A Teacher Has Been Accused Of Sending Nude Pictures To Student

A teacher has been accused of sending dirty pictures and videos to one of her pupils.

Kelsie Rochelle Koepke, 25, has been charged with having an improper relationship and online solicitation of a minor, after allegedly sharing topless pictures and masturbation videos with the student.

The incident is said to have involved a male pupil, aged 15, at Paetow High School, Texas, last year.

The pupil told police the pair of them had began sending messages in October 2017 and it’s claimed Ms Koepke sent her first nudes two weeks later at the school’s Homecoming.

Known as Miss K in school, she is alleged to have told the child not to save their conversations.

The teacher has been accused of sending nude pictures and videos to a pupil at her school. Credit: Police Handout
The teacher has been accused of sending nude pictures and videos to a pupil at her school. Credit: Police Handout

According to reports in the United States, court documents state Koepke allegedly sent the first pictures and approached the child, saying “I can’t believe I did that.”

Despite apologising, it’s claimed she sent another batch of nudes just days later.

When questioned by police, it’s also alleged the teacher defended her actions by saying the messages were meant for another person she had met online – allegedly telling cops she had sent pictures and videos to several people.

However, even after realising she was sending the explicit footage to the teen, Ms Koepke didn’t remove him from her contacts in order to ‘keep the peace’, court documents say.

After news of the allegations broke, headteacher of Paetow High School, Mindy Dickerson, sent a letter out to parents explaining the situation.

In the note she wrote: “[The school] was made aware of the issue through another student who noticed a conversation on social media regarding inappropriate content being shared among the staff member and a student.

“But please be assured that the district takes this allegation very seriously and is fully cooperating with law enforcement.”

According to reports, Koepke, who lives in a town called Katy, has her bond set at $30,000 and is expected to go to court on May 7.

This is not the only case involving a teacher and her pupil currently being investigated by police.

Brittany Zamora was arrested in March last year after a student’s parents found the explicit messages, which contained nude photos of the married teacher.

The 28-year-old (who was 27 at the time of arrest) is accused of having sex with the student on numerous occasions in the classroom and her car.

Featured Image Credit: PA/Police Handout

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New Zealand is coming for these farmer’s guns. They’re OK with that.

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Nick Smith owns two guns: one Kriegeskorte & Co. Stuttgart .22 that he bought to teach his sons how to shoot on the farm where he works, and one Remington .243 he inherited from a friend years ago, which he uses to hunt pigs and deer.

Smith says his guns are just a farm tool, like his pickup truck. He resents that gun owners, farmers and hunters especially, could be “tarred with that dick’s brush,” referring to the gunman who killed 50 people at two Christchurch mosques last Friday.

“We’ve got guns, but we don’t shoot people, you know what I mean? But I guess that’s what most of America says, don’t they?” said Smith, who lives in North Canterbury, about an hour outside the city.

“It’s not the time to fight over a little gun. It’s not that important.”

Before last week’s massacre, New Zealand’s gun culture bore little resemblance to the U.S: The country had fewer than 10 gun deaths each year, compared to nearly 40,000 in America. And while its per capita gun ownership numbers are among the top 20 in the world — a 2017 government inquiry found there were more than 240,000 licensed gun owners in New Zealand, and an independent survey the same year estimated 1.2 million guns — they appear to be largely associated with farming. Perhaps because of this, New Zealand’s gun laws were lax; there was no national registry of guns, and assault weapons were legal.

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Nick Smith owns two guns: one Kriegeskorte & Co. Stuttgart .22 that he bought to teach his sons how to shoot on the farm where he works, and one Remington .243 he inherited from a friend years ago, which he uses to hunt pigs and deer.

Smith says his guns are just a farm tool, like his pickup truck. He resents that gun owners, farmers and hunters especially, could be “tarred with that dick’s brush,” referring to the gunman who killed 50 people at two Christchurch mosques last Friday.

“We’ve got guns, but we don’t shoot people, you know what I mean? But I guess that’s what most of America says, don’t they?” said Smith, who lives in North Canterbury, about an hour outside the city.

“It’s not the time to fight over a little gun. It’s not that important.”

Before last week’s massacre, New Zealand’s gun culture bore little resemblance to the U.S: The country had fewer than 10 gun deaths each year, compared to nearly 40,000 in America. And while its per capita gun ownership numbers are among the top 20 in the world — a 2017 government inquiry found there were more than 240,000 licensed gun owners in New Zealand, and an independent survey the same year estimated 1.2 million guns — they appear to be largely associated with farming. Perhaps because of this, New Zealand’s gun laws were lax; there was no national registry of guns, and assault weapons were legal.

Read more: Decoding the racist memes the alleged New Zealand shooter used to communicate.

