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November 30, 2018

Michael Cohen's plea agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, his admission that he lied about ending negotiations for a Trump Tower Moscow in January 2016, and the revelation that he was negotiating directly with the Kremlin were all big topics on cable news Thursday night. And on CNN and MSNBC, at least, there was a consensus that this is a big deal.

At CNN, Chris Cuomo fact-checked Trump's response to Cohen's plea. Trump's admission he knew about the Moscow negotiations and was aggressively pursuing such deals because he didn't think he was going to win the election "is very important in understanding why they would have kept doing this deal at a time when it would really smell bad," Cuomo said.

On MSNBC, BuzzFeed reporter Anthony Cormier explained why Cohen's deep knowledge of Trump's business makes him "a very dangerous threat" to Trump, Cohen friend Donny Deutsch affirmed that Cohen has enthusiastically flipped on Trump, and former FBI counterintelligence chief Frank Figliuzzi — who argued earlier Thursday that "our president is essentially a mob boss" — explained how what Cohen's revealed is "the definition of the Russian word Kompromat."

Trump handed Russia "a blackmailable set of facts" by lying about things the Russian government know are true, Figliuzzi said. "The question that's not answered in the information that's filed today by Mueller is what have the Russians done with that, what is the level of compromise, what is the level of coordination? ... Did Trump hand false answers to Mueller based on an understanding of what everyone he thought was saying? The Russians have all of this, the Russians have likely used it, and that's at the heart of what's being hidden by this president."

Fox News also covered the plea deal, in its own way. Below, for example, you can watch Tucker Carlson mock Cohen and complain that a series of Obama officials were not charged with lying to Congress "about things that actually matter." Peter Weber

12:20 p.m.

Pesticides on your produce? It's more likely than you think.

A study by the Environmental Working Group found that around 70 percent of U.S. produce still has pesticide residue even after customers wash it, reports The Hill.

Strawberries, spinach and kale ranked highest in residue, and avocados, pineapples and sweet corn had the least. Coming in third, this is kale's highest ranking in recent memory and its first appearance within the top 12 since 2009, per CNN.

Nearly 60 percent of kale's samples tested positive for a possible carcinogens, coming as a surprise to some people working on the survey, reports The Hill.

"Fruits and vegetables are an important part of everyone's diet, and when it comes to some conventionally grown produce items, such as kale, choosing organic may be a better option," EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin said in a statement, per The Hill. Marianne Dodson

12:14 p.m.

If you can't beat him, find a way to keep him off the ballot. That's what legislators in 18 states are trying to do to President Trump in the 2020 presidential elections.

The Washington Post reports that several statehouses are looking to pass laws that will require presidential candidates to release their tax returns on if they want to see their name on voting ballots.

Some proponents of the numerous bills argue that they are geared toward increasing transparency and returning to the "norm" of candidates sharing their financial records with the public, which Trump has, to date, refused to do.

But, per the Post, other lawmakers are not even trying to be coy. They've admitted that the legislative push is "very much about Trump."

Most of the states that are considering this are controlled by Democrats, though the party has introduced legislation even in some Republican-controlled states.

The Washington state Senate actually passed a bill last Tuesday that would require candidates to release five years of tax returns before they could appear on the state's primary or general election ballot. It will now face a vote in the House.

But there are skeptics on both sides of the aisle. When his state passed a similar bill in 2017, former California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed it. In his decision, he questioned the idea's constitutionality — indeed, while states can set their own standards for ballot inclusion, it is unclear whether demanding the release of returns could be part of those standards. Brown also said the tax return precedent could set states on a "slippery slope," which could lead to requests for many other kinds of personal documents, including health records and high school report cards. Read the full report at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

11:34 a.m.

Self-driving shuttle cars will soon make their Big Apple debut.

The Boston-based startup Optimus Ride will deploy its first New York fleet within the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the second quarter of 2019, reports The Verge. The vehicles will run in closed loops around the yard and will primarily be used by over 8,000 yard workers.

Optimus Ride will also be deploying vehicles in a retirement community in Northern California, per The Verge.

Optimus Ride's venture into the New York market marks the "first commercial self-driving vehicle deployment in the state of New York," according to the company. New York's autonomous vehicle market is still relatively untapped due to stricter regulations on vehicles, like the requirement of a police escort paid for by the operating company, reports The Verge.

Plans for self-driving vehicles to hit Manhattan's streets were previously announced by General Motors, but they never came to fruition.

Optimus Ride's newly-announced deployments in New York and California will be the company's third and fourth fleets, following services in Boston and Reston, Virginia. Marianne Dodson

10:24 a.m.

If it hasn't yet hit you how big a deal it is that Disney's purchase of most of Fox has gone through, look no further than the bizarre sight that is the company's new website.

