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March 18, 2019

Federal authorities raided Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy's Los Angeles office in 2018, ProPublica reported on Monday.

The Justice Department has been investigating whether Broidy, former national deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee, tried to profit off of his influence within the Trump administration with foreign entities, as The Washington Post previously reported. For example, The Wall Street Journal has reported that he was in negotiations to earn $75 million if the Justice Department stopped an investigation into a Malaysian business.

Citing a sealed search warrant, ProPublica writes that authorities in raiding Broidy's office were "seeking records related to his dealings with foreign officials and Trump administration associates" and were investigating potential "conspiracy, money laundering and violations of the law barring covert lobbying on behalf of foreign officials." They were reportedly seeking evidence related to a variety of people and entities, including former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, and they received authorization to use Broidy's face or fingerprints to unlock phones.

Brody stepped down from the Republican National Committee in 2018 after reports he had made a hush-money payment to a Playboy Playmate he had an affair with, per The Wall Street Journal. This payment was set up by President Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Broidy, who resigned from the Republican National Committee after a report that he made a hush-money payment to a Playboy model he had an affair with and impregnated, through his lawyer has said he has "never agreed to work for, been retained by nor been compensated by any foreign government for any interaction with the United States Government, ever." Brendan Morrow

March 8, 2019

The Jussie Smollett saga has come full circle.

The Empire actor was indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct on Friday, CBS Chicago reports. The charges come after more than a month of confusion after Smollett said he was the victim of a homophobic and racist attack, which police now say was a fabrication.

A grand jury released the new charges against Smollett on Thursday and scheduled an arraignment for March 14, per CBS Chicago. The charges come in two sets: One set covering what Smollett originally told police about the attack, and one covering his interview with police later that day, ABC7 Chicago notes. Smollett faces a potential sentence of probation to four years in prison, and ABC7 Chicago says he'll probably arrive at a plea deal.

Smollett first reported the attack in late January, alleging two men assaulted him while yelling slurs. After an investigation, police alleged Smollett staged the attack because he was dissatisfied with his Empire salary and charged him with one count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. More scathing was Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson's statement that Smollett "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career."

After being released on bail after his first charge, Smollett continued to claim he was innocent. Still, Fox opted to remove Smollett's role from the last two episodes of Empire's ongoing season as the legal process continued. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 8, 2019

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was arrested two weeks ago after allegedly soliciting a prostitute at a Florida spa — and he's far from the spa's only big-name connection.

Li Yang, the founder of the chain of spas which the Miami Herald says "gained a reputation for offering sexual services," has visited President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach. That's where she watched Kraft's Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams a month ago — and where she snapped one of several photos with Trump and his family on several different days, the Herald has learned.

In photos posted to her Instagram and Facebook pages, Yang is seen posing with Trump and Donald Trump Jr., as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), all at Mar-a-Lago. She and "close relatives" donated more than $58,000 to a pro-Trump PAC and Trump's campaign, the Herald notes. Yang had been invited to the White House for events under Trump's Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative, and attended at least two AAPI events, the Herald reveals via Yang's Facebook. She also attended Trump's inauguration.

Kraft was charged with soliciting a prostitute who was in "sexual servitude" at the spa as part of a major prostitution ring bust last month. Yang was not charged in the bust, and sold that particular spa to another businesswoman around 2013. In an interview, Yang said she never broke the law, but "did not answer questions about whether she knew of the allegations that therapists in her spas were offering sex," the Herald says.

Trump and Kraft have been friends for years, and Trump reacted to Kraft's arrest by saying it was "very sad, but I was very surprised to see it." A spokesperson for Kraft denied Kraft "engaged in any illegal activity." The White House, Trump campaign and Trump Organization did not return requests for comment. Read more at the Miami Herald. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 4, 2019

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced during an interview Monday with a conservative news outlet that he will leave his post at the end of President Trump's first term.

