FOX NEWS FIRST: Manafort trial to test Mueller probe; Trump open to Iran meeting with 'no preconditions'

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Developing now, Tuesday, July 31, 2018

  • Jury selection in the federal bank and tax fraud trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort begins Tuesday in Virginia, and the trial represents a major test for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation    
  • Rudy Giuliani tells FOX News' Sean Hannity that Trump's legal team is leaning toward ignoring Mueller's questions, saying they don't believe prosecutors have a 'legitimate' investigation
  • President Trump offered Monday to meet Iranian President Rouhani with 'no preconditions'
  • A Northern California wildfire is now one of the state's most destructive as authorities also battle other blazes across the region
  • CBS has chosen not to take immediate action against CEO Les Moonves amid sexual harassment allegations after a board meeting Monday and is seeking outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation

THE LEAD STORY - MANAFORT - AND THE MUELLER PROBE - ON TRIAL: A Mercedes-Benz and multiple Range Rovers. A $3 million brownstone in Brooklyn, bought with cash. Those lavish expenditures are now evidence in the high-stakes bank and tax fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, which is set to begin with jury selection Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ... The trial is the first arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. It represents a major test not just for Manafort, who faces decades in prison on bank and tax fraud charges if convicted, but also for Mueller, whose ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election could lose credibility if jurors ultimately acquit Manafort. 

President Trump repeatedly has called the Mueller probe a "witch hunt," and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has suggested the investigation is "rigged." Neither the Virginia trial nor Manafort's separate upcoming trial in Washington, D.C., directly relates to any alleged collusion between Trump officials and the Russian government, or purported Russian disinformation campaigns -- a fact that led to a tense courtroom showdown just months ago.

PROSPECTS OF TRUMP-MUELLER INTERVIEW APPEAR SLIM: President Trump's legal team is becoming more and more convinced it should ignore questions by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told FOX News' "Hannity" on Monday, saying it's "highly unlikely" they will meet again with prosecutors ... "Given the revelations of the last three or four weeks, we've gone further away from the idea of answering any questions from them," Giuliani told Sean Hannity. "We don't think they have a legitimate investigation.”

Giuliani's comments underscored the newly combative tenor of Trump's camp towards Mueller as Manafort's trial approached. The former New York City mayor, who previously claimed Mueller's team may have been trying to "frame" Trump, also laughed off a New York Times report that prosecutors were looking at Trump's tweets to build an obstruction-of-justice case against the president.

IRANIAN SUMMIT IN THE WORKS? - President Trump said Monday he would be willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with “no preconditions,” on the heels of a fiery exchange of threats earlier this month ... “I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet. I don’t know if they’re ready yet,” Trump said, when asked at a White House press conference about a possible meeting with Rouhani. Trump said he would set “no preconditions,” and, “If they want to meet, I’ll meet, anytime they want.” The president already has held summits with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

GOLDEN STATE ON FIRE: A pair of wildfires that prompted evacuation orders for nearly 20,000 people barreled Monday toward small lake towns in Northern California as firefighters worked to contain multiple other blazes across the state ... Officials on Sunday ordered evacuations around twin fires in Mendocino and Lake counties, including from the 4,700-resident town of Lakeport, a popular destination for bass anglers and boaters on the shores of Clear Lake, about 120 miles north of San Francisco. The blazes have destroyed seven homes and threaten 10,000 others. So far, the flames have blackened more than 68,000 acres — well over 100 square miles — with minimal containment.

Those fires were among 17 burning across the state, where fire crews were stretched to the limit.  Farther north, the wildfire in Redding, Calif. blaze is now believed to be the ninth most destructive in state history, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean said. The blaze, which killed two firefighters and four civilians including two children, has now destroyed 818 homes and 311 outbuildings and damaged 165 homes, McLean said. More than 27,000 people remained evacuated from their homes although another 10,000 were allowed to return Monday as fire crews reinforced lines on the western end of the blaze.

CBS IN CRISIS: CBS didn’t take immediate action regarding CEO Les Moonves amid accusations by multiple women of sexual harassment after board members gathered Monday to discuss the situation ... "CBS Corporation announced today that its Board of Directors is in the process of selecting outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation. No other action was taken on this matter at today’s board meeting," the company said in an statement.

The board met on Monday after a bombshell Ronan Farrow article in The New Yorker was published last week in which six women accused the longtime network exec of sexual harassment. In addition, more than two dozen company employees, past and present, detailed incidents involving harassment, gender discrimination or retaliation at the network between the 1980s and 2000s.


