August 13, 2019

When it emerged last week that the National Rifle Association and its estranged advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, had moved to buy NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and his wife, Susan, a $6 million mansion in suburban Dallas last year, the NRA insisted that "not a cent of NRA money was ultimately spent" on the abortive real estate purchase.

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that it obtained a copy of a $70,000 check the NRA sent in May 2018 to WBB Investments LLC, a Delaware entity created a week previously. The money was intended as earnest money toward an offer on the 10,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, nine-bath French country–style estate in a gated golf club community, a person familiar with the transaction told the Journal. New York's attorney general is investigating the proposed purchase as part of a larger review of the NRA's nonprofit status.

"The NRA made a nominal payment to help facilitate the process for a real estate transaction that was supposedly being undertaken by Ackerman McQueen following the Parkland tragedy," NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the Journal. The check was reportedly returned after the deal fell apart. Ackerman McQueen said it's "patently false" that anyone other than LaPierre was driving the transaction.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that LaPierre wanted the NRA to buy him the property because "he was worried about being targeted and needed a more secure place to live" after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. LaPierre requested that WWB Investments be created to facilitate the purchase, the Post reported, and the LaPierres "were intensely involved in the selection of the property." Emails described to the Post show that Susan LaPierre was concerned there wasn't enough closet space in the men's master bedroom and bathroom.

ProPublica and The Trace published documents last week showing that NRA accountants reviewing the books flagged the $70,000 payment as a top concern and violation of the organization's "accounts payable procedures." Nonprofit lawyer Elizabeth Kingsley told the Journal that "if there's a check from the NRA to an LLC, that doesn't seem consistent with a story that Ackerman was going to pay for it." Peter Weber

5:09 p.m.

The end of a very rough week for U.S. markets brought a worrying prediction.

While one expert warned fallout from the global coronavirus outbreak could be "worse than the financial crisis" of 2008, the economist who correctly predicted that very crisis is now saying the idea of a major global recession "doesn't sound too farfetched."

Nouriel Roubini, a New York University business professor and market prognosticator who foretold the housing bubble burst, told Yahoo Finance on Friday to expect "severe" consequences as the coronavirus continues to rattle markets. How severe? He told Der Spiegel it could be worse than investors even believe at this point, predicting "global equities to tank by 30 to 40 percent this year."

He said people "prefer to believe in miracles," (not necessarily referencing President Trump's prediction the coronavirus will "disappear ... like a miracle,") and don't realize the "simple math" tells us that realistically, a squeezed Chinese economy will mean downturns around the globe. "This crisis will spill over and result in a disaster," said Roubini.

Roubini, who is often nicknamed Dr. Doom for his frequent pessimistic predictions, also saw doom and gloom for Trump's future as president as a result of any economic strife. Asked by Der Spiegel, Roubini said Trump would likely try to benefit politically from the outbreak, but "will lose the election, that's for sure." Pointing to past incumbent presidents getting ousted amid geopolitical tensions that damaged the economy, he said "The Democratic field is poor, but Trump is dead. Quote me on that!"

Though the week just saw a 3,500-point drop for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Roubini warned: "It is far from being over." Read more at Der Spiegel. Summer Meza

5:02 p.m.

Ongoing anxiety about the novel coronavirus just resulted in Wall Street's worst week since the financial crisis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 3,583 points this week, sliding 12.4 percent for the biggest percentage drop in a week since 2008, CNN reports. Additionally, the S&P 500 had its worst week since 2008, plunging 11.5 percent. As with the Dow, that's the biggest percentage drop for the S&P 500 in a week since October 2008.

The Dow's 3,500 point drop, CNBC notes, is "far and away its largest weekly point loss ever." On Thursday, the Dow plunged 1,190 points, the biggest one-day point drop in history.

On Friday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell in a statement said the "fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong" but that "the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity," and the Federal Reserve "will use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy." White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told Fox Business on Friday "our economy is holding up very well," during a segment in which a graphic directly next to him showed the Dow continuing its slide. Brendan Morrow

4:31 p.m.

Pixar fans expecting an animated short from the studio to play before Onward might be about to have a cow.

Disney's newest Pixar film will open with an animated short, as per usual. But the studio has announced that this time, it will come from a not-so-usual place: The Simpsons.

Yes, The Simpsons is a Disney property ever since the company's Fox purchase last year, and now, Disney will proudly show off what that money got them with a Simpsons short called "Playdate with Destiny" that will play before Onward.

