Political News

Michael Cohen surrenders to FBI, plea deal expected soon

Michael Cohen surrenders to FBI, plea deal expected soon

(CNN) - Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, has surrendered to the FBI ahead of a 4 p.m. court proceeding, where the government is expected to disclose a plea deal, acco ... Continue Reading
Congress still doesn't know what Trump said to Putin in Helsinki

Congress still doesn't know what Trump said to Putin in Helsinki

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Congressional lawmakers still know very little about what was said during last month's one-on-one meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a point m ... Continue Reading
URGENT - Michael Cohen has surrendered to the FBI

URGENT - Michael Cohen has surrendered to the FBI

(CNN) -- Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, has surrendered to the FBI ahead of a 4 p.m. ET court proceeding where the government is expected to disclose a plea deal, a law enforcement source tells CNN.
Ward says appearing with 'Pizzagate' conspiracist necessary to attract campaign attention

Ward says appearing with 'Pizzagate' conspiracist necessary to attract campaign attention

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Senate hopeful Kelli Ward explained her decision to invite onto her bus tour a far-right commentator who promoted the infamous "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory as a necessar ... Continue Reading
US officials express 'confidence' that al Qaeda bombmaker is dead

US officials express 'confidence' that al Qaeda bombmaker is dead

(CNN) - The US believes that Ibrahim al-Asiri, a master al Qaeda bombmaker, is dead.

The Saudi Arabian native was the mastermind behind the "underwear bomb" attempt to detonate a flight above the skies of Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.

A senior US official expressed "confidence that he was killed."

Two US officials told CNN al-Asiri was killed by a CIA drone last year. The CIA is not commenting on his fate.

CNN reported last week that al-Asiri may have been killed in Yemen last year, according to a UN team that tracks terrorist groups.

Counterterrorism analysts say there should be significant skepticism over al-Asiri's possible demise for one major reason: His group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has not released any statement acknowledging his death, nor a eulogy celebrating his martyrdom.

Al-Asiri is widely credited with perfecting miniaturized bombs with little or no metal content that could make it past some airport security screening. That ability made him a direct threat to the US, and some of his plots had come close to reaching their targets in the US.

In addition to the "underwear bomb" attempt, al-Asiri was behind the so-called "printer bomb" plot. That plan saw him send explosive devices inside printers to the US. The two packages were being shipped from Yemen through Dubai and the UK in October 2010.

Both were addressed to synagogues in Chicago.

Al-Asiri appeared to have taken on a more public-facing role within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in recent years, including purportedly recording a speech the group released in 2016.

The most recent public statement attributed to him was a written speech released by the group on September 12, 2017, to coincide with the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The speech promised an ongoing war against the United States.

CNN cannot independently verify he authored these statements.

Few expect al-Asiri's expertise to die with him. Officials believe he trained a number of apprentices. And since 2014, US officials have been concerned that bomb-making expertise built up by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has migrated to other groups, including al Qaeda operatives in Syria.

Meanwhile, ISIS is among the terrorist groups that have worked to develop laptop bombs, prompting large electronics to be temporarily banned in the cabin on certain flights to the United States and the UK from the Middle East last year.

Judge tells Manafort jury to keep deliberating after it asks about impact of not reaching verdict on one count

Judge tells Manafort jury to keep deliberating after it asks about impact of not reaching verdict on one count

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) - The judge in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort urged the jury Tuesday to keep deliberating after it asked what happens if it can't reach consensus on one of 18 counts.

"It is your duty to agree upon a verdict if you can do so," Judge T.S. Ellis said. He encouraged each juror to make their own decisions on each count, but if some were in the minority on a decision, they could think about what the other jurors believe.

Give "deference" to each other and "listen to each others' arguments."

"You're the exclusive judges," he added. "Take all the time which you feel is necessary."

The jurors asked about the impact of not agreeing on all counts.

"If we cannot come to a consensus for a single count, how can we fill in the verdict sheet?" the jury wrote in a note to Ellis.

Without jurors present, Ellis also told the courtroom that he will not ask the jury for a partial verdict at this time.

