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President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion, bank fraud, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. Cohen was sentenced after admitting he broke federal campaign finance laws by paying hush money to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign. The payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal were made to prevent them from speaking to the media during the campaign about their alleged affairs with Trump. Federal prosecutors have said Cohen’s crime was done “in coordination with and at the direction” of President Trump. At his sentencing, Cohen said, “It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light. … I felt it was my duty to cover up his own dirty deeds.”
At a White House event on Wednesday, President Trump refused to answer questions about Michael Cohen.
Reporter: “Sir, do you have a comment about Cohen’s sentencing?”
Kaitlan Collins: “Mr. President, Mr. President, did Michael Cohen cover up your 'dirty deeds'? What 'dirty deeds' is he talking about, Mr. President?”
In related news, the publisher of the tabloid newspaper the National Enquirer has admitted it bought the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story and then suppressed it to “prevent it from influencing the election.” The National Enquirer is run by a longtime friend of Trump’s, David Pecker, who is now cooperating with prosecutors. He admitted meeting with Cohen and another—unnamed—member of Trump’s campaign in August 2015. Election law experts say the admission could put Trump and his organization in legal jeopardy. Richard L. Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California, Irvine, told The New York Times, “It’s looking a lot like an illegal and unreported in-kind corporate contribution to help the campaign, exposing the Trump campaign and Trump himself to possible criminal liability.”
In breaking news on Yemen, a ceasefire has been reached for the strategic port city of Hodeidah. This comes on the final day of peace talks in Sweden between representatives of the Houthi rebel movement and members of Yemen’s Saudi-backed government. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has described the move as an important step. The U.S.-backed Saudi war has devastated Yemen. A new report says half of Yemen’s 28 million people are now “food insecure,” with 5 million people in an “emergency” hunger situation and 65,000 in a “catastrophe” hunger situation—the most severe phase.
In news from Capitol Hill, California Congressmember Nancy Pelosi has secured enough votes to become the next House speaker after striking a number of deals to win over critics, including agreeing to a 4-year term limit. Pelosi held the position previously from 2003 to 2007.
The Guardian newspaper is reporting the FBI kept files on a number of climate activists connected to the group 350.org. The files date from 2016 when 350.org was helping to organize the Break Free from Fossil Fuels campaign. While names have been redacted, the documents make reference to three peaceful protesters from Iowa who were arrested in Indiana while protesting at a BP refinery. The Guardian also reports the documents make an apparent reference to Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org. In response, McKibben said, “Trying to deal with the greatest crisis humans have stumbled into shouldn’t require being subjected to government surveillance. But when much of our government acts as a subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry, it may be par for the course.” Here at the U.N. climate talks, 350.org executive director May Boeve reacted to the news.
May Boeve: “We’re here in Poland for the climate talks, where a number of activists have been stopped from coming, including many of our members. And today we learn that we’re being spied on in the United States. If this is an attempt to intimidate the climate movement, it’s not working. And the movement is growing all the time.”
The New York Times has revealed the U.S. oil industry and the Koch brothers-funded American Legislative Exchange Council have teamed up to wage a covert campaign to weaken the nation’s car emission standards. A key player in the push to roll back the Obama administration’s fuel efficiency standards has been Marathon Petroleum, the country’s largest refinery. Meanwhile, the Times reports the oil industry lobby also ran a covert campaign on Facebook to urge people to support rolling back the fuel efficiency standards. In August, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it will freeze Obama-era fuel economy standards at 2020 levels—in the latest blow by the Trump administration against efforts to curb catastrophic climate change.
In Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May has survived a “no confidence” vote, ensuring she will stay in power as contentious Brexit negotiations move forward.
Prime Minister Theresa May: “So here is our renewed mission: delivering the Brexit that people voted for, bringing the country back together and building a country that truly works for everyone.”
Earlier this week, May halted a parliamentary vote on a Brexit deal after members of her Conservative Party said they would oppose it. She is scheduled to meet with European leaders in Brussels today, though European Union officials have said they will not reopen negotiations on Brexit.
