Peter Overby

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Updated at 2:19 p.m. ET

The Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution will be rendered meaningless if Democrats in Congress aren't allowed to sue President Trump for violating it, a lawyer for nearly 200 Democratic senators and representatives told a federal judge today.

"There's simply nothing Congress can do to stop the president's actions, no matter who's in control of the body," said Brianne Gorod, chief counsel of the Constitution Accountability Center, representing the Democratic lawmakers.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, already battling roughly a dozen ethics investigations, allegedly asked a top aide to obtain a used mattress from President Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel.

Millan Hupp, Pruitt's director of scheduling and advance, told House investigators last month that she couldn't track down the mattress, and didn't know if Pruitt ultimately got one.

A spokeswoman for the Trump International Hotel had no comment on any aspect of the story.

As tech companies and government agencies prepare to defend against possible Russian interference in the midterm elections, the Federal Election Commission has a different response: too soon.

The four commissioners on Thursday deadlocked, again, on proposals to consider new rules, for example, for foreign-influenced U.S. corporations and for politically active entities that don't disclose their donors.

Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET

Emory Rounds III, President Trump's nominee to lead the Office of Government Ethics, got a warm if brief welcome Wednesday from a Senate committee.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., summed up senators' concerns about OGE, which has gone toe-to-toe with the Trump White House several times. Carper asked Rounds, "Are you confident you can maintain independence from this White House, and when necessary hold it accountable?"

Rounds replied, "I certainly intend to do so, yes sir."

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET

In his annual disclosure of personal finances, President Trump acknowledged that he paid lawyer Michael Cohen between $100,000 and $250,000 last year.

Both Cohen and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani have said some of that money was to reimburse Cohen for a $130,000 hush money settlement with adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump.

Michael Cohen — variously described as President Trump's lawyer, fixer or, in his words, "pit bull" — has emerged as a would-be Washington influence peddler.

AT&T, Korean Aerospace Industries, a branch of the Swiss drugmaker Novartis and an American company linked to a Russian oligarch all acknowledged they had hired Cohen after Trump's surprise victory in 2016. It appears that between January 2017 and January 2018 about $1.25 million flowed from the four companies into Cohen's Essential Consultants LLC.

As with most Trump-related controversies, it leaves questions.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Did President Trump break campaign finance laws when his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 to an adult film actress as part of a nondisclosure agreement? Or was Trump hoping the payment would smooth out his personal life?

That's still the fundamental question regarding Stormy Daniels' alleged encounter with Trump. But after a few volleys of contradictory accounts on TV and Twitter, the details are becoming clearer.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg prepared for two congressional hearings coming this week, he gave reporters a look at his crisis-management strategy.

"We didn't take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is," he said Wednesday, referring to Facebook policies that allowed political consultants to acquire data belonging to as many as 87 million Facebook users. "And that was a huge mistake. It was my mistake."

The way some of President Trump's Cabinet officials tell it, their recent negative headlines haven't been about difficulties complying with federal ethics laws, but rather about "the optics."

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, in a House committee's hot seat last month after taking his wife on a government-funded trip to Europe, said, "I do recognize the optics of this are not good. I accept the responsibility for that."

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., questioning Shulkin, snapped back: "It's not the optics that are not good. It's the facts that are not good."

The British data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica has gone from mysterious genius to potential defendant as details emerge about its role in Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign. With conservative strategist Steve Bannon playing a founding role, backed by money from billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, the firm was able to develop data from 50 million Facebook users into a psychologically-based strategy to target voters.

The Federal Election Commission, better known for deadlocks than decisions, has unanimously agreed to take a first step against anonymous political advertising on the internet.

The proposed rule deals with disclaimers — the "authorized by" taglines that are mandatory in print, television and radio ads that explicitly support or attack candidates.

At least for one more day, the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania are alive with the sound of campaign cash.

Voters in the state's 18th Congressional District on Tuesday elect a new member of Congress. It's a surprisingly close race in this reliably Republican district between Democratic former prosecutor Conor Lamb and Republican state legislator Rick Saccone. GOP and conservative groups are shoveling in dollars to overcome Saccone's lackluster fundraising — this despite his claim that he "was Trump before Trump was Trump."

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