This Simpsons short will evidently be centered around Maggie Simpson, and one has to assume it will be fairly family-friendly given its place before this PG Disney release. But if the conceptual idea of the long-running show that's been known to brutally mock Disney actually being owned by Disney was already weird enough, get ready for the surreal sight of new Simpsons content being immediately followed by ... the Cinderella castle. Ay, caramba, indeed. Brendan Morrow

3:49 p.m.

Pollsters at The Associated Press and NORC gave the public a chance to describe presidential candidates in one word or short phrase. The results were... telling.

Democrats described former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg as nearly equal parts "smart," "young," and "gay." Independents and Republicans were far more likely to describe him as "gay," as well as "inexperienced," and "centrist." Philanthropist Tom Steyer was more overwhelmingly described as "rich" by Democrats, while independents and Republicans opted for "inexperienced."

While former Vice President Joe Biden scored some mentions of "good person" among Democrats, he mostly got "old." Independents and Republicans also mostly called him "old," followed by "corrupt" and "creepy."

Democrats and independents similarly described Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as "old" at the highest rate, though Republicans went straight for "socialist," followed by "old," and "communist."

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is older than Biden and just months younger than Sanders, is universally regarded as "rich" (a fair assessment), and Republicans said he's "buying the election."

Democrats were split in describing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as "smart" and "strong," though independents and Republicans view her primarily as a "liar," as well as "crazy" and a "woman," which is hardly up for debate.

While the Democratic candidates were generally regarded more positively by members of their own party, surveyed Republicans didn't come up with great words for President Trump. Most Republicans simply said "president," followed by "bumbling" and "jerk."

The AP-NORC poll was conducted Feb. 12-16 via phone interviews with 1,074 adults. The margin of error is ±4.2 percentage points. View the full results at AP-NORC. Summer Meza

3:33 p.m.

You'd think President Trump was being haunted by Freddy Krueger based on his sleep habits as described by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney while speaking at Friday's Conservative Political Action Conference declared that the president basically "never sleeps," having apparently barely done so before addressing the nation about the coronavirus crisis earlier this week.

"He flew to India, did a day and a half of work, flew back, did not sleep on the flight home, and I know that because he's emailing and texting and taking phone calls," Mulvaney said.

Trump arrived back in the U.S. on an 18-hour return trip from India, during which Mulvaney claims he got no sleep whatsoever, early on Wednesday morning, proceeding to deliver a press conference about 12 hours later running on what Mulvaney described to be at least "a day and a half" without sleep.

Although Mulvaney chalked up Trump's wacky sleep schedule to his desire to get the most out of his time in office, Trump seemingly didn't get a whole lot of sleep even as a private citizen. In his 2004 book Think Like a Billionaire, he wrote that he sleeps "about four hours per night," urging readers not to "sleep any more than you have to." Brendan Morrow

2:35 p.m.

A federal appeals court has blocked President Trump's policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases work their way through the immigration court system.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals came to this decision on Friday, saying that the policy is "invalid in its entirety," The New York Times reports. The Times notes this Migrant Protection Protocols policy, also referred to as the "Remain in Mexico" policy, was a "central pillar" of Trump's immigration agenda.

A federal judge in April 2019 issued an injunction against the Trump administration's policy after it was enacted that January, but a court of appeals later allowed it to go into effect while legal challenges against it continued, NBC News reports. Almost 60,000 people have been sent back to Mexico under the program, Reuters reports.

Additionally, the appeals court on Friday also upheld a ban on a rule preventing those who cross the border between ports of entry from being eligible from asylum, per NBC News.

The Washington Post noted Friday that "the number of people waiting in Mexican border cities for U.S. immigration court dates has dwindled, in part because migrants said they were not making the trek to the United States in the first place given how unlikely it would be that they would gain entry," but it's "unclear what halting the policy might do to that mind-set." Brendan Morrow

2:20 p.m.

Biden's got plenty of fire, it's just a friendly fire.

Former Vice President Joe Biden sought to reassure a voter that he's passionate about the issues and his campaign while speaking at an event for supporters on Friday.

"What is your fire?" asked an attendee. "Because you see [Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)], you see [Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)]. You see that fire. That's what I'm looking for. What is your fire?"

"Decency and honor," Biden began, to cheers and applause. "The fact that I'm not screaming like Bernie and waving my arms like Elizabeth is not a lack of fire," he said.

Critics, including former Obama White House adviser David Axelrod, have panned Biden's "low energy" campaign performance, especially in debates. Sanders himself, who is often criticized for speaking loudly, has said Biden lacks "energy and excitement" both to spark voter turnout and to defeat President Trump. Warren's campaign style has been interpreted by the Los Angeles Times as a way to demonstrate her physical fitness and stamina in comparison to her fellow candidates. She has hit back against comments from Biden calling her "angry," saying "I own it." Summer Meza

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