China has detained two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the recent arrest of a top Chinese executive in Vancouver. The men have been identified as Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat who now works for the International Crisis Group, and Michael Spavor, who runs cultural exchanges with North Korea. They are both accused of suspicion of endangering national security. Meanwhile, a Canadian court has granted bail to Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei, who faces possible extradition to the United States for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Tension is rising between the United States and Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to launch an offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria who have been battling ISIS. Erdogan said he wants to clear Kurdish fighters from east of the Euphrates. The U.S. military said such an action is unacceptable.
A high-ranking Vatican official has been convicted of sexually molesting two boys in Australia. Most recently, Cardinal George Pell was the Vatican’s chief financial officer. Some considered him the third most powerful official in the Vatican. He previously served as archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne. The shocking news, however, is not being reported in Australia, due to a court gag order. Today’s edition of the Herald Sun features a large black box with the word ”CENSORED” in white capital letters. Earlier this week, Pope Francis removed Pell and Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz from his inner circle. Errázuriz has been accused by survivors of covering up and discrediting their stories of abuse.
Meanwhile in Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians attended a funeral Wednesday for a 4-year-old boy who died after being hit by Israeli shrapnel. Ahmed Abu Abed was injured while attending the Great March of Return protest along with his father, Yasser, who was shot during the demonstration.
Yasser Abu Abed: “We were 300 meters away. They were shooting, and two were injured before I was. Then an explosion happened in front of us. After that, I got injured. Then my son did. And the people removed him from the area and then removed me.”
More than 195 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the Great March of Return rallies began.
Temple University has said it will not take action against media studies professor Marc Lamont Hill, who was recently fired from CNN after he gave a speech in support of Palestinian rights at the U.N. In his speech, Lamont Hill used the phrase “free Palestine from the river to the sea,” which conservatives and pro-Israel groups say is used by Hamas and other anti-Israeli government groups. Temple University said that Lamont Hill’s speech was protected by the First Amendment.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control shows the rate of gun deaths in the United States has reached a 20-year high. According to the CDC, almost 40,000 people were killed in shootings in 2017—that’s an average of over 100 shooting deaths a day. Sixty percent of the shooting deaths were suicides.
In New York, Brooklyn’s district attorney has dropped charges against 23-year-old Jazmine Headley, who was arrested last week and had her 18-month-old son ripped from her arms as she waited at a Brooklyn benefits office for a child care voucher. Video of the incident shows Headley clutching her son to her chest and screaming as she’s pinned to the floor by NYPD officers who are wrenching the child out of her arms.
Jazmine Headley: “You’re hurting my son! You’re hurting my son! You’re hurting my son! You’re hurting my son!”
When bystanders protested Headley’s treatment, an officer waved a Taser at them. Headley says when she got to the Human Resources Administration office to apply for a child care benefit, there were no chairs available, so she and her son sat on the floor, where they waited for over four hours. When a pair of security officers demanded she stand, Headley refused, and the guards called in the police. Headley was arrested on Friday on several charges including resisting arrest and child endangerment. The charges were dropped Tuesday after Headley spent the weekend in jail, separated from her son.
In media news, staffers at the recently unionized digital news outlet Slate have voted to go on strike. The action is in response to Slate’s inclusion of a so-called right-to-work clause in ongoing contract negotiations. The policy would weaken the union by making membership fees optional.
In New York, employees at a new Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island have announced plans to unionize. Employees cited as some of their concerns safety, low pay, high performance quotas and long shifts with few breaks. Last month, Amazon announced its new expanded headquarters would be located in Arlington, Virginia, and Queens, New York City, sparking local protests and opposition from a number of community organizations and some local leaders.
And Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has made her first public appearance since her Senate testimony in September when she accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Blasey Ford recorded a video message presenting the Sports Illustrated Inspiration of the Year Award to Rachael Denhollander, who was the first woman to publicly accuse former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. Nassar was accused of molesting 265 girls and women over decades and has received what amounts to multiple life sentences. This is part of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s message.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: “Rachael Denhollander, I am in awe of you, and I will always be inspired by you. In stepping forward, you took a huge risk, and you galvanized future generations to come forward, even when the odds are seemingly stacked against them. The lasting lesson is that we all have the power to create real change. And we cannot allow ourselves to be defined by the acts of others.”