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Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that President Trump reimbursed Trump’s lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 hush money payment Cohen made on the eve of the 2016 election to adult film star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels. Giuliani made the comments Wednesday evening in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Rudy Giuliani: “That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know. It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation. So—”
Sean Hannity: “They funneled it through a law firm.”
Rudy Giuliani: “Funneled through a law firm, and then the president repaid it.”
Sean Hannity: “Oh, I didn’t know. He did.”
Rudy Giuliani: “Yeah.”
Giuliani recently joined President Trump’s legal team and is negotiating with special counsel Robert Mueller over a possible interview with Trump. His Fox News comments directly contradict Trump’s claim last month that he did not know that Cohen had paid Stormy Daniels—or where Cohen had gotten the money for the payment. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated Trump’s denial in March.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Look, the president has addressed these directly and made very well clear that none of these allegations are true. This case has already been won in arbitration. And anything beyond that, I would refer you to the president’s outside counsel.”
Jeff Zelleny: “When did the president address specifically the cash payment that was made in October of 2016?”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “The president has denied the allegations against him. And again, this case has already been won in arbitration. Anything beyond that, I would refer you to outside counsel.”
This morning, President Trump tweeted a denial that he’d had a sexual encounter with Daniels in 2006, accusing her of extortion and of violating a nondisclosure agreement. Trump also said he’d paid Michael Cohen a retainer for legal services, adding, “Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction.” Legal analysts say Cohen’s payment likely amounted to a campaign finance violation, even if Trump repaid it, since it constituted a loan to Trump’s campaign that went unreported in federal election filings.
This comes as President Trump hired Washington, D.C., attorney Emmet Flood to replace White House lawyer Ty Cobb as part of his legal team working to contain fallout from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Flood previously represented President Bill Clinton during his impeachment in 1998.
The Pentagon on Wednesday transferred longtime Guantánamo Bay prisoner Ahmed Mohammed al-Darbi to Saudi Arabia, in the first such move under the Trump administration. Al-Darbi is the only prisoner who’s pleaded guilty in the military commissions at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo. In a statement, the Center for Constitutional Rights—which represents many of Guantánamo’s prisoners—said it was relieved over al-Darbi’s transfer, but added, “His transfer came at great cost—over 12 years in Guantánamo—and he is not yet free. And, much as we would like to hope it signals further positive movement from this administration, there is no such indication. Forty Muslim men remain imprisoned in an entrenched prison system that was set up to evade just laws and experiment on human beings, and that system continues.” As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to expand the prison at Guantánamo, and said he would “load it up with some bad dudes.” Wednesday’s release of al-Darbi came as the Pentagon said it is formally set to receive new prisoners at Guantánamo for an indefinite term.
In Libya, a pair of suicide bombers stormed the offices of Libya’s electoral commission in Tripoli on Wednesday, opening fire on workers before blowing themselves up. At least 12 people died in the assault, with seven others wounded. ISIS later claimed responsibility. The attack came as the electoral commission is working to register new voters ahead of a national election to be held by the end of the year. This is Emad al-Sayah, chair of the commission.
Emad al-Sayah: “This breach targeted democracy and the future of the Libyan people. And in reality, it did not target the commission in itself. What it targeted today was the future of the Libyan people and the power of choice.”
The United States has returned thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq and illegally acquired by the U.S.-based Christian craft chain store Hobby Lobby. Wednesday’s handover of 3,800 artifacts to Iraq’s ambassador in Washington came nearly a year after Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a $3 million fine, after it spent over $1.5 million in 2010 to purchase the smuggled artifacts from a dealer based in the United Arab Emirates. The sales violated a ban on the sale of Iraqi cultural artifacts in place since 2004. Hobby Lobby’s owners are conservative Christians who recently opened a Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. In 2014, Hobby Lobby won a landmark decision at the Supreme Court, which ruled that private companies that claim religious objections can refuse to provide birth control coverage to employees.
At the Vatican, three Chileans who were abused by Catholic priests as children have urged Pope Francis to take action to end an epidemic of sexual abuse and cover-up within the church. Their joint statement came after five days of meetings with Pope Francis, and just weeks after the pontiff reversed course and apologized publicly over his role in failing to halt abuses. This is Juan Carlos Cruz, one of the three Chilean whistleblowers.