THE PARTY FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE DEMOCRATS: "That party is dead, replaced by a new one whose entire platform is 'say no to Trump.' This isn't politics, it's the world's dumbest religion." – Tucker Carlson, in his opening monologue on "Tucker Carlson Tonight," detailing how the Democratic Party has transformed from one once "synonymous" with the working class to a "Trump-deranged," "say no to Trump" party. WATCH

THE 'ELITES' ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE DON'T GET IT: "The Koch network and others talk a good game about unity, embracing change, and seizing opportunities. But when a president comes along who’s actually embracing a new path, something different, on behalf of the American people, ‘Let’s try a new thing now,’ the Kochs and the globalists just have their blinders on. They won’t have any of it." – Laura Ingraham, on "The Ingraham Angle," slamming the Koch brothers' consistent opposition to President Trump and his tariffs. WATCH


Malaysian civil aviation chief resigns over MH370 disappearance.

Jimmy Hoffa investigation: Frank Sheeran and the blood evidence we found in the case.

Social media helps solve mystery of skier who disappeared in the Alps in 1954.

Dying dad celebrates Christmas in July with family.


TSA calls reports it's surveilling ordinary Americans 'ridiculous.'

How potential government shutdown could throw wrench into Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Ruling that allows early voting on Florida college campuses could sway close Senate, governor's races.

Robert Wilkie sworn in as Trump's new VA secretary.


ICE agents accuse Oregon mayor of abetting 'Abolish ICE' protesters.

More than 450 people in Florida ordered to give up guns under new law, report says.

Texas mall robbery suspects ID'd as Mexican nationals in U.S. illegally.

Mollie Tibbetts case investigators keeping details close to the vest, key questions remain unanswered.


Fed set to hold interest rates steady, but on track for more hikes.

Farmers 'unfairly targeted' by U.S. trade partners: Treasury official.

Billionaire Peter Thiel backs vegan pet food startup developing lab-grown mouse meat.

What Serena Williams taught her husband about business.

Big Mac turns 50, McDonald's marks anniversary with 'MacCoin.'


Cal Thomas: Trump's economy has Democrats singing the same old 'tax, spend and regulate' song.

Alfredo Ortiz: If ObamaCare is an economic time bomb, Medicare for All would be a nuclear explosion.

Gerald F. Seib: What this Minnesota city can teach America about restoring political civility.


Nicole Kidman captures giant tarantula from pool as kids scream in horror.

'Stranger Things' won't return for new season until 2019.

Bill Cosby is challenging the court's decision to classify him as a sexually violent predator.


Vest dispenser at San Francisco airport making good money despite passengers' mocking.

Exquisite ancient mosaic uncovered in Israel.

'Huge' rattlesnake's loud warning to Mississippi man goes viral.


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On FOX News: 

FOX & Friends, 6 a.m. ET: Special guests include: Jay Sekulow, a member of President Trump's legal team; Judge Andrew Napolitano. A look at how celebrities are trying to influence the midterm elections to block a Trump and GOP victory; a debate over the left's increasing violence while Democratic leaders stay silent. Plus: Energy Secretary Rick Perry on the role energy is playing in the GDP growth.

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On FOX Business:

Mornings with Maria, 6 a.m. ET: Special guests include: Rep. Ron DeSantis; former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy; Philip Verleger, Pkverleger LLC president and Brattle Group senior adviser.

Varney & Co., 9 a.m. ET: Marc Lotter, former press secretary for Vice President Pence; Donald de La Haye, former UCF kicker; Andy Khawaja, founder and CEO of Allied Wallet; Capt. Rob Steinberg, Gamer World News host.

Cavuto: Coast to Coast, Noon ET: Lee Spieckerman, Spieckerman Media president; Dan Eberhart, CEO of Canary, LLC.

The Intelligence Report, 2 p.m. ET: Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council; Rep Scott Taylor; economist Doug Holtz Eakin.

On FOX News Radio:

The FOX News Rundown podcastOver the weekend, President Trump threatened to shut down the government over funding for the U.S. – Mexico border wall. Kevin McAleenan, the Commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, joins the podcast to discuss the border wall, ICE and more. Cyber threats are considered one of the biggest risks Americans face today. But are there enough trained professionals to combat the problem? Rep. Will Hurd, chairman of the House Information Technology Subcommittee, and Frank Hall, a network engineer/CyberPatriot coach from San Antonio, discuss the need for a new generation of trained coders to decipher the potential dangers.

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The Brian Kilmeade Show, 9 a.m. ET: Monica Crowley fills in for Brian Kilmeade. Guests include: Allen West on President Trump's offer to have talks with Iran with no preconditions; Andrew McCarthy on Paul Manafort's bank and tax fraud trial and the latest in Robert Mueller's investigation; Doug Schoen on the current chances of a blue wave in the November midterms.


2013: President Barack Obama's national security team acknowledges for the first time that, when investigating one suspected terrorist, it could read and store the phone records of millions of Americans.

1991: President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Moscow.

1972: Democratic vice-presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton withdraws from the ticket with George McGovern following disclosures that Eagleton had once undergone psychiatric treatment.

FOX News First is compiled by FOX News' Bryan Robinson. Thank you for joining us! Enjoy your day! We'll see you in your inbox first thing Wednesday morning.