Morning Update: Spoiler Alert — They’re Guilty

Two Facebook stories you should know, The Hills is coming back, Iran's troll factory. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, August 22.

Manafort: guilty. Cohen: guilty. The president: not having a good day.

You couldn’t script this if you tried.

All eyes were fixed on split screens — how fitting, for a reality-TV presidency — as Donald Trump’s nightmare day unfolded. Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort was convicted on eight charges, while his personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight of his own.

All within minutes of each other.

In the case of Manafort: He was found guilty of five counts of filing false income tax returns, one count of failing to report foreign bank accounts, and two counts of bank fraud. He’s facing another trial that begins in less than a month.

In the case of Cohen: The president’s lawyer pleaded guilty to campaign finance violation charges related to his payments to women in exchange for their silence ahead of the 2016 election.

Here’s the thing, though: The Cohen case comes extremely close to the president. Cohen said he acted in coordination with and on the direction of a “candidate,” not referring to Trump by name, and that he knew he was acting illegally.

And that link was made explicit: Shortly after Cohen’s court appearance, his lawyer tweeted, “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

And that’s not all: California Rep. Duncan Hunter — one of Trump's earliest supporters, and Hunter’s wife, were indicted on charges that they used $250,000 in campaign cash for personal use, including for theater tickets.

And where’s Trump in all of this? We was on a plane to West Virginia when the drama unfolded. After landing, he didn’t say anything about Cohen, but on Manafort, he said, “Doesn’t involve me but I still feel, you know, it’s a very sad thing that happened.”

During a rally, the president slammed the NFL and undocumented immigrants, and talked about his mom's turkey. No mention of any of the crime-a-palooza that characterized the day.

Two Facebook stories you need to know about

The first: Yesterday, the company said it had removed 652 fake Pages, groups, and accounts from Facebook and Instagram for “coordinated, inauthentic behavior” associated with Iranian and Russian political influence operations.

Facebook says the Russian campaign could be traced back to military intelligence organizations previously identified by US security services.

The second: The social media giant said it’s removing more than 5,000 ad-targeting options to prevent discrimination. Previously, those options were used to exclude ethnic and religious groups from seeing certain ad posts — for example, a landlord who didn’t want to rent to Jews could exclude those whose listed interests include “Passover.”

The move is a sign that Facebook is starting to come to terms with the various ways its platform can be manipulated.


A Nazi prison guard has been sent back to Germany after decades of living in the US. Jakiw Palij, 95, was removed in a wheelchair from his home in Queens, New York, on Monday by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. Palij came to the US in 1949, claiming he'd spent the war working on his father's farm and in a factory in Germany. For years, US authorities had battled to remove the man who'd trained as a prison guard in the Trawniki concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.

A Veronica Mars revival is in the works at Hulu, and people are loving it. It gets better: Kristen Bell and creator Rob Thomas are attached. Yes, you can join the fans freaking out.

Post Malone’s plane made a safe emergency landing. The rapper’s private jet, which had 16 people on board, made an emergency landing in New York after two of its tires exploded during takeoff from a New Jersey airport. Upon landing, he tweeted, "i landed guys. thank you for your prayers. can't believe how many people wished death on me on this website. fuck you. but not today.”

Elon Musk had deleted his Instagram as his weird drama with Azealia Banks and Grimes drags on. I honestly can’t summarize this story — you just have to take it in.

People say YouTubers Cole and Sav faked an evacuation during a fire for a vlog. The massively popular YouTube family have been accused of pretending they were forced to flee from their California home during a massive wildfire last week. In a vlog they posted last week, Cole said his wife had texted him saying there was a “huge fire right by our house” and they may have to evacuate. The rest of the video shows them picking up their daughter and driving to San Francisco. Now the video is being scrutinized by neighbors of the couple who say their area was never evacuated.

The Hills is returning to MTV, but people are pissed Lauren Conrad isn’t involved. The show, which is titled The Hills: New Beginnings, is set to air sometime in 2019. According to MTV, it will follow some of the original cast members and their friends and families in Los Angeles. Fans are wondering why LC isn’t a part of it, though.

Madonna set the record straight about her VMAs “tribute” to Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Pop said in a statement, “I was asked to present video of the year by MTV! And then they asked me to share any anecdotes I had in my career connected to Aretha Franklin!” Madonna introduced the award, but many people were turned off when what they assumed was supposed to be a tribute to Franklin turned into a meandering story. “I shared a part of my journey and thanked Aretha for inspiring me along the way,” Madonna wrote. “I did not intend to do a tribute to her!”

Iran’s running a Russia-style troll factory operation, researchers say

If you’re not familiar with the “troll factory,” that’s the nickname given to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which engages in diverse forms of online influence operations to support Russian interests.

Now, according to researchers, Iran’s got a troll factory of its own. The operation was discovered by US cybersecurity firm FireEye, and it consists of Iranian-run fake American personas that exist across multiple social media profiles.

Those accounts link to misleading news sites and espouse political views in line with the government of Iran. Their tactics are nearly identical to those of the Russians.

Whereas the Russian influence campaigns were most successful when imitating conservatives, though, the Iranians have primarily masqueraded as liberals.

This woman shared an emotional story of reconnecting with her identity, inspired by Crazy Rich Asians

In case you’ve been on another planet since Friday, Crazy Rich Asians is dominating the US box office right now.

Among those who saw it was Kimberly Yam, an editor at HuffPost who tweeted a personal story of rediscovering her Chinese and Asian American identities while watching an all-Asian cast in a major blockbuster movie.

Yam’s tweets have been shared more than 100,000 times.

They begin with this difficult story: “Your 3rd grade class orders chinese food & your father delivers it. You are so excited to see your pops in school. He’s your hero. But apparently other kids don’t think he’s so cool. They laugh at him and mimic his accent. You don’t want to be Chinese anymore.”

I won’t fully spoil where it ends, but here’s a taste: “You’re 25 years old. You see a movie with an all-asian cast at a screening and for some reason you’re crying and you can’t stop…”.

Check out the whole thread and the reactions to it — I promise you it’s deeply beautiful.

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