January 12, 2018

President Trump's lawyer might have arranged a $130,000 payment to former adult film star Stephanie "Stormy Daniels" Clifford during the campaign to ensure she not speak publicly about an alleged sexual encounter with the president at a Lake Tahoe golf tournament in 2006, The Wall Street Journal reports based on conversations with people familiar with the alleged dealing.

The encounter was reportedly consensual, although another adult film star, Jessica Drake, claimed in October 2016 that Trump kissed her and two other women without consent in a suite at the same tournament. The Journal previously reported that Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year, was paid $150,000 by the National Enquirer for a story of her own alleged 2006 affair with Trump, although it was not ultimately published. Trump notably married Melania Trump in 2005.

"Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false," Clifford wrote in a statement to the Journal. Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, said: "This is now the second time that you are raising outlandish allegations against my client. You have attempted to perpetuate this false narrative for over a year; a narrative that has been consistently denied by all parties since at least 2011." Read the full allegations at The Wall Street Journal. Jeva Lange

Editor's note: This post originally mischaracterized the National Enquirer's payment to Karen McDougal. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.

5:23 a.m. ET

The suspect in the serial bombings that terrorized Austin this month was killed early Wednesday during a standoff with police along Interstate 35 in Round Rock, just north of Austin, police tell local media. The suspect detonated an explosive device and possibly shot himself, CBS News reports. A high-ranking law enforcement official tells the Austin American-Statesman that authorities identified the suspect within the past 24 hours, thanks mostly to evidence gathered from when the suspect shipped explosives-filled packages from a FedEx store in southwest Austin, one of which went off at a FedEx facility north of San Antonio early Tuesday. The official also said that along with surveillance video from FedEx, authorities studied suspicious purchases by the suspect and his Google history obtained through a warrant, and they tracked the suspect to a hotel using cellphone tracking technology.

Since March 2, at least five explosions killed two people in Austin and injured at least four others. The latest scare was an apparently unrelated incendiary device that went off at a Goodwill store in South Austin. Peter Weber

Update 6:15 am E.T.: Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said at a press conference that the suspect, a 24-year-old white male, blew himself up inside his car after police followed him from a hotel parking lot. One officer was injured and another fired at the suspect. "We do not understand what motivated him to do what he did," Manley said, and police will not identify the suspect until he is positively identified by a medical examiner. "We don't know where this suspect spent the last 24 hours," or if he had any accomplices, he added, so residents of Austin and surrounding communities should still exercise caution. You can watch the news conference below.

4:32 a.m. ET

Last week, lawyers for President Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller sat down to discuss which topics investigators could ask Trump about, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, showing an artist's rendition of what Trump's lawyers asked for: "They will allow questions on the 2016 electoral map and noises trucks make, but nothing about Stormy's bathing suit area or 'Vlad stuff.'" Trump is also shaking up his legal team, Colbert added, introducing viewers to former U.S. attorney, Fox News regular, and new Trump lawyer Joe diGenova.

Another Trump lawyer, John Dowd, might be leaving because, according to The New York Times, he has concluded he has "no control over the behavior of the president." "You just figured that out?" Colbert asked. "Come on, man, Trump doesn't even have control over Trump's behavior." He mourned the thought of Trump sacking his other lawyer, Ty Cobb, and had a wry laugh at Ivanka Trump's turn as a vape-lab analyst in Iowa.

Meanwhile, "on Sunday, Vladimir Putin won an election rigged to prop up a dangerous strongman who is threatening Western democracy," Colbert said. "That requires a strong response — so Donald Trump called him up to say, 'Atta boy!'" Among those unhappy "that Trump was giving the thumbs-up to a murderous dictator for winning a sham election" were his national security team and a bipartisan group of senators — including Sen. John McCain (R), who slammed Trump for insulting "every Russian citizen denied the right to vote in a free and fair election." Colbert had some words of consolation — "Don't worry, Sen. McCain, the Russians still have a chance to vote in our midterm!" — and a creative way to paper over the fact that former President Barack Obama also congratulated Putin on his similarly shady 2012 win. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:44 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) beat back a primary challenge from state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R), who attacked him from the right, and fellow billionaire investor J.B. Pritzker won a three-way contest for the Democratic nomination to challenge Rauner in November. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, beat Chris Kennedy, the son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, and state Sen. Daniel Biss. Pritzker has already put $70 million of his own money into the race and Rauner has put in $50 million of his fortune, setting this up to be the most expensive governor's race in U.S. history, beating California's 2010 contest.

