President Trump acknowledged on Thursday that his longtime attorney Michael Cohen had “represented” him in what he called the “crazy” deal in which Cohen paid $130,000 to buy the silence of a porn actress just before the 2016 election.
Trump’s comments in an interview with Fox & Friends were the first time he has conceded his connection to Cohen’s deal with Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, after Trump’s marriage and the birth of his youngest son.
Previously, Trump denied any relationship with Daniels and told reporters he wasn’t aware that Cohen paid Daniels.
For his part, Cohen has acknowledged paying Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford. Daniels says that Cohen was acting on behalf of Trump to keep her quiet to avoid a scandal and that he had her sign an agreement not to talk about her relationship with Trump.
Daniels is suing to escape that contract; Cohen says he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself and will not testify as part of that lawsuit.
Trump’s interview complicates legal matters for Cohen, who is dealing with a criminal investigation into his business practices in federal court in New York City. Cohen and lawyers for Trump want a judge to restrict how much evidence prosecutors can review from an earlier FBI raid of Cohen’s home and office, citing the importance of attorney-client privilege.
But Trump on Thursday downplayed his relationship with Cohen, saying the attorney barely represented him. Cohen, Trump said, is mostly a businessman and federal investigators are looking at that aspect of his life, not his legal work that might be connected to Trump.
That undercuts Cohen’s case that there might be privileged communications in the evidence seized by the FBI, which is the reason Cohen’s legal team has given for asking a federal judge to appoint a “special master” to review the material — rather than permitting a Justice Department “filter team” to go through it.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York wrote to federal Judge Kimba Wood on Thursday saying they were prepared to withdraw their objection to a “special master.”
One reason, they wrote, was that it has become clear how few legal clients Cohen has. Prosecutors cited the comments by Trump on TV on Thursday and earlier statements by another putative client, Fox News host Sean Hannity, minimizing their relationships with Cohen.
That must mean there isn’t much protected material, as the U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote, and Wood can authorize the lawyers involved to work efficiently.
“These statements by two of Cohen’s three identified clients suggest that the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents, further supporting the importance of efficiency here,” they wrote to the judge.
Cohen has worked for Trump for years and served as not only a counselor but also as a gatekeeper for outsiders and, in Cohen’s words, a “pit bull” when necessary.
U.S. Set To Announce New Sanctions On Six Individuals Linked To Hong Kong Mass Arrests
WASHINGTON, Jan 15 (Reuters) – The United States is set to announce fresh sanctions on Friday on six individuals connected to the mass arrests earlier this month of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, two sources familiar with the matter said.
Hong Kong police on Jan. 5 arrested 53 people in dawn raids on democracy activists in the biggest crackdown since China last year imposed a security law which opponents say is aimed at quashing dissent in the former British colony.
U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo last week warned of fresh sanctions in response to the arrests of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. That warning came a day after supporters of Republican President Donald Trump on Jan. 6 stormed Congress in a bid to overturn his November election defeat, prompting China’s state media to accuse U.S. politicians of “double standards.”
Pompeo also said last week the United States would also explore restrictions against the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the United States.
Action on Friday would come just days before Trump is due to leave office and be succeeded by Democrat Joe Biden next Wednesday and would be the latest in a series targeting China, which analysts see as a bid driven by Pompeo to lock in a tough approach to Beijing.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump has pursued hard-line policies toward China on issues ranging from trade to espionage and the coronavirus. Relations plummeted to their worst level in decades when he ramped up rhetoric in his unsuccessful November re-election campaign.
His administration has already imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for their actions involving the pro-democracy movement and other alleged rights abuses, and last July declared an end to the territory’s privileged economic status under U.S. law.
The Trump administration took another swipe at China and its biggest companies on Thursday, imposing sanctions on officials and companies for alleged misdeeds in the South China Sea and imposing an investment ban on nine more firms.
Last Saturday, Pompeo said he was lifting restrictions on contacts between U.S. officials and counterparts in Taiwan, a move that greatly angered Beijing, which considers the island a renegade province. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Louisiana Congressman-Elect Luke Letlow Dead From COVID-19
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Luke Letlow, Louisiana’s incoming Republican member of the U.S. House, died Tuesday night from complications related to COVID-19 only days before being sworn into office. He was 41.
Letlow spokesman Andrew Bautsch confirmed the congressman-elect’s death at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport.
“The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time,” Bautsch said in a statement. “A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time.”
Louisiana’s eight-member congressional delegation called Letlow’s death devastating.
“Luke had such a positive spirit, and a tremendously bright future ahead of him. He was looking forward to serving the people of Louisiana in Congress, and we were excited to welcome him to our delegation where he was ready to make an even greater impact on our state and our nation,” they said in a statement.
The state’s newest congressman, set to take office in January, was admitted to a Monroe hospital on Dec. 19 after testing positive for the coronavirus disease. He was later transferred to the Shreveport facility and placed in intensive care.
Letlow, from the small town of Start in Richland Parish, was elected in a December runoff election for the 5th District U.S. House seat representing central and northeastern regions of the state, including the cities of Monroe and Alexandria.
He was to fill the seat being vacated by his boss, Republican Ralph Abraham. Letlow had been Abraham’s chief of staff and ran with Abraham’s backing for the job.
Gov. John Bel Edwards urged people to pray for Letlow’s family.
“COVID-19 has taken Congressman-elect Letlow from us far too soon,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “I am heartbroken that he will not be able to serve our people as a U.S. representative, but I am even more devastated for his loving family.”
Before working for Abraham, Letlow had worked for former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. Jindal’s one-time chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, described Letlow on Twitter as “a good man with a kind heart and a passion to serve. He loved Louisiana and his family. He was a brother and I’m heart broken he’s gone.”
Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two children.
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican and doctor who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year and has since recovered, posted in a Twitter video: “It just, just, just, just brings home COVID can kill. For most folks it doesn’t, but it truly can. So, as you remember Luke, his widow, his children in your prayers, remember as well to be careful with COVID.”
Trump Adviser Rudy Giuliani Captured In Compromising Position With Woman He Was Told Was A Reporter In ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’
The forthcoming “Borat” sequel reportedly features Rudy Giuliani engaging in provocative behavior with a woman he’d been told was a reporter.
The adviser to President Trump appears to have unknowingly participated in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” the comedy starring Sacha Baron Cohen that is poised to be released Friday on Amazon Prime Video.
According to multiple reports, Giuliani sits down for an interview at a New York hotel with the character Tutar, Borat’s teenage daughter who’s posing as a TV journalist and was played by 24-year-old actress Maria Bakalova.
The 76-year-old former New York mayor is heard complimenting the supposed reporter and following her to a bedroom, where eventually he stretches out on the bed.
Vanity Fair describes the scene captured on hidden cameras, saying of Giuliani, “His hand is in his pants. Watching it, your brain turns into an exclamation point.”
Cohen, as Borat, then reportedly runs into the hotel room sporting a bikini and exclaiming, “She’s 15. She’s too old for you.”
Giuliani did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.
He told the New York Post in July that he had agreed to participate in what he believed was an interview about the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response.
“This person comes in yelling and screaming,” Giuliani said of Cohen, “and I thought this must be a scam or a shake-down, so I reported it to the police. He then ran away.”
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