January 14, 2020

George Nader, a wealthy Lebanese-American political campaign bundler for Hillary Clinton and frequent guest in President Trump's White House in the first few months of his administration, pleaded guilty Monday to child exploitation charges in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. His sentencing is scheduled for April 10.

The guilty plea covers Nader's sexual acts with a 14-year-old Czech boy in the U.S. 20 years ago and possession of child pornography in 2012, but under a plea deal with prosecutors, he won't be charged for child pornography found on his phone en route to Mar-a-Lago, leading to his cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump's campaign and Russia.

Nader, 60, was questioned by Mueller's investigators about whether he illegally channeled campaign contributions to Trump's 2016 campaign from the United Arab Emirates, where he worked as an adviser to UAE leadership, and about a January 2017 meeting he set up and attended between Trump associate Erik Prince — Blackwater founder and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — and a Russian official close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The crimes Nader pleaded guilty to carry penalties of up to 50 years in prison, but prosecutors agreed to request the mandatory minimum of 10 years behind bars, served concurrently. He still faces campaign finance charges in federal court in Washington, D.C., for allegedly illegally funneling more than $3 million in campaign contributions to Democrats and Republicans. Nader served six months for child pornography charges in 1991, and he was sentenced to a year in prison in the Czech Republican in 2003. Between his Czech sentence and his 2000 journey with the 14-year-old boy, Nader served as Pentagon contractor and Middle East policy adviser to President George W. Bush's administration, The Washington Post reports. Peter Weber

2:35 p.m.

Try as he might, Trump just can't reinvent the facts on this one.

Somehow, Trump stuck a very incorrect notion into a question about Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk in a Wednesday interview with CNBC's Squawk Box. After praising Musk because he "does good at rockets," Trump suggested "he's one of our great geniuses" who "we have to protect." After all, Trump said, we have to "protect Thomas Edison" and "people who came up with the light bulb and the wheel and all of these things."

One wouldn't think it has to be said, but the wheel was invented thousands of years before the United States existed and it's not exactly clear who did it. The oldest wheel dates to at least 3000 B.C. and was found, coincidentally, in modern-day Slovenia. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:19 p.m.

Democrats officially kicked off their opening arguments in the impeachment trial of President Trump Wednesday with a bit of a shift in tone after one particularly contentious late-night exchange.

Near the end of an impeachment trial session beginning Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on the Senate floor accused Republican senators of "voting for a cover up" as he argued in favor of an amendment to subpoena former National Security Adviser John Bolton, per The Wall Street Journal. Nadler also suggested Republicans were engaging in "treacherous" behavior, The Washington Post reports.

Republicans throughout the day on Wednesday slammed Nadler for his statement; Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told CNN it was "insulting and outrageous," while Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said the comment "offended her" and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a press conference, "To my Democratic colleagues, you can say what you want about me but I am covering up nothing."

Following this criticism, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) began Democrats' opening arguments Wednesday with a less combative tone, thanking senators for having "paid attention to every word and argument you heard from both sides" the day before.

"I want to begin today by thanking you for the conduct of the proceedings yesterday and for inviting your patience as you go forward," Schiff added. "We have some very long days yet to come."

CNN's Kaitlan Collins noted Schiff appeared to be addressing Republican criticism with his opening comments, although Republicans weren't the only ones not thrilled with the tone of Tuesday night's debate. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), for instance, conceded to The Washington Post that Nadler "could have chose better words." Brendan Morrow

1:39 p.m.

You have to be somewhat wily to enjoy a successful career in politics, and several senators put those street smarts on display during Tuesday's impeachment proceedings.

The lawmakers are subject to a lot of rules over the course of the lengthy trial days — no coffee, no technology, no talking — but they were able to maneuver around some of them anyway. Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and David Perdue (R-Ga.) harkened back to their elementary school days by passing notes to each other, eliciting some stifled laughter.

Others stuck to 21st century methods by wearing their smart watches, including an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Smart watches, of course, have cellular capabilities, so theoretically some of the lawmakers could have been shooting off text messages, although there's no evidence anyone took things that far. The Supreme Court's electronics ban includes such watches, but they're admittedly harder to notice than other devices.

