President Donald Trump lashed out against his former fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen Wednesday, one day after Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges—including two campaign finance violations that appear to implicate Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator. Cohen admitted in court Tuesday that he arranged to illegally pay out money to two women—an adult film star and a Playboy model—to keep them from speaking during the 2016 campaign about their affairs with Donald Trump. Cohen indicated Trump directed the payments, which were made for the purpose of influencing the election. On Wednesday, Trump fired back, tweeting, “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” Speaking in an interview with Ainsley Earhardt of “Fox & Friends” that aired this morning, Trump falsely stated that the payments were not a violation of campaign finance laws.
President Donald Trump: “Later on I knew. Later on. But you have to understand, Ainsley, what he did—and they weren’t taken out of campaign finance. That’s the big thing. That’s a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign? They didn’t come out of the campaign; they came from me. And I tweeted about it.”
Trump’s comments came as he hinted at a possible pardon for Paul Manafort, his former campaign chair, who was convicted on eight criminal charges Tuesday, including tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Trump tweeted, “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. … unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to 'break'–make up stories in order to get a 'deal.' Such respect for a brave man!” At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly insisted that Trump had broken no laws.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Again, I’m not going to get into the back-and-forth details. I can tell you, as the president has stated on numerous occasions, he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him in this. And just because Michael Cohen made a plea deal doesn’t meant that that implicates the president on anything.”
On Capitol Hill a number of key Democratic senators are calling for a halt to the confirmation process for Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh until special counsel Robert Mueller completes his investigation. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted that Judge Kavanaugh has taken an expansive view of the president’s powers and would likely act to protect Trump against any criminal prosecution.
Sen. Chuck Schumer: “It is unseemly for the president of the United States to be picking a Supreme Court justice who could soon be effectively a juror in a case involving the president himself. In light of these facts, I believe Chairman Grassley has scheduled a hearing for Judge Kavanaugh too soon, and I am calling on him to delay the hearing.”
Meanwhile, talk of impeaching President Trump continues to grow—despite objections from congressional Democratic leaders. After headlines, we’ll speak with Democratic Congressmember Al Green, who’s a leader of the effort to impeach the president.
New York state investigators have subpoenaed Michael Cohen to testify as part of their investigation into whether Donald Trump and three of his children—Ivanka, Eric and Don Jr.—used the nonprofit Trump Foundation for illegal campaign activity and as a virtual piggy bank for “repeated self-dealing.” The Associated Press reports Cohen’s testimony could help bolster a future criminal case against the foundation or possibly even Trump himself—and could lead New York’s attorney general to request copies of Donald Trump’s tax returns, which Trump has refused to make public. In June, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a civil suit against the Trump Foundation, saying it used charitable funds to illegally coordinate with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, to settle lawsuits against Trump family businesses and even to purchase a $10,000 portrait of Donald Trump hung at one of Trump’s golf resorts.
Hungary’s government has been accused of cutting off food to migrants living in transit camps in a bid to get them to drop their claims for asylum. On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch became the latest organization to accuse Hungary’s anti-immigrant government of using starvation as a weapon, writing, “It’s completely outrageous and absurd that people have to turn to the courts to get a slice of bread. … This disregard for people’s well-being smacks of a cynical move to force people to give up their asylum claims and leave Hungary.”
In more news on migration, naval ships in Malta on Wednesday brought ashore over 100 migrants rescued at sea, along with the bodies of two people who died attempting to cross the Mediterranean. In Italy, a ship carrying 177 migrants docked in Sicily on Tuesday, but authorities have not allowed most of the asylum seekers aboard the ship to disembark. Earlier today, authorities allowed children to leave the boat, but have said adults must remain aboard until other European countries agree to take them in. In North Africa, about 100 African migrants pushed through razor wire as they crossed a fortified border separating Morocco from the tiny Spanish enclave of Ceuta Tuesday. And in Bosnia, scores of refugees and asylum seekers showed reporters cuts and bruises, saying they were beaten by Croatian police who turned them back to a camp of about 5,000 migrants near the Bosnia-Croatia border.
In Georgia, election officials in a rural, predominantly black county are facing charges of voter suppression, after they announced plans to close seven of their county’s nine polling places ahead of November’s midterm elections. Randolph County officials say they’re closing the polling sites because they don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But critics charge the move is aimed at suppressing the votes of African Americans. The county’s action would likely have triggered a Justice Department review under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but in 2013 the Supreme Court effectively ended those protections.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, a judge sentenced Ku Klux Klan leader Richard Preston Jr. to four years in prison Wednesday, after he pleaded no contest to a charge of firing a pistol into a crowd of anti-racist protesters during last August’s “Unite the Right” rally. Video of the incident shows Preston, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, walked up to an African-American man at close range and fired a shot at the ground right in front of him. Preston then turned around and walked past a line of state troopers, who witnessed the shooting but did not move.
In North Carolina, the state Historical Commission voted 9 to 2 Wednesday not to remove three Confederate monuments from the grounds of the state Capitol. This comes just two days after protesters tore down the so-called “Silent Sam” Confederate statue at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. We’ll have more on the fight over Confederate monuments later in the broadcast.
A California county is suing internet service provider Verizon in a lawsuit contending that the Trump administration’s decision to end net neutrality protections is endangering lives. The Santa Clara County Fire Department says Verizon throttled wireless data to one of its firefighting command-and-control vehicles to just one-half of 1 percent of its usual speed, inhibiting operations during this summer’s Mendocino Complex fire, the largest wildfire in California’s history. Under net neutrality rules set by the Obama administration but revoked under Trump’s FCC chair, Ajit Pai, Verizon’s move to throttle data would have been illegal.
Hawaii’s governor has declared a state of emergency as one of the Central Pacific’s most powerful hurricanes on record approaches the archipelago. Hurricane Lane briefly reached Category 5 status—the highest-ranking—before weakening slightly to a still-powerful Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour. It’s expected to sweep just west of Hawaii’s Big Island later today, and authorities warn it could bring a year’s worth of rain to parts of Hawaii within just hours. The storm is the most powerful hurricane to threaten Hawaii in recorded history. Climate scientists say increased ocean temperatures from greenhouse gas emissions are driving more powerful storms like Hurricane Lane.
And in Honduras, human rights groups are condemning the government of President Juan Orlando Hernández for failing to indict a single person for killing 31 people during protests challenging last November’s election result. The protesters were killed during a brutal military crackdown amid reports of widespread fraud and vote rigging. Families of victims say they’ve been subjected to harassment and death threats after pressing for justice. This comes as the daughter of internationally renowned Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres—who was assassinated in 2016—said prosecutors were withholding evidence in the murder trial of eight men charged with the crime, set for September 10. Bertha Zúniga Cáceres spoke to reporters Wednesday.
Bertha Zúniga Cáceres: “This [legal] process has been carried out in the midst of great irregularities in the investigation handled by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which has monopolized the entire investigation and has denied the status of victims in this process, refusing to inform us about what are the hypotheses handled and what is the information that supports the investigations. However, in parallel, we have always made the effort to build hypotheses and determine the individual responsibility of each person.”