Trump caused a stir just before the weekend when he claimed via Twitter on Friday that his former attorney, fixer, and confidant Michael Cohen - who was convicted of tax evasion, campaign finance violations, perjury, and other crimes and who must report to federal prison in May to begin his three years of incarceration as punishment - begged him directly for a pardon, was rejected, and then lied about the matter before Congress. Cohen has denied this version of events and shot back at Trump on Twitter, calling him a liar in kind. Cohen's current lawyer acknowledged that his prior counsel discussed the possibility of a pardon with Rudy Giuliani soon after Cohen's offices were raided by the FBI, but denied that Cohen spoke to Trump directly about the matter.
In other Trump associate news, Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, was sentenced to a mere four years in prison for bank and tax fraud, charges that carry typical minimum sentencing guidelines of 19 1/2 years. The federal judge in the case felt that the recommended penalty was too harsh. Manafort is still facing a second, separate case in which it's been alleged that he tampered with a witness, laundered money, and served as an unregistered foreign agent. Sentencing is expected to occur next week, and it's possible the judge in that case may be less lenient.
There also seems to be a leak inside Trump's White House, which is notoriously chaotic. The Trump administration had refused to turn over documents about security clearance for Trump's relatives, including daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, to the House Oversight Committee, which is scrutinizing these access decisions. A staff member inside the White House managed to leak them to the House anyway. The Democratic House has opened several far-reaching investigations into Trump's various dealings and personal connections, which Trump again decried this week as "presidential harassment."
A report in the Guardian on Friday revealed that they'd identified some of the individuals behind three shell companies that obscured contributions to Trump's campaign from foreign influencers. Each of the shell companies gave $25,000 to Trump's inaugural committee. US law bans nonresident foreigners from donating to political campaigns of any kind, including inaugurations; those found to have violated this stipulation could face fines or prosecution, though the Federal Elections Commission has been understaffed and has previously been criticized for not doing enough to combat foreign influence. The Guardian traced the three shell companies back to a lobbyist with connections to Taiwan, an Israeli citizen, and an Indian real estate investor, all of whom have denied wrongdoing.
Lastly, the US trade deficit on goods hit a record peak of $891.3 billion in 2018, thanks at least in part to Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut. Since Trump imposed tariffs on steel, aluminum, and other Chinese goods, the trade deficit swelled up by 12.5% from 2017, or nearly $70 billion dollars. Trump's trade wars have cost the US at least $19.2 billion, with Americans paying at least $12.3 billion to the government in tariffs while losing $6.9 billion in income due to trade-war-related market disruptions. The jobs report also showed somewhat slowing growth on Friday, though unemployment levels dipped back down to just under 4%.