Not everyone was sneaky, though. Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) was reportedly caught dozing off during a presentation from Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), but he swears he was just resting his eyes. Tim O'Donnell

1:18 p.m.

President Trump probably should've kept quiet on this one.

After the first day of impeachment arguments in the Senate, Trump told a press conference at the World Economic Forum that he's pretty sure he'll end up being acquitted. "Honestly, we have all the material. They don't have the material," Trump said of his impeachment defense team and of the House Democrats prosecuting him, making it clear there's some information he's holding back.

Beyond Rep. Val Demings' (D-Fla.) callout, her fellow impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) addressed Trump's comments in a press conference before the impeachment trial resumed Wednesday. "Well, indeed they do have the material — hidden from the American people," Schiff said of Trump's team. "That is nothing to brag about." Kathryn Krawczyk

12:46 p.m.

President Trump backtracked Wednesday on his 2016 campaign promise to protect funding for entitlements like Medicare and Social Security, suggesting in an interview with CNBC that he would be open to slashing "at some point" them since they're "the easiest" thing to cut.

Well, unsurprisingly, that didn't sit well with his Democratic opponents, who quickly pounced on the comment.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is one of the leading candidates in the Democratic presidential primary, used Trump's words to call for an expansion of such programs, while the House Ways and Means Committee called the suggestion "unacceptable." Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) thinks it's a warning from Trump that people should take seriously.

Trump's reasoning for possibly cutting entitlements is that the trajectory of the country's economic growth could one day allow for it. But don't expect that to change any minds on the other side of the political aisle. Tim O'Donnell

12:44 p.m.

Oprah Winfrey is facing mounting criticism after withdrawing from a documentary about the sexual misconduct allegations against Russell Simmons, a decision activists are slamming as "callous."

Winfrey was originally attached as executive producer of the upcoming documentary focusing on the Simmons allegations, On the Record, but she removed her name from it earlier this month. Although Winfrey said in a statement she "unequivocally believes and supports the women," she says she had concerns about "some inconsistencies in the stories." Simmons has denied the allegations against him.

"This latest turn of events has been extraordinarily disorienting and upsetting," domestic violence activist Sil Lai Abrams, who has accused Simmons of rape, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Equality Now global director Yasmeen Hassan also criticized Winfrey, telling the Reporter her decision was "callous" and saying, "There needs to be a lot more explanation given to these women, at the very least. This feels mind-boggling and is very bad for the #MeToo movement."

Women and Hollywood founder Melissa Silverstein additionally described the situation as "one of the saddest moments for the #MeToo movement," adding, "Just think how hard it is going to be for women, particularly women of color, to come forward next time when they have been thrown under the bus by none other than Oprah."

The Reporter notes that although Winfrey has cited alleged inconsistencies, especially in the account of the film's central accuser Drew Dixon, the Times' report on Dixon's allegations "was well vetted." Winfrey reportedly had additional issues with the film, including concerns over whether "the two filmmakers, who are white, captured the nuances of hip-hop culture and the struggles of black women," the Times writes. On the Record is still scheduled to have its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 25. Brendan Morrow

12:10 p.m.

One giant energy provider is taking a small chunk of climate change into its own hands.

Arizona Public Service Co., the largest utility provider in Arizona, will swear off coal power by the end of the decade, it announced Wednesday. That's seven years earlier than the company previously pledged, and comes under the purview of a CEO who just took that job in December, AZ Central reports.

As it stands, APS gets 22 percent of its energy from its coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant and Cholla Power Plant. Cholla is slated for closure in 2025, and while Four Corners wasn't supposed to close until 2038, Wednesday's announcement bumped that down to 2031. In addition, CEO Jeff Guldner said Wednesday that APS would completely shift to carbon-free power by 2050. APS does own the largest nuclear power plant in the country, and plans to use that Palo Verde plant to achieve its green energy goals.

In neighboring New Mexico, where the Four Corners plant is located, utility provider Public Service New Mexico has pledged to go carbon-free by 2040. California and Colorado also have laws that mandate completely carbon-free energy by 2040 and 2045, respectively. More states taking the plunge is essential for minimizing greenhouse gases, seeing as the U.S. is the second biggest emissions producer in the world, and that a full quarter of its emissions come from energy production. Kathryn Krawczyk

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