Manafort is charged with 18 counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and hiding foreign bank accounts in the first case brought to trial by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

The trial carries major implications for the future of Mueller's investigation. Trump has repeatedly called the probe a "witch hunt" that hasn't found evidence of Russian collusion with his campaign, and his allies in and out of the White House say the special counsel should wrap things up.

Prosecutors say Manafort collected $65 million in foreign bank accounts from 2010 to 2014 and spent more than $15 million on luxury purchases in the same period, including high-end clothing, real estate, landscaping and other big-ticket items.

They also allege that Manafort lied to banks in order to take out more than $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian political work dried up in 2015, and they accused him of hiding the foreign bank accounts from federal authorities. Manafort received loans from the Federal Savings Bank after one of its executives sought a position in the Trump campaign and administration, according to prosecutors.

Manafort faces up to 305 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

Intel protests to Trump -- quiet and loud -- gain momentum

Intel protests to Trump -- quiet and loud -- gain momentum

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Retired CIA analyst Gail Helt has lived her life largely in the shadows. But after President Donald Trump revoked former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance, Helt joined ... Continue Reading
Susan Collins says Kavanaugh told her Roe v. Wade is settled law

Susan Collins says Kavanaugh told her Roe v. Wade is settled law

(CNN) - Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, told Republican Sen. Susan Collins he agreed that Roe v. Wade is settled law, Collins told reporters Tuesday."We talked about w ... Continue Reading
Russia's 2018 hacking efforts are nowhere near what they were in 2016 -- yet

Russia's 2018 hacking efforts are nowhere near what they were in 2016 -- yet

(CNN) - On Monday night, Microsoft announced it had discovered that an operation with links to the Russian military was targeting conservative think tanks and the Senate with attempted spearfishing h ... Continue Reading
Warren pitches new anti-corruption plan, calls Trump administration 'stinkiest example' of old problem

Warren pitches new anti-corruption plan, calls Trump administration 'stinkiest example' of old problem

(CNN) - Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled a series of new planks Tuesday in her wider plan to stem corporate influence on government and root out corruption in Washington. Introduced as a potential 2 ... Continue Reading
Russians targeted Senate and conservative think tanks, Microsoft says

Russians targeted Senate and conservative think tanks, Microsoft says

(CNN) - Parts of an operation linked to Russian military intelligence targeting the US Senate and conservative think tanks that advocated for tougher policies against Russia were thwarted last week, Microsoft announced early Tuesday.

The disclosure, coming less than three months ahead of the 2018 midterms, demonstrates new ways in which Russia is attempting to destabilize US institutions. The news also places additional pressure on President Donald Trump to take action, even though he downplayed Russia's involvement as recently as Monday.

In its announcement, Microsoft said it executed a court order giving it control of six websites created by a group known as Fancy Bear. The group was behind the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee and directed by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence unit, according to cybersecurity firms.

The websites could have been used to launch cyberattacks on candidates and other political groups ahead of November's elections, the company said.

Microsoft said the domains were "associated with the Russian government and known as Strontium, or alternatively Fancy Bear or APT28." The company said it has no evidence that the domains were used in successful attacks but that it was working with the potential target organizations.

Microsoft argued in court that the domains were posing as some of its company's services.

"Attackers want their attacks to look as realistic as possible and they therefore create websites and URLs that look like sites their targeted victims would expect to receive email from or visit," Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog posted to the company's website on Monday night.

Although the websites could be used to trick members of the Senate and think tanks, they also could have been used to dupe other people or entities that interact with them.

Think tanks have criticized Russia

Hackers could have used the domains to send emails to Senate staffers or people working for the Hudson Institute or the International Republican Institute in an attempt to trick them into handing over information, like their passwords.

This form of attack, known as spearphishing, was successfully used to target Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta in 2016. Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill's staff was similarly targeted by a Russian group last year. McCaskill has said the attempt was unsuccessful, and Microsoft took control of the domain that targeted her staff via a court order in Virginia earlier this year.

Among the websites for which a judge in the Eastern District of Virginia granted Microsoft control were those with domain names designed to resemble sites used by congressional staff. They include "senate.group" and "adfs-senate.email."

Other domains were designed to look like they were related to the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, and the International Republican Institute, whose board includes six serving senators, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Gen. H.R. McMaster.

