One of Donald Trump’s closest allies has emerged as the linchpin of the president’s legal and political troubles.
Attorney Michael Cohen has, by all accounts, spent years putting out fires for Trump — and Trump’s opponents hope those efforts are now coming back to burn them both.
A federal judge yesterday rejected the president’s initial request to prevent prosecutors from immediately reviewing evidence that the FBI seized last week from Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. It was the latest twist in a criminal probe that has come to rival Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in terms of the threat it poses to Trump’s presidency.
It was revealed at the hearing that Cohen has also represented Sean Hannity, the “Fox News” commentator often lauded by Trump on Twitter. Hannity has repeatedly decried the Cohen raids on air.
The Cohen investigation is testing the loyalty of donors, who’ve been pouring money into Republican coffers ahead of the November midterms that will determine whether Trump’s party can retain control of Congress, Bill Allison and John McCormick write.
Despite the liability that Cohen has become, however, the notoriously quick-to-fire president shows no signs of abandoning his long-time fixer.
Hacking attacks | The U.S. and the U.K. issued an unprecedented joint alert to companies and government agencies about Russian “state-sponsored” computer hacking, amid heightened tensions with Moscow after the Western missile strikes on Syria. They said hackers may be targeting routers, the devices that channel data around a network, for “future offensive operations” as well as for espionage and theft of intellectual property.
U.S. bans Chinese firm | The Trump administration banned ZTE Corp. from purchasing crucial American technology for seven years after the Chinese telecommunications-gear maker paid full bonuses to employees involved in violating sanctions against Iran and North Korea. The move adds to trade tensions between the world’s biggest economies, with China saying today it would take necessary measures to protect the interests of its companies.
Abe’s world of worry | Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate today hoping another round of golf with the U.S. president can ease new strains over North Korea and trade. But Abe has even bigger problems back home, where a flurry of scandals have prompted protests and made him less popular than Trump, Isabel Reynolds reports. Even a former mentor is predicting Abe’s five-year run as leader might not last.
Korean peace moves | North Korea and South Korea are discussing plans to announce an official end to the military conflict, with the countries still technically at war since a 1953 armistice, the Munhwa Ilbo newspaper reported. A successful summit next week between their leaders could pave the way for a meeting between Kim Jong Un and Trump — the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean head of state.
Populists take note | Malcolm Turnbull’s rejection of calls to cut Australia’s immigration intake received a timely boost from the prime minister’s own Treasury. It seems taking on skilled workers boosts economic growth, reduces the adverse effects of an aging population and lifts demand. Still, the report also notes immigration can increase infrastructure and housing pressures, providing some ammunition for the policy’s opponents.
What to watch today:
— U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will face a second debate in as many days on Britain’s role in bombing Syria after she stayed late last night listening to lawmakers’ views in the House of Commons.
— The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case in which states and traditional retailers are seeking to overturn a 26-year-old ruling that exempts many internet merchants from collecting billions of dollars in sales tax.
And finally...Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt is in more hot water, this time over revelations about a $43,000 soundproof “privacy booth” in his office to let him make secure phone calls. The EPA broke spending laws by not telling Congress in advance about the cost of the 4-foot-by-4-foot closet complete with “silenced ventilation,” government auditors ruled. Pruitt’s already under fire for taking first-class flights and spending millions of taxpayer dollars on his security detail.
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