Today’s Top National News Stories

Congress reacts to sentencing memos in Mueller investigation
Could President Donald Trump be in legal jeopardy? The briefs federal prosecutors filed late last week recommend jail time for his former lawyer Michael Cohen because of crimes he committed allegedly “in coordination with and at the direction of…individual-1,” who could only be Trump himself.

“They would be impeachable offenses,” says New York Democrat Jerry Nadler, who is expected to become the chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Court filings released Friday about President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen and ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort offer new details on the Russia investigation. A sentencing memo from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team says Cohen had “taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct,” and that “the information he has provided has been credible and consistent with other evidence.” But the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York requested Cohen get “a substantial term of imprisonment.” A New York judge will sentence Cohen on Wednesday.

Another sentencing memo by prosecutors from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office concerns Cohen’s lies to Congress. And in a new Manafort filing, prosecutors accuse him of telling five key lies and describe how he breached a plea deal, although large sections were redacted.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, said the publicly available facts from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe indicate President Donald Trump’s actions are “beyond the stage” of what led to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.

On This Week Sunday, Murphy left the question of whether or not to move to impeach the president to the House and cautioned against drawing too many conclusions without all the facts of the investigation, but told This Week co-anchor Martha Raddatz that Mueller’s investigation has reached a “new level.”

The president had a different take in a Friday tweet: ” Totally clears the President. Thank you!”


Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, will not take over White House role after John Kelly leaves
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will be out by the end of the year, according to President Donald Trump, but who will replace him? There was speculation that Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, would fill the role, but he tweeted on Sunday he’s going to instead “work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause.”

ABC News has learned Trump is considering four different people for the chief of staff position.

Nick Ayers was widely speculated to be the next White House chief of staff. Instead, Vice President Mike Pence’s 35-year-old chief of staff will go to a pro-Trump super PAC.

The president, who announced Kelly’s departure Saturday, will make a decision on a new chief of staff by the end of the year.

Sources with direct knowledge of President Trump’s thinking tell ABC News the candidates he’s considering include Congressman Mark Meadows, former Trump deputy campaign manager Dave Bossie, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney.


Storm leaves more than a foot of snow in some places in North Carolina and Virginia
A big snowstorm has left its mark in North Carolina and Virginia, with more than a foot on the ground in some places. As on Sunday afternoon, there were 377,000 power customers in the dark in the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama.

The ABC News Weather Team says while the storm will be gone by Monday morning, there will be some lingering light precipitation across the Carolinas. A period of light rain/snow is expected during the morning hours and could make for slick/icy travel in some spots, especially north and west of Charlotte/Raleigh. A number of school districts in the region have canceled classes on Monday.

One death, flight delays and power outages galore are the result of an early winter snow storm that socked parts of the south. Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency. More than a foot of snow fell around Raleigh-Durham, well more than season’s worth in one day.

On Sunday afternoon, officers in Matthews, North Carolina responded to a report of a tree that had fallen onto a vehicle. After being struck by the tree, the vehicle then traveled through the front lawn of the Matthews Church of God striking the front of the church causing minor structural damage, then coming to a final stop in a next door residential yard.

The driver of the vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene.


Series of fires target Jehovah’s Witness centers
Federal authorities in Washington state are investigating the latest in a troubling series of arson cases at worship halls for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

A fire that destroyed a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Lacey, Washington has been confirmed as arson on Saturday, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The Seattle branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ruled the fire an arson on Saturday. The fire broke out at about 3:30 a.m. and no one was in the building at the time, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said.

The fire was the fifth at a Kingdom Hall in Thurston County this year, according to the ATF. All of the cases remain unsolved.

It’s the latest in a string of attacks on Jehovah’s Witness churches in Washington state. In July ATF agents connected three arsons and one reported shooting this year at Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Halls in Olympia, Tumwater and Yelm.

“Why is this specific religion being targeted? Why are these churches being targeted? What are they doing that is so wrong and oppressive?” Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza told Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee responded to the latest arson on Friday, calling it an “abhorrent act.”


Charlottesville car rammer found guilty of first-degree murder
The man who rammed his car into a crowd at a counter protest to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last year faces the sentencing phase beginning Monday.

James Alex Fields was found guilty of first degree murder Friday in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer.

He was found guilty on all of the charges he was facing, ABC affiliate WSET reports, which included first-degree murder as well as eight other charges relating to injuries and one relating to fleeing the scene of an accident.

Fields’ sentencing will come at a later date, and he faces life in prison.

The 10 charges Fields, 21, faced in this trial in the Charlottesville City Circuit Court are separate from the 30 federal charges he faces that relate to hate crimes. One of those federal charges is eligible for the death penalty. He entered a not guilty plea in both the Circuit Court case and to the federal charges.

The cases stem from Fields’ actions at the “Unite for the Right” rally in the Virginia town on Aug. 12, 2017. At the time, a group of white nationalists, which included neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, descended onto Charlottesville, spurred by the city’s plans to remove a Confederate statue from a downtown park. Violence broke out as counter protesters clashed with white nationalists, prompting Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency.

Some of the most controversial evidence that was shared as part of the nine-day trial were recorded jailhouse conversations Fields had with his mother after his arrest.

Fields referred to Heyer’s mother in a recorded jailhouse phone call as a “communist” and “one of those anti-white supremacists.” When Fields’ mother responded, she noted how Heyer’s mother Susan Bro “lost her daughter.”

“It doesn’t f—— matter,” Fields said, according to ABC affiliate WVAW.


Officials: Former Miss Kentucky admits to sending topless photos to young boy
She impressed beauty pageant judges with her fiddle playing and tugged at hearts with her personal battle with multiple sclerosis, but now former Miss Kentucky Ramsey Bearse is back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

The 28-year-old former Miss Kentucky was arrested in West Virginia on suspicion of sending topless photos via Snapchat to a teenage boy, authorities said.

“This is a very difficult day and this is a shock to her and to me, and to everyone else,” Bearse’s attorney, Al Emch, told reporters following her arraignment in Kanawha County, West Virginia, Magistrate Court.

Bearse, an eighth-grade science teacher at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, was charged with four felony counts of distribution or display of obscene matter to minors.

She was arrested on Thursday after she admitted to investigators from the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office that she sent the victim at least four topless images of herself between August and October, according to a criminal complaint. At the time, the victim was 14 or 15 years old, sheriff’s officials said.

An investigation was launched on Dec. 5 when the victim’s mother contacted the sheriff’s office to complain she discovered the nude photos of Bearse on her son’s cell phone, according to the criminal complaint.

If convicted of the charges, Bearse faces up to 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.