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2018: A timeline of the year in politics

From Brett Kavanaugh to the Mueller probe to the midterms, it’s been a particularly consequential year in American politics. Here’s a timeline of some of the biggest political news stories of the year as they unfolded in 2018.

Jan. 30: Trump delivers State of the Union address to Congress

Feb. 16: Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicts13Russians and three companies regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election

Feb. 19: Pennsylvania's Supreme Court releases new congressional map, giving Democrats a shot at picking up as many as six congressional seats in the state

March 13: President Trump fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is later replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo

March 21: Republican Rick Saccone concedes to Democrat Conor Lamb in PA-18 special election

March 22: National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster resigns; he’s later replaced by John Bolton

April 9: FBI raids the offices and home of longtime Trump lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen, seizing business records, emails and documents

April 11: House SpeakerPaul Ryan announces that he won’t run for re-election

May 8: Trump announces withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal

June 12: Trump, in Singapore, holds summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-Un; Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., loses GOP primary to challenger Katie Arrington.

June 20: Trump signs executive order reversing administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border

June 26: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upsets Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., in Democratic primary; Supreme Court upholds Trump’s revised travel ban

June 27: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announces retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court

July 5: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigns amid numerous ethics controversies

July 9: Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh to fill Anthony Kennedy's seat on the Supreme Court

July 13: Special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for hacking Democratic organizations and the Clinton campaign

July 16: In a news conference with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Trump blames both countries for the state of U.S.-Russia relations ("I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish"), and he appears to side with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies on the question whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election ("I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today")

Aug. 21: Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer/fixer pleads guilty; jury finds Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on eight counts

Aug. 25: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., passes away

Sept. 5: Anonymous senior Trump administration official publishes New York Times op-ed calling the president amoral and erratic, and says many in the administration are working to thwart his agenda

Sept. 7: George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser, is sentenced to 14 days in prison for lying to the FBI early in inquiry on election interference

Sept. 14: Manafort pleads guilty, agrees to cooperate with Mueller’s investigative team

Sept. 16: Speaking publicly to the Washington Post, Christine Blasey Ford accuses Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her more than three decades ago.

Sept. 26: Ford and a defiant Kavanaugh testify, separately, before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Oct. 6: Kavanaugh wins Senate confirmation by a narrow 50-48 vote. 

Oct. 9: UN Ambassador Nikki Haley announces her resignation from the Trump administration

Oct. 19: Saudi Arabia says 18 of its citizens were responsible for killing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – after telling different stories for more than two weeks

Oct. 22: Trump tweets about the caravan of migrants assembled in southern Mexico, alleging that "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in"

Oct. 23: Trump admits there's no proof to his claim that Middle Easterners are part of the migrant caravan: "There's no proof of anything. There's no proof of anything. But they could very well be"

Oct. 24: Officials reveal that pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as to CNN.

Oct. 26: Authorities charge Caesar Sayoc, a fervent Trump supporter, of sending more than a dozen pipe bomb packages targeted at prominent Democrats

Oct. 27: An anti-Semitic gunman opens fire at Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 worshipers

Nov. 6: On Election Day, Democrats win control of the U.S. House of Representatives; Republicans maintain control of the U.S. Senate

Nov. 7: Day after those midterm results, Trump fires U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and lashes out at reporters in news conference

Nov. 27: Appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., wins Senate runoff election in Mississippi

Nov. 29: Cohen pleads guilty for lying to Congress, revealing that Trump’s business was seeking a deal with Russia well into June 2016

Dec. 1: Former President George H.W. Bush passes away at age of 94

Dec. 8: Trump announces that John Kelly will step down as chief of staff by the end of the year

Dec. 11: In Oval Office meeting with Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Trump threatens to shut down the government if he doesn’t get money for his border wall

Dec. 12: Federal judge sentences Cohen to three years in prison for financial crimes and lying to Congress

Dec. 15: Trump announces that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will leave the administration at the end of the year

Dec. 18: Judge delays Michael Flynn’s sentencing to allow further cooperation with federal prosecutors

 

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Warren campaign releases record of her legal work

WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren's campaign Wednesday night released a summary of the cases she worked on during her tenure as a Harvard University professor to the public on Wednesday night. 