That changed on Thursday. New Zealand had spent just six days engaged in the same sort of fierce debate over firearms that the U.S., which sees a mass shooting nearly every day, has been having for years. But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ban on the sale of military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) weapons, assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, and all parts able to convert a firearm into an MSSA.

Ardern said the government would also implement a buyback scheme. “In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,” she said.

Legislation will be introduced to Parliament in the first week of April, and Ardern expects it to be in place by April 11. In the meantime, all the weapons to be banned have been reclassified as weapons requiring a stricter license. In the interim before the new legislation goes into effect, applying for this license would be a waste of time, Ardern said. The announcement has been met with broad support, including from gun owners and New Zealand’s National Rifle Association, which already doesn’t welcome military-style weapons into its organization (and has considered changing its name so as not to appear affiliated with the U.S.’ NRA).

Read more: Trump shut down programs that could help stop the next white nationalist attack

Smith said while he thinks “city people” generally lack understanding about guns and what they’re used for “out here,” now — while the country mourns, and the scale of the tragedy sinks in — isn’t the time to fight stricter regulations.

“The whole country’s on the same wavelength right now,” he said. “No one’s going to fight it; it’s not the time to fight over a little gun. It’s not that important.”

In the days since the Christchurch slayings, gun owners like Smith have found themselves grappling with the place of firearms in society and whether civilians should have access to semi-automatics at all.

Mike Loder believes the ban was implemented too quickly. He’s an Auckland-based competitive shooter, a contributor to the Kiwi Gun blog, and a campaigner for the harsher sentencing of firearms offences. “We haven’t had an inquiry,” he said. “The prime minister has come up with solutions, [but] we don’t even know the questions yet.”

He believes reforms should have focused on tightening regulations on semi-automatics. There is a special license required to hold an assault weapon, called an E-category license, which only 7,000 New Zealanders have. He suggested that all semi-automatics require that license — particularly since they can be modified to be deadlier. “There probably were loopholes in the law that were taken advantage of and we need to address those,” said Loder. “If it can take a big magazine, make it E-category. Problem solved.”

Banning all semi-automatic weapons — and implementing a government buyback scheme for such weapons — he said, would be a purely emotional response to a tragedy about which we don’t yet have all the facts. “The number of people affected here is catastrophic. It’s tens and tens and tens of thousands of people. The buyback could be a billion dollars.” Ardern, in her statement, estimated that it would cost between $100 and $200 million. “That is the price we must pay to ensure the safety of our communities,” she said.

But most seem ready to embrace the ban.

“We’ve got guns but we don’t shoot people. But I guess that’s what most of America says, don’t they?”

John Hart, a sheep and beef farmer in Wairarapa, told VICE News that he had always considered his own semi-automatic — a 7.62mm calibre rifle, with a seven-round magazine — as a tool, and a pretty useful one. But he was “freaked out” by Friday’s terror, which gave him pause to consider the usefulness of semi-automatic guns in the country.

“The risk they hold in the country far outweighs any potential benefits,” he said. “Conscience dictates that I should probably get rid of my own.”

Hart said he believes New Zealanders attitude toward guns is behind the country’s low levels of gun crime relative to the rate of ownership. “The people I know who have firearms treat them as tools. They are not glorified … I think it’s definitely a different cultural approach.”

He supports the new gun control measures, saying they “strike a good balance between public safety and keeping some options for gun owners.”

Hart said the attack had even made him question whether pure recreation such as shooting ranges and gun clubs were valid enough reasons to want to own a gun. “Maybe it should be stripped back, so that it’s a tool, or law enforcement or farming or hunting,” he said.

Pointing out that the Australian shooter traveled to New Zealand — where he also bought his guns — to carry out his attack, Hart said “Was it too difficult for him to do it in Australia? Perhaps their current gun laws are part of that reason.”

Cover: A farmer walks along as dairy cows make their way to a milking shed at a New Zealand farm on Thursday, March 19, 2015. (Photographer: Brendon O’Hagan/Bloomberg via Getty Images.)

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Mike Pompeo thinks it’s “possible” that Trump is a biblical savior

President Donald Trump is many things: U.S. president. Wealthy businessman. Father of Tiffany Trump. Gemini. Biblical savior.

Well, that last one is still up for debate, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it’s at least a possibility during an appearance Thursday night on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” host Christ Mitchell asked Pompeo.

“As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible,” Pompeo replied.

“I am confident that the Lord is at work here,” he added.

President Donald Trump is many things: U.S. president. Wealthy businessman. Father of Tiffany Trump. Gemini. Biblical savior.

Well, that last one is still up for debate, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it’s at least a possibility during an appearance Thursday night on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” host Christ Mitchell asked Pompeo.

