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President Reportedly Wanted to Buy Dirt on Him from National Enquirer

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A new report claims President Donald Trump wanted to buy decades of dirt on him collected by the National Enquirer tabloid and its parent company American Media Inc.

According to a New York Times report, the president and his former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen sought to purchase potentially damaging stories about Trump dating back to the 1980s and had devised a plan to do so, even though it was never finalized.

This is the first report of the plan that was hinted at in a last month’s recording released by Cohen in which the two men talk about payoffs that Cohen had with Trump.

“It’s all the stuff — all the stuff, because you never know,” Mr. Cohen said on the recording.

American Media’s chairman David Pecker has recently cooperated with investigators who have provided him with partial immunity as he is a key witness in their inquiry into payments made on behalf of President Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Namely, Cohen pleaded guilty last week to paying hush money to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford and Playboy model Karen McDougal on behalf of Trump in an effort to save his candidacy. The discussed purchase of American Media’s broader cache of Trump information appears to have been part of the same effort.

It is unclear for now how much of the material on President Trump American Media still possess or if they have destroyed some of it. It is also not known whether prosecutors have obtained some of that material.

Pecker, who is a long-time Trump ally, had reportedly ordered his staff at American Media to protect Trump from troublesome stories, in some cases by buying up stories about him and filing them away.  Cohen also said as part of his guilty plea that Pecker too worked with him and Trump to buy and bury McDougal’s story of her alleged affair with Trump, a practice known as “catch and kill.”

In August 2016, American Media acquired the rights to McDougal’s story in return for $150,000 and commitments to use its magazines to promote her career as a fitness specialist.

But due to rumors that Pecker may leave his post as chairman of American Media, Cohen and Trump began to worry what would happen to such sensitive information which they later sought to buy off, several people familiar with the discussions said.

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Iran Blocks Nearly All Internet Access

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Iran imposed an almost complete nationwide internet blackout on Sunday one of its most draconian attempts to cut off Iranians from each other and the rest of the world as widespread anti-government unrest roiled the streets of Tehran and other cities for a third day, The New York Times reported.

The death toll for the three days of protests rose to at least 12; hundreds were injured; and more than 1,000 people have been arrested, according to semiofficial news agencies like Fars News.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on all state matters, called the demonstrators “thugs” and endorsed the government’s decision to raise prices it sets for rationed gasoline by 50 percent as of Friday and by 300 percent for gasoline that exceeds ration limits. Even after the price hike, gasoline in Iran is still cheaper than in most of the rest of the world – now the equivalent of about 50 cents a gallon.

In a speech on Sunday, Khamenei said he would support rationing and increasing gas prices because heads of three branches of government had made the decision.

Khamenei also acknowledged that Iranians had taken to the streets to protest and that some had died – however, he blamed the protests on monarchists and opposition groups trying to destabilize Iran, the Times added.

The widespread discontent on display across the country marked yet another crisis for the country. Iran has been struggling with an economic crisis after the United States exited a nuclear deal and reimposed harsh sanctions that ban Iran’s oil sales.

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HASC Chairman Claims Legislation to Create a Space Force in 2020 ‘Still Possible’

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House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said last week that negotiations on the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act are “proceeding reasonably well” but he expressed doubt that the NDAA will include language to authorize a Space Force as a separate military branch, SpaceNews reported.

“It’s still possible but by no means guaranteed,” Smith told reporters on Capitol Hill last week. When asked for specifics, Smith said, “I don’t think it would be helpful for me to make predictions.”

The biggest sticking point in the NDAA negotiations is language in the House version of the bill that restricts the use of military funds to pay for the wall that President Trump wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, SpaceNews adds.

There are other dealbreaker issues. The authorization of a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces is one of them, Smith said. Other contentious matters include extending the “war powers” legislation that authorizes the president to use military force, and allowing transgender people to serve in the military.

Smith said the House and Senate NDAA conference in recent weeks worked on compromise language on hundreds of provisions and “reduced the stack significantly, and we’re down to a few really contentious issues.”

Smith characterized the Space Force as a “higher echelon” issue that is proving divisive. Both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate continue to have reservations about the administration’s Space Force proposal, said Smith. “There is bipartisan concern on the proposal and bicameral concern about the specifics of that proposal.”

The House version of the NDAA creates a Space Corps and is closer aligned with what the administration proposed. The Senate bill would rename the Air Force Space Command the U.S. Space Force and does not specifically authorize a sixth branch of the armed forces.

Smith noted that the House has been a proponent of a military space branch since 2017 while the Senate had adamantly opposed it. “In their bill they didn’t have the same language that we did. But the president has persuaded them to look at it differently.”

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Gunman Kills Four at California Backyard Party

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Police in the California city of Fresno were investigating a mass shooting at a football game party on Sunday in which at least 10 people were shot, killing four, with five others left in critical condition and another wounded, Reuters informs.

Three men died at the scene and another died at a hospital, Fresno Deputy Police Chief Michael Reed said in a late night news conference. Six more were hospitalized, he said.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this thing,” Reed said. “This was senseless violence. We’re going to do everything we can to find out who the perpetrators were and bring them to justice.”

A gunman walked into a backyard and started shooting at a south Fresno home, where a gathering of about 35 family and friends was watching a football game before 8 p.m., said Reed. Neighbors soon flooded 911 dispatchers with calls for help, Reuters adds.

The suspect fled the scene and police were combing the neighborhood for witnesses and possible security camera footage, police said. Police did not release further information about the shooting in the city about 200 miles (320 km) north of Los Angeles, except that the dead were men between the ages of 25 and 35.

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