White House says there’s no ‘damaging’ info about Trump in Cohen, Manafort filings. Is that true?

Donald Trump‘s former campaign chair is facing allegations of lying to investigators. His ex-fixer committed serious crimes that warrant a substantial prison term, according to prosecutors.

In response, the White House said the filings offer “nothing new or damaging” about the president of the United States.

But how much truth is there in that statement?

Coverage of Michael Cohen on Globalnews.ca:

The allegations involving Paul Manafort largely involve lies that prosecutors claim he told investigators in violation of a plea agreement with Robert Mueller‘s Special Counsel Office (SCO).

A memo provides some detail about alleged contacts with the Trump administration, but it mostly talks about an allegation that he lied about being in touch with officials there.

In this May 23, 2018, file photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, leaves the Federal District Court after a hearing in Washington.

Michael Cohen, meanwhile, still faces years in prison as prosecutors argue he committed serious crimes, including making illegal campaign contributions when Trump was running for president.

Their recommendation for sentencing covers plenty of activity that he conducted while working for Trump and his campaign.

What exactly do the latest filings say about Trump and his presidential campaign, though?

Here’s a look at the links between the information revealed in Friday’s failings and how they connect to Donald Trump:

‘…at the direction of Individual-1’

Cohen was the subject of two court filings that emerged on Friday. One was a sentencing recommendation that came from federal prosecutors, in connection with a case that involved illegal campaign contributions.

The other was a memo from special counsel Robert Mueller that talked about Cohen’s false statements surrounding a Trump project in Moscow.

There are repeated references to a person named only as “Individual-1” in the sentencing recommendation. It describes the means by which Cohen made payments to two women who said they had affairs with this person — payments that were, according to prosecutors, illegal campaign contributions.

A passage on page three of the recommendation mentions events in January 2017, at which time Individual-1 “had become the president of the United States.”

Then, in a passage that detailed the illegal contributions, it said that Cohen “acted in co-ordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.”

This comes after Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations at a court hearing in August, where he said he arranged the payments “for (the) principal purpose of influencing (the) election” at the direction of a candidate for public office.

He was ostensibly talking about Trump.

How Michael Cohen facilitated payments to two women who said they had affairs with Donald Trump

It was around June 2016 when an actress and model — widely identified as Karen McDougal — tried to sell her story of an alleged affair with Trump.

She retained a lawyer — likely Michael Avenatti, who wasn’t named in the documents — who then contacted a magazine editor and offered to sell her story.

By that time, the chairman and CEO of the company that owned that magazine had offered to help Trump by offering to buy damaging stories about his relationships with women and stop them from being published.

Then, in October, a second woman — believed to be porn actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels — came forward with her own story of an alleged affair with Trump.

Someone acting on behalf of the second woman went to the editor of that magazine and said she was willing to confirm the affair. The same lawyer was representing both the model and the porn actress.

That lawyer met with Cohen and negotiated a settlement to buy the second woman’s silence. They later finalized a deal that would pay her $130,000.

Cohen obtained this money by creating a shell corporation and opening up an account into which he deposited $131,000.

That money came from a home equity line of credit (HELOC) that he “obtained by means of false statements,” according to the sentencing recommendation.

He then wired $130,000 to the lawyer, calling it a “retainer,” and received copies of a final agreement on Nov. 1, 2016.

Michael Cohen (C), U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, leaves federal court after pleading guilty to charges related to lying to Congress in New York, Nov. 29, 2018.

Once Trump had won the presidency, Cohen went to the candidate’s company — again, not named, but pretty clearly the Trump Organization — and asked to be reimbursed for expenses related to the election. Those expenses included the payment to the porn actress.

The company paid him a total of $420,000, an amount that had been “grossed up” for tax purposes and that included a bonus of $60,000. The money was to be paid in monthly amounts of $35,000.

Cohen invoiced the company for these payments every month, saying he was receiving them as part of a “retainer agreement.”

The company labelled these payments as “legal expenses.”

As prosecutors noted, “no such retainer agreement existed and these payments were not legal expenses.”

A suggested meeting with the Russian president

The Mueller memo detailed the process by which Cohen ended up assisting the special counsel investigation after he lied to Congress.

In the course of correcting information he hadn’t provided truthfully, Cohen, unprompted, told the SCO about making contact with Russian officials regarding a Trump project in Moscow.

In a September 2015 radio interview, Cohen suggested that Trump met with Vladimir Putin when he visited New York for the UN General Assembly.

