May 16, 2018

On Sunday, lawyer Michael Avenatti got the ball rolling on a strange and convoluted story involving Qatari diplomats, President Trump, Michael Cohen, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Ice Cube, Stephen Bannon, and the Trump-Russia collusion dossier compiled by ex-spy Christopher Steele. Avenatti, who represents porn star Stormy Daniels, released photos showing Ahmed al-Rumaihi, a top official at Qatar's state investment fund, getting in a Trump Tower elevator on Dec. 12, 2016, with Cohen and Qatar's foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani.

Al-Rumaihi's company, Sport Trinity, confirmed to CNN that he was at the Trump Tower meetings, and Qatar's press attaché told Britain's Daily Mail on Tuesday that al Thani was there, too, to meet with Trump transition officials. Also known: The Qatari wealth fund division al-Rumaihi ran from May 2016 to March 2017 bought a 19.5 percent stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft five days before the December 2016 meeting.

Then things get murky. An unidentified Kuwaiti official told the Daily Mail that in the last week, al-Rumaihi told him that in a December 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Flynn and Cohen, "Cohen told him to send millions to various members of the Trump family." Al-Rumaihi apparently refused, but Jeff Kwatinetz, a former business partner of al-Rumaihi's in a basketball league co-owned with Ice Cube, said in a sworn deposition last week that al-Rumaihi asked him to offer a bribe from Qatar to Bannon, a friend, in January, and when Kwatinetz said no, al-Rumaihi laughed and asked, "Do you think Flynn turned down our money?" (Al-Rumaihi denies saying this.)

Also publicly unsubstantiated is a claim in the Steele dossier that in summer 2016, a Rosneft official offered the Trump campaign, via adviser Carter Page, a stake in Rosneft if future President Trump scrapped Russia sanctions, as Slate explains. Helpfully, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell tried to tie all these strands together with Slate's Jeremy Stahl on Tuesday night, while The Atlantic's David Frum issued a note of caution. Watch below. Peter Weber

8:26 a.m.

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has died at 85, The New York Times reports. Chanel confirmed his death Tuesday morning.

Lagerfeld, an icon in his industry who referred to himself as a "caricature," served as the creative director for Fendi and Chanel into his 80s, per The Associated Press. The Times in its obituary described him as "the most prolific designer of the 20th and 21st centuries and a man whose career formed the prototype of the modern luxury fashion industry," while AP noted he had an "almost unprecedented impact" on the world of fashion.

During his time at Chanel, Lagerfeld worked with everyone from Madonna and Lady Gaga to Justin Bieber and Kristen Stewart,notes The Hollywood Reporter. No cause of death has been announced, but Lagerfeld had reportedly been ill and missed a number of recent events.

Tributes poured in for Lagerfeld on Tuesday, with Donatella Versace saying, "Karl your genius touched the lives of so many, especially Gianni and I. We will never forget your incredible talent and endless inspiration." Brendan Morrow

7:54 a.m.

On Monday night, Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear outlined plans to improve how America's largest Protestant denomination handles sexual abuse, especially of minors. His proposals, presented to the Souther Baptist Convention's executive committee at a meeting in Nashville, include providing free training for pastors and other ministry leaders, encouraging member churches to revisit their sexual abuse policies, breaking fellowship with member churches that show "wanton disregard for sexual abuse," and taking a look at how Baptist ministers are ordained.

Greear's presentation follows a bombshell report by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News about widespread sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches, including by some ministers who are both registered sex offenders and active pastors. But Greear, elected president in June following the surprise resignation of a previous leader who stepped down amid sexual misconduct and a broader #MeToo furor, had commissioned a study on the topic months before the reports were published. "The reason I formed this group last summer was we have known there was a problem and whatever had been done in the past, clearly was not enough," he told his fellow Southern Baptist leaders.

"If we don't get this right, our churches will not be a safe place for the lost," Greear said, according to his prepared remarks. "That's not something I'm okay with, and I know it's not something you're okay with." Southern Baptists "need to regard any exposure, any shining of light on abuse, as our friend, even if it makes us ask some uncomfortable questions about ourselves, publicly," he added. "This is not a fabricated story made up by people with a secular agenda. We've not taken reports of abuse in our churches as seriously as our gospel demands, and sometimes even worse, outright ignored or silenced victims." You can learn more about the Southern Baptist abuses and abusers in the sometimes disturbing Houston Chronicle report below. Peter Weber

7:41 a.m.

Most Americans disapprove of President Trump's declaration of a national emergency, a new poll shows.

Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults said in a survey released Tuesday by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist that they disapprove of Trump's declaration, with 36 percent approving. Among Republicans, 12 percent disapprove, while 94 percent of Democrats disapprove, and 63 percent of independents disapprove.

In general, respondents weren't convinced there really is a national emergency at the southern border, with 39 percent saying there is but 58 percent saying there is not. Additionally, 57 percent said Trump is misusing his presidential power by declaring a national emergency to fund a border wall, while 39 percent he's using it correctly.

Finally, 60 percent of respondents said the declaration should be challenged in court, and 54 percent of registered voters said it makes them less likely to vote for Trump in 2020; this includes 55 percent of independents.

