Did they pay to play? Federal investigators in New York are reportedly examining whether President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC illegally received money from foreign donors in the Middle East seeking access to his administration. Prosecutors are also said to be investigating whether any of the $107 million in donations was misspent. The criminal probe, which is in its early stages, is partly rooted in materials seized in the government’s case against ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison this week.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Chérif Chekatt, suspected of killing three people at the city’s Christmas market Tuesday, was shot and killed after a massive 48-hour manhunt, authorities said. The 29-year-old Strasbourg native, who was previously flagged as a potential security threat, allegedly attacked shoppers with a gun and knife before fleeing. On Thursday, he opened fire on police after they encountered him on the street not far from the market. “Citizens, like me, are relieved,” said Mayor Roland Ries. Five people remain in serious condition after being wounded in the shooting.
Despite warnings from the British prime minister that her country’s divorce agreement with the European Union was “at risk,” EU leaders showed little appetite for helping May sell her unpopular deal at home. At a summit in Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker — who expressed frustration at the lack of fresh ideas from the U.K. — said tweaking the deal wasn’t an option. One EU diplomat reportedly described May as “unprofessional” in her quest for concessions, while another suggested the beleaguered leader “didn’t know what she wanted.”
In a pair of resolutions aimed at Saudi Arabia, the Senate voted 56-41 Thursday to end U.S. military support for the kingdom’s war in Yemen, as well as unanimously condemned Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the dissident journalist’s murder. “It speaks to the values that we hold dear,” said Republican Sen. Bob Corker. While the measures are mostly symbolic — House Republicans appear unlikely to approve such legislation — they suggest that bipartisan pressure on President Trump over his support for Riyadh will only grow.
Know This: Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to act as an agent of the Russian government in the United States. Authorities say a 7-year-old immigrant girl died of dehydration and shock after being taken into U.S. Border Patrol custody last week. And the Yemeni government agreed to a cease-fire with Houthi rebels yesterday in the strategic port city of Hodeidah.
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It’s a giant leap for space tourism. Two test pilots for Richard Branson’s company successfully visited space Thursday in the first manned mission from American soil since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011. Their craft, the VSS Unity, hitched a ride 43,000 feet into the sky on the VMS Eve before being released and rocketing at three times the speed of sound to 51.4 miles above Earth. Unity then re-entered the atmosphere and glided back to the surface. The company is ramping up to send paying passengers into suborbital flight.
Spam emails targeted public buildings and institutions across the U.S., Canada and New Zealand this week, demanding tens of thousands of dollars in bitcoin to prevent the detonation of alleged bombs. The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, was evacuated after being contacted Thursday, while Columbine High School in Colorado went into lockdown over a separate threat. It’s unclear if any payments were made, and no bombs have been found. The effort resembles a blackmailing scam earlier this year that threatened to release webcam footage of victims watching porn if they didn’t pay up.
First spotted in New Jersey last summer, the Asian longhorned tick is the first invasive tick species in the U.S. for at least 50 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How they got from East Asia to America is unknown, but the arachnids are spreading due to favorable conditions in the eastern part of the country. Females can reproduce asexually, so they multiply quickly: They’ve already spread to eight more states and could travel north into Canada. Prone to spreading disease, longhorned ticks pose a threat to livestock.
A lawyer for Luke Munday, who’s accused of hitting his pregnant girlfriend while playing Fortnite and broadcasting it on Twitch, argued his client should be allowed to skip his next court date because of the media attention on his case. The 26-year-old Australian was arrested Sunday night after other gamers heard a woman crying in the background. She reportedly told them, “You hear that, all you people out there? He just hit me in the face.” Munday, who has prior convictions for violent offenses, is out on bail.
Owner Robert Sarver has had a change of heart after threatening the Phoenix City Council that he’d take his franchise elsewhere — like Seattle or Las Vegas — if the city didn’t partially fund a 15-year, $230 million renovation for the Talking Stick Resort Arena. His original remarks drew a swift backlash from fans, who are already enduring their team owning the worst record in the NBA: 5-24. In a video posted to Twitter, Sarver said he was “100 percent committed” to keeping the squad in downtown Phoenix “where they belong.”