Cohen previously said he made those comments spontaneously and hadn’t discussed them with the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization.

However, during proffer sessions, he admitted he wasn’t telling the truth – he said he had, in fact, spoken with Trump about meeting with the Russian government to see if they could facilitate a meeting with Putin.

No meeting between Trump and Putin actually happened, however, the Mueller memo said.

‘Synergy’

The Mueller memo also talked about how Cohen had been in contact with a Russian national who claimed status as a “trusted person” in the Russian Federation.

This person offered “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level” to the Trump campaign, according to the memo.

Cohen said this person repeatedly tried to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, and said that such an encounter could produce a “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well.”

Cohen ultimately didn’t arrange this meeting.

  • With files from The Associated Press

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New Zealand defence report says climate change is greatest security risk

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) – New Zealand released a defence policy statement on Thursday (Dec 6) calling climate change its greatest security threat and stressed the importance of the issue to the geostrategically contested Pacific region, which is seeing increased influence from China.

The assessment came on the heels of a defence policy earlier this year that warned China’s rising influence in the South Pacific could undermine regional stability, drawing a complaint from the Asian giant.

“It identifies climate change as one of the most significant security threats of our time, and one that is already having adverse impacts both at home and in New Zealand’s neighbourhood,” said Defence Minister Ron Mark in an e-mailed statement.

The report said that states could look to use assistance on climate change as a way to boost their influence and access in the region.

“Working with Pacific Island countries on climate change, including in the security sphere, is an opportunity to learn lessons from each other while further strengthening strategic partnerships,” it said.

That underscored comments from Samoa’s Prime Minsiter Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi who told Reuters in November that Australia and the United States should follow the lead of China and do more to prevent climate change, which would devastate many island nations.

“Traditional powers in the region have this anxiety about China’s intentions and so they are looking to assure Pacific islands that they are listening to their concerns,” said Wesley Morgan, an expert in Pacific politics at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji.

The emergence of China as a key aid donor and major lender for Pacific countries has led to friction between the Asian giant and western nations, which boiled over at a recent Apec summit in Papua New Guinea.

China’s foreign ministry has said it is helping Pacific nations with much needed assistance according to their wishes and is promoting their social and economic development.

New Zealand’s defence minister said he was using the assessment on climate change to inform defence spending and investment plans set to be released next year.

New Zealand’s government led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put combating climate change at the heart of its policies and on Wednesday announced a NZ$100 million (S$94.1 million) investment fund to spur growth in projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Damage estimated at $75K in Saskatoon duplex fire

The cause of a blaze inside a duplex in Saskatoon’s King George neighbourhood is under investigation.

A 911 caller reported the fire at roughly 11:15 a.m. CT on Tuesday.

Crews with the Saskatoon Fire Department arrived to find smoke coming from the front of 907 Ave. O South.

Firefighters searched the structure and found no occupants on either side of the duplex.

The fire was put out on the main level. No injuries were reported.

Saskatoon firefighters were called to a blaze at 907 Ave. O South on Dec. 4, 2018.

Damages are estimated at $75,000, according to the fire department.

A fire investigator was called to the scene.

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Ivanka Trump Says Her Private Email Use Has ‘No Equivalency’ With Hillary Clinton’s

WASHINGTON — The president’s daughter and White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, said her use of a personal email account for government business was not the same as Hillary Clinton’s using a private email server, which the president and his supporters had long argued was illegal.

“There really is no equivalency,” Ms. Trump told ABC News in an interview that aired Wednesday in a defense that echoed what her father said earlier this month. Ms. Trump was asked if she should be locked up in prison as her father and his supporters chant about Ms. Clinton. “No,” Ms. Trump replied.

“People who want to see it as the same, see it as the same,” Ms. Trump said of the immediate comparisons drawn between the two women.

A recent White House review found that Ms. Trump used a personal email account multiple times in 2017 to conduct government business, a disclosure that immediately energized Democrats still angry over the 2016 presidential election, when Mrs. Clinton lost to Mr. Trump. One of the dominant issues of that campaign was the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private server while she was secretary of state.

Ms. Trump said that all of her emails from her private account were archived at the White House.

“All of my emails are stored and preserved,” Ms. Trump said in the interview, drawing a distinction from Mrs. Clinton’s situation. “There were no deletions. There is no attempt to hide.” She said it was not unusual for people to use private email accounts for personal reasons, such as coordinating with family, even as her father and husband work in the White House. She also said she had not deleted any of her personal emails.

While secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton stored classified information on a private server and used her private account for government work. When her practice was discovered, she made public her work-related emails and deleted some 30,000 personal messages.

The F.B.I. conducted an investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private server and did not recommend charges, a move that Mr. Trump capitalized on during the 2016 campaign and his time in the White House.

Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails continue to enrage Mr. Trump, who raised it as recently as Tuesday in a Twitter post in which he criticized the continuing special counsel investigation into possible ties between his campaign and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump has defended his daughter. “These are all in the historical records,” he said earlier this month.

Ms. Trump’s email account use was “unlike Hillary Clinton” because of the private server that Mrs. Clinton had in her house, he said. “This was just early on when she came in,” Mr. Trump said of Ms. Trump’s emails.

Congressional Democrats have said they would investigate Ms. Trump’s practice next year when they assume the majority in the House. The House has already been conducting a bipartisan investigation into the use of private email accounts in the White House, prompted by disclosures that Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, also used a private email account.

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Judge bars Trump from denying asylum to people entering US illegally

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A federal judge on Monday (Nov 19) put a temporary halt to a Trump administration order denying the possibility of asylum to people who enter the US illegally.

President Donald Trump issued the proclamation earlier this month as a matter of what he called national security as a caravan of thousands of Central American migrants made its way through Mexico towards the US border.

US District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order against the Trump proclamation, thus granting a request from human rights groups who had sued shortly after the order was announced.

Under the proclamation, Mr Trump said only people who enter the US at official checkpoints – as opposed to sneaking across the border – can apply for asylum.

Judge Tigar wrote that the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1965 states that any foreigner who arrives in the US, “whether or not at a designated port of arrival”, may apply for asylum.

“The rule barring asylum for immigrants who enter the country outside a port of entry irreconcilably conflicts with the INA and the expressed intent of Congress,” Judge Tigar wrote.

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” he added.

The judge’s restraining order remains in effect until the court decides on the case.

Mr Trump’s administration has argued that he has the executive power to curb immigration in the name of national security – a power he invoked right after taking office last year with a controversial ban on travellers from several mostly Muslim countries.

The final version of the order was upheld by the US Supreme Court on June 26 after a protracted legal battle.

UNPARALLELED ABUSE

When the new policy was announced by the Department of Homeland Security on Nov 8, a senior administration official said it would address what he called the “historically unparalleled abuse of our immigration system” along the border with Mexico.

Administration officials say anyone who manages to get across can request asylum and subsequently often vanish while their case sits in the court system.

“The vast majority of these applications eventually turn out to be non-meritorious,” a senior administration official said, asking not to be identified.

Less than 10 per cent of cases result in asylum being granted, the government says.

Human rights campaigners and other critics of the Trump crackdown say that by restricting asylum seekers to border crossing points – which are already under enormous pressure – the government is effectively shutting the door on people who may truly be fleeing for their lives.

“The government cannot abdicate its responsibility towards migrants fleeing harm,” the New York Immigration Coalition advocacy group said.

But the administration official argued that “what we’re attempting to do is trying to funnel credible fear claims, or asylum claims, through the ports of entry where we are better resourced”. That way, he said, courts will “handle those claims in an expeditious and efficient manner, so that those who do actually require an asylum protection get those protections”.

In 2018, border patrols registered more than 400,000 illegal border crossers, homeland security said. And in the last five years, the number of those requesting asylum has increased by 2,000 per cent, it said.

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Bag of 'dangerous' drugs stolen from ambulance in Edinburgh

The bag of controlled drugs was taken from staff while they attended an incident in Caledonian Road in the Dalry area of the Scottish capital at around 9.20pm on Saturday.

Whoever stole the green nylon rucksack – emblazoned with the wording “Emergency Medical Response” – has been warned that the drugs could be dangerous if taken or administered without the necessary medical training.

Police have issued an appeal calling for anyone who saw the theft take place to get in touch.

Inspector Gill Lundberg said: “Stealing from emergency service workers trying to help someone is a despicable act.

“While the theft of this equipment has not impacted on the care of the patient, I am concerned what could happen if the stolen drugs were to be taken by a member of the public. These drugs can be dangerous if misused.

“I would appeal for anyone who witnessed the theft, or knows where these items are now, to contact police immediately.”

:: Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident 4228 of 17 November.

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Four charged in US soldier’s death in Mali

The US Navy has charged four elite members of US Special Forces with murdering a US Army soldier in the west African country of Mali last year.

Officials say Army Staff Sergeant Logan J Melgar was strangled to death by two Navy SEALs and two Marines who later tried to conceal their crime.