“As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible,” Pompeo replied.

“I am confident that the Lord is at work here,” he added.

Pompeo’s interview coincided with Purim, a holiday that celebrates the salvation of the Jewish people from genocide under Haman, the main antagonist in the Book of Esther who works as a minister in the Persian empire. In the Old Testament, Esther, the wife of Persian King Xerxes I, persuades her husband to rescue the Jews.

Pompeo also visited Israel on Thursday, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s running for re-election despite facing criminal charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust related to gifts he allegedly gave to foreign billionaires. Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that said the U.S. should “fully recognize” the Golan Heights as an Israeli territory, but Pompeo made no reference to the president’s words. The Golan Heights are a Syrian territory that Israel captured during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Netanyahu called Trump’s statement a “Purim miracle.”

Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) speaks during a press conference after a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam on February 28, 2019, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens. Both leaders have failed to reach an agreement on denuclearzation issue at their second summit. (The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images)

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Police Issue Warning Over Dangers Of Driving While Wearing Lanyard

Wearing your work lanyard while driving could cause serious injuries if you’re involved in an accident, according to a new police warning.

The caution comes after police in Dorset have been called to a number of accidents where the victims’ injuries were made much worse as a result of wearing a work pass around their necks.

Deployed airbag. Credit: Pixabay
Deployed airbag. Credit: Pixabay

According to the Dorset Police Volunteers, minor car accidents have been worsened by airbags deploying – one driver’s ID lanyard was pushed into their chest, collapsing their lung and meaning they had to be admitted to hospital.

Another had to have six months off work and six weeks in hopsital after her keys – which were attached to her lanyard – perforated her bowel after being pushed into her stomach.

In a Facebook post, the force said: “There have been a couple of serious traffic accidents of note (not within Dorset Police) where the wearing of identity lanyards around the drivers’ necks has exacerbated the severity of the injuries sustained. This type of accident is fortunately unlikely, however staff, officers and volunteers should be aware of the hazard and how to avoid it.

“One driver was involved in a minor car accident and was wearing their company lanyard and pass. The car airbag was deployed on impact and the force of the airbag caused the lanyard and pass to be pushed into the driver’s chest, causing a lung to collapse and requiring hospital treatment. Had the person not been wearing their lanyard and pass at the time, they would have most likely walked away relatively unscathed.

“In another accident, a NHS worker stored a lot of keys on her lanyard for medicine cabinets, lockers etc. She got into her car and was driving home, but did not remove her lanyard. Unfortunately she also had a crash that triggered the airbag. The force of the airbag caused the keys to perforate her bowel; she was in hospital for over six weeks and she has been off work now for six months.”

Lanyards can exacerbate car accidents. Credit: Pexels
Lanyards can exacerbate car accidents. Credit: Pexels

The police have said to make sure to remove any lanyards before embarking on car journeys to and from work. They’ve also appealed to companies to ensure that staff are given safer versions.

They added: “Where possible, use breakaway lanyards that will unclip themselves if caught or stuck.”

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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Can Trump Survive Mueller?

Michael Kruse is a senior staff writer for Politico.

“Well,” the newswoman said to Donald Trump, “you’re under a tremendous amount of pressure lately.”

“Why do you say that?” he asked.

Story Continued Below

It was April 6, 1990, and Paula Zahn on CBS actually had plenty of reasons to think Trump might be feeling anxious. It hadn’t been two months since the hyper-public, tabloid-tawdry revelation that his philandering had shattered his marriage to the mother of his first three children. He and his executives were grappling with the flawed, frantic opening of the newest, gaudiest, most expensive and most debt-bloated of his three casinos in Atlantic City. And reporters who covered money instead of celebrity had started to suss out the unsteadiness of Trump’s overall financial state.

“Both in your professional life and your personal life,” Zahn offered.

She asked how he was doing.

“I feel great,” Trump replied. “I’m doing well.”

Nearly three decades have passed. Even in Trump’s perma-perilous presidency, this is a juncture that pulses with risk. Newly empowered Democrats in Congress are ramping up multiple investigations, and talk of impeachment is impossible to avoid. Looming largest over this tumultuous battlefield, though, is the report special counsel Robert Mueller appears poised to submit to Attorney General William Barr—the culmination of nearly two years of labor and the subject of immeasurable speculation. While Trump often awards himself and his administration “A-plus” grades, many others question whether he will be able to sustain his rosy self-assessment once the details of Mueller’s findings become public.

