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Daily Digest: Paulsen and Phillips take the gloves off

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Good morning, and welcome to Wednesday. Tuesday was not a slow news day in national politics. Here's the Digest.

1. Trump's former lawyer pleads guilty. Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer," pleaded guilty Tuesday to campaign-finance violations and other charges, saying he and Trump arranged the payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election. Cohen's account appears to implicate Trump himself in a crime, though whether — or when — a president can be prosecuted remains a matter of legal dispute. In a deal reached with federal prosecutors, Cohen, 51, pleaded guilty to eight counts in all, including tax evasion and making a false statement to a financial institution. He could get about four to five years in prison at sentencing Dec. 12. In entering the plea, Cohen did not name the two women or even Trump, recounting instead that he worked with an "unnamed candidate." But the amounts and the dates all lined up with the payments made to Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal in the weeks and months leading up to the 2016 White House election. (AP)

2. Jury convicts Trump's former campaign chair. Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was convicted on Tuesday in his financial fraud trial, bringing a dramatic end to a politically charged case that riveted the capital. The verdict was a victory for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, whose prosecutors introduced extensive evidence that Mr. Manafort hid millions of dollars in foreign accounts to evade taxes and lied to banks repeatedly to obtain $20 million in loans. Mr. Manafort was convicted of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining 10 counts, and the judge declared a mistrial on those charges. (New York Times)

3. Paulsen and Phillips debate for the first time. Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen and his DFL challenger Dean Phillips tangled over taxes, health care and campaign finance reform in their first debate Tuesday. Paulsen said Phillips would derail economic growth by voting to repeal the Republican tax cut law. Paulsen argued the tax cut was needed and that it's helping ordinary Minnesotans.  "Weak growth, which was what we were seeing under the last eight years, was not acceptable," he said. "Sure, people like Dean Phillips and those who are well off will do fine under those circumstances. But the rest of us, we won't do well in an economic depression, and that was only just around the corner." Phillips said rather than voting to repeal the tax law, he would work to modify it, so that more of its benefits go to the middle class. "Eighty percent of the benefits accrue to the top 1 percent of American earners," he said. "I don't think that is thoughtful. I don't think those are the principles and values of the district that I hope to represent. Furthermore, what deeply troubles me about that bill is the fact that it explodes our national debt." (MPR News)

4. Dayton proposes housing plan. A task force appointed last year by Gov. Mark Dayton is recommending broad changes in funding, technology and regulation to meet a statewide demand for affordable housing. The 28-member task force made 30 recommendations and identified six goals to improve access to housing. The report says economic growth depends on adequate affordable housing for workers, and that for the past decade Minnesota home construction hasn't kept up with demand. The shortage of affordable housing now cuts across the state, from the Twin Cities metro to regional centers, to small towns with growing industries. One key recommendation for meeting that demand is building 300,000 new homes by 2030. (MPR News)

5. Suit challenging teacher union rules gets new life. The Minnesota Supreme Court ordered the state Court of Appeals to reconsider a decision to dismiss a lawsuit that claims teachers union rules protect bad educators. On Tuesday, the state’s top court said that the appeals court should re-examine the case after another recent state Supreme Court ruling that allowed a class-action lawsuit seeking to desegregate Twin Cities schools to proceed.  The case regarding teachers union protections was brought by four Minnesota mothers, led by Tiffani Forslund of Minneapolis, who allege tenure, seniority-based layoffs and other rules violate students constitutional right to an “uniform and thorough education.” The 2016 lawsuit claims these union protections result in students of color predominantly attending low-achieving schools with ineffective teachers. (Pioneer Press)