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Photo: Getty Images

President Trump's former personal lawyer — and longtime fixer — Michael Cohen has entered into a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller for lying to Congress about a Trump real estate project in Russia, the AP reports.

The big picture: Cohen has long been a source of concern for key people in Trump's orbit. According to ABC News, Mueller now has 70 hours of interviews with Cohen, focusing on questions regarding Trump's business ties to Russia, Trump associates contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign, obstruction of justice and possible pardons. Former U.S. attorney in Florida, Kendall Coffey, told ABC News: "The potential significance of Cohen's cooperation is immense."

How it all kicked off: Adult film star Stormy Daniels claimed she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and received a $130,000 payment from Cohen to keep quiet.

  • Following Daniels' allegations, federal investigators in New York raided Cohen's home and office in April. As a former U.S. attorney told Axios at the time, "Here’s what must have happened: Mueller bumped into evidence of criminal conduct that was beyond his scope, so he referred it to the Rod," meaning Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.
  • A court ruling after the raid meant that Trump's team lost first access to items that were seized, and the secrets of "the only person on earth intertwined in Trump’s professional, political, personal, legal and family life" were available to federal investigators.
  • The scope of the government's investigation widened in May after it was learned that investigators had monitored Cohen's phones.
  • Cohen broke his silence in July in an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos — seemingly indicating that he'd be willing to cooperate with the feds: "I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy. I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way."
  • Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, released a tape to CNN detailing Cohen's conversation with Trump about paying off Karen McDougal, a Playboy model who alleged an affair with the president, later in July. David promised there was "more to come."
  • Soon after, Cohen told CNN that Trump knew ahead of time about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between some of his top campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
  • Cohen's family taxi business soon came under scrutiny, prompting tweets from Trump in late July.
  • In August, news broke that federal investigators were looking into related tax and bank fraud.
  • Two days later he pleaded guilty to eight counts including tax fraud, excessive campaign contributions, and more.

Go deeper: Everyone caught up in the Trump investigations

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.

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