Every flurry of tweets from the president—and last weekend’s two-day grievance bender against late-night comedy and cable news shows was a particularly strong example—begets new pronouncements that Trump is coming unglued from the strain. George Conway, husband of close Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, hauled out the clinical definition of narcissistic personality disorder to make the case that Trump is not only unfit for office but becoming catastrophically worse. And psychiatrists are speaking with dire predictions about the potential for a deranged person with extraordinary powers to create global mayhem and destruction.

“He has very poor coping mechanisms when he is criticized or when he feels humiliated,” Bandy Lee, a forensic psychiatrist from Yale and the editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, the second edition of which is out this month, told me, “and at these points he generally goes into attack mode and he threatens others or tries to get revenge. The Mueller report is of a scale that is probably unlike what we have seen him undergo before.”

Worst-case scenario? “Obliterate observing eyes of his humiliation,” Lee said. Meaning? “Destroying the world. That, very quickly, becomes an avenue, a perceived solution … for individuals with his personality structure.”

Make what you will of such medical predictions, but the historical record tells a different story. The back-and-forth with Zahn is an instructive (and comforting?) reminder about overstating Trump’s fragility. The Trump campaign in 2015 and ’16 careened from kill shot to kill shot, of course, and just kept going, right to the White House—and that was not the first time he flashed his ability to mitigate calamity and deftly skirt what might have seemed like an inevitable comeuppance. Whether or not Trump could remain not only financially solvent but reputationally intact was an open question for the entirety of the first half of the 1990s. So many times, he could have been snuffed, stopped, rendered a relative footnote, his place in the history of this country limited to status as a gauche totem of a regrettable epoch of greed. That, needless to say, is not how the tale played out. Trump is many things. A developer. A promoter. A master media manipulator. A grown-old rich kid. The president of the United States. Above all else, though, he is a survivor.

“The ultimate survivor,” former Trump casino executive Jack O’Donnell told me recently.

But it’s not just that Trump has survived that’s important to consider at this moment—it’s how he has done it. Armed with extraordinary audacity, constitutional sangfroid, a stomach for tumult, an acumen for recasting obvious losses into strange sorts of wins, and the prodigious safety net bequeathed by his wealthy, wily father, he has plowed past myriad hazards. And he did it by tying himself tightly to his bankers and lenders in New York and to gaming industry regulators in New Jersey—who let him live large until they couldn’t let him die without fatally wounding themselves. He effectively inhabited hosts, using them to get bigger and bigger in the ’80s until he was practically perversely invincible by the ’90s—not only “too big to fail,” as the late Wayne Barrett once told Susan Glasser and me, but “too big to jail.”

Perhaps his past escapes are the reason he appears oddly calm as most of the country leans forward, awaiting word of bombshells from Mueller. Over the weekend, when outsiders perceived mounting anxiety in Trump’s Twitter barrage, people who spoke to Trump by phone told reporters that “he seemed to be in good spirits.” The volume of tweets, they surmised, was just a product of too much time on his hands in the White House.

His bravado and bluster can’t mask, his critics say, the true jeopardy he faces. The stakes now are too high, the arena too large, the political currents too strong, for Trump to expect the same results. But if he does fail, pinned to account by the weight of evidence uncovered by Mueller, one thing is certain: It will be the first time.

***

Those who believe in the power of Trump’s survival skills to protect him from even this unprecedented threat draw an analogy between the Republican Party—its members of Congress and especially the Senate—and the institutions that have enabled him in the past.

“The banks were heavily invested in Trump, and they couldn’t have him go down,” former Trump campaign staffer Sam Nunberg told me, “and the Republican Party can’t have him go down.”

“I think he believes that the presidency is too big to fail, too powerful to be taken down,” O’Donnell added. “And I think that this is kind of something that he learned in the ‘90s, where the banks basically said to him, ‘You’re too big to fail, we have to back you.’ And they did it, time and time again, in Atlantic City.”

To be determined in the coming weeks and months: how well those lessons will hold up.

“This is a man who has lived dangerously for decades by flirting with the boundaries of propriety, legality and civility,” Trump biographer Tim O’Brien told me. “And he is now faced, after years and years of getting away with it, with consequences that are far beyond anything he’s encountered before. … The things that I think have allowed him to survive in the past will be of practical, personal use here in terms of him maintaining a stiff upper lip, if he’s able to.” But the more material applicability of the Machiavellian takeaways from his ‘90s scrapes? “I think they’re going to be absolutely of no use if the legal consequences are realized at their full magnitude.”

Others who know Trump well aren’t so sure.

“No matter what they do, he survives. No matter what they try, he survives,” longtime New York Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf told me. “Can Trump survive this? He absolutely can.”

