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Morning Update: So, Again, Brands Don't Have Feelings

Suspicious payments for a Trump Tower lobbyist, Slack's new logo brings out the bad in the internet, 21 Savage's lawyer speaks out. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, Feb. 5.

Posted on February 5, 2019, at 7:17 a.m. ET

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A lobbyist at the Trump Tower meeting received half a million dollars in suspicious payments

The background you need here: The meeting in June of 2016 and those who attended it have become a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in that year’s election.

With that in mind, a BuzzFeed News investigation revealed that a Russian-born lobbyist who attended the controversial meeting received a series of suspicious payments totaling half a million dollars before and after the encounter.

Documents we reviewed show that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet military officer turned Washington lobbyist, deposited large, round-number amounts of cash in the months preceding and following the Trump Tower meeting, where a Russian lawyer offered senior Trump campaign officials dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Can a pragmatic populist win in 2020? Sherrod Brown is looking for the answer.

The senior senator from Ohio is making the pitch that he can be the right kind of populist.

Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, found plenty of encouragement in his first trip to Iowa, where the crucial Iowa caucuses are less than a year away. But this Democratic field is large and liberal, and so many Democrats are wondering if Brown is populist enough.

His message is progressive and pro-worker. But if he runs, he’ll have to sell Democrats on a restrained, pragmatic kind of populism.

Read Henry Gomez’s dispatch on Brown’s White House campaign-in-waiting.

SNAPSHOTS

Tonight, Donald Trump will deliver the State of the Union address. The president’s speech promises to be especially dramatic, coming after the longest government shutdown in US history. We’ll have coverage on BuzzFeedNews.com

The lawyer for rapper 21 Savage, who was detained by ICE, says it’s not his fault he was in the US illegally. ICE claims the 26-year-old rapper was a UK citizen who entered the US legally in 2005 on a visa that expired a year later. His lawyer says he was a minor whose family overstayed their work visas, but he isn’t to blame.

A college student found a man living inside her closet and wearing her clothes. The student at the University of North Carolina heard rattling inside the closet and said, “Who’s there?” A voice called back, “Me.” Andrew Swofford, 30, was taken into custody after police arrived.

Liam Neeson said he wanted to kill a “black bastard” out of revenge. The Taken actor said he was once looking to retaliate after a friend told him she had been assaulted. Neeson’s comments have, as you can imagine, inspired a range of reactions.

Kristoff St. John, the longtime actor on The Young and The Restless, has died. St. John played the character Neil Winters on the show for more than 25 years. No additional details were available about his death. He was 52.

How Slack’s new logo became a lightning rod for everything bad on the internet

Slack, the workplace chat company, launched a new logo last month. As you can imagine, this being 2019, the internet was ready to have some thoughts.

It didn’t take long for the logo to be turned into a swastika. Others described it as “4 tiny squirting dongs.” Then, just to tie it all together, somebody described the symbol as “a swastika made out of dicks.”

Online outrage over design changes isn’t anything new. But as Nicole Nguyen writes in a great piece, Slack’s redesign brought together the worst of the internet: “Twitter’s outrage cycle, symbols of white supremacy, and, generally, people’s inability to say nice things on the internet.”

SunnyD is sharing depressing thoughts on social media, and people are actually reaching out to check on the brand

SunnyD, full name Sunny Delight, is not a human person; it is a brand. Brands, as we know, don’t have feelings. But this didn’t stop SunnyD from tweeting, “I can’t do this anymore.”

The tweet has since gone viral, with hundreds and hundreds of people checking in on the orange drink’s wellbeing and offering inspiration and support.

The world is a weird place when brands are tweeting like they’re depressed to be ~relatable~. Support your friends. Brands will be fine.

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