Both think tanks have been critical of Russia.

The Hudson Institute runs the Kleptocracy Initiative, which has an advisory council with several Russia experts and focuses on revealing how "financial secrecy fuels globalized corruption and threats to democracy" and frequently scrutinizes on the Kremlin.

The International Republican Institute has been working to promote democracy since the 1980s and receives funding through the US State Department, US Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy. IRI has also been critical of Russia, and the Russian Federation labeled the group an "undesirable organization" in 2016.

The institute's board of directors includes several Republicans in Congress. Arizona Sen. John McCain led the board earlier this year and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan took over for McCain. Both have been critical of Trump.

"This apparent spearphishing attempt against the International Republican Institute and other organizations is consistent with the campaign of meddling that the Kremlin has waged against organizations that support democracy and human rights," Daniel Twining, IRI's president, said in a statement Tuesday morning. "It is clearly designed to sow confusion, conflict and fear among those who criticize (Russian President Vladimir Putin's) authoritarian regime."

Kremlin denies involvement

The Kremlin on Tuesday denied any knowledge of attempts to interfere in US elections.

"Our reaction has already become traditional: we don't know which hackers they are talking about, we don't know what is meant about the impact on elections," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in response to a CNN question. "From the US, we hear that there was not any meddling in the elections. Whom exactly they are talking about, what is the proof, and on what grounds are they reaching such conclusions?"

He added, "We don't understand, and there is no information, so we treat such allegations accordingly."

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump -- who has openly and repeatedly questioned US intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of harming Hillary Clinton's campaign to aid his bid -- blamed special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the matter for undermining his efforts to improve relations with Moscow.

Mueller's investigation has "played right into the Russians -- if it was Russia -- they played right into the Russians' hands," the President said.

But the President's own Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, delivered a speech at the Hudson Institute last month, in which he called Russia "the most aggressive foreign actor" participating in efforts to undermine American democracy.

Also last month, the Justice Department announced indictments against 12 members of the GRU, as part of Mueller's investigation, for allegedly disseminating information it had stolen from the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016.

The indictment laid bare how two units of the GRU had been allegedly responsible for the intrusions, putting names to a group that had only been known under monikers like Fancy Bear and APT28.

Recent attacks

The news comes less than a week after it emerged that two Democratic congressional primary candidates were hacked earlier this year.

The campaigns of Dr. Hans Keirstead and David Min, both of whom lost in California's June primaries, were breached, but the groups responsible for the attacks have not been made public and may not be known.

Microsoft said Monday that, in light of the ongoing threats to political groups in the US, it was launching a specialized cybersecurity protection service called AccountGuard.

The company says it will offer the service to all candidates and campaign officials, as well as think tanks and political organizations that use Microsoft Office 365, at no additional cost.

The initiative is part of Microsoft's Defending Democracy Program, which it launched in April. The company said it plans to roll out AccountGuard in other parts of the world.

This story has been updated with additional context about the Russians' attempted interference.

Here's what's actually going on behind closed doors at the Manafort trial

Here's what's actually going on behind closed doors at the Manafort trial

(CNN) - The jury in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's trial is now in its fourth day of deliberations. Conventional wisdom would tell you that the longer the jury goes on without a decis ... Continue Reading
EPA rolls back Obama-era coal pollution rules as Trump heads to West Virginia

EPA rolls back Obama-era coal pollution rules as Trump heads to West Virginia

WASHINGTON (CNN) - As his Environmental Protection Agency delivers its latest blow to environmental regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions, President Donald Trump is heading into the heart of coal country to deliver the good news.

Trump will join supporters in Charleston, West Virginia, for a political rally on Tuesday to celebrate his administration's proposal to allow states to set their own emissions standards for coal-fueled power plants.

The move would reverse Obama administration efforts to combat climate change and marks the fulfillment of a campaign promise at the heart of his appeal in coal-producing states like West Virginia -- an appeal embodied by Trump's 2016 campaign stops in the coal country of West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, where Trump supporters waved "Trump Digs Coal" signs and where the President-to-be donned a coal-mining helmet.

