign?

Because Sessions resigned, President Trump was able to immediately appoint a new acting attorney general, rather than needing to go through the Senate approval process otherwise required to name a new AG. Sessions had recused himself from any involvement in the Mueller investigation; his replacement will not have the same obligation.

Who is the new attorney general?

Matthew Whitaker will serve as acting attorney general. He was formerly chief of staff to Jeff Sessions.

Whitaker, a Republican, published an op-ed in CNN last year arguing that Mueller had gone too far in his probe, an opinion shared by the president. "It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump's finances or his family's finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else," Whitaker argued. "That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel."

What can Whitaker do now?

Sessions' ousting will likely tarnish the integrity of the ongoing Mueller investigation in the eyes of many Democrats and Republicans alike, and Whitaker can even technically fire the special counsel if there is "cause." Earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee progressed legislation that would allow Mueller to "challenge" a potential firing "in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia," NBC News explains, although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has so far refused to bring it to the floor, arguing: "This is not necessary, there’s no indication that Mueller is going to be fired."

Additionally, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will no longer be in charge of overseeing the Mueller investigation, NBC News reports.

What will Democrats do?

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) assured that there would be swift action if the Mueller investigation came under threat, vowing that "protecting Mueller and his investigation is paramount. It would create a constitutional crisis if this were a prelude to ending or greatly limiting the Mueller investigation." Jeva Lange

October 31, 2018

The man suspected of killing 11 people at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday has been indicted on 44 federal counts.

Robert Bowers was indicted Wednesday with federal hate crimes for the deadliest attack on Jewish people in U.S. history, and "faces a maximum possible penalty of death, or life without parole, followed by a consecutive sentence of 535 years' imprisonment," reports CNN's Jake Tapper. Those charges include 11 counts of obstructing religious freedom resulting in death and 11 counts of committing violent crime using a firearm, among others.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the charges on Wednesday, saying Bowers was allegedly responsible for "incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant" crimes, per The Washington Post. Victims in the case include not just the 11 killed, but also two injured victims, nine who escaped unharmed, and four injured law enforcement officers, reports CNN. The indictment also mentions that Bowers allegedly yelled that he wanted to "kill Jews" while in the synagogue.

The federal charges add to the dozens of state and local charges Bowers was hit with this weekend, including 11 counts of homicide, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Kathryn Krawczyk

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