Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Sarah Tate Chambers
Wednesday, August 22, 2018, 3:16 PM

On Tuesday, President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax fraud and two counts of campaign finance violations, reports the New York Times. Cohen implicated the president in the latter two charges, alleging that “a candidate for federal office” directed him to pay two women during the 2016 campaign in exchange for silence about reported sexual relationships with Trump.

A jury in the Eastern District of Virginia found former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on eight counts of filing false tax documents, bank fraud, and foreign bank account registration, writes Politico. Due to lack of jury consensus, the judge declared a mistrial on the remaining ten charges regarding failure to file reports on foreign bank and financial accounts, bank fraud conspiracy, and bank fraud. Rather than setting a sentencing date, the judge gave the government an August 29th deadline to decide whether to retry the 10 counts.

Kabul was hit with sustained rocket attacks on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. The attacks came during the Islamic holiday, Eid al-Adha. No casualties were reported, and the Taliban released a statement denying involvement.

Dozens of Army reservists were reinstated on Tuesday after being abruptly discharged from the Mil­i­tar­y Ac­ces­sions Vi­tal to the National In­ter­est (MAVNI) program, reports the Post. The AP reported in July that recruits participating in MAVNI, which offers an expedited path to citizenship to those with critical skills in exchange for military service, were suddenly discharged. A total of 149 cases of discharge are being reviewed.

Facebook announced that it removed 652 pages originating from Iran for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” along with additional unrelated accounts linked to Russia. The announcement outlined a detailed account of coordinated disinformation and propaganda campaign using Instagram and Facebook from July 2015 to August 2018. More than $6,000 was spent on advertising on the two platforms and three events were planned. In its statement, Facebook noted that it investigated some of the pages for several months, acknowledging the tension between quick removal of fraudulent accounts and the needs of ongoing investigations.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.-Calif.) and his wife were indicted on numerous charges, including misuse of campaign funds and bank fraud, according to CNN. The indictment alleges that the Hunters spent more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Mikhaila Fogel, Susan Hennessey, Quinta Jurecic, and Benjamin Wittes addressed seven questions brought up by the Cohen plea agreement and Manafort’s conviction.

Bob Bauer discussed the implications of the campaign finance counts in the Cohen plea agreement.

Nathan Swire rounded up the news and commentary related to the South China Sea in the regular feature Water Wars.

Jurecic posted the Michael Cohen plea agreement, criminal information, and waiver of indictment.

Fogel provided a link to livestream the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs’ hearing on Russia Sanctions. She also posted a recent indictment against two individuals accused of acting covertly on behalf of Iran, along with a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia holding that the government need not disclose a memo outlining the legal justification for the April 2017 airstrikes in Syria.

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