Just another manic Monday
The judge said Michael Cohen has to be there. Stormy Daniels doesn’t, but why not?
Courtroom drama is set to collide with reality-show spectacle Monday as lawyers argue over how much — if at all — attorney-client privilege should apply to records seized from Donald Trump’s personal lawyer in raids last week. Prosecutors argue little of what Cohen did was actual legal work.
The Justice Department says Cohen has been “under criminal investigation” by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office for months because of his business dealings.
Some of the seized material relates to the $130,000 hush-money payment made by Cohen to Daniels just before the 2016 election to suppress the porn star’s story of a past sexual encounter with Trump. Cohen said he borrowed against his home equity for the money, and the feds are examining whether he committed bank fraud by listing a different purpose for the loan, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reported.
Trump’s denial that he knew about the payment undercuts any privilege claim on that matter, prosecutors argue.
Federal Judge Kimba Wood was miffed that Cohen skipped a hearing on the matter Friday.
Daniels plans to be in the courtroom, her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told CNN. Asked if her presence was meant to provoke Cohen, Avenatti said, “No, not at all.”
The privileged fewer?
Trump lamented on Twitter: “Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past. I have many (too many!) lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices, and even homes, are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers, taken.”
The president’s advisers fear the Cohen investigation poses a greater and more imminent threat to him than even special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, according to The New York Times. For years, Cohen has run interference for Trump on personal scandals and business ventures.
In a court filing Sunday night, other Trump lawyers said Cohen should get a copy of all seized materials and then Trump should be allowed to review anything that relates to him so he can assert privilege claims. See Newsday’s story by John Riley and Rachelle Blidner.
The Syrian shift
French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday, "Ten days ago, President Trump wanted to withdraw from Syria. We convinced him to remain." White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders insisted Trump still wants to bring home U.S. troops as soon as possible, once again contradicting the president's past chidings against telegraphing military plans.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said sanctions against Russia would be strengthened, marking another departure from Trump's talk of alliance with President Vladimir Putin's regime. After American airstrikes purportedly crippled the Bashar Assad government's chemical-attack capabilities, another big Trump reversal from five years ago made the rounds on social media.
"What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval," the president-to-be complained via Twitter on Aug. 29, 2013.
The 516 on Cohen
Before he became Trump’s fixer, Cohen was a kid from Lawrence who idolized the real estate mogul from afar, reports Newsday’s Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
The son of a surgeon and a nurse, he attended religious and private schools, graduating from the Lawrence Woodmere Academy in 1984.
Cohen considers that “his Long Island upbringing sort of toughened him up,” according to Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).
The Full Comey
If Trump wanted to take any positives away from former FBI Director James Comey’s prime-time interview for ABC’s “20/20,” there’s this: Trump struck him as a person of “above average intelligence.” And this: He also doesn’t think the president displayed any signs of mental incompetence or dementia. And especially this: He would not favor impeaching Trump to remove him from office — it should be left to the electoral process.
That’s about it.
Comey, fired by the president 11 months ago, told George Stephanopoulos that Trump is a serial liar, treats women “like they’re pieces of meat” and leaves a “stain” on everyone who works for him. He said it was “possible” that the Russians had material that could be used to blackmail him.
Trump, in Comey’s estimation, is “morally unfit to be president.”
And, Comey said there’s “certainly some evidence” that Trump obstructed justice.
A raving review
In advance of the interview, Trump went on a five-tweet Sunday morning trash-athon of the FBI director he fired.
“Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!” said Trump.
He suggested Comey deserved to be jailed, repeating unproven assertions of disclosing classified information and lying to Congress.
Comey’s book — “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” — comes out Tuesday. See Figueroa’s story for Newsday.
Trump’s “Mission Accomplished” tweet the morning after the airstrike on Syria prompted some second-guessing. The phrase is associated with former President George W. Bush’s 2003 victory speech on the Iraq War, which was tragically premature.
Trump’s response was to accuse “the Fake News Media” of trying to “demean” the raid. He tweeted: “I knew they would seize on this but felt it is such a great Military term, it should be brought back. Use often!”
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “We, of course, know our work in Syria is not done.” She said new sanctions will be announced Monday targeting Russian companies that helped Syria’s government make and deploy chemical weapons.
See Newsday’s story by David M. Schwartz.
French President Emmanuel Macron took credit Sunday for persuading Trump to stay in Syria and launch airstrikes as punishment for the suspected chemical weapons attack by the regime.
“Ten days ago, President Trump wanted the United States of America to withdraw from Syria. We convinced him to remain,” Macron said on French television.
Resumes that show Trump administration positions on the top line have become a tough sell in the private sector job market, BuzzFeed reports.
One recruiter said companies are “worried about public backlash.” A former White House official was told that a prominent bipartisan public affairs firm sees too big a “reputational risk” in hiring from the Trump White House.
The Trump brand has also lost its merchandising allure, The Washington Post reported. In 2015, Trump listed 19 companies that were paying him to produce or distribute Trump-branded consumer goods, including Trump deodorant, Trump ties, Trump steaks.
Only two are left — a Panamanian company selling Trump bed linens and home goods, and a Turkish company selling Trump furniture.
What else is happening
- Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a Trump ally who wants to succeed Paul Ryan as the GOP’s House leader, believes he has the president’s backing, The Associated Press reported. Ryan has also endorsed McCarthy.
- A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows a big gender gap on Trump. Men narrowly approve of his job performance, 49% to 47%, while women disapprove, 64% to 32%.
- About 22% of the nearly $3.9 million Trump’s campaign spent this year went to legal bills, according to disclosure reports. The campaign also spent about $125,000 at Trump businesses.
- House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) says he’s expanding his probe into alleged ethical and spending abuses by EPA chief Scott Pruitt, Politico reported.
- Trump objected to Vice President Mike Pence’s choice for his national security adviser, Jon Lerner, Axios reported. Lerner crafted harsh anti-Trump ads during the Republican primaries in 2016. On Sunday night, Lerner withdrew.
- Kellyanne Conway, the top White House aide dealing with the opioid crisis, has acknowledged “these numbers could get worse before they get better,” CNN reports.