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December 10, 2018

In court filings Friday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York linked President Trump to two crimes his former lawyer Michael Cohen admitted to committing on his behalf in 2016. "What the prosecutors did not say in Mr. Cohen's sentencing memorandum," The New York Times reported Sunday, "is that they have continued to scrutinize what other executives in the president's family business may have known about those crimes, which involved hush-money payments to two women who had said they had affairs with Mr. Trump," porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The federal prosecutors did not directly accuse Trump of committing a crime, but they said Friday that "with respect to both payments, [Cohen] acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump. Cohen has said he believed Trump personally approved the Trump Organization's decision to reimburse him for the hush payments, and he told prosecutors that the company's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, was involved in discussions about the payments, the Times reports.

"While the prevailing view at the Justice Department is that a sitting president cannot be indicted, the prosecutors in Manhattan could consider charging him after leaving office," the Times notes. Trump still owns the Trump Organization through a trust, and the company and its executives — including Trump's children — are not protected by the Justice Department opinion against prosecuting Trump in office.

"There's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee, said on CBS's Face The Nation. "The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump." Schiff has previously said the intelligence committee will examine Trump's family business. Peter Weber

5:04 p.m.

Jordan Peele's Us is about to tear up the box office — and accomplish a feat that has become depressingly rare.

The latest film from the director of Get Out is set to be one of the few movies not based on anything to top the box office since 2017, observes IndieWire's David Ehrlich. As he points out, the only films in the past two years that were original stories and beat the competition were Get Out, Dunkirk, Coco, The Hitman's Bodyguard, Happy Death Day, and Night School.

In that time, just about everything else has been a sequel, a reboot, or a film set in a cinematic universe, plus movies based on real people (although technically, Dunkirk is also based on a real event, so Us would be seventh if this were included). Thus far in 2019, the films that have debuted at number one include three films based on a comic book or manga, three sequels, and one remake.

At the moment, Us is projected to make about $64 million over the weekend, per The Hollywood Reporter, which would make it the biggest opening ever for an original R-rated horror film. Clearly, the horror genre has played a major role in keeping audacious, original movies alive at the box office, making up half of Ehrlich's list — with two being helmed by Peele himself. Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill observed on Friday that horror is "the last genre you can make $100 million in while discussing smartly the problems that plague both the individual and our society." After the success of Us, expect Peele to show back up on the list many more times in the years to come. Brendan Morrow

4:41 p.m.

Floodwaters in Mozambique are now visible from outer space in what has the potential to become one of the region's deadliest weather disasters.

Extreme flooding has formed an inland ocean in central Mozambique, reports CNN, and entire villages and towns have been overwhelmed by the rising waters.

As many as 400 bodies line the banks of the coastal city of Beira, per CNN, where nearby villages were completely submerged by the flooding.

There have been at least 200 confirmed deaths in Mozambique since Cyclone Idai tore through the country last weekend. Actual death counts are estimated to top 1,000, with more than 400,000 people having lost their homes.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the humanitarian needs in the region will "only deepen" in the future, reports CNN. Marianne Dodson

3:54 p.m.

NASA's astronauts are doing a bit of spring cleaning and upgrading.

Two astronauts, Anne McClain and Nick Hague spent their Friday swapping out dead batteries on the International Space Station in the first of two scheduled spacewalks this month, NASA announced. The battery-wielding duo upgraded three of six nickel-hydrogen batteries that had lost their juice after a long run in space, according to NASA.

"Just like your rechargeable batteries at home, eventually over time, they're not going to recharge as well," Kenny Todd, the missions operations manager for the ISS, said during a press conference, per The Verge. "They're not going to hold as much charge when it comes to putting loads on them." The batteries were replaced with newer, more powerful lithium-ion versions during the 6-hour-long spacewalk.

There will be a second round of battery replacements next week during NASA's first-ever all-female spacewalk with Christina Koch and McClain.

The expedition was the first spacewalk for McClain and Hague, but the 214th overall, says NASA. Watch footage of the swap below, via USA Today. Tatyana Bellamy-Walker

3:47 p.m.

