California man who unwittingly helped Russian meddling released from federal custody

Washington (CNN)The California fake ID salesman who unknowingly helped Russian trolls meddle in the 2016 election has been released after a six-month stint in federal prison. The scheme earned Pinedo about $40,000 over three years, according to court filings. The Mueller report, which is nearly 500 pages in all, mentioned Pinedo by name eight times. Most of the references came in a section about how Kremlin-backed trolls, at a company called the Internet Research Agency, used social media to spread political propaganda to US voters. “The investigation did not establish that Pinedo was aware of the identity of the IRA members who purchased bank account numbers from him,” the report said about his overlap with the Russians. “Pinedo’s sales of …

Is Melania Trump’s Be Best platform making headway one year in?

(CNN)Exactly one year after announcing her long-awaited Be Best platform, Melania Trump is scheduled to return to the Rose Garden on Tuesday to push the campaign forward. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of any announcements she will make at the [anniversary] celebration, but we have expanded two of the three pillars based on information and lessons learned over the past year,” Grisham tells CNN. “Her expansion of the opioids pillar will now include speaking to children of all ages, and her expansion of the social media pillar will now focus on online safety as a whole.” Trump has put her focus in the opioid sector primarily on Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a little-discussed but medically challenging side effect …

Trump says he spoke with Putin about ‘Russian hoax,’ didn’t warn him against 2020 election meddling

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump said he briefly discussed special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, but didn’t warn his Russian counterpart to not meddle in the next US election. Friday’s phone call was the first between the two leaders since the release of the Mueller report, which found that members of the Trump campaign expected they would benefit from Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, but didn’t find that they conspired with the Kremlin. On Saturday, the President in a tweet doubled down on what he called a “very good call” with Putin, knocking news coverage of Mueller’s investigation. “Tremendous potential for a good/great relationship with Russia, despite what you read …

What we learned watching Robert Mueller for 18 months

(CNN)Editor’s Note: When special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate Russian meddling in the US election, CNN, like most news organizations, endeavored to learn what we could about the famously secretive team’s work. So, in addition to other newsgathering efforts, CNN had journalists who stood outside their offices. Journalists often call this a stakeout. Here, the CNN team lays out the backstory of their assignment and how this investment of time yielded big journalistic returns. Even though the stakeouts could be exhausting, there were moments when the full weight of the responsibility would hit us. Often we were the only journalistic eyes and ears on the ground at Mueller’s office — not just for all of CNN, but all …

Beto O’Rourke ready to ‘push the button’ on presidential campaign, source says

El Paso, Texas (CNN)Former US Rep. Beto O’Rourke is ready to “push the button” to launch his presidential campaign, with the announcement expected to first come on social media, a source familiar with his plans told CNN. O’Rourke is in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, this week ahead of his Iowa trip. On Monday, in a short video recorded outside his house, he wore a University of Northern Iowa cap as he urged students at the school to vote in the Democratic candidate in the state Senate special election. A photographer was seen leaving O’Rourke’s house late Tuesday morning, and a close team of aides who worked on his 2018 Senate had gathered in town. Signs that an announcement …

2020 rankings: It’s now or never for Democrats who want to be president

(CNN)Since Monday, four candidates have made their final go/no-go decisions about the 2020 Democratic presidential race. THE POINT — NOW ON YOUTUBE! In each episode of his weekly YouTube show, Chris Cillizza will delve a little deeper into the surreal world of politics. Click to subscribe! The rapid-fire decisions made by that quartet of candidates speaks to how quickly the 2020 race has gone from a standstill to a dead sprint. The battle for key early-state operatives is on. The fight for online dollars is joined. And any candidate not in the race by now runs the risk of getting lapped. 2. Joe Biden: No one confounds us more than the former vice president. Biden continues to lead national polling …

How Bill Shine (and Donald Trump) killed the White House press briefing

(CNN)Bill Shine is leaving the White House. But not without making his mark. Trump has been dismissive of the need for these daily — or even weekly — briefings since almost the start of his presidency. Sean Spicer, the White House’s first press secretary, held the briefings regularly, but within the span of a few months it became like watching a car crash in slow motion — over and over again. When Trump replaced Spicer with Sanders, the briefings slowed. Then Anthony Scaramucci was named communications director and, in a remarkable first appearance behind the podium, he promised a return to more regular briefings. The Mooch was fired 11 days later. Since then, there has been a slow but steady …

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announces 2020 presidential campaign

Denver (CNN)Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday announced he is running for president, launching a 2020 campaign in which he will lean on his Western roots and decades of executive experience. Hickenlooper is the second governor to enter the crowded 2020 race after Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee announced a run last week. The field of Democrats is now at 14 candidates, including six senators. Hickenlooper will follow up the video with an appearance on Good Morning America on Monday. He will then headline a “hometown send-off” in Denver on Thursday at the city’s Civic Center Park. Hickenlooper will be joined at the event by Colorado leaders throughout his time in the state, as well as Nathaniel Rateliff and …