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Newsletter: ‘A grave counterintelligence threat’

Paul Manafort at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016.
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

A bipartisan Senate report describes Paul Manafort as “a grave counterintelligence threat” and undermines President Trump’s frequent claims of “no collusion” between his campaign and Moscow.

TOP STORIES

‘A Grave Counterintelligence Threat’

President Trump‘s 2016 campaign eagerly capitalized on Russia’s efforts to meddle in the U.S. election four years ago, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report from Republicans and Democrats that raises new concerns about connections between Trump’s top aides and Moscow.

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As Russian military intelligence officers were releasing hacked Democratic Party emails through WikiLeaks, the report said, the Trump campaign “sought to maximize the impact of those leaks” and “created messaging strategies” around them. The report found that the Trump campaign “publicly undermined” the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia was behind the email hack and “was indifferent to whether it and Wikileaks were furthering a Russian election interference effort.”

The 966-page document describes Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman who is serving prison time for financial crimes, as “a grave counterintelligence threat” because of his relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business partner in Ukraine who is conclusively described as a “Russian intelligence officer.” Manafort and Kilimnik used encrypted messaging applications and codes to communicate, sometimes telling each other to look at the “tea bag” or the “updated travel schedule” when it was time to check the email account they shared, according to the report, which represents a rare bipartisan consensus on a hotly contested topic.

The report includes new details about Roger Stone communicating with Trump about Wikileaks and concerns about whether anyone encouraged Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, to lie about Trump’s pursuit of a luxury skyscraper in Moscow during the campaign.

This fifth and final volume from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian election meddling in 2016 arrives soon after Trump’s own intelligence officials have warned that Moscow is revisiting its playbook ahead of the 2020 election by trying to undermine Joe Biden.

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The Nominee — at Last

Democrats have bestowed former Vice President Joe Biden with the prize he has chased for more than 30 years, nominating him for president with a roll call vote that virtually touched down in every state and territory.

“It means the world to me and my family, and I will see you on Thursday,” when he gives his acceptance speech, Biden said with a broad grin seconds after Delaware, his home state, cast the final votes in his favor and the song “Celebration” began in the background. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Tuesday’s gathering brought together some of the party’s elders — including former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, among others — but also gave a platform to progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

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Erstwhile Biden rival Bernie Sanders was showered with attention. The Vermont senator’s name was placed by Ocasio-Cortez in nomination along with Biden’s. The balloting gave his supporters a last hurrah, but the outcome was never in doubt.

Who’s Following the Mask Rules?

To reduce the spread of the coronavirus, all Californians are required to wear a mask in public. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor under an order issued in June by Gov. Gavin Newsom. But enforcement has been lax and many people have resisted. It’s unknown how widely the public adheres to the rule, so The Times decided to find out.

Last month, over the course of a week, our reporters observed passersby in three locations in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Here are the results of our sampling.

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— California health officials are beginning to consider what the next phase of reopening may look like, offering a glimmer of hope for places like Los Angeles County.

L.A. County has issued strict rules for colleges reopening during the coronavirus crisis, virtually banning in-person classes. The announcement has scuttled the plans of some area schools.

Domestic violence rose during the coronavirus lockdowns — and injuries are dramatically more severe, a new national study finds.

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For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

A New but Familiar Emergency

Newsom has declared a statewide emergency in order to help California respond to the fires burning across the state amid an extreme heat wave.

More than 30 wildfires are burning in California, including nearly a dozen that started in the last two days, according to officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and a Times analysis. Officials said consumers conserved enough electricity to avoid rotating power outages on Tuesday, but urged consumers to again conserve energy Wednesday between 3 and 10 p.m.

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Cal Fire Capt. Richard Cordova said most of the biggest fires, including several in the Central Valley and Northern California, are believed to have been caused by lightning strikes.

Defund the Police? Some Say Weaken Their Unions

Activists in the growing movement for police reform in the U.S. have for months targeted large police budgets. But for years behind the scenes, other reform advocates have pinpointed another roadblock to progress: police unions and the influence they wield. Now, two prominent organizations — the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Campaign Zero — have each launched online campaigns challenging police union contracts in big cities like L.A. and state laws that have cemented union-backed protections in California and elsewhere.

