Michael Cohen leaves a federal courthouse in Manhattan on Aug....

Michael Cohen leaves a federal courthouse in Manhattan on Aug. 21 after reaching a plea agreement with investigators. Credit: Charles Eckert

Inside game

Former FBI Director James Comey's guess is as good as any and probably better than most. Special counsel Robert Mueller seems to be "in the fourth quarter" of his Russia investigation, Comey said in radio interview.

Why does he think so? Comey pointed to last week's guilty plea and cooperation agreement by Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “The way you normally do investigations is you work from the bottom up, and so they're getting pretty high,” said Comey, who oversaw the probe before Trump fired him 16 months ago.

Manafort wants a lighter prison sentence. So does another ex-member of Trump's inner circle, Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty last month to tax evasion and bank fraud and well as campaign finance violations for arranging hush-money payoffs to two women who had stories about affairs with Trump. Cohen implicated Trump in the payoffs.

Since his courtroom confession, the ex-lawyer and fixer for Trump met several times with Mueller's investigators, according to ABC News.

The sessions, lasting for hours, have focused primarily on all aspects of Trump's business dealings with Russia and questions of collusion with Moscow by Trump's 2016 campaign and its surrogates, the report said. The investigators, who have been looking at potential obstruction-of-justice efforts by Trump, also were interested in whether the president or any of his associates discussed the possibility of a pardon with Cohen.

Cohen, due for sentencing December, has not so far received a received a guarantee of leniency but offered voluntary cooperation, ABC said, citing sources familiar with the situation. 

Cohen is also cooperating with New York state authorities investigating the Trump family charity and the Trump Organization, the report said.

Kavanaugh latest

Lawyers for the California professor accusing Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers were negotiating with the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday night on conditions for her to appear.
Christine Blasey Ford can't be there Monday, her legal team said, but she is willing to testify another day next week if the terms are fair and her safety is assured. Kavanaugh wrote committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley: 

“I continue to want a hearing as soon as possible, so that I can clear my name.” For more, see Newsday's story by Tom Brune.

There it is 

After restrained and moderate statements regarding the Ford allegations, Trump on Friday dug in on his commitment to Kavanaugh's nomination, going on the offensive.

"I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn  date, time, and place!"

And then:

"The radical left lawyers want the FBI to get involved NOW. Why didn’t someone call the FBI 36 years ago?"

 Wall or nothing?

Trump complained Thursday that a spending plan being pushed through Congress by Republicans is "ridiculous" because it does not include funding for a border wall with Mexico. If he rejects the bill after expected House passage next week, the government could be shut down on Oct. 1.


While Trump vented on Twitter, he privately assured aides Thursday that he would sign the spending bill, an administration official told The Associated Press.

GOP leaders don't want to have to defend a shutdown to voters and have said they prefer to resolve the border-securiuty issue after the Nov. 6 elections. 

Janison: Pent-up tensions

The wall banging aside, Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans aren't fighting much lately. Republicans in the midterms want Trump's base coming out for them. Trump fears a Democratic House takeover brings the threat of impeachment closer.

But it's far from clear how the congressional GOP will be getting along with Trump next year. Will they advance his more contentious priorities or dig in and resist him on such issues as tariffs. See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.

Not the bottom line they wanted

Republican strategists got distressing news from an internal poll commissioned by the Republican National Committee: By a 2-to1 margin, voters overwhelmingly believe Trump and the GOP's vaunted tax overhaul helps “large corporations and rich Americans” more than “middle class families, Bloomberg News reported.

"We’ve lost the messaging battle on the issue,” the report said. While Republican and Democratic voters split predictably, independent voters by a 36-point margin didn't buy the GOP's spin.

What else is happening:

  • A judge has set Dec. 18 as the sentencing date for Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials during the transition. Flynn's plea and cooperation agreement with Mueller suggested a sentence of zero to six months in custody.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seeking a second summit with Trump as soon as possible to continue denuclearization talks, according to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
  • Recent polling shows senior voters, who favored Trump in 2016, tilting toward Democratic congressional candidates by double-digit margins, according to CNN.
  • Trump headed to Nevada Thursday night to campaign for embattled Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who once said he was "99% against Trump" but now says "80% of what this president has done has been very, very good, very positive."
  • An exhaustive recap of Russia's 2016 election interference by The New York Times traces the scheme to Vladimir Putin's personal belief in prior years that the U.S. — in particular, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — tried to undermine his autocratic rule by promoting pro-democracy forces. 


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