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Trump's hush-money tweets spark question: What's he smocking?

Payments to women including porn star Stormy Daniels,

Payments to women including porn star Stormy Daniels, left, were a private transaction "done correctly by a lawyer," President Donald Trump said. Credit: Composite: AP / Markus Schreiber, left; AP / Matt Rourke

Trying out the alibis

So what's a good example of a "simple private transaction?" It could be selling a car to a neighbor. Or buying a secondhand sled at a garage sale. How about directing payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars to a couple of women who said they had sex with you so they don't talk about that while you're running for president?

Donald "No Collusion" Trump isn't even trying any more to pretend "No hush money." lnstead, facing new peril from the Michael Cohen, Trump tweeted: "No smocking gun." He evidently meant "no smoking gun," but flubbed the spelling twice in one tweet.

Cohen's prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office implicated Trump for campaign finance violations "with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election” by burying the stories of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Trump said he did nothing wrong, tweeting, "The Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution..."

And besides, "even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE ... but it was done correctly by a lawyer ... " And besides, "lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me." And besides, it's just another "WITCH HUNT!" because “Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia."

Democrats again? This is what prominent conservative lawyer George Conway, who knows from "alternative facts" because he's married to Kellyanne Conway, had to say about that:

"No, the criminal campaign-finance violations were found by professional line prosecutors in a Republican-controlled United States Department of Justice. It looks like a pretty good case. Kudos to them," Conway tweeted.

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman, is also a Republican and a Trump appointee. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Too clever by half

Angling for a lighter sentence, Cohen followed a risky strategy of offering only partial cooperation to prosecutors, The New York Times reported. It's looking like a bad bet.

In calling for a "substantial" prison term, prosecutors said Cohen wouldn't come clean about his "entire criminal history" and "any and all information" he possesses about crimes committed by others.

Cohen's sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Casting call

On "The Apprentice" a few years ago, ambitious contestants clamored for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to work for Trump.

Now, not so much, as Trump scrambles to find a replacement for chief of staff John Kelly, to whom Trump gave his walking papers, effective at the end of this month, without locking down a successor.

The Associated Press imagined a job ad reading like this: "Wanted: Top aide to most powerful leader in world. Chief qualification: Willing to take the job. Must also be prepared to tolerate regular undermining by boss and risk of steep legal bills. Post-employment prospects: Uncertain."

Trump had counted on Nick Ayers, now Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, but Ayers backed away, and other would-be candidates jumped away at the chance, according to AP. Unhappy with such reports, Trump issued a dubious denial.

The Chuck and Nancy showdown

The Democratic leaders in Congress, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, are due at the White House for a meeting with Trump on Tuesday morning amid signs they may have moved farther apart on border security funding, The Washington Post reported. Failure to make a deal by Dec. 21 could trigger a partial government shutdown.

The Democratic leaders plan to offer Trump $1.3 billion for a border fence. Trump, who has yet to actually negotiate a bipartisan deal, is demanding $5 billion toward building a wall on the Mexican border. Before the meeting, Trump inaccurately reprised old and disjointed claims about how Democrats want "open borders" and the "Great Wall."

A Kavanaugh surprise?

The two justices Trump chose for the Supreme Court came down on opposite sides in a case focused on funding for Planned Parenthood, a perennial target of social conservatives.

Brett Kavanaugh joined Chief Justice John Roberts and the four justices from the court's liberal wing in rejecting appeals from Kansas and Louisiana, in the states' effort to strip Medicaid money paid to the organization for providing health services (not abortions) to low-income women.

Neil Gorsuch joined conservatives Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who wanted to hear the case.

What else is happening:

  • Merriam-Webster chimed in on Twitter about smocking vs. smoking: “ ‘Smocking' is a type of embroidery made of many small folds sewn into place," the dictionary folks said.
  • Federal prosecutors are still looking at whether other Trump Organization executives besides Cohen may have known about the hush-money expenses and efforts to conceal their purpose, according to The New York Times.
  • The Pentagon this week will begin withdrawing 2,200 of the 5,200 active duty troops that Trump sent to the border with Mexico just before the midterm election in response to a caravan of Central American migrants, AP reported.
  • Trump is no fan of "low energy" people — or buildings. Crain's New York Business reports that Trump Tower on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue has an Energy Star score 30% below the median, according to city data. It lacks efficient boilers, heating and ventilation systems, as well as and insulated windows that could reduce its energy load.
  • Former FBI Director James Comey, urging Trump's defeat in 2020, told a Manhattan audience Sunday night that "all of us should use every breath we have to make sure the lies stop on Jan. 20, 2021." Removal by impeachment is less desirable, he said, because it could "leave a third of the country feeling like their chosen leader had been removed in a 'coup.’ ”

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