1/ Michael Cohen testified that Trump directed him to personally make the $130,000 hush payment to Stormy Daniels because her story would be “catastrophic” for his campaign. During testimony in Trump’s election interference trial involving falsified business records, Cohen described his role at the Trump Organization as essentially “whatever” Trump “wanted.” Cohen testified that Trump instructed him to “just do it” – referring to the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels – when he learned that Daniels was looking to sell her story about their alleged affair in 2006. “I thought you took care of this,” Trump told Cohen. “I thought this was under control. This is a disaster, a total disaster. Women will hate me […] this is going to be a disaster for the campaign.” Trump later instructed Cohen to “just take care of it,” but to drag out negotiations as long as possible to “just get past the election. I win, it has no relevance because I’m president, and if I lose, I don’t really care.” (New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Washington Post / Politico / Bloomberg / Associated Press)

  • An aide to Trump’s 2016 campaign alleges that the campaign intentionally obscured settlement payments to women who made discrimination or harassment claims in violation of federal law. “A.J. Delgado’s filing presented evidence of top Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz openly admitting that the campaign wanted to use a law firm to cover up a potential settlement payout in 2017. The arrangement, as Delgado described it, appears specifically designed to evade the consequences of federal disclosure laws that require campaigns to publicly report the identities of payment recipients.” (Daily Beast / Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

  • Trump may face a $100 million IRS bill after an audit suggests he double-dipped on tax losses tied to a Chicago skyscraper. The first write-off came on Trump’s tax return for 2008, when he claimed that the investment met the tax code definition of “worthless,” because his debt on the project meant he would never see a profit. Trump claimed as much as $651 million in losses on the project. In 2010, Trump then he shifted the company that owned the tower into a new partnership and used the shift as justification to declare $168 million in additional losses over the next decade. (New York Times / ProPublica)

2/ A State Department report said it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel had used American-provided weapons in Gaza that are “inconsistent” with international law. The report, however, stopped short of officially saying Israel violated the law, saying there was insufficient information to draw firm conclusions in any specific instances. The report concluded that Israel’s assurances that it’s not violating U.S. or international law were “credible and reliable.” The finding allows the continued supply of U.S. weapons to Israel. (Washington Post / NPR / Associated Press / CNN / NBC News / Politico)

3/ A federal appeals court upheld Steve Bannon’s criminal contempt of Congress conviction for his refusal to testify and provide documents to the House Jan. 6 committee. A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Bannon’s arguments had no merit, clearing the way for Bannon to serve his four-month prison sentence. Bannon had argued that because he acted on the advice of lawyers to not comply with the committee’s subpoena, he did not “willfully” ignore the subpoena. The judges, however, ruled: “This exact ‘advice of counsel’ defense is no defense at all.” (CNBC / Politico / CNN / New York Times)

4/ Biden called Trump “clearly unhinged” after Trump praised the fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter as a “wonderful man.” Trump, who faces 91 felony counts across four criminal indictments, went off script and riffed about the final scene in “The Silence of the Lambs” (in which Lecter is about to murder someone) to baselessly compare migrants to the fictional psychopath. “Congratulations, the late great Hannibal Lecter,” Trump added. Biden, meanwhile, said “it’s clear that […] “something snapped” in Trump after he lost the 2020 election. “Just listen to what he’s telling people.” (CNN / The Guardian / Axios / New York Times)

✏️ Notables.

  1. Trump asked oil executives for $1 billion in donations to dismantle and rollback Biden’s environmental policies if he’s reelected. “Despite the oil industry’s complaints about Biden’s policies, the United States is now producing more oil than any country ever has, pumping nearly 13 million barrels per day on average last year. ExxonMobil and Chevron, the largest U.S. energy companies, reported their biggest annual profits in a decade last year.” (Washington Post)

  2. Louisiana moved to criminalize possessing the drugs used to induce an abortion without a prescription. If approved, Louisiana would become the first state to categorize mifepristone and misoprostol as “controlled dangerous substances,” a class of drugs that includes medications that can be abused such as narcotics, steroids, and depressants. (Axios / Washington Post)

  3. A Virginia school board reinstated the original Confederate names of two public schools, four years after the names were removed amid nationwide racial justice protests following the murder of George Floyd. The board called the 2020 decision was a “knee-jerk reaction” that showed a lack of “loyalty” to the community, which is more than 90% White and voted overwhelmingly for Trump. (CNN / CBS News / NBC News / NPR / Axios)