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Trump Acknowledges Michael Cohen Represented Him In Stormy Daniels Payment

The president said for the first time that his longtime lawyer had been working on his behalf in paying off the adult film actress but said he wasn’t involved in Cohen’s New York City case.

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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.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.
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Biden Expected To Repeal Military Trans Ban Tomorrow

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The Biden administration is expected to repeal the ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, multiple people informed of the decision told CBS News. The announcement is expected as soon as Monday, one senior Defense official and four outside advocates of repealing the ban told CBS News.

The senior Defense official told CBS News the repeal will be through executive order signed by President Joe Biden. The announcement is expected to take place at a ceremony with newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will order the Pentagon to go back to the policy enacted in 2016 by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The new order will direct the branches of the military to outline an implementation plan. 

The ban was announced by former President Trump via a tweet in July 2017. The ban took effect in April 2019 and barred transgender Americans from enlisting in the military.

In 2014, it was estimated there were around 15,500 transgender military members serving, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

Biden frequently repeated on the campaign trail his promise to repeal the ban.

Austin said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he planned to repeal the ban.

“I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said on Tuesday when asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “I truly believe, Senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.”

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Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President

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(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.

Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.

Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.

It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.

Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.

Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.

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California Governor Formally Appoints Alex Padilla To Fill US Senate Seat Vacated By Kamala Harris

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(CNN) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom formally submitted the appointment of Alex Padilla to the US Senate today, according to a press release from the governor’s office. 

Padilla formally resigned as Secretary of State this morning and Gov. Newsom also submitted his nomination letter for Assembly member Shirley Weber to replace him. The Deputy Secretary of State, James Schwab, will be the Acting Secretary of State.

“It is fitting that on the same day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a civil rights icon who fought for justice and representation — we also move forward the appointment of California’s first Latino U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and the nomination of Dr. Shirley Weber who will serve as the first-ever African American Secretary of State. Both will be strong defenders of our democracy during this fragile moment in our nation’s history,” said Gov. Newsom.

“I am humbled and honored by your trust in me to represent California in the United States Senate. I look forward to continuing to serve the great State of California as a United States Senator and to ensuring that the rights and democratic principles we cherish are protected and preserved for all people,” Padilla wrote in a letter to Gov. Newsom.

Some context: Earlier today, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally resigned her seat as one of California’s US Senators. She’ll be inaugurated as vice president on Wednesday, Jan. 20. In a farewell addressed posted to Twitter, Harris said, “Of course, I’m not saying goodbye. In many ways, I’m now saying hello as your vice president.”

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