In the middle of 1990, after all, he was more than $3 billion in the red. He had for years spent too much to buy too much, all with mostly borrowed money. The yacht, the airline, Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel. “Trophies,” he called them. And his casinos, first two, now three with the lurching launch of the Trump Taj Mahal, cannibalized each other. Even record rakes of cash weren’t enough to simply service all of Trump’s debt. On the horizon was the first of his six corporate bankruptcies.

“Trump is on his way down—and probably out,” business journalist Allan Sloan wrote that June in Newsday.

People didn’t stop at mere predictions. They also poked fun.

“I envision Donald Trump a year from now doing the ads for stomach-flatteners or ginsu knives on late-night TV. Or as a Worldwide Wrestling Federation commentator,” Gail Collins, then a columnist for the New York Daily News, told David Von Drehle, then a reporter for the Miami Herald.

Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown likened Trump to late-in-life Elvis. “He probably will wind up in that sort of Graceland, you know, wearing a diaper,” she told Steve Kroft of CBS News.

Spy, the puckish satirical magazine and inveterate needler of Trump, in its August 1990 issue took a tongue-in-cheek look at what they foresaw as a sad, middling future for a balding, paunchy Trump. Their crystal ball, though, was not all wrong. They anticipated a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, and a rough version of reality television, too—and a public offering that would permit Trump to use money from shareholders to make money of his own (“Now YOU can own a piece of the Trump!”).

But beyond the smart set’s schadenfreude were Trump’s real-life results.

After weeks of negotiations, the cluster of 70-some-odd banks that had loaned him billions of dollars gave him an additional $65 million loan. It was the first in a yearslong sequence of bailouts and extensions and breathing-room reprieves. They had loaned him so much money, it was no longer only his problem—it was theirs. He all but dared them to take him down. “He has a good bit of leverage over the institutions,” a Harvard Business School finance professor told the Boston Globe at the time. “His adjusted net worth is minus several hundred million dollars, by my estimate, and he is alive only because his bankers are too red-faced to pull the plug on his life-support system,” the chairman of a money management firm wrote in the New York Post. “The most important thing,” an official in the office of one of his lenders said in The American Banker, “is to make Trump survive.”

The banks over time clawed back a passel of Trump’s possessions (the yacht, the planes, the Plaza), but they didn’t take his casinos—because they didn’t want them. “The last thing they want to do is manage casinos,” an analyst from Moody’s Investors explained to the Associated Press. And the last thing the gaming officials and city leaders in New Jersey wanted was to have them close. The relationship was the same as with the banks back in New York. Desperate to prop up the flagging gaming industry, looking continually to the casinos to inject into the struggling seaside town at least the appearance of vitality and prosperity, they needed Trump as much as Trump needed them. A prerequisite to owning a casino in Atlantic City, understandably, was financial stability, and regulators could have stripped Trump of his—repeatedly—but of course didn’t. Trump’s casinos amounted to roughly a third of the market. “The whole economic development of the town,” said O’Donnell, “it was dependent on this. And so they just—they caved.”

Trump had managed to turn an apparent weakness into a significant advantage. The banks put him on an allowance … of $450,000 a month. The Trump Tower triplex was safe.

“The man is a Sherman tank in a Brioni suit,” New York Post gossip columnist and Trump pal Cindy Adams told USA Today.

“Hey, look, I had a cold spell from 1990 to ’91,” he said in 1994 in New York. “I was beat up in business and in my personal life. … But you learn that you’re either the toughest, meanest piece of shit in the world, or you just crawl into a corner, put your finger in your mouth, and say, ‘I want to go home.’” And Trump didn’t want to go home.

He wasn’t entirely in the clear, though, until 1995 and ’96, when his need for money finally superseded his desire for absolute control and he took his casinos public. He sat in his office and looked at O’Brien, then a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. He was “back,” he said. People bought stock in Trump and lost money in droves. Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts proved to be a good investment for just one person—Trump. “It was to get other people to get him out of that debt,” a former member of the Trump Organization told me. In addition to his selling of his stake in his foundation-laying Grand Hyatt and tens of millions of dollars of wrangled, well-timed loans from family trusts, it’s what saved Trump—along with a partnership with Hong Kong investors that turned his long-held plot of land on the Upper West Side that always cost him money into one that began to actually make him money. Construction on what would have been Trump City and now would be called Trump Place (and then wouldn’t) started in 1997. And two years later, in front of some of the buildings, Trump let the magician David Blaine get “buried alive” for a week in a plexiglass coffin. It was, said Blaine, a stunt famed illusionist Harry Houdini always wanted to do. For Trump, the publicity ploy made for an apt ode to the art of escape.