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist conducted its poll by speaking to 807 adults over the phone from Feb. 15-17. The margin of error is 4.6 percentage points. Read more at NPR. Brendan Morrow

7:00 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is making a second run for the Democratic presidential nomination, he told Vermont Public Radio on Tuesday morning. "We began the political revolution in the 2016 campaign, and now it's time to move that revolution forward," Sanders told VPR's Bob Kinzel. "I wanted to let the people of the state of Vermont know about this first." He followed that up with an emailed announcement to supporters. Sanders is not the underdog he was in 2016, when he gave Hillary Clinton an unexpectedly strong challenge. But this year's primary is also much more crowded and more in line with Sanders' ideology.

"It turns out that many of the ideas that I talked about — that health care is a right, not a privilege, and that we've got to move toward a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system: very, very popular," he said. Kinzel asked if a 77-year-old white man is going to be a hard sell for Democrats this year, and Sanders said he shouldn't be judged on his looks: "We have got to look at candidates not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or gender, and not by their age. I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society that looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for."

Sanders also said that after recent revelations of sexual misconduct in his 2016 campaign, he'll provide staff and volunteers "a whole lot of education" about sexual harassment. And he highlighted the importance of beating President Trump in 2020. "I think the current occupant of the White House is an embarrassment to our country," he said. "I think he is a pathological liar" as well as "a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants." You can listen to Sanders' interview at Vermont Public Radio. Peter Weber

5:49 a.m.

President Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border on Friday, and Stephen Colbert asked CNN's Jake Taper what that actually meant on Monday's Late Show. "I think it just means that he couldn't get the money for his border wall so he's trying to figure out another way to get money for his border wall, and he's doing it in a way that has never been attempted before," Tapper said. "Presidents have declared national emergencies before, but not for this reason. Usually they do it, they're taking an act that Congress actually wants them to do," usually sanctions-related.

Out of some 60 declared national emergencies, Tapper added, "I don't think it's ever been done that a president fails to get Congress to pass something and then he just decides, 'Okay, well I'm just going to declare an emergency so I can have the money do what I want it to do." "It seems imperial," Colbert said, and Tapper allowed "it's certainly not what the law was intended to do." This will now go to the courts, but "I don't know that the U.S. Supreme Court would rule against this," he added, and Colbert pointed to Trump's singsong prediction that the Supreme Court will side with him. "You have to appreciate that he auto-tuned his own press conference," Tapper joked.

House Democrats will also force Senate Republicans to vote on Trump's declaration, something Senate Republicans really don't want to do, for political or ideological reasons, Tapper said, though how many Republicans will actually vote against it "is another matter," as always. "It's the groundhog presidency," Colbert suggested. "We come really close to having a check or a balance, and then the next day it's 'I Got You, Babe.'"

Tapper also suggested the White House doesn't have a lot of authority to call former FBI official Andrew McCabe an unreliable liar and parsed Rod Rosenstein's non-denials. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:25 a.m.

Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe explained on 60 Minutes Sunday night why he opened a counterintelligence operation into President Trump and Russia, and on Monday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert suggested an answer to McCabe's question about why Trump was acting so strange about Russia when he fired FBI Director James Comey: "Because he's guilty?"

McCabe said Trump gave him lots of reasons to suspect nefarious ties to Russia, including one exchange where the president reportedly told U.S. intelligence analysts he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin over them. Colbert added on to McCabe's quote from Trump: "I don't care what our intelligence agencies say, I believe Putin ... has the director's cut of the pee-pee tape."

McCable also discussed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's casual suggestion about invoking the 25th Amendment, irking some Republicans, Colbert said, poking fun at Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) vow to investigate whether the Justice Department and FBI plotted to remove Trump from office: "Yes, Graham says we need a federal investigation into the FBI. You know what that means: It's time to call the Federal Bureau of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Investigators. Learn all about it in the new hit CBS midseason replacement series The FBFBII." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:24 a.m.

Roman Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy, but infamously, not all priests keep that vow. And whether it's through a consensual affair or rape, priests sometimes father children. "Now, the Vatican has confirmed, apparently for the first time, that its department overseeing the world's priests has general guidelines for what to do when clerics break celibacy vows and father children," The New York Times reports.

"I can confirm that these guidelines exist," Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told the Times. "It is an internal document," created in 2017 based on a decade's worth of procedures, he added, and its "fundamental principle" is the "protection of the child." Gisotti said the document "requests" that the father leave the priesthood to "assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child." Canon lawyers tell the Times there's nothing in church law requiring a priest who fathers a child to step down. Msgr. Andrea Ripa, under secretary in the Congregation for the Clergy, told the Times that while "it is impossible" to do more than ask such priests to resign, "if you don't ask, you will be dismissed."

There are more than 400,000 Catholic priests worldwide but no reliable estimate for the number of children of priests, though the website for one support group, Coping International, has 50,000 registered users in 175 countries, according to the group's founder, Vincent Doyle. Doyle, an Irish psychotherapist who was 28 when he learned the priest he believed to be his godfather was actually his biological father, will meet with senior prelates in Rome this week when the world's bishops gather to discuss the Catholic child sex abuse scandal. He doesn't think all priests who father children should be laicized or fired.

Still, the "children of the ordained," as the church apparently calls them, are "the next scandal," Doyle told the Times. "There are kids everywhere." Read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

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