Disney's $71 billion takeover of Fox's assets was officially completed just after midnight on Wednesday, and an update to the official Walt Disney Company website was ready to go almost immediately, as pointed out by The Hollywood Reporter. A banner on the homepage now features a mix of classic Disney properties and Fox ones that are now under its control. Mickey Mouse and Queen Elsa are there, but so are Deadpool and Bart Simpson. The website also features images from the new Disney properties like Avatar, Atlanta, and The Shape of Water, mixed with classic ones like Star Wars and Toy Story.

Disney did not take over all of Fox, as Fox Sports, Fox Business Network, Fox News, and the Fox broadcast network were spun off into a new company, Fox Corporation. But 20th Century Fox's film and TV shows have gone to Disney, with some of the other properties they now control including X-Men, Alien, and Family Guy.

Clearly, Disney was excited to show off some of its new toys with this website change, one of which, Avatar, is the highest-grossing film of all time and has four sequels on the way. The image from Deadpool is particularly interesting and supports the theory that Ryan Reynolds' foul-mouthed version of the character might be incorporated into Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe. And we're not saying a crossover between Star Wars and The Shape of Water is likely, but yes, that's now technically a thing that could happen. Brendan Morrow

10:19 a.m.

The 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaigns have garnered a lot of public attention already. But apparently many Democratic voters have kept their attention on Congress in the hopes of maintaining their party's new majority, which came into effect in January.

The House Democrats' campaign arm announced on Wednesday that it raised $11.6 million in February, more than in any previous February in history, per The Hill, and more than $4 million more than in January. Grassroots donations accounted for $4.6 million of the total.

"The fact that we just had our strongest February in the history of the DCCC show that our momentum is really growing," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Cheri Bustos said in a statement.

The increase in donations may also be reflected in a Gallup poll published on Tuesday, which shows that the congressional approval rating has hit a two-year high. The number itself is not a pretty sight — according to the poll, just 26 percent of Americans' approve of the job Congress is doing. But considering that congressional approval has averaged only 30 percent since 1974, it's not out of the realm of respectability. Unsurprisingly, with the new majority in tow, Democrats are more likely to approve of Congress, registering a 31 percent favorable rating compared to just 18 percent of Republicans.

Gallup conducted its poll between March 1 and March 10 via telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,039 U.S. adults. The margin of error is 5 percentage points. Tim O'Donnell

10:09 a.m.

Theresa May officially wants to put the breaks on Brexit.

The U.K. prime minister's plans for Britain's exit from the EU have continued to falter, prompting votes that question confidence in her leadership and even calls for her to resign. And in a sure sign that May still hasn't figured things out, she asked European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday for a three-month extension on Britain's stay in the EU.

May is set to meet with EU leaders on Thursday and, with a previously set Brexit deadline of March 29 less than two weeks away, was expected to ask for an extension, Politico reports. May told MPs Tuesday that she wouldn't delay Brexit any further than her June 30 request, per BBC. Still, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker responded by "formally warn[ing] May that if an extension is granted beyond May 23's European Parliament elections, there would be "institutional difficulties and legal uncertainty," CNN notes.

Britain voted to leave the EU more than two years ago, but has struggled to come up with a deal that would preserve trade relations with the bloc. Parliament has continually shot down May's proposed deals to exit, but also ruled out a no-deal Brexit with a non-binding vote last week. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:46 a.m.

The first trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is here, and it looks like the movie Quentin Tarantino has been preparing to make all his life.

The ninth film from the acclaimed director, who is known for his obsession with movie history and tropes, takes place in 1969 Hollywood and follows Rick Dalton, a washed-up actor played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his stunt double, played by Brad Pitt. The new footage shows that Tarantino went all out in faithfully recreating the era, complete with the director's beloved Cinerama theater on Sunset Boulevard. Even the title pays tribute to Sergio Leone, an influence on Tarantino.

Margot Robbie also stars in the film as actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered by followers of Charles Manson the year the movie takes place. But although that real-life tragedy hangs over the film, the trailer's got an upbeat tone, complete with DiCaprio dancing on a variety show and Pitt fighting "Bruce Lee" after informing him that accidentally killing a person will, in fact, land you in jail. The footage teases a killer soundtrack, laugh-out-loud dialogue, a celebration of the art of filmmaking, and, more than likely, horrifying violence. In other words, it's definitely a Tarantino movie.

The trailer doesn't highlight the film's full, ridiculously impressive cast, but it also consists of Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, James Mardsen, Tim Roth, Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, Damian Lewis, Bruce Dern, and Luke Perry.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood hits theaters on July 26. Watch the trailer below. Brendan Morrow

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