"I will certainly finish out this term," Carson told Newsmax TV, but he's interested in "returning to the private sector because I think you have just as much influence, maybe more, there."

Under Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, the number of HUD properties cited for health and safety violations has increased, and he's been criticized for spending tens of thousands of dollars on office furnishings, including $31,000 on a dining set. Catherine Garcia

March 4, 2019

Pope Francis announced Monday that the Vatican will release documents pertaining to Pope Pius XII's disputed legacy during the Holocaust after decades of Jewish groups calling for the achieves to be opened, The Washington Post reports. "The church is not afraid of history," Pope Francis said.

The Vatican remained neutral during World War II, and Pius, who was pope between 1939 and 1958, did not publicly denounce Nazism. Yet supporters claim Pope Pius XII, who is on the path to sainthood, worked quietly to save Jews and other targets of Nazi persecution.

Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee's director of interreligious affairs, called the Vatican's move "important" in helping "to acknowledge both the failures as well as the valiant efforts made during the period of the Shoah."

Normally the Vatican opens archives 70 years after the end of a pontificate, The New York Times reports. Pius' archives will open on the 81st anniversary of his election to pope, in March 2020. Jeva Lange

March 4, 2019

Former two-term Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper became the 14th Democrat to enter the 2020 presidential primary on Monday. In a statement, Hickenlooper said, "I've proven again and again I can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver."

A purple-state moderate who'd previously sparked rumors of a joint presidential ticket with Ohio's former Republican Gov. John Kasich, Hickenlooper has rallied for gay rights, Planned Parenthood, and — having been governor during the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting — gun control.

Hickenlooper's announcement video is to be followed by a Good Morning America appearance, a kick-off rally in Denver, and a "two-day tour of Iowa." Jeva Lange

February 28, 2019

Pakistan says it will release a captured Indian pilot tomorrow as a "goodwill gesture" amid escalating tensions between the two countries, The Associated Press reports.

India on Tuesday had launched an airstrike in Pakistan, with the country saying it hit a terrorist training camp after a deadly attack earlier this month. Pakistan responded by carrying out airstrikes of its own, also shooting down an Indian jet and capturing a pilot on Wednesday. Video of the man "blindfolded and apparently with blood on his face" was shown on Pakistani television, reports The Washington Post, with India saying it "strongly objected to Pakistan’s vulgar display of an injured personnel."

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that the pilot will be released and that "Pakistan wants peace, but it should not be treated as our weakness." He also said that releasing the pilot is a "first step to open negotiations," per The New York Times.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had previously said that India and Pakistan, both of which have nuclear weapons, should "avoid escalation at any cost," while President Trump on Wednesday said, "We've been in the middle trying to help both out to see if we can get some organization and peace, and I think probably that's going to be happening." Brendan Morrow

February 28, 2019

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un abruptly ended their second summit early on Thursday and canceled a scheduled lunch and signing ceremony. Trump and Kim "had very good and constructive meetings" in Hanoi, the White House said in a statement. "No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future." While reporters were waiting for Kim and Trump to show up for lunch after a round of talks that included advisers, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was heading back to his hotel and would give a news conference two hours earlier than expected, at 2 a.m. EST.

The summit had been cordial and even friendly before its abrupt end. About an hour earlier, Trump had sounded cautiously optimistic, saying "we'll ultimately have a deal," but that "doesn't mean we're doing it in one day, in one meeting." He added there's no "rush" for North Korea to denuclearize, though "I appreciate no testing." In what's believed to be a first, Kim took questions from foreign reporters, saying through a translator that "it's too early to say" whether there will be a deal but "I would not say I’m pessimistic." Asked about denuclearization, Kim said, "If I'm not willing to do that ... I won't be here right now." "That might be the best answer you’ve ever heard," Trump said. But Trump also answered a question directed at Kim about human rights in North Korea. "We're discussing everything," Trump said. Peter Weber

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