Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has crowed that the House Ethics Committee "completely" cleared him in December of sharing classified information with reporters, but three people with knowledge of the investigation told The Atlantic that the panel was never able to review the relevant information and that's likely the reason the case was closed.
The ethics investigation was launched last April, after Nunes spoke to reporters on at least two occasions about classified information he said he received from a whistleblower regarding the collection of intelligence; The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that Nunes actually obtained those documents with the help of three White House officials. Complaints were filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics by two watchdog groups, but the committee was never able to see or review the classified information Nunes said he had, three people with ties to Congress told The Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand.
Since the committee was unable to figure out if the information was classified, or what exactly Nunes had seen, that's likely why they decided to close the investigation, one person told Bertrand. When asked about the accuracy of Nunes claiming he's been vindicated and how thorough the investigation really was, a spokesman for the Ethics Committee declined to comment and Nunes' office did not respond. Catherine Garcia
One month before the 2016 presidential election, Fox News had a story ready to go about an alleged extramarital affair between adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and President Trump, but it never published it, four people familiar with the matter told CNN.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that in October 2016, Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, arranged a $130,000 payment to Clifford to keep her quiet about the alleged 2006 sexual relationship. Fox News reporter Diana Falzone had a completed story about Clifford and Trump, which included a statement from Clifford's manager confirming the relationship, but "Fox killed it," one person familiar with the matter told CNN. Fox News wasn't the only outlet writing about this story; The Daily Beast and Slate both said they were speaking to Clifford before the election, but she backed out of an interview with The Daily Beast and stopped returning phone calls from Slate.
Noah Kotch, who became editor-in-chief and vice president of Fox News digital in 2017, said in a statement that "like many other outlets, we were working to report the story of Stephanie Clifford's account in October 2016 about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and a possible payment by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. In doing our due diligence, we were unable to verify all of the facts and publish a story." Cohen and Clifford have both denied the Journal's report, and in a statement distributed by Cohen, Clifford said her involvement with Trump "was limited to a few public appearances and nothing more," and "rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false." Catherine Garcia
During his lengthy interview with the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Donald Trump Jr. told the panel he couldn't discuss a conversation he had with his father this summer because of attorney-client privilege. The Trumps are not attorneys, nor are they each other's client.
Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the committee's top Democrat, said that Trump Jr. claimed there was a lawyer in the room during their discussion, so the argument counts. "I don't believe you can shield communications between individuals merely by having an attorney present," Schiff said. "That's not the purpose of attorney-client privilege."
The conversation in question came after The New York Times contacted Trump Jr. about a 2016 meeting Trump Jr. had with several Russians, including a Kremlin-linked attorney, before the election. Trump Jr.'s initial statement, which President Trump reportedly had a hand in drafting, described the meeting as being short and solely about the adoption of Russian children by Americans; it was later revealed Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting because he was promised compromising information on Hillary Clinton by the Russian government, and he was joined by former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his brother-in-law and Trump adviser, Jared Kushner. Catherine Garcia
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had their first, highly anticipated face-to-face meeting earlier this month at the G-20 summit, but they also had a second, previously undisclosed meeting later that day during a dinner, a White House official confirmed to NBC News Tuesday.
The official said the pair spoke during a couples-only social dinner in Hamburg; in the middle of the meal, Trump left his seat to sit down next to Putin, The Washington Post reports. Ian Bremmer, president of the international consulting firm Eurasia Group, first reported on the meeting, and said he was told by people at the dinner it lasted an hour and was also attended by Putin's translator. Bremmer also said diners could see Trump and Putin talking to each other, but couldn't hear anything. The White House never announced this meeting took place, and The New York Times reports there is no U.S. government record of it. Catherine Garcia