Juan Carlos Cruz: “We were able to speak frankly and respectfully to the pope. We talked about difficult issues, such as sexual abuse, abuse of power, and especially the cover-up of the Chilean bishops—realities that we do not refer to as sins but as crimes and corruption, that do not end in Chile but are an epidemic, an epidemic that has destroyed thousands of lives, people who trusted and who were betrayed in their faith and their trust.”
In Savannah, Georgia, a Puerto Rico Air National Guard military plane crashed shortly after takeoff Wednesday, killing nine people aboard. The crash came as the plane was bound for a base in Arizona, where it was set to be decommissioned. The C-130 was one of the oldest such aircraft still flying—at more than 60 years old.
Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of San Juan Wednesday, following up on massive May Day protests against austerity measures. The protesters are also demanding the repeal of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA, which created an unelected, federally appointed control board with sweeping powers to run Puerto Rico’s economy. This is Jorge Díaz, one of the protesters.
Jorge Díaz: “My name is Jorge Díaz. I’m the artistic director of AgitArte, a cultural solidarity organization based in Santurce Sur, Barrio-Santurce, Puerto Rico. And we’re here today on the 2nd of May to continue the celebration and resistance of May Day. On May Day, where we were yesterday, in Hato Rey, and we got attacked by the police and the state for marching, for defending our rights. So we’re here today again to let them know that no matter if we get arrested, no matter if we get banged on, gassed, pepper-sprayed, we’re going to be here, and we’re going to defend, because this is about our rights and about our people and about our communities.”
Iowa’s Republican-led Legislature voted Wednesday to approve the nation’s most restrictive ban on abortions. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has promised to sign the bill, which outlaws abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected—something that typically happens just six weeks into a pregnancy, and before many women even realize they’re pregnant. Opponents call the bill unconstitutional and warn it opens the door for doctors who perform abortions to be criminally prosecuted. This is Iowa state Representative Brian Meyer, a Democrat.
Rep. Brian Meyer: “I know what the law is, because I do it everyday. I’m asking you if you understand the bill that you’re passing today creates, essentially, a murder charge for a doctor.”
Iowa’s anti-choice bill came as Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups filed suit against the Trump administration, challenging its recent rollback of a federal program that provides birth control and other reproductive healthcare services to millions of low-income people.
The Washington Post is reporting that former CBS and PBS TV host Charlie Rose was involved in far more workplace sexual misconduct than previously reported. The Post reports that an additional 27 women have accused Rose of sexual harassment over 30 years, and that CBS managers were repeatedly warned over the allegations but failed to intervene. Rose was fired from CBS and PBS last year amid accusations that included groping women, making lewd phone calls and walking around naked or in an open bathrobe.
The voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica is closing and will begin insolvency proceedings. Cambridge Analytica gained international attention after Facebook revealed it acquired the personal information of up to 87 million people without their permission as part of an effort to sway voters to support President Donald Trump.
In Philadelphia, a pair of black men who were arrested at a Starbucks store after an employee called police claiming they were trespassing have settled a lawsuit with the coffee chain and the city. Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson will receive a symbolic settlement of one dollar each from Philadelphia, along with a promise from Starbucks to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs. The arrests on April 12 sparked national debate over racial profiling and set off a wave of civil disobedience protests in Philadelphia. Starbucks has promised to close 8,000 of its U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 for racial-bias training. The settlement that the men made with Starbucks has not been disclosed.
In Massachusetts, Harvard President Drew Faust said Tuesday the university will recognize a newly formed union of graduate students and undergraduate teaching assistants, and will begin negotiations for a union contract. Faust’s announcement came a week after thousands of students voted in favor of forming the Harvard Graduate Students Union, a chapter of the United Automobile Workers, the UAW.
And in Arizona, public school teachers remain on strike today, as budget negotiations that would include more funding for public education stalled Wednesday. Republican Governor Doug Ducey has promised to sign a budget deal that would end the strike, including a 20 percent pay raise for teachers and school staff, but lawmakers are still debating the budget. The strike began Thursday, with teachers protesting the $1 billion funding cuts to education in the state since the 2008 recession. Click here for an extended discussion about the Arizona strike.