The efforts follow widespread protests across the country over police brutality, and a recent poll that found a majority of Californians — 61% — favored limiting the power of police unions by reducing their collective bargaining rights.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

In 1949, researchers at UCLA wanted to find out whether different types of people were more or less likely to laugh. They selected a group of about 125 from a variety of backgrounds. The subjects watched a comedy film while the researchers monitored their reactions.

The resulting research was covered by The Times on Aug. 7, 1949. According to the story, those who laughed the loudest and longest were morticians and riveters. Teenagers and adults older than 40 were observed to laugh less than people ages 20 to 40. It was not clear which film they watched. The story noted that a follow-up study was planned to determine whether those who didn’t laugh were simply “laughing inside” or had “a less than average intense emotional reaction.”

Photo taken by UCLA researchers with infra-red light of an audience during a motion-picture comedy show.
This photo, published in Los Angeles Times on Aug. 7, 1949, was taken by UCLA researchers with infrared light as the audience viewed a motion-picture comedy show during a humor study. The research found that morticians laughed more than people younger than 20 and those in their teens and older than 40 laughed less and later than those ages 20 to 40.
(UCLA)

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CALIFORNIA

— Newsom has signed a bill requiring all 430,000 California State University undergraduates to take ethnic studies in a notable rebuke to the university’s governing board, which had passed its own, much broader requirement last month.

— The victims of Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., the former police officer whose violent crimes through the 1970s and 1980s terrorized Californians across the state and earned him the moniker Golden State Killer, are finally getting their say in court.

— Los Angeles is considering cutting power to at least three houses for violating coronavirus-related rules against social gatherings, according to police and city officials.

— Does L.A. count its homeless population, or make its best guess? A little of both, it turns out.

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NATION-WORLD

— Postmaster Gen. Louis DeJoy said he would postpone changes to the U.S. postal system that have been blamed for delays in mail services, but his promise did little to assuage Democrats’ worries that the Trump administration is trying to undermine the mail system for an advantage at the ballot box this fall. California is joining several other states in suing the Trump administration over the cutbacks.

— “Everything has been pulverized,” but cleanup and an investigation of the Beirut blast press on.

Mali‘s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced his resignation on state television, hours after mutinous soldiers fired shots into the air outside his home before detaining him and the prime minister.

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— Residents of a town in Switzerland got a bit of a shock when fine cocoa powder began falling from the sky after the ventilation system at a chocolate factory malfunctioned.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The “Ellen” scandal has gripped us in part because it’s so familiar, TV critic Robert Lloyd writes: From “Larry Sanders” to “The Morning Show,” TV sees itself as an awful place to work.

— Seventeen seasons later, Kenan Thompson is still having a blast on “Saturday Night Live.”

— Lots of parents make lunch for their kids. But Jessica Woo put hers on TikTok, where her artful touches have earned her a devoted audience and social media stardom.

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Netflix axed Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” on Tuesday, the latest talk-show cancellation for the streaming service.

Ellen DeGeneres ousted three top producers from her long-running chat show after an investigation into accusations of bad behavior on set.

BUSINESS

NBCUniversal has ousted longtime Universal executive Ron Meyer after learning he tried to cover up hush-money payments to a woman — a scenario that Meyer said led to an extortion plot.

Renewable energy corporations have launched an eleventh-hour campaign to derail a petition seeking endangered species protection for Joshua trees, saying it could hinder development of the solar and wind power projects California needs.

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SPORTS

— The top-seeded Lakers lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal playoff series. Meanwhile, the Clippers find themselves up one game to nothing as they play Game 2 of their series with the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.

— Zoom huddles. Nose swabs. Players running up and down the field in masks instead of helmets. Welcome to the 15th season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” featuring the Rams and the Chargers as they navigate the pandemic.

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OPINION

— Think carefully before rolling back the LAPD on traffic and other duties, The Times’ editorial board writes.

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— Trump doesn’t understand Susan B. Anthony’s fight, which is why he pardoned her, Scott Martelle writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Inside Trump’s DNC counterprogramming: It’s no coincidence he’s been traveling this week. (Axios)

— How heat waves can become deadly. (The Conversation)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Thirsty honeybees, which forced closure of two Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds earlier this summer, are alarming visitors again. This time, rangers have shut down the White Tank Campground and the popular Keys View observation point while also dealing with a summer storm. And the bees aren’t the only perils in the desert these days.

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Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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