Trumpologists and culture critics frequently cite showman P.T. Barnum as Trump’s preeminent antecedent, but another, less noted inspiration was Houdini, the author of a forthcoming Houdini biography told me. “He always found—especially when it just seemed like it was over for him—he found some new chapter, and some new way to sort of get his success going again,” Joe Posnanski said. “He created this handcuff act, and the handcuff act becomes huge, and then that sort of runs its course. And then he comes up with the milk can, and the milk can sort of runs its course. And he comes up with the Chinese water torture cell, and that runs his course. And he starts hanging upside down and escaping from straitjackets.”

It makes Posnanski think of Trump.

“With Trump, you just think, ‘OK, this is it. This is totally it, you know?’” he said. “He’s bankrupt, people are laughing at him, he’s this, he’s that—but it’s never over for him.”

“Trump,” said Sheinkopf, the Democratic strategist, “is incessantly pulling Houdini acts.”

Recall all the “gaffes” that were to have torpedoed his indelicate, unorthodox 2016 presidential bid—peaking, of course, with the “Access Hollywood” tape revealed in early October in which he swaggered about sexual assault.

***

Those who predict Trump will ultimately fall don’t disagree that he has benefited from well-placed safety nets before. This time is different, they insist, because his high-wire act is being performed at unprecedented heights.

“Significantly higher,” O’Brien said. “He’s been on a financial tightrope, and a familial tightrope, but he’s never been on a legal tightrope like this one. Not even close. This is fundamentally new because of the legal consequences, and those legal consequences don’t end with the filing of the Mueller report. He still has issues that are still very serious in the Southern District of New York; in some ways, they may be more serious than the Mueller investigation in terms of potential consequences and how far they dig into his world.”

Bandy Lee is worried. The forensic psychiatrist from Yale has studied thousands of people with the mental disorders she perceives Trump has. Their behavior, untreated, had predictable and unpleasant results. She foresees a similar unraveling for Trump, albeit with a wild card she has never encountered in any of her patients: the awesome power of the commander in chief.

“Under stress, we can see the limits of one’s ability to cope, and we can see that the president has reached his limits fairly rapidly, in terms of not being able to sit with the advancing special counsel’s investigation. You can see there is a heightening of activity and creation of crises, distractions, if you will, in order to distract both themselves as well as the public away from the bad news he is continuing to receive,” Lee said.

“He has very poor coping mechanisms when he is criticized or when he feels humiliated,” she continued, “and at these points, he generally goes into attack mode, and he threatens others or tries to get revenge.”

Our conversation took place before Trump resurrected his feud with the late John McCain, but I couldn’t help thinking of Lee’s warning as I listened to the president on Wednesday belabor his grudge before a crowd of workers who were expecting some good news on the economy, not a hit job on a war hero. Maybe this, just like the days of name-calling with George Conway, really are the signs of a mind in turmoil.

And yet—and this is just the reality of the record—Trump shrewdly, bullheadedly, even blithely pushed past crises in the ‘90s that would have felled almost anybody else. And then, perhaps convinced of his own invincibility, he blew through a litany of accepted social and political checkpoints on his way to the Oval Office and his high-backed chair behind the Resolute desk.

“Pressure,” Trump said in an extended interview in Playboy in 1990, “doesn’t upset my sleep. … I like throwing balls into the air—and I dream like a baby.”

That same year, on June 14, he turned 44. The next day, he missed about $45 million in debt payments for his casino called Trump Castle. “He is absolutely on knife’s edge,” James Grant, the editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, told Newsday. The day after that, Trump had a party. More than a thousand employees in Atlantic City showed up at the bash on the boardwalk, according to news reports. “We love you, Donald!” they cried. He was presented with a chocolate cupcake, a 12-page birthday card and an 8-foot-by-10-foot portrait of himself.

“Nobody wants to write the positives,” Trump told the cheering crowd. “Over the years, I’ve surprised a lot of people. The largest surprise is yet to come.”

True.

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Some Democrats want more than just Trump’s personal tax returns

Donald Trump

Some liberal Democrats say lawmakers should demand President Donald Trump’s business tax filings in addition to his personal tax returns. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Congress

Trump’s business returns could reveal much, much more.

Top Democratic lawmakers are preparing to request President Donald Trump’s personal tax returns, but some liberal lawmakers say they should also demand his business tax filings.

The business returns are much more likely to indicate conflicts of interest and other possible malfeasance Democrats hope to uncover, such as suspicious ties to Russian interests and whether he took aggressive steps to avoid paying taxes.

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Trump’s financial disclosures show he has more than 500 partnerships and other types of businesses, and each of those would generally have its own tax return.

There are other types of returns Democrats could seek as well. They could demand returns from his trusts — a check from Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen released earlier this month, that he said reimbursed him for hush payments to Stormy Daniels, was written out of the account of a revocable trust. Democrats might want First Lady Melania Trump’s returns, because if she and her husband file separately yet own a business together they could allocate income from it to her and not him.