They allegedly cut the victim’s throat to appear as if they tried to perform a life-saving operation on him.

The charges do not name the accused men or provide a motive.

What are they accused of?

Military investigators say that the four accused service members broke into Staff Sgt Melgar’s private bedroom in Bamako, Mali’s capital, while he was sleeping with the intent to bind him with duct tape.

One of the elite troops put Staff Sgt Melgar in a fatal chokehold that was “inherently dangerous to another and evinced wanton disregard for human life,” according to the charge sheets, which were released on Thursday.

Two of the men told investigators they attempted CPR and tried to perform a tracheotomy on Staff Sgt Melgar before seeking help. But a later post-mortem examination found that he died by asphyxiation.

Two of the accused are US Marines and are listed as being part of the Special Operations Command.

The other two are Navy SEALs from the Navy Special Warfare Development Group. The unit is better known as SEAL Team 6, which participated in the May 2011 raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

All four are charged with felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, hazing, burglary, and lying to investigators.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 10 December.

What has the reaction been?

A spokesman for US Special Operations Command said Thursday that “we honour the memory of Staff Sgt Melgar”.

“We will not allow allegations or substantiated incidents of misconduct to erode decades of honourable accomplishments by the members of US Special Operations Command.”

Staff Sgt Melgar’s June 2017 death was kept secret for months, before it was reported by The New York Times in October.

According to the Daily Beast, which first reported on this week’s charges, the men had been having an ongoing dispute after Melgar told his superiors that his comrades-in-arms had been frequenting prostitutes and were skimming cash from a fund they kept to recruit local informants.

In a statement to the Daily Beast, Staff Sgt Melgar’s wife said: “While I have faith that the military court will handle this situation in the best possible way, I also understand that the mission continues.

“Our men must work well together, and we need to support them in doing so.”

Staff Sgt Melgar, who was originally from Texas and had previously served in Afghanistan, was a member of the same special forces group as the four Americans who were killed in an ambush in Niger in 2017.

The charges come as the Pentagon announced that they are reducing the numbers of US counter-terrorism troops in Africa by about 700.

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Why an Economic Populist Pitch Failed in Coal Country

LOGAN, W.Va. — Richard Ojeda presented himself as a new face of the Democratic Party: a tough guy in combat boots whose economic populism was the key to flipping coal country and maybe — just maybe — a model for winning in rural America in the age of Donald J. Trump.

For a moment, Mr. Ojeda seemed poised to pull it off. He channeled West Virginia’s union roots when he championed a statewide teachers’ strike earlier this year. He had a plain-speaking, almost Trump-like style that attracted attention and money, drawing more than $2 million in donations from around the country.

But on Tuesday he lost badly, taking just two out of the 18 counties that make up the Third Congressional District, a swath in the southern coal fields that is home to Mr. Ojeda and many of the teachers he supported. He even lost his home county, Logan, by 24 points.

“I was absolutely slapped in the face when I saw the totals,” said Heather Ritter, a school librarian and supporter of Mr. Ojeda, the day after the election.

She added, “I don’t think people understand what’s just happened and the gravity of this.”

While the Democrats succeeded in winning back the House — and Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia managed to hang onto his seat — the magnitude of Mr. Ojeda’s loss served as a stinging reminder to Democrats of the enduring power of Mr. Trump in rural parts of the country, particularly in Appalachia.

Mr. Ojeda’s supporters expected him to become a major force on the national stage, an important corrective to past mistakes when Democrats did not listen to working-class voters. Instead, he was dragged down by the undertow of nationalized politics — with Mr. Trump making many visits to West Virginia and supporting Mr. Ojeda’s opponent, Carol Miller, whose main appeal to voters appeared to be her connection to the president.

Antipathy toward Mr. Trump helped drive record turnout in some parts of the country, but many voters also came out to support the president. This was especially true in West Virginia, where more than 47 percent of the state’s registered voters turned out on Tuesday — significantly more than in recent midterm years, according to the West Virginia secretary of state. In 51 interviews in five different towns in the district where Mr. Ojeda ran, a majority of voters said they turned out to defend the president.

Dennis McCloud, a retired coal miner in the tiny town of Dingess, said he was voting for the first time in a midterm election. He said he had come to show support for Mr. Trump, who he said had been besieged by the news media and Democrats.

“If he says this cone is red, they’ll say it’s blue,” said Mr. McCloud, 65, pointing to a traffic cone on the sidewalk as he stood outside an elementary school in Dingess, where he had just voted for Ms. Miller, a candidate he said he hadn’t heard much about.

