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Lobbyists panic after Mueller team digs into foreign agent databases as part of Trump-Russia probe

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Lobbyists scrambled to file paperwork after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted a pair of top Trump campaign officials with violating a rarely enforced federal law.

News reports began circulating earlier this year that Mueller and FBI agents were examining databases in the U.S. Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Unit, and an unusually high number of lobbyists filed paperwork disclosing their overseas work, reported NBC News.

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Mueller indicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates in October on a variety of charges, including money laundering and failure to register as a foreign agent.

Previously, only three indictments had ever been handed up for alleged FARA violations since the amendment of the Foreign Agents Registration Act in 1966, although none resulted in a conviction.

An NBC News analysis found that first-time filings under FARA jumped 50 percent between 2016 and 2017, while the number of supplemental filings detailing campaign donations, meetings and phone calls doubled to 1,244 last year.

The parent company of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm owned by Trump donor Robert Mercer, recently filed paperwork showing it had helped spread propaganda against Qatar as part of an information war with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

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SCL Social Limited disclosed to the Justice Department that it had taken $333,000 from UAE to conduct a social media campaign linking Qatar to terrorism last year, as the Trump administration endorsed the Saudi and UAE positions and cut diplomatic ties with the tiny Gulf nation.

The company created multiple ads on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media with the hashtag #boycottqatar, which were spread during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September.

Some of the ads called for President Donald Trump’s attention to the issue, but the filing does not otherwise link the president or Cambridge Analytica to the activity.

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Lobbyists say American firms have been doing business for foreign governments over the past decade to influence public opinion on humanitarian crises or introduce foreign leaders to U.S. officials.

One lobbyist told NBC News that U.S. firms can function as “little State Departments,” and they were often reluctant to file under FARA because their foreign clients preferred to remain anonymous.

But Mueller’s attention to FARA regulations has already pulled away some of that veil of secrecy, the network reported.

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Mick Mulvaney is Trump’s new fall guy on corruption — and Republicans just play along

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It's getting increasingly more difficult to keep track of all the new impeachable acts President Trump commits every day. And perhaps even more difficult to imagine the most outrageous thing he can do that the Republican Party would still defend.

This article first appeared in Salon.

It took almost two weeks, but the White House has finally admitting what everyone knew from day one: Trump demanded a quid pro quo from the Ukrainian government before releasing military aid authorized by Congress. Republicans have been denying the obvious, remaining willfully blind to a brazen scheme. That suddenly seems quaint, now that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has confessed on live television that there was a quid pro quo.

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The week Donald Trump’s presidency crashed and burned — and Republicans noticed

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It feels as though every week during the Trump administration is a year and every year a decade. Every day there is a crisis or an outrage or a revelation that takes your breath away. But the underlying dynamics always seem to be the same no matter what. The press reports the story, the Democrats get outraged, the pundits analyze it, the president rages and then Fox and the Republicans all line up like a bunch of robots and salute smartly. Then we reset until the next crisis, outrage or revelation. It's an exhausting cycle that never seems to get us anywhere and it's bred a fatalistic response in many of us: "Nothing matters."

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Turkish president threatens US over Trump’s insulting letter: ‘When the time comes necessary steps will be taken’

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an on Friday warned the United States that it would pay a price for the letter send by President Donald Trump that warned him that history "will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen" in northern Syria.

The letter, which also advised Erdo?an to not "be a tough guy" or "a fool," was widely ridiculed in the media for sounding childish. Erdo?an, however, said on Friday that he took the president's letter as a serious insult to his stature as a world leader.

As reported by the BBC's Jon Sopel, Erdo?an called out the president's letter for being out of line with standard diplomatic protocol, and he suggested his country would not forget how the president showed them such little respect.

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