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Cohen Sentenced To 3 Years After Implicating Trump In Hush-money Scandal

New York Times

Michael D. Cohen, the former lawyer for President Trump, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday morning in part for his role in a scandal that could threaten Mr. Trump’s presidency by implicating him in a scheme to buy the silence of two women who said they had affairs with him.

The sentencing in federal court in Manhattan capped a startling fall for Mr. Cohen, 52, who had once hoped to work by Mr. Trump’s side in the White House but ended up a central figure in the inquiry into payments to a porn star and a former Playboy model before the 2016 election.

Judge William H. Pauley III said Mr. Cohen had committed a “smorgasbord” of crimes involving “deception” and motivated by “personal greed and ambition.”

“As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better,” the judge said.

Before he was sentenced, a solemn Mr. Cohen, standing at a lectern, sounded emotional but resolved as he told the judge he had been tormented by the anguish and embarrassment he had caused his family.

“I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today,” he said, “and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man” – a reference to Mr. Trump – “that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”

Mr. Cohen said the president had been correct to call him “weak” recently, “but for a much different reason than he was implying.”

“It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass,” Mr. Cohen said.

Mr. Cohen then apologized to the public: “You deserve to know the truth and lying to you was unjust.”

Federal agents raided Mr. Cohen’s office and home in April, and he later turned on Mr. Trump, making the remarkable admission in court that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange the payments.

Mr. Trump at first denied knowing anything about the payments, but then acknowledged that he had known about them. This week, he insisted that the payments were “a simple private transaction” — not election-related spending subject to campaign-finance laws.

He also maintained that even if the hush-money payments were campaign transactions in violation of election regulations, that should be considered only a civil offense, not a criminal one.

Since Mr. Cohen came under investigation, Mr. Trump has mocked him as a “weak person” who was giving information to prosecutors in an effort to obtain leniency when he is sentenced.

In fact, Mr. Cohen did not formally cooperate with prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. In addition to the campaign-finance violations, the sentence covered Mr. Cohen’s guilty pleas to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and making false statements to Congress.

He took a calculated gamble in pleading guilty to this litany of federal crimes without first entering into a cooperation agreement with the government. He offered to help prosecutors, but only on his terms, and there were some subjects he declined to discuss.

His lawyers argued he should not serve time in prison. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said he deserved around four years.

Judge Pauley had the final say. The judge said Mr. Cohen’s assistance to the special counsel’s office, though useful, had not “wiped the slate clean,” and a “significant term” of prison was justified.
In the end, the judge gave Mr. Cohen three years for the crimes he committed in New York and two months for lying to Congress, to be served at the same time. He was also asked to pay nearly $2 million in fines, forfeitures and restitution.

Mr. Cohen’s sentencing was unusual because it involved guilty pleas he made in two separate cases, one filed by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and a later one by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In the case brought by Mr. Mueller’s office, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the duration of negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, as well as about the extent of the involvement of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen revealed that Mr. Trump was more involved in discussions over the potential deal during the election campaign than previously known.

The investigation of Mr. Cohen by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan burst into public view in April when the F.B.I. raided his office, apartment and hotel room. Agents hauled off eight boxes of documents, about 30 cellphones, iPads and computers, even the contents of a shredder.

Four months later, on Aug. 21, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and making false statements to a financial institution.

Mr. Cohen admitted in court that he had arranged the payments “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016.
The payments included $130,000 to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, which the government considers an illegal donation to Mr. Trump’s campaign since it was intended to improve Mr. Trump’s election chances. (The legal limit for individual contributions is $2,700 in a general election.)

Mr. Cohen also admitted he had arranged for an illegal corporate donation to be made to Mr. Trump when he orchestrated a $150,000 payment by American Media Inc. to a former Playboy playmate, Karen McDougal, in late summer 2016.

Prosecutors in Manhattan wrote last Friday to Judge Pauley that Mr. Cohen, in arranging the payments, “acted in coordination with and at the direction” of Mr. Trump, whom they referred to as Individual 1.

On Nov. 29, charged by Mr. Mueller’s office with lying to Congress, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty again.

The two prosecuting offices each wrote to Judge Pauley, offering sharply contrasting portrayals of Mr. Cohen.

The Southern District depicted him as deceitful and greedy and unwilling to fully cooperate with its investigation. It said it declined to sign Mr. Cohen as a formal cooperator because he refused to discuss fully any crimes in his past or crimes by others that he was aware of — its policy for witnesses who seek to cooperate.

The Southern District wrote to the judge that Mr. Cohen had a “rose-colored view of the seriousness” of his crimes, which they said were “marked by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.”