The EPA Tuesday morning formally unveiled the details of its new plan to devolve regulation of coal-fired power plants back to the states, one that is expected to give a boost to the coal industry and increase carbon emissions nationwide.

The move is expected to spark an intense legal battle, with environmental groups already readying legal challenges to the new regulations.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Tuesday argued the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan -- the policy being replaced by this week's proposal -- "exceeded the agency's legal authority" and argued the old regulations led to rising energy prices which have "hurt low and middle income Americans the most."

EPA says the rule could cut cut electricity prices by 0.2% to 0.5% around 2025.

The EPA's own analysis of the Trump administration proposal also estimated that it will lead to an increase in pollution-related illnesses, like asthma, and a rise in premature deaths.

Gina McCarthy, the Obama administration EPA chief who finalized the Clean Power Plan, called the Trump administration's proposal "just another step in industry's playbook to dismantle regulations that they find inconvenient but are absolutely essential for our public health and our kids' future."

"It's really all about playing to their base, not doing their job to protect public health," McCarthy told CNN's Alisyn Camerota Tuesday morning on "New Day." "And so, this is another one of those rules that is very long, but it actually in the end does absolutely nothing to protect public health or our kids' future."

The move is just the latest effort by the Trump administration to revive an ailing coal industry and strip climate change-fighting regulations established by the Obama administration. He previously announced plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accords, calling it an unfair deal for Americans.

"I was elected by the citizens of Pittsburgh," Trump said at the time, "not Paris."

Those moves have been rebuffed by California and a dozen other states, which have led a push to maintain high environmental standards and legally challenge the Trump administration's rollback of the Obama-era rules.

In a statement on Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown decried the Trump administration's latest proposal as "a declaration of war against America and all of humanity."

"It will not stand," he said. "Truth and common sense will triumph over Trump's insanity."

Trump will tout his new proposals Tuesday night in West Virginia, where Republicans are vying to wrench a hotly contested Senate seat from Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin.

Trump won the state in 2016 with 68% of the vote and is hoping his popularity will lift the Republican Senate nominee, the state's attorney general Patrick Morrisey, above his opponent.

Morrisey's office on Tuesday seized on the Trump administration's announcement, calling it a "critical step" to reverse the impact Obama administration regulations had on the coal industry.

Can the Republican Party survive Donald Trump?

Can the Republican Party survive Donald Trump?

(CNN) - Mike Murphy has long been on the "A" list of the Republican consulting world, having served as a lead adviser to Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, among many others. Since the rise of President Donal ... Continue Reading
Trump claims 'even James Clapper' thinks Brennan has 'gone totally off the rails'

Trump claims 'even James Clapper' thinks Brennan has 'gone totally off the rails'

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that one of his biggest critics in the intelligence community, James Clapper, is on his side in his dispute with former CIA Director John Br ... Continue Reading
New Russia meddling claims put Trump on spot over Putin

New Russia meddling claims put Trump on spot over Putin

(CNN) - President Donald Trump is facing fresh political heat over his relationship with Vladimir Putin over details of a new Russian hacking strike against US democracy that emerged hours after he a ... Continue Reading
Nazi labor camp guard living in New York deported to Germany

Nazi labor camp guard living in New York deported to Germany

(CNN) - A former Nazi labor camp guard who has been living in the United States for decades has finally been deported to Germany after years of diplomatic wrangling, the White House announced on Tues ... Continue Reading
First on CNN: Group targets key House race voters on local environmental issues

First on CNN: Group targets key House race voters on local environmental issues

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The League of Conservation Voters, an organization that has spent the last two years fighting President Donald Trump's environmental agenda, plans to spend over $15 million in helpi ... Continue Reading
Trump: There'll 'most likely' be another summit with Kim

Trump: There'll 'most likely' be another summit with Kim

(CNN) - US President Donald Trump said another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would "most likely" happen but offered no details on timing or venue in an interview with Reuters Monday. ... Continue Reading
UK foreign secretary to call for more sanctions on Russia during first US visit

UK foreign secretary to call for more sanctions on Russia during first US visit

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Making his first visit to the US since taking office, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to deliver a speech Tuesday that will call on the European Union "to ensure i ... Continue Reading