Trump’s recently dissolved foundation, which New York’s attorney general said had engaged in a “shocking pattern of illegality,” would have its own filings too, though much, if not all, of those are already publicly available.

On top of all that, there is the tricky question of how many years back Democrats want to investigate.

Some liberals want House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, who has the power to seize Trump’s returns under an arcane statute, to investigate everything with the president’s name on it, hoping to find criminal bombshells. They will likely jump on the Massachusetts Democrat if they believe he’s not giving them an adequate scrubbing.

But that threatens to bury lawmakers in thousands of returns, and Democrats are working under time constraints; they want to have something to show the public before next year’s elections. It will take time to digest Trump’s returns and there will likely be a big court fight before the administration hands anything over. The tax panel also has other priorities in addition to investigating Trump’s taxes.

Some say Democrats ought to take a more incremental approach by requesting a sample of Trump’s returns, with a promise to follow up on any leads they present. That would be more manageable and also help Democrats fend off complaints they are on a “fishing expedition,” said John Buckley, a former longtime Democratic tax aide on the Ways and Means Committee.

“Strategically, you’re better off with a narrow, well-targeted first request,” he said. “The first request doesn’t mean that’s all you’re ever going to ask for.”

“‘We’re going to get there, we’re just not going to get there in one step’ — that’s what Neal needs to say,” Buckley said.

But Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, said Democrats should pursue a broader investigation, and downplayed the amount of time that will be needed to parse the president’s returns.

“Five thousand pages is nothing,” he said. “Even 20,000 pieces of paper” is a “minor cost.”

“This is a pretty significant issue for the country,” he added.

The debate over the seemingly simple question of what to ask for is an indication of how Trump’s surely complicated taxes, thanks to his wealth and his career in business, pose a unique challenge to lawmakers trying to vet his finances.

Democrats are preparing to employ a little-used law to try to seize Trump’s tax returns, which he’s steadfastly refused to disclose. A nearly century-old statute allows the heads of Congress’ tax committees to examine anyone’s private tax information. Experts say lawmakers can vote to make that information public. The administration has signaled it will fight the request.

Neal has said little about what he plans to demand, while his colleagues on the panel have given conflicting accounts of their intentions. Last week, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said he expects Neal to request both Trump’s personal and business returns. The week before that, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), another tax writer, said Neal would request ten years’ worth of personal returns, but not his business ones.

Trump’s personal returns would include basic information like how much he earns, how much he pays in taxes and what, if anything, he gives to charity. It would also include summary information about his businesses, such as how much he earned from them.

But the details of those businesses — like whom he is working with, whom he owes money to and whether he is taking aggressive steps to avoid paying taxes on them — would show up in separate returns.

“If you start with the personal returns, what you’ll run into pretty quickly is a lot of references to investments that don’t tell you very much about what it is,” said former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “It’s going to drive you to the business return.”

But those filings could not only be voluminous, they could also be quite complicated.

There could also potentially be collateral damage if Democrats make his partnership filings public because they would likely reveal private information about not just Trump but other people in business with him. That could be important if they showed Trump is in business with prominent Russians, for example, but it could also violate the privacy of other people who are of little interest to Congress unless lawmakers take special steps to protect them.

How many years to look at is another potentially difficult issue.

House Democrats passed legislation earlier this month demanding a decade’s worth of returns from Trump, but that wouldn’t answer questions raised, for example, by a 1995 return leaked to The New York Times showing Trump took a $916 million loss that year.

But it’s not clear how many of Trump’s old returns the government still has on file.

The IRS has a policy of disposing of filings after a certain number of years, though the standard depends on the type of return and it doesn’t apply in cases where someone is under audit or owes the agency money. The agency generally dumps individual returns after six years, while it keeps corporate returns for 50 years and hangs onto estate tax filings for 75 years.

Lawmakers are unlikely to get Trump’s 2018 returns anytime soon. He probably won’t file those until later this year — wealthy people often wait until October to do their taxes because it takes a while to collect tax information from business partnerships. So Democrats likely won’t be able to determine if Trump benefited from the GOP tax rewrite that took effect in 2018 or if he made any moves in response to the law.

Many expect lawmakers to turn over Trump’s returns, should they get them, to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation to analyze. The agency is comprised of tax lawyers, accountants and economists who serve as nonpartisan technical advisers to lawmakers — and it has done this sort of thing before.

President Richard Nixon faced questions over whether he had cheated on his taxes and, in a bid to clear the air, he asked JCT in December 1973 to audit his returns from 1969 through 1972. Though his finances were less complicated than Trump’s likely are — the main issues for Nixon had to do with charitable deductions he had claimed as well as whether he paid enough in capital gains taxes on an apartment and land sale — it still took JCT four months to analyze the filings.

