On Politics: The Biggest Stories of the Week

From steps forward in the Trump hush-money investigation to tensions at the White House and on Capitol Hill, it’s been a busy week in politics. Here are some of the biggest stories you might have missed (and some links if you’d like to read further).


On Wednesday, in a major step in the investigation of hush-money payments made to two women who said that they had affairs with President Trump, the parent company of The National Enquirer admitted to paying off a Playboy model to protect Mr. Trump’s campaign. The tabloid played a crucial role in keeping the women silent ahead of the 2016 election.

The revelations came on the same day that Michael D. Cohen, a former lawyer for Mr. Trump who directly implicated the president in the hush-money scandal during his sentencing, received three years in prison.

Mr. Trump reacted angrily to the relatively short prison sentence of Mr. Cohen, and in a series of Twitter posts on Thursday said that Mr. Cohen failed him as his lawyer because he should have known about campaign finance law. The president also said that he did not direct his lawyer to do anything illegal. In an interview with ABC News on Friday, Mr. Cohen said that “of course” the president knew the hush payments were wrong.

In other investigation news, lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, asked a federal judge on Tuesday to spare him prison time for misleading investigators and also suggested that the F.B.I. tricked Mr. Flynn into lying. On Friday, the special counsel’s office rejected the suggestion.

Additional Reading

Four Takeaways From Michael Cohen’s Sentencing

Trump Inaugural Fund and Super PAC Said to Be Scrutinized for Illegal Foreign Donations

Maria Butina Pleads Guilty to Role in a Russian Effort to Influence Conservatives

In a stinging bipartisan rebuke of Mr. Trump’s defense of Saudi Arabia for its role in the killing of a dissident journalist, the Senate voted to withdraw American military support for the kingdom’s war in Yemen.

The Senate also passed an ambitious $867 billion farm bill, and rejected stricter work requirements for food stamp recipients embraced by the House and the president. The legislation provides a safety net for farmers hit with unexpected weather or tariffs, as well as low-income Americans struggling to feed themselves and their families.

In a change of course, Mitch McConnell said the Senate would vote on a substantial criminal justice bill before the end of the year, putting Mr. Trump on the cusp of claiming one of the first truly bipartisan legislative achievements of his presidency. The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was the administration’s driving force behind the bill.

Beto O’Rourke Emerges as the Wild Card of the 2020 Campaign-in-Waiting

Elizabeth Warren, Speaking to Black Graduates, Warns ‘The Rules Are Rigged’

A White House official said on Friday that the Trump administration was not responsible for the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died from dehydration last week while in the custody of the Border Patrol. Her death, which is under investigation, has been widely condemned as a consequence of the Trump administration’s staunch immigration enforcement efforts.

Despite efforts by the Trump administration to limit the number of refugees entering the United States, the number of asylum seekers jumped nearly 70 percent from 2017, according to Department of Homeland Security data released on Monday. Nearly 60 percent of all foreigners asking for asylum were people in families.

Even as parts of the president’s hard-line immigration agenda have been blocked by Congress and the courts, government data released on Friday revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement saw an increase of 11 percent in arrests and deportations of foreigners from the previous fiscal year.

The president has prioritized border security and protecting American jobs, but The Times reported last week that his New Jersey golf course employed an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper. He’s not the only public official who has experienced similar revelations.

Additional Reading

U.N. Approves Sweeping Deal on Migration, but Without U.S. Support

MS-13, Trump and America’s Stake in El Salvador’s Gang War

Life in Tijuana Means Negotiating ‘La Línea,’ an Always Present Wall

Earlier this week, the North Carolina legislature approved a bill that would require new primaries if the state elections board called for a new vote in an election. The measure opens the door for Republicans to consider backing a new candidate in the disputed race in the Ninth Congressional District.

Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan presented bills last week that would restrict the powers of incoming Democratic governors out of fear of losing the gerrymandered districts they depend on for a trove of seats. In Wisconsin, the outgoing Republican governor, Scott Walker, approved measures Republican lawmakers rushed through in a hastily-called session last week that diminish the power of his Democratic successor.

In New Jersey, Democratic lawmakers are carrying out a power grab in an unusually public fashion: They are seeking to make Republicans a permanent minority by essentially writing gerrymandering into the State Constitution.

Additional Reading

Republicans Send Mixed Signals on Allegiance to Embattled North Carolina Candidate

After Parkland, a New Surge in State Gun Control Laws

Companies Asked a Mississippi Senator to Refund Donations. They Are Still Waiting.

Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law Applies to Police, Too, Court Rules

In an extraordinary public altercation on Tuesday with the Democratic congressional leaders Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi, President Trump said that he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security.”

Following a week of speculation, the president announced on Friday that he has selected Mick Mulvaney, his budget director, to serve as his acting chief of staff. The announcement comes after Nick B. Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff, declined the position and said he was leaving the administration on Sunday, and Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey, took himself out of the running for the job.

Mr. Trump directed federal agencies on Wednesday to steer spending toward certain distressed communities across the country — part of his administration’s push to turn a tax break included in last year’s $1.5 trillion tax package into a broader effort to combat poverty and geographic inequality.