GoFundMe is taking a stand against anti-vaxxers by removing any campaigns that promote misinformation about vaccines, reports The Daily Beast.

The decision comes amid heightened concern over parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, as well as an increase in measles outbreaks across the U.S.

The Daily Beast found that anti-vaxxers have been able to bring in over $170,000 over the past four years through GoFundMe. Spokesman for the company Bobby Whithorne told The Daily Beast the promotion of vaccine misinformation would "violate GoFundMe's terms of service" and therefore will be removed.

Melissa Sullivan, the executive vice president for Health Choice Connecticut which advocates for families making their own health decisions, told The Daily Beast that the decision was a "violation of the First Amendment."

GoFundMe's decision follows in the footsteps of Facebook and YouTube, both of which have recently announced plans to reduce anti-vaccine-related content on their sites. Marianne Dodson

3:40 p.m.

President Trump says he will nominate Stephen Moore to serve on the Federal Reserve Board — and it may be because of a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Moore, a former member of the The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, on March 13 co-authored a column titled "The Fed is a Threat to Growth." In it, he and Louis Woodhill criticize the Federal Reserve, asking "what problem were they trying to solve" with its "inexplicable" rate hikes. The column also argues that subsequent "market turbulence ... was all the Fed's doing."

Trump has voiced similar complaints about the Federal Reserve, and the op-ed backs him up by saying that "when President Trump fumed that the Fed's rate increases were smothering his growth policies, he wasn't entirely wrong."

Last week, Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow showed Trump this op-ed, reports Bloomberg, and Trump commented that Moore should have been appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve. He reportedly then told Kudlow to get in touch with Moore about putting him on the board, with Trump then calling Moore himself earlier this week.

Moore, who also served as an economic adviser during Trump's campaign, has long been critical of Fed Chair Jerome Powell, writing last year that he should resign and "admit that his policies have had disastrous economic and financial consequences." Trump made Moore's nomination official on Friday, tweeting, "I have known Steve for a long time — and have no doubt he will be an outstanding choice!" Brendan Morrow

2:44 p.m.

Papa John's has a new papa.

The pizza chain has announced that Shaquille O'Neal is joining its board of directors, also becoming a brand ambassador for the company and investing in nine Atlanta locations, per CNN.

Papa John's is no doubt hoping to revive its brand after a series of scandals involving its founder, John Schnatter, who resigned as chairman after admitting he used the N-word during a conference call. He had previously resigned as CEO in 2017 after criticizing the National Football League's handling of players kneeling during the national anthem and suggesting this resulted in lower sales for the company.

Since then, Papa John's has found a new chairman in Jeff Smith, and it stopped using images of Schnatter in its advertising. It appears Shaq will now serve as the public face of the company, as under the deal, Papa John's gets to use his "name, nickname, autograph, voice, video or film portrayals" in its advertisements, reports Yahoo's Daniel Roberts.

O'Neal told CNBC on Friday that he was the one to approach Papa John's about this idea, calling Schnatter's use of the N-word "not acceptable" and saying that now, "We want to get this thing back on track."

Brendan Morrow

2:18 p.m.

United Airlines is piloting the use of non-binary gender descriptors for customers flying with the company.

The airline company made the announcement on Twitter Friday morning, making it the first U.S. airline to offer non-binary gender options.

Customers will be able to choose the prefix "Mx." during bookings, and they'll have the option of identifying as male, female, undisclosed or unspecified.

"United is excited to share with our customers, whether they identify along the binary of male or female or not, that we are taking the steps to exhibit our care for them while also providing additional employee training to make us even more welcoming for all customers and employees," United's Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist said in a press release.

The airline has been working with the Human Rights Campaign and The Trevor Project in training employees on the new changes, per the release.

Two trade groups approved a new best-practices standard last month that suggested allowing airplane passengers to use non-binary identifiers, reports USA Today. The standard is not a mandate and allows individual airlines to decide whether to implement the option, but most large U.S. airlines have told USA Today they plan to adopt the changes in the future. Marianne Dodson

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