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People hold placards during a silent protest march in memory of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova in Bratislava. Photo: VLADIMIR SIMICEK/AFP/Getty Images

The final piece of unfinished reporting from a Slovakian journalist who was assassinated, apparently for his work exposing corruption, was published Wednesday by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and his outlet, Aktuality.sk. Jan Kuciak was working on an in-depth investigation into Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta, one of the world’s most powerful criminal groups, and their infiltration into Slovakia and next-door Czech Republic.

Why it matters: Slovakia’s vulnerability to organized crime has become of increasing concern to the European Union — particularly the connivance of politicians in large-scale fraud as well as the defaming of journalists trying to investigate such activities.

The latest

Kuciak’s last unfinished story before he was shot dead along with his girlfriend in their apartment over the weekend was titled “The Model, the Mafia, and the Murderers”.

  • It detailed an investigation into Slovakian PM Fico’s hiring of topless model Mária Trošková as one of his assistants, and Trošková's business ties to Antonino Vadala, 42, an Italian living in Slovakia with allegedly close ties to the ’Ndrangheta.
  • PM Fico has been criticized for holding a press conference on Tuesday, where he stood by piles of banknotes worth €1 million — the reward the government is promising for information about the killings. "Do not link innocent people without any evidence to a double homicide," he said, criticizing the opposition and the media.
  • Slovak Police President Tibor Gaspar said the authorities had questioned 20 people since Monday and contacted the Czech Republic and Italy about the investigation.
  • The Czech reporter working out of Prague with Kuciak, Pavla Holcová, of the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism, is now under police protection.
The backdrop:
  • Press freedom is falling in Slovakia, where oligarchs now own much of the media and politicians have taken steps to weaken the press. The situation for journalists working elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe has deteriorated over the last few years as well.
  • Top politicians in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic have been criticized for their comments regarding journalists. Czech President Milos Zeman has made repeated ‘jokes’ about how reporters should be killed and Fico in November 2016 described several journalists as “filthy anti-Slovak prostitutes” after being quizzed about a corruption cases.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”