“I never felt this strongly about a president before,” said Mr. McCloud, who was about to go celebrate his birthday — and his vote — with a steak.

Social media also seems to have played a role in Mr. Ojeda’s loss. Supporters point to a flurry of activity on Facebook with doctored photographs aimed at discrediting him. In one, Mr. Ojeda is sitting in a chair in front of his campaign sign smiling and holding cash like a fan. In another, a Facebook page called Veterans Against Richard Ojeda featured a picture of him altered to look like he was in makeup, pink fatigues and a pink beret.

Matt Stanley, a school administrator who was staring in disbelief at the election results at Mr. Ojeda’s election night party, said he saw them as a grim sign for the American political system.

“It’s just disgusting that social media rules,” he said. “What he says they don’t believe, but what they see on the computer, they do believe. Explain that to me. I can’t wrap my head around it.”

Of Ms. Miller, he said: “She didn’t show up to anything. She didn’t have to.”

Ms. Miller, a state delegate, was relatively unknown among voters and mostly avoided interviews and open public appearances during the campaign. Even the men sitting in lawn chairs behind a large sign that urged voters in Dingess to choose Ms. Miller were thin on details about their candidate.

“Don’t know that much about her to be honest with you,” said Hayden Hannah, 70, a retired timber worker, “but she stands for Trump and that’s enough for me.”

One of Ms. Miller’s campaign ads says she’s a bison farmer who has supported legislation to make the Bible the official book of West Virginia. Her financial disclosure forms show her household controls a businesses that include real estate, car dealerships, and other investment assets worth $11 million.

Ms. Miller did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Some voters said Mr. Ojeda had himself to blame for the poor showing. Carl Blevins, a retired coal miner in Chapmanville who said he did not like Mr. Trump and his style, said he also did not support Mr. Ojeda for some of the same reasons.

“He was his own worst enemy,” Mr. Blevins said, sitting with a group of friends on Wednesday at Tudor’s Biscuit World. “There’s an arrogance, like he knows more than the rest of us.”

Mr. Trump made a number of trips to West Virginia to stump for Republicans, most recently last Friday. He has singled out Mr. Ojeda personally, calling him “stone-cold crazy” and “a total wacko.”

Mary Frances, a 78-year-old from Dingess, said she had come to vote for the sole purpose of supporting the president. She said she supported Ms. Miller, even though she did not know much about her.

“There are too many crooked politicians — one is about as good as the next one,” she said. But Mr. Trump was different, she said, and he was protecting the country, including from the caravan of migrants, a large traveling group that moved from Central America into Mexico last month. “If all those people come in here it will decimate this country,” Ms. Frances said.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Ojeda pledged to keep fighting, but also pondered whether it was even possible for a Democrat to win in West Virginia’s Third Congressional District, which Mr. Trump won by nearly 50 points in 2016.

“Look, I really don’t know what to say,” he said. “I’m not happy with the outcome, but I’m telling you right now, any place else in the United States of America we would have won. Anyplace else. We just happened to run in the reddest — and I hate to say this — an area where people just completely will fall for what we just had.”

He added: “We had a president who came down here and said ‘Hey, I want you all to vote for her.’ They didn’t look and say, ‘Why should we vote for her?’”

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Fire in downtown Hamilton believed to be caused by careless smoking

Officials believe careless smoking is to blame for an apartment fire downtown.

It broke out around 7:30 p.m. Sunday on the eighth floor of The Empire Apartments on Hughson near Cannon.

Officials say when the first crews arrived, they found a well-involved balcony fire, which spread inside that unit and the apartment next door.

Damage has been set at $100,000.

 

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School bus carried down swollen river after driver ignores barricade

Dash cam video shows what happened when a school bus driver ignored a barricade and drove into a flooded road in Texas.

It occurred Oct. 16 as heavy rain caused flooding around Austin.

Footage released by the Leander Police Department shows the bus, carrying one child, was quickly swept away as the water got deeper and covered the hood. The bus eventually ended up in a clump of trees, where the driver and 12-year-old passenger were rescued.

The driver was fired. Police charged him with endangering a child and failure to obey warning signs.

Police say they released the video to show the dangers of trying to drive in flood conditions.

“For each foot the water rises up the side of the vehicle, the vehicle displaces 1,500 pounds of water. In effect, the vehicle weighs 1,500 lbs. less for each foot the water rises. Just two feet of water can carry away most vehicles,” police wrote on their Facebook page.

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