Most of the cases were bankruptcy-related, with Warren serving as either a counsel, a consultant, an expert witness, a mediator or an author of an amicus brief to a court deciding on the case. 

During Warren's 2012 Senate race, Republican Scott Brown used some of these cases to paint her as a friend of the conglomerates and corporations she now rails against. Her campaign at the time released a partial accounting of her legal work.

In this latest, fuller release of her legal work, Warren’s campaign describes these as examples of Warren trying to help the little guy, even in instances where she took the part of larger companies. Most of these are bankruptcy-related.

Read the release from Warren's campaign here for the summaries. Here are a few of the most interesting cases in the list. 

  • LTV Steel v. Shalala (1995): Warren helped write a petition in this case, advocating on behalf of the conglomerate as it fought against a Congressional requirement forcing it to pay millions into a fund for retired miners’ healthcare. Brown criticized Warren for her involvement in this case during the campaign. The Boston Globe reported that, at the time, Warren's camp argued she worked on the case because it had significant implications for future employees to receive compensation from companies that went bankrupt. 
  • Travelers v. Bailey (2009): Warren worked for Travelers Insurance, which was ordered to pay out a $500 million settlement for future and current asbestos poisoning victims. The result, according to a Boston Globe report from the time, was the preservation of a piece of bankruptcy law that gave victims of corporate malfeasance a better chance of getting compensated, even if the company responsible went bankrupt. But after Warren left the case, future litigation freed Travelers of having to pay that $500 million settlement and gave it immunity in future suits. 
  • Dow Corning Corp (1995): In another case litigated during the Brown race, Warren consulted for Dow Chemical, the parent company of a subsidiary that was sued for making faulty breast implants. Brown attacked her for taking the side of big business. A Globe story from 2012 said that Warren "suggested during a press conference that she had advised the company in setting up a trust" and framed her as being brought on board ultimately to work through that process."

Hoyer says White House stonewalling makes House Democrats 'more inclined' to support impeachment

WASHINGTON — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on Wednesday said that President Trump's repeated refusals to cooperate with congressional investigations makes Democratic House members "more inclined" to support impeachment. 

During an interview on MSNBC's "MTP Daily," Hoyer said there's still support within the House Democratic caucus for the leadership's more cautious path that prioritizes investigations over declaring official impeachment proceedings. But he acknowledged the growing pressure within his caucus amid the clash between House Democrats and the White House. 

"Let me tell you what is not a bluff: We're going to continue to do our duty. We are going to continue to have oversight hearings, we are going to continue to ask for documentation and the testimony of witnesses we believe are relevant," Hoyer said. 

"Every time the president refuses to cooperate, contrary, in my view, to the Constitution of the United States, the members become more frustrated and more inclined" to support impeachment, he added. 

Watch the full interview below. 

GOP special election win brings new congressman to town

WASHINGTON — Republican Fred Keller cruised to victory in Tuesday's special election for Pennsylvania's Twelfth Congressional district, crowning him the newest member of the 116th Congress.

Keller had been heavily favored in the deep-red seat vacated by former GOP Rep. Tom Marino's sudden resignation this past January. Keller defeated Democrat Marc Friedenberg by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent. 

Here's a bit of background about the newest congressman:

  • Keller is a state representative who has served since his election in 2010.
  • Before he joined the legislature, he worked as the plant operations manager at a Conestoga Wood Specialties plant.
  • Keller will become one of two members of Congress who did not attend college.
  • Keller was endorsed by President Trump, the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the House Freedom Caucus' PAC after party officials nominated him for the seat.
Leigh Ann Caldwell

Booker is latest to call for repeal of Hyde Amendment

WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is unveiling his plans to protect and expand reproductive rights on Wednesday, making him the latest Democratic presidential candidate vowing to protect abortion access as conservatives in states across the country are working to roll it back. 

Booker said he would back federal legislation to codify Roe v. Wade, create a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom, appoint judges who support abortion access and repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits government health care funding for abortions. He’d also implement executive actions on “day one” ensure reproductive choice. 