In April 1974, the agency produced a 1,000-page report finding that Nixon owed $475,431 in unpaid taxes and penalties.

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A lawsuit over Facebook emails could prove Zuckerberg knew about Cambridge Analytica much earlier than he claimed

Facebook will appear in court Friday hoping to keep private internal company emails that could reveal CEO Mark Zuckerberg knew about the Cambridge Analytica scandal far earlier than he told Congress.

Zuckerberg and his COO Sheryl Sandberg told Congress last year that they learned about Cambridge Analytica in December 2015, when the Guardian broke the news of the UK-based company.

However, a court filing by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine suggests the company knew about the data scraping practices in September 2015 — and he wants to unseal employee emails to prove it.

Facebook admitted Friday that they were aware of an issue with Cambridge Analytica in September 2015 — but claim that issue was unrelated to the wider scandal that broke in December 2015 in which Global Science Research harvested the data of 87 million people before selling it to Cambridge Analytica, who then used it for political campaigns, including the 2016 U.S. election.

The outcome of the case is being closely watched by those seeking to hold Facebook to account for privacy violations.

Facebook will appear in court Friday hoping to keep private internal company emails that could reveal CEO Mark Zuckerberg knew about the Cambridge Analytica scandal far earlier than he told Congress.

Zuckerberg and his COO Sheryl Sandberg told Congress last year that they learned about Cambridge Analytica in December 2015, when the Guardian broke the news of the UK-based company.

However, a court filing by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine suggests the company knew about the data scraping practices in September 2015 — and he wants to unseal employee emails to prove it.

Facebook admitted Friday that they were aware of an issue with Cambridge Analytica in September 2015 — but claim that issue was unrelated to the wider scandal that broke in December 2015 in which Global Science Research harvested the data of 87 million people before selling it to Cambridge Analytica, who then used it for political campaigns, including the 2016 U.S. election.

The outcome of the case is being closely watched by those seeking to hold Facebook to account for privacy violations.

“If Racine loses this case then Facebook rules the USA,” David Carroll, an associate professor at Parsons School of Design in New York who is also suing Cambridge Analytica in U.K. courts, told VICE News.

Facebook did not respond to VICE News’ questions about the court filing, but in a statement to the Guardian, the company said it “absolutely did not mislead anyone about this timeline.”

The lawsuit

Racine filed a lawsuit against Facebook in December for allowing Cambridge Analytica to harvest the private data of tens of millions of users. Facebook has tried to dismiss the case, but Racine cited the emails as evidence in his opposition to the motion to dismiss.

The AG claims “as early as September 2015, a DC-based Facebook employee warned the company that Cambridge Analytica” was doing something. We don’t know what that something is, as it is currently redacted. Racine added that the employee “received responses [relating to] Cambridge Analytica’s data-scraping practices.”

Facebook’s top executives have repeatedly refused to give a detailed timeline of when the company first uncovered problems with how Cambridge Analytica was collecting and using user data.

“There is a lot of explaining to do about what was known by whom about what and when,” Emily Taylor, CEO of Oxford Information Labs, told VICE News.

“Consistently misled”

Facebook watchers across the globe are eagerly awaiting the outcome of Friday’s hearing.

“If Facebook gets the case dismissed tomorrow then it’s a nothing burger [but] I can’t see how it gets dismissed. Racine has the case pretty well laid out,” Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next who has chronicled the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, told VICE News.

Damian Collins, a British MP who has tirelessly sought to uncover the truth of how the Cambridge Analytica scandal unfolded, tweeted that Racine’s filing “could suggest that Facebook has consistently misled the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee about what it knew and when about Cambridge Analytica.”

Collins and his colleagues obtained the same emails during their investigation. In the committee’s final report they referred to the emails but did not publish them.

While it has been European lawmakers and regulators that have been at the forefront of investigations into Facebook’s data collection and privacy practices, U.S. authorities now appear to be stepping up.

The FTC is reportedly preparing a multi-billion dollar fine for privacy violations, and FTC Chairman Joe Simons told senators recently that the agency was planning a wide-ranging investigation of tech companies’ data practices.

READ: Facebook’s political ad tool let us buy ads “paid for” by Mike Pence and ISIS

Facebook has been on the receiving end of a continuous torrent of negative press for more than two years but it continues to make huge profits and the impact of these stories on its commercial viability appears minimal.

“While it seems like they are in the perpetual naughty corner from the lawmakers’ perspective, they continue to be an outstanding commercial success,” Taylor said.

Cover image: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (C) testifies at a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., United States, on April 10, 2018. (Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images)

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