In other races, former Gov. Pat Quinn (D) is neck and neck with state Sen. Kwame Raoul for the state attorney general nomination, and seven-term Rep. Dan Lipinski (D) very narrowly fended off a challenge from a more progressive candidate, Marie Newman. Lipinksi, one of the few Democrats left in Congress who opposes abortion rights, will face Arthur Jones, a Holocaust-denying neo-Nazi who ran unopposed in the GOP primary. That's not hyperbole. You can get a taste of Jones below. Peter Weber

3:05 a.m. ET

"Does anybody here use Facebook? Still?" Stephen Colbert asked on Tuesday's Late Show, noting that the world's biggest social network is in hot water over the unauthorized harvesting of the private information of 50 million American users by Cambridge Analytica, President Trump's campaign contractor — and also "the scientific name for John Oliver."

"Now, people are blaming Facebook for this because they handed over all your data willingly," Colbert said. "It's less like they're a bank that got robbed at gunpoint and more like a bank that just gave bank robbers your money because that's their business model — but now you can't quit the bank because your whole family is at the bank, and also the bank is where you get to see if your high school friends got fat." Now seems to be a good time for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to weigh in with some damage control, he added, but so far, crickets.

But Cambridge Analytica is in hot water, too, especially as Britain's Channel 4 released the second part of its undercover report on Tuesday, focusing on their central role in electing Trump. "Wow, so it was their meticulous data and analytics that informed Trump's strategy of 'wear hat, yell about wall,'" Colbert said skeptically — and then in disbelief: "Wait, they made up 'Crooked Hillary'? Coming up with demeaning nicknames was the one skill we knew Trump had!" He also had some fun with Cambridge Analytica's assertion that the candidates they serve are always the "puppet," presumably including Trump: "Since he's a puppet, no wonder he has to use two hands to pick up a glass of water." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:10 a.m. ET

President Trump went to New Hampshire on Monday to roll out his plan to fight the opioid crisis, and he couldn't quite agree with himself on whether America was ready for his proposal to kill drug dealers, Trevor Noah said on Tuesday's Daily Show. "One of my favorite things about Trump is that he has inner monologues out loud — it's like America elected Gollum as president."

Sill, killing drug dealers won't solve America's opioid crisis, Noah said. "Do you also kill doctors who overprescribe painkillers? Do you kill family members who buy opioids for their addicted loved ones?" And Trump's vintage '80s idea of making "very, very bad commercials" to scare teens from taking drugs only makes sense if you are Trump. "I mean, if the president of the United States believes everything he sees on TV, then why wouldn't teenagers?" he asked, noting that they don't.

"I believe that the president sincerely wants to keep young people away from drugs, which is why here at The Daily Show, we've decided to help," Noah said. "What Trump needs is a way to make drugs seem really uncool for young people — and for once I believe he's the right man for the job."

Trump's plan is more than just commercials and executing drug dealers — historically, it also involves cutting funding for drug treatment, prevention, and research, Jordan Klepper noted at The Opposition. "You see, drug addiction is so tragic that usually, Trump can't bear to think about, let alone address it!"

Besides, "we shouldn't give Trump all the credit here: He actually crowdsourced this 'kill drug dealers' idea from some of his newest friends," Klepper said. "Trump visited the Philippines, and they do not have a drug problem there at all. They also don't have a journalist problem, or a due process problem, or a 'not getting murdered in your sleep by state police' problem." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m. ET

It will take more than 500 workers a combined 450,000 hours to complete what Silversea Cruises says is a first-of-its-kind project: The lengthening of a luxury cruise ship.

The 642-foot-long Silver Spirit, which first set sail in 2009, was cut in half earlier this month while in a dry dock in Palermo, Sicily. A new 49-foot segment is being built for the ship's midsection, which will include a large pool area, restaurants, spa, and more cabins. It will take 846 tons of steel, 360,892 feet of cabling, and 26,247 feet of piping to complete the addition, which increases the Silver Spirit's passenger capacity by about 12 percent to 608, USA Today reports.

This massive undertaking is expected to be completed in early May, and the longer ship will make its debut as it sails out of Civitavecchia, Italy. Catherine Garcia

1:23 a.m. ET

After customer Danny Cadra drove away from a Chick-fil-A in Lubbock, Texas, without his $3 in change, cashier Marcus Henderson stuffed it into an envelope, knowing the regular would be back sometime soon.

For three weeks, Henderson carried the envelope in his back pocket while at work, never knowing if that would be the day he saw Cadra. He could have put it back in the cash register, but Henderson wanted to ensure Cadra received what was rightfully his. When Cadra came back to the restaurant last week, Henderson handed him the envelope, much to his surprise — he said he didn't even realize he left the change behind.

"What a breath of fresh air," Cadra told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. "It meant that much to him, it meant even that much more to me." He said he thought it was "the coolest thing" for Henderson to hold onto his change, and that the cashier is a "great American." Catherine Garcia

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