Mr. Mueller, on the other hand, said Mr. Cohen had “gone to significant lengths to assist” the Russia investigation and recommended that he receive some credit for his help.
Lawyers for Mr. Cohen, who once claimed he would “take a bullet” for Mr. Trump, cited his cooperation with Mr. Mueller and his attempts to assist the Southern District prosecutors in asking that he be spared prison.

Mr. Cohen’s lawyers, Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester, argued in a memorandum to the judge that Mr. Cohen had taken responsibility for his crimes and had cooperated with Mr. Mueller’s office, meeting seven times with those prosecutors to offer information. They also noted that Mr. Cohen had met twice with prosecutors in Manhattan.

Mr. Trump last week weighed in with his own sentencing recommendation, tweeting angrily, “He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”    (The Sun)

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Facebook May Face $625bn Suit And British Citizens Could Get £21,500 Each |RN

Jeff Parsons

Mark Zuckerberg standing in front of a building: Credits: CNN               © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: CNN

 

Brits who had their data harvested through Facebook could be entitled to as much as £12,500 EACH in compensation, an expert has argued.

Law professor Maureen Mapp said the tech giant could get hit with a bill of up to £625 billion.

Dr Mapp told the Sun that the 50 million users who had their data harvested by Cambridge Analytica could be entitled to damages.

“There are about 50 million users whose data was harvested,” Dr Mapp told the site.

“Assuming each one of them brought a claim for compensation for distress caused by the data breach…each individual may be awarded £12,500 as damages.”

a close up of a computer: Credits: PA          © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: PA

Of course, if such a claim was brought against Facebook it could have dire consequences – the company’s total value sits at £317 billion.

David Barda, a data protection lawyer for Slater and Gordon said the amount would be less.

“I think a much more realistic figure is £500 per claimant,” he commented.

“The amount of compensation will depend on the level of distress suffered, but Facebook could be facing claims of up to £500 per Facebook user if those users were able to demonstrate their distress.”

a close up of a logo: Credits: Bloomberg            © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Bloomberg

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office is already investigating the Cambridge Analytica scandal – which saw data harvested through an app circulated on Facebook.

Anyone who wanted to sue the company would have to do so under the UK’s Data Protection Act and prove that the breach had caused them distress.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made a grovelling public apology over the data scandal that’s hit the firm in an advert posted in the backs of several newspapers, including the Sunday Mirror.

It says the harvesting of millions of profiles’ data in 2014 “was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time.”

It adds: “Thank you for believing in this community. I promise to do better for you.” (Mirror)

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Maina: Kyari, Oyo-Ita Reconcile, Embrace Publicly During FEC Meeting |RN

Abba-Kyari-and-Oyo-Ita

Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita and Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari

Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winnifred Oyo-Ita, Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari during the FEC meeting.

Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja

The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winnifred Oyo-Ita, on Wednesday embraced publicly before the commencement of the meeting of  Federal Executive Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The development came exactly a week after the two top government officials engaged in an altercation at the same venue.

Oyo-Ita, on arrival at the Council Chambers, venue of the meeting went straight to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and greeted him.

She was still discussing with Osinbajo when Kyari arrived.

All smiles, Kyari and Oyo-Ita embraced publicly as cameramen struggled to get good shots of the public display of affection.

Related: You Are Irresponsible Journalists, Kyari, Oyo-Ita Never Quarelled, Says Presidency

Other members of the council clapped for them as the drama unfolded.

A heated argument took place between the two officials last week.

The altercation was believed to be based on Oyo-Ita’s leaked memo to Kyari on the controversial reinstatement and subsequent posting of the embattled former Chairman  of the Pension Reforms Commission,  Abdulrasheed Maina.

The mild drama played out in the presence of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; President of the Senate,  Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, John Odigie-Oyegun; service chiefs and ministers.

Saraki, Dogara, Oyegun and the service chiefs were present to witness the inauguration of the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, as well as the inauguration of the 2018 Armed Forces Remembrance emblem.

Mustapha succeeded in calming frayed nerves after Osinbajo and Kyari were seen engaging the visibly angry Head of Service in a discussion.

The Deputy Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye, also moved in and persuaded Oyo-Ita to return to her seat when it became obvious that all those in attendance were watching the drama with keen interest.  (Punch)

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Trump Scandals Reaching ‘Watergate Size And Scale’, Says McCain

 

Brooke Seipel
McCain: Trump scandals reaching 'Watergate size and scale'© Provided by The Hill McCain: Trump scandals reaching ‘Watergate size and scale’  

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Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) reportedly said Tuesday that scandals within President Trump’s administration are reaching a “Watergate size and scale.”

McCain made the statement at a International Republican Institute dinner on Tuesday night. Multiple reporters said that during a speech at the event, McCain compared recent reports surrounding Trump’s administration to Watergate.

McCain’s statement came just hours after a bombshell report that Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey inFebruary to stop his investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.   (The Hill)

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