New charges for Manafort — In a dramatic escalation of pressure and stakes, special counsel Robert Mueller filed additional criminal charges Thursday against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and his business associate. The filing adds allegations of tax evasion and bank fraud and significantly increases the legal jeopardy facing Paul Manafort, who managed Trump’s campaign for several months in 2016, and longtime associate Rick Gates. Both had already faced the prospect of at least a decade in prison if convicted at trial. The two men were initially charged in a 12-count indictment last October that accused them of a multimillion-dollar money-laundering conspiracy tied to lobbying work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party. The new charges, contained in a 32-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Virginia, allege that Manafort and Gates doctored financial documents, lied to tax preparers and defrauded banks, using money they cycled through offshore accounts to fund lavish lifestyles in the U.S.
U.S. troops in Syria — The Trump administration says it needs no new legal authority from Congress to indefinitely keep U.S. military forces deployed in Syria and Iraq, according to Pentagon and State Department officials. In a pair of letters, the officials illuminated the plan for an open-ended mission of forces in Syria beyond the Islamic State fight. The letters said the continued threat from the Islamic State provided a legal rationale to keep troops deployed there indefinitely. About 2,000 U.S. troops are in Syria, even though nearly all the territory once held by the Islamic State has now been liberated.
Syria fighting escalates; world urges calm — World leaders called Thursday for an urgent cease-fire in Syria as government forces pounded the opposition-controlled eastern suburbs of the capital in a crushing campaign that has left hundreds of people dead in recent days. The U.N. Security Council heard a briefing from U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock on what he called “the humanitarian disaster unfolding before our eyes” in the rebel-held suburbs known as eastern Ghouta. Sweden and Kuwait were seeking a vote on a resolution ordering a 30-day cease-fire to allow relief agencies to deliver aid and evacuate the critically sick and wounded from besieged areas to receive medical care. But Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, who called Thursday’s meeting, put forward last-minute amendments, saying the proposed resolution was “simply unrealistic.”
Medicare ‘coverage for all’ plan unveiled — A leading liberal policy group is raising the ante in the health care debate with a new plan that builds on Medicare to guarantee coverage for all. Called “Medicare Extra for All,” the proposal Thursday from the Center for American Progress would provide a path toward universal health care coverage. But in a nod to political pragmatism, the plan would preserve roles for employer coverage and for the health insurance industry. Employers and individuals would have a choice of joining Medicare Extra, but it would not be required. That differs from the more traditional “single-payer” approach advocated by Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, in which the government would hold the reins of the health care system. The plan’s authors acknowledge that the plan would require significant tax increases.
Governor indicted — A St. Louis grand jury has indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge for allegedly taking a compromising photo of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015, the city circuit attorney’s office said Thursday. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner launched an investigation in January after Greitens admitted to an affair with his St. Louis hairdresser that began in March 2015. He was elected governor in November 2016. He was a Democrat until 2015, when he switched to the Republican Party. Gardner declined comment beyond a brief news release, but spokeswoman Susan Ryan confirmed the indictment stemmed from a photo Greitens allegedly took of the woman.
Trump, ICE and California — President Donald Trump said Thursday he may pull the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency out of California, an idea so unlikely that some of his staunchest critics dismissed it as an empty taunt. Withdrawing ICE, partially or completely, runs counter to Trump’s record of dramatically increasing deportation arrests and pledging to beef up the agency with an additional 10,000 employees. The administration has been threatening more — not less — immigration enforcement in California in response to a new state law that sharply limits cooperation with federal authorities. “Frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California you would have a crime nest like you’ve never seen in California,” he said at the White House during a meeting with state and local officials on school safety and gun violence. “All I’d have to do is say is, ‘ICE and Border Patrol, let California alone,’ you’d be inundated. You would see crime like nobody has ever seen crime in this country.”The Justice Department has threatened to deny millions of dollars in federal grants to communities that refuse to share information with federal immigration authorities. Many cities have defied the threats.
Trump Jr. in India — Donald Trump Jr. has spent the week in India pitching new luxury high-rises as his family’s business seeks a windfall from India’s admiration for President Donald Trump. He may have low approval ratings at home, but he appears well liked in a country with a fast-growing population of millionaires. But the trip was creating controversy for blurring the lines between the Trump White House and the Trump Organization. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., sought assurances from the U.S. Embassy in Delhi it was not helping Trump, and one ethics expert said it was “unprecedented” for a sitting president’s son to drum up business overseas like this.
Chinese pressure on Taiwan — As China ratchets up pressure on Taiwan, the self-governing island it claims as its territory, the United States is cautiously starting to push back. In recent months, Chinese strategic bombers have been conducting “island encirclement” flights, and its government has discouraged tourism to Taiwan and imports of goods. Meanwhile, Washington has started to gradually reinforce its ties to Taiwan. Bills have been introduced in Congress to promote visits to Taiwan by warships and by civilian officials and, in June, a U.S. institute that functions as an informal diplomatic channel plans to open an elegant new complex in Taiwan’s capital.