Like most of the Democratic field, Booker has been focusing on the abortion debate on the campaign trail in recent days since Alabama voter to outlaw all abortion in the state and other states passing other stringent restrictions.

“A coordinated attack requires a coordinated response. That’s why on day one of my presidency, I will immediately and decisively take executive action to respond to these relentless efforts to erode Americans’ rights to control their own bodies,” Booker said in a statement unveiling the plan. 

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have also released reproductive rights plans. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has as well, which he outlined during a CNN town hall Tuesday night. Along with Booker, Gillibrand and O’Rourke would also get rid of the Hyde Amendment, push legislation to protect abortion rights and use the executive office to undo abortion and contraception access restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump. 

Shaquille Brewster

Gillibrand releases 'Family Bill of Rights' plan

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., released a comprehensive “Family Bill of Rights” plan Wednesday that includes a package of proposals focused on easing the financial and medical barriers to parenthood.

The plan — a mix of existing legislative proposals and less-detailed declarations — contains well-established Democratic priorities like federal support for universal Pre-K programs, national paid family leave and an increase in child care tax credits. However, it goes further by targeting maternal and infant mortality in rural areas, requiring insurance companies to cover the costs of fertility treatments and offering refundable tax credits for adoptions.

"My new proposal, the Family Bill of Rights, will make all families stronger — regardless of who you are or what your zip code is — with a fundamental set of rights that levels the playing field starting at birth,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “I believe it will transform American families and their ability to achieve the American Dream."

Gillibrand has made family and women’s issues a core element of her campaign, telling CNN she intends to be “the candidate of the women’s vote." Last week, she traveled to Georgia to highlight her opposition to restrictive abortion laws sweeping the country. One of the proposals she touts the most on the trail is her national paid family leave bill, introduced in February.

The “Family Bill of Rights” includes five “fundamental rights ensured to all of America’s children and parents” that she commits to enacting within her first 100 days if elected president:

  1. Right to a safe and healthy pregnancy.
  2. Right to give birth or adopt a child, regardless of income, sexual orientation, religion or gender identity.
  3. Right to a safe and affordable nursery.
  4. Right to personally care for your loved ones with paid leave, including care for your child in its infancy.
  5. Right to affordable child care and universal pre-K, to ensure early education is available before kindergarten

Each principle proposes a policy solution ranging from a new program to refundable tax credits.

Her campaign says the entire plan “can be paid for with her financial transaction tax, which would raise over $777 billion in the next decade.”

Bill de Blasio's 2020 campaign makes initial hires

WASHINGTON -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is fleshing out the 2020 presidential campaign he launched last week with an initial group of advisers and staff shared with NBC News. 

Jon Paul Lupo, who has held senior posts in de Blasio’s City Hall, will serve as Senior Adviser and run day-to-day operations. 

Steve Jarding, a longtime Harvard Kennedy School lecturer and Democratic communications adviser who has worked overseas, will also hold the title Senior Adviser.

As will Jim Crounse, a Democratic direct mail consultant and de Blasio friend who has worked for Barack Obama among others.

New York Democratic fundraiser Mike Giaccio, who previously worked for New York gubernatorial candidates, will serve as Director of Finance.

And Olivia Lapeyrolerie, who worked as a spokesperson in the de Blasio administration, will serve as traveling press secretary. The firm Freedomland Media will head up video production.

Trump echoes familiar language in endorsing Pennsylvania House candidate

WASHINGTON—President Trump called on voters to turn out for Pennsylvania Republican Fred Keller in Tuesday's special election, calling the candidate “strong on Crime, Second Amendment, Military, Vets, and Healthcare.”

Keller is running to replace former Rep. Tom Marino, who resigned suddenly just weeks into the 2019 term, and is expected to carry the heavily-Republican district. 

If the language of Trump's endorsement sounds familiar, it’s because the President has used some form of that construction – strong on crime, second amendment, military, vets and healthcare – 64 times, going back to October 2017 to endorse over 40 candidates. This applies to a variety of candidates – from Congressional to gubernatorial.

He’s used the phrase “total endorsement” 26 times, “complete endorsement” 6 times and “strong endorsement” 3 times.

It’s notable that the President has not changed the issues or personalized the tweets for different candidates – only a few, like Ted Cruz who got an added “Beto is a Flake!”, had a unique spin in their endorsement tweet.

Some examples of Republican candidates who received a nod with that similar "Strong on Crime, Second Amendment, Military, Vets, and Healthcare" rhetoric include—North Carolina's Dan Bishop, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, Pennsylvania's John Chrin, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Nevada's Danny Tarkanian, then-Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, Ohio's Troy Balderson, now-Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and dozens more. 

—Ben Kamisar contributed 

Kentucky Democrats head to vote in contentious gubernatorial primary

WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrats are heading to the polls Tuesday to crown a victor in a hard-fought gubernatorial primary with serious implications for November.

Public polling pegs Attorney General Andy Beshear the frontrunner over state Auditor Adam Edelen and state Rep. Rocky Adkins for the nomination. But Edelen and his allies have spent furiously in the hopes of defeating Beshear, the son of the state's last Democratic governor. 

Edelen's campaign has spent $2.1 million during the primary, dwarfing Beshear's $1.3 million and Adkins' $900,000, spending data from Advertising Analytics shows. And the pro-Edelen Kentuckians for a Better Future has dropped another $1 million into the race. 

The ad wars have gotten chippy, with Beshear and Edelen at the center of the fight. 

The pro-Edelen Kentuckians for a Better Future has spent more than a half-million dollars on an ad attacking Beshear for donors that supported his attorney general bid, attempting to link him to the opioid epidemic through those donations, and needling Beshear over a former aide's conviction for bribery.

The group also aired a spot that highlighted Beshear's work defending the Boy Scouts from abuse claims, but that was pulled off the air after just two days after Edelen's spokesman told the Lexington Herald-Leader it should be taken down. 

Edelen has amplified some of those attacks in one of his closing argument spots, and focused its resources on a spot where the candidate introduces viewers to his folksy farmer father to contrast his family with Beshear's famous father. 

Beshear's ads have partly tried to look past the primary with attacks on Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's record on health care. But he's taken to the airwaves to push back against the attacks, calling them "shameful and false" and criticizing the negative campaigning

Atkins has largely stayed out of the brawl, particularly on the airwaves, and has leaned on his legislative experience.

Both Beshear and Edelen received big endorsements in the race's final days — the former from the pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America and the latter from The Courier-Journal, one of the state's premiere papers. 

The general election will be one of the most interesting of the 2019 cycle.  

Despite the Republican lean in the state (President Trump won by almost 30 percentage points in 2016), two of the last four governors were Democrats who were reelected to serve a second term. 

Even though he's outperformed polls before, polling shows Bevin is one of the more unpopular governors in America. 

NBC and MSNBC announce 2020 presidential campaign 'embeds'

WASHINGTON—The new class of NBC and MSNBC embeds is here and they're about to crisscross the country to cover one of the largest fields in modern presidential history. 

The 10 embeds will be regular contributors across NBC and MSNBC—they will report on air, write stories and become familiar faces on the MTP Blog as well, providing readers with their observations and insights from the campaign trail. 

Be sure to follow the NBC News 2020 embeds list on Twitter to be sure to never miss an update. 

 

Harris narrowly outspent Trump last week on Facebook

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., narrowly outspent the presidential field in Facebook ads last week, new data from the platform's political ad tracker shows. 

The Californian's campaign spent $94,443 between May 12 and May 18, primarily on ads criticizing the anti-abortion rights legislation being passed in state legislatures around the country, as well as general ads promoting her candidacy and fundraising organization. 

Nipping at her campaign's heels was President Trump's reelection campaign, which spent $94,159 last week. Most of those ads were either a contest to receive a signed "Make America Great Again" hat from Trump or an "official 2019 Trump Executive membership Card."

Former Vice President Joe Biden finished a close third in weekly Facebook spending with $92,555. His ads included donation appeals from his wife, list-building and fundraising efforts aimed at drawing a contrast with Trump and promoting Biden's rally in Philadelphia last Saturday. 

Following those candidates were Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ($84,257 spent